Wautoma, WI
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Absence of farming background does not discourage

April 21, 2014 | 0 comments


Farmers get into the business in a variety of ways. It's rare these days to have a young person pick up the want ads of a newspaper and locate a farm for sale and then get the approval of his banker.

Charlie Jones is the seventh generation to farm at Krescent Valley Farm, a dairy business that dates back to 1854 and is located in what is now the Village of Germantown.

Jones is a myth buster of sorts. He went to a high school that did not offer agriculture education, and he did not grow up on a dairy farm, but at the age of 22, he is entering his fourth year of enthusiastically operating his own dairy farm.

His mother, Michelle (Kraemer) Jones, encourages her son's enthusiasm to operate the dairy farm on which she grew up. She assists him with bookkeeping and calf care.

When he was growing up near the farm, he enjoyed visiting his grandparents and was disappointed when his grandfather decided to sell the dairy herd.

After graduation from Germantown High School, he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Farm and Industry Short Course and then returned to the family farm to begin his farming career. Encouraged by his family, they remodeled grandpa's dairy barn, putting an eight-unit flat barn parlor where stanchions once were. Some stalls were left in place for special needs.

They also built a 68-stall freestall barn for the dairy cows and use another freestall barn, attached to the end of the barn, for dry cows and heifers.

The farm consists of 100 homestead acres and another 150 acres of rented ground.

All the cropland is planted to corn, peas, oats, wheat and alfalfa to help feed and bed the 120 head of dairy cattle and the other 50 younger animals on the farm.

The farm was recently transferred to Charlie's parents, Robert and Michelle, from Charlie's grandparents. With the availability of the family farm, Charlie is able to carry out his dream of farming.

New farmers

A study at the University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems several years ago estimated that twelve percent of beginning dairy farmers have no family farm background. Although these farmers are at a disadvantage when it comes to hands-on farming experience, they have the advantage of coming to the farm without preconceptions. Following that study, researcher Steve Stevenson said, "It is likely that in the future, dairy farmers will increasingly come from non-farm backgrounds."

Most of the farmers in the study, however, at least had significant childhood contact with farming through relatives, neighbors or 4-H. Jones said growing up next to his grandparents' dairy farm had a big impact on his decision to farm, and the support and enthusiasm of his family made his dream come true.

Management to owning

Nearby in the Town of Jackson, Ross and Marcy Bishop are raising beef cattle on the farm they purchased in 2010. Ross managed the Berggren Farm at this location since 1982 and was pleased when he had the opportunity to purchase the farm.

While managing the beef farm, he and his wife also ran their own cropping business. Bishop enterprises also consists of 58 homestead acres dating back to 1846 and over 650 acres of additional rented ground where they raise corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa for the cattle and for sale.

The couple's beef farm includes 80 head of animals including Black Angus, Hereford and Black baldy (Black Angus and Hereford cross).

Their cropping system has been continuous no-till since 1994.

Active promoters

Jones and Bishop have been active for quite a few years promoting their farming enterprises in an area that has been growing more houses than farming animals in the last decades.

Each winter they join other farmers in the area visiting area schools and talking about their agricultural enterprises. Then they open their farms to fourth-grade students from around the county to let them see firsthand how they operate the farm and care for the soil and their livestock. Students are fascinated by the huge machinery used to raise crops, the technology involved in farming and the care farmers give to their soil.

Both Ross and Marcie grew up on farms. They agree the tours are important because they show that farmers are good stewards of the land and work to produce food that is safe and healthy.

The Farm Bureau gets help with the tours from co-sponsors Washington County Dairy Promotion and the Washington County Land and Water Conservation department. One of the presenters, Stephanie Egner, is a project technician for the Land and Water Conservation department, but she is a farmer at heart and works part time for the Bishops as needed.

During the school year, Washington County students also learn about agriculture from Barb Kluever, the county's ag ambassador, who brings agriculture to students in the classroom. Her position is a joint venture between Washington County Farm Bureau and Dairy Promotion.

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