LAGRANGE — LaGrange resident Riley Lewis has been active with the LaGrange County 4-H program for years. A 10-year 4-H'er himself, Lewis now co-operates Lewis Century Farms, a LaGrange dairy farm, with his father. Lewis is a Purdue agricultural economics graduate and a seventh-generation dairy farmer.
Lewis and his father care for around 125 cows, producing approximately 24,000 pounds of milk per cow annually, which roughly translates to 3,000 gallons.
As lower milk prices are pushing many dairy farms out of business, the Lewis farm manages to do well, despite economic setbacks.
According to Doug Leman, executive director of the Indiana Dairy Producers, Indiana lost 10 percent of dairy farms in 2018. Already this year, Indiana has lost 5 percent of its dairy farms.
Leman attributes the decline of dairy farms to low milk prices, which lowers dairy farmers’ incomes.
Though many dairy farms in the country are struggling, Lewis still believes there still is a range of career opportunities in dairy farming.
“There are definitely so many careers in dairy,” Lewis said.
This is one of the many reasons Lewis wants to get kids involved in the newly founded LaGrange County 4-H Dairy Club. Through the Dairy Club, Lewis seeks to get children interested in dairy and raising cows and he wants to help build and develop the next generation of dairy farmers.
Lewis will be the first LaGrange 4-H dairy leader who will be offering an animal-leasing program. Lewis intends to rent out his calves during the 4-H season to youngsters who don’t have farms or room to house a calf.
Lewis’ dairy calf program will teach kids to train calves, put the calves on a halter, and have hands-on experience working with calves.
A LIFETIME OF INTEREST
Lewis himself comes from a long line of 4-H members and leaders, so he was destined to get involved with the LaGrange County 4-H program. Lewis began his 4-H career in the first grade as a pre-member, starting his actual membership in the third grade and he continued through high school. He believes that his time in 4-H taught him a number of valuable lessons, such as caring for animals and cooking, among other things.
“My mom made me join the food science club and at the time, I was not a big fan. But now, looking back, I’m glad I did it because it taught me so much about cooking. So, I now have a good understanding of food and cooking, a practical life skill,” Lewis said.
While growing up, Lewis’ father started to give him more and more responsibilities on the farm.
“My dad saw at an early age that cows were my thing,” Lewis said.
After graduating from Purdue last spring, Lewis now manages Lewis Century Farms with his dad and hopes to get more people interesting through the 4-H Dairy Club, forming the next generation of dairy-farmers.
Camden Chaffee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 314.