A familiar face on the farm

New land and water management director grew up in northern Ozaukee County and is well respected by the farmers she will work with to continue soil initiatives
Ozaukee Press staff


Ozaukee Press staff

Although Katie Vogeler was technically a town girl from Holy Cross, she grew up loving the farm life.

“I loved our neighbors, growing up in the farm fields, riding on tractors, all that stuff. All my friends were farm kids,” she said.

Now as the new director  of the Ozaukee County Land and Water Management Department, she gets to serve those same farmers who knew her as a girl, helping them implement practices that improve the health of soil and water in the county, among other duties.

Vogeler, the daughter of Marty and  Brenda Werner, graduated from Ozaukee High School in 2009.

“I drove to school on Tractor Day and all that stuff,” she said.

After high school, she followed her love of agriculture, attending the University of Wisconsin — Green Bay, graduating in 2013 with degrees in environmental planning and policy and public administration.

“I knew I wanted to do something that helped farm families and let me work outdoors,” Vogeler said.

After graduating, she worked for one year as an intern for Ozaukee County in the Land and Water Management Department.

She was already somewhat familiar with Department Director Andy Holschbach and the work he did promoting the Clean Farm Families initiative, the Demonstration Farm Network and other programs, making Ozaukee County a state leader in reducing manure and chemical runoff and improving soil health.

It was during her internship that Vogeler first started to think it might be a good place for a career.

“Growing up and through college I was well aware of what Andy was doing,” she said.

“I guess in my head (during the internship) I thought it was a perfect fit for me as it would still be a way for me to help (farmers) the best I could.”

But it would be some time before she again worked in the department. She spent eight years as a nutrient management planner for Kettle Lakes Co-op, later Country Vision Co-op, in Random Lake.

It was there she met her husband Tyler Vogeler, a liquid operations manager with the farmer-owned co-op. They were married last June.

Together they also operate Vogeler Ag Services, which helps other farmers at harvest time.

She joined the county a year ago — the anniversary of her hiring was Tuesday — as a full-time soil health specialist, working with farmers as part of the Clean Farm Families initiative to reduce runoff into Lake Michigan and local streams.

Vogeler was appointed to be director on Nov. 2, succeeding Holschbach, who ran the department for 37 years.

“I am sure that Katie will excel in her role as the Land and Water Management director,” Ozaukee County Administrator Jason Dzwinel said. “She brings a great deal of professional knowledge about the mission of the Land and Water Department and has established relationships with many of the families who are active in farming here in Ozaukee. Both will serve Ozaukee County well.”

Vogeler said she has a good relationship with farmers and their families, despite her age, gender and not being a farmer herself.

“I was friends with their daughters and their sons and when I got my education, there was a transition, but early on in my career, I didn’t let it inhibit me. I was confident. I’ve earned their respect and trust,” she said.

Matt Winker, a Town of Belgium farmer who helps head the Farm Demonstration Network, agreed.

“I knew of her when she was growing up. Once she got the job at Country Visions, I got to know her better,” he said.

“She’ll do an excellent job” as Land and Water Department director, Winker said.

“She’s self-motivated, very organized and very passionate about soil health,” he said. “We had an excellent director (in Holschbach) but the county will never miss a beat” with Vogeler taking over.

Town of Fredonia farmer Mike Paulus agreed.

“She’s a local girl. She’s a country girl. She’s had a number of years working with farmers out in field,” said Paulus, who is chairman of Clean Farm Families, and has seen Vogeler grow up from a young age.

“She understands the farming industry. She’s going to be a great fit. Katie has the skills and the knowledge. She’ll be a great leader and do a good job for us. People love working with her.”

Since being appointed, Vogeler has wasted no time expanding Holschbach’s vision and  launching new initiatives.

For instance, under Holschbach the county purchased a tractor, interseeder drill, air seeder and crimper, which are rented to farmers to plant cover crops and encourage the use of no-till farming techniques.

“Andy sure deserves credit for Clean Farm Families. Without him, we wouldn’t own the machinery. He was ahead of his time and really pushed the soil health effort,” Vogeler said.

Vogeler has already begun to expand the use of the machinery by making it available to non-farmers.

Calling it the Bare Ground Initiative, the new program has so far planted winter rye at the county-owned Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs Nature Preserve on the south side of Port Washington and will help restore native habitat on 11 acres owned by the Northern Ozaukee School District.

The NOSD project will be used as an “ecological classroom” for Northern Ozaukee students as well as farmers, Vogeler said.

“We’ve done very good work on soil health, but we want to open it up to other landowners and expand the knowledge base of these soil-health practices,” she said.

The NOSD land “will be open to the public, our first non-farming project. It will be a teaching tool, and we plan on having a field day for farmers,” she said.

Teaching the clean farm principles to the children of farmers is a high priority for Vogeler, she said.

“I really want to expand the education and outreach to the kids, so the time comes when they take over the farm they are familiar with these practices,” she said.

“I want to tackle targeted farm meetings with the next generation so they are confident on how to move forward.”

She intends to work with schools and the older sons and daughters of farmers who will soon take over their family farm, she said.

Another initiative launched under Vogeler is Grazing Farm Families, which she called a “subgroup” of the Clean Farm Families program.

Instead of focusing on crops, the Grazing Farm Families focuses on helping  farmers manage grazing herds to better protect the soil and vegetation and fertilizing the fields.

“Let them (animals) deposit it on their own” rather than the farmer spreading manure collected from confinement operations, Vogeler said.

Vogeler noted that people who live in cities also benefit from farmers’ efforts to reduce runoff since municipalities are graded by the state on their water treatment efforts by the amount of phosphorus and other pollutants found in local streams.

The Village of Grafton, for instance, is one municipality that has contributed to the Clean Farm Families effort to reduce runoff upstream of the village, potentially reducing the cost of upgrading its water treatment facility to meet state standards.

Vogeler’s other responsibilities as Land and Water Management director include overseeing shoreland and floodplain zoning and the installation and inspection of septic tanks and other private on-site water treatment systems, areas for which she acknowledged there will be a learning curve.




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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