The Stauffer Family

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Brandon and Krista Stauffer are members of the 2016 NMPF Young Cooperator Advisory Council. They own a first-generation dairy farm and are members of the Northwest/Darigold cooperative. Their farm, Stauffer Dairy -- located in Washington state -- involves roughly 140 jerseys, Holsteins and crosses. Pictured are Krista (who provided these answers) and Brandon with their three children. Krista's blog is www.thefarmerswifee.com.

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

I love having the option of having the kids by our side.They get to see their dad’s lifelong dream come true and the hard work it took to make that dream a reality, as well as the hard work it takes to keep that dream afloat. There are so many valuable lessons to be learned when growing up on a farm. Our kids, though we try to shelter them from it, know  there are tough times. They see their parents pushing forward no matter what comes. I think that alone will help prepare them as adults. They see that you have to work hard for what you want in life and no one owes you anything you do not earn on your own.

I can honestly say that the least favorite part about being a dairy farmer is having no control over what we are paid. We can focus on quality, we can focus on components and we can focus on animal care, but at the end of the day, we have no control over the price we receive for our milk. The price remains the same in the store, but not so much when we receive our milk check. How farmers are paid is like an emotional roller coaster. It is a helpless feeling.

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

As a first-generation dairy farmer, the majority of the work falls on Brandon. He milks the cows, feeds the cows, does all the repairs and then some. My job is a supportive role. I fill in where needed. I will help milk, feed calves, etc. I do the farm books, as well. We have three young children, so there are times during winter when we just cannot have the kids outside. We do have a part-time employee whose primary role is to milk cows and help during silage season in the summer. When times get tough, it’s all hands on deck. All of our trucks have car seats and we will divide and conquer.

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

Change is constant in our industry. You have to be willing to try new things, change how you might have always done it, etc. We are constantly striving to improve how we do things. Our 10-year goal is to purchase a farm, upgrade our facilities and some of our equipment. In 10 years, we will have our oldest getting close to graduation. We will have to plan for college and possibly children wanting to join the farm. In addition, our business plan will most likely change to include new rules and regulations as they come.

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

To be completely honest, I would love to say that I am always positive. I am not. When things get hard, I tend to fall apart. Brandon is the one that keeps everything together. Dairy farming is the only thing he has ever wanted to do, so while I might struggle to watch him work so hard and have things go wrong, he just keeps pushing forward. We try to focus on the fact that our children are healthy and happy. That gets us through the hard times.

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

Brandon would look for work on a dairy farm as a herdsman. I would love for that to be in another country, just for the experience. Dairy is the only thing he wants to do. If he could not find work on a dairy, he would seek work driving trucks or anything to stay involved in agriculture. In the past, I have worked both in insurance and banking. I enjoy being a stay-at-home mom and helping my husband, so I am sure a transition to working full time off the farm again would be rough.