Tell us about your operation:
I am part of a family farm, owned by my mom and dad. I work in partnership with my two brothers. At the farm, I’m primarily responsible for office duties. As the office manager, I do all the financial work, along with human resources. I also fill in wherever we need help. Our farm has 530 cows and we grow crops on 1,100 acres. We have 900 acres of corn and another 200 of hay. We also double-crop triticale, oats and barley behind the corn and we practice no-till on all of our acreage. Our milk is shipped to Land ‘O Lakes, and right now it’s getting made into Hershey chocolate. We do all of our own milk hauling.
Your farm installed a methane digester.
Do you think more farms will use this technology?
Absolutely. There are over 30 digesters in Pennsylvania. We are a huge proponent for what a digester can do for dairy. It changes the public perception of the farm. We can use our digester to showcase what farmers can do with the technology that is out there to protect the environment. Other farmers are seeing the benefit, and they want to participate in that type of dialogue. They are a benefit to the farm, but they also have community value. Plus, they can save money on a farm. It is another tool that farmers can use.
Do you have any difficulty in finding labor for the farm?
We’ve been really fortunate in that we’ve been able to find good help. We have a really good retention rate. Our longest-serving employee has been here for 17 years; most of our workers have been here six years. We hire every position through employee referrals. It works out really well for us. We have seven Hispanic workers who take care of the milking, the feeding and calf care. We have eight other employees, including four family members, two herdsmen, a milk truck driver and maintenance worker.
Do you see the need for changes in the federal immigration laws?
The whole immigration system is huge for agriculture. We need an immigration system that is easy to access, easy to use and provides a viable workforce for farmers. We support getting reforms passed for immigration because we know it is essential for agriculture.
You serve as a Vice President for Juniata County Farm Bureau.
What made you want to get involved in the county board?
The biggest reason was seeing what Farm Bureau is able to accomplish in the political realm. That has been very valuable for our farm, and I wanted to get involved as a way to give back. I wanted to be knowledgeable of the issues and be part of the organization and help push on the issues. I think the political lobbying that Farm Bureau provides is tremendous. It’s important for farmers to not just sit back, but to be involved in the formation of policies and laws. It’s been great to see what Farm Bureau can accomplish.
Are you optimistic for the future of agriculture?
This past year was a good year so it’s hard not to be optimistic. I know things might be challenging in dairy for the year ahead. But overall, I think there’s been a public shift in the perception of the industry. I think people are starting to realize how important farmers are. There's a lot more interest from my generation to get back into farming, whether it’s a little garden or a hobby farm. I think people are looking at agriculture differently. You are seeing just a slight change now. I’m very optimistic. It’s also encouraging, working with some of my peers, to see there are really good folks being trained and raised up. With those folks taking over a family farm, we will be set up well for the long-term future. I’m intrigued in the interest that my generation has in the agriculture industry. People are getting more engaged.
Lastly, why are you a member?
I’m amazed at what we can accomplish. It is worth the very cheap $75 a year to have a voice at the state and national level. I care about farming in general. Farm Bureau represents the industry very well.