Producer Feature: Ryan Borntrager Kalona, Iowa

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Hello, my name is Cody Rasmus and I am a Farm Liaison for Kalona Farms. I am back again with another producer interview. As mentioned last time, I had the chance to sit down with a father, Merle, and son, Ryan, who are currently producers for Farmers Creamery. They have been shipping milk to Farmers Creamery since 2006. After talking to these two, it is clear to me why Ryan decided to pursue working on his family farm. These two are a lot alike and enjoy working together, unless they have me fooled! They both have a passion for taking care of the animals and producing the highest quality milk! Milking dairy cows goes generations back in Ryan’s family.  His grandpa started milking and then his dad moved to their current farm over two decades ago.

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Ryan is involved in almost every aspect of the farm’s operations.  When asked about why he enjoys farming and raising organic dairy cows, the first thing that came to mind was that he gets to work at home! Working at home comes with many benefits as well as a few downfalls. He likes to be his own boss and likes working with his dad. I laughed and asked who is the “real” boss? They both laughed and agreed that there is not a real boss, however, I got the sense that Merle (dad) still has final say! Ryan, enjoys working with the livestock. He enjoys the challenges and rewards while working with the cows. The final thing Ryan said was a major benefit of farm life is that it is very flexible. There are days that he has to do the job no matter what, but there are many days that he can decide what he is going to do that day. Ryan has an entrepreneurial spirit and has been experimenting with a couple new business opportunities. He recently started his own custom liquid manure hauling business. This keeps him busy and he enjoys learning new things about this industry. Along with farming, milking, and custom application,  Ryan also finds time to raise some beef cows. Raising beef cows has convinced him that dairy cows may be the better option! He said that dairy cows need more care and attention, but the end reward is much better. The one downfall, if you call it that, is that there’s work everyday of the week.  The work will not get done unless Ryan and his family are there to do it!

A “Normal Day” on the farm

I’m not sure there are many “normal” days on the farm for Ryan with the variety of tasks he does on a day to day basis.The one thing that remains the same is that there are 60 cows that need milked twice a day. He enjoys the fact the whole family gets involved in milking. Ryan is up everyday before the roosters think about waking the rest of the farm up. This did not seem to bother Ryan, but it doesn’t sound like fun to me! They spend about 2-3 hours as a family to complete each milking. Ryan and Merle complete chores and other tasks throughout the day, then it’s time to milk again. They begin milking again at approximately 4:30pm. It takes them another 2-3 hours to complete. By this time, it is getting dark and is time to hang it up for the day. While Ryan is not milking with the family or doing farm work with his dad, he finds time to complete other jobs. Ryan seems to enjoy his “normal days” on the farm.

Why Ryan Enjoys Working with Kalona Farms

Ryan and Merle shared the same reasons why they enjoy working with Kalona Farms. They like that Kalona Farms supports the local community of organic dairy farmers. Ryan also likes that their milk is used to produce high quality, minimally-processed organic dairy products. He is excited for the new production facility to open, which will create opportunities for his family’s operation as well as the Kalona SuperNatural™ brand.  Ryan enjoys the general assistance that they receive from the company.

Finally, I asked Ryan what he likes best about his field rep (me)? :)  All jokes aside he said he appreciates all that I do to help them out and keep them connected. He likes that we can talk about problems, as well as things that aren’t even related to anything farming. He knows he can reach out to me at any time for any reason, and that means a lot.  

Ryan looks forward to his family farm and businesses growing along with the growth of Kalona Farms.