Farm Horizons, June 2013

Jopps are Carver County’s Farm Family of the Year

By Starrla Cray

Sunup to sundown, the Jopp family of rural Mayer works hard – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You can always find something to do on a farm,” said Rick, whose ancestors settled on the property in 1886.

Rick and his wife, Colleen, milk 100 Holsteins with their son, Ryan, who graduated from Watertown-Mayer High School in 2005. Rick’s brother, Phil, is a full-time employee.

The family also includes Rick and Colleen’s three daughters, who help on the farm as their schedules allow. The oldest, Heather, is a second-grade teacher in Litchfield, while daughters Krista and Alicia are recent graduates of the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.

On the farm, Rick manages the dairy cows, Ryan handles the young stock, Colleen takes care of the calves, and Phil does TMR (total mixed ration) preparation and feeding.

“Each person has their specific area in regards to day-to-day operations, but all can – and are expected – to help with the workload in all areas,” Colleen noted.

For example, Colleen often handles milking when Rick and Ryan are planting crops in the spring.

“It’s a nice time of year,” Colleen said. “It’s good to get done with winter.”

Fall is Ryan’s favorite season, when each year’s harvest (250 acres worth) is collected to feed the cattle.

In addition to growing their own feed, the Jopps also raise their own young stock.

“We calve all year-round – usually 10 per month,” Ryan said.

Calves are separated by age into nine sections, in a few different calf barns. The smallest calves have individual pens, making it easy for them to eat and drink.

“The dairy barn is the only original building on the farm,” Rick said. “Everything else we built.”

Previously, the calves were housed in old log buildings, which were gradually replaced with new structures every few years.

The Jopps keep an organized milking routine – 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day.

“The cows don’t like to get off schedule,” Colleen said.

For Colleen, who grew up on a dairy farm north of Watertown, the best part of the job is being outside and working with animals.

“There are so many . . . being your own boss, being outdoors,” Rick added.

Rick started taking over the family business right after he graduated from Mayer Lutheran High School in 1976.

“It’s always what I wanted to do,” he said.

Ryan, who is the fifth generation on the farm, feels the same way. His goal for the next few years is to “keep the farm at a profitable level.”

As for Rick and Colleen, their plan is to gradually transition farm operations over to Ryan, although they can’t see themselves fully retiring.

“Once you’re a farmer, you’re always a farmer,” Colleen said.

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