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Neidermire carries on brother’s farming legacy

Progressive Dairyman Writer Jaclyn Krymowski Published on 29 August 2017
James Neidermire memorial walk

On April 24, 2012, a tractor rollover during spring plowing took the life of James Neidermire, forever changing the course of Neiderland Dairy in East Farmington, Wisconsin. His younger brother, Joel, farms on with his memory close at heart. Joel continues to help run their 40-cow herd and farm over 200 acres.

James and Joel, the two oldest of five children, had envisioned running the farm together as the fifth generation. They were about as close as two brothers could be, enjoying many of the same activities, such as four wheeling, snowmobiling and tractor pulling. “James was a work hard, play hard type of guy,” Joel says. “I have let James’ death strengthen me by keeping him close in heart and in memory.” Today he continues doing these activities along with James’ best friends.

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James and Joel Neidermire in camo

As with many dairy families, their bond was rooted in their love of farming. James found his particular passion in machinery after he graduated from Indianhead Technical College with a degree in agriculture mechanics. Joel decided to follow his brother’s footsteps by earning the same degree in 2016.

“James put his love for farming and fixing things together by starting his own tractor and machinery repair business,” Joel says. “Soon after, the new shop went up on the farm in 2007.” The business was called Fourth Avenue Ag Repair, and though it has been closed for business since James’ death, Joel looks to reopen it soon.

Immediately following James’ passing, Joel and the whole family were surrounded by community support and outreach. Faith, family and friendship were the important foundations in the healing journey. “Most of my friends practically lived at our house,” Joel says. “I also had a supportive family and local farm friends who acted as family and really showed their support toward us and still do.” With this help and perseverance through the hardship, Joel and his dad were able to finish plowing that same field where James lost his life.

James Neidermire

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It is in this same spirit that Joel continues his dreams for the farm. In the five years since James’ death, the challenges in the aftermath have been daunting, but they weren’t enough for Joel to abandon his dreams on the farm. “The immediate challenges were doing the same amount of work, if not more, with one less farmer,” he says. “There’s a big difference when one less tractor is being run in the fields.” His time in college put all the more strain on the workload. Between the farm chores, study and rest, Joel’s passion remained strong enough to give him the needed determination. “Losing James was definitely not part of the plans when it came to the future of the farm,” he says. “But it hasn’t stopped me from chasing my dreams. There are days I wish I had his help and that he was still around, but I have learned that life must go on and I still want to be the future of farming.”

James’ memory continues to be honored by the whole community. On the anniversary of his death, friends, family and locals gather and walk together to the memorial site in the field where James died. They even have matching memorial shirts made for the occasion. After they take pictures, they go back to James’ shop and enjoy fellowship, refreshments and view videos of James’ life. When the milking is done, some friends do tire burnouts in front of the memorial site.

Joel Neidermire and Brianna Brunclik

“I now drive James’ truck, so I normally do the first burnout of the night for my brother,” Joel says. “The memorial walk each year is kind of a family and community way of keeping James’ memory alive; however, what has helped me is pulling [tractors] in his memory. A lot of my friends pull too, and we have fun doing it. We call it ‘pulling 4 James.’ I know James enjoyed [tractor] pulling, so when he died, I decided to take up the hobby as my way of remembering him.”

Although the challenges ahead are coupled with the pain of the past, Joel is optimistic and looks forward to his future on the farm. His goals include expanding the herd and incorporating a freestall barn. Since James’ passing, he has already helped make big improvements around the farm, such as remodeling the milk house and putting in new tiestalls. While the dream of farming alongside his brother is no longer possible, Joel keeps his memory and inspiration close.

“Our family obviously loved James because he was a part of us, but in his death we are able to see how many lives he truly touched; it’s humbling,” he says. “In my mind, James’ legacy is to work hard, but also take time to play hard. James’ death is a reminder that life is not forever, so don’t let anything hold you back, and go after the things you want.”  end mark

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Jaclyn Krymowski was a 2017 Progressive Dairyman editorial intern.

PHOTO 1: This year marked the fifth year of the memorial walk. Friends, family and neighbors walk together to the memorial where James Neidermire lost his life.

PHOTO 2: The two oldest in their family, James and Joel had been close since they were very young.

PHOTO 3: James Neidermire was only 25 years old when he was the victim of a deadly tractor rollover accident.

PHOTO 4: Joel Neidermire, pictured with his now-fiancée, Brianna Brunclik, has taken up tractor and truck pulling to commemorate his brother’s life. Photos provided by Joel Neidermire and Brianna Brunclik.

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