Our start in farming

Hi — It’s Josie! You’ve probably heard from me before if you’ve read our blogs but in case you haven’t: My parents are Dan and Debbie, the same Dan and Debbie that the creamery is named after. I am one of six kids who grew up on our family dairy farm just outside of the small town of Ely, Iowa. It wasn’t until I was in elementary school that my family started dairy farming. My parents are actually first-generation dairy farmers. Which is incredibly rare to hear — a first-generation farmer, it doesn’t happen much anymore. So many farms have been passed on from previous generations; But not my parents’.

I’m sure there is so much of our story that I don’t even know yet, but from what my parents have shared with me on how they got started in farming it’s really humbling to hear and it’s admirable what they have done to get to where they are today. I’m certainly proud to be a part of this and cannot imagine being anywhere else. I thought for those of you interested I would take you on a journey back to “where it all began” before there was Dan and Debbie’s Creamery.

Alright — here we go – If you know my dad – when he gets an idea, his eyes glaze over and he cannot focus on anything else until he makes that idea happen. For a number of years, he had been helping my grandpa (mom’s dad) on their hog farm where the then city boy developed a love for the land and animals that left him bound and determined to start his own farm.

ABOVE: This is a photo of the farmhouse when my parents purchased it in the early to mid 1980’s.

When he heard a small 80-acre farm was going to be for sale just outside of Ely, he jumped on the opportunity to make it his own. Only he could see the potential in a farm that had a farmhouse with no running water, no bathroom, holes in the floors, and fields that only grew sandburs. If you’re not sure what a sandbur is, it is not something to be proud of, nor is it something that you intentionally grow and harvest. It’s no wonder when he took my mom there for the first time that she nearly cried and repeatedly said no, no…no, no! You can’t blame her.

I don’t know what my dad ever said to my mom for her to give her blessing to buy the farm, but something inside of her must have seen some glimse of potential. Whatever it was, I’m glad she gave her okay because the farm was such an incredible place for us kids to grow up.

Now, the farmland alone left them with very little money so they ended up just fixing the house up slowly on their own. It took them nearly 4 years before it was “livable” to where they actually moved our family into the house. At that time, they had four kids, me being the youngest.

Over those four years, my dad really started to become a good steward of the land and slowly the sandburs were disappearing and year-after-year his crops would become better than the last. He also spent a lot of his time during those four years doing custom work for other farmers and in those years, where he learned a lot.

The first few years at the new farm we tried a lot of different things. We had sheep, we had beef cows and we did crops.

ABOVE: My dad baling hay for neighboring farm before we got our own farm off the ground.

ABOVE: This is about two years into the four year farmhouse renovation.

ABOVE: Dustin on our farm with a baby calf. This calf was from the beef herd we had early on in our farming journey.

He then found a nearby farm just up the road owned by an older couple looking for someone to farm their 250-acre farm. My parents started working with the couple and their partnership was based on shares. The older couple who owned that farm, Bob and Caroline Touchberry both had ties to the dairy industry and let my dad read past issues of Hoards Dairyman that they would receive in the mail. Hoards Dairyman is one the most popular dairy magazines out there, and my dad was like a sponge soaking up information in the article and after years of reading issue after issue he somehow talked my mom into becoming dairy farmers.

I remember them putting together a business plan to take to different banks. They typed it up on a typewriter. This was the mid-1990’s and our family didn’t have a computer at the time. While I don’t remember this next part, as a grown adult I can imagine how stressful and discouraging it was for my parents.

My parents approached bank after bank for funding to build a milking parlor and free stall barn. They went to financial institutions known for ag-lending and got shot down. They went to big banks and small banks and still got shot down. In fact, there were six banks that told them no, back-to-back to back. Almost all of them were primarily because my parents didn’t have farming or dairy experience. Their excitement and optimism were slowly dwindling but like I alluded to at the beginning of my story if my dad had that glazed look in his eye, he wasn’t giving up. Finally, they went to another bank, their seventh bank to be exact, and low and behold got the green light to start their project. After papers were signed my dad went and started digging and starting the process. He was so incredibly excited. We all were.

A similar story has occurred several times throughout our farming journey… when we wanted to build a new barn in 2010, when we wanted to start the creamery in 2013, and when we wanted to switch to robots in 2019. Each thing we hoped to accomplish had major roadblocks; Each thing, we had people telling us we couldn’t do that; Each thing, didn’t go over as expected. But with each new thing, we kept that same perseverance and optimism that my mom and dad had when they first started farming all those years ago.

ABOVE: My mom hauling in loads during harvest. My dad and Bob Touchberry stopped for a quick photo.

“Their excitement and optimism were slowly dwindling but like I alluded to at the beginning of my story if my dad had that glazed look in his eye, he wasn’t giving up.”

  • Posted by Josie Rozum
  • On January 27, 2022
Tags: beef cows, dairy farming, dream, farming, optimistic, perserverance, rennovation, sheep, Touchberry