Editor’s Note: This article is the next in a series featuring Wisconsin dairy cooperative farmers. The following article features Justin and Louisa Peterson. They own Creamery Creek Holsteins near Bangor, Wisconsin. They are members of the Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.
When did you start farming and why?
Justin Peterson: I came to Wisconsin from Cadillac, Michigan, to intern on the Dado family’s dairy farm near Amery, Wisconsin. After spending time on the farm, Louisa and I decided we wanted to continue Joseph Peterson’s legacy and start our own farm. It was my grandfather.
We placed “wanted” ads in a few agricultural publications. After considering several options, we settled on our current farm near Bangor. We formed Creamery Creek Holsteins in 2010 when we merged our 100 cow herd with current owner Hansline Holsteins’ 150 cow herd.
How does being a member of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative help you?
Justin Peterson: It gives us access to cutting-edge information through email and podcasts. He is proactive on all fronts – policy, regulation and education. It’s refreshing to see an organization that makes membership dues work in real time.
One of the most underrated aspects of an Edge membership is the PR support it provides. A few years ago, a reporter from the New York Times contacted us about an article. We weren’t sure how to handle this, but the Edge team reviewed the reporter and worked with us to make sure we were ready.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the dairy industry today?
Justin Peterson: Challenges don’t seem to be lacking these days. The most obvious are rising input costs; feed and fertilizer costs weigh on everyone’s bottom line. But two that are really close to our hearts are regulations and labour. Access to labor is a problem. Dairy farming is a 24/7 business, so it’s important to have a visa program to bring in workers for more than six months at a time. Fewer decision-makers have direct links with production agriculture. Being a member of Edge ensures that we continue to have a place at the table of the most important discussions.
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What do you see as the greatest opportunities for the dairy industry today and in the future?
Justin Peterson: There really is a world of opportunity for dairy farmers; you just need to look for it and recognize it. You can’t do things the way they were done yesterday. It does not work like that. But if you’re willing to look, the possibilities are endless.
What do you like most and least about working as a dairy farmer?
Justin Peterson: We like to work as a family. It may be difficult, but there really is nothing else like it. The profession also offers a bit of freedom and flexibility. No two days are the same either. I really like challenges. I thrive on meeting daily challenges and finding the problems that need to be solved today. Above all, the people in the dairy industry are just amazing. They make dairy a real pleasure.
What do I like least? How does the old saying go? Is the farmer the only one who buys retail, sells wholesale and pays freight back and forth? The market variables at play can sometimes make the job difficult. You really need to work smarter, not harder these days. Use risk management when you can. We also constantly fight consumer misconceptions. We have to tell our own stories in addition to managing an increasingly complex business.
How do you think your farm operations will change over the next 10 years?
Justin Peterson: We hope to continue to grow our business. We will look to add cows and acreage where possible, and diversify our operations where it makes sense. We started doing some of those things, including direct marketing of beef and pork. With increasing labor challenges, we are also exploring the possibility of implementing robotic milking systems.
Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative provides dairy farmers in the Midwest with the “voice of milk” in Congress, with customers and within member communities. Based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, it is the third-largest dairy cooperative in the nation by milk volume, according to the cooperative. Member farms are located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Visit voiceofmilk.com for more information.
This is an original article written for Agri-View, an agricultural publication of Lee Enterprises based in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit AgriView.com for more information.
Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the latest industry ideas, research and technology as a reporter for Wisconsin-based Agri-View.