On the last day of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation State Convention, Elk Mound farmer Jim Holte was elected president of the state's largest farm organization.
After the convention was adjourned, the new board met and Holte was elected president. Holte hopped in his vehicle and drove back to Elk Mound.
"I went home for one day, got the cattle fed and spent the next couple days in the office (in Madison)," he explains. "It's a change in roles and it's busy, but I'm enjoying it."
Holte succeeds Waupun dairy farmer Bill Bruins who served as Farm Bureau president for nine years from 2003 to 2012. A year ago, Bruins said he would not seek re-election for a 10th year.
"Bill was very gracious to announce that early," Holte says. "It gave me time to think about it and consider running."
Holte farms on the Dunn County farm where he grew up. After graduating from University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a bachelor's degree in farm management and ag economics in 1975, he started dairy farming. He and his college sweetheart, Gayle, were married in 1976. Gayle is a clinical instructor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at UW-Eau Claire. She supervises both undergraduate and graduate students who are preparing to be speech and language pathologists.
"I was in the dairy business until 1997 when we sold the cows and transitioned to beef," Holte explains. "We buy feeder cattle and feed them out. "
The 59 year old farms 460 acres, and at the time he was elected, he was feeding 400 Holstein and Black Angus steers.
"We're cutting back," he explains. "As we finish out the Holstein steers, we are not replacing them. By spring we'll be down to 100 steers."
Holte plans to continue rotationally grazing steers in the spring, summer and fall, but he says he will not have any animals over winter after this winter.
He relies on help from his brother-in-law Rob Strand with taking care of the cattle on days when he is away from the farm and with fieldwork in the spring and fall.
Holte is a lifelong Farm Bureau member and his father and grandfather were, too.
"I've been on the State Farm Bureau Board since 1995," he explains. "Before that, I was active in Dunn County Farm Bureau. There were a lot of learning opportunities there."
He also participated in the Leadership Wisconsin Program, served on the Wisconsin Beef Council and was chair for two years. He was on the DATCP board for a short period of time and has been on the Wisconsin Livestock Siting Review Board since 2008.
"As in every industry, the relationships you form with people are extremely important," he says. "You can work through differences with people building on our current relationships in representing our members and maintaining the opportunities we have in ag."
Holte emphasizes that while the job is work, he is enjoying leading the organization's 44,169 members.
"It is exciting and I am settling in," he says. "I continue to reaffirm my confidence in the Farm Bureau staff. We have a talented and committed staff here in the state office."
Holte's top priority is "To be the voice for Wisconsin farmers in all the levels of government. Farm Bureau is interested in how ag is regulated in the state so it can continue to be a forward-looking business."
The Holtes have two grown daughters. Jennifer Birkholz, a 7th grade history teacher, and her husband Adam have three children and live in Eau Claire. Erin Holzbauer, an account executive at an advertising agency, and her husband Josh live in Madison.