May 6, 2011--At the University of Wisconsin-River Falls’ College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Spring Awards Banquet, Juris Plesums was honored as the 2011 Wisconsin Distinguished Agriculturalist. This award recognizes an individual who has offered leadership, service and other contributions to the agricultural community.
“In recognizing Juris as our Distinguished Agriculturalist, we share an inspiration of UWRF CAFES with agriculture in Wisconsin and potential students to our college,” wrote his nominator.
Plesums’ story begins when he and his family narrowly escaped the Russian invasion of his home country, Latvia, during WWII. When his family arrived in the United States they worked for a dairy farmer in Colorado.
Plesums recognized the opportunities of education and attended high school in Minneapolis while working at Bachman’s Greenhouse. He then attended college at University of Minnesota to major in animal science and minor in agricultural economics and agronomy.
After working at Hormel, Plesums pursued his dream of farming and purchased 120 acre dairy farm near Spooner. While dairying, he worked closely with the Spooner Experiment Station to conduct corn trials. After a barn fire in 1973, Plesums came to UW-River Falls to earn his master’s in agricultural economics.
As an early “non-traditional” student, Plesums says, “I came back to college because I wanted to know.”
Plesums has used his love of agriculture and love of knowledge as a way to give back. He has become a trusted advisor to top U.S. and Latvian officials on agricultural and economic development issues. He has twice served as Latvia’s acting minister of agriculture and received with Latvia’s highest honor, the Three-Star Order. Plesums has hosted groups of Latvian students on his farm and networked them with members of the agricultural community at UWRF.
Plesums’ agricultural story is an example of how knowledge can inspire and contribute to agriculture in Wisconsin and the world.
“His is a success story of will and skill to produce and profit from marginal agricultural resources,” wrote his nominator.
Plesums adds, “I want to tell young people to keep up an interest in life, broaden your horizon, be curious and look for answers.”