Life on a dairy farm can be both rewarding and challenging. Farmers have a love of the land, their cattle and a passion for providing food for consumers. Imagine working over 16 hours a day, seven days a week in the elements no matter the weather - in cold, snow, rain, or heat. Becca Tucker, a 5th generation dairy farmer at Mid-View Farm in Jefferson, knows this quite well. Mid-View Farm is a 500 acre family dairy farm with 370 cows, owned and operated by the Tucker family - Becca’s parents, Stanley and Sandy, as well as her brother Justin. Becca and her family start their day well before the sun comes up to accomplish everything from milking cows and feeding calves, to trimming hooves, cleaning barns, and taking care of general herd health.
A graduate of Virginia Tech with a degree in Dairy Science, Becca’s plan coming out of college wasn’t to be a dairy farmer. After college, the farm was in need of additional help and not having locked down a full time job, Becca decided to lend a helping hand. As she says, the rest is history. Looking back she feels blessed to have the opportunity to work with family on a daily basis in a career she loves.
Mid-View Farm, one of 75 dairy farms in Frederick County, prides themselves in producing a high quality product, and taking the necessary steps to ensure cow comfort no matter what Mother Nature brings. First in 2006 and again in 2017 Mid-View Farm was recognized by Maryland & Virginia Milk Cooperative as the top quality herd, producing over 3 million pounds of milk. They give credit to their farm employees for being committed to detail.
Across the country, the dairy industry is facing a challenging time. Farmers have to make financial plans years in advance. When milk prices are high, the goal is to pay down debts and start to save for dips in the market and times of lower milk prices. However, dairy farmers have experienced multiple years of low milk prices, making it difficult to breakeven. Milk pricing is complex, influenced by a combination of supply and demand forces as well as federal dairy programs that set minimum pricing standards. In addition, over the last several years that pricing has become increasingly unstable, leading to a lack of predictability for farmers.
Higher costs of land and living in this region has placed added pressure on Frederick County dairy farmers. According to the University of Maryland Extension Service, the breakeven price for Maryland Dairy farmers is $20.88 per hundredweight of milk (one hundred pounds is roughly equal to 12 gallons of milk). Today, farmers are receiving just over $16 per hundredweight of milk.
Family businesses can be hard on the best of us. The Tucker Family has learned to overcome many obstacles through family meetings that involve difficult discussions, which is especially important with the current state of the dairy industry. Sustaining a dairy operation of this size, with current milk prices, has a huge impact on everyday operations, and requires that farmers be as efficient as possible and minimize cost wherever possible.
Their advice to other family businesses, “good communication and good relationships, to respect different opinions and coming together to make the best decision for the business is essential in a successful operation.” For the Tucker Family and all farmers across the country it is their love of farming that keeps them persevering.
When you are out at a local store, be sure to support Frederick County farmers and purchase some of nature’s most nearly perfect food, milk.