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Celebrate foundation of dairy -- Wisconsin's producers

Editor's note: This article is part of a series featuring Wisconsin farmer-members of dairy cooperatives. The following article features Tom Jandt of Grandvu Acres near West Salem, Wisconsin. He and his family are members of Associated Milk Producers Inc., known as AMPI.

When did you begin farming and why?

Jandt: I was born and raised on our family farm, Grandvu Acres. I’m part of the fourth generation of the Jandt family to farm this land. My great-grandfather, Carl Jandt, purchased the farm in 1889. We were designated a Century Farm at the 1993 Wisconsin State Fair.

Farming is the only career ambition I ever remember having; I never wanted to do anything else. When I married in 1984, Sue, my wife, and I rented a small farm near the Jandt home farm. My father and I did our field work together. We milked just 26 cows on that farm but we also finished hogs.

We moved to the home farm in 1989 when my parents moved to town. We raised our four children at Grandvu Acres. Currently my wife and I live about a half-mile from the home farm. Our son, Joseph Jandt, and his wife, Jennifer, live on the farm with their three children.

We currently milk 160 Holsteins in a flat barn. But we’re planning to retrofit our existing barn with a parlor this fall. We’re beginning the process of passing the farm to our son a little at a time; we still intend to remain involved in the farming operation.

Our son and daughter-in-law want to raise their children on a dairy farm as they were both raised. All our combined efforts are working toward the goal of preserving Grandvu Acres for their children.

In what ways does being a member of AMPI help you?

Jandt: Being a member of AMPI allows me to focus on growing my operation. I don’t need to be concerned about being a small fish in a big ocean as far as the sales end of the business goes. I don't need to try to secure a market for my products on my own. I have the strength of the cooperative behind me.

Being a member of AMPI also gives me a voice. I have input into how our cooperative is operated. As a contributor to our political-action committee, I have a voice in Washington, D.C., to help steer dairy policy.

What do you think are the biggest challenges the dairy industry faces today?

Jandt: Labor is one of the biggest challenges today and I think it will be into the future. I think farmers are always working to make things more efficient. Robotics milkers, robotic feed pushers and automatic calf feeders are all ways farmers are try to reduce labor.

The dairy economy also will continue to be a big challenge. Input costs keep increasing faster than our milk prices.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities the dairy industry has now and in the future?

Jandt: I think we have opportunities to expand our export markets. I think we have some room to improve domestic milk sales as well. We need to work on marketing to younger generations as they grow, to ensure that children grow up enjoying the delicious flavor and health benefits of milk and other dairy products.

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

Jandt: Being a dairy farmer allows me to be my own boss. That being said, labor issues make it more difficult for us to take time off. We do most of the work ourselves because reliable help is difficult to find. We think milking in a parlor will eliminate the need for one person for each milking.

How do you think your farm’s business will change in the next 10 years?

Jandt: We’re in the process of selling half our dairy to our son and daughter- in-law. Along with that we’re doing some upgrades to our milking facilities. Installing our first parlor this fall will allow us to milk our cows with less labor and give us the ability to add cows in the future, if needed. That may help secure the future of Grandvu Acres so that hopefully our grandchildren can one day join the operation.

AMPI is headquartered in New Ulm, Minnesota. The cooperative is owned by dairy-farm families from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. The cooperative’s cheese, butter and powdered dairy products are marketed to food-service, retail and food-ingredient customers. The co-op launched its Dinner Bell Creamery brand and accompanying Co-op Crafted promise in 2019, highlighting more than 50 years of dairy-farm families partnering with dairy producers to make award-winning products. Visit ampi.com for more information.

This is an original article written for Agri-View, a Lee Enterprises agricultural publication based in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit AgriView.com for more information.

Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin.

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