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Annual symposium equips farmers with more tools
Posted On: March 25, 2020

By Mary Hookham for WCO

The 2020 Forage Symposium highlighted the new decade of agriculture with presentations on large-scale forage operations, nutrient management regulation updates, farm diversification options, the economics of silage bag use and the latest in equipment technology.

Patricio Aguirre Saravia of Buenos Aires, Argentina told his story of growing up on a farm near the small town of Carlos Casares and working closely with his brother on an entrepreneurial adventure. In 1983 the brothers started the Duckas Group, which provided silage services to area farmers. Although his brother passed away in 2006, Saravia has continued his family business enterprise, now operating three custom farming services under the Duckas Group with a team of employees. He prides himself on setting a great example of professionalism for his employees to mimic every day.

“Because of our professionalism, we have the same customers from 37 years ago when we started our company,” Saravia said. “I’m very proud of that.”

Zach Bemis, attorney with Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. of Madison, explained how farmers could diversify with hemp to boost their bottom line. He warned that despite some movement forward in the industry with the 2014 farm bill, hemp regulations are still being developed.

 “Wisconsin has gone a long way to remove a lot of the risk for growers,” Bemis said.

Wisconsin growers cautioned farmers in attendance to beware of the extra work involved in growing hemp. They also advised farmers to secure a buyer for their product prior to planting and have at least two back-up plans.

Dan Wiese of Ledge Rock Hemp in Greenleaf, Wisconsin got involved in hemp production because of his curiosity, but he says hemp production requires focus and money.

“Size yourself up by the amount of money you won’t need back for awhile,” Wiese said.

Green Bay hemp producer Peggy Coffeen said although the production of the crop is intense and labor is all completed by hand, she believes there are opportunities for direct marketing in the future. She said producing a quality product is crucial for traceability as well.

“Consumers continue to want to know where their products are coming from,” she said.

Growers continue to learn about the benefits of hemp production not only for the consumer demand but also for soil health. Some producers are using it in their crop rotations, said Ed Liegel of Driftless Extracts of Lone Rock, Wisconsin.

“Hemp removes toxic chemicals from the soil and naturally fights mold,” he said. “It’s revitalizing, recyclable and sustainable.”

Wiese warns that consumers need to watch out for themselves during random drug tests. Being aware of how often people consume CBD products can help them pass drug tests, he said.

“It’s buyer beware,” he said. “The Food and Drug Administration has set guidelines, but the products have always been marketed as dietary supplements.”

Jeff Ditzenberger, founder of the T.U.G.S. program for mental health, emphasized the ever-growing need for comprehensive mental health care for farmers and all workers in agricultural-related industries. He started his program, which stands for talking, understanding, growing and supporting, to provide support for anybody struggling with mental issues and is specifically catering to men who find it challenging to talk about their feelings.

“This is important because we’re losing farmers every single day to suicide,” he said. “Everybody has depression, everybody has bad days, everybody has those moments where they just want somebody to talk to.”

Ditzenberger encourages people to attend the T.U.G.S. meetings because taking time to really listen to those who are struggling is crucial. It’s all about being kind, he said.

“A lot of times when things trouble us, it’s just a bad day, not a bad life,” he said. “What’s the cure for mental health? Honestly, it’s just being kind.”

Taylor Weisensel of Ag-Bag by RCI of Mayville, Wisconsin continues to advocate for the use of silage bags on farms despite the increase of silage piles. Silage bags minimize silage shrinkage and are safer because they prevent avalanches, he said.

“Bagged feed is higher quality which leads to better milk production,” Weisensel said.

He believes in working closely with farmers to implement best-management practices with silage bag use, which includes providing as many tools for farmers to be successful and profitable with bags, he said. An important component of silage bag use is to cut excess plastic off daily and dispose of it properly, so it’s doesn’t cause issues at the next feeding or end up in neighbor’s fence lines.



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