It was well over 90 degrees when I visited the Grammer Jersey farm in Sebring on Tuesday. Or at least it felt like it. But instead of hearing a group of young adults and teenagers complaining, I had the joy of meeting the future of the dairy industry.

The Jersey Youth Academy is a program funded by an endowment supported by USJersey (American Jersey Cattle Association). It brought along students from across the country wanting to learn about one thing: the dairy business and, more importantly to them, the Jersey breed.

These young people were fired up and they weren’t afraid to show their enthusiasm. And I have to tell you I haven’t been impressed with a group of young people like this in a long time. It wasn’t because of their accomplishments or where they came from to get to Ohio. I was impressed because they showed genuine interest in the dairy business and they asked questions. Actually, a lot of questions.

Bill Grammer, co-owner of Grammer Jersey Farm, led the tour at the beginning and talked about his operation, and milking 600-plus cattle in a confinement setup.

And from there, these students took over. I couldn’t believe the questions they had for Grammer. They asked questions for every bit of 45 minutes and no one was shy about asking anything.

They asked about production costs due to the confinement operation, labor management, airflow and barn design. How about growing the farm? Internships? Pregnancy checks? Using a bull vs. artificial insemination, sexed semen?

The group didn’t end their questions there. They continued on with questions about bedding the cattle, sand vs. straw or sawdust and price comparison, and if Bill had considered a methane digester.

These youth were on top of their game and it was clear they were on a mission to learn everything they could about other dairy operations in the hope that they can use that to either further their operations, whether they were in California, Oregon or Rhode Island.

They were not only asking questions, but listening to the responses given as well. As I looked across the crowd, you didn’t find them talking and whispering to each other. It was clear, their attention was on the cows in the barn as we stood there and on Bill, who didn’t back away from any questions, the young people threw at him.

As I stood there listening to these youth, I was not only impressed, I began to smile. I realized these young adults were the future of the dairy business and it was in good hands.

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses with her husband, Kurt. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism.
Kristy Foster Seachrist
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