The Gundersen St. Joseph's Board of Directors July meeting had a very different feel to it. The board was hosted by Anne Marie Elwing and Kevin Walleser, owners of Wall-Stone Holsteins farm in De Soto, a 1,600 acre, 400-cow dairy farm with a historic connection to Gundersen Health System.
At the turn of the 20th century, the farm was under the ownership of Christian Christensen, MD, partner to Adolf Gundersen, MD, founder of what would become Gundersen Health System.
Dr. Christensen, who fancied himself a gentleman farmer, purchased the land near West Prairie in 1906 for $100,000. His vision was to build a modern farm featuring a registered herd of imported Guernsey Cows. Many buildings were built using concrete blocks, which were made right there on the farm. The first building to be built was a barn 38 feet wide and 100 feet long, larger than what was considered the standard at the time, giving the workers more space to work with the cattle. The barn also incorporated ideas found on farms in Dr. Christensen's native Norway, including an alternative method of transferring and storing manure from the barn.
Many of the original buildings are still standing and Gundersen St. Joseph's Board of Directors were treated to a brief history of the farm through "Tom Fortney's Stories of the Driftless," read by Eddie Nix as featured on WDRT radio, followed by a tour of the farm.
Among those in attendance were Garith Steiner, vice president of Gundersen Critical Access Hospitals, Marilu Bintz, MD, MBA, Gundersen senior vice president of Population Health and Strategy, and Scott Rathgaber, MD, CEO of Gundersen Health System.
The corporate board was then treated to a home-cooked meal by Anne Marie Elwing, which included filet mignon from their own beef cattle and some delicious deserts.
The Gundersen St. Joseph's board and the administrative teams from Gundersen St. Joseph's and Gundersen Health System would like to thank Kevin, Anne Marie and their family for their kind, generous hospitality and for sharing the history of their farm. One thing is certain: Healthcare has deep roots in Vernon County.
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