September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

A catalyst for the industry

Anderson receives award for his work in Farm Business Management Program
Tom Anderson received the Outstanding Postsecondary/Adult Agricultural Education Program award from the National Association of Agricultural Educators in November. Anderson is the Farm Business Management instructor for Riverland Community College in Plainview, Minn.  (Photo by Krista Sheehan)
Tom Anderson received the Outstanding Postsecondary/Adult Agricultural Education Program award from the National Association of Agricultural Educators in November. Anderson is the Farm Business Management instructor for Riverland Community College in Plainview, Minn. (Photo by Krista Sheehan)

By By Krista M. Sheehan- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

PLAINVIEW, Minn. - Tom Anderson sees a bright future for the dairy industry and hopes his work can continue to help farmers.
"I'm just a catalyst to host discussions and run numbers to see what works on the farm," Anderson said about his job as a farm business management instructor at Riverland Community College.
The National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) sees Anderson's work as a "catalyst" as a vital aspect in progressing dairy farms forward. Anderson's Riverland Community College Farm Business Management Program in Plainview, Minn., was one of six in the nation to receive the NAAE Outstanding Postsecondary/Adult Agricultural Education Program Award. Anderson accepted the award in November during the NAAE annual convention in St. Louis.
"I was humbled to be considered a good program. It's more about the farms I work with ... and of them for setting goals and business plans," Anderson said.
In his position, Anderson assists farmers with their accounting, balance sheets, cash flows and cost of production. Other areas he helps farmers with are milk quality, profitability, environmental stewardship, employee relations and family dynamics.
"I'm proud of how the farms have progressed in all these areas," Anderson said.
He sometimes also works with Southeast Region of Minnesota Dairy Initiatives program to help these farmers form teams for advice from a veterinarian, nutritionist, a fellow dairy producer, milk quality specialist and ag lender.
Anderson also works with a lot of producers to transition the farm from one generation to the next.
"I see the next generation come out of college and they are highly skilled in management. They are so capable, intelligent and knowledgeable, and they have such a passion for what they do," Anderson said. "They desire the skills and opportunity to be better and their attitude is so positive."
Families shouldn't be the only ones looking to transition. Older farmers with no one to pass their farm onto should be open to transitioning in a non-family young producer.
"There's a lot of land and wealth in the older generation, but at $7,000 to $10,000 per acre, young people can't make that work for farming," Anderson said. "That (non-family) transition is one we need to look at in the ag industry."
For many of the other farm business management instructors in the state, Anderson said many of them probably work several types of farms. Anderson, however, works mostly with dairy farmers. Only two of the 60 farmers he works with are not dairy producers.
"I was dropped into the land of dairy," he said.
Since February 1999, Anderson has had at least one dairy expansion every month.
"It shows a lot of growth in the dairy industry in southeast Minnesota," Anderson said.
One of the more recent growth trends has been in robotic milkers - an area Anderson has specialized in for about the past four years.
"I'm a real believer in that industry because southeast Minnesota is an area most conducive to family-sized operations because of the topography. We won't have 5,000 to 10,000-cow operations here because we don't have the flat level space to do that," he said.
Because of his specialty, Anderson has worked with farmers with robotic milkers in six states - Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana.
"Robots are one of the biggest changes in the dairy industry. This is a leaps and bounds type of move. It's not a way to get away from cows, it enhances the ability to understand the cows," Anderson said.
The different types of reports from the robot - such as individual quarter milk quality, body weight and temperature, and how much she ruminates in addition to many others - help improve herd health, which in turn allows dairy producers to improve production thus improving profitability, Anderson said.
"The cost for the technology is steep, but when you understand the industry and the cost that goes with it, you can see it can be cash flowed for increased milk production and exchange in labor," he said. "It's not meant for everyone. Robots require a higher level of management."
One of the greatest benefits of robotic milkers is enhancing the quality of family life because it allows for a flexible schedule, Anderson said.
"Robots allow dairies the ability to work as a family with 100, 200 or 300 cows," he said.
Working with farmers looking at robots and farms in transition are two of Anderson's favorite aspects of his job; however, one challenge in his career is the budget limitation.
"I want to be able to do everything I can to help the farmers, but sometimes I can't help everyone who calls me. There are not enough hours in a day to get everything done," said Anderson, who often uses both mornings and evenings in addition to daytime hours to meet with farmers. "There is a huge need for what we do."
The dairy industry is one Anderson has always loved to be a part of. He grew up on dairy farm in Preston, Minn. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, he taught high school agriculture in Cannon Falls for one year before moving to Plainview to teach ag for 18 years. Anderson has been with the Riverland Community College Farm Management Program since Dec. 1998.
The dairy industry is one he will continue to love, help and be a part of for many years to come because he wants to see dairy farmers succeed.
"I'm proud of the dairy producers I work with and the commitment they have to do a good job of dairying and to always improve their operation," Anderson said.[[In-content Ad]]


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