DARLINGTON, Wis. — Steve and Lisa Carpenter encouraged their four children to get a college degree and go out into the world to be their own boss.

But all four — sons Cody, Colton and Carson and daughter Cora — came back after college and now work on the family farm, Redrock View Farms in rural Darlington. Each also lives within three miles of it.

“We have enjoyed being able to raise our family on our farm and work with them side by side every day,” Steve said. “And now, having our grandchildren around brings us so much joy.”

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The Carpenters are one of four Telegraph Herald Tri-State Farm Families of the Year, winning in the dairy farmer category. They were nominated by Charles Simmons, board chairman of Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative.

Steve’s parents began farming at what is now Redrock View Farms in 1978. When Steve and Lisa purchased the farm in 1995, it was a tie-stall barn with 80 cows. By 1997, the herd increased to 200. Today, 600 dairy cows call the farm home. Crops to sustain the herd also are grown there.

Growing up on the farm

“Like many kids raised on farms, I have been ‘helping’ since I was old enough to walk,” Cody said.

Cody, now 30, graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a dairy science major. After college, he worked in the ag-business sector for three years before coming back to work at the farm full time at age 25.

He is the herd manager, is responsible for all of the livestock and works with the 10 farm employees to ensure the animals receive the care they need. Cody and his wife, Carrie Jo, are parents to daughter Chloe Arden and are expecting a son in early November.

His siblings have graduated or will graduate with degrees in agriculture-related fields.

• Colton, 28, went to University of Wisconsin-Platteville, graduating with animal science with a dairy emphasis major.

• Carson, 24, attended Southwest Wisconsin Technical College for a degree in ag business. He and his wife, Alyvia Riley, are parents to daughter Wrenley Ann.

• Cora, 21, is a senior at Iowa State University majoring in ag communications.

A true family farm

“I am impressed that Steve and Lisa operate a true family farm,” said Simmons, who has known the family for more than 60 years, beginning with Steve’s parents, uncles, aunt and grandparents. “All of their children are involved in the operation. The Carpenter family has been a well-respected family in Lafayette County and very active in the farm community.”

Bob Hermanson echoes those sentiments.

“A true family farm best describes Redrock View Farms,” said Hermanson, who has worked for the Carpenter farm as a feeder and assistant herdsman for 12 years.

He added, “Steve and Lisa strive for a family-first philosophy with employees. Whether you’re a family member or a nonfamily member, you’re treated as family. This why Steve and Lisa have very little turnover in employees.”

Serving the community

“I’ve watched my parents not only work lots of hours to make ends meet at the farm, but they also showed me and my siblings the importance of giving back to the community,” Cody said. “They are always willing to step up and help to promote agriculture and never ask for anything in return.”

Each member of the Carpenter family is actively involved in the community to help promote dairy farming, 4-H and FFA.

Steve has served as a leader for the Lafayette County 4-H for 26 years, and Lisa for 21 years. All of the Carpenter kids were active in 4-H during their eligible years and are now county 4-H leaders. In addition, Steve, Lisa, their children and spouses are lifetime FFA alumni members.

Steve serves as the president of the Lafayette County Livestock Committee, which helps support the youth at the county fair and auction. He was one of the founding members 10 years ago.

The Carpenter family has helped out with the annual dairy breakfast for many years and hosted 2,500 people for the breakfast in 2014. Steve has served on the Lafayette County Dairy Promotion Committee for six years, and the group is a sponsor of the dairy breakfast.

Redrock View Farms is one of four dairy farms in Lafayette County that founded Day @ the Dairy eight years ago.

The mission is to educate fourth grade students about the daily operations of a dairy farm. Students are actively engaged in stations such as a milking parlor tour, learning about feeds from a nutritionist, petting calves and learning about their care, breeds of dairy cattle, types of cheese produced locally and farm safety.

Stewardship of natural resources

Steve is one of the founding members of Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance, a group of farmers that have come together to address the stewardship of natural resources in Lafayette County. The group bands together to provide a safe and sustainable agriculture community for the next generation.

He is also a director of Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative, a private, nonprofit utility.

“I take a lot of pride in the business that my parents have been able to develop focusing on sustainability,” Cody said. “Farming has taught me to appreciate what we have and to strive each day to make our operation better so that I can hopefully one day pass it to the next generation and allow them to have success, as well.”

Lobbying for the dairy industry

In addition to working hard on the farm and community to help promote the dairy industry, Steve and Cody also attend meetings and events for EDGE Dairy Cooperative and Dairy Business Association, two organizations that lobby for the dairy industry.

“I have always thought that farming is not something that you just do — it is something that is ingrained in you,” explained Cody. “I have my parents to thank for instilling that passion in me along with many other qualities, such as determination and compassion for others, that I hope to be able to pass on to my children.”