Westby, Wis., dairy farmer Darin Von Ruden was re-elected president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union on Jan. 26 in Appleton. Some 300 family farmers and rural advocates gathered for the organization’s 88th annual state convention.
Von Ruden is a lifelong Farmers Union member, and since 2007 has served as the organization’s District 5 director, representing Crawford, Grant, Green, Iowa, Lafayette, Richland, Rock and Vernon counties. He also leads the WFU Foundation board of directors, serves on the National Farmers Union board and is chairman of the NFU Membership Committee. He and his wife, Joann, live in Westby. The Von Ruden family recently transitioned the farm to the fourth generation, when their son Brett purchased the machinery and 50-cow dairy herd.
Von Ruden has been active with Farmers Union at the local, state and national levels. He is a seven-time recipient of the Silver Star Award, which is National Farmers Union’s highest recognition of membership development. A patron member of the Westby Cooperative Creamery, he was also a founding member of Wisconsin Farmers Union Specialty Cheese, chairman of the Wisconsin Dairy Farmers Guild and a founding member of the Upper Midwest Milk Producers Association. In recent years, he has represented U.S. farmers as a delegate at World Farmers’ Organisation events. He also presently serves on the Dairy Task Force 2.0.
Von Ruden is the 11th president in WFU’s 88-year history. He divides his time traveling between the WFU state office in Chippewa Falls and its legislative office in Madison.
In his presidential address, Von Ruden highlighted how people from many backgrounds — regardless of farm size, organization affiliation or individual background — have pulled together around the need for dairy pricing reform, nonpartisan redistricting, antitrust enforcement in agricultural sectors and other key topics.
“Crisis can be a catalyst for change — that was especially true in 2018,” Von Ruden said. “This past year has been a year of organizing that has united folks around the many issues impacting our food systems and farmers’ livelihoods.”
Von Ruden noted that the plight of the family farmer has not been limited to the U.S. “We’re seeing commonalities in many of these issues, which are being faced by farmers worldwide. At the heart of farmers’ struggles are outdated pricing systems that are not keeping up with the cost of inputs, growing consolidation and corporate investment in agriculture, and increasing water quality and climate change concerns.
“Now more than ever, rural Wisconsin needs people who are willing to step up, and in recent months, many of these folks have been Farmers Union members,” Von Ruden said. “Farmers Union has been and will continue to be a bridge builder as we work toward a new era for family farms. We can no longer accept the status quo.”
Board members re-elected
Also re-elected to the WFU board were Ed Gorell of Eleva and Rick Adamski of Seymour. They are joined on the board by Chris Holman, Custer; Craig Myhre, Osseo; Linda Ceylor, Catawba; Tina Hinchley, Cambridge; Mark Liebaert, South Range; and Lauren Langworthy, Wheeler.
Caleb Langworthy of Wheeler and Kriss Marion of Blanchardville were elected as the delegates who will represent WFU at the National Farmers Union Convention March 3-5 in Bellevue, Wash.