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Former dairy farmer transitions into a new role as struggles continue for Wisconsin farmers

As dairy farms continue to shut down in the Badger State, Randy Gurski is finding a new way to bring in money.

The farm that Gurski lives on is one that’s full of rich family history.

“My grandpa had this since the 40’s,” Gurski said. “This farm has been around for generations.”

Dairy farming served as an identity for Gurski and his family.

“I started milking cows when I was 12-years-old,” Gurski said. “I’m in my 60’s now so pretty much all my life I’ve been milking cows.”

A few years ago, Randy had to step away from the dairy industry because of struggles agriculture experts say are creating difficult times for many farmers across the state and in central Wisconsin.

“Prices probably was a concern and battling the weather,” Gurski stated. “Trying to get the crops in, trying to get the crops off, trying to make hay in the summer time; it’s a combination of everything. A lot of people my age, it’s a change. Got to look at something different.”

After accepting that he could no longer do what he’d known his whole life, which was the dairy farming business, he decided to go into property maintenance.

“We are seeing more farms transition and get out of farming,” said Marathon County Agriculture Expert Heather Schlesser. “The mindset becomes if I have to continue to struggle and have this maintained stress, is there something else out there that’s a little bit less stressful or a lot less stressful?”

Gurski said transitioning into a 40-hour-a-week job was a little difficult as first, but it became much easier as time progressed.

“It’s hard if you haven’t had no experience doing nothing else,” Gurski added. “It’s hard to get into the workforce.”

Despite having to turn away from dairy farming, Randy is finding a positive in the situation.

“Not getting up at 4 o’clock is kind of a relief,” Gurski said. “You know the long hours that was kind of hard, but it was kind of sad to see the cows go.”

Gurski currently does beefing and cash cropping on the side as a way to make ends meet and to make more money. He mentioned for other farmers who find themselves having to leave the business they’ve known for so long; it gets better as time progresses, and starting off part-time could help build the new skills needed to jump into a new full-time job.

If you are a farmer facing challenging times you can click here for helpful resources.


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