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Carrying on a family legacy while looking to the future

Fourth-generation farmer focuses on land quality and herd management at Outagamie County family farm

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December 28, 2022

OUTAGAMIE COUNTY – As a wife, mom of four, dog mom of two and full-time dairy farmer, Kelly Oudenhoven admits, sometimes life can get crazy.

“Farming isn’t your typical 9-5 job you can leave at the end of the day and forget about it until you punch into work again,” she said. “Farming is a lifestyle – something you can never walk away from or stop thinking about.”

Oudenhoven – co-owner and herd manager of Larrand Dairy in Outagamie County – said while farming isn’t for everyone, she can’t help but love it.

In her blood
Even from an early age, Oudenhoven said she knew living and working on a farm of her own was what she was meant to do.

“I grew up on a farm in Freedom, where we raised replacement heifers for a local dairy farm,” she said. “It was here where my love for animals, especially cows, was ignited and continued to grow.”

Oudenhoven said growing up, she was also actively involved in 4-H and FFA, where she focused on leadership opportunities and networking with other young individuals.

“I always knew I wanted to farm, however, when it came time to meet with guidance counselors on where to go to school, I was told ‘women don’t become dairy farmers,’” she said.

So, Oudenhoven said she chose the route of a veterinarian assistant and worked at a local animal hospital – starting on the third shift and working her way up the ladder into management. 

“During this time, I met my husband, Keith, who grew up on a dairy farm and was from the same small town as me,” she said.
Oudenhoven said while she “absolutely loved” her career, there was still “something missing.”

“An opportunity came up for me to join Keith’s family dairy farm as the business partnership was being dissolved,” she said. “I started full-time in July 2014. We are now going through a transition with his parents (to take over for them), and we are the fourth generation to carry on the family legacy of dairy farming.”

Oudenhoven said Larrand Dairy – which consists of 450 Holsteins that are milked twice daily and 950 acres – was recently named a Century Farm, as it has been in business for 104 years. 

“We are proud and humbled to be able to carry on the legacy of the family dairy farm and raise our children with the same values as we were raised with,” she said. “We have four children – Josie (10), Jack (8), Allison (7) and Clayton (3) – who will happily tell you they will be the fifth generation to carry on the legacy.”

It takes a village
Oudenhoven said though everyone on the farm has their separate areas of focus, their motto remains the same – teamwork.
“It takes all of our efforts to make a well-oiled machine,” she said. 

Oudenhoven said her role at Larrand Dairy is herd manager.

“I oversee all of the day-to-day functions with our cows, manage vaccine records, maternity and dry cows, colostrum supplementation to our newborn calves, parlor procedures and also manage our employees,” she said. “On our farm, we pride ourselves in producing a high-quality, safe and nutritious dairy product.”

Kelly Oudenhoven said if you ask her four children, they’ll tell you they plan to be the fifth generation to take over the farm. Submitted Photo

To accomplish this, Oudenhoven said they focus on three main things – cow comfort, high-quality feed and cleanliness.

“Cow comfort is the most important priority, as comfortable cows are happy cows, and they will produce a high-quality product,” she said. “The second priority is high-quality feed followed closely by cleanliness. We grow and harvest most of our own crops and take great pride in knowing we are growing a high-quality product for our cows. We also have high standards in keeping our farm clean. We are producing a food product for our consumers, and we want them to feel comfortable purchasing something we have produced.”

Oudenhoven said working hard, being honest and taking care of the land and animals that provide so much more than the normal person knows – are valuable life skills many people don’t have the privilege of knowing.

“We want to raise our children with the same values we had growing up,” she said.

Oudenhoven’s efforts as herd manager at Larrand Dairy are being recognized throughout the dairy industry.

She was recently chosen as the recipient of the Farming for the Future Award by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF).

“This award replaced the Achievement Award, which focused more on the financial aspect of your farm,” she said. “The Farming for the Future Award focuses more on your involvement with your farm, leadership abilities, involvement with the farm bureau and involvement with other organizations. This award is for members who derive the majority of their income from production agriculture.”

Oudenhoven said she filled out an extensive application describing her involvement at Larrand Dairy, future plans and goals for it, her farm bureau involvement, other organization involvement and any agriculture issues she was seeing and how she is helping solve those issues.

“The top four applicants then interviewed with a panel of judges at the Young Farmer and Agriculturalist (YFA) Conference on Dec. 3, where the judges could ask you questions about your application,” she said. “During the Sunday morning general sessions, I was announced the winner.”

As the award recipient, Oudenhoven:
Received $1,500 courtesy of GROWMARK, Inc.Has the opportunity to attend the 2023 American Farm Bureau Federation Fusion Conference in Jacksonville, Florida.Is eligible to attend the 2023 YFA Washington, D.C. Fly-in.Will be a guest at the WFBF 2023 YFA Conference.
“Being recognized for something you work so hard for, is humbling,” she said. “I don’t do all of these things to get a pat on the back. I do them because I believe in it and want our consumers to know where their food comes from and the people that grow, raise, harvest and process it.”

Oudenhoven said being recognized and talking about what she does gives her an opportunity to tell others – “we are real people and care about the cows and our land.”

Kelly Oudenhoven, left, was selected as the 2022 recipient of the Farming for the Future Award by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. Submitted Photo

“As a female, I want to show other women that anything is possible,” she said. “Agriculture used to be considered male dominant, however, times have changed, and many women are running farms of all types on their own.”

Oudenhoven was also nominated for the Sustainable Self category for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation 35 under 35 Sustainability award. 

“For the industry, I think it is great to portray the younger generation of farmers along with the older generation,” she said. “We wouldn’t be able to farm without the hard work of the generation who came before us, and the rest of the world depends on the younger generation to continue to provide food and resources.”

Community involvement
When it comes to her involvement with farm-related organizations, Oudenhoven said she’s “very involved.”

She said she’s currently on the board of directors for the Outagamie County Farm Bureau, as well as serving as the promotion and education chair and Ag in the Classroom coordinator.

“I have served as the secretary for the Outagamie County Dairy Promotion Board for the past 13 years – (where) I help organize our Breakfast on the Farm, facilitate dairy product donations with educational purposes and give insight into the dairy industry with our consumers,” Oudenhoven said. 

With both organizations, Oudenhoven said she is the program manager for the Adventures in Dairyland Program.

“We reach more than 1,600 fourth-grade students in Outagamie County and teach them all about the dairy industry,” she said. “Students embark on a six-week adventure with five classroom visits with a volunteer instructor and then have the opportunity to visit a dairy farm where they can see, touch and sometimes milk a cow for the first time.”

Oudenhoven said she loves being able to share her love of the dairy industry with others and connect consumers to the people who grow their food.

“This is vital when it comes to the future of farming, as many times, people don’t know where their food comes from,” she said.

When she thinks about the future of farming, Oudenhoven said she always thinks of this quote: “Once in your life, you may need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher, but EVERY day, three times a day, you need a farmer.”

“I think this quote is extremely relevant when it comes to the future of farming and feeding the world,” she said. “Without farmers, our consumers would be cold, hungry and naked.”

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