The Austin Family

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Brad and Meghan Austin are the 2016 Young Cooperator Vice Chaircouple and are producer-members of Southeast Milk, Inc. Their dairy farm, Cindale Farms in the Florida panhandle, consists of 467 acres and 300 jersey and jersey-holstein crossed cows. The farm was started by Meg's parents, Cindy and Dale Eade, in 1994. Pictured are Brad and Meghan with their daughter, Emma.

What do you like the most – and the least – about working as a dairy farmer?

The thing we love the most about being dairy farmers is being able to work outside with the cattle and alongside family.  While the weather is not always perfect and the cows are not always agreeable, it is amazing to be able to work with family every day to produce a high-quality, nutritious food for people. The part we like the least has to be equipment.  It is both a blessing and a curse. We are located in an area without a dairy infrastructure, so when something breaks we often have to try to fix it ourselves, and we are not overly mechanically inclined.

Describe how the work on the farm is shared or divided up in your family?

At our dairy, Cindale Farms, Meg and I are the managers/operators and the work load is shared between us. Meg does the veterinary work, since she is a vet, and handles most of the bookwork. I (Brad) handle more of the maintenance/repair and nutrition. We also employ two full-time and two part-time employees. Any additional work/management responsibilities are shared between the two of us. Our family also operates a creamery, Southern Craft Creamery, which produces artisan ice cream from our farm’s milk. Meg’s parents (Dale & Cindy Eade) handle the day-to-day management, production & delivery at the creamery.

How do you think your farm’s business plan will change 10 years from now?

In 10 years, we think  our business plan will move the farm from producing primarily commodity milk to producing most -- if not all -- of our milk for value-added products. We are constantly increasing sales through our relatively new creamery and see great potential for future growth. This will allow us to continue to diversify our operation, demand a premium price for our milk and not require herd expansion, unless we choose to do so.

During those days when things aren’t going well, what do you do to keep a positive attitude?

There are some very difficult days and they often seem to come in groups, so staying positive at those times can be really tough. I don’t know if we have one thing that helps us. Sometimes we just have to focus on the one good thing that happened that day. We also remind ourselves to stop and appreciate all that we have and try to remember that the tide will turn.

What would you be doing if you were not a dairy farmer?

If we were not farming, we would still be involved in agriculture.  I (Brad) have a PhD in beef cattle physiology, so I would probably either be working in the beef cattle industry or as a professor at a University. Meg would still be working with the dairy industry as a full-time practicing veterinarian.