farm scene

Milestone Members: Evidence that moving forward is possible

As long-time members of MMPA, 35- and 50-year members’ experiences overcoming changes in markets, regulations and leadership within the industry over the past many years serve as evidence that moving forward is possible.

The knowledge and wisdom that they share within their community ensures the success of the dairy industry and MMPA for many years to come. Our cooperative wouldn’t be the same today without their presence and leadership. Thank you, 35- and 50-year members for your dedication and service to MMPA.

35-Year Members:

  • Edward Adamic
  • Lori Laing
  • Paul Ponik
  • Scott Stough
  • Steven Thelen
  • Neil Weidmayer

50-Year Members:

  • Gordon Behrenwald
  • Frederic Halbert
  • Ken Nobis
  • Bernard Baker
  • Donald Bever

 

Ken Nobis Ken Nobis

Hometown: St. Johns, Michigan
Contract Date: June 1971
Generations on the Farm: 3
Milking Herd: 1,100

How was your farm started?
It goes back to the early 1900s. Both sides of my family are originally from Illinois and my paternal grandfather rode a train to Michigan. He started out as a share cropper. My dad was the oldest of the three sons they had on the farm. In the mid-40s they formed a partnership and farmed together until my grandfather passed away in 1956. The partnership broke up after the youngest brother wanted out, but my dad stayed on the dairy farm and ended up beginning this farm with 334 acres.

What’s the biggest difference in the industry since you signed your contract?
There’s a lot of differences. The market is hugely different than back when I started. The only time you exported was when you had milk you wanted to dump. Today, if we can’t grow exports then the industry is stagnant in terms of milk production.

What’s the best change you’ve seen in the industry since you signed your contract?
Environmentally we have made tremendous strides. It’s not because we purposefully did things wrong, it’s that we didn’t know any better and now that we do know better, people are doing a much better job protecting the environment.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with fellow members?
If you like what you’re doing, stick with it. I think there are better times ahead. Build your future with an open mind. Not all the rules and regulations that are talked about are necessarily bad and look at things from both sides of an issue.

Scott StoughScott Stough

Hometown: Posen, Michigan
Contract Date: January 1986
Generations on the Farm: 4
Milking Herd Size: 80-90

How was your farm started?
My great grandpa had a farm a mile down the road. They had four kids. Two ended up going to college and one went in the army and my grandpa stayed home to help with the farm. In return, my great grandpa helped him start this farm. My dad was the only child, so even though it was a small farm, my dad had his own car to drive to high school and there was only two in the whole high school at the time.

What do you enjoy most about being a dairy farmer?
My first thought is cereal and ice cream. I don’t look at it as a job, it’s just life. I just take care of the cows and they take care of me.

How has MMPA helped your farm succeed?
It helps with field staff come and give us pointers. They keep us on our toes and help us be prepared for the inspector.

What’s made you remain an MMPA member for so long?
I’m not much of a complainer. I don’t know the price of gas. I don’t know the price of milk. I just do my job. The people down there at MMPA say something is good and I say that’s fine with me!

What words of wisdom would you like to share with fellow members?
I care about the milk prices, but I don’t let them upset me. Be ready to adapt. Hang in there. Go big or go home.

Steve Thelen

Hometown: Fowler, Michigan
Contract Date: January 1986
Generations on the Farm: 4
Milking Herd: 1,600

How has your farm changed or evolved through the years?
It’s grown. The milk per cow is going up, their ability to produce milk and the on-farm technology has changed. Whether it’s planting corn, harvesting crops or milking crops, everything is more tuned in and finessed.

What do you enjoy most about being a dairy farmer?
Working outdoors and growing crops to feed your cows! It’s just a big circle the thing keeps rolling and is self-sustained.

What’s the biggest difference in the industry since you signed your contract?
Scope of the operations, the industry has really grown. The amount of land people work, the amount of cows people milk, everything has grown substantially. The style of milking parlors has also changed and technology on farms is completely different.

What’s the best change you’ve seen in the industry since you signed your contract?
Cow comfort. The quality of feeds that we can put up, the nutrition we can feed the cows, the sand stalls the cows are in, the parlor, everything is better for the cow.

Where do you think the future of the industry is heading?
The industry is going to follow technology. The guys will figure out how to feed the cows better, care for them better and get more milk out of them. It’s the trend of the future.

How has MMPA helped your farm succeed?
MMPA always has a reliable place for our milk and over the years they have been consistent with market shares, how they market their milk and giving us return on our investments.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2021 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »