April 10, 2023 at 3:13 p.m.
New Jersey native embraces central Minnesota
Baldwin dreamed of being a dairy veterinarian since he was a young boy.
“I love dairy cows; that is my passion,” Baldwin said. “If I could do dairy medicine every day I would.”
He is doing just that at the Freeport Veterinary Service in Freeport where the majority of his clients are dairy farmers. Baldwin and his wife moved there seven years ago and enjoy raising their two children, Levi and Ella, in Minnesota.
“I have really enjoyed how inviting all the community has been,” Baldwin said. “When I first moved here, all the farmers were very intrigued to learn about where I came from. They were very accepting. Everyone is very willing to help, offering to help with this or that and suggesting places to go out to eat.”
Baldwin grew up on a small dairy farm in northwestern New Jersey. Baldwin’s dad, Steve Baldwin Sr., did not grow up on a dairy farm but started to raise dairy calves as a hobby. Those calves grew into cows, and before long, the senior Baldwin was milking 10 to 15 cows with buckets. Baldwin’s dad maintained a full-time job in town; the farm remained a hobby.
“He would spend nights and weekends making hay and planting corn,” Baldwin said. “We fed the milk to the calves until my brother got older and took an interest and wanted to have a full-fledged dairy operation.”
Baldwin’s father has now retired from his job in town and helps his son run the dairy farm and a custom chopping business. Together, they milk about 80 cows in a parlor.
There are not many dairy farms in New Jersey. Baldwin said the urban sprawl is making it increasingly difficult for farmers to keep going.
“Most farms are 60 to 100 cows,” Baldwin said. “If they get any bigger, manure management becomes a big issue because of the urban sprawl. There is not a lot of available land.”
The dairy farmers in New Jersey do not have the infrastructure like they do in Minnesota, he said.
“When my dad has to make a parts run, he goes to Pennsylvania,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin also went to Pennsylvania for college for his undergraduate degree. After, he was accepted to Purdue University in Indiana for veterinarian school. He only stayed there for two years and transferred to Ross University on St. Kitts Island in the Caribbean. For his fourth year of veterinarian school, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“The best part of my journey is the fact that every university was able to do something that I value in my career today,” Baldwin said.
Accompanying Baldwin through his travels and schooling was his high school sweetheart, Brittany. They were married once Baldwin finished his undergraduate degree.
Just prior to graduating veterinarian school in Wisconsin, a friend of Baldwin’s approached him with an idea: to contact Tom at the Freeport Veterinary Service and apply.
“I was pretty set on staying in Wisconsin,” Baldwin said. “I wasn’t even really looking at the time for jobs yet. But, I sent my resume and that same day Tom gave me a call. He said he would like me to come up to Freeport and have an interview.”
It just so happened Baldwin was already in Minnesota doing an externship with the University of Minnesota.
“I drove up here are 6:30 a.m., and I’m from a small town in New Jersey but not Freeport small,” Baldwin said. “I stopped at Charlie’s Café and there was a couple of older gentlemen at the counter. I looked around and said, ‘Oh boy, I could do this, but could my wife handle this small?’ We took the plunge, and now, it’s been seven years. We are very happy we did.”
Baldwin said the biggest difference from New Jersey to Minnesota are the relaxed personalities and the weather.
“People here are always asking what’s the weather like; it’s a big deal,” Baldwin said. “I remember as a kid getting 3 to 4 feet of snow at one time. It would be gone in a week because it wouldn’t stay cold. Here it is little storms all the time all winter long.”
Even with the cold, the snow and the wind, Baldwin said he and his wife are glad they came to Minnesota.
“The clientele here is so awesome,” Baldwin said. “I could go to a 10-cow dairy and a 4,000-cow dairy in the same day. Two completely different style of dairying, but I was able to help both of them in the same capacity. I have some older farmers who are just doing their thing milking their 50 cows, happy as a clam, and I have families putting up robots and always looking for ways to better their operation. I love that variety.”