September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
"There is nothing better than having your child want to continue what we have worked our whole lives to achieve," Colleen Jopp said. "Seeing that tradition continue is amazing."
The Jopps were recently recognized as the 2013 Carver County Farm Family of the Year. Rick and Colleen farm together with their son, Ryan (27), and Rick's brother, Phil (42) on their 92-cow dairy farm. They also run 280 acres of corn and alfalfa near Mayer, Minn.
"It's very humbling," Rick said of receiving the award. "To us this is something we do everyday."
"There are so many dairy farmers deserving of it," Colleen said. "Getting this is an honor. We love dairy farming, and it's something we don't do for the recognition."
Farming has been passed down through the generations in the Jopp family since 1886 when Rick's great-grandfather, Leopold, came from Germany and homesteaded the farm they are still on today.
By 1945, Rick's parents, Wallace and Bernett, took over the farm after serving in World War II. At that time, they were milking around 20 cows in two log barns.
"Mom would milk in one with a lantern and dad would milk in the other," Rick said.
After nearly 14 years milking in the log barns, Wallace built the stanchion barn with 29 stalls in 1959.
By 1976, Rick had graduated from high school and immediately came back to the farm.
"I never left," Rick said. "I enjoyed doing it. It was something I always wanted to do."
Only a year after coming back to the farm, the Jopps added 20 more stalls onto the stanchion barn, some of which were converted into tiestalls.
"It was something we needed to do because we needed more room," Rick said. "It provided us with more cash flow and the milk prices were good at that time."
Rick met his wife, Colleen, who also grew up on a dairy farm, in 1980, and they married in 1983.
By 1986, the Jopps built a calf barn, but a tornado passed through in 1997, and took down their loafing shed and destroyed the roof of that calf barn.
That same year, the calf barn was converted to a 27-stall sand bedded freestall barn connected to the stanchion barn, and their hay shed was converted to a calf barn.
"We looked at different plans to make feeding the heifers easier," Rick said. "This is what worked."
As Rick and Colleen's four children grew up, Heather (25) went into teaching second grade in Litchfield, Minn., Krista (22) started working as a nurse in Albert Lea, Minn., Alicia (22) is an exercise physician in Park Rapids, Minn., and Ryan came back to dairy farm with Rick after graduating from high school in 2005.
"He never left either," Colleen said.
"It's what I wanted to do," Ryan said. "I like the challenge every day brings. There is always something new going on."
With Ryan coming back, the Jopps added onto the herd in 2006 and added 36 more stalls to the freestall barn.
With cows in both the stanchion barn and freestall barn, the Jopps have their milking routine down to a science.
The cows in the stanchion barn are milked first with eight units. Once they are done, 16 cows from the stanchion barn are moved outside and they rotate three groups of 16 cows from the freestall into the stanchion barn to finish milking.
"It's pretty easy for us," Rick said. "It is set the way we like it."
"It's a smooth system," Colleen said.
Although the system has been working, Ryan has started thinking about alternative set-ups for the future.
"I would love to have a double-8 parallel parlor," Ryan said. "That's my goal."
In 2011, the Jopps built a new calf barn with two big pens for weaned calves and 18 individual stalls with heated floors.
"Last year was our first winter with the floors and they were great," Rick said. "The calves did really well with them."
With four people working on the farm, everyone helps with milking, but the rest of the responsibilities are split up. Colleen does the calf chores, Rick is in charge of cow repro and herd health, Ryan feeds and vaccinates the youngstock and does fieldwork while Phil feeds the cows and mixes the TMR.
"We really are a family farm," Colleen said.
When the Jopps get a chance, they attend dairy seminars to learn different ways to keep their farm successful.
"We usually pick sessions that fit our operation," Rick said. "We always pick up something new. It's good to see what's out there."
With as busy as the Jopps are, they are still proud to be dairy farming.
"We take pride in what we are doing," Colleen said. "Dairy farmers are the most responsible, intelligent and hard working people."
"It's a great place to raise our family," Rick said. "I'm proud we are keeping the tradition going. It has been in our family's hands for years.[[In-content Ad]]