Brown County Man Returns to Job He Loves
Your job isn’t worth doing if you don’t love it, shared Larry Dufek smiling from the seat of his Kawasaki mule. Driving through the freestall barn, he goes on to explain how blessed he is to be able to work with his family and friends everyday doing something that he loves in a world where 70% of all Americans do not even enjoy their careers.
It’s not hard to see why Dufek Crest Dairy with its friendly, easy-going atmosphere is a great place to live and work. The New Franken, Wisconsin farm located in Brown County has been in the family for several generations and now boasts 1200 milk cows, along with 3200 acres. Dufek and his wife, Patty, manage the farm, while over a dozen employees carry out daily tasks such as completing fieldwork and working with the cattle in their double-16 parlor. Despite the many hands working to run this dairy, it still can be a stressful and hectic place to work especially during those busy times of the year like fall.
SEASONS OF CHANGE
Fall bringing with it the harvest season is one of the most demanding times of the year, a time when farmers work nearly ‘round the clock to simply keep up. One such busy fall day in September of 2001, everything was brought to a screeching halt at Dufek Crest Dairy. Dufek had been leveling off a silo when the bottom of his pant leg got caught in the drive wheel, resulting in a severe injury to his lower leg. Following the accident, Dufek’s leg had to be amputated just below the knee. After spending several months in the hospital, he returned home to find that friends and family had pitched in to ensure that the dairy operation ran smoothly while he was recovering. “My neighbors and some custom harvesters came in and helped harvest the rest of the corn and beans. They were great. Without the help of them and my family, I couldn’t have done it.”
Dufek was fitted with a prosthetic limb and had to go through lengthy rehabilitation – learning how to walk again with a new leg. Several months later he returned to work fulltime on the farm, but his role had to change. Describing himself as a “mover and shaker” of sorts, Dufek struggled with having to sit back and let others take on more responsibility, but he took comfort in seeing his employees step up and into their new roles nicely. Though Dufek found the transition from full-time farmer to full-time manager a challenging one, he credits his loving wife, Patty, for helping him every step of the way.
Dufek was also appreciative of assistance he received from both the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and AgrAbility of Wisconsin. After contacting AgrAbility of Wisconsin, Paul Leverenz, Easter Seals Wisconsin Farm Assessment and Rehabilitation Methods (FARM) Director and AgrAbility partner, visited Dufek on his farm to discuss tasks he was having difficulty with, what he wanted to be doing and how those things could happen. “AgrAbility helped me to modify more equipment to make jobs easier, even more efficient,” notes Dufek. One major change was the addition of a Kawasaki mule, which allows Dufek to maintain an active part in the dairy operation. With his mule he is able to travel anywhere around the farm including excursions into the barn where specially designed grates now fit over the gutters. Placement of an extra set of steps on one of his tractors and on a skid loader makes entry and exit of that machinery easier. Headlocks and crowding gates were installed in the barn where Dufek does most of the health care on his cattle providing him increased safety while he gives attention to his herd. With the help of this assistive technology, Dufek feels he can do just about anything, continuing to climb silos and drive tractor with more ease. Challenges, such as pushing in the clutch pedal on his tractor, can still arise but Dufek has learned ways to overcome such obstacles.
A JOB WORTH DOING
As Dufek Crest Dairy continues to expand, Dufek and his wife are pleased with the progress their family has made. “My priorities changed a lot after my accident,” says Dufek noting that his family has become a lot closer since the accident – closer than they had ever been. Continuously planning for the future, the Dufeks envision more dairy facilities and modernizations will be built on the farm in a few years with Larry eventually serving as the primary, full-time manager of the operation.
Fortunate to return to a job he loves, Dufek advises, “Life is so precious, live every day to its fullest – that’s why we plan for the future and live for today.”