As I write this, farmers are struggling to get their crops harvested.
Wisconsin’s corn harvest progress is 44 percent complete, lagging far behind normal years. What they have been able to harvest is wet, a lot of it moldy, and some of it completely unsellable.
Wisconsin potato growers, who experienced one of their worst growing seasons in 2018, are realizing huge losses this year due to the wet weather’s impact on potato quality.
The early cold and snow this fall cut short a season otherwise focused on harvesting and selling — the time when most farmers make their money. Several years of low dairy and grain prices have not helped the bottom line.
The extremes of recent years have brought the subject of resiliency to the forefront of agriculture. The ability to bounce back from adverse weather and market situations is critical as we look toward a future of uncertainty.
What does resiliency look like in an agricultural context?
Unlike the concept of sustainable agriculture, which focuses on implementing practices that will sustain both the environment and farmer livelihood, resiliency in agriculture centers around minimizing the impact of adverse events and putting into place practices that will help farmers quickly recover from challenges in the future.
Resilient agriculture is forward thinking — with the changes we’re experiencing in weather and markets, how will farmers manage risk and thrive?
Strategies for increasing resiliency might focus on marketing, labor, production practices, technology adoption and more.
For instance, diversifying income streams by planting several different crops may help a corn and soybean farmer mitigate market risk. Increasing efficiency on a dairy farm through robotic milking can help a farm withstand labor shortages. Planting cover crops may help soil be more resilient and absorb more water during heavy rainfalls.
With an eye toward the future, Compeer Financial and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension are partnering to host a statewide Resilient Farms Conference, a one-day event for farmers interested in increasing resiliency for their farms through new business ideas.
Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in more than two dozen sessions to gather information, resources and tools to help in exploring ideas for increased farm revenue and added flexibility over time.
The conference is a farmer-to-farmer, peer-to-peer learning opportunity for people who are brainstorming and exploring new business ideas for their farms. More than 20 industry experts, including farmers who have successfully implemented alternative or additional enterprises, also will be available for one-on-one consultations and networking.
Breakout sessions will include topics on value-added dairy, income opportunities from the woods, resiliency in cash crops, leasing options, understanding an individual farm’s unique assets and more. Additionally, sessions will be available for direct marketing, creating a practical commodity marketing plan, succession planning and basic farm financials.
The 2019 Resilient Farms Conference is Thursday, Dec. 12, from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells. The registration fee is $20, which includes lunch. To register or for more information visit Compeer.com/ResilientFarms.
Leigh Presley is agriculture educator for University of Wisconsin-Extension in Kenosha County.