These days, the life of a small dairy farmer might not look great. However, fourth-generation farmer Jim Turck said he can’t quit now. He’s determined to keep going.
Jim and his wife, Lisa, have three children, Jennifer, Amanda and Rachel. They first met on a hayride. Something about Jim caught Lisa’s attention, which compelled her to ask him out.
Lisa said she never intended to live on a farm, but it has gotten into her blood since she has done it for so long.
“I used to say that I (was) never (going to) marry a farmer,” Lisa said. “I don’t know why I said that, but I did. You just never say never.”
Last year the Meeker County Farm Bureau recognized the Turcks’ farm as a sesquicentennial farm. The farm has been in the family since 1858, when Jim’s great-grandfather purchased the land from the U.S. government, starting a dairy more than 160 years ago. As the Turcks celebrate this achievement, the hardships of the trade war and farm economic decline has hit the dairy industry hard.
The economic climate today reminds Jim Turck of the troubling 1980s agriculture economy. According to state data compiled with the help of the University of Minnesota, state farmers experienced their sixth-consecutive year of low profitability in 2018. With the dairy business in decline, the Turcks borrowed money through an operating line of credit to continue producing milk and running the farm, Jim said.
“So we’ve exercised just about everything we can to save money,” he said. “And we are still borrowing money.”
The situation farmers face is alarming, said Rachel Turck, their daughter, who helps her father on the farm.
“(Farmers) worked so hard to get where they are at,” she said. “And then to just lose everything? It’s hard. And even me coming up (to help), it’s hard to even see the way things are going.”
Rachel got her degree in farm management and operation program offered by Ridgewater College in Willmar. She hopes she’ll one day see her family farm reach its second-century stage and continue to take care of it.
Becoming a farmer
Jim, the youngest of four children, grew up on a 23-acre farm and lived in a house right beside the barn. When Jim was in sixth grade, his father had a heart attack, and Jim had to step up to take care of the farm. He learned from an early age the dedication it took to run a farm.
After deciding to study dairy herd management at Ridgewater College in Hutchinson, he became the sole caretaker of the farm’s legacy. His siblings all chose different career paths, which left him to continue the legacy. His daughter actively helps on the farm, and he teachers her much of what he learned from his parents.
Daily life on the farm
Right now, the farm houses 50 cows and 150 young stock, heifers and steers. They also raise corn, soybeans and wheat. Jim said his family is dedicated to producing milk and food.
Due to the tariffs imposed on other countries, last year, Jim said he was forced to take out more money than he has ever needed to before.
“That’s what’s happened to our grain markets too,” he said. “And so, now instead of selling $10-$11 soybeans, the other day they were $7.14… (And) it costs $9 to raise them,” Jim said.
The best thing that could happen, he said, is for the corn and soybean market to move in the opposite direction.
Farmers are currently waiting for retroactive payments from the USDA’s Dairy Margin Coverage Program, which should come as soon as June, according to Rep. Collin Peterson during a March meeting with dairy farmers.
Jim said the future of his farm is looking very bleak. However, they are trying to remain optimistic, hopeful and do the best they can.