By Jennifer Bradley
The cows at the Travis family farm in Sharon are happy, says Sharon Travis. They should be. This Century Farm in Walworth County was started in 1901 by David Travis' great-grandparents, and with the modernizations the current generations have made, the herd has never been more content.
However, five decades of milking cows began taking a toll on the herd's caretaker through arthritis and back pain. With the help of the AgrAbility Program, 65-year-old David Travis has been given an extended opportunity to work his farm.
AgrAbility is a USDA-funded program through the Cooperative Extension Service and in partnership with Easter Seals. Paul Leverenz, the vice president of FARM and Vocational Services at Easter Seals Wisconsin, says that the program representatives want to be able to come to the farm and address an entire operation. He adds that small adjustments, such as those David has seen, all add up to the benefits of more support and less pain.
A Kubota ATV gives David transportation across uneven ground, especially since the milking parlor and calves are now located on opposite ends of the property. The AgrAbility program also provided extra steps to his tractors, so the first step is not as high, says Sharon, David's wife.
In-floor heating and automatic takeoffs in the parlor really made a big difference, eliminating bending and standing on concrete for extended periods of time. "This has helped extend my farming career tremendously as far as being able to physically do the job," David says.
Daniel Travis, David and Sharon's son, is a University of Wisconsin-Platteville graduate. Daniel is the fourth generation of his family to farm on the home farm. He is very astute in his care of the animals and enjoys working with them, especially seeing and implementing changes through technological advances.
Daniel has five siblings who live off the farm: Christine, Alyson, Jeffrey, Adam and Alexander. Together, David and Sharon have 14 grandchildren, who can be found roaming the farm all summer long. They enjoy working on their 4-H animal projects and playing on the homemade swing set.
The six Travis children are showing a fifth generation the importance of family working side by side.
"We want to leave the farm better than we received it, and we've done that," says Sharon. "We want to pass on respect for the land and stewardship of it."