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1209 PD: Open house shows off Pennsylvania producer pride

Jessica Rose Published on 05 August 2009

County Field Nights are a long-held summer tradition for the Pennsylvania Holstein Association.

The county clubs organize the event at a different farm each year, allowing neighboring producers to see various operations. Producers spend the evening judging cows, winning door prizes, eating a catered meal and socializing with other local dairy farmers.

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On the evening of July 9, 2009, the Schuylkill County Holstein Field Night was held at ETC Farms, the home of Earl and Tamie Campbell and family. Their son Grant serves as the herdsman. Earl and Tamie’s other three sons, Glen, Garth and Garet, and their families also help on the farm. The farm milks 110 Holsteins twice daily with a rolling herd average of 24,000 pounds and fat and protein tests of 3.7 and 3.1, respectively. The farm also produces most of their own feed.

The theme of the evening was “R U Proud to Dairy?” With the economy in a slump and many farmers giving in to the pressures of urban development, event organizers chose the theme to make attendees think of why they started out in the dairy business. People were welcome to write a statement about why they are proud to dairy on a large white poster built for the evening. Grant Campbell wrote, “I’m proud to produce a complete, wholesome product to fuel America. Also, dairying allows me to work hard, showcasing many talents which yield many rewards.”

But Tamie Campbell’s comments summed up everyone’s feelings in a few words. “I’m proud to dairy because my husband is proud. It’s not about making money; it’s a lifestyle. Without the lifestyle, farming is just work.”

Whenever asked why they were proud, the resounding majority of answers were: “It’s a great way to raise a family,” or “It’s been in my family for generations.”

James Hoffman said, “I want to continue the traditions of my family, work for myself and I like a challenge. Dairy farming isn’t the world’s simplest profession, but it’s amazingly satisfying.”

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A dairy judging competition is a tradition at Pennsylvania Field Nights. There were two classes for visitors to place – an aged cow class and a two-year-old class. The farm’s “favorite cow” was used in the aged class. She is an EX-92 2E Vince daughter that ran away with first place in the class. The senior division winner was awarded a free flush for one cow. The junior division winner, who was also the only person to place everything correctly, had first choice of all other door prizes.

Visitors to ETC Farms were able to enjoy a catered meal any time during the evening, as well as roam the grounds and tour the facilities.

The dairy’s calves are housed in individual pens and then put in groups of three to five animals and moved to the heifer barn. The heifer barn has a bedded pack for each group with a feed alley and headlocks. The milking animals are housed in a freestall barn.

The Campbell family also prepared a display of family pictures and memorabilia for fellow Holstein breeders to enjoy. There were pictures of the grandchildren showing at local fairs, professional animal portraits and many more items.

After the judging contest concluded, Earl, Tamie, and Grant Campbell assembled everyone under the high-top tent for the start of the program. Grant began by explaining how the farm started in 1977 when his parents started milking 12 cows. Now, Grant is mostly in charge of the dairy, while Earl and Tamie manage the crops. With a chuckle, Tamie referred to herself as the “fill-in worker for the entire farm.” She helps wherever she is needed.

The keynote speaker for the evening was John Frey. Frey works for the Center for Dairy Excellence, an organization that provides resources to producers to help them further their business and make plans for the future. The center also offers advice to Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff and other legislators.

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Frey’s topic for the evening was how and why producers should be using the center right now. He said the center can assemble profit teams, find grants and provide education to producers who are looking to do anything from starting a dairy to building a methane digester.

Frey also tried to give some ideas on where the industry is heading. He believes that animal welfare issues and animal identification are going to be the topics that shape the future of the dairy industry.

Despite low milk prices, everyone in attendance was optimistic about the future. “When the dairy industry in Pennsylvania starts to decline, the overall Pennsylvania economy goes down with it. Without dairy farmers, the world would not survive,” Frey said.

On the “R U Proud to Dairy?” wall, Frey wrote, “I am proud to work with those families who feed our communities and provide the fuel that grows children and businesses that contribute so much to these communities.” PD

Jessica Rose is a freelance author from Lebanon, Pennsylvania

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