ADAMS, Minn. – A Minnesota Milk Producers Association board member will share the view of a southeast Minnesota dairy farm throughout the winter of 2012/13.
Rick Smith is a fourth generation dairy farmer, in partnership with two brothers, Randy and Joe. The brothers farm 1 mile north of the Minnesota/Iowa border in Adams Township.
The Smiths milk 240 Holsteins and raise all of their heifers for the milk herd. They also raise 90 Holstein steers annually to sell at about 500 pounds, and they custom-finish 3,500 head of hogs each year.
The farm includes 600 acres of alfalfa, corn, soybeans and sweet corn.
Their great-grandfather, Andrew, and great-grandmother, Anna, homesteaded the farm in 1869, so the farm is about 143 years old.
Rick, 50, his wife, Tracy, their children, Derick, 20, McKinzie, 19, Jonah, 14, and exchange student, Anouar Hilali, live in the same home as the first generation – although it’s been added on. The area that now makes up the kitchen and a second story above the kitchen housed 12 people in those early years.
Rick, Randy and Joe’s grandfather, Albert, married Anna Margaret, who was always called Margaret.
“Grandpa died in 1936, when our dad, Gerald, was only two years old,” said Rick. “So Grandma raised six children by herself.”
Gerald married Joan, and they lived a mile south of the home farm on the state border. They farmed in partnership with Gerald’s brother, Cyril.
Rick moved to the home farm in 1989, and married Tracy in 1990.
“I’d raised hogs all through high school to earn money,” Rick said. “When I went to Waseca for Diversified Ag, I didn't know what I wanted to get into. I looked at the dairy, and that needed the most improvement, so I took that and ran with it. I took every dairy class I could.”
Adams Township is dotted with dairy and livestock operations. Mower County ranks 29th in number of milk cows in Minnesota with 34 dairy operations.
Even though Rick and Tracy have lived in Mower County all of their lives, they have also traveled.
In addition to serving as a part-time bookkeeper and a part-time postmaster, Tracy serves as a foreign exchange coordinator for PAX – Program of Academic Exchange. This non-profit organization works to increase mutual respect among youth around the world. Through her work, Tracy has earned trips to Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia (country) and Indonesia. She’s traveled to China on her own.
The Smiths have also hosted eight students – three girls from Ukraine, two girls from Russia, a boy from Indonesia, a boy from Malaysia, and now Anouar from Morocco.
The Smiths have a special connection with Anouar as Rick traveled to Morocco last February, when studying with the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership program (MARL) Class VI. He traveled to Kenitra where Anouar lived, and visited the American Language School where Anouar learned English.
After graduating from MARL, Rick encourages others to apply to this program to learn more about rural leadership. Information is available at www.smsu.edu/marl/.
“MARL just made me a lot more confident about myself,” he said. “It helped me the most – personally and professionally – in relating to others. The entire class improved dramatically in leadership skills over the 18 months.”
Through the winter months, Rick will share more information about various organizations that he and the rest of the Smith family participate in.
The Smiths will also talk about milking and rations, freshening, cleaning pits and pens, caring for animals and much more.
There is always plenty of work at a dairy farm.
The cows are milked three times a day in a double-eight step up parlor. Two employees, five nephews, and three nieces assist Rick and Randy with milking, feeding or clean up.
The three brothers each have their own farm responsibilities. Rick milks, serves as general manager and handles bookkeeping. Randy milks, handles chemical applications during the growing season, combines and takes care of the hog operation. Joe feeds the cattle, plants, chops alfalfa and handles machinery maintenance and repairs.
“Everyone has their own areas of expertise,” said Rick.
The 2012 harvest was variable, with moisture limited in southern Mower County. Rick said sweet corn averaged about five tons an acre. The crop wasn’t planted until the end of June so the yield was acceptable given the hot and dry conditions. The average yield for sweet corn is about 8.5 tons, he said.
Yields for corn ranged from 0 to over 200 bushels per acre, depending on rainfall, planting dates and soil types.
“We are probably down about 7,000 bushels on corn,” he said. “With milk prices being up, and we didn’t have quite the serious repairs that we could have had, I think everything will work out.
“Field work is done. Mostly we’re getting buttoned up for winter.”
(Thanks to the Smith families of Adams for sharing your dairy farm during the 2012/13 winter. Minnesota Farm Guide wishes you the best of success, and will enjoy learning about your operations.)
Rick Smith with one of McKinzie’s 4-H cows in the background.