A Sun Prairie farmer died unexpectedly Friday, just four days after the dairy operation he helped build was introduced as the host of the 2015 Farm Technology Days event in Dane County.
Donnie Statz, the co-founder of the Statz Brothers Farm in the town of Sun Prairie, died at St. Mary's Hospital while recovering from kidney surgery, said his son Joe Statz. He was 74.
On Feb. 11, Donnie Statz stood proudly with his family as Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced that the Statz Brothers Farm would host the prestigious three-day agricultural expo, which spotlights the latest developments in production agriculture.
Donnie Statz started the farm with his brother, Richard, in 1966 and grew it into a multi-location operation that includes three generations of farmers and 75 full-time employees. It includes the county's first manure digester and expects to be milking 4,000 Holsteins and growing 6,000 acres of corn, soybeans, forage and small grains by 2015.
"We were having Farm Technology Days for him and his brother. They were the ones who wanted it. We were going to have it for them," said Joe Statz, who runs the farm with Richard's brothers, Troy and Wes.
Bob Wipperfurth, chairman of the Dane County Farm Technology Days executive committee, said most everyone who knew Donnie Statz said the same things about him. "The common theme was that he was a man of integrity, an extremely hard worker and a strong family man. He was just a Class A act," he said.
"It's a big loss for Dane County, but we still look forward to moving on with the show in 2015," Wipperfurth added.
Joe Statz said Monday that his family, particularly his mother, Shirley, is still in a state of shock. He added that it may take weeks before they learn the cause of death. "(Tuesday) is the wake. The next day is the funeral. It's going to get worse before it gets better," said Joe Statz.
Joe Statz said he learned much more than farming from his father. "He taught me how to be a good dad, he taught me how to be a good person, he taught me how to be a good manager on the farm, he taught me how to get along with people, he taught me what love is all about, how to keep your marriage together. And he taught us a lot about family," he said. "Family was very important to him."