“I was raised to believe you can’t make a living on farming alone,” says Andy Jaworski. He grew up on a farm and enjoyed farming, but he decided to study finance at UW-Milwaukee rather than studying agriculture. After college, however, he couldn’t see himself in an office job, and he started working for Rick Adamski and Val Dantoin, milking cows. Rick and Val encouraged him to attend Short Course and the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers (WSBDF), and he attended the program in 2008-09. Speaking of his experience, Andy says, “Once I learned more about grazing and the organic route, I decided that if I put all my effort into it, I can make farming my career.”
Since completing the program, Andy has been following a path towards that goal. In the spring of 2011, he entered into a three-year sharemilking agreement with Rick and Val. As part of a formal business partnership, he bought Rick’s dairy cows, used his milking facilities, and paid off this investment during his three years of sharemilking. In 2014, Rick decided he wanted to get out of dairy farming. Andy, at this point, moved his cows and operation to his parents’ farm, where he reinvested his earnings from his herd into a freestall barn with a Lely robotic milker. He is currently paying off this investment while renting land from his parents. He milks 60-75 cows, uses management-intensive grazing, is certified organic, and sells milk to Organic Valley. With his free-flow robotic milking system, his cows are able to enter the barn on their own and get milked as often as they want, averaging two milkings a day. His long term goal is to buy and own the family farm without needing a supplemental job, and he is steadily progressing towards that goal.
Andy says that WSBDF gave him time to self-reflect and write down his intermediate and long-term goals, and he appreciated learning first-hand from the farmer instructors about the mistakes they made and their strategies for success. “I learned that your first investment should be in the cattle, then the equipment, and then the land. This is exactly the order I’m doing it. Cows are not a depreciable asset, and I’m watching my investment grow.”
Of course farming life still has its challenges. Even with the robotic milker, Andy can’t leave the farm without finding someone to cover for him. That said, Andy is enjoying the freedom of running his own farm and being his own boss. He says, “I don’t know what else I’d rather be doing.”