Communicators share the joy of agriculture with everyone | HER
BARNEVELD, Wis. – Communication is the key to understanding – especially communication about agriculture. That’s why Bryanna and Dylan Handel reach out to the public through social media, farm events, interviews and more. Their efforts recently earned young dairy farmers the “Speak Up for Ag Award” during the 2022 Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmers program.
“We talk about the importance of agriculture while giving people hope that they too can start a dairy farm from scratch and be successful,” said Bryanna Handel.
The couple bought their farm in the Barneveld area in July 2016; they now milk 75 cows and have 45 young stock. They cultivate 103 acres.
The Handels both have agricultural backgrounds. She was raised on a hobby farm near Marshall, Wisconsin, where her family raised steers and pigs. He was raised on a row crop and beef cattle farm near Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.
Bryanna Handel said she always wanted to become a dairy farm. At age 13, she began helping out on her grandparents’ 380-cow dairy farm near Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. She started attending auctions when she was 16, where she bought a few cows with the money she earned from various jobs. She housed the cattle on her grandparents’ farm until she could find a place of her own and start farming.
After graduating from Marshall High School in 2010, she took the Agriculture and Industry Short Course at the University of Wisconsin. She obtained a certificate in dairy herd management. She worked for a year at a 90-cow dairy near Columbus, Wisconsin. She then became a milk tester.
After graduating in 2009 from Mount Horeb High School, Dylan Handel began working for HRD Fencing of Verona, Wisconsin. He then worked for Premier Cooperative as an applicator.
In 2014 the couple bought a farmhouse near Verona – where they held their wedding. She started farming full time and returned to the fencing business.
Two years later they bought the farm near Barneveld where they now live with their four children – Elizabeth, 6, Lyle, 5, Clyde, 3 and Roy 1.5. The couple are expecting a fifth child in about seven months.
“We want to raise our children to enjoy this lifestyle,” said Bryanna Handel.
She often shares photos on Facebook or Instagram to show what the children are doing on the farm. She said she had 1,700 followers on Facebook. She also has around 800 followers on Instagram.
“So many people are generations away from farming that seeing kids playing with calves and learning a work ethic, as well as riding bikes in the barn rather than being glued to a screen, makes their hearts happy” , she said.
In August 2021, the couple held an on-farm farmer’s market that drew around 500 people, she said.
“I had this idea in mid-May during night chores,” she said. “During the pandemic, everyone asked me what they could do to support local farmers. So I thought ‘how about a farmer’s market on the farm?’
She asked other local farmers if they would be interested in selling their produce in her garden. She didn’t charge sellers for their space.
During the Farmers’ Market, she provided goody bags filled with facts about dairy farming and “dairy swag” such as stickers, tattoos, pencils and erasers. The Handels also featured a petting zoo so children could interact with the animals.
“We all know that farmers are becoming fewer and fewer, so few children get to see goats, sheep, chickens and calves,” she said. “The children were impressed by the animals and really enjoyed it. Parents loved being able to do something close to home with their kids that was free and supported local farmers and vendors.
Handel sold his own brand of cheese at the event – B. Kurt Dairy. Her maiden name is “Kurt”, hence her name. The Handels began offering White Cheddar cheese in 2018. Over the past three years, they have sold over 6,000 pounds of cheese.
The cheese is mainly marketed via Facebook and word of mouth. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been more willing to support local farms and buy from family farms compared to large national retailers, she said.
“We make a variety of boxes of cheeses and sausages which we sell at local craft fairs over the holiday season, while working with the Marshall FFA on their winter fruit sale,” she said. .
The Handels include a small biography about themselves along with the different cheese boxes they offer. They donate 20% to the chapter or club that sells the cheese.
“By doing this, we’re sharing our story while moving products faster,” she said.
In addition to advocating for agriculture on social media and the Farmers Market event — which she plans to host again this summer — Handel has participated in a “Shining Bright” FarmHer podcast. The farm was also featured in a television commercial for Chipotle. White cheddar is featured prominently on its menu.
The Handels ship their milk to the Scenic Central Milk Producers Cooperative. Through the cooperative, they participate in the Meister Cheese Cows First program. The patented program focuses on the humane treatment of cows.
Ryan Studnicka, milk manager at Meister Cheese, visits farms to ensure they meet Cows First criteria, such as dehorning protocol, rations free of animal by-products and a free-stall environment. Customers pay a premium for Cows First program products. Participating dairy producers receive a bonus of $1 per quintal for their milk.
Alex Meister, owner of Meister Cheese, said the program started 14 years ago after a cheese customer expressed a desire to have milk from humanely treated cows with daily access to milk. outside. The program has grown to include other retail and restaurant businesses.
“Handels are great examples of what the customer is looking for to support family farms and good quality milk, which makes good quality cheese,” Meister said.
Visit facebook.com/bryanna.kurt.9 and Instagram.com/bryanna.handel and youtube.com – search “Farmher, Handel” – and wi-oyf.org for more information.
This is an original article written for Agri-View, an agricultural publication of Lee Enterprises based in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit AgriView.com for more information.