Mara-Wood Farms: Building a legacy
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Posted by: Joanna Wavrunek, digital communications manager
Member Spotlight sponsored by DairyProtector Insurance Program
At about 110 years old, Mara-Wood Farms shows no sign of slowing down. Steve Sternweis, whose grandfather George Sternweis first purchased the farm, sees a stable future for at least another half-century, thanks to his two sons and many grandchildren.
Steve’s parents, Don and Marge Sternweis, purchased the farm in 1950. It’s located in central Wisconsin near Marshfield. In 1974, the family formed a corporation and Steve and his wife, Dolores, began receiving shares. They got married the same year. When his parents’ health began to decline, Don and Marge were able to start gifting shares directly to their grandsons, Clint and Brian. Today, the farm is owned by Steve and Dolores, Clint and Jana, and Brian and Amy.
DBA: What are you most proud of on your farm?
Sternweis: I am most proud of all my aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers and children who worked so very hard over the last 110 years to move this farm forward, when so many others didn’t make it. If not for them, we would not have the success that we do today.
DBA: What sustainable practices are you using on the farm and what benefits have you seen?
Sternweis: Our farmland is very flat, so we added ditches and waterways to all of our land. For us, a drier-than-average year is a good year.
DBA: How do you engage the non-farming public about dairy farming?
Sternweis: I think all farmers need to support any organization that works for us to combat the misinformation that exists. I recently attended my 45th class reunion where a classmate told me she only bought organic and grass-fed beef. She said it tasted so much better, and I told her if she believed that, it was because she had convinced herself that was true. She then said that all big farms give the animals antibiotics and hormones. I told her that I have a relatively large farm (550 cows) and we don’t do that. She said she knew we wouldn’t do that. So I asked her why other farmers would do that? She didn’t really know. I said perhaps you’re listening to the wrong messenger.
DBA: What does the future hold for Mara-Wood Farms?
Sternweis: I think the future is good for at least another 50 years — with two sons and many grandkids involved, there is hope. Maybe by then people will realize they need all farmers.
DBA: If you were talking to people who do not have any connection to agriculture, what would you want to tell them about your farm or the dairy community?
Sternweis: I want people to know how much we care about the cows and the land. I would like them to see how proud I am to walk the same ground each morning that my grandfather and father did.
DBA: You have been a member of DBA since April 2008. What benefit do you find most helpful?
Sternweis: Just knowing that we now have a voice in Madison and Washington D.C., through the sister-organization Edge, working on our behalf makes me proud to be a member of DBA.