NWTC grad named state’s “Outstanding Young Farmer”

January 27, 2012

From agriview.com: “Kuczers named state’s ‘Outstanding Young Farmers’” – 

Shawano County cattle feeders Adam and Rebecca Kuczer were named Wisconsin’s Outstanding Young Farmers last weekend. The Pulaski couple was chosen from among eight producers competing for the 2012 title. Meantime, the 2011 OYFs, Brian and Renee Schaal, Burlington, will be competing early next month in Arkansas with 10 producers around the country for this year’s national title.

Though the weekend selection process and banquet was held in Marshfield, the event was hosted by the JCI Greenfield chapter. (JCI Wisconsin was formerly known as the Wisconsin Jaycees, an organization of young professionals, ages 18 to 40, who are developing personal and leadership skills and making a difference in their communities through volunteering.)

With each new day comes opportunity for growth and change; that’s why the Kuczers chose their joint career in farming-for the day-to-day challenges. Extremely proud of what they do, these beef producers are articulate spokespeople for Wisconsin agriculture, focused on making connections with other producers and especially the non-farm public.

They farm 443 acres (410 tillable), growing 220 acres of corn, 110 of soybeans, 40 of wheat and 50 of hay. What doesn’t feed their cattle (between 250 and 300 head) is sold as cash crops. The Kuczers source 300 to 400-pound Holstein calves and take them to finish. Being Wisconsin is the “Dairy State,” Adam notes “Holstein bull calves are easy to come by,” and he’s “always looking for good suppliers.” He follows a regular vaccination protocol. Cattle are raised in five lots and segregated. He markets at local auction barns, but is intent on increasing direct-to-the-consumer freezer-meat sales.

Adam was raised on his parents’ dairy farm (Tom and Linda Kuczer). From early on, he knew farming was the career for him. After high school, he attended Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, and though he took a job in metal fabrication, he still helped out on the home farm. It wasn’t long before his dad approached Adam with the idea of working fulltime as the farm’s mechanic.

The first equipment Adam purchased was an excavator, which he used for ditching and clearing fence lines on the farm. He also did some custom work on his own, and over time, bought more machinery and then 120 acres, which he cash cropped, sharing equipment with his parents. The young producer’s finances were kept separate from his folks’ as he built equity and gained management experience.

In 2003, Adam married Rebecca, who was also from Pulaski, though not from a farm. Together, the newlyweds continued to work the farm, and built a new home. In 2007, the dairy cows were sold, as the younger generation transitioned the business to steers and cash crops. These 2012 state Outstanding Young Farmers purchased the operation in 2010.

Rebecca explains that the decision to raise steers instead of milking cows was based on how the two enterprises would “affect family.” Raising beef would “allow more time together” and provide more “flexibility with family” activities, she explains. The Kuczers have four children-Nicholas, 6; Sawyer, 4; and 1-year-old twins, Clara and Cadence. When she and Adam were called to the microphone to accept their prestigious award last weekend, Rebecca said “the day I found out I was having twins felt like I was dreaming.” Being named Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmers is every bit as dream-like. “Someone give me a pinch,” she said. “It doesn’t feel real!”

Rebecca later emphasized how a farm is a “great place to raise a family.” The Kuczer kids, she notes, spend many happy hours in their oversized sandbox, made with some 20 yards of sand.

Farming, however, has also held many challenges for this young family. Switching from dairy to beef demanded they extensively remodel facilities. Stalls were removed from the dairy barn, which was converted to storage. Lots were constructed for the cattle, as was drive-by bunk feeding. Heated waterers were added, along with a squeeze chute, scale and tub pen for handling, sorting and loading cattle. They redesigned their grain bin system, put up a 20 X 90 silo, built a new expanded feed room and re-roofed a barn.

In 2004-Adam and Rebecca’s first full year farming together-a long wet spring prevented planting. Rather than plant in July, they decided to use the rest of the year to tile their land. They bought a tile plow and installed 50,000 feet of drainage tile to improve their cropland. They installed another 50,000 feet two years later.

In 2007, Adam’s dad needed a second hip replacement. Having a strategic plan helped insure all the work could still get done and overcome that labor challenge. Finally, in 2010-the year the Kuczers purchased the farm-lightning caused a fire that destroyed a barn (storing all their dry hay) as well as a silo of high moisture corn.

Despite these adversities, the Kuczers persevered with their dreams and have continued to make progress.

Conservation is front and center in the operation. A duck scrape was constructed, and they’ve planted 5,000 black spruce and four one-acre foot plots for wildlife. Grass waterways and filter strips protect water quality. Adam does two-and-a-half-acre GPS grid soil testing and has built a variable rate fertilizer spreader, which saves money by better tailoring applications within fields and is better environmentally, too. He’s also switched from plowing to deep tillage to break compaction and allow better drainage. A single tillage pass in the spring saves fuel and keeps residue on top, preventing erosion and runoff. He uses a two-pass system for herbicide and nitrogen applications, and relies on an AgLeader monitoring system and GPS to monitor planting rates.

All this fine-tuning in the fields paid off last year, with some of his fields averaging 220 bushels of corn and 65 bushels of soybeans. Their goals are to acquire additional acreage to cash crop and maintain 300 head of cattle on their place at all times. They market 150 head a year. They’d also like to sell their beef directly to consumers, eventually being able to keep a state-approved freezer stocked with cuts.

Their focus on improvements also paid off by, of course, being selected from a field of eight candidates as Wisconsin’s Outstanding Young Farmers, by a trio of judges: Anne Berg, assistant vice president and team leaders with Badgerland Financial in Mondovi; Tom Drendel, former superintendent of the UW’s Marshfield Ag Research Station, now ag safety specialist with the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield; and Doug Urban, registered Holstein and Brown Swiss breeder at Milladore and 1993 state OYF competitor.

The Kuczers are very active off their farm, especially with Farm Bureau. They’re serving on the state Farm Bureau Young Farmer Committee. Adam, 36, has also been Farm Bureau Young Farmer chair in his county for five years, and is presently Shawano County Farm Bureau vice president.

This couple participates in the Shawano County Brunch on the Farm, specifically organizing the kiddie pedal tractor pull. It’s an opportunity for them to “let people know where their food comes from,” says Rebecca. While they’re running this fun children’s event, she says “people find us very approachable.” It’s a natural venue for telling non-farmers about agriculture-something very important to the Kuczers, who are serious promoters of their industry. Adam feels it’s his responsibility to get involved, speak up and let the public know how he takes care of his animals and is intent on producing a “good quality product,” so “somebody else isn’t talking for us.”

Rebecca admits it’s a challenge trying to divvy up their time among the farm, family and their off-farm involvements. They enjoy networking with other young farmers through Farm Bureau, as well as last weekend’s OYF competition.

Adam is also involved in the Tri County Snow Riders snowmobile club and Pulaski Chase Cooperative. Rebecca is the reporter for the Northeastern Wisconsin Miniature Horse Club. She helps with chores on the farm and handles all the bookwork.

“We love to share what we do with others. What we do (i.e. farming) is so personal to us,” says Rebecca from her heart.

 

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