June 23, 2023 at 9:45 p.m.
Past, Present, Future
Family ties dairy together
When it comes time to put up hay, Gerald Lieser, 86, climbs into the tractor to pull the chopper and will gladly remain there until the job is done.
His son, Don Lieser, hauls wagons as Don’s wife, Irene, runs the merger and also makes sure every family member is fed.
Their daughter, Sara Ranta, helps on the farm, and her husband, Jason, runs the bagger. The couple also handles milking 80 cows twice each day in a tiestall barn.
Sara and Jason’s children also pitch in.
Eleven-year-old Logan eagerly rides along and counts down the days when he can farm alongside Jason and also his grandpa and great-grandpa.
“It feels good to see family helping out like that,” Jason said. “I’m really grateful for everybody here and that we can all work together.”
“It’s pretty cool to know that we have four generations working together on our farm,” she said.
Gerald drives tractor and does fieldwork, and Don stays busy doing the various other odd jobs around the farm.
“Farming is (my dad’s) life,” Don said. “He loves helping out and is always doing something.”
Besides milking cows, Jason and Sara feed calves with help from four of their seven children who are at home – Gabe, LeAnna, Logan and Addilyn. The children help according to what their ages allow. There is one more child on the way, due this November.
At the beginning of this year, Jason and Sara took ownership of the cows and are now working together with Sara’s parents to transition into full ownership of the farm.
“I don’t come to the barn unless they ask me to come out,” Don said. “Then I will gladly come out and help them, but it’s their animals now. We have a decent herd, and if they take care of the them as I did, (the cows) will take care of them.”
Working together is a natural fit for the Lieser and Ranta families. Don knows the land and has over 40 years of experience to share with Jason and Sara as they move their farm forward.
“It is nice to have someone there to go to for advice,” Jason said.
Don said they all contribute in that respect.
“We bounce ideas off each other every day,” he said.
Prior to taking over the dairy, Jason was working for a trucking company, and Sara was teaching and managed a day care.
It had long been Jason’s dream to dairy farm even though he did not grow up on a dairy farm.
“Once I was old enough, I just started working on farms every chance I could,” Jason said. “I worked for all kinds of farmers, but I really liked the dairy farming. That was my favorite.”
Over the years, Jason worked for various farmers, took construction jobs and did trucking, but he never gave up on his dream to dairy farm. He reached a point in his trucking career where he either needed to stop or create his own trucking company. It also just so happened that Sara’s parents wanted to retire.
“I’m happy every day now,” Jason said. “I like waking up in the morning now. I missed being around animals.”
Once Jason and Sara decided they wanted to take over the farm, they waited one year before they came to an agreement with Don and Irene on buying the farm.
“I wanted to make sure they knew it was a 365-day commitment and that there are good days and there are bad days,” Don said.
Everyone agreed on the transition plan, and Jason and Sara had time to get to know the nutritionist, veterinarian, agronomist and seed salesmen Don had worked with.
The families attended farm transition workshops and have incorporated ideas they learned.
Even though Don and Gerald consider themselves retired, they are outside every day, helping with the various tasks of dairy farming.
“I have to stay busy,” Don said. “If somebody needs help, I will help them out. It’s in my blood and how I was raised.”
Gerald is the same way and is thinking about visiting his daughter in Montana to help her family cut hay.
“I like doing fieldwork and keeping up with the maintenance,” Gerald said.
One thing to which everyone on the farm agreed is the importance of family.
Jason and Sara will be raising their family on a dairy farm, just how Sara was raised and how the many generations of the Lieser family were raised.
“It’s a good way to teach responsibility, how to work together and work ethic,” Sara said.
Jason and Sara are already seeing their children’s interest in farming grow as they work side by side.
“I want to be a farmer when I grow up and take over this farm,” Logan said.