Wednesday, June 18, 2014

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Farming is More Than All Right at All Wright Farms

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

It is hard for Alan Wright of All Wright Farms to put into words the love he has for his family and the wonderful feeling he gets when he works with the animals on their dairy farm.  Alan farms along with his mom, JoAnn, and father, Dan, as well as three of his brothers, Mark, Lon and Vince, in Delaware County.  He also has two other brothers and a sister who choose to work away from the farm. 

“Our farm has been in the family for a very long, long time,” Alan explains.  “We have been farming and milking at our present place since 1933.  Before that we farmed across the road where my parents live now.  We have been milking cows on this farm for over 29,300 days!  That’s twice a day every day!”

The Wrights milk around 180 cows, and they have an additional 15 to 20 dry cows.  Dry cows are cows that are about 8 weeks from calving.  The family farm hasn’t purchased any cows or calves since 1950!  “We raise all our heifers and they come back to be milked in our dairy herd when they calve at 24 months.  We feed out the majority of our bull calves as steers.  We also raise a few dairy goats for 4-H projects for our nieces and nephews.  These are for stress relief.  We enjoy being around them, “Alan says.

The farm is also made up of 1200 acres of soybeans, 1200 acres of corn, 125 acres of winter wheat and 250 acres of alfalfa hay.  “600 acres of the corn we produce is used to feed the cows.  All the hay is for the cattle, and the straw from the wheat harvest is used as bedding for the cows and calves.  We try not to buy any more feed than we have to.  We try to raise it.”

The milk from All Wright Farms is currently processed at either Dannon Yogurt in Minster, Ohio or Nestle in Anderson, Indiana.  The price of the milk stays the same.  Alan explains, “We are paid the same no matter where it goes.  The co-op calls the milk hauler who picks it up at our farm and tells him where to deliver the milk that day or week.  We don’t have any say about the matter.  They market it and find a buyer for our milk.”

Alan also sits on the board for the American Dairy Association of Indiana (ADAI).  “I was asked a few years ago to represent our milk cooperative (the co-op that buys and markets our milk) on the board of directors.  There are 18 board members from different co-ops who sit on the board.  Our job is to make sure the milk in Indiana is promoted in a way that maximum marketing opportunities exist.  We want the moms and dads to get their children doing ‘dairy!’  Each board member must be a dairy farmer producing milk in Indiana.”

Last month Alan represented all the dairy farmers in Indiana when he served as Rookie Milkman during the Indy 500.  Each year, during the greatest spectacle in racing, two board members from ADAI serve as the milkman and rookie each year.  “As the rookie, I got to hand a bottle of ice-cold milk to the winning car owner, Michael Andretti, and the winning crew chief in Victory Lane after the race.  It was a great thrill and humbling experience to represent not only the 1200 dairy farms in Indiana, but also dairy farms throughout the nation as the Rookie Milkman. 

“One of my favorite moments of the event was the chance to ride on the American Dairy Association of Indiana float in the 500 Festival Parade.   Ken Hoeing, who was the Milkman, and I got to wave and hold a bottle of milk for about 300,000 people to see.  It was so fun promoting the one thing that we both lovemilk!  Ken was such a great mentor for me.  He was always there to help get me through interviews and let me know what to expect along the way.  Next year, I will move up to serve as Milkman, and I will get to give the winning driver a bottle of ice-cold milk in Victory Lane.  Another board member will be chosen to be the Rookie.  I hope I can be half as good to the Rookie Milkman next year as Ken was to me,” Al says.

When asked what he wished the general public better understood about dairy farming, Alan said, “I wish they understood how much time and energy we put into keeping our cows and calves healthy and happy.  Each day we spend more time with them than we do our family.  That is why family is so important to me.  My kids still enjoy helping with milking and feeding.  You don’t get up in the middle of the night, 7 days a week to do the morning milking unless you love your animals.  It is not an 8 AM to 3 PM job, but rather a 3 AM to 8 PM job.  Once the love of dairy farming is in your heart, it remains there no matter what happens.  A retired dairy farmer (if there is such a thing) will always be a dairy farmer.”

Follow All Wright Farms on twitter: @AllWrightFarms

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