By Jennie Zeitler
Although Craig Roerick left the family farm near Upsala to go to college, he is finally back living a farm life.
After earning a degree in ag education and animal science-dairy from the University of Minnesota (U of M) Crookston, he held two jobs with farm-related organizations.
“I wanted something more,” he said. “We (with brother, Stephen) wanted to own our own business and not be employees. It’s a passion — farming.”
Roerick worked as a breeding program specialist for Genex Cooperative in Stearns County for 18 months, followed by three years as a livestock production specialist for the U of M Extension Service in Stearns, Benton and Morrison counties.
Both Roerick brothers were working off-farm full-time but wanted to get back into farming. Together, they formed a limited liability company (LLC) called “Two Brothers Dairy” in 2010, milking cows they owned in the barn their dad owned. They purchased 50 acres in two parcels — one adjacent to their dad’s land and another parcel less than a mile to the southwest.
What ultimately made their return to the farm possible was the construction of a large Gold ‘n Plump chicken barn.
“We added a 60-foot by 600-foot barn on Dad’s property. We finish approximately 48,000 birds, six times a year,” he said. “By doing that we also diversified for security purposes.”
The chicken operation is called Roadside Chicks, LLC and it sits on a completely separate 50 acres.
“My wife (Sarah) was not enthusiastic about me farming when I was still working with Extension and bought the cows with Stephen,” Roerick said. “When I went from a full-time job and milking to just full-time farming, she was totally supportive.”
Craig and Sarah have two children. They live on five acres, two and a half miles north of the home farm. Sarah works full time for the Todd County Farm Services Agency.
Stephen and his wife, Amanda, also have two children. They live two miles north of the home farm.
Roger and Diane, Craig and Stephen’s parents, started milking in 1983 in a 25-cow stanchion barn. In 1992, they built a free stall barn which held 25 more head. They bought the adjacent farm to the west in 1998.
“It had a 75-cow free stall barn with a double 5 herringbone parlor,” Roerick said. “We added 45 cows into a bedded-pack barn. It’s a three-minute walk from the milking barn to Dad’s house. It fit perfectly when it came up for sale.”
Roger owns all the farm buildings and the land. Roerview Dairy LLC, with partners Roger, Stephen and Craig, includes the dairy operation — the cattle and the machinery.
“Dad is still primarily in charge of milking,” said Roerick.
They currently milk 120 cows and house 75 heifers.
The various LLCs help keep assets separate, something the Roericks learned about in farm transition and estate planning workshops sponsored by the U of M Extension office.
“They host a ‘Creating Your Legacy’ all-day workshop,” said Roerick. “Most financial services offer some type of class, but Extension has no vested interest in what people do.”
The family has also learned to separate personal assets from business assets.
“It’s much cleaner, for transfer purposes” said Roerick. “It’s a little more expensive up front with lawyer fees for paperwork.”
The Roericks plant 500 acres in mostly corn and alfalfa, with some soybeans.
“It’s used primarily for feed,” Roerick said. “Normally it takes only about 75 percent of the crops for feed production. With the extra, we can build inventory or sell it. Last year we had to buy more corn, though.”
The Roerick family is exploring options for the next phase of their farm operation to house young stock, an extension of the 2010 expansion.
They are also looking at automation with the milking and calf-feeding.
Roerick is relieved and very pleased to be back on the farm and not tied to his computer anymore.
“I used to live by my email inbox; it was my main form of communication,” he said. “I like being able to work outside.