RAVENNA, Ohio — Zach and Kelley Alger both started college, but couldn’t stomach the thought of a desk job.
The Alger cousins, from Portage County, Ohio, work with their dads, David and Rick Alger at Grac-Glen Farm.
The brothers never limited their sons’ involvement in high school sports or put pressure on them to farm, said Kelley, who started at the University of Akron in criminal justice.
Once Zach, 33, and Kelley, 32, had a taste of living away from the farm, they missed it.
“I missed experiencing the seasons changing,” Kelley said, reminiscing about farm activities and chores that change seasonally.
Zach graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in agricultural engineering. He loved the thought of testing big equipment, but soon realized that job required desk time.
On the farm, they enjoy being their own boss, working hand-in-hand with their fathers managing about 1,500 acres and 220 milking cows and a 600-cow herd.
“The four of us are just so intertwined — we all make decisions,” Zach said. “We talk through bigger decisions until everyone is onboard.”
The Algers, along with five full-time employees, keep the cows milked three times a day, and the chores and field work done.
Education: Started degree in criminal justice, University of Akron
Education: B.S. agricultural engineering, University of Nebraska
Head of cattle: Milk 220, total herd 600
They are trying to keep a diverse balance as agricultural prices stay low. For example, the Algers raise all of their steers and sell them at the livestock sale at about 20 months.
“We want to have the security of each area — dairy, grain, beef — so if one is lacking, the other will pick up,” Zach said.
Many dairies have stopped bonuses or started taking deductions if milk components are below a certain level.
The dairy they ship their milk to, Minerva Dairy, started deductions if their protein is below 3.3 percent, which has hurt the Algers’ bottom line.
Urban sprawl.“We’re not looking to expand right now — not much land to expand to,” Zach said about urban sprawl. “As far as owning additional ground, at $7,000 an acre, we can’t make it on $3.50 corn.”
“There aren’t huge chunks for sale, but anything we’d even consider better be next to something we already own or it’s not worth the trouble,” Kelley said.
They have seen increased road traffic over the years as a Sheetz gas station and a high school has been built on nearby land they used to rent.
They take the long way around through fields when driving equipment, trying to stay off the road as much as possible.
“These people are crazy,” Kelley said as he looks toward the road, State Route 44. “They have no patience to brake for us.”
The Algers have embraced technology in some ways — like using the best seed genetics or an app to track rainfall — but they still prefer the eyeball test over gadgets.
Right now, as they try to cut costs and streamline processes, they don’t see the value in paying for extras.
Both Zach and Kelley have young children, and they hope to give them the same opportunity to grow up on the farm — and a chance to stay on the farm — like they had.
“Riding with Dad in the tractor and banging the back of my head on the window — and not caring. Kids today are spoiled with their buddy seats. And safer as they have their own buckle now.” — Zach
“Doing hay and beginning each morning seeing Dad first thing. Being old enough to cultivate or side dress corn on your own was a big deal.” — Kelley