Farm-City Day hosts grow to bring three sons into dairy

posted Aug. 6, 2018 7:38 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Heidi Clausen, Editor |

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    The Johnson family will host St. Croix County Farm-City Day later this month. Front, from left, are Mitch, Kayden, Jessica, Nancy, Bob and Pat. Back, from left, are Ashley holding Karson, Matt, McKinley, Emmett, Brad, Krista holding Dalton and Landon.

The Johnson farm near Baldwin looks very different from how it appeared 20 years ago — the last time they hosted St. Croix County Farm-City Day.

For starters, owners Bob and Nancy Johnson have ushered their three adult sons — Matt, Brad and Pat — into the family business. To accommodate this growth, they gradually expanded their dairy herd, which now numbers 350 cows; built three new barns; and installed a milking parlor in their old tie-stall barn.

Also since 1998, they have put up grain bins with a dryer and built three silage bunkers, taking down all but two of their tower silos, and they have built a calf barn and almost tripled their acreage. They own 700 acres and rent another 1,100 acres on which they grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa. 

“We enjoy being our own boss and enjoy having a place to watch the next generation grow and learn about agriculture,” the Johnsons told The Country Today.

The Johnsons expect to welcome 2,500 to 3,500 people to their farm Saturday, Aug. 18, for the 37th annual St. Croix County Farm-City Day. A free lunch will be served.

“(Attendance) has its ups and downs ... when you are depending on the weather,” the Johnsons said, but “we hope to help people get an idea of what we do each day and inform them about agriculture.”

The Johnson family has a long history in St. Croix County agriculture, farming here since 1904 when the property was purchased by Bob’s great-grandfather, Charles. Later, the farm was passed down to Harold Sr. and Mae Johnson, then to Harold Jr. and Ruth Johnson. Bob took over in 1992, and he and Nancy hope to someday pass the farm on to a sixth generation.

Ryan Sterry, St. Croix County UW-Extension agriculture agent, said the Johnson farm is unique in that they grew their business “in steps” to bring in the next generation, and they have dabbled in registered Holstein genetics, with bragging rights to some high-ranking genomic animals.

“It’s a bit of a mix in that they do some cropping, along with the cows,” Sterry said. “They’ve built new free-stall barns, but the old two-story barn is still in use.”

All three of the Johnsons’ sons knew right out of high school that they wanted to farm for a living. Matt and Brad joined their parents after graduation, while Pat first attended the Farm and Industry Short Course at UW-Madison before returning. When they built their first new barn, they already had enough cows to fill it since they had been switching cows multiple times through the tie-stall barn.

Many hands make light work, and the Johnsons count on each other to make their farm run smoothly. Bob and Brad milk the cows, with nephew Mitch Johnson helping out in the evenings and on weekends. Calves are fed by Bob, Nancy and Pat. Matt feeds the cows and brings cows in to be milked. Everyone helps out in the fields, along with Bob’s brother, Brian.

To accommodate their three sons joining the farm, the Johnsons added more cows and began running more land. The boys also started their own side businesses to help supplement their cut of the milk check. Matt and Brad started marketing cattle genetics right out of high school, buying their first cow in 2006. They now export as many as 50 to 75 embryos each year to many different countries, including Japan, Holland, Europe, France and Spain. They also sell 10 to 12 bulls to stud each year and market breeding bulls to neighboring farmers.

Five years ago, Pat bought a big square-baling business from a neighbor. He has traveled as far as 30 miles to bale for people.

“But with a lot of farmers no longer farming, his list of people to bale for has dwindled,” the Johnsons said.

Looking at the future, the Johnsons say they don’t have any immediate plans to add cows but would like to continue expanding their cropping enterprise. They sell their milk to Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery.

Matt and his wife, Ashley, have a son, Karson. Brad and his wife, Krista, have four children — McKinley, Landon, Emmett and Dalton. Bob and Nancy’s daughter, Jessica, works in graphic design and has a son, Kayden.

If you go

What: St. Croix County Farm-City Day.

When: Saturday, Aug. 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Johnson Dairy, 1963 110th Ave., Baldwin.

Activities: Free lunch, guided farm tour, petting barnyard, exhibits and displays and farm machinery display.

Menu: Ham sandwiches, vegetables, pudding, milk, ice cream and deep-fried cheese curds supplied by Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery.

Information: or on Facebook at “St. Croix County Farm-City Day.”

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