This past week I had a chance to visit my hometown, which is 60 miles north of Syracuse, New York. An interesting perspective from the area: the county I grew up in had 1,600 dairy farms when I lived there and now has less than 300. Those few, large dairies range in herd size from 200 to 2,000 cows.
It is also interesting to see the change in crop practices. Corn and soybeans have replaced alfalfa and grass hay compared to 35 years ago. Manure and manure management is the biggest issue facing the area by the larger farms.
While there, I had the pleasure of spending a half a day on an Agri-Tourism Farm operated by a new breed of "agri-entrepreneur." The woman who manages it has been operating the business over 15 years and has an average of 200 visitors to the farm per day from May 1st to November 15th.
You can sense the passion and enjoyment she and her family exhibit in providing non-farm people a memorable experience with the animals and plants. By the way, her husband is one of the agricultural leaders in New York State and operates a large crop and dairy farm.
What I was most impressed with was the five-year business plan they have developed and keep up-to-date. Annually, the couple puts in over 100 hours updating it. In addition, when they examined expanding in their dairy operation, they indicated they put in over 200 hours in the plan, which included bringing in a young farm couple from outside the family. This operation is what I believe to be the new breed of "agri-entrepreneur" that is energizing rural America!
Moving Down the Road
I was in the field visiting an older friend that had transitioned out of agriculture. He said it was more of a challenge to dismantle his operation than build it. The gut wrenching process took 6 years of planning and executing. However, on the other side, he was happy operating his son-in-law’s 200+ horsepower tractor and equipment, logging over 400 tractor hours in 3 months.
I was cruising around in my Hertz rental car only to find that a fancy new house had been built right on top of what I knew to be a landfill waste dump when I was a kid. It will be interesting to see if the couple that lives there starts glowing in the dark in a few years. By the way, this old dump is on the headwaters of a small lake that has an outlet into a village. There have been reports that this village has had a high incidence of cancer.
Here is a situation where the EPA really needs to examine this old landfill site. In addition, they need to look at the everyday chemicals and fertilizers used by households on an equal basis with the standards they enforce for agriculture.
It was great to see Cal Ripken hit the home run in baseball’s All-Star Game. I like "iron men," or people who come to work every day and are modest, as Ripken has demonstrated over his long career.
See you next week from Boulder, Colo., at the Graduate School of Banking. And Barbzilla (my research assistant) will be returning from her family reunion in La Crosse, Wisconsin, another dairy community.
If I don’t answer your questions here, keep your eyes peeled. Those questions just might pop up in one of my classes or seminars! Keep writing.
My e-mail address is:firstname.lastname@example.org
Editors' note: Dave Kohl, Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist at Virginia Tech. He currently is on sabbatical and working with the Royal Bank of Canada.
To see Dave Kohl's previous road warrior adventures click here
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