WOOSTER, Ohio – A DHL delivery van pulls into the drive and Stan Carmony jumps.
He’s been waiting for this one. He stabs at the cardboard and packing tape with his pocketknife.
Inside is a framed oil painting, a depiction of an old aerial photo, of a farm with an old narrow-front tractor by the barn bridge, two mesh corn cribs and a cement-block milkhouse.
It’s his grandfather’s farm, where Stan got his start in dairying.
And when the frame hangs beside the other aerial photos in the farm office, it will complete Carmony’s collection of prints that remind him of the huge distance between where he started and where he’s at today.
In his blood. Carmony missed 48 days of classes his senior year of high school, surely enough to fail, but he wasn’t about to drop out. He was really interested in the agricultural classes and had good marks.
His vocational farm management teachers understood his need to farm, even if that meant skipping class, but they never hesitated to come searching for him. They knew where they’d find him: He was always working at home.
Carmony, who never wanted to be anywhere else, knew dairying was in his blood. His great-grandfather did it, so did his grandfather, and his father hauled milk. He’d follow family tradition.
He bought his grandfather’s 20-cow dairy herd in 1971, when he was just a high school sophomore.
Despite his penchant for farming, he found room in his heart for a girl, too. Karen was born and raised on a dairy farm in Wayne County, and the two married before they were out of high school.
And the day Stan picked up his high school diploma, he moved his herd to a new facility.
Leaps and bounds. Expansion over time – always planned – pushed the Carmony herd from the 20 head Stan started with to 60 at high school graduation to today’s 458.
The parlor, at first a double-three, then a double-six, is now a double-nine. Carmony went from milking 20 cows in an hour to milking 24 hours a day, and now has help doing it.
His figures are impressive: a 26,300-pound rolling herd milk average with 913 pounds of fat and 798 protein. His grade Holsteins, some genetically worthy of pictures in national bull stud catalogs, are the heart of his operation.
A business. Stan and Karen Carmony raised two daughters here and have a just-for-fun Mustang in the garage, but they’re all business when it comes to running the farm.
Stan has kept every milk check stub since 1979, and has seed and fertilizer invoices from back when grandpa ran the farm in 1946. He sometimes pulls out those records for a reality check.
“Milk prices really haven’t changed all that much,” he says.
What has changed is how the couple operates the farm. They’ve switched from breeding by farm employees to professional artificial insemination technicians; raise all their own heifer replacements; and pump their own corn and soybeans into the herd.
The calves are Karen’s source of pride. As chief calf-raiser, she loses less than 1 percent of the young stock, which has helped build the herd over the years.
“My rule is if they come to the hutch alive, they leave the hutch alive,” she said.
Efficiency. The farm ships 1 million pounds of milk per employee on the farm – that’s 13 million pounds a year. It’s an impressive target for any dairy, let alone one that pushes to ship enough milk to justify those who work in the fields or in the shop, not just the milkers and feeders.
“Employee efficiency is always a goal in the dairy industry. Our numbers show we’re right on target,” Carmony said.
And deep down, there’s another reason for their paper trail.
“If we ever go broke, we can see exactly how we did it,” he said.
Far away. Though Stan and Karen Carmony’s farm is only 2 miles down the road from where Stan got started in dairying, and 7 miles from Karen’s dairy roots, both agree they’re light-years away from where they started.
The aerial photos chronicle their growth: A new freestall barn here, new silos there. Today’s herd is bigger, the facilities take more management, and labor is a tough issue.
Stan admits he hasn’t milked a cow in almost three years. He farms roughly 1,500 acres, with the headaches that come with owning or renting pretty much the entire neighborhood, maintaining tractors and feed mixers, and making sure employees are safe and productive.
Yet the couple sticks with it, no questions asked.
“Stan is very ambitious. If there’s not something going on, he just doesn’t know what to do with himself. Dairying is what he does,” Karen said.
And he’s got the pictures to prove it.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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