The Mesch Family

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Jason and Lisa Mesch are the 2016 Young Cooperator Chaircouple and have been producer members of Upstate Niagara Cooperative since October 2008. They are second-generation dairy farmers who own a 55 Pro-Cross cow milking herd that seasonally grazes on a 36-acre farm in Collins, NY. They house their herd in a tie-stall barn. Pictured are Lisa and Jason Mesch with their five children.

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

What we like the most about working as dairy farmers is the day-to-day opportunity of sharing life-promoting experiences with our kids. The wonder of seeing a newborn calf’s birth, the challenges in caring for an injured or ailing cow, or the satisfaction in harvesting a healthy crop are all opportunities to share our knowledge and love with each other. Interestingly, what we like the least about working as dairy farmers is that the duty of a dairy farming family is never completed. Like life, it is continuous. We find that morning, noon and night, 365 days a year (yes, Sundays, Christmas and even during school plays) leaves little time for family enrichment outside of the barn or off the farm.

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

We have a relatively small dairy farm that we manage ourselves. General ideas, plans and expectations we discuss together, but Jason is the main labor force of the farm. His responsibilities include: preparing feed for the herd, milking (twice a day) and evaluating the health of the herd (a veterinarian visits once a month or as needed). With these tasks there is an endless number of daily decisions that he has to make. Lisa works alongside the kids handling tasks like daily cleaning of the animals’ pens/stalls and the feeding/care of the young calves and heifers. Jason’s father, who was the previous owner of the farm, continues to offer his help with harvesting crops, repairing equipment and renovating our buildings. We also have a reliable individual who can do a couple relief milking for us, in the event we have responsibilities that take us off the farm. 

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

In 10 years, our children will explore part-time/full-time employment opportunities and seeking higher education. We hope to be able to include our children in the decision-making of the direction of the business as they show an interest. Otherwise, we will still be striving to raise healthy, quality animals and crops that in turn will be able to produce a quality milk product.

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

Some moments we don’t have a positive attitude (we are only human). When things are not going well, it usually requires us to stop, evaluate the situation and change priorities accordingly. At that moment, we take care of what is most important and remind ourselves that we are blessed with the ability, resources and knowledge to meet these challenges head on. The good days outnumber the bad days.

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

If we were not dairy farmers, Lisa would train driving horses, preparing to go to the next show or exposition. Jason would have found employment in the agricultural industry. We both have always had interests in plant growth, animal husbandry, genetics and how humans utilize these sciences. We very much enjoy sharing ideas with others in the agricultural community and feel like this is our place in life.