May 8, 2013 –Cattleman Leonard Bayer of Ringle was honored as the 2013 Wisconsin Distinguished Agriculturalist at the UW-River Falls College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) annual Awards Banquet April 24. The award recognizes an individual who has offered leadership, service and other contributions to the agricultural community.
Bayer was nominated for the award by current and retired UWRF faculty members who summed up their thoughts by saying "Len has been a strong advocate for Wisconsin production agriculture, a generous supporter of agricultural youth programs, and an early proponent of the now popular 'locavore' trend in food production."
Bayer is an accomplished cattleman, who with his father, established a registered Angus herd at their Country Lane Farm in Ringle six decades ago. After earning his degree in animal science, Bayer completed his military service in the Food and Animal Inspection Service before returning home to farm and accepting a sales position with Bowman Products. Bayer started his own business, complimenting the Bowman line of products, before turning his sales and entrepreneurial skills to agriculture.
In 1980 Bayer entered a partnership in a small state inspected meat processing plant in Bevent, merchandizing meat from the family farm through the plant. He eventually bought out his partner and brought his children and their spouses into the business. In 2005, Country Fresh Meats built a federally inspected facility in Weston. Today they produce an extensive line of award winning smoked and cured meat products that are sold throughout Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. The store also features a fresh meat counter and lunch grill. Their products are produced in the old world style, focusing on locally raised meat that is minimally processed, using natural casings and hickory-smoked wood to flavor and preserve the meat.
The Angus herd on their Country Lane Farm that provides the meat for the shop also went on to win numerous awards at the state, national and international level. Bayer was surrounded by his family at the banquet and noted that he "couldn't have done it without the entire family working together."
Over the years Bayer and his family have been strong supporters of youth organizations, particularly 4H. He coached the Marathon County livestock judging team for many years, taking several teams all the way to the national competition. He served as the Marathon County 4H Beef Project Leader, supported 4H through the State Fair Foundation and the Wisconsin State Fair Governor's auctions, and made generous donations of time and money to the 4H Foundation.
In thinking back on his accomplishments, Bayer commented "coaching youth in 4H and livestock evaluation stood out to me. Watching how the students matured and developed was really significant."
His advice to the 250 faculty, staff, students and family members at the annual awards banquet was simple. "Honesty, integrity, responsibility, commitment and empathy. Remember those five things and you can accomplish anything," he said.
Bayer is the 44th Wisconsin Distinguished Agriculturalist honored by CAFES. The award was established in 1970. A charcoal sketch of each honoree hangs on the Agriculture Hall of Fame wall on the UWRF campus.
Photo: The UWRF CAFES 2013 Wisconsin Distinguished Agriculturalist Len Bayer gathers with his family at the annual awards banquet. Left to right is Matt Bayer (son), Renee Radcliffe (daughter), Len and Agnes Bayer, and Scott Bayer (son).