Cashton family named Conservation Farmers of the Year

Monroe County farmers David and Diane Brueggen have a strong tradition of conservation that comes not only from their family but is rooted deeply into the ridges and valleys of the Cashton area where they call home.
Diane’s father, Lawrence Caulum, bought the farm west of Cashton, where she and her five brothers were raised in 1960. The 90-acre property, is located in the Coon Creek Watershed, which is the first sanctioned watershed in the U.S., and is a short distance from the farm that had the first conservation plan in Monroe County.
The land became a Discovery Farm, used as a testing site to measure the water quality of rain runoff from the fields that entered the streams below. It also was used by schools as a soil-judging classroom.
“Those are the kinds of things that make us know this is important land and very precious,” said Diane.
Her father’s stewardship of the land earned him the honor of Monroe County Conservation Farmer of the Year in 1966. That same honor was most recently bestowed on Lawrence’s daughter and son-in-law and their family.
The Monroe County Land Conservation Department named the Brueggens the 2020 Monroe County Conservation Farmers of the Year.
David was raised on a farm on the east side of Cashton towards St. Mary’s Ridge, where his father, Phillip, milked a small herd of cows.
But he says it was his grandfather, Edgar Williams, who influence him most. “He was an excellent cow person,” he recalled.
David and Diane bought their own farm south of Cashton in 1979 and began their life in the dairy business. The farm consists of 287 acres, where the Brueggens milk 160 cows and raise all their replacement animals.
Having little money when they started out, their recreation consisted of taking the family fishing in Jersey Valley, a pastime that gave them a deeper connection to the land, and one that they still enjoy today.
“We do appreciate the clean water because our family loves using it,” said David.
Over the years, they implemented a number of conservation practices, including promoting and using no-till farming. They also employed contour stripping, grass waterways, a waste storage system and their property has a water retention structure to slow rain runoff.
While their daughter Brenda, a physical therapist in Hudson, and son, Michael, a foreman for Culpitt Roofing in West Salem, prefer life off the farm, son Travis, who trained as an electrician, couldn’t resist the lure of the land pulling him back.
The Conservation Farmer of the Year honor extend to Travis and his wife Katie, who manage the farm, while raising their three young children, Avery, Abilene and Royal.
The Brueggens’ efforts didn’t go unnoticed by neighbors Rod and Mary Beth Smith, who nominated them for the honor.
“Together, these families conserve and preserve not only the fertile soil by using good crop growing techniques, they also pass onto the next generation the value of a hard day’s work, the importance of strong family relationships and a strong faith in God,” they wrote in their nomination letter.
The Monroe County Natural Resource and Extension Committee each year recognizes the Land Stewardship Award winners, which includes Conservationist of the Year, Conservation Farmer of the Year and Tree Farmer of the Year. 
Winners are usually honored at a banquet in January but due to COVID the event was cancelled and 2020 winners will be recognized along with the 2021 winners next January.
The winners are outstanding individuals, nominated and selected by their peers, who have a history of land stewardship and commitment to conservation.
The other 2020 award winners include, Tree Farmers of the Year Ruth, Brian and Greg Eirschele from the R&R Ranch and Conservationist of the Year Maurice Amundson.

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