Jim Harsdorf fulfilled his classification talk with a bonus - he brought his own guest presenter in the form of his grandson, Christian. Plus, he brought his son along to complete the three-generation presence! As a former lawmaker and a long-time dairy farmer, Jim had a wealth of local experience to share about living, working, and serving and helping others in rural Wisconsin. 
Joking that joining the Rotarians at age 68 provides us with an opportunity to make us suffer through his life story, Jim proceeded to do the opposite. He divided his presentation into four areas of importance in his life: family, career, farm and community service.
Jim grew up on the home farm in Stillwater, MN, where there were 28 cows on 210 acres. He graduated from Stillwater High School.
“It was a great place to grow up,”he said.
In 1970, he moved to Wisconsin, and farmed south of River Falls, a great fertile location with 430 acres and 95 cows. In 2003, he expanded his operation to Spring Valley, more than doubled the herd, and then in 2014, his farm crew to 2,000 acres, supporting 600 cows, and 550 heifers with corn, alfalfa and soybeans.
Jim and his family hosted farm-city day, and he spoke of the challenges of 2,500 people arriving after a week of rain. He displayed a photo of a double rainbow to commemorate the occasion.
The Trim-bel Valley Dairy was run by his family members and six employees. “You can’t run a farm without really good employees,” he said.
Jim embraced technology in his operations, including a robotic feed pusher (makes a difference to the quality, protein and quality of milk) and “the mensch,” a super vacuum cleaner, as just two of the innvoations that kept his cows happy and comfortable. The building had 36 72” fans to help keep the cows comfy.

Mission to a community

Community service started with a mission trip to Lote Tres, Ecuador.
“Our family is big on giving back to the community,” he stated. Their plans to build a church quickly morphed into getting involved the the local agriculture scene, which included helping the town change its surplus milk processes. They constructed a community bulk tank.
Jim widened his agriculture knowledge with activities like "pasture walks," where he learned of the different farming practices in the mountains.
“When you get up to 13,000 feet, you can walk 60 feet and really lose your breath,” he said. “I realized, ‘I'm walking down the mountain and … I have to walk up the mountain!'”
Working with the local community schools was also part of the learning exchange. Jim reported that people in the town have a mandatory community service time each year in return for services like irrigation.
People work on repaving the street and digging pipelines (by hand.) They have to take the time to give back. It’s an interesting way of saving dollars and getting people involved in public service.
Jim is no stranger to public service. We won’t put his entire bio here; you can find that online. But he was active in student government during his university years and went on to spend the next several decades helping the world in one way or another, including:
  • 1977 elected to State Assembly
  • 1980-1988 State Senate
  • 1996 Congressional race
  • 200-2003 Secretary Department Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection
  • 2003 USDA Foreign Agriculture Service in Serbia
  • 2004 USDA Foreign Agriculture Service in Bulgaria
  • 2003-2010 Wisconsin State 4-H Foundation Board
  • 2005-2019 UWRF Chancellor Advisory Board
Jim closed with noting that though he had two divergent career paths in life -- farming and politics – he felt fortunate to have been a part of so many interesting developments in both worlds. On the home front, he credits his wife, Lanette, as a friend and partner at his side through it all.

And now for a word from Christian

In the spirit of “enhancing opportunities for youth, creating a better world for all,” (our club motto) Jim then handed the lectern over to his grandson, Christian, who regaled a transfixed group about his topic: “Dairy Cows!”
Christian covered feeding, housing and caring for cows as well as the logistics of crop growth in his brief talk.
"You can get four to five hay cuttings a year iwth alfalfa. There's an order it goes like, hay, hay, hay, soybeans and corn. Corn is my favorite crop because you can play in it."
He provided beautiful photos and explanations of everything dairy farm related and received a round of applause for his payment.