History in the Making

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This article originally appeared in Horizons Dairy Edition. It was written by Terri Dallas, VP Member Relations, GENEX.

I am the keeper of GENEX and predecessors’ historical items. On display in my office is a Certificate for Capitol Stock issued by Badger Breeders Cooperative in 1964. It’s on my file cabinet, right next to the 1968 Midwest Breeders Annual Report. Also in my collection are sire directories and newsletters from Eastern A.I. Cooperative and Atlantic Breeders Cooperative and coffee cups and barn desks with the Noba and Minnesota Valley Breeders logos.

At this point, probably a few readers are thinking, why does she have all that old stuff that I threw out years ago, and where does she get it from? Both are valid questions. Most of the artifacts in my collection are from members and employees, now deceased, whose family members just couldn’t throw them away. They knew how much these items, and the co-op, meant to their parents or their spouses.

So, when they give me a call, I tell them to send the artifacts on over and the collection grows. The latest donation was from a family here in Shawano, Wisconsin. Their dad had served as the office manager for Badger Breeders, Midwest Breeders and 21st Century Genetics. Due to the nature of his job, his co-op memorabilia was more unique than others. It included the 1951 pension plan and group insurance plans from 1965.

In the stack of brochures was an unassuming peach-colored piece entitled, “Together, Handbook for Employees of Badger Breeders Cooperative.” The first page was a welcome from Kenneth Wallin, General Manager. It had the normal “we’re glad you chose us” text you often find in employee handbooks, but the last two paragraphs really caught my attention:

Because the principles of cooperation are so morally right and so economically sound, your enthusiasm for this form of business will grow as you learn its methods and purposes. I hope your association with us will be pleasant, successful and long-lasting.

I hope all employees and those who come with us in the future will be able to say in all sincerity, “Badger Breeders is a good place to work.” Let’s keep it so as we jointly give our best of services to dairy farmer members and the dairy industry.

Terri Dallas with a 1957 Badger Breeders employee handbook.

Wow! Those two paragraphs stopped me right in my tracks. This handbook was dated 1957 but still holds true today. Switch out Badger Breeders for GENEX and we could put those paragraphs in today’s employee handbook.

Now my interest was piqued, and I kept paging through to see what else I could learn. A short history revealed Badger Breeders Cooperative was organized in 1940 with five employees, about 100 members and 12 bulls. The first year of operation they inseminated 1,546 cows.

They pointed out the co-op had the usual financial struggle, the problem of gaining membership support and miscellaneous operating difficulties. However, through good directors, sound management, unfailing support of employees and the cooperative’s farmerowners, the organization had survived to become a useful tool in helping members have a better herd of cattle and a better living. All I could think was ditto!

The next page outlined the governance structure. Lo and behold, the comparisons between then and now
continued.

Owned and controlled by the members who use its service. Check.
Members elect delegates based on one delegate for every 100 members, or portion thereof. Check.
The Board of Directors shoulder the responsibilities of determining the co-op’s broad objectives and policies. These policies are developed and put into effect by the general manager, who also gives our business its direction in leadership. Check. Check.

It’s interesting how those dusty, musty, sometimes manure-spattered pieces of history shed light on where we came from and who we are today. And yes, if you have pieces to add to this collection, feel free to send them my way. It’s important to remember our history as we move forward and make history!

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