Joel Greeno

Kendall, WI

Joel Greeno & Family

This month Farm Aid spoke with family farm advocate and grass-based dairy farmer, Joel Greeno. As our country embraces a spirit of renewed responsibility, Joel is an inspiring example of both self-sacrifice and civic participation. In his fight for fair pricing and a living wage for family farmers, Joel serves as the vice president of the Family Farm Defenders and on the executive board of the National Family Farm Coalition – two of Farm Aid's long time allies and funded groups.

There may only be 24 hours in a day, but that's not stopping Joel Greeno. In addition to feeding, milking and managing 100+ head of dairy cattle, rotating 160 acres of pasture, raising a two-year old daughter with his wife, Laura, and contributing as a founding member to one of the better functioning dairy cooperatives (Scenic Central Milk Producers) in the country, Joel Greeno has made it his calling to fight against corporate manipulation of the free market and for a fair price for family farmers. To this end, in his "free" time Joel dons the hats of president of the American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association and vice president of Family Farm Defenders, and sits on the executive board of the National Family Farm Coalition. And, every so often (we wonder when?), he finds some time to sleep.

Joel initially purchased his farm (very cleverly named Greeno Acres) to provide added acreage for his parents' dairy just a few miles down the road. That was until 1993, when his folks' farm faced foreclosure and Joel was forced to move what was left of the family operation onto his land.

When Joel purchased his farm it had been abandoned for eight years, its buildings completely ransacked. Light switches off walls, doors off hinges, you name it – anything of value had been lifted. In the face of adversity, Joel took a broken farm and made it functional in just a matter of weeks. Of course, doing the same for a broken dairy industry is a much bigger task, but that hasn't kept Joel from trying.

Joel shares the hope that the Obama Administration will address many of the challenges he and other dairy operators are facing today. His biggest issue: product pricing. According to Joel, dairy farmers are currently receiving 30% of what it costs to produce their milk. With input costs rising and volatile markets shifting prices daily, it is extremely difficult for small and mid-sized dairy producers to earn a living wage, let alone recover production costs. Instead of focusing on best management practices, farmer attention is constantly distracted by a fickle market. The current surplus of milk in the face of a deepening recession is driving prices even lower, making Joel's advocacy work as important as ever.

Joel knows he's not alone. Sacrifice seems to be the common denominator tying dairy farmers together these days. During our conversation Joel recounted more stories than I can bear to retell of neighboring dairy farms being stripped of their industry and dignity, the result of misguided policies and corrupt practice. The bright spot, he says, is working toward a solution with all the good people of Family Farm Defenders and the National Family Farm Coalition

"If I wasn't so stubborn and committed to these groups, I probably would have given up long ago. But we can't all give in. There have to be some leaders in this to help the family farmer survive."

At the time we talked, Joel was starting to make his preparations for an early February trip to Washington, D.C., for the National Family Farm Coalition's annual meeting. With 14 hours of hard chores daily, careful planning is essential to any time spent off-farm; and with temperatures plummeting double digits below zero in Wisconsin, herd management is all the more challenging. But to Joel, the meetings are worth the effort; they are just the fuel he needs to keep going.

"I go to refill the 'gas tank.' There's nothing like being around good people to get you motivated again."

And there's nothing like a good farmer story to keep us going here at Farm Aid.

Thanks, Joel, for your inspiration.

Joel Greeno & Family   Joel Greeno & Family   Joel Greeno & Family

Date: 1/27/2009

Farm to School Heroes, New Hampshire - Colebrook & Loudon, NH

Sandra Garner - Snow Hill, NC

Robert Elliott - Louisburg, NC

Orpha Gene Watson - Nash County, NC

Harold Wright - Bladenboro, NC

Sarah Hoffmann & Jacqueline Smith - Weston, MO

Art Tanderup - Neligh, NE

Tom Rogers - Madera County, CA

Abbe Turner - Kent, OH

Deb Windecker -  Frankfort, NY

Chuck Deichmann - Belmont, NY

Carroll Wade - Jasper, NY

Ben Shute - Clermont, NY

Kevin Jablonski - Argyle, NY

Andrew Pittz - Missouri Valley, IA

Chris & Donna Garza - Calhan, CO

The Crutchfields: Life Under Contract - Lamar, AR

Jeff & Annie Main - Capay, CA

Kate Canney - Needham, MA

Kara Fitzgerald & Ryan Wood Beauchamp  - Cuttingsville, VT

Dru Peters & Homer Walden - Dover, PA

Jenn Halpin - Carlile, PA

James & Ida Burkholder - Berks County, PA

Zoë Bradbury - Langlois, OR

Rosie & Ward Burroughs - Denair, CA

Gary Purgason - Madison, NC

Stanley & Evan Hall - South Paoli, IN

Jim Gerritsen - Bridgewater, ME

Zach Ducheneaux - Eagle Butte, SD

Jacob & Courtney Cowgill - Conrad, MT

Tom Nuessmeier - Le Sueur, MN

Sherri Harvel - Kansas City, MO

Gail Fuller - Emporia, KS

Jason Schmidt - Newton, KS

Nick Meyer - Hardwick, VT

The Local Food Hub - Charlottesville, VA

Corky Jones - Brownville, NE

Pat Trask - Wasta, SD

Carol Ford & Chuck Waibel - Milan, MN

Mike Weaver - Fort Sybert, WV

Glyen Holmes - Dothan, AL

Will Allen - Milwaukee, WI

Rebecca Goodman - Wonewoc, WI

Eric Odberg - Genesee, ID

John Kinsman - Sauk County, WI

Luciano Alvarado - Fayetteville, NC

Russ Kremer - Osage County, MO

Hector Mora - Monterey County, CA

Theresa Podoll - Fullerton, ND

Mary Hendrickson - Columbia, MO

Jen Friedrich & Dom Fernandes - Carver, MA

David Senter - Washington, DC

Jere Gettle - Mansfield, MO

Rhonda Perry & Roger Allison  - Howard County, MO

Walker Claridge - Hatton, MO

David Marvel - Harrington, DE

Jerry Harvey - Promise City, IA

Donley Darnell - Newcastle, WY

Greg Massa - Hamilton City, CA

Stuart Veldhuizen - Dublin, TX

Joel Greeno - Kendall, WI

Jeremy Freymoyer - Hamburg, PA

Alan and Lori Callister - West Concord, MN

Jeanne Charter - Billings, Montana

Susan Meredith & Brenna Chase - Brunswick, Maine

Elizabeth Keen - Great Barrington, MA

Missy Bahret & Casey Steinberg - Amherst, Massachusetts

Justin Pitts - Jones County, Mississippi

Kim Buchheit & Mike Robinson - Wise Acre Farm

Ben & Alysha Godfrey - Cameron, TX

David & Serena  - Mount Vernon, WA

Andres Mejides - Homestead, FL

Jamie Collins - Carmel & Carmel Valley, Ca

Kenneth Barber - Ithaca, N.Y.

Genell Pridgen - Snow Hill, N.C.

Chris Kobayashi - Hanalei, Hawaii

Matthew Kurek - Jamesport, N.Y.

Elizabeth Ryan - Staatsburg, N.Y.

Klein Family - Silver Springs, N.Y.

McKinley Hightower-Beyah - New York, NY

Adam Barr - Rhodelia, Ky.

Stan Schutte - Stewardson, Ill.

Francis & Susan Thicke - Fairfield, Iowa

Ben Burkett - Petal, Miss.

Doug Flack - Enosburg Falls, Vt.

Bob and Kathy Perol - Troy, Maine

Bob Muth - Gloucester County, N.J.

Jim Kinsel - Pennington, N.J.

Mary Seton Corboy - Philadelphia, Pa.

Miguel Martinez - San Juan Bautista, Calif.

Tony Thompson - Cottonwood, Minn.

Laura Garber - Hamilton, Mont.

Wettsteins Update - Carlock, Ill.

Kelli Emenes - Covington, La.

Brian Futhey - Woodward, Pa.

Tom Trantham - Pelzer, S.C.

Ryan Wolfe - Chebanse, Ill.

Hank Moss - Erath, La.

Jim Core - Folsom, La.

The Wettsteins - Carlock, Ill.

Kristen Kordet - Madison, Wis.

Bruce & Fran Conard - Martinsburg, Ohio

Mike Nolan - Austin, Texas

Maggie's Farm - Athol, Mass.

Kristi & Brad Fernholz - Appleton, Minn.

Stacy Hall and Bill Dix - Athens, Ohio

Jack & Julie - Barre, Mass.

Bud Odland - Clarion, Iowa

Andrew Stout & Wendy Munroe - Carnation, WA

Rick and Lora Lea - Northeastern, Wash.

Cynthia & Joel Huesby - Walla Walla, Wash.

David Mills - Brandon, Vt.

Ed Snavely - Fredericktown, Ohio

Kim & Ann Seeley - Bradford County, Pa.

Mark Parrish - Boston, Mass.

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Anonymous @ 5/31/2009 6:41:42 AM 
Hello! Why is it that farmers will not work together to form a tight coalition to protect our way of life? I know there has to be a way for all of us small farmers that are still hanging on to pool bonafde resources and receive
fair prices at the farm gate. Why can't whoever the powers be pay a fair price at the farm gate for what they need, and don't take anything over that or pay a smaller price for any so called "surplus". I don't think there is any big surplus. I think it is all manipulated. They seem to use every single pound somewhere. They always take it. In fourty four years hear the milkman has never left a drop in the cooler. Pay us a good fair price for what the country needs and any left overs get paid marginally. Production would then be self controlled, because most farmers would automatically cut back. all we want is to pay our bills and maintain our lifestyle. Which is very frugal and self sustaining. It just doesn't seem to be that hard to figure out.
Anonymous @ 4/24/2009 5:53:46 AM 
You know we're right there with you. My brothers milk checks don't even begin to cover the bills right now!!! Christy Johnson
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