by Emily Carey

For Autumn Madugno, the word “agriculture” has always been part of her vocabulary. Growing up on her family’s dairy farm in Deposit, NY, Madugno always knew she was going to be a part of the industry she was raised in. From helping to charter her school’s ag program to being the recipient of numerous dairy and agriculture scholarships, she proves day in and day out that she is passionate about leaving an impact on the dairy industry.

As a seventh-generation farmer and a fourth-generation dairy farmer, Madugno hopes to continue the Schaefer Farm legacy and take over the family farm. She said, “Being raised in here was what made me have the passion for agriculture that I have. I can promise you that I will never leave agriculture. No matter what I do with my life, I will never leave it.”

Every day Madugno arrives at her family’s dairy at 6:30 a.m. (aside from the mornings she starts milking at 3:30 a.m.) to help with feeding, heat detection and any other work that needs to be done. Currently, the farm milks 64 registered Holsteins and Madugno’s favorite part is getting to work with the cows each day. She credits her grandmother Elaine Schaefer with inspiring her to become active on the farm. She said, “Every morning she’s up at 3:30 milking the cows. Every day at 3:30 p.m. she’s milking the cows. Every day. It doesn’t matter what’s happening; she makes her schedule around it, and she doesn’t stop until the works done… And my grandpa. He does everything. He doesn’t stop.

“When I came home from the hospital, my mom brought me to see the cows… My first word wasn’t ‘mom’ or ‘dad,’ it was moo,” she said of her early start to farm life. Her dad was the farmer in the family.

Madugno’s mother Amanda Madugno reminisced, “She went with him on the tractor from the time she was tiny. He taught her how to run the tractors, so she’s following in his footsteps.”

Her father passed last autumn and Madugno made it her goal to complete his wish of adding color to their black and white herd. “So we did a couple half-breeds: a half-breed Guernsey and a half-breed Ayrshire and they just came out black and white, which wasn’t really what we were looking for,” she explained. “Right after Dad passed away, I decided I was going to get all seven dairy breeds because he wanted the color in the barn.” Now, Madugno has 15 show heifers made up of all seven breeds. These heifers were either born on the farm or purchased as young calves so she could learn how to raise and care for each breed.

She is continuously learning about her heifers and other practices on the farm. From taking classes on artificial insemination to learning how to run the farm equipment, she said it is all a learning process.

“With every farmer, you want to produce quality milk, quality product for your consumers, so that’s what we strive for.” Madugno feels passionate about the milk her farm produces and how the cows producing that milk are treated. “What you give to them they give back to you. The way you treat them is how they treat you. We treat them humanely because they’re providing for us.”

The future of agriculture in Autumn

Working alongside her family, Autumn is passionate about the care and treatment of her animals and works closely with professionals to ensure her animals receive the best care possible. Photo by Emily Carey

The farm grows 180 acres of corn and soybeans and around 300 grass acres on different planting and harvesting equipment. Madugno works very closely with their nutritionist to make sure the cows get the best food they can. “They get fed haylage that we grow and harvest ourselves… The soybeans they’re getting are the soybeans we grow and the corn we’re feeding is the corn we grow. So, we know exactly what’s been put on it.”

A graduate of Bainbridge-Guilford High School, Madugno plans to continue her agricultural education at SUNY Cobleskill, majoring in animal science with a dairy science concentration. She is known as a true advocate for the ag industry. “One of my favorite things is to teach about agriculture and why it’s so important,” she said.

Serving as her 4-H club’s president, she helped educate youth about the dairy industry by leading farm tours. She took on a large role in the recent chartering of the Bainbridge-Guilford FFA program. She had pushed to have an ag program in her school since she was a middle schooler. When her school posted the position for an ag teacher, she contacted her superintendent and asked to be on the interview committee. “I said, this is important to me, this is important to our school, it needs to be the right person for the job… We picked our teacher and she did really good for our first year. We started a program from the bottom up and it really has grown into something pretty amazing,” she explained.

Her advocacy and willingness to speak up for the industry has not gone unnoticed. At the Bainbridge-Guilford senior awards night, she was awarded 11 (mostly agriculture) scholarships. Additionally, she is the recipient of scholarships from the New York Animal Ag Coalition, the Livestock Foundation, DFA and others for her advocacy. “I applied for the Ardis Schwittay Memorial Scholarship, in which actually you win an Ayrshire heifer calf,” Madugno said. “She came on a trailer from Wisconsin. I got a phone call one day that said ‘Hey, I got a heifer for you’ and I was like ‘I didn’t buy a heifer,’ but ‘No, it’s the one you won!’”

For many of these scholarships, Madugno wrote essays about her passion for agriculture and the need for sustainability and proper use of resources. “If you’re not sustainable with what you’re doing and the practices you’re using for farming, we’re not going to be able to do it,” she explained. “When you have your plastics from your baleage, you need to think of successful and smart waste removals because you can’t just leave it siting there. It’s not going to decompose… [In Delaware County] we have a waste removal program that takes care of our plastics. They take them and recycle them. Using no-till machinery is also a super important thing you can do. Just using the land as much as you can without ruining it.”

Madugno hopes that more resources about sustainable practices will be made available to all farmers and hopes that more young people will want to enter the industry and make a change. “You need someone who is going to speak up and step out and she is not afraid to do that,” Amanda said about her daughter. “I love the term ‘agvocate’ because that really is her… She wants to make an impact. I’m incredibly proud of her. She has a very strong work ethic and also knows exactly how she feels about things. She’s just passionate about the way she talks about agriculture.”

All agriculturalists should be proud to have a young farmer like Madugno that feels so strongly about the future of the industry and what her role is in it.