Sam grew up in Madison, and went to the same high school as WSBDF Director Dick Cates. In deciding what she wanted to do for a living, she considered being a veterinarian, but the idea of getting late night calls to care for sick animals, along with the huge time and financial investment in veterinary school weren’t appealing. She decided that the Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) was a smaller investment of time and money and an opportunity to decide if farming was what she wanted to do. She enrolled in FISC in 2007-2008 and took the Pasture-Based Dairy and Livestock Seminar as part of her education.
Speaking of her experience with WSBDF, Sam says, “It was pretty influential on my farming strategies. I was from the city and didn’t have a farming background.” In particular, she liked that in the Pasture-Based Dairy and Livestock Seminar, she had the opportunity to learn directly from farmers, rather than listening to lectures. She felt that the business planning emphasis was unique compared with other approaches, and she found herself going back to balance sheets and cash flow statements from the course to help make farming decisions.
After the course, she went to work with her husband Don on his family’s farm in Argyle. He had bought the cattle and equipment from the farm in 2005, and it was certified organic in 2007. Sam joined in 2008, and it was part of her job to convert additional land to pasture for grazing. They went from 10 acres of continuously grazed pasture then to about 90 acres of rotationally grazed pasture today.
Overall their farm consists of 450 acres, including hay, corn and other crops, some of which they feed to their 90 dairy cows and some of which they sell. They market their milk through Organic Valley Coop. Sam says that they are pretty happy where they are now and don’t plan major changes with the farm. They now have a two year old daughter (Annalise) to keep them busy in addition to farming.
Since graduating from WSBDF, Sam has stayed involved with the program. She and Don have come in multiple times to tell their story to new students as part of the class, and they have hosted a farm visit. We are thrilled that they have stayed involved!