To understand when Larry Dufek decided to commit to be a farmer of the future you have to look back almost 30 years. He is fourth generation in his family to be farming in Brown County Wisconsin just outside of Green Bay. His humble beginnings of milking 120 cows have grown in to a well-oiled, multi-barn operation with about 3,000 cows at two locations.
"It took and still takes a lot of hard work to maintain it and keep up on all the technology," Dufek says. He credits the family members working at his Dairyland LLC farm and a great community that has helped support him in New Franken, Wisconsin.
Beyond the support of his colleagues, peers and community, years ago Larry made a strategic decision to invest in technology, which has helped him stay relevant in a modern landscape.
Dufek began working with Land O'Lakes in the early 1990's and has been a member-owner for more than 10 years. "Land O'Lakes had a program back then that helped me with financials, balance sheets and laying out a plan on where I wanted to be in the future." Today Land O’Lakes has a similar Dairy Enterprise Services (DairyES) offering that helps members answer an often problematic question: What’s next for their business?
In 2018 his plan is still evolving and he's continually making changes to his operation to help him reach his goals on sustainability, efficiency and productivity. We asked Larry what being a modern dairy farmer look like to him?
What are 4 things you do that makes you a modern and sustainable farmer?
1. Larry operates a methane digester and bacterial scrubber: He's able to convert manure into energy and produce electricity on his farm. "We're just trying to recycle as much of the nutrients as we can." They're able to harness the methane gas and clean it. The end product is household grade natural gas, which is then used to power electric generators.
2. Water conservation: There are water meters on every barn that monitor the farm’s overall water usage "We're trying to lower our carbon footprint. Maybe even have a positive footprint running our dairy operation. Which has been exciting." By taking accurate measurements, they’re able to calculate water usage and regulate it from day to day or over longer periods of time.
3. Lighting upgrades: Each barn is roughly 6,000 square feet. They're in the process of replacing all the lighting with LED lights in three of those dairy barns. Doing so allows the farm to reduce its energy usage by 30-40 percent Dufek says. "Land O'Lakes helped us make this shift. It was unbelievable the cost savings we're seeing with this." Dufek has plans to convert to more LED lighting at his business.
4. Yearly sustainable audits: Each year Larry's operation goes through an independent third-party audit to determine how efficiently and sustainably the farm is running. The audit allows them to make the necessary adjustments in water, electricity and pathogen load measurements to help eliminate bacteria and anything unwanted in his final product. Land O’Lakes recently announced a partnership with EnSave as part of an Energy Efficiency Service to help farmers leverage real data from their operation to make practical, economical and sustainable improvements.
For Larry, farming is all about evolving with a constant goal of modernizing and driving continuous improvement.
"Sometimes things happen sooner than you want." Larry says, admitting that this approach hasn’t come without growing pains. "Other things, it feels like they take forever but at least you have a road map on where you want to go for future generations."
Strategic long-term planning has been key to his success. And charting his course with his family and partners like Land O’Lakes has helped him become and continue to be a farmer of the future.