When Mitch Breunig received the Dairy Business Association’s Advocate of the Year, he said he was humbled.
And then he turned the attention elsewhere.
“I work with people who have received it in the past and I can’t help but to be inspired by them. They are tremendous people for the dairy industry and have given a lot back,” the Sauk City, Wis., dairy farmer said.
The award came as a surprise to Breunig when it was sprung on him a few days before DBA’s virtual conference, where the public announcement was made today.
“He is a man of great integrity and operates his personal and professional life in a way that makes his family and friends proud,” Matt Gabler of Vita Plus and Cornette Farm Supply, the sponsor of the award, said in introducing Breunig. “While he is a great dairy manager, his leadership reaches beyond the farm gates,” Gabler said. “He is willing to give his time to engage with the public, members of the media, researchers and colleagues in the dairy community. When it comes to the dairy industry, Breunig always does the right thing.”
Breunig’s family farm, Mystic Valley Dairy, has undertaken several expansions over the years, coming up from a 50-cow herd milked in a stanchion barn beginning in 1961 to a herd of 400 cows and 1,000 acres of cropland today. Throughout these changes, Breunig successfully kept sight of his most important goals for the farm: to create a sustainable business by breeding long-lasting cows that produce large volumes of milk and have exceptional quality.
“The next generation coming in and trying to run their businesses needs us to lead the way for them so they can get where they’re going,” Breunig said.
Tim Trotter, DBA’s executive director, applauded Breunig for his willingness to share his leadership with the entire dairy community.
“Mitch’s vision, passion and commitment to dairy is evident in everything he does,” Trotter said.
Breunig was instrumental in developing Wisconsin’s Dairy Innovation Hub, an agricultural research engine through three of the University of Wisconsin System colleges. He said the trend of fewer dairy-focused faculty members needed to be reversed.
“It’s really important we changed the way that was going,” he said. “We might not notice the research today, but in 20 years we will see the results.”
“This is a cool collaboration between all the dairy and ag groups around the state,” he said. “We all worked together on a project that was good for everyone.” Breunig, who regularly appears in news stories, said farmers should take this opportunity more often. “If the media has a question, be the one they call first.”
Personal connections are crucial as well, he said.
“It takes more than one conversation to change an opinion about the dairy industry. And it takes that conversation with one person at a time to help them understand our industry and how it’s changed over the years.”