A Marinette County farm couple has been named the 2020 Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmers.
Philip and Laura Finger of Oconto received the honor Saturday in Chippewa Falls. They were among producers from six state farms considered for the Outstanding Young Farmer award, presented annually to a farmer or farmers ages 21-40.
“The six contestants we were with — the five other ones — are all amazing farms and all amazing people,” Philip said. “We would have been happy with any of them (winning), and we were extremely surprised and shocked that our names were called.”
The Fingers are the fifth generation on their Finger Family Farm LLC dairy farm, which has 540 cows on about 1,400 cropped acres.
The couple said they faced many financial challenges after they joined the family business, but doubled-down on improving cow-comfort and sustainability, and worked on decreasing calf mortality. That helped turn things around, they said, and eventually they went from having to buy cows to selling dairy replacements to other farms.
They follow a nutrient management plan, and have worked on genomics through DNA samplings to upgrade their herd’s genetics.
Philip studied dairy science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Laura earned a dairy science degree from Iowa State University.
Katy Schultz, who manages TriFecta Farms Inc. at Fox Lake in Dodge County, was named first runner-up for the award. She also received the state OYF Speak Up for Agriculture award.
The second runners-up were Jeremy and Heather Natzke, who are partners in Wayside Dairy at Greenleaf in Brown County.
Other state finalists for the award were Kelly and Rachel Fruit of Viola in Richland County, John “JJ” and Chase Pagel of Kewaunee in Kewaunee County and Laura and Tyler Raatz of Cecil in Shawano County.
Adam and Chrissy Seibel of Bloomer in Chippewa County were the 2019 OYF winners. They will be participating Feb. 6-9 in the National Outstanding Young Farmer Congress in Connecticut; the Seibels are among the nation’s 10 finalists for the national award.
The 2021 National Outstanding Young Farmer Congress will be held at Appleton.