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Wisconsin farmers are encouraged to share their stories of transitioning to a different way of farming or exiting farming.

Fran O'Leary, Wisconsin Agriculturist Editor

January 29, 2021

2 Min Read
Doris Mold selfie with Holstein dairy cows
LISTENING TO FARMERS: Doris Mold wants Wisconsin farmers to contact her to share their farm transition stories as part of the Rural Resiliency Project funded by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. Courtesy of Doris Mold

If you are a Wisconsin farmer who has experienced a major transition on your farm, Doris Mold would like to talk to you. Maybe you have transitioned the farm to the next generation or decided to share milking facilities with another farmer. Or you sold your cows and are now crop farming and working at Fleet Farm or raising dairy beef. Or maybe you have moved to value-added production or made some other farm transition, including exiting farming completely.

Whatever the situation, Mold is interested in your story.

A farmer too

Mold and her husband milk their cows in a shared facility with neighbors and keep heifers and dry cows on their small farm near Cumberland, in western Wisconsin. Mold also owns a consulting business, Sunrise Agricultural Associates LLC, and she teaches farm management classes at the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus one day a week.

Mold grew up on a dairy farm in east-central Minnesota, about an hour west of where she lives. She has a bachelor’s degree in ag and applied economics, animal science and ag education from the University of Minnesota. She also has a master’s degree in agriculture and applied economics.

“Farm business management is my area of focus,” she says.

Mold is working on the Rural Resiliency Project through the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Foundation. The project started in March 2020 with background research on farms and agricultural stress in Wisconsin.

“A donor who grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm wanted to fund this project,” Mold explains. “He funded this project so that we could learn how to assist farmers and farm families on both the economic and stress fronts. This study, which is part of the project, is being done so that we could learn what are farmers’ experiences, where are the gaps, and how can we collectively help people be more successful at farming or how can we help others gracefully exit farming?”

Mold likes to say that she has both farm and farm life experience.

“I’ve lived some of the stress that we are looking at,” Mold says. “Everybody’s stories and situations are unique. It’s important to hear their stories. We are doing this study so that we can figure out how to better help people in transition. The information will be used to help inform what kinds of programs and activities are needed and could be offered either through Rural Resiliency, through other organizations or through collaborations.”

Interested individuals or couples are welcome to contact her via email at [email protected] to set up a time to talk. Mold is interested in talking to farmers or farm family members from farms of all types and sizes, as well as people who have exited farming

“Everything is kept anonymous,” Mold says. “If someone would rather not talk, they can email me some notes — that’s OK too. I hope to be done with interviews by April 1.”

About the Author(s)

Fran O'Leary

Wisconsin Agriculturist Editor

Even though Fran was born and raised on a farm in Illinois, she has spent most of her life in Wisconsin. She moved to the state when she was 18 years old and later graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Fran has 25 years of experience writing, editing and taking pictures. Before becoming editor of the Wisconsin Agriculturist in 2003, she worked at Johnson Hill Press in Fort Atkinson as a writer and editor of farm business publications and at the Janesville Gazette in Janesville as farm editor and feature writer. Later, she signed on as a public relations associate at Bader Rutter in Brookfield, and served as managing editor and farm editor at The Reporter, a daily newspaper in Fond du Lac.

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