This photo was taken in 1967, the year my dad graduated from
high school. In this photo, he is receiving the Outstanding Achievement Award
for Agriculture from the Future Farmers of America, now called the FFA. The other person is receiving the
Outstanding Future Homemaker Award. I feel honored to have followed in my Dad’s
footsteps by being quite involved in FFA as well.
I was an FFA officer for three years and also served as the
president of our local chapter. Just like my Dad, I was proud to receive awards
from FFA. I went to our State Convention and received the State Farmer Award
and the American FFA Degree, nationally.
I asked my Dad to tell us about the photo.
“Working on the farm
always attracted me. I didn’t do sports. Instead, I preferred to go out to the
barn to help milk our 50 cows before and after school. Farming and FFA were my
extracurricular activities. I had a guidance counselor who once told me that if
I was going to farm, he would write me off as a lost cause. It was different
then — the agriculture courses at our local technical college didn’t exist. If
you wanted to study farming, you had to go to Farm & Industry Short Course at the
UW, but that didn’t materialize for me.
My dad was 35 when I
was born and 52 when I graduated high school. He had a few health issues, so I
stayed at home and helped on the farm instead of heading off to school to study
farming. My mother’s favorite comment was, “The world will always need food so
they will always need a farmer.” Her comment still stands true; however, the world
of farming is drastically different than when this photo was taken.”
One thing that will never change: My love for dairy farming
that my Dad and I still share.
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Imagine if you weighed every bite of food in your kitchen. Then, you did everything possible to make sure every morsel was eaten to conserve costs. That’s what we do on the farm every day.
We weigh every crop we harvest as it comes in from the field. Then, every day we weigh the wagon of mixed feed we give our cows. We compare feed input numbers to milk production statistics, while continually looking at the energy costs and emissions of how we grow feed, transfer feed and manage nutrients.
It is important to farmers to be sustainable economically, socially and environmentally. Farmers are so far ahead in the U.S. on sustainability. Part of this is driven by a commitment the dairy community made to help accelerate the adoption of innovative waste-to-energy projects and energy efficiency improvements on U.S. dairy farms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
I am on the board of directors of Dairy Management Inc., our national dairy promotion organization. At a recent meeting, I learned that the number of people making food purchase decisions based on beliefs is rising across all ages and incomes. People buy based on the company’s belief system. They call it “ethical eating.” Consumers believe ethical eating is sustainable eating. That’s why it is important dairy farmers talk about their sustainable practices.
We’ve always practiced sustainability. It’s how we have continued to farm. Using technology like GPS, we are down to one inch of planting precision, which reduces fuel and seed costs. Last year, we installed Lely robots to milk our cows. An unexpected outcome was a decrease in water usage by 30%, equating to less than 20 gallons per cow per day. This saves us $30,000 – $40,000 in manure handling, plus improves nutrient density.
We always need to look to do more with less. Sometimes our methods don’t work out and we change them again. Asking ourselves questions drives continuous improvement which makes us more sustainable.
Posted inDairy News|Comments Off on Farmers Practice Sustainability Every Day
The world is constantly evolving and moving fast. The rate of
change in business is incredible. There is 3-D printing of food. Your Samsung
phone is now connected to the Samsung refrigerator and tells you when you need
groceries. And, how we interact with the consumer keeps moving through social
The same is true for farming. The majority of our equipment now
has an iPad incorporated into it. When you log in, the iPad tracks your
movement and time. We’ve come a long way since using a pencil and a notebook.
Another innovative method we use is a tracking beacon we put on
the equipment, for example, in the tractor. When the tractor is pulling the
corn planter and I’m off the farm at a meeting, I can look on my iPad and see
that we are in the middle of a specific field going 6.2 mph. I can watch the
icon move across my iPad and even message the driver if needed. We capture all
the data to learn from it. For example, the data shows us what our down time is
when loading or unloading. We always work to be more streamlined and efficient.
Fifteen years ago, we used a 90-horse power tractor, and we used
to think a 6-row corn planter traveling 4.5mph was fast. Now, we have a
370-horse power tractor and a 16-row high speed corn planter traveling at 8.5
mph. If we are more efficient and gain just 30 minutes by doing something
better, that can translate to planting an additional 12-15 more acres a day.
Like any business, we have to keep evolving in order to get more done in a day
and keep up with this fast-paced world.
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March is Agriculture Month. I thought it might be a good time to look at what dairy means to Wisconsin, especially the jobs, taxes and economic impact. These numbers give us a reason to celebrate agriculture every day. We hope you’ll join us on Agriculture Day, March 14th , to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. We are lucky to live in the U.S.
WISCONSIN DAIRY BY THE NUMBERS
8,000 dairy farms in Wisconsin
206 dairy plants
$3.9 billion to labor income
$7.2 billion to total income
$43.4 billion to industrial sales
$2.14 billion in wages
$3.84 billion paid in federal taxes
$2.01 billion in state tax revenues
173,887 more jobs indirectly supported by the dairy industry
through suppliers and the indirect impact of the industry’s expenditures
Dairy Foods Association and Contribution
of Agriculture to the Wisconsin Economy
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Eighty-six percent of consumers think
of Wisconsin when they think of cheese.
When people say they can’t find Wisconsin cheese in their store
out-of-state, the issue isn’t that the cheese is unavailable, it’s that many
people simply do not know how to identify Wisconsin Cheese. Wisconsin cheese is
available in 98% of the nation’s grocery stores.
This is exactly why Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW),
farmers’ marketing and promotion organization, created the new “Proudly
Wisconsin Cheese™” brand and badge. The new logo improves Wisconsin’s presence
on cheese packaging and increases awareness of Wisconsin Cheese in grocery
The new logo, or badge, resembles
a ribbon that represents the world’s most awarded cheese. Wisconsin
Cheesemakers took gold in 58 of the 116 classes at the recent U.S. Championship
Cheese Contest. And, at the World Cheese Awards, Wisconsin won more awards than any other U.S. state
The awards create a halo effect on cheese. As proof, Wisconsin
cheese was recently featured on CBS
This Morning. The new badge was released with a new video ad
There are also billboards with the words, “The State of Cheese.”
I feel proud when I see the badge on cheese at the grocery store
or on a billboard driving down the highway. Knowing that the milk from my farm
is made into delicious, award-winning Wisconsin cheese makes me proud to be a
Wisconsin dairy farmer.
Posted inDairy News|Comments Off on When People Think Cheese, They Think Wisconsin
Farmers are unique in a few ways. If another farmer visits the
farm and asks a question, farmers are sometimes too transparent. It’s our
culture. We have a friendly nature and are trusting. But, usually I’m willing
to share information because I know someone who knows someone. You feel like
you are talking with a friend.
I enjoy that aspect of meeting farmers. It’s something long
gone in most businesses. We are less than two percent of the population, and anything
we can do to help each other is great.
We had people from four or five countries visit during World
Dairy Expo. It’s a week we look forward to because there’s an internal aspect.
I like meeting new people and having that interchange of ideas.
We share ideas and solutions. What I’ve learned is that the
sum is bigger than the parts. If our farm wins, we all win.
The result of this helpful culture is that when a farmer has
a tragedy, all of the neighborhood farmers stop everything to move cattle. You
don’t ask questions, you just take care of it. There are a lot of neighbors
around. We had a fire recently in our neighborhood, and when the police saw us
drive in with our trailer, without questions they said, “You get the calves
Farmers help farmers. Farmers bond with farmers. I can go to California and meet someone who knows somebody I know. It’s a small world in farming, and I’m happy to be a part of it.
Posted inDairy News|Comments Off on Sharing our trade secrets
In 2011, four families that had been dairy farming in the area for generations came together to form Majestic Crossing Dairy. This partnership has allowed us to support all four families, expand our sustainability efforts, and invest back in our community.
We are proud to know that every glass of milk we produce on our farm contributes both jobs and income for local community members, including our milk truck drivers, veterinarian, animal nutritionist, and area bankers.