The Rudolph Family

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Nathan and Brenda Rudolph own a dairy farm in Central Minnesota, where they milk 100 Holsteins. For more than 125 years, someone in Nathan’s family has been milking cows on their farm, making Nathan a fifth-generation dairy farmer. Nathan and Brenda purchased the farm from Nathan’s parents in 2011, making them the sole owners. Their two children Everett, 7, and Vivian, 1, are with them every step of the way. Brenda shares her experiences on her blog, www.raisingafarmer.com.

What do you like the most – and the least – about working as a dairy farmer?
The best thing about dairy farming is that we are together as a family. We are able to be with our children more so than if we had an off-the-farm job. Everett gets on and off the bus at home. Vivian is in a Pack-n-Play while we milk and Everett rides his bike around the barn. Everett is able to have a real summer break from school; he is home all day every day. We are together.  The least is time. We aren’t able to “pick up and go” somewhere. It takes a lot of work and planning ahead. We are usually late or need to leave early for almost everything.       

Describe how the work on the farm is shared or divided up in your family?
Work on the farm is shared between Nathan and Brenda. We have part-time help when needed.

How do you think your farm’s business plan will change 10 years from now?
Every year, we evaluate what our goals are – long term, short term and immediate. We look at our goals from the previous year, cross off the ones we accomplished and look at the ones that need more work. Each year, our farm and our lives change, so our goals have to reflect that. Our farm plan has continually changed and evolved. By having goals in place, we are able to adjust and stay focused on what is important.    

During those days when things aren’t going well, what do you do to keep a positive attitude?
We laugh and we laugh a lot. We talk it out. We share what our fears are to each other. We try and make the best of it by remembering a time that was much worse than the current moment and how we got through that. We focus on our children. We remind ourselves of all the things we have accomplished and have crossed off our goal sheet. We remind ourselves of all the wonderful things and people in our lives because of dairy farming.           

What would you be doing if you were not a dairy farmer?
We have talked about this in the past and asked ourselves, “What would we do with all of our time if we didn’t farm?” “What would we do on the weekends if we didn’t milk cows and have chores to do?” We haven’t come up with anything.