Cates Family Farm, Wins!

Agriculture and food production are the foundation of Wisconsin’s social fabric and economy— it’s a more than $50 billion industry. And one that depends on the state’s agricultural and forestry lands. Protecting these lands, and working them in an environmentally sound and sustainable way is key to Wisconsin’s ability to benefit from and enjoy them in the future.

That’s why Gathering Waters has formed strategic partnerships within the state, to garner support and raise awareness about the preservation of working lands.  Partnering for Progress, for instance, is a collaboration between Gathering Waters, Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy & Livestock Farmers, Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership and the Saxon Homestead Farm. Each year, Partnering for Progress holds an old-fashioned Barn Dance & Chautauqua on a historic, working dairy farm to celebrate Wisconsin’s farmers, working lands, and rural heritage.

The annual Barn Dance & Chautauqua celebrates Wisconsin’s farmers, working lands, and rural heritage.

This year, Dick Cates, a friend to Gathering Waters and the Director of the School for Beginning Livestock and Dairy Farmers at the University of Wisconsin (a Partnering for Progress collaborator), has even more to celebrate than another successful Barn Dance & Chautauqua. Indeed, huge congratulations are in order as Dick’s family farm- the Cates Family Farm, was awarded the Sand County Foundation and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation’s 2013 Leopold Conservation Award! The Award honors Wisconsin landowner achievements in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources. It “honors leaders who love the land and that really captures the heart and soul of the Cates family,” said Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel.

Dick, Kim, their daughter Shannon, and their son Eric. Photo credit: Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

Dick and Kim Cates operate Cates Family Farm, a grass-fed beef enterprise near Spring Green in Iowa County. According to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, the farm includes 700 acres of managed grazing land and 200 acres of managed forest. They direct market their pasture-raised steers to grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias and households around southern Wisconsin and the Chicago area.

The Cates’ brand is known and trusted. Photo credit: The Conscientious Omnivore

Since 1987, the Cates have worked to make the family farm more environmentally sound and profitable. They adopted rotational grazing practices, created a managed grazing system, included subdivision fencing and stream crossings for livestock. They encouraged the revitalization of a native oak savannah and care for Lowery Creek, a trout stream that runs through the grazing acreage.

The Cates work hard to protect Lowery Creek, a trout stream that runs through their pastures.

The Cates work hard to protect Lowery Creek, a trout stream that runs through their pastures. Photo credit: Cates Family Farm

On December 8, 2013, at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in the Wisconsin Dells, the Cates Family Farm was presented with the Leopold Conservation Award, which included a $10,000 check and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold. “This has meaning beyond words…. I keep having to pinch myself,” Dick said. “I’m just so overwhelmed by the entire experience and we feel there are so many wonderful family farm producers in Wisconsin who are equally deserving. We’re proud to be able to carry the torch for so many others.” We’re proud of you and your family too, Dick. Congratulations!