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

Cows and cones

Gode manages dairy farm, Dairy Queen
(photo by Jennifer Burggraff)
(photo by Jennifer Burggraff)

By Jennifer Burggraff- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Not many dairy producers get to see the fruits of their labor being enjoyed by consumers on a daily basis, but Craig Gode does. He not only sees it, he serves milk in the form of ice cream cones and Blizzards to happy customers of the Staples, Minn., Dairy Queen.
That's because while owning and operating a dairy farm near Aldrich, Minn., Gode also manages the Dairy Queen in Staples.
It's a combination of careers that suits Gode perfectly.
Unlike dairy farming, managing a Dairy Queen was never in Gode's plans.
"I married into it," he said.
He married the owner's sister and soon found himself making ice cream cones and Blizzards on a daily basis, along with administering his regular managerial duties.
While he is no longer married, Gode continues to serve as the manager of the Dairy Queen in Staples to this day - a position he has held for the last 20 years.
"I like it," Gode said. "I can't think of any other job I would want to do."
Except, he added, dairy farming.
Gode was raised on a dairy farm in the Staples area. Like a bad habit, his passion for cows is something Gode hasn't been able to kick, though he has tried - several times.
After helping on his parents' farm, Gode dairied with his brother until the barn burned down around 10 years ago. He decided to start on his own eight years ago, purchasing a 40-acre farm in the area.
"I milked 12 cows [on that farm]," he said. "There was no barn cleaner in the barn, so I used a 4-wheeler with a pull-behind manure spreader. I didn't think that would work well in winter, so I ended up selling the place."
From there, he rented a couple facilities, one 65-cow tiestall barn and a 45-cow barn near his parents' farm. At the second rented facility, Gode's interest in registered animals sparked and he began building a herd of registered Holsteins.
When he began that endeavor, he said, milk prices were at $21 per hundredweight; then August 2009 hit, and with it $9 milk - not nearly enough to support a growing registered herd while purchasing feed and paying a full-time employee. Gode once again sold his herd, figuring that was the end of dairying for him.
"I said, 'This is it,' but then this place came up for sale. I had always wanted it, so I couldn't turn it down," he said.
Gode purchased his current farm in November 2009. By March 2010, he was milking cows again.
"All my life I've been in the industry," Gode said. "It's in my blood, and I just can't get rid of it."
Instead of giving up one passion for the other, Gode has learned to intertwine his two chosen career paths - dairy farming and managing the Dairy Queen - which, he has found, compliment each other nicely. His Dairy Queen job provides supplemental income and security while dairying is his outlet from a long day dealing with people.
"He has his social aspect at one place and his private life here [on the farm]; they are two different worlds," said Gode's son, Shawn (23).
To help Gode out, Shawn, who lives in Detroit Lakes, Minn., and is hoping to pursue a career in criminal justice, comes out to the farm to do chores a couple days each week. He enjoys the work, but has no plans to take over the farm, he said.
Gode's typical work day begins at 6 a.m., when he milks his herd of grade and registered Holsteins and four Jersey/Holstein crossbreds in his 30-cow stanchion barn. He owns 30 dairy animals, including his dry cows.
By 9:30 a.m., Gode has traded his chore clothes for DQ gear and is hard at work managing the daily happenings at the Dairy Queen. At 6:30 p.m., he heads home and is milking again by 7 p.m.
"My bosses have worked really well with me," Gode said.
He typically works at the Dairy Queen five days a week and is scheduled only one night shift during the week.
To simplify things, Gode keeps his farm work to a minimum. When a cow needs breeding, an A.I. rep is called in; preg checks are done through blood tests and all feedstuffs are purchased. Corn comes from the Bluffton, Minn., area and hay comes from neighbors and Bluffton.
"I don't own any machinery, just a skid loader," he said.
Gode has no plans to discontinue either career in the near future. In fact, he hopes to add on to his barn and has begun raising the heifer calves in order to keep replacement heifers on hand. In light of his interest in genetics, Gode would like to begin testing his own animals for genomics.
"I'll stay here as long as I can," he said.
As for the Dairy Queen job, he enjoys the one-on-one interaction with the people, educating them about the dairy industry when he can, whether it's customers or employees.
"A lot of the kids that work at the Dairy Queen have no idea where milk comes from," Gode said.
To enlighten them, he invites them to his farm.
"Visitors are always welcome," he said.
Working at the Dairy Queen offers Gode another perk: It's a unique way to see first-hand the fruits of his dairying labor - by serving customers delectable dairy treats.[[In-content Ad]]


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