PIERZ - Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher on Monday wasted little time establishing her farm credentials when she toured Marshik Dairy in rural Pierz.
Although she represents a Minneapolis district, she proudly told those assembled for a Minnesota Milk Producers Association farm tour that she was the 1985 Blue Earth County dairy princess.
"I think you're the hardest-working people in Minnesota," the DFLer told the dairy farmers.
Later, at a lunchtime meeting, Kelliher, who grew up on a dairy farm, said young people should be encouraged to enter or stick with farming.
Clare Palmquist (second from left) and her husband, Dean Marshik (far left), explained the workings of their rural Pierz dairy barn Monday to area dairy producers, dairy industry representatives and state lawmakers. Among the lawmakers were Rep. Al Doty (fourth from left) and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (fifth from left). More photos may be seen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"Our jobs (as legislators) are important but they're not the backbone of our state," she said. "I truly believe there is a brighter future for dairy farmers in our state."
Marshik Dairy is a fifth-generation dairy farm but Dean Marshik and Clare Palmquist indicated their children are not certain they want to pursue the family business.
"They don't want to work that hard, dang it," Palmquist said.
The farm has been owned and operated by Marshik and Palmquist since 1999. Dean farmed with his parents, Don and Bonita Marshik, from 1981 to 1999. The property was bought by Dean's great-great-grandfather, Joseph Marshik, in 1880.
They milk 81 Holstein and Holstein cross cows. The farm has 510 tillable acres of corn, alfalfa and grass. They own 370 acres and rent another 253. In all, there are 99 milk cows and about 225 animals on the farm.
Palmquist said they mix 3 1/2 tons of feed a day for their cows. The milk is stored in a 2,000-gallon tank that's "never full enough," in Marshik's estimation.
While the farm couple tracks milk production on a computer and cuts electrical costs by using a wind turbine, Marshik pointed out a few buildings they would like to replace if they could generate more revenue. However, with milk prices at their current level, Marshik said "that's not going to happen." Among the buildings he'd like to replace is a 1914 barn with a deteriorating foundation.
Rep. Al Doty, DFL-Royalton, and Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher chatted on Monday with other tour members at the Dean Marshik and Clare Palmquist farm south of Pierz. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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Their strategy of holding off on improvements was echoed by a neighbor Gregg Stangl.
"We're not spending any money in the community because we don't have it," Stangl said.
Marshik said the dairy operation is just close to breaking even this year.
Galen Stumpf, a rural Pierz dairy producer, said there have always been price fluctuations for dairy products. He said he doesn't like to complain because he made the choice to be a farmer.
At the luncheon at the Old Bank in Pierz, Rep. Al Doty, DFL-Royalton, and Rep. Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul, thanked the dairy producers for the tour. Doty said the problems of family farms and rural cities are closely related. Lillie described his family as avid consumers of dairy products and said that his urban district is only 14 square miles compared to the more expansive rural legislative districts.
Marshik said government regulations can sometimes be a barrier to a successful dairy operation, particularly when non-agricultural residences start to locate in what formerly had been strictly farm country. He said he's confident Minnesota's farmers are up to the challenge of competition from other states.
"Our farmers can compete with anybody if we're put on a level playing field," he said.
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.
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