Running Your Own Farm

Matthew Wichowsky, Interviewed by Alexa Wichowsky, November 23, 2016
Location of Interview: West Winfield, New York

Matthew Wichowsky was born in 1958 in Cobleskill, New York. He was a farmer for most of his life, working on others’ farms before renting and then buying his own farm in West Winfield, New York. He ran the farm for 25 years, first as a dairy farm and then as a hay business. In this clip, he talks about making improvements to his farm as well as the challenges of owning a farm.
AW: So now that you are finally a farm owner, what are some difference between working on someone else’s farm and owning your own farm?
MW: Well, when you own your own farm anything you do, it’s yours. If you’re renting and you do anything on it, it’s hard to say it’s yours. Once I owned the land, I started doing; they called it some strip cropping and tiling. You tile out the wet spots, to improve the land. You can feed the land a lot better when you own it because you know you are always going to get the return off of it.
AW: Can you talk a little bit more about what strip cropping entails?
MW: It was kind of a rolling hilly farm so in order to keep it from eroding you know you kind of strip it—contour—strip it, whatever you want to say, so you are not plowing, working the whole farm as one big crop. You got strips of hay, strips of corn, strips of oats, whatever you are planting that way it holds the soil all together.
AW: For the first few years what were you mainly planting?
MW: Oats, corn, and hay.
AW: What were some of the challenges that you ran into establishing the farm?
MW: There are good years and bad years. Price in milk always fluctuates. Sometimes it’s high and sometimes it’s low but your bills, your fixed bills, are always the same, always going up. When the price of milk goes down nothing else goes down. The cost doesn’t go down. And if the price of milk goes up, your suppliers say, “Well jeez, you get more for your milk; we should get more for our supplies.” Always, the supplies never go down with the price of milk.
Click here to listen to the full interview or to read the transcript.