Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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June 14, 2013

Local dairy operations featured in virtual tour

Three local dairy farms are taking part in a national virtual tour of such operations this month.

According to the American Dairy Association of Indiana, the public is invited to take the virtual tours as part of its “30 Dairies in 30 Days” event during June’s National Dairy Month.

The dairy visits can be accessed at www.WinnersDrinkMilk.com/30dairies.

Knollbrook Farm

The featured farm in the Goshen area is Knollbrook Farm. An interactive map pinpoints the 30 featured farms located throughout the state, according to the association. A click of the mouse takes visitors to each and every farm, where the families’ stories and photos are shared.

According to the association, John and Cynthia Adam moved to Knollbrook Farm in 1986, right after they were married. The farm is called Knollbrook because it is on a small knoll by Solomon Creek.

When they started the farm the Adams had four cows and no large equipment. But they had a dream. Both worked off the farm to build up the equity they needed to purchase cows and equipment. Cynthia finished school to become a registered dietitian and John sold computerized livestock feeders and had a custom silage bagging business. The Adams began dairy farming full time in 1998.

Today the couple and their four children farm 370 acres and milk 90 Holsteins and Jersey cows. The Adams were the 2012 Elkhart County Farm Family of the Year. Knollbrook Farm is a working dairy farm, but the family also runs a tourism show — with a pumpkin patch and corn maze every fall. Visit www.knollbrookfarm.com for more information.

Crystal Valley Dairy

The featured farm in the Middelbury area is Crystal Valley Dairy Farms operated by Mike and Rhonda Yoder.

According to the association, Mike graduated from Michigan State University Institute of Agricultural Technology in 1974 and after five years working on a Michigan dairy farm, he returned to his family’s farm in Middlebury to start a new dairy with 30 registered Holsteins and one new wife, Rhonda. In 1989, a new free-stall barn was built and the herd expanded to 130 cows.

In 1998, Mike entered into a partnership with a neighboring dairy farmer — Mike Lee. They founded the Udder Guys Co. LLC and Crystal Valley Dairy Farms. The new partnership expanded the facilities with an additional 400-cow free-stall barn and the milking herd was expanded to 450 cows. The crop farming enterprise grew to around 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans.

In 2007, the Udder Guys partnership was dissolved. Mike Yoder remains as owner of the dairy operation, Crystal Valley Dairy Farms. The farming operation now includes 265 acres of corn and hay, milking 450 cows and raising 500 head of replacements or young cattle. The day-to-day operations are managed by John Hochstetler and six full-time employees. Mike’s wife Rhonda is a full-time vocal music teacher at Jefferson Elementary School and in addition to farming, Mike serves as a county commissioner.

Oneeda Farms

Hibschman and Holsteins have been synonymous in the Syracuse area since 1929 when Clee Hibschman, became a member of the National Holstein Association. The farm is now owned by Clee’s grandson, Joe, according to the ADAI. With Joe’s son Roger and several grandchildren involved, the farm is now in its fifth generation dairy farming with pedigreed Holsteins.

The goal of Clee and his two sons, Leonard and Oliver, was to breed better Holstein cattle. In 1937 they hosted the first Elkhart County Holstein show in a pasture field on their farm. After marrying, both sons started their own herds within 1½ miles from Clee. Oliver purchased land in 1943 and established the dairy farm were the family still resides. Over the years, Oneeda Farms has grown from 16 cows in a stanchion barn, to 56 cows in comfort stalls, to the present 200 cow drive-through barn with a modern milking parlor that can milk 16 cows at a time.

In 1977, Oneeda received its first of 21 Progressive Breeders Registry awards — a highly competitive award given to farms with top-quality, pedigreed Holstein cows. Joe has also received the Indiana Master Breeder Award.

Over the years, the Hibschmans have tried to improve the land using conservation practices such as waterways, crop rotation, and using a cover crop to protect our soil during the non-producing months of the year. The Hibschmans use a nutritionist to develop the perfect feed for the cows while using some pasture and provide certain elements for cow comfort.

The farm family is dedicated to their cows, and likes to say, “We don’t just keep Holsteins — they keep us!”

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