December 22, 2022 at 5:06 p.m.

Still going strong

Lawrence marks 28 years as dairy inspector
Chuck Lawrence checks a milk sample on a dairy farm Dec. 20 in southern Minnesota. At 70 years old, Lawrence has been a dairy inspector for over 28 years and does not plan to retire in the near future.  PHOTO SUBMITTED
Chuck Lawrence checks a milk sample on a dairy farm Dec. 20 in southern Minnesota. At 70 years old, Lawrence has been a dairy inspector for over 28 years and does not plan to retire in the near future. PHOTO SUBMITTED

By Tiffany [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

LE CENTER, Minn. – Chuck Lawrence will turn 70 next month, but he does not intend on retiring from his job with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture as a dairy inspector just yet.
“My first goal was to hit 70 years old, but now my goal is to hit 30 years as a dairy inspector,” Lawrence said. “After that, who knows when I might retire.”
Lawrence has been a dairy farm and plant inspector with MDA for more than 28 years. A lot has changed in the industry since 1994, but a constant for Lawrence has been the camaraderie and interactions he has with the farmers he works with.   
“I like talking to all the dairy farmers,” Lawrence said. “I’ve met a lot of farmers, and I still have a few of the farmers I started with back in 1994.”
That is what that keeps the Le Center man from wanting to retire.
“I listen to the dairy farmer,” Lawrence said. “They tell me about their family, about their hardships, about milk prices and so on.”
The biggest change Lawrence has seen during his career is the introduction and use of technology. From computers to GPS and robotic milking systems, Lawrence said there are advances that have made his job easier.
“When I first started, we all relied on plat books to get around,” he said. “Now I rely heavily on GPS. Sometimes I look back and wonder how we did it back then.”
When Lawrence first started, he inspected 450 farms in three and half counties. Now, he inspects 280 farms in 22 counties. Over the span of 28 years, Lawrence has set foot on thousands of dairy farms. The farms he serves range in size from 11 cows to 3,000.
“I visit six to seven farms a day,” Lawrence said. “I also visit a few plants in my area.”
Dairy farmers like to visit with Lawrence, and being a dairy farm kid himself, Lawrence said he thoroughly enjoys those conversations.
Lawrence grew up on a dairy farm and milked 15 cows and farmed 110 acres, which supplies him with fond memories.
“We had cream cans and Surge buckets back then,” he said.
Lawrence said he had intentions of going into production agriculture himself, but he enlisted in the Army before high school graduation and was sent to Fort Carson, Colorado. Lawrence was trained in artillery but spent most of his time doing clerical work. He was never deployed.
“I did a lot of paperwork,” Lawrence said.
That work was preparation for his current job, which requires filling out forms and keeping records.
 After returning to Minnesota, Lawrence enrolled at the University of Minnesota in Waseca and obtained a two-year degree in agriculture business management.
After working at a feed mill and eight years for a Holiday Express gas station in management focusing on customer service, Lawrence became a field representative for Beatrice Cheese in Faribault. During his three years at Beatrice Cheese, Lawrence worked with the state inspectors on the farms. One of them encouraged Lawrence to apply for a state dairy inspector job that was open at the time. Lawrence followed the advice and secured the job.
“It was a good career move,” Lawrence said. “I definitely enjoy it.”
Two years later, the Beatrice Cheese plant closed. However, Lawrence was established in his new career.
Lawrence said when he first completed college and entered the work force, it amazed him that people would often stay at one job for 25 or 30 years.
“Once I realized that you can love your job, you can do it forever,” Lawrence said.
When Lawrence is not inspecting farms, he is taking care of his own animals. Lawrence has a hobby farm where he raises feeder calves and one Holstein, which he milks twice a day.
“My main hobby is the cattle,” Lawrence said. “I spend a lot of my time on my hobby farm. It gives me something to do on the weekends.”
As Lawrence looks forward to continuing as a dairy farm and plant inspector for at least a few more years, he said he sees his role as one part of an interconnected industry where eve-ryone wants to produce the best quality milk possible.
“We are all in this together,” he said.


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