December 10, 2015
At 88, Master Farmer Durward Otterness still milks cows, still feeds seeds wheat and still bales hay. Despite some arthritis in his big square hands and replacement knees and hips, he keeps going and keeps smiling.
"I love farming," says Durward who farms with his wife, Phyllis, and son, Duane, near Tower City, N.D. He and Phyllis have raised five children on the farm, and have 10 grandchildren.
Durward's been asked for decades why he is still milking cows. He's old enough to have retired several times over and milking cows the way they do, in a stanchion barn, can be a hard job even for a younger man.
Durward Otterness sees no retirement in his future, only better wheat crops and more perfect cows.
"It keeps me busy," he says, "and the exercise is good for me … I always feel better I come back from the barn. I tell people that if I retire I'll just sit in the house and get old and stiff. This way, I'll just get old."
The cows also keep in him engaged. He is passionate about the Brown Swiss breed. The Otternesses have a registered herd and have been long time breeders. Durward still is frequently asked by dairymen to help locate Brown Swiss animals.
"We aren't just making milk, we're trying to make good cows even better," Durward says. "Dwayne and I talk about the cows a lot. We study the bull books and we meet a lot of people. Staying involved with the breed helps me stay young."
Trophies, blue ribbons, awards and recognition plaques fill the Otterness' farm office. They are a 4-H Century Family (members of their family have been in 4-H for over 100 years) in 2004. They were named North Dakota's Dairy Farm Family of the Year in 1985. They were named to the North Dakota 4-H Hall of Fame in 1998. They received a Dairy Milky Away award in 1998. They were named North Dakota State University Little International Saddle and Sirloin Club Agriculturalist of the Year in 2007. Durward has served as a township supervisor for more than 50 years and served on many 4-H, Brown Swiss, dairy show and community organizations.
Phyllis nominated her husband for Master Farmer recognition.
"I am truly proud of my husband," she wrote, "who truly loves the land and livestock … who is anxious to get in the field in the springtime, who is pleased with each new calf, who farms with an attitude of caring for the land and who is content with farm life."
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