Just like the song, rain is a good thing, especially for dried out fields, farmers and Maryland & Virginia’s Young Cooperator (YC) Program. Rain showers followed the cooperative’s annual YC Summer Break event in Franklin, Tennesse, in early July. The weather didn’t affect the record attendance of nearly 100 YCs from several states as they toured four dairy farms and capped the evening with a cook-out and hay ride.
The periodic showers didn’t seem to dampen spirits, in fact many YCs hoped the rain would head further east to their own farms. Wes Winterstein of Sudlersville, Maryland, was happy to get a report from home that nearly an inch of rain had fallen while he was at the Summer Break with his wife Ashley and daughter June. Fellowship has been the key to Maryland & Virginia’s YC Summer Break success.
“We make it a priority to come each year,” says YC Stephen Bray of Penhook, Virginia. “We don’t get much opportunity to get away from the farm so when we do it’s great to spend some time with friends who understand what it’s like to be dairy farming these days.”
The group toured four different farms during the day, starting with an excursion to the Hatcher Family Dairy in College Grove, Tennesse. There YCs learned how the Hatcher Family transformed their small family 50-cow operation into a consumer education tool and small processing facility from part owner, Lucy Hatcher. She provided great advice to those interested in agritourism ventures and encouraged YCs to reach out to consumers by hosting farm tours.
The second stop brought YCs to Maple Leaf Farm owned by Max Todd and family. YCs had the opportunity to explore the 60-head tie stall facility and admire the Todds’ high type herd of registered Holsteins. Max’s son Dee provided an overview of the daily operations on their farm and answered questions about individual animals.
YCs then traveled to Chapel Hill, Tennesse. for a tour of John Daniel Allen’s farm. John Daniel is a Maryland & Virginia member and director. He farms with his brother Cannon, and they milk nearly 350 cows. The two recently installed a new manure handling system that includes a flush system to filter and recycle water. It also allows the brothers to dry manure for easier storage and eventual reapplication on their 1,200 acres of fields.
“This was my favorite stop,” explains YC Matt Johnson of Statesville, North Carolina. “This is your normal every day farm, there’s nothing fancy, just practical. They’ve given me ideas that I’m going to take back and see if I can make work on my farm.”
After a quick picnic lunch, YCs made their last tour stop of the day at the Middle Tennessee Research Center . While several youngsters napped on the bus, their parents enjoyed touring the center and watching the milking process. Ken Lamar, one of the center’s Research Associates, shared with YCs the research process and the various mastitis vaccines the center has done work on.
First time attendee, Andy Cooper, of Morrison, Tennesse enjoyed seeing other operations and swapping ideas with fellow producers.
“I am new to the dairy industry so I have a lot of questions,” says Cooper. “It’s great to hear what other people are doing on their farms, and it makes me glad to know I’m not the only young guy out there that’s wanting to milk cows for a living.”
After some free time at the hotel, the group rallied for the big finale at Tap Root Farm in Franklin, Tennesse. There the YCs enjoyed a hayride, albeit a short one, curtailed by a fast moving gully washer. With the weather killing any chance of a bonfire and marshmallow roast, the group had a lively dinner replete with door prizes and lots of running room for the younger attendees. Most everyone got wet, but no one seemed to mind and everyone stayed until the very end.
Maryland & Virginia’s Young Cooperator Program is open to all producers, their family members and employees between the ages of 18-40. The next YC event will be held the first week of March in Winchester, Virginia. For more information on the YC Program contact Suzanne Perdue at 1-800-552-1976 or email@example.com.
TOP RIGHT: Lucy Hatcher from Hatcher Family Dairy shares with the group the farm’s history and tells about their agri-tourism business.
TOP LEFT: YCs Stephen Bray of Penhook, Virginia, and Andrew Lail of Vale, North Carolina, discuss the cows at Maple Leaf Farm.
MIDDLE RIGHT: The YCs listen attentively as Ken Lamar of the Middle Tennessee Research Center tells them about the mastitis research that the Center is currently
MIDDLE LEFT: The YCs and their children filled a wagon at Tap Root Farms as they take a hayride tour.
Information and photos provided by Amber DuMont and Suzanne Perdue.