While some in the agriculture industry have complained of youth’s lack of interest in becoming farmers, some Berks County youth say that is not the case.
Jordan Dietrich, 19, Mohrsville, headed into the ring with his steer hoping to win Grand Champion at the Berks County Livestock Roundup Show and Sale, his last roundup with the 4-H. As a third generation farmer, Dietrich is planning on growing hay and raising Angus beef. Through 4-H, Dietrich connected with other farmers and until he is able to get his own farm operating, he knows he has a job working in agriculture.
Dietrich owns three Angus cows he plans on breeding. Although he expects calves nine months from now, he plans on keeping them until he has a herd large enough to allow him to begin sales.
When asked how the state could help his career as a future farmer he said, “Funding to help buy animals and equipment.” He looked up, grinned and added, “Lower taxes would always be nice.”
“People don’t have much money to buy the animals or buy the feed to feed them,” said Samuel Angstadt, 14, Fleetwood.
Angstadt is thinking he’ll need about 40 dairy cows to start his own herd; he has five of his own right now.
Angstadt’s mother, Ellen, talked about the problems her family faces as dairy farmers. She said it would help being able to set prices that counteract what the farmers are paying out. Rising crop costs for seed and fertilizer, rising costs of repairs and maintenance on farm equipment, rising costs of fuel are some of the expenses that the farmers are paying, but they are not able to raise their prices. The product of the dairy farmer has to be sold. It’s not something that can be stored. Their animals must be fed and cared for.
“We are at the mercy of whatever they tell us we’re getting for our crops, for our milk, for whatever; that’s what we get,” said Ellen.
She compared the farming industry with those who are self-employed and able to set their own prices.
“We make a product that feeds the whole country and we’re told this is what we’re going to give you and that’s it,” Ellen said.
Courtney Love, 18, Birdsboro, has one more year left in 4-H. She is currently in college pursuing a degree in agriculture sciences.
“I love working with my animals especially the beef cattle on our family farm. I’m a visual learner so I love seeing things and on a farm you see things happen. I also like learning hands-on so I get the hands-on and visual that I need,” said Love.
Love attends Penn State and will be a third generation farmer. She said it was good that the state reduced the inheritance tax making it easier to take over the family farm. She said reducing college tuition would help. Love just won a scholarship from the Pennsylvania Livestock Association, which will be presented in October at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center during the Keystone International Livestock Exposition. She said it was the Outstanding 4-H award, but didn’t know for how much at this time.
“It’s going to take a lot to start a farm because you’ve got to stay up to date with the new technologies because the new technologies make it easier for farming. It makes the farmer have a faster production so you can keep up with the population because in America and the world we keep growing every year; we have to supply food to the whole world,” said Love. “It’s hard to afford all that new stuff when it’s so expensive and you don’t make that much.”
Kevin Guldin, Oley Valley Feed, said more dollars for milk would make dairy farming more economically feasible. He said the Pennsylvania farmer’s overhead -- such as land costs, operational expenses, and environmental issues -- makes it hard to compete with farms from other states, but he also said if too much is produced, it could drive the price of the product down and the farmers still would make less money.
“Most people go into farming because of the heritage involved with it,” said Guldin. “Not because they want to get ahead financially.”
Guldin does consultations with farmers to help them be more productive financially and to manage their farms efficiently. He said the biggest problem is decreasing expenses. This is the only thing that a farmer has control over to make that product. As fuel, grain, feed, supplies, equipment go up, the farmer is faced with tightening his inputs and then there is only so far you can go. Guldin approaches the problem from a whole farm standpoint.
“We need to have good producers that create a good wholesome product. Schooling is essential in today’s world,” said Guldin.
“If you ate today, thank a farmer because it’s that farmer who got up this morning and milked those cows; it’s that farmer who went out and fed that stock so you can have something on your dinner plate tonight; it’s that farmer who went out in his fields and planted and harvested ,” said Suzanne Treichler, organizational leader for the Berks County 4-H Dairy Beef Club.
Treichler said she has a very active club with good participation. The 4-H Roundup is an end product of animals raised for meat. The Eastern Berks, Western Berks, Northern Berks 4-H Dairy Clubs have a roundup during the summer, but those cows go back into the herd for milk production. Treichler said it is normal for the numbers of kids in these clubs to spike and decline, but overall membership has been consistent for the past 50 years as far as she knew.
4-H teaches kids how to manage their project. They must keep log books of not just the animal’s care, but the financials as well. Kids develop confidence and leadership skills. They learn how their work can affect a community. It also provides a spring board for kids who don’t come from a farming background, but have the interests to work with their hands and environment.
Results of the Dairy Beef round up at the Reading Fairgrounds.
Seniors - Phillip Stutzman, first; Dustin Fessler, second; Chelsea Geisinger, third; Kayla Naftzinger, fourth; Jordan Dietrich, fifth; Courtney Love, sixth
Intermediates - Ashley Daub,first; Dalton Boltz, second; Dustin Moyer, third; Lindsay Fessler, fourth; Samuel Angstadt, fifth
Juniors - Nate Guldin, first; Jacob Guldin, second; Emily Hillegas, third; Mason Eisenhard, fourth
Weight Class Results:
Lightweight Champion - Jacob Guldin
Reserve Lightweight Champin - Dustin Fessler
Middleweight Champion - Samuel Angstadt
Reserve Middleweight Champion - Jordan Dietrich
Heavyweight Champion - Dalton Boltz
Reserve Heavyweight Champion - Dustin Fessler
Grand Champion of Show - Dalton Boltz
Reserve Champion of Show - Dustin Fessler
To learn more about the Pennsylvania extension of 4-H, go to http://extension.psu.edu/4-h.