More Wisconsin farms become extended family affair
MILWAUKEE — The federal government released new farm data this month in the 2012 Census of Agriculture, which helps illustrate changes in how the nation's food is produced.
One trend they looked at was family farms in Wisconsin:
Advertisers and retailers use the phrase "family farm" to conjure images of small, idyllic homesteads run by a nuclear family. Some Wisconsin farms still fit that mold, but a growing number are run by extended families, with siblings, cousins and other relatives working together.
Most of Wisconsin's 69,754 farms are family-owned, but nearly half — 48.6 percent — are run by more than one person.
Farmers say there are two main advantages to working together: They can focus on individual areas of expertise and take breaks. Partnerships are particularly appealing in the dairy industry, where cows need nearly around-the-clock care.
Karen Hughes oversees milking and care of the 900 cows on a farm near Allenton started by her father and his three brothers in the 1970s. Cousins and friends also have come on board with expertise that improves the farm's operation, specializing in things like manure management, crop rotation and machinery.
"When the skid loader breaks, I don't have to worry about fixing it, I can call a guy who knows exactly how to fix it, and he's fast at it because he knows how to do it," said Hughes, 29.