Andrew Adamski | Seymour, WI
Our farm has about 1,000 laying hens, a little over 100 pigs a year that we send to butcher, a herd of about 50 cow-calf pairs, and 12 acres of organic vegetables that we primarily sell through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). We also have about 20 acres of grain for various outlets, like millers or other people looking for small specialty grains. Any excess we eat ourselves or send for feed.
I’ve been picking my grandpa’s brain about what the farm was like when he was growing up. When he was a kid, his dad and grandpa milled all their own lumber and tapped trees for syrup. That was a holistic farm, they brought those natural practices from the Old World. They were farming with the ecosystem because they pretty much had to. They didn’t have the technology or I guess industrial strong-handedness to bend nature to their will as much as we do today. There was a lot of wisdom in that and my grandpa saw that. My grandpa told me stories of using DDT in the barn, where he would take it and paint it on cows to control flies. He always said that it left a bad taste in his mouth. Hopefully not literally.
My dad took that in, and when I was growing up, we produced Organic Valley milk. When I went to college I wanted to learn about ecology. My degree is in soil microbial ecology. I wanted to study the flora and fauna that inhabit the soil to understand the effect they have on the health of soil and plant life.
When I started school, I thought, ‘Hell, no, I’m not going back to the farm ever.’ I was going to go off and be a biochemical engineer or something with chemistry. At school, my friends and I talked about the effects of industrial agriculture. I remember coming back to the farm for Thanksgiving one year and I was able to see it like I had never seen it before. I noticed a lot of farms’ bare fields with liquid manure spread all over them with no plants to regenerate the soil. I just couldn’t bear it, so I thought I’d come back and farm and show that there is a different way to do it.
My fiance Heather Toman and I moved back to the farm in the fall of 2017. The foundation of organic farming is soil and microbiology. So for me, Full Circle Farm is a living lab that I can just explore and play with and end up with food. We’re losing four millimeters of topsoil across the entire agricultural world every year. That’s where all of the nutrients that we put into it every year are, and we’re just washing it into the ocean. We can always get better at farming and caring for the land. We’re just humans so we don’t know everything. We just take our hints from the land and say, ‘Okay, what can we do better? Let’s try it.’
My grandpa is 98 now. When he was growing up, they barely had electricity and I don’t think he’s ever had a cell phone or a computer. For him, sustainability is just like, ‘Doesn’t everyone use their manure and compost it and grow all their own food?’ It’s just the way he lived; it’s the way he lives. When I was in high school, there were about 1200 kids, and I think maybe two or three other people even knew what organic food was. Today Full Circle is a fully certified organic farm. The beef cattle are grass-fed all the way through. No grain is provided as it is not needed to ensure the health of cows. At our farm, we let the animals forage for their own food instead of turning corn and soy into feed. This is rotational grazing which helps protect the soil.
The way I see it, the way we are farming, we’re a tiny speck in the conventional farming world. And to be that speck, we are disruptors. It’s a huge undertaking. And it’s like train tracks or train cars, where a huge amount of effort is required to get it moving at first, but once it’s going, then you got all the momentum behind it and it’s going to be hard to stop. There are a lot of people that have put their energy behind pulling and getting that ‘sustainability train’ moving. It feels good to know that I’m one of the people that can start pulling now too.
Andrew’s story was produced by Scott Schultz as part of our series on Wisconsin’s water future. This series was funded by the ‘Beyond the Headlines’ initiative and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
You can learn more about Full Circle Farm here.
Beyond the Headlines (BTH) is a program of Wisconsin Humanities that brings members of the Wisconsin media and the public together to examine how we can obtain information that we need and trust in order to meet our communities’ challenges. BTH had a statewide Wisconsin Water Future project. You can learn more about it here.
Full Circle Community Farm is part of SLO Farmers Coop (Sustainable. Local. Organic.) Founded in 2014, SLO Farmers Co-op is a farmer co-operative in northeastern Wisconsin. They are committed to providing quality farm products that sustain both our family farms and our environment. More details here.