ORRVILLE, Ohio – Despite the challenges of low prices, high costs and unruly weather, Bob and Amy Graber see farming as a great way of life and a wonderful place to raise their children, Kyler, 5 and Krystian, 2 1/2.
Amy grew up on a Stark County dairy farm, and Bob worked for Chet and Barb Stoll, a local dairy operation.
“We decided that someday, we wanted our own place,” Bob said. “When this farm became available, we grabbed it.”
They currently farm 70 acres and rent some additional ground to raise corn, wheat and alfalfa hay. This allows them to generate most of the feed that they use to feed the heifers they custom raise heifers for Catalpadale Farm owned by friends and neighbors, John and Lois Douglass.
Raising heifers. The Grabers get a group of 120 heifers at about 13 months of age and keep them until they are bred and confirmed pregnant. They also have about 20 smaller heifers in another barn.
When the heifers have been confirmed pregnant, they move on to the next stop and a new group of 20 or 30 heifers is brought in.
This arrangement works for Grabers, as both have jobs off the farm. Amy works as a loan processing specialist with Farm Credit Services and Bob as an auctioneer/realtor, including selling feeder pigs each Thursday at the Kidron Auction.
“We bought the farm to have a place to raise our children,” Bob Graber said, “but we also wanted it to be efficient and support itself.”
Lots of improvements. Since they have owned the farm, the Grabers have made additions and improvements that allow them to handle the heifer raising and farming operation with just one additional employee. They handle the basic ground work, feeding and manure hauling, but they do have some custom work done.
They remodeled a two-story freestall bank barn and also constructed a 70-by-140 foot drive-through, double-row, freestall barn with headlocks. It features side curtains for ventilation and a scraper system to push the manure into a 1 million gallon liquid manure pit.
They also remodeled outbuildings and the milking parlor for additional machinery and feed storage.
“A lot of things that we have done on the farm, we have done to make our life easier, so that we have more time to spend as a family,” Graber said. “I think that we are probably as big as we will ever get.”
Dual roles. Being both a farmer and an auctioneer gives Graber a unique perspective on land use.
“When we do a farm auction, we try to be as friendly to the ground as possible,” he said. “There is a lot of competition for land from non-agricultural areas. This makes it almost impossible for someone like me to buy a farm.”
Graber sees a lot of people moving to the rural area where he lives, and with them come environmental challenges and neighbor relations issues.
But he also sees it as an opportunity to educate the public about agriculture. “We try to be very conscious of our neighbors,” he said.
Do unto others. Graber added they try to live their lives by the Golden Rule and conduct themselves the way they want to be treated, in both the farm and the auction business.
When he first got into the auction business, well-known auctioneer Steve Andrews told him that there is always room in any business for a good one.
“I decided that if I was going to be an auctioneer, I was going to be a good one and do it right, or not do it at all,” he said.
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