Sauk Centre dairyman honored at national NFO convention
SAUK CENTRE, Minn. — Most days Harold Marthaler is more apt to work on the family's Sauk Centre dairy farm than travel several hundred miles to attend a national convention. But when he was named NFO's Upper Midwest Young Progressive Farmer, his parents encouraged him to go to Coralville, Iowa, to receive the award.
He's glad he did.
With his 14-year-old son Dominic watching, Marthaler was given a plaque and recognition by NFO members attending the annual event.
The experience was memorable for Marthaler and eye-opening for Dominic. The school student was greeted by many NFOers, Marthaler said.
"He was really interested in everything they were saying," he said. "At one point, when they were discussing the bylaws, I thought he was going to speak. He was really interested in what the people had to say."
Marthaler wants to repeat the trip again next year. They have been NFO members since his father, Alex, started their Sauk Centre dairy farm in the early 1970s.
"He thought it just made sense for farmers to work together to market their grain and livestock," Marthaler said.
NFO's collective bargaining system was important to the farm Alex started from scratch. The farm he purchased around 1972 needed repair, but once the barn was ready, he started milking 36 cows. Alex added an addition and doubled the herd size. By the time Marthaler joined the operation, they switched from buckets to a pipeline.
Today Marthaler and his parents, Alex and Darlene, and two of Marthler's six children, 16-year-old Anthony and Dominic milk 72 cows in the stanchion barn. They raise 1,600 acres of corn and soybeans. Some of the corn is sold as a cash crop and some is used in the cattle's ration. It's either ground or made into silage.
They also raise calves and sell feeder cattle.
Everything is sold through the NFO.
When dairy prices hit all-time lows last year, the family was approached by several companies offering 10 cents more per hundredweight for milk.
"It's not worth making that switch for just 10 cents," he said.
Marthaler and his mother handle the milking while Alex takes care of the bedding and feeding of dry cows. Anthony feeds newborn calves and Dominic assists with milking and feeding.