Watertown Unified School District Administrator Cassandra Schug announced at a recent board meeting that Jim Ostrom was honored as the 2020 Distinguished Alumni.
Ostrom, who hails from the Watertown High School Class of 1984, attended UW-Madison and graduated with an agricultural economics degree in 1992.
“It’s a very special honor to be recognized, especially as an individual in agriculture,” Ostrom said Monday.
He said his career in agriculture began when he was milking cows for Rosy-Lane Holsteins of Watertown.
Now, Ostrom is a co-founder of Milk Source and serves as president and CEO of the company and its subsidiaries.
According to their website, Milk Source was co-founded in 1999 by UW-Madison graduates Ostrom, John Vosters and Todd Willer — each from multigenerational Wisconsin farm families — and traces its roots back to 1965 when a small 30-cow dairy farm was started in Freedom by Vosters’ parents.
Milk Source operates dairies in Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri, producing milk that is used to make cheese, butter and other dairy products. In addition, Milk Source also has a Wisconsin calf farm and a heifer-raising facility, according to the company’s website.
Milk Sources also generates 2.6 million pounds of milk each day.
Ostrom has not forgotten his humble beginnings and remains active in a 4-H Club. He is also an advocate for sustainable agriculture.
He and his wife, co-founded Dairy Cares of Wisconsin, a non-profit organization, which raises funds to help others, such as the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
Dairy Cares of Wisconsin holds a “Garden Party” each year. In 2019, at the ninth annual Dairy Cares Garden Party, the event raised $250,000. Since its inception — according to the Dairy Care of Wisconsin’s web page — the special event has raised more than $1.3 million for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
“To receive an agriculture education and then contribute something back to agribusiness is something special,” he said. “This is truly an honor for me. I know you named a NASA astronaut (Dan Brandenstein, 1961 Watertown High School graduate) in the past as a distinguished alumni so to be in the same company as a dairy farmer is a wonderful honor.”
The Distinguished Alumni Award is formed for the purpose of providing the Watertown Unified School District provides current students and the community with a vision of the outstanding legacies of Watertown High School. The program began in 2013 with seven previous distinguished alumni chosen. They include: Joseph Darcey, Dr. Diane L. Reinhard, John David, Brandenstein, Joseph E. Wimmer, Edward W. Raether, and Dr. Anne Liners Brett.