Do you work the same job as one of your parents? How about your grandparents? Maybe even their parents? One dairy family in Norwood Young America has been a dairy family for four generations. And soon, guests of the arver County Fair will be seeing them show off some of their prized cows.
Dennis and Lynette Feltmann have been NYA residents their entire lives, with Mr. Feltmann’s family having the farm since his grandfather’s time. They purchased the farm in 1978 from his father. Now his and Mrs. Feltmann’s sons are working on the farm as well with their own children, keeping the family tradition alive four generations strong. And while the farm is still mainly a dairy farm, it’s grown from something small to something a little bigger.
“When Dennis and I took over, we were milking 52 cows,” said Mrs. Feltmann. “Now we’re over 200.”
The farm originally started with about 20 cows, so in the time it’s taken to get to 2019, the farm has over ten times the amount of animals than before. But the increase certainly didn’t make it any less appealing for the Feltmanns and their children. In fact, now each child has their own area of work, and even the current set of grandkids are involved with harvesting crops or taking care of the animals.
“Once all the boys graduated and all that, they all had a chance to work off the farm,” said Mrs. Feltmann. “But they all wanted to farm.”
Chris, the middle son, is usually seen with the crops, whether harvesting, planting, or fertilizing to keep everything in check while also feeding calves. Chad and Corey, the oldest and youngest sons, do pretty much everything cow-related; feeding, milking, breeding, cleaning, you name a cow-related chore, those two are probably doing it. And their wives are involved as well. Heather, Chris’s wife, frequently helps with the calves and runs errands.
And it’s definitely not easy work. Mrs. Feltmann worked on the farm with her husband and family until her oldest son, Chad, was in high school. She then started working a job outside of farming as a form of insurance. Even now, though, she and Mr. Feltmann will lend a hand where and when they can.
“There’s no lack of work, that’s for sure,” she said. “There’s never usually a dull moment.”
Mrs. Feltmann runs the books (and is the boss if you ask Mr. Feltmann) while Mr. Feltmann does the morning milking and field work. It’s not hard to see why Mrs. Feltmann says there’s never a dull moment. But both stated that some of the physical work is no longer possible for them because of their age, so it’s a big relief to have help around.
While there have been some struggles, such as this spring, the Feltmanns have kept everything together. Nationally speaking, there’s a pretty serious issue in the dairy business with prices, and smaller farms are struggling to keep everything together. Flooding from this spring’s rains washed away acres worth of crops. While it didn’t happen to everyone, there’s no denying that many farmers had a rough year. As for how the Feltmanns kept going, it’s a mix of experience and perseverance.
“You just try to make ends meet, and sometimes you have to make cuts on things,” said Mrs. Feltmanns. “We just try to keep paying the bills. Hopefully the prices will come back.”
As for what’s the most rewarding aspect of this long-lived family farm, it’s best summed up by the patriarch.
“To see the younger generation grow up,” said Mr. Feltmann.
During the summer when the grandkids are out of school, the farm is also their daycare, according to Mrs. Feltmann. All of them are helping out in some way, and already most of them are involved with 4-H or the FFA in NYA. And all of them join in for the County Fair.
As far as the future, the boys are partners with their parents, and will keep the farm going. What their children will do yet is unclear, as the kids are still young. But a farm that’s been around for four generations isn’t likely to disappear, especially if a family that loves it as much as the Feltmanns keep it.
“Chris has always really liked working in the fields and Chad and Corey always loved animals,” said Mrs. Feltmann. “And all the other kids love coming out and seeing the animals and helping out.”
Speaking of the Fair, the Feltmanns will be there showing off their prized cows, roughly 20 from their herd. Some of them will be adults, some calves, some yearlings, but they are all special in some way. What goes into choosing a cow is left more to the sons, according to Mrs. Feltmann, but cows are rated on how straight their spines are, how their legs look, and their udders. They will be down at the far end of the dairy barn at the fair on Thursday and Friday of the County fair.