Merrillan, Wis. (WXOW) – According to the USDA, Wisconsin lost nearly 700 dairy farms last year. But some, are still thriving. Governor Tony Evers toured one of those farms on Wednesday, joined by Senator Tammy Baldwin.
The Gearing Oakdale Farm in Merrillan is not in danger, it’s actually part of a successful cooperative.
“We’ve had droughts and poor crops but you have to weather on and keep going,” said Dallas Gearing, a fourth generation farmer. “It’s a tough industry but I think what we’ve been doing here has been working out for us.”
The 104 year old farm joined Organic Valley Cooperative in 2008. The coop is made up of more than 2,000 farming families and it is doing well, despite current excess supply in the organic dairy industry.
“We’ve had an oversupply of organic milk as well as conventional milk but ours has been more controlled, I would say, because we’ve only grown as we needed the milk rather than take on everyone whenever they wanted to. And so, we kept our supply and demand a little better in line,” said Dan Pearson the Vice President of Organic Valley’s Board of Directors.
Parts of the tour at the Gearing farm focused on how the farm cares for its herd of about 90 cattle from the grazing process to manure management. The governor applauded the farm for its use of cover crops which improve soil quality, reduce runoff and help protect Wisconsin’s drinking water. Something especially important to Governor Evers who has declared 2019 the “Year of Clean Drinking Water” in the state.
“Cover crops may sound like something boring, but they sure the hell aren’t,” said Governor Evers. “Because we in the state really care about having good drinking water and this is one of the ways that we can ensure that it stays that way.”
In thanking the Gearing family Senator Baldwin said, “I know not every day of farming is this beautiful” alluding to the stress many farm families are under. “The idea that other countries have identified cheese or cranberries or ginseng, things that Wisconsin is number one at, for retaliatory tariffs — has hurt us hard,” she added.
Senator Baldwin also made it a point to mention that Wisconsin has lost over 1,600 dairy farms since President Donald Trump took office. During the farm tour Senator Baldwin and Governor Evers both called the ongoing trade war the most urgent problem affecting farmers in Wisconsin.