Editor’s note: Wade Bulman is one of Agri-View’s “From the Fields” reporters for 2019.
WESTERN WISCONSIN – It has been a long journey so far for Wisconsin farmer Wade Bulman. But he has traveled his journey with perseverance and ingenuity, meeting every challenge with determination.
He began his farming life at age 8, working in his family’s barn. His family owned a dairy farm with about 60 head. They also grew corn, hay, oats and long grains. Bulman purchased his current farm in 1990, when he was in his 30s. He took care of his own farm and milked his family’s cows until about 2013, when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“I had a major treatment option we had to deal with,” Bulman said. “There’s no way we could handle both.”
After undergoing treatment Wade Bulman and his wife, LeeAnne Bulman, continued to operate their farm. They own 236 acres in the west-central Driftless Area Region of western Wisconsin. The Bulmans primarily grow cash-grain crops, but they also have a small cow-calf herd and finish steers.
The farm was organic for about 25 years before Wade Bulman decided to change his operation.
“I got rid of the cows mostly,” he said. “With my hills and stuff I didn’t need the forage as much, so I was out the cows. I really couldn’t justify having all of that hay around. I can’t really do no-till organic. But that’s kind of why I made the switch, and it’s less work. (I was) tired of running around the field that much.”
For the past couple of years Bulman has been almost 100 percent no-till, which he said has been working well. But there are some challenges working with the land he owns. His land is non-glaciated, which means the area is hilly due to the lack of glaciers passing over it during the previous ice age.
“(It’s) stand-on-your-head steep or swampy flat,” he said.
His wife, LeeAnne Bulman, said she agrees.
“Our area of the state is made of small farms,” she said. “Because of the hilly terrain, expansion and big feed lots and dairies aren’t possible.”
Despite his landscape challenges, Wade Bulman wants to start inter-seeding cover crops in his corn this year. He said he usually likes to plant his small grains in April and his corn in early May to mid-May.
He said his hopes of inter-seeding depend on his energy levels.
“The radiation kind of got me on long-term energy,” he said. “My ‘get up and go’ kind of got up and went.”
As for the lessons he has learned from his farming journey thus far, Bulman said he has a few regrets – or rather missed opportunities.
When he began farming in the early 1980s, Bulman said banks had inflated interest rates and were rather pushy, telling him what to do and what not to do with his farm. There were chances to improve his finances, but he believes he missed out on some.
He said, “(I) learned some expensive lessons. Now I’m a bit more independent-minded.”
And after 42 years of farming with her husband, LeeAnne Bulman seconds his opinion.
“(Wade is) tenacious, stubborn, always optimistic, willing to try new methods and very much in tune with his land,” she said.
The Bulmans have two children who are now 40 and 38. In any spare time they have, the couple likes to cruise around in their classic convertible. As for Wade Bulman, he likes to ride motorcycle and drag race.
With some final parting words, Bulman shares his view of the agriculture-consumer connection.
“I think everybody should be a little closer connected to the land,” he said. “I think there’s a disconnect between the ag community and the consumer. The further people get away from the land, the more crazy they get.”