Dairy dream yields Trumbull Co. family farm


BRISTOLVILLE, Ohio – Many farms have a history of being handed down from father to child throughout the generations. However, the opposite is true for Eric Campbell, who was the one to start Center Creek Dairy and then bring his father into the business.

Today, the equal partnership includes Eric’s wife, Tracie, and his parents, Dick and Alice Campbell.

Ever since he was a little boy, Eric wanted to be a farmer and worked on nearby farms. He said he worked hard because he truly enjoyed it, and Alice said she thinks the farm trait was inborn in her son.

“While most kids were buying cars, Eric bought a tractor,” she said.

After he graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in dairy science, Eric immediately put his dreams to work – and changed everyone around him.

His father, who had always wanted to be a farmer, retired from his job at a steel company to help Eric with the farm in Trumbull County. Dick Campbell and his brother had originally planned on going into farming, however, his brother joined the Air Force and that changed their career paths.

While in college, Eric met Tracie, a dairy science and agriculture education major with a farming background.

“We were confident and optimistic,” Tracie said, and they knew they could make this farm successful.

Turning to reality. The dream became reality in 1983 when the family constructed its first barn.

“As neighbors put up property for sale, we were right there with money in hand,” Alice said.

The Campbells have accumulated almost 1,000 acres since then and now milk 55 grade Holsteins. Their rolling herd average is approximately 23,500 pounds of milk, with fat at 3.8 percent and protein at 3.1 percent.

This expansion isn’t about to stop either. The family has big plans for the future.

“You either keep expanding or become stagnant,” Alice said.

Within the next two years, they would like to expand to 500 milking cows. They aren’t planning on this being a gradual process either. They want to increase their milking herd within a single year. This will mean they need a new facility – and a new farm site.

Their current location does not allow for much addition to the barns, so they will have to build at a new location, although they are planning on staying within the area.

Innovation. Center Creek Farm is conservation-friendly in an effort to save money and benefit their farm and environment.

The Campbells ridge-till, no-till, minimum-till, have buffer strips on their fields, use a manure nutrient plan, have 22 acres enrolled in a wetlands reserve program and have six grass waterways.

They save on chemical costs by band spraying and then ridge-till cultivating. Band spray is applying direct herbicide and pesticide application in parallel bands on ridges. Soil between the ridges is then cultivated.

These conservation efforts have not gone unnoticed. The Campbells were named the 1999 Conservation Farmers of the Year in northeast Ohio, and were also recognized at the state level. In addition, they were recognized twice within the county for their conservation efforts.

A newer product the family has been using is a liquid hay preserver. This preserver is sprayed on at the baler and allows them to bale hay at a higher moisture, 25 percent to 28 percent, and still keep well without molding.

They bale approximately 30,000 square bales of hay a year and market two-thirds of it, mostly to horse customers.

In addition to helping the environment, the Campbells also help the public learn more about agriculture.

The Campbell farm has been a stop on Trumbull County Fall Foliage Tour twice and also hosts field trips for Head Start classes, Boy Scouts and even for a group of Venezuelan agriculturists.

Responsibility. The Campbells’ planned expansion will provide more future opportunities for Eric and Tracie’s four children: Stewart, 13; Nicholas, 11; Amanda, 7; and Janice, 6. The children are active on the farm and have individual responsibilities. Their parents are letting them make their own decisions regarding their futures in farming; however, if they decide to follow their parents’ footsteps, Eric said they will need a larger farm to stay competitive.

Everyone in the family has their own responsibilities.

Tracie takes care of herd management, milking, cow records, working with the milk crew, animal medicine and farm records.

The tie-stall barn doubles as a parlor twice a day when Tracie brings the milkers to the cows in their stalls. There are pipelines throughout the barn that run to the milkhouse.

Eric is the farm’s overall general manager and also takes care of the crops, selling, buying and marketing.

“I’m the official raker,” Alice laughed. But she can also drive tractors, haul manure, feed, milk and fill in wherever she is needed.

Dick used to be known as the fix-it man around the farm, but since being diagnosed with cancer in August, he isn’t out in the barn anymore. With a smile, he said he would much rather be outside baling, mowing or hauling manure.

More help. The Campbells have four part-time employees and an eight-member summer crew that helps with baling. Tracie and Alice cook for the summer crew, sometimes two meals a day.

Many of the students in the summer crew are hired young and then work each summer throughout high school.

One of Eric and Tracie’s sons recently took applications to school, and then the Campbells had a career day on the farm. Thirteen students came with their parents to be considered for the summer crew.

“Some kids come for one day and never come back, but others come and stay for years,” Eric said.

Money isn’t everything, Alice said. Eric treats the employees well, rewards them often, takes them for ice cream and takes the summer crew to Cedar Point, she said.

Appreciation. Employees aren’t the only ones the Campbells treat well. Each summer, the third Saturday of August, the Campbells have a cookout for everyone they do business with.

“We don’t even need to send out invitations anymore,” Alice said. “They just know to come.”

Last year, 120 people came to their 17th annual cookout.

“It keeps good community relations with our neighbors and landlords,” Eric said.

Future concerns? Although the Campbells admit to worrying about the weather and milk prices, Alice said they are secure in their faith in God to carry them through the rough times.

“If we make late-quality hay one year, everyone else is, too,” Eric added.

Another prevention against stress is that they forward contract on grain. They also keep enough corn on hand so although they may not have enough to sell, they still have enough to feed their animals.

A top concern is one that many farmers face – finding more property. They said it is getting harder to buy property because the market is more competitive. Although they said there are many lots for sale in their area, there are not large parcels suitable for farming.

Time for reflection. Dick’s illness forced the family to put things into perspective – their lives and farming. So, after consideration, the family decided that in farming, “rewards come at the end of the day,” Eric said.

And it is fulfilling because “you get something accomplished every day,” Tracie added.

“Some days you just get more accomplished than others,” Eric said.

(You can contact Kristy Alger at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at kalger@farmanddairy.com.)

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