Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Frericks named MMPA Producers of the Year

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 12/27/2012 8:35 AM

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MELROSE, Minn. — When it came to naming their Melrose farm, Glen and Sadie Frericks agreed Blue Diamond Dairy was a good fit.

The name is a combination of the names of dairies where they grew up, Sadie said. A blue diamond also is the toughest substance on earth and they are beautiful.

"After farming, I really appreciate the symbolism and the need for a certain toughness to be sustainable in this industry," she said.

Their work ethic and dairy development earned them Minnesota Milk Producers Association's Producer of the Year honors at last week's Midwest Dairy Expo.

Glen's home farm is two miles west of the couple's operation. Sadie's family farm is in northeast Minnesota along the Aitkin and Carlton County lines.

They met at the state fair, graduated from the University of Minnesota and settled in Cambridge. Glen worked for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture while Sadie worked for a newspaper and the Farm Service Agency.

They dreamed about the dairy operation they would own one day.

The opportunity presented itself sooner than expected. Sadie's father, in 2005, told the couple he knew they wanted to farm and told them to come to the home farm with no strings attached. They made the move in April and purchased cows in June 2006.

By the end of that July, they were asked to return to central Minnesota. Sam and Jane Salzl, friends of the Frerick family, needed a herdsman while Sam recovered from an accident. It would be a one-year commitment.

The couple made the move, but they had their own herd to consider.

"You fall in love with those cows in a short period of time," Sadie said. "We knew we didn't want to sell our cows."

They found temporary homes for their herd and helped the Salzls.

After their son Dan was born, they started looking for a dairy farm of their own. Their search focused on central Minnesota because of its strong dairy infrastructure.

They considered renting, but their dairy profitability team suggested buying. The couple redirected their search. Sadie went online using MLS and thought she'd found an operation near Holdingford. However, as she returned from a farm visit, she passed a farm near Melrose that caught her eye. As she investigated, Sadie learned the owner wanted to sell the 20-acre building site with an option to rent the cropland. Glen's great aunt and uncle had once owned the farm.

They purchased the site and rented the land plus additional cropland.

The couple now owns 75 cows, which are milked in a tie-stall barn. They raise alfalfa, corn and alfalfa established with oats on 200 acres.

They describe their farm as a hybrid, using production systems they grew up with. The cows go outdoors for a few hours a day for exercise and the heifers and dry cows are on a nearby lot.

The couple put mattresses in stalls for cow comfort and upgraded ventilation and lighting.

They have 90 acres of pasture with the dry cows and heifers on 30 acres.

Calves are raised in a group inside the dairy barn and fed through an automatic calf feeder.

They name each cow and follow its progress and production through a computer program.

The Frericks have made several improvements. Besides the calf feeder, they built a manure lagoon that was finished in 2009. The lagoon captures the runoff from the yards and has a one-year storage capacity.

They also purchased a new bulk tank in 2010 to accommodate increased milk production.

Their farm also has a small flock of laying hens and hogs and sheep. It's a great experience for their children, Dan and Monika.

A relief milker takes over the evening milking one day a week and during vacations. It's important to have that time away from the farm and to focus on each other, she said.

The Frericks are considering a parlor or robotic milking system.

The couple told their story at an break-out educational session during the Dairy Expo. They encouraged young farmers interested in dairying, but said they should consider making improvements in increments.

They stress the importance of family, friends and neighbors.

"We wouldn't be able to do what we do without them," she said. "Having that help and support is crucial."