Conserving a Legacy for the Future
Farm families have a tradition of passing their love of land and livestock from generation to generation. James Amera’s farming story skips a generation, but his commitment to doing the right thing for the environment and dairy cattle is stronger than ever.
“My grandparents Merle and Ginny [Skjolaas] raised dairy cattle, tobacco and crops here in Stoughton,” James explained. “The farm is more than 170 years old. It was started in 1851, so we have a deep family history in agriculture. I have fond memories of working on the farm with my grandpa.”
James grew up close to the farm that his grandparents own, although his parents were not actively involved. His love of agriculture was so strong that it called him to pick up the lifestyle himself. James bought his own herd of dairy cattle in 2015.
CONSERVING FOR THE FUTURE
Six years in, it is evident that James and his wife Callie have put a lot of thought into the future of their farm.
“My grandpa started no-till on our cropland many years ago, and I have taken that a step further and started doing cover crops,” James said. “For us, conservation is just about trying to do the right thing for the land and to keep farming for generations to come.”
James runs about 620 acres of cropland where he grows alfalfa, corn, soybeans and wheat. Cover crops allow the Ameras to manage soil and nutrient loss, which is especially important in the Yahara Watershed where they farm. The combination of no-till and cover crops also helps reduce the amount of fuel and weed and pest control needed, which helps reduce input costs.
The farm also has about 95 acres of pasture where the Ameras practice rotational grazing, another strategy to reduce feed input costs with the cattle herd.
“All our young stock and dry cows are on pasture with about 80 beef cow-calf pairs,” James explained. “We’ve been milking with a robot for almost two years. All the milk cows stay in the freestall right now, but we’re in the process of transitioning to grazing the milking herd while still using the robot.”
GROWTH FROM STRONG ROOTS
As with James, agriculture is in Callie’s blood. She hauled milk for her family business, Arneson Trucking, before their now 1-year-old daughter, Ellie, was born. Callie’s grandpa and his brother established the business after returning home from the Korean War.
Arneson actually picked up milk at James’ farm when he was starting out, which is how he met Callie. Four years later, they got married on the Amera farm, with two of Callie’s favorite cows standing by.
PARTNERING FOR SUCCESS
While working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on a costshare program to start their rotational grazing practice, James was encouraged to reach out to Paul Dietmann, senior lending officer at Compeer Financial, as a resource to guide the transition and talk through key financial considerations.
“Paul was an excellent resource for us because he really knows his numbers,” James said. “He has so much experience working with grazing and more of the niche side of agriculture that he helped us make some estimates that we otherwise might have hesitated with.”
While James and Callie are young and have more goals set for the years to come, they have shown a commitment to continuing the family farming legacy. They have already taken a deep dive into conservation and will continue to work on setting up their farm to succeed for generations to come.
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