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Bergbiglers focus on faith and family

Progressive Dairyman Editor Emily Gwin Published on 07 December 2017
Bergbiglers milking parlor

In 2000, Roy and Mary Bergbigler were looking for inspiration for a new milking parlor for their 100-cow Holstein herd in Butler, Pennsylvania. While they wanted to keep it simple, they had a few special requests.

“We didn’t want it to look like a barn,” Mary says. The couple toured several operations and liked the look of an operation in Martinsburg, Pennsylvania, that had an open parlor which they felt was welcoming to visitors.

Office

The Bergbiglers’ new building also needed to have a bathroom, an office with a kitchen and a play area for the grandchildren.

Kitchen

Roy and Mary farm with their daughter MaryBeth Guynup. Their other daughter, Donna Fleeger, is a labor and delivery nurse at Butler Hospital. Four granddaughters – Mercedes, 12; Abby, 10; Jenna, 7; and Emma, 6 – spend lots of time at the farm.

Kids playroom

The playroom next to the parlor features bench seating with cozy blankets and pillows for the cool mornings while the girls wait for the school bus. The room also has a television and plenty of children’s movies to keep them entertained while they wait for the grown-ups to finish milking in the double-eight parlor.

Kids' play room

The family built a playhouse near the parlor for even more fun. It features a chalkboard, storage for dress-up clothes and a loft area where Mary and the girls have sleepovers.

Play house

Along with the dedicated kids’ spaces, Roy, Mary and MaryBeth find little ways to make life on the farm fun and exciting for the girls.

Storage for dresses

“We had a solar eclipse party this summer,” Guynup says. “And we have a bunker-covering party each year.”

One of the girls even requested to miss school for the day so she could be at the farm to celebrate bunker-covering day. Guynup also recalls the girls participating in the ice bucket challenge that was popular in 2015 to raise awareness and funds for ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Roy filled a skidloader bucket with water and dumped it on the girls.

Cahlkboard and bookcase

Mary has a flair for decorating for each season, and the barn features plenty of space for her unique touches, including a display area above the entrance to the parlor. She says she always decorates the barn for Christmas before decorating the house.

The buildings around the farm also have customized cutouts and roof peak displays reflective of the family’s Catholic faith. The tradition of displaying Mother Mary and guardian angel statues was started by Roy’s parents and continued on by Mary.

Loft

But those aren’t the only points of pride for the family. Roy was among the first farmers in Pennsylvania to install an automatic calf feeder. The family converted the old milking barn into a calf facility and added the feeder in 2012. Roy says they wanted healthier calves and to help cut down on labor.

Milking parlor

Another sound investment was installing cameras in the maternity pen about four years ago, Roy says. Since the maternity pen is directly behind the parlor, he didn’t originally understand the value but, after being able to check the pen from the office, home and smartphone, he was a believer. And Roy is passionate about the maternity pen.

“The secret to a maternity pen is clean, processed bedding,” he says. “I’m a stickler for a clean maternity pen.”

Mary’s favorite purchase for the farm was her own John Deere gator utility vehicle, complete with pink camouflage decals.

As far as future builds, Roy would like to add another farm shop. His first attempt at a shop got used up for storage, he says.

He and Mary also look forward – though they’re not in any hurry – to retirement and turning the farm over to MaryBeth. They’ve been working on a succession plan since 2010.

“Retirement is not an event; it’s a process,” Roy says. “We set more and more wheels in motion as retirement gets closer.”

For now, the family relies on one another to get the work done and to be there to enjoy the downtime together.  end mark 

View more of the operation in this slideshow.

Progressive Dairyman learned of the Bergbiglers’ operation and unique buildings from a July 17, 2017 Lancaster Farming article, which featured the Bergbiglers as part of their series on this year’s Pennsylvania Dairy of Distinction winners.

PHOTOS: The family built a playhouse near the parlor for even more fun. It features a chalkboard, storage for dress-up clothes and a loft area where Mary and the girls have sleepovers. 

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