In 2009, Gathering Waters Conservancy was approached by Karl Klessig, a farmer and conservationist from Manitowac County, who wanted to host a fundraising event to support and celebrate Wisconsin’s working lands and rural heritage. He asked, “Would Gathering Waters Conservancy consider being a partner in the event?” At the time, we were working hard to see Wisconsin’s Working Lands Initiative passed into law (which it was that year), so it didn’t take us long to accept.
That year, Partnering for Progress was born, and has been growing ever since. Partnering for Progress is a collaboration between Gathering Waters Conservancy, the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, and the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers. Together we conserve Wisconsin’s working lands, support beginning and continuing farmers, and sustain vibrant, rural communities to improve rural life in Wisconsin.
That fall, Karl and his family hosted the first ever Partnering for Progress Barn Dance at their farm, the Saxon Homestead Farm – a beautiful fifth-generation, grass-based, family dairy farm. The enthusiasm from the inaugural event was so invigorating we decided to make it an annual celebration and build on the momentum to promote the importance of Wisconsin’s working lands and rural communities. In just three years we’ve raised nearly $50,000 to support the partnership’s mission! In the future, we hope to expand the event statewide.
This year, the barn dance will be held on Saturday, September 22nd and has been expanded to include a traditional, under-the-tent Chautauqua. The Chautauqua conversation with feature Will Allen from Growing Power – an organization inspiring communities to build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound, creating a just world, one food-secure community at a time.
Back in 2009 when we accepted Karl’s offer we had no way of knowing what this partnership would become. Thank you, Karl, for your vision! And thank you to everyone who has supported the partnership’s mission.
We’re committed to continuing our work to advocate for the conservation of Wisconsin’s working lands. If you support this work, please join us for the 4th Annual Partnering for Progress Chautauqua and Barn Dance! You can read more about the event on Gathering Waters Conservancy’s website, and tickets can be purchased at www.wisconsinbarndance.org.