Jo-Lane Dairy honored with Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award

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Lance and Jonna Schutte, owners of Jo-Lane Dairy near Monona, were presented the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award on Sept. 15, in a ceremony at the Froelich 1890s Village Museum Barn. Lance and Jonna, along with their children Blake, Briella, Breklyn and Brayton, are pictured with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig (left), Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers Executive Director Brian Waddingham (right) and Alex Frazier from Vinton-based Frazier Nursery, which provided the Schuttes with an oak tree. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig presented the award to the Schutte family. He touted events like the one last week as key in promoting the importance of agriculture.

According to Jonna, the Schutte family believes in five things: “We believe in God and all he’s blessed us with. And with that, we believe in ourselves, our kids, our cows and our future.” To her, the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award embodies it all. “That we’re taking care of our animals and land and being active in our community—doing things to make the world a better place, as cliche as it sounds,” she said.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

Lance and Jonna Schutte, owners of Jo-Lane Dairy near Monona, were presented the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award on Sept. 15, in a ceremony at the Froelich 1890s Village Museum Barn.

 

The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award is made possible by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF), and recognizes Iowa livestock farmers who take pride in caring for the environment, their livestock and being good neighbors. It is named in memory of Gary Wergin, a long-time WHO Radio farm broadcaster who helped create the award.

 

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig presented the award to the Schuttes and their children, Blake, Briella, Breklyn and Brayton. Jo-Lane Dairy was nominated for the honor, an aspect Naig said makes it even more special.

 

“I would guess this family would say what a lot of our Good Farm Neighbor recipients have said: ‘We’re not doing anything special. We’re just doing what we know how to do. We’re doing what our neighbors do for us,’” Naig shared. “That’s what makes this agriculture community so special across the state. This is recognition, first and foremost, for the care of your livestock and your dairy operation. It’s also done in recognition of your commitment to the land and the way you’ve kept conservation as a focus in your operation, and for your incredible involvement in all kinds of organizations and in the community. Thank you for hitting the mark on all of those.”

 

Jo-Lane Dairy started in 2006, when Lance and Jonna Schutte were married, and the couple continues to operate the family farm with the help of their four children. They own 140 Holstein and Brown Swiss cows and replacements, in addition to dairy steers, and sell a few breeding bulls to bull studs. 

 

The Schuttes prioritize high quality animal care for their cattle and, beginning in 2013, started utilizing Lely robots in their free stall milking parlor. The barn was built for the comfort of the animals with an emphasis on optimal operational efficiency. The computerized milking and health records system provides accessible real-time health and production analysis for the herd. 

 

Additionally, a Juno feed pusher works to keep ample high-quality feed in front of the cows and robotic alley scrapers assist with keeping the barn and cattle clean. Timers and light sensors help ensure beneficial lighting in the barn.

 

The farm grows corn for grain and silage, as well as alfalfa, oats and rye. The Schuttes have also implemented an array of conservation practices, including strip cropping, terraces, grass waterways and cover crops. Cover crops provide another source of forage for the cattle while helping to improve water quality and conserve soil.

 

Beyond the farm, Jonna is a 4-H leader, Sunday school teacher, Midwest Dairy Iowa Division Secretary and Iowa Dairy Princess Advisory Council member, and she serves on the Iowa Holstein State and District Youth Committees. Lance and Jonna are both volunteer youth sports coaches and the family hosts an annual preschool farm tour.

 

According to Jonna, the family believes in five things: “We believe in God and all he’s blessed us with. And with that, we believe in ourselves, our kids, our cows and our future.”

 

To her, the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award embodies it all.

 

“That we’re taking care of our animals and land and being active in our community—doing things to make the world a better place, as cliche as it sounds,” she said.

 

The Schuttes credited their family, friends and, of course, neighbors, for making the award possible.

 

“Now I know we can go and nominate some of the awesome people we have as neighbors in our area,” Jonna said.

 

It’s even more special, she added, to include the kids in the celebration.

 

Each of the four Schutte children has started their own small dairy herds with the help of Jonna’s parents, Dennis and Joan Worden. After the birth of each child, a Brown Swiss was purchased as the foundation for each child’s herd.

 

“We also purchased an additional animal for them, and then their herds have grown to what they are today,” Jonna explained. “It’s neat that they have some ownership in the operation. They are why we do what we do, and they are with us every step of the way.”

 

Jonna stressed there’s no age limit to farming.

 

“It takes a lot of hard work and determination, and sometimes things have to work out just right for you. But where there’s a will, there’s a way,” she said. “And I would encourage [people] to do what they love.”

 

Naig touted events like the one last week as key in promoting the importance of agriculture.

 

“There are a lot of folks who don’t get what we do in ag. We wish more people knew the realities of what happens on our farms every day—the risks farmers have to take, the impact they have on the community and the things they’re doing to protect the environment while still remaining profitable,” he shared. “A big part of today is to tell those stories and feature a family, in this case the Schuttes, a dairy operation, and also talk about what they’re doing from a conservation standpoint. It’s to really drive home to folks, whether you’re involved in agriculture or not, that you benefit from Iowa having operations just like this.”

 

That reflection is even more poignant in a historic setting like Froelich, where the first gasoline powered tractor to propel itself forward and backward was invented in 1892. The Froelich Barn, where the ceremony was held, dates back to 1903.

 

“It helps to apply a historical lens to some of the challenges we’re facing. We’re in a very historic setting right now, a testament to innovation a long time ago,” Naig said. “Think back to what it has taken for a family to have a farm for 100 or 150 years. World wars, a depression, farm crisis, now a pandemic and all kinds of technology changing how we do things. Yet, here we stand today with very productive agriculture. Now, we look to the next 100, 150 years, and that gives us hope we will be able to remain productive.”

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