Doors close, others open for local farm business

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – The business of farming stands at a crossroads. Family farms are facing unprecedented uncertainty with hundreds of closings again this year.

But as with any industry, when one door closes, the markets may open another.

Bankruptcy Blues

A recent Journal Sentinel article featured in USA Today shows 90 dairy operations in Wisconsin had to close up shop alone in the month of April. To put that into perspective, that’s three farms a day.

While it might sound bad, a La Crosse small business expert said bankruptcy is not necessarily the end of the road.

“Sometime that is the best course of action to re-position yourself in the market,” said Anne Hlavacka. “It’s provided specifically for that reason because without that re-positioning, that farm and that land would continue to struggle.”

Finding New Markets

Hlavacka said some are embracing new ways to function—for example the Agritourism industry, distilleries and wineries, where farm to table takes on a new meaning. Others are seeking out new markets from historic crops.

“Wisconsin was one of the largest producers for hemp many years ago so we probably have the land that grows hemp well…Once it’s introduced by mainstream grocery stores or other type of stores, you know you’re going to see that,” said Hlavacka. “I was at one of the local grocery stores and they had a whole display of hemp related products including hemp milk.”

And when it comes to dairy, while the industry might be trending toward the bottom right now, the bottom line, according to Hlavacka, is it’s not likely going away.

“The dairy industry specifically has had its challenges. Fundamentally, people still want dairy products.”

How to Help

In addition to purchasing their products, you can help support family farmers by participating in an 18-hour live telethon on Friday when Quincy Media television stations in Wisconsin will join with the Farm Aid organization. You can call in and donate money or give a donation online to raise grant money and emergency funds for family farmers across our region.

Phone lines will open on Friday at 5 am, during Daybreak and remain open until 10:30 pm. You can already donate online by clicking here.

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