Julie Maurer, co-owner of Soaring Eagle Dairy in Newton, Wis., was the first recipient of the Dean Strauss Leadership Award in recognition of her roles as an advocate and leader in the dairy community. Maurer was presented with the award at the Professional Dairy Producers Business Conference on March 18 in Wisconsin Dells.
“Julie is a tremendous example of a passionate rural leader who has spearheaded a number of programs and projects to support the dairy industry and her community,” said Shelly Mayer, PDPW executive director.
Maurer is co-owner of Soaring Eagle Dairy with her parents, Jim and Sandie Fitzgerald, sisters Kelly Goehring and Stacy Klotz, and brother Nick. She joined the family business in 2005 and is currently responsible for nutrient management, human resources and employee management, the milking parlor and the farm’s heifer program at the Heifer Authority in Colorado.
Remembering Dean Strauss
The award was established by the PDPW Board of Directors in honor of Dean Strauss, a Wisconsin dairy farmer and dairy industry leader who died in 2019 at age 48. Strauss was the owner of Majestic Crossing Dairy and was active in a number of dairy organizations and leadership boards. He was a past president and past board member of PDPW.
“Dean was an inspirational young leader — a role model for our dairy community and a friend to all,” Mayer said. “He worked tirelessly to promote the dairy industry and was passionate about providing continuing education opportunities for all dairy producers.”
Strauss and Majestic Crossing Dairy were one of three farms in the nation honored with the Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Award in May 2019, and he was a member of several boards including the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center, the executive board of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and the Dairy Policy Committee for Wisconsin Farm Bureau. He was also a member of the boards of the Wisconsin Beef Council, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), and Dairy Management Inc.
“This award was a complete surprise,” Maurer says. “I didn’t even know there was going to be a Dean Strauss Leadership Award. He did a great job for our industry. I was surprised to be selected.”
Maurer serves as president of the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center near Manitowoc — a venture for which she was instrumental in raising funds for its 2018 launch. She also serves on the board of directors for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. She has served in numerous other leadership roles in dairy and community organizations, including youth leader in her church, through which she has traveled internationally on missionary trips.
Maurer says she and Strauss were good friends.
“I have only been farming about 16 years,” she says. “I think I met Dean at a conference about 12 years ago. We got to know each other better when I invited him to join the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center Board. And when I joined the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin Board, we got to know each other even better.”
Maurer says she is honored to be the first to win the award.
“None of the work I’ve done to promote the dairy industry was done by just me. There are so many people in our industry who do so much to promote our industry,” she says. “I want to share the award with my family and everyone in the industry.”
Just before the award was presented, a video played remembering Strauss.
“It was great to see and hear Dean again, but it was also very emotional for everyone,” she says.
In attendance for the award presentation were Maurer’s daughters, Hailey and Kelsey Maurer, her parents, Jim and Sandie Fitzgerald, her sister Kelly and her brother Nick. Dean Strauss’s widow, brother and parents presented the award.