Up North News: Another Auction Ends a Family Farm

Another Auction Ends a Family Farm

Written By Julian Emerson

Originally Published March 3, 2020 11:21 am

A worker prods a cow up a ramp and into a semi-truck trailer Monday at Paul Adams’ farm. Most of the 600-plus cows in his dairy herd were shipped to a large dairy farm in Texas. (Photo by Julian Emerson)

After 148 years, nothing left to try to avoid losing money and now a livelihood

When Paul Adams was growing up on the rolling hillsides that comprised his family’s farm just north of the Trempealeau County community of Eleva, similar dairy operations dotted the surrounding countryside like dandelions in springtime.

The young Adams helped milk and feed the cows at his home, putting up hay and mending fences, just like his neighbors. When Adams eventually took over the farm where he had grown up, those neighbors made their living on farms ranging from 120 to several hundred acres, milking herds of 30, 40 or even 50 cows.

“There was a farm family just over the hill there,” Adams, now 68, said from his dairy barn Monday morning, motioning with his hand toward a nearby rise in the snow-covered terrain. “And then down the road there was another, and another across the road. And then there was the Schultz farm just at the edge of town … There were farms all over this area.”

Paul Adams discusses his decision to sell his organic dairy farm just north of the Trempealeau County village of Eleva, the farm where he grew up and has farmed for his life. Adams, 68, said he could no longer make a go of the farm even though he had grown his herd through the years to more than 600 cows. (Photo by Julian Emerson)

Those days of small family dairy operations appear to be gone, lost amid ever-growing pressures from low milk prices, rising costs, decreased milk demand and the need to operate more efficiently.

On Monday the organic farm Adams and his wife JoAnn have operated for four decades — the land Adams’ descendants settled 148 years ago after moving from Pennsylvania to farm — became another in a growing list of Wisconsin dairy casualties. MORE