Buying a house in town is not the most obvious choice when one goes about becoming a dairy farmer. Believe me, it wasn’t our first choice either, but nine attempts later we found ourselves planted in the middle of town.Many people have asked how it is possible to be a dairy farmer and live in town. Does that mean that I keep my cows in my garage or that I have a barn next to my house? Nope.
This journey started a year and a half ago. We’d decided we were going to be dairy farmers. It didn’t matter what it took, because this is what we were going to do. I was convinced that if we were going to milk cows, (which is a 24/7 type of job) we were going to live by our families. I had spent all of my childhood wishing I had lived closer to my grandparents and I wasn’t going to do the same thing to our kids.
Attempt #1: We talked to almost everyone who milked within a 45 minute radius of where our parents lived, which wasn’t very many people since our parents down live around many dairies. One person we talked to didn’t have any kids interested in dairying and his wife was encouraging him to quit. After a while of talking, he decided that he wanted to keep the dairy just for awhile longer.
Attempt #2: We then began to talk with someone who was looking to retire and was willing to rent out his dairy to us. This was perfect. Or not. Half way through the paper work, this dairy farmer’s son came saying that he wanted the farm and didn’t want anyone renting it.
So on to Attempt #3: We then talked with three other people in the area who simply sent us to talk to one of the other people. They stated that they would love to help out a young farmer, but couldn’t rent out their empty facilities.
This was when we realized that we probably were not going to milk cows in the area we grew up. Attempt #4: We started to look on dairy realty in hopes that we could find a dairy that we could afford, because obviously renting wasn’t going to work. We found one that would be perfect. Together, we put together our expense sheets and made all of the numbers balance. Then we put in our application for a FSA loan.Our loan officer told us that this dairy would never work, despite the fact that all of our numbers worked out. In the end, we were declined the loan and sent packing.
We were back to square one, with no plan of action. This is when we tried a lot of random attempts with no luck. Attempt #5: How about we move to Montana? There is someone there that has a dairy that they are willing to have us buy into. Then the realization that there are a lot of miles between Iowa and Wyoming and we would know no one.
Attempt #6: We met these guys from California that wanted to build a dairy in Iowa. We could manage it. Perfect. Except the fact that every place in the area that takes milk was all full. Therefore if you can’t get someone to take your milk, you can’t have a dairy.
Attempt #7: Someone we knew quit dairying. We should ask if we could rent their facilities. We did. They said no.
Attempt #8: My grandparents still live on their farm and that farm still has milking facilities. After looking through our finances, we realized that we couldn’t afford to buy the acreage, fix up the milking facilities, and still guarantee we would make a living.
Attempt #9: We go to the sale barn one night before the dairy sale and begin talking with someone we know that milks cows. During that conversation, he asks Brett if he wants a herdsmen job. He says that they offered him the job, but he couldn’t give up milking on his own quite yet. Brett calls the number and gets an interview. A week later he was offered the job as a herdsman for the 700 cow dairy. They told us that we would be able to have some of our own cows in the herd.
Brett started the job, but had a pretty large commute every day. We began looking to see if we could find acreages in the same area as the dairy. What we could find was at too high a price for a place that wouldn’t provide any sort of cash flow.
So, instead we found a house in town (there were only three options so it wasn’t too difficult) and have settled to pay off our house and save up for a future dairy of our own.