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Following farm footsteps

Agriculture.com Staff 08/09/2006 @ 11:02am

As Enos Martin, 29, walks through his pastures, he can still barely believe his dream has come true. He has his own dairy. Yet the 90 cows grazing his rented farm near Edgar, Wisconsin, are proof.

It wouldn't have happened without the selfless help of his neighbors, dairy farmers Lyle and Pearl Guralski. Formerly Martin's employers, the Guralskis hatched a scheme to launch the young man and his wife, Phebe, into a dairy career. It was a risky, sometimes stressful experiment that began soon after Martin started working for them eight years ago.

"Enos wanted the chance to have his own dairy, and we could see he was the right person for that sort of ambition," says Lyle Guralski. "We just believed we had to give him the opportunity. And helping him was a way for us to do something to help stop the loss of dairy farms in our community."

Here is the process they took:

Step 1: First, Martin saved money to build equity while working as a herdsman for the Guralskis, who manage a land base of 380 acres of pasture and 400 acres of cropland.

Step 2: The Guralskis started an incubator farm for the Martins by purchasing a neighboring dairy. They remodeled the milking facilities and bought enough cattle to stock the farm with 120 cows. They continued to milk another 120 to 140 head at their own farm 5 miles away.

The Martins and their four young children moved to the new farm and managed it as employees of the Guralskis. Martin also continued working at the Guralskis' main farm.

Step 3: In the summer of 2005 the Guralskis sold 90 cows to the Martins on a contract and rented them the incubator farm. While the Martins and the Guralskis continue to work together, Martin is no longer a full-time employee.

Step 4: After the cows are paid for, the Martins plan to buy the farm from the Guralskis.

"When we started drawing up the contract, it was a piece of cake because we'd talked about it so much during the past several years," says Guralski.

"Lyle and Pearl gave us every opportunity to get started," adds Martin. "Without their help, it just wouldn't have been possible."

As Enos Martin, 29, walks through his pastures, he can still barely believe his dream has come true. He has his own dairy. Yet the 90 cows grazing his rented farm near Edgar, Wisconsin, are proof.

Each of the steps leading to an independent dairy for the Martins evolved from several intentional strategies. In the beginning, Guralski simply served as a mentor for Martin's ambition. As the two worked daily side by side, Martin shared his hopes, often asking for Guralski's advice.

The Guralskis sold the Martins 90 cows at a price less than what the cows cost them. "We thought it would be best to do all we could to help give them a decent start," says Guralski. "It was a way, too, to show our appreciation to Enos. He made us money while he worked for us."

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