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Alternatives to expansion, keeping small farms alive.

Athens, Wis. (WAOW) — Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue suggested struggling farmers expand in order to survive. Local farmers and agriculture experts said there are many stronger alternatives.

One of those options is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). “That’s the bulk of our operation,” Tenzin Botsford said. He and his wife Stacey run Red Door Family Farm in Athens. He said, “people sign up at the beginning of the season and they receive a weekly delivery throughout the growing season.”

They started five years ago and though it’s successful now, he said it was difficult to get started. He also said large farms that continue to grow make it even more challenging for small farms to open up.

However, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue suggested that expansion is actually the solution for struggling farmers.

UW Extension Agent Heather Schlesser said expansion is a solution but not the strongest. “There are other things we can do,” she said. “I mean if you think about the state of the environment that we are in, banks aren’t giving out loans as frequently as thru used to so to just say ‘you have to expand’… well how are you going to?”

Instead, Schlesser said efficiency and diversity are the key. “If you’re talking about a traditional dairy farm,” she said. “Maybe making soaps, maybe making ice cream, cheese, ya know that value added product.”

When it comes to the Red Door Family Farm, Botsford said the farming community is a strong source of support. “We share equipment and ideas and strategies or just… shoulders,” he paused. “Whatever we need.”

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Tom Lally

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