John Pagel
February 23, 2018

John Pagel, Prominent Wisconsin Dairy Farmer and Leader, Killed in Plane Crash

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

John Pagel, his son-in-law Steve Witcpalek, and their pilot, Nathan Saari, were killed in a plane crash February 22 in Indiana.

Pagel, founder of Pagel’s Ponderosa, Kewaunee, Wis., was a prominent dairy farmer and leader in Wisconsin. The cause of the plane crash is unknown at this time. The plane, bound for Green Bay, Wis.,  went down about 7:30 p.m. February 22 near Rossville, Ind., which is about 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis. Witcpalek was herdsman at Pagel Ponderosa’s Wisconsin site.

Pagel began his dairy career on a 60-cow dairy farm. He grew it to an operation that now includes an operation near Kewaunee that milks some 5,000 cows, another in southwest Kansas that milks 4,500 cows, a Wisconsin cheese factory and a restaurant in Green Bay. Pagel was also prominent in the formation of the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association in 1999, the American Dairy Coalition, and Edge, a milk marketing cooperative. Pagel was president of Edge since its founding in 2010.

"John was a cherished friend and visionary leader who helped create [Edge] cooperative and its sister organization, the Dairy Business Association. Under his guidance, the cooperative grew to the sixth-largest in the country, representing hundreds of farmers throughout the Midwest. In recent years, Edge has strengthened its advocacy in the Washington, DC, where John often traveled to talk to members of Congress about the impact of federal actions on farmers back home. The Edge board and staff will deeply miss John's friendship and energy, but his vision and spirit will continue to inspire and guide us," according to a statement released by Edge. Edge represents nearly 800 dairy farmers in nine states in the Midwest.

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