Raising a Farmer

Alot of work but always room for laughter

Tough conversations happen at Farm Kitchen Tables

on June 26, 2018

Below is my maiden weekly column with Agweek.

This column was orgianlly published on June 22, 2018 

Across the United States, dairy farm families are having difficult conversations. These conversations are not in big board rooms. At these meetings there are no suit and ties. There may even be children playing underneath the table. They are not in skyscrapers but in homes.

 

The majority of these tough conversations are had at kitchen tables. Kitchen tables where families gather to celebrate holidays. Where families gather to give thanks for meals. Where families gather to blow out birthday candles. At these same kitchen tables where life happens, hard difficult conversations are being had with one similar question, “What do we do?”

 

This may seem like a simple question but for farm families, right now it is a difficult question. Going into the fourth year, low milk prices have taken their toll on farm families across the country. Depending on each family, the question of “what do we do?” can vary but is fueled by needing more income on the farm.

“Do we add cows to an already flooded market? Then what? Does one of us get an off-farm job? What about the kids? After paying daycare is it worth the little extra? If one works off-farm, how is the work going to be divided then? Is it really going to make a difference financially? Do we milk fewer cows and save on hired help? Do we….. Do we….. what do we do? Is it time to sell the cows? What then? How does that look? Where can we cut costs? There is nowhere else to cut. What do we do?” So many questions are being asked at kitchen tables.

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the state of Minnesota alone has lost 76 family dairy farms since Jan. 1, 2018. Morrison County, where I call home, lost 13 farms from August 2017 to the first of the year. So far our county has lost another 10 family dairy farms from the beginning of the year to now. That is a total of 23 family dairy farms in a short 10 months, in just my county alone! That is 23 families making hard decisions at their kitchen tables.

Every week auction bills come in the mail from across the state. When they come, my heart breaks. My heart breaks, because I hear the conversations between the print. I hear the questions so many dairy farmers are asking, “Are we making the right choice?” For young farmers, I hear, “This is everything. This is how we decided to raise our family. This is where we decided to live. This is where we have cried, laughed, bled and given all of our faith to. This is everything. This is where we have opened our hearts to. This is where we put everything on the line, and it still wasn’t enough.”

I hear the frustration. I hear the hurt. I hear the disappointment. I hear the pain. There are faces and hearts to those auction bills, and when they are gone, they are gone.  

farm meetings

Farm meetings at the kitchen table with Farm Business Management Instructor Nate Converse, Nathan and Vivian. 


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