For the farm, change is inevitable. For the farmer, change doesn’t change the basics. It just means…get back to work!
West of Harmony, the Schriever family farm is working through their fourth generation and the fifth generation is rising.
The history is there. Its grassroots’ origins transformed into deep anchoring across generations.
Harry and Ruth Mouw lived and farmed before the Great Depression. Farming was different back then. Most farms were diversified, meaning multiple types of animals were raised and sold or used for income.
Besides their crops, farmers also grew a garden to self-sustain their families and, if there was surplus, provide another source of income. The Mouws established their little farm near Harmony and had a dairy herd numbering around 20 cows.
The milk from the herd was bottled and sold in the local towns. Several dairies, including the Mouws’ had areas of Harmony where they delivered their milk on a regular basis. At this time, more farmers were turning to the Surge Bucket, a recent development in milk machine technology that improved product quality and quantity in both milk and cream.
At the time the Mouws were establishing their farm, the Schrievers were dairy farming in the Oronoco area. In due time, Floyd Schriever married Carol Mouw and moved onto her family farm and continued the family business.
They had five children, Brit, Rita, Bruce, Kay and Crystal. Brit recalled never really liking the chore of washing out the milk bottles used in their deliveries to town. But he liked most everything else about dairy farming.
Following high school and further education in refrigeration and air conditioning, Brit worked in the Zumbrota area installing dairy equipment. He was also responsible for maintenance, an aspect of the job, like washing out bottles, he didn’t always enjoy! After four years in that line of work, he moved back to the farm.
Laughing, he shared that he much preferred responding to middle-of-the-night problems on his own farm than someone else’s.
The education and experience Brit returned with helped him as his parents retired and he took over the farm in the mid-70s with his wife, Larenda (Moger), who had grown up near Henrytown.
The size of the herd had stayed around 20 cows for several decades, but the dairy industry was changing. Growing dairy markets were demanding more for a larger population and the technology was making meeting that demand possible. Brit was able to double the size of the cow herd.
Brit and Larenda’s two sons, Jamie and Paul, were taking interest in the farm. They recalled their eagerness to be in the barn and help with feeding the calves and with the milking.
In the ‘90s, the Schriever farm experienced a trial when their barn burned down. Looking back at what was a time of great change, Brit said that having something like that happen was more of a motivator to keep up, to work harder.
The passion to manage a quality farm and keep the animals healthy didn’t decrease, it only grew and now, it’s been passed on again.
Paul always felt he would someday take over the farm. Following graduation from Fillmore Central High School, he attended classes at Riverland Community College in Austin for dairy management.
He married Nicole, who was from the city of Hayfield and had grown up in town. She joked about the “360” she made in moving out to the farm. It was different, but now she says she couldn’t ever imagine leaving it.
As the farm moved into the 21st century, Paul’s family has been working alongside his parents, which has been a strength to the rising generation.
Paul and Nicole have four children. The oldest, Faith, is a Fillmore County Dairy Ambassador and has been one for almost two years. She enjoys working at the local parades and festivals, Dairy Night at the Farm, giving out ice cream at local banks, and helping run a booth at the Fillmore County Fair.
Nicole said the ambassador program helps the children understand the impact of what they do on the farm at an earlier age.
“It gives them a jump start,” she shared. “Otherwise they have to wait until the can get involved with the Dairy Princess level.”
Nicole also explained that 4-H and other activities help instill the importance of the industry. Having parents and grandparents who have been engaged on the board of the Fillmore County American Dairy Association helps as well.
“The basics are important,” stated Brit, emphasizing the nature of what stabilizes the dairy industry through periods of change.
What was a local market back in his grandparents’ day is now a global market. Milking by hand has transformed in various ways through automated milking machines and methods to maximize product quality. Everything from agronomy to animal care has changed. Despite all the changes, they look at what will bring in the best return and evaluate how the opinions in the farming world impact that. It’s everything their grandparents would have done.
The Schrievers talked about how their ancestors wouldn’t recognize much of the technology, science and method behind dairying today. However, they would still know how it all works. Through hard work.
Their kids running around the farm, asking to help, is just like in the days and generations past. Faith, 10, helps catch cows that get out. Sarah, 8, helps feed the chickens. Landen, 5, rides with his dad in the tractor every chance he gets and asks for chores from his parents. And there is Brennah, at 4 years old, grabbing a bottle and handling a calf four times her size.
“The kids coming up will be able to adjust to changes,” said Brit, noting the qualities they see in Paul that were there when he was Faith’s age.
That’s where it starts. Being on call around the clock and working hard. There’s no changing that, even when changes and advancements are made as each new generation takes over the family dairy farm.