“My grandpa bought this piece of land around 1940 and when my dad and mom got married, they bought the farm from my grandpa. My grandpa’s parents came here from Austria in the late 1800s. Growing up, there were nine of us kids and we all chipped in on the farm. My oldest brother Jerry kind of quit school when he was 16 to help on the farm. My dad was on the town board as the treasurer and that pulled him away from the farm so my brother helped out. In 1963, our dad passed away and Jerry kind of took over the farm with my mother. He was 21 at the time. I had two older sisters who helped out as well. My Dad got diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer that summer and he died in April of the next year so he didn’t have a lot of time. He had a bunch of treatments and went to Rochester a lot, but back then, there wasn’t really a cure. I was 9 at the time; I always remember that. My younger brother Mike was born in ’61 and Dad passed away less than two years later so he don’t know his dad you know. It was hard on the family.
In ’78, I bought the farm next door and then I married a year later. I milked in the stanchion barn on my own and shared machinery with my brothers. We became a corporation in the early 80s and just worked with family members with two stall barns, 100 stalls total. One of the barns burned down in 1984 and we expanded from 34 stalls in that barn to 52. Somebody told me when we rebuilt that barn that you gotta do everything in steps; you can’t just go from 50 cows to something huge. That’s what it kind of amounted out to. We built the stall barns and could milk 120 cows and then in 99, we built the parlor and started to milk 300 cows. In 2007, we built the second barn more or less for young stock, but we filled it up with cows and then in 2012, we built that last barn for the transition, dry cows and thats worked out beautiful.
We first hired employees outside of the the family in 2006, when we were milking 300 cows. The employees, Lupe and Blanca, were from Mexico and they did an amazing job. I was just so happy to have somebody else here, it was a relief off me. I had no idea how it was going to go, but it’s been great. We don’t have to worry about everything ourselves anymore. The employees that we have from Mexico have become like part of our family. For example, on Christmas, one of our employees brought over these really special thin cookies from Mexico and that was a real treat. It means so much when they think of you like that. We’ve been very happy.
We’re grateful for what we got and hopefully we can hang on to it all. With the way this farm economy is right now, I just don’t know, but I hope things get better. We grew up with this and I don’t know what to say, it just becomes part of your life. Always trying to do things right is just part of the farming deal. It’s like raising a family. You got to take care of it. Plain and simple.
My oldest brother recently retired from the farm so now myself, two of my other brothers and three of my nephews are owners in the farm. I am not sure what the future holds, but we’ll figure it out. There are six of us running the farm and if one of us retires, I don’t know who will take over because we are doing the work of six people and we can’t expect people to fill in other people’s work load.
There are three farms together here. The family before us lost it during the depression and they split the land up so growing up, there was always a dream that we could put it back together. Well, we did it. My dad bought one and over our lifetime, we have been able to buy the rest and bring it back to one farm. I can always say that is one of the greatest things I did in my life. One of the breeders told some other guys, ‘I’ve never seen brothers work together like them guys have.’ I get tears in my eyes when I think about that. We all get along. Of course there is conflict at times, but you just keep doing what you ought to do. When it’s time to cut hay, you cut hay. When you have to haul manure, you just do it. It’s just something that has to get done. For example, even though that barn fire was a hard time, we worked together to rebuild it within three months or so.
I hope that we can keep our farm going, keep it going strong so we can pass it on to the next generation and they can pass it on to their kids. This farm has been our lives (my brothers and I) and I’m just lucky we’ve had this chance to do this.”