John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.
To call John Risoli an overall farmer would be an error. To call him a hard-working rancher would be absolutely correct. Risoli, born and raised in New Jersey, has been ranching cattle for over 30 years in the Madison area, and there's no sign of stopping soon.
Before moving to Madison around '72-'73, Risoli was a rodeo cowboy, traveling from state to state. Risoli married Donna Risoli, and between 85-86, his ranching career in Madison began. Risoli bought John Tuten's, (Donna's father), farm land and cattle. Since buying the land, Risoli has increased his cattle herd and leased other pasture in the area. Risoli says he's careful about what cows he keeps. According to Risoli, if one cow doesn't produce a calf after two chances, then they have to go. “If I'm feeding it,” said Risoli. “They got to work for it.”
Ten years ago, Risoli became a cattle representative for an internet cattle auction. Producers Cattle Auction (producerscattleauction.org) offers buyers and sellers of cattle the convenience and advantages of internet auctions through a company with integrity, financial stability, experience and marketing power. The way Risoli fits into the company is he looks at the cattle and verifies that they are uniform in size and in quality. Then, he makes sure there is a full load of 48,000 lbs. He gets a contract written that shows the average weight for the load, a description of cattle, their health records, such as: shot history, worming, etc. Risoli also takes pictures to put on the site for buyers to see at the auction. Once the cattle are sold, the buyer sends a truck to pick up the cattle; and he is there to load the truck. He also makes sure the buyer is satisfied with the cattle.
Six years ago, Risoli bought two spreaders. He spreads custom fertilizer; and with that, he makes a living off of spreading fertilizer for other farmers and ranchers. One of the monstrous machines Risoli uses is the Ag Chem Terra-Gator 1803. The Gator is a floater/self-propelled with 60-foot booms for a long range of spreading. On board, Risoli uses Trimble Ag software. Specifically, the Trimble Variable Rate Application GPS.
Most of Risoli's days consist of maintenance; but normally, he puts the cattle on rye grass in the morning for about three hours then feeds them hay. The most challenging part of Risoli's career though is “trying to find someone to work.” Any one who works on a ranch or a farm now needs agricultural experience and needs to know how to operate large equipment with computers in them.
Throughout the year, Risoli's priorities on the ranch change with each season. In the springtime, his main priority is to put out fertilizer. In the summer, Risoli cuts hay. In the fall, Risoli prepares for the winter by planting winter feed, such as rye and oats. Lastly, in the winter, there is a calving period from October to January.
John and Donna Risoli have one daughter: Marie Smith, who is married to Travis Smith. The Risoli's only grandson, Blaine Smith. Risoli expressed that his grandson taught the teacher about a soil sample in Pre-K. The younger generation must understand both agriculture and modern technology to take the reins of successful farming and ranching in the future.