Wis. farming and its changing landscape

Wisconsin’s agriculture industry generates about $60 billion in economic activity each year and it employs about 10 percent of the state’s workforce.

Farming has a long history in Wisconsin, but it has changed quite a bit.

More than one-third of the land in Wisconsin is used for growing crops or raising livestock, according to the most recent data from the USDA.

The number of farms in the state dropped between 2008 and 2013, and one local farmer said it could be because farming isn’t always a cash crop.

Bryant LeJeune has been farming for 11 years. He has about 110 head of cattle on the land he is currently renting, but Bryant isn’t your traditional farmer, he’s actually a first generation farmer.

“Loved cows since I was knee high to a grasshopper so I went and bought some,” LeJeune said.

Another reason LeJeune is a rare breed, his farming operation is expanding. This fall he’ll be moving his farming operation from Bangor to Barrie Mills, taking over his uncle’s farm along with two of his relatives.

“The farm I’m moving to, we’ll milk 200 plus and they’ve got 900 plus acres. It’ll be quite a jump in size,” LeJeune said.

LeJeune said he’s fortunate to be growing his business because that isn’t the trend right now.

“Well I’ve noticed that a lot of the farmers’ kids aren’t taking over for their parents they’re going other ways,” LeJeune said.

Since 2008 the number of farms in Wisconsin has dropped by more than 6,000.

Bryant said he noticed the La Crosse County area is becoming more urban and said kids may be leaving farming for several reasons.

“Because they either don’t want to put in the seven days a week sun up to sun down or they just don’t want to deal with the price swings,” LeJeune said.

“In 11 years, the price of land has probably doubled, feed prices, they vary from year to year. I’ve seen $2 corn and I’ve seen $7 corn a bushel, I’ve seen $20 a bail of hay to $100 a bail of hay,” LeJeune said.

Even though the prices are ever changing and it seems that more and more are leaving the business he loves, LeJeune is heading in the other direction and looking forward to it.

“Yes, looking forward to the fact that I can maybe take a day of milking off here and milking off there,” LeJeune said.

Even though the number of farms has been decreasing, the price of land has increased. In 2013, the value of ag land rose to just shy of $4,900 an acre.

Wisconsin ranks No. 1one in the country for cheese production and cranberry production, among many other things. It ranks second in milk production.