More starting farmers are putting down roots on their own land

Official: 59-year-old man scammed farmers in faux seed-order operation

Cheese is no easy business. Ask the students cranking out sandwich upon melty, delicious sandwich for eager World Dairy Expo attendees.

University of Wisconsin-Madison sophomore Connor Willems knows the dairy business isn’t any easier.

“It’s going to be hard, there’s no doubt about that. If I did decide to go and do that, I know I’d have challenges, but I’d also have a great support system to do it,” Willems said.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection released its latest survey of beginning farmers. While it’s known to be a family business, 61percent of the respondents in that survey say they are first-generation farmers on their land. In other words, they’re not running the family farm.

Willems’ grandfather was a dairy farmer, but his dad wasn’t. The dairy science major isn’t sure what the future holds, but he understands why the stats might show more people like him becoming farmers.

“As farms start getting larger, we see less family farms. I mean, they’re still owned by families. But as we see the herds grow and the smaller ones consolidate, less kids are going to be from a farm,” Willems said. “But more kids might have an interest.”

Cody Getschel will enter the workforce next year. As a kid, he thought about getting his own farm. As a college senior, he thinks taking over mom and dad’s property seems more realistic. By his math, it would take about $1 million just to buy the land.

“The dairy industry is really difficult to get into in the first generation because it takes so much capital,” Getschel said.

According to the DATCP survey, the top three barriers for new farmers are lack of income, access to land and access to capital.

DATCP program specialist Angie Sullivan said the new information shows there is a lot invested in beginning farmer education, and the results will help the agency identify barriers and target where the state can help.

No matter what the numbers show, Getschel is determined to make a living in dairy.

“I think it’s the best thing I can do with my life, the best thing I can do to contribute to the world,” Getschel said.