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Moving ahead: Thoughts from a producer blogger

Progressive Dairyman Writer Jaclyn Krymowski Published on 20 July 2017
Scholze family

The key to success in a rapidly changing world boils down to two basic components: open minds and new ideas. Theo Scholze brings both to his farm and uses producer blogging to encourage fellow dairymen to do the same.

Scholze owns and operates Scholze Family Farm along with his brother, Will, and their families. Together they milk about 500 cows and farm 1,900 acres of grain and forage. Scholze Family Farm started as M&M Dairy when it was founded by the Scholzes’ grandparents in the 1940s. For years they raised Holsteins but recently began crossing over into Jerseys with the intent to entirely convert. They are also looking to expand their market with pasture-raised dairy beef in the near future.

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The farm has a strong presence in both the local community and online. Many of the decisions that impact the Scholzes’ farm are a result of Theo’s progressive thinking. “As an industry, a lot of the time we spend too much time looking backward instead of forward,” he says. “I myself enjoy looking at technology and what’s coming.”

Scholze began as a Proud to Dairy blogger and has since switched to more frequent work in Progressive Dairyman’s online guest blog. “I hope to get people to take a different view on things, so they can do some out-of-the-box thinking as far as how we tackle problems,” he says. A lot of his inspiration comes from looking at what’s available today and how it will shape the future market of tomorrow. “We’re at a point where we’re going to see a lot of disruption in our industry with the supply, the distribution and demand of what is produced,” he says. “If you can be responsive to that, I think you’re going to be profitable.”

It came naturally for Scholze to take up blogging if only to “throw around some more ideas.” The decision to change the herd over is one of many ways he puts those ideas into practice. “The guidance doesn’t seem to be right as to what we’re producing at the volume we’re producing sometimes,” he says. “We have this idea that we’re going to produce as much as we can as low cost as we can. ... I feel we should be a little more responsive to what the consumer wants and how much.”

Scholze Family Farm

That’s how he found Jerseys to be a better fit not only for the farm, but also for their current buyer and consumer market. By breeding the bottom 30 percent of the Jersey herd to beef bulls, they hope to take advantage of the breed’s impressive meat quality while tapping into a local buying trend. “We’re working on setting up a subscription-type service,” he says. “There’s a lot of interest in getting small quantities of product on a regular basis versus getting a half or quarter-side of beef.” If this market venture is successful, Scholze says there may be an opportunity in the future to market their milk via on-farm processing.

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Scholze’s outlook on the industry’s future is quite optimistic, while at the same time he challenges readers to make the most of it. He points out how some retail giants such as Amazon and Walmart have used automation to change the face of the retail industry as an example. “I believe there’s going to be far more automation [in the dairy industry],” he says. “I don’t believe we’re very far from every animal being milked in some sort of robotic setup.”

He wants other dairymen to keep this kind of open-mindedness and think about how it might impact their decisions today. Likewise, Scholze also sees an opportunity to learn from other industries. “[We need to] look outside our industry for solutions,” he says. “Just to start looking at things a little differently and not be afraid to look at other industries and how they do things, you might find some solutions.”

Supply and demand is another example. “It’s not always about making the most product at the most cost; it’s about effectively filling demand,” Scholze says. He observed this from time spent off-farm where he helped with industrial plant automation. He notes how they would use their previous food product orders as a guide for downstream. “That’s something I feel in agriculture we do a poor job,” he says. He believes that this will be the defining factor in feeding the growing world population, more so than increasing the supply. “Instead of figuring out how to make more, maybe we could figure out where it needs to go,” he says.

Scholze intends to continue his efforts as a pioneer at the forefront of industry change. “I’d like to be known as someone who has effected positive change on the industry on how we reach out to the consumer,” he says. “If I could, I would change our perception of how we look at the traditional distribution of our product. To me, that's the area that needs the most change, the most attention. ... We do a few tweaks to the system and we could do a lot better.”  end mark

Jaclyn Krymowski is a 2017 Progressive Dairyman editorial intern.

Browse through Theo Scholze’s previous columns.

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PHOTO 1: Scholze with his wife, Sarah, and children, Owen and Zoie.

PHOTO 2: Scholze Family Farm has come a long way since its founding in 1949. Today they milk 500 head and farm 1,900 acres. Photos provided by Theo Scholze.

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