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Lessons for success are truly all around us

Farmshine Editor

I’m as guilty a anyone any time, anywhere. Stubborn, slow to accept change and even closed-minded. I might even add blind at times.

And I know I have a lot of company. I suspect it may be due to growing up in an environment that has always been dear to us and we don’t really want to see it change. Can you identify with that?

But as my friends at Mason-Dixon Farms have stated so often: “Change is inevitable, Success is optional.”

Life on the farm -- even on an Amish farm -- is perennially challenged by changes. Whether we like it or not, it’s a fact of life that now encroaches on our livelihood and lifestyle faster than ever before.

I’ve learned to accept it. Sometimes reluctantly; sometimes with great enthusiasm.

For many years, I was convinced that a dairy farm with fewer than 200 head, total, was the only way to go. It’s what I grew up with and, really, that’s what is still all around us today. I love it!

But a visit to the new Jones Dairy near Massey, Md., many years ago, changed my thinking dramatically. While I still love the smaller dairy of my youth, it was apparent right then and there at the Jones farm that great efficiencies were possible with a larger operation and most especially modern facilities. And even if a person would never, ever, want to operate a facility of such size, the very most important lesson of all is:

We can learn from them!

I repeat: We can learn from them!

I’m writing these words after just having read Sherry Bunting’s feature story about Mike McCloskey and Fair Oaks Farm. I’ve placed it on page 1 to reduce any chances of it being overlooked. I enthusiastically recommend that you read it and learn all you can from what Dr.McCloskey had to say.

We (me included) often make the mistake of thinking that the big operator has nothing to offer to the smaller operator. It is, perhaps, an understandable bias, but it is wrong and potentially self-defeating. We can all learn from each other and it begins with attitude. An open mind. A willingness to learn.

The correct mind-set, in turn, energizes one’s passion to succeed and ultimately provides opportunities for the next generation. Surely, knowing that you have provided a foundation for your offspring has got to be one of the greater satisfactions in life.

In the article featuring Dr. McCloskey, nothing is written about breeding philosophies, feeding programs, herd health and the like. Rather, it’s about common-sense business practices, people skills, partnerships and communicating with the public. These are issue we all deal with, no matter how many cows we milk. We can learn from men like Mike McCloskey. I wholeheartedly salute the man for being so candid with is busloads of visitors from Pennsylvania and Indiana, not to mention countless others who have come to visit Fair Oaks Farms.

It’s okay to not be “in tune” with the size of the Fair Oaks operation. For sure, we can’t all have huge operations -- agreed, many of us would not want them. We certainly can’t build agritainment complexes like those found at Fair Oak Farms either. But, but please believe this: It’s wrong to ignore -- not pay attention -- to what’s driving it all. The take-home message is that what works for Mike McCloskey could also work for you ... only on a much smaller scale, of course. Learn. Be inspired. Look forward.

I’ll never forget my first trip to dairy farms in Arizona. It was in November of 1997. What a learning experience that was! And, here again, it had more to do with management approaches, attitudes, fresh ideas and technologies than the actual size of the operations themselves. The Dugan Family dairies still stand out in my mind as among the best-run I’ve ever seen. Add to that the super clean and efficient dairy owned and operated by Ari DeJong. You won’t find many that are any better.

Oh, what a mistake it is to close our eyes and ears to the pacesetters. I know; I had my eyes and ears closed and my attitude hardened against anything that threatened my comfort zone. I was very, very wrong.
Again, if you haven’t already read the McCloskey feature; please take time to do so. It’s truly a worthwhile and valuable lesson we can all learn and benefit from, regardless of where you live and how many cows you milk.

Thank you.