'You start over new'

  • NOMADIC FARMER: Dean Swager

    Bruce Shields

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Dean Swager moved his dairy farm from Southern California's Chino Valley to Idaho's Magic Valley in October of 2000.

Dean Swager:

"My father started in the dairy business in 1943 in the Bellflower area (in Southern California). He moved several times in that area and then moved to Chino in 1962. We had three dairies in Chino, and one went into escrow for development.

"We started out (there) with 325 cows and grew to milking 1,200 cows on a small piece of land. Well, now they're putting all these new rules down and no one can comply, and it's getting very hard to get rid of your waste. You end up trucking it wherever you can find a place to put it.

"There comes a time when you just don't fix anything. You start over new. You can't dairy on $70,000- to $100,000-an-acre land. So you look elsewhere.

"I will admit that the dairy industry has a lot of work to do to improve its waste-management practices. We are getting on it, although not as fast as the public would like us to.

"The people up here are not educated much on the dairy farming end. Their parents were involved in a dairy farm way back, when you could make a living with 100 cows. It just isn't so any more. The profit margin has gone from quite large to very slim."

Copyright © 2002 HCN and Guy Hand

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