I grew up in the rural dairy land of Wisconsin. All I knew was farming, my neighbors were farmers, my family members were farmers, my friends were farmers.
Never did I ever imagine when I went off to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (aka “Moo U”) that when I came home for a break something would be missing. Farms. Barns that once were full of activity of cows being milked, fed, loaded with hay and grain, would be abandoned.
The milk prices were dropping and farmers were not able to sustain themselves well enough to make it in the business they knew and loved. A person who is a farmer is not there because of any other reason than love. You HAVE to love this lifestyle. There are no vacations, no options for sick days. Your life is filled with hard work, sweat, tears, blood and loss.
It breaks my heart to watch these farmers struggle. It breaks my heart even more to watch this important lifestyle in my beautiful state of Wisconsin dwindle.
To show my support of farmers, I want to tell their story. The story of their land, their hard work and their life. This process is being taken place with my photography in the Fading Farmer Project.
Please join me for this journey as I travel through Wisconsin and connect with the people I know best-farmers. I share their understanding of a long day. I know what it is like to sit with that calf in hopes that she makes it. Then to go out to the barn and discover out she passed. I know what it is like to watch the sky fill with heavy thunderstorm and rain clouds while you unload that wagon of hay as quickly as you can…knowing there are more waiting to be unloaded coming in from the field.
I love being a farmer’s daughter and I would never trade a single day on that farm for anything. I am extremely proud to say “I am Walter Kolba’s daughter”. He taught me how to hunt, fish, change a tire, change oil in a vehicle, how to shoot a bow and a gun. My Dad taught me how to drive and had me driving tractor by the time I was 8 years old. He also taught me my work ethic. My Mom, Joyce Kolba, taught me how to cook, clean, garden, sew and how to be a lady in the middle of dirt, straw and manure. My brother, Jeff, gave me incentive to do better and he is quick to keep me in line.
I hope you enjoy this photographic journey-I have enjoyed being blessed to tell the stories of those hard working farmers who I understand, and love.
Farmers in Wisconsin