WATERFORD, Ohio — Dairy farmer Earl Schaad has gotten a lot done in his 90 years of farm life. And his successful efforts were usually through cooperating and working with others.
He and his wife, the late Dorothy Schaad, raised 13 children and operated a dairy farm in Washington County that is still doing well today. In January, he received a special honor from the National Farmers Organization — known as the President’s Award — for his commitment to NFO and the collective bargaining concept.
He’s been a member of that organization since 1964, and continues to be a proponent of working with other farmers, to secure profitable returns for the milk and other products they sell.
“That’s how this country was built, was by working together,” he said.
He sees agriculture as the main pillar of the economy, and believes the nation can best protect itself, by protecting the commodities farmers produce.
“If agriculture is the biggest industry that we have, and it in turn generates more money than any other commodity, does it not make sense that we can stabilize our economy, by pricing our raw materials?” he said.
Schaad grew up on a farm family in Morgan County. His father died when he was only 2, but he carried on the family’s love of animals and land, and in 1968, the family relocated to their current farm, on the banks of the Muskingum River, in the Washington County community of Waterford.
At that time, they had 40 cows. Today, they milk 400 Holsteins and farm about 1,500 acres in Washington and Morgan counties.
Schaad will turn 90 in April, and is mostly retired, but still involved with the decision making. The dairy is operated by his sons, Paul and Joe; grandsons Sion and Matthew; and various part-timers who help with milking and haymaking.
The Schaads milk three times a day, in a double-12 parlor, and are making good use of a newer, 520-foot cow barn they had installed in 2013. They bed with sand, and are seeing good production numbers, averaging more than 90 pounds of milk per cow, per day.
Years of service
Earl Schaad served about 20 years as a county NFO president, and about 10 years on the state board. The biggest reason he has stayed with NFO, he said, is because the organization negotiates and collectively bargains to get farmers a fair price.
The organization follows a basic principle that buyers of farm commodities “will always react” to the organized movement of supply.
NFO has helped organize supply in various ways over the years, including twice asking farmers to dump their milk in an effort to reduce supply and increase the price. Milk dumpings were held in 1962 and in 1967. Earl credits the latter dumping with ending steep losses and says it drove premium milk prices upward for 22 consecutive months.
Earl was given the national award Jan. 27 at this year’s NFO convention in Peoria, Illinois. It was a surprise up until his name was called, and his family came from all over to watch, from as far away as Texas.
The president of NFO, Paul Olson, visited the farm many years ago, and was impressed not only by the operation — but the operator.
“This guy inspired me, he just inspired me,” Olson said. “He served his country (World War II), raised a wonderful family, did what he enjoyed — farming — and did a heck of a job of it.”
Earl is happy with where the family farm is at today, and doesn’t see a lot of expansion in the future. For one thing, they’re a little landlocked, with the Muskingum River running through their property, and small fields that require them to truck manure away from the farm.
What Earl does see for the farm’s future is “work.” Not only the farm chores, but the need to protect and continue a profitable way of farming.
He also has a lot of concerns at the national level — that the government isn’t doing enough to support farm prices and profitability for private landowners. He said he’d rather see the government focus on better prices for farm goods than award subsidies.
He’s also concerned that more resources and freedoms are shifting over to the government, and that the country is drifting away from President Thomas Jefferson’s idea — that land should be in the hands of many.
“If you have to depend on somebody else for your food, then you’re a slave to that entity,” he warns. “I think the land needs to be diverse, because how easy would it be to move into a dictatorship with the government.”
Another issue, he said, is the ongoing battle with environmental regulations, and the fact that a fewer number of farmers means they have less political voice today.
“You need the government just as we were instituted: Of the people, by the people and for the people,” he said.
Faith and farming
While Earl has some strong opinions about government, his main focus is still his own farm and his faith in God.
Dairy farming has given him a lot of opportunities over the years, and it continues to do the same for his sons and grandsons.
Paul said being able to farm with his father for so many years has been invaluable — especially considering that Earl never got to farm with his own father.
“There’s somebody higher that you’re accountable to and it’s just kind of the way we were brought up,” Paul said. “I guess Dad looked to God, and we looked to (Dad).”
As son Joe puts it, their father is a source of wisdom and lessons are still being learned.
“You’re never too old to learn, and when you can fall back on the wisdom that my father has, it’s something you can bank on,” he said.
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