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WFU Dunn County farmers honored

Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden, left, and Dunn County couple Tom and Helen Quinn of Downing are pictured in Appleton at the state WFU convention in January. The Quinns, longtime WFU members, were honored for their dedication to the family farm organization.

APPLETON – Dunn County Wisconsin Farmers Union members Tom and Helen Quinn were honored for their dedication to the family farm organization at the 88th annual Wisconsin Farmers Union State Convention Jan. 25-27 in Appleton.

The Dunn County couple received the Builders Award, which recognizes outstanding commitment to building Farmers Union through county involvement, leadership development and member recruitment.

Tom and Helen have been pillars within Wisconsin Farmers Union in their decades of involvement, and within the Dunn County community as well.

Tom is a supervisor on the Dunn County Board, representing District 9; Helen was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Both have been active in many Farmers Union roles at the local, state and national level.

Tom has a long history in organizing for food system and agrarian movements.

Early on, he helped establish the Twin Cities’ first co-op grocery store, North Country Cooperative.

The couple was one of three young Wisconsin farm couples chosen to participate in the American Farm Project, an effort by National Farmers Union to connect young farmers from around the country in shared learning about the history of farm policy and rural culture.

Tom and Helen carried that experience forward through lifelong efforts on behalf of family farms and rural Wisconsin.

“We are very proud to recognize the Quinns’ longtime commitment to Farmers Union,” said WFU President Darin Von Ruden. “They have certainly left their mark on the organization throughout the years, and we are grateful for their contributions on behalf of family farmers.”

The Quinns became part of a close-knit community of farmers while dairy farming in northwestern Wisconsin.

While Helen taught at UW-Stout, Tom worked as a farmer, logger, feed mill worker and organizer.

Inspired by the writings of rural author Wendell Berry and historical farmer movements, Tom and Helen were keen to do their part to better their corner of rural Wisconsin. They have done that, serving as strong voices on many agricultural issues.

Tom has served on the WFU Foundation board of directors and served as WFU Executive Director from 2011-2018, during which time he strengthened the family farm organization’s voice, programming, and organizing efforts.

He also previously worked as executive director of the National League of Rural Voters and the Wisconsin Farmland Conservancy and with WestCAP, helping rural cooperatives with business development.

“Active local, county and district units are vital to Farmers Union’s grassroots structure,” Von Ruden said. “It’s thrilling to see these chapters’ eagerness to bring farmers together and to speak up on the issues that matter to family farmers and our rural communities.”

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