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I belong to... FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative: John Rettler

Published on 31 March 2014

John Rettler is a member of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative

Age: 51

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Location: Neosho, Wisconsin

History of your dairy, in a nutshell: My wife, Joann, and I started our own dairy farm (Tin Valley Farms) in 1999 in Neosho, Wisconsin. Since then, our four sons have helped on the farm and have expressed interest in being future partners. Today, we crop 1,000 acres of land, milk 180 cows and finish out all our bull calves. We also custom-harvest 1,000 acres.

Please complete this sentence: “If I wasn’t a dairyman/dairywoman, I would be…” still involved in agriculture in some way.

How long have you been a member of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative? Before the cooperatives merged in 2013, I was a member of Family Dairies USA for 14 years. In total, I’ve been a member for more than 15 years.

Why did you join? I wanted to be part of a cooperative that would come to know me as a person and care about my concerns but also be able to deliver results, whether it’s regarding policy or marketing my milk. FFDC is big enough to serve me but small enough to know me.

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A little-known fact about FFDC is … it’s the product of merging three cooperatives together in 2013, bringing together 219 years of experience in the dairy industry.

What FFDC does best is … represent the farmer at a personal level, instead of just a number. They are down-to-earth, realistic people and do all that they can to represent their members.

I feel valued as a member when … I receive important updates on relevant issues in the industry and truly believe that we’re at the forefront of dairy-related political issues. FFDC also focuses on youth education by providing several post-secondary education scholarships and various dairy camp sponsorships. By investing in our youth, we’re investing in our cooperative’s future.

The dairy industry’s greatest opportunity is … to connect with consumers and community members by sharing our story. We can connect them back to the farm, educate them on what we do and the special care we give our animals and the land we work.

What do you see as the future of FFDC? I believe the cooperative will continue to grow with more members, and expand throughout the Midwest. The cooperative will continue to focus on representing the industry and being a voice for those that are out in the field. Additionally, we’ll seek out new ways to connect with consumers to help them understand what we do and why.

I hope my dairy legacy is … seen in my family. That I have respected and cared for the land and the cows and that my sons have inherited the same ethics and values to keep farming successfully in the future. And that people will see the value that our dairy farm has for everyone else.

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My advice to all dairymen/dairywomen is … embrace the curiosity of those that aren’t familiar with farming. Share your story with them and relate your farming situations to experiences they’ve had. There is so much we can all learn in the process. PD

FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative

4001 Nakoosa Trail, Suite 100
Madison, WI 53714
(608) 244-3373

Year founded: 2013

Members: Owned by its members representing more than 5,000 dairy farms.

Mission:FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative strives to provide all members a unified voice in dairy policy, strong marketing opportunities and valued member services through trusted first-hand industry involvement and leadership.

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