May 10, 2021 at 3:52 p.m.

Nothing stands in his way

Faust farms with spina bifida, two prosthetic legs
Adam Faust milks 70 cows and farms 200 acres near Chilton, Wisconsin. Faust was born with spina bifida which causes weakness in his legs and problems with walking and balance. He also has two prosthetic legs after losing both limbs from the knee down. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART
Adam Faust milks 70 cows and farms 200 acres near Chilton, Wisconsin. Faust was born with spina bifida which causes weakness in his legs and problems with walking and balance. He also has two prosthetic legs after losing both limbs from the knee down. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART

By Stacey [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

CHILTON, Wis. – Dairy farmer Adam Faust has never lived a life without challenges. Born with spina bifida, Faust wore braces on his feet as a child and has issues with walking and balance.  To complicate matters, he also has two prosthetic legs after losing both limbs from the knee down within seven years. Because of the spina bifida, Faust has limited feeling in his legs, which makes walking on prosthetics even more challenging. Despite the burdens piled on Faust over time, including two near-death experiences, he never lost his drive to farm.

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Faust milks 70 registered Holsteins and farms 200 acres near Chilton. He is a second-generation farmer, who purchased Faust Farms from his parents in 2016. The year prior, he and his father gutted the tiestall barn and put in longer and wider stalls, manger tile and a DeLaval carrier rail to make milking easier for Faust.  
“You never carry a unit with this system,” Faust said. “You don’t have to physically pick anything up. You slide the unit in and all around the barn on the track. It saves on shoulders as well as knees. Carrying heavy units across a gutter is very hard on knees. To me, this is the only way to milk, short of robots.”
The track begins in the milkhouse and runs around the barn, extending into every stall. Faust’s system includes eight milking units featuring Wi-Fi capabilities to record milk weights and other information. Faust also installed rubber flooring throughout the tiestall barn, restructured and strengthened the building, put in an air intake system and added 72-inch fans to pull a 12 mph wind.
“I’m prone to falling, so the rubber floor is nice,” Faust said. “It’s far superior to concrete.”
Faust received a grant from AgrAbility for the carrier rail. DeLaval has an agreement with AgrAbility, offering a discount to farmers who wish to install the technology. Faust has been a member of AgrAbility since 2010 – an organization whose purpose is to assist farmers who have disabilities so they can keep farming. AgrAbility is a national program, and each state has its own version featuring university and nonprofit components working together. AgrAbility of Wisconsin is a partnership between the University of Wisconsin Extension and Easter Seals Wisconsin.
“Easter Seals does a lot of the leg work,” Faust said. “Rural rehab counselors go out to farms and watch someone work to figure out their needs. After watching me work, they determined I needed a better way to get around so AgrAbility got me a utility vehicle in 2011. They also watched how I fed cows with a wheelbarrow and worked with a company to build a custom feed cart for me.”
AgrAbility felt that a walk-behind cart was not safe, so they worked with a feed cart company to put a platform on the cart, allowing Faust to feed with the push of a button while riding.
“I’ve had the feed cart since 2011, and it works excellent,” said Faust, who also has a custom-made automated bedding cart.  
In 2013, Faust faced his first amputation. After being sick for a week with what he thought was the flu, Faust discovered he had diabetes. The diagnosis came on the same day he lost his left leg. He was 33 years old. Faust had dropped a grate on his foot, causing a bone infection that was exasperated by off-the-chart blood sugar levels.
“I was so sick I didn’t care if I lived,” Faust said. “My pancreas decided to quit because my blood sugar went through the roof. I was in a coma for a couple days, and they weren’t sure if I was going to wake up. I was on massive antibiotics for several days.”
Strong-willed and determined, Faust plowed through rehab in a week, which was two weeks quicker than doctors anticipated. Faust healed fast and got his prosthetic leg the following month.
“I figured out how to walk, move around and get down steps,” said Faust, who does not believe in limitations. “A couple months later, I was milking cows.”  
But after his second amputation in 2020, Faust could do nothing on the farm for four months and was told he would never milk again in a tiestall barn. This forced Faust to hire help. Adam’s wife, Cassi, a medical lab technician, does all the milking on weekends.
“Even milking with one prosthetic was tough, especially when crossing the gutter,” Faust said.
“That’s why I’m looking at putting robots in.”

Last April was a hard month for Faust. First, his machine shed started on fire when a round baler went up in flames. Shortly thereafter, Faust contracted a rare flesh-eating disease known as necrotizing fasciitis. When Faust reached the hospital, the infection was moving at an inch per hour.
“The doctors told me that in 24 hours, I would’ve been dead,” Faust said.
Faust banged his foot on a skidloader which gave the fasciitis an opportunity to attack.
“I didn’t have to go through rehab after the second amputation, but I was on antibiotics for months,” Faust said. “It took four months to get my preliminary leg.”
Currently using a cane to get around, Faust received his permanent prosthetic a couple weeks ago and is looking forward to becoming more mobile with the new leg.
“One prosthetic was easy compared to two,” he said.
Faust is gearing up for an expansion and has plans drawn up for a 125-stall robotic milking barn he hopes to be in by the end of this year. He started planning for robots before losing his second foot.
“Robots have been the goal for a long time,” Faust said. “Plans and permits are in place, and we’ll start construction as soon as the bank gives me the green light. I’m going to start with two robots, but I’ll have space for three.”
Faust plans to have 130 cows milking at startup.
“With more cows, I’ll need more tons of feed per acre,” Faust said. “I plan to keep my acreage the same but just manage it differently. We’ve been completely no till since 1996 and also plant a lot of cover crops. We get really high yields. This is a forage-focused farm. I don’t like feeding grain. Cows are healthier and make a lot of milk when consuming high-quality forages. We plant HarvXtra alfalfa and BMR corn silage – both of which give us super high fiber digestibility levels. This year, I’m also going to add triticale to the mix.”
Although he no longer milks, Faust is able to do everything else, including feeding, cleaning and fieldwork.
“You learn to adapt,” Faust said. “I learned to do things a little different over the years. If it doesn’t work to do it the way everyone else does it, I can usually figure out a new way.”
Faust is creative, concocting inventions that allow him to do things people with two regular legs can do without thinking. He made a step and connected it to a string, allowing him to get up and down the steps of his two biggest tractors. Faust has the will; therefore, he always finds a way to accomplish what he needs to.
Active off the farm as well, Faust serves as president of Calumet County Dairy Promotions and vice chair of Packerland Milk. Faust is also on AgrAbility’s advisory council and does speaking events from Madison to Portland, Maine. Presenting on assistive technology available to farmers, Faust also shares his personal experiences with the audience.
Faust would describe himself as headstrong – a characteristic that has helped him persevere through hardship. Blessed with a never-give-up attitude, Faust is a fighter. Where others might fold, Faust meets his challenges head on and refuses to let any disability prevent him from doing what he loves. Even two prosthetic legs will not stop him from farming.
“I’ve always had challenges,” Faust said. “But I’ve never considered myself handicapped. I don’t let stuff stand in my way.”


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