Jeremy Mursu checks the computer to see how cows are performing Nov. 2 at the Mursu farm near New York Mills, Minnesota. Jeremy is the third generation of Mursus to dairy farm. 
PHOTO BY TIFFANY KLAPHAKE
Jeremy Mursu checks the computer to see how cows are performing Nov. 2 at the Mursu farm near New York Mills, Minnesota. Jeremy is the third generation of Mursus to dairy farm. PHOTO BY TIFFANY KLAPHAKE

NEW YORK MILLS, Minn. – More than 1,350 guests have visited Mursu Dairy during the last 10 years. A brown guest book lays open at the dairy, awaiting visitors who come for a tour. It is the second book of its kind, the first had the names of more than 1,000 guests.
People from the neighborhood, county, state, country and around the world have made their way to Mursu Dairy to see the innovation of this small dairy farm near New York Mills. But now in addition to vast visitors, Mursu Dairy has been named the 2022 Minnesota Milk Producers of the Year.
 “We do what we can in our little corner of the world,” Tammy Mursu said.



The farm is run by Tom Mursu and his wife, Tammy, and their son, Jeremy Mursu, and his wife, Vanessa.
Tom said the award is an honor.
“We were shocked,” he said.
Minnesota Milk selects a farm from those who have been nominated. Nominees are touted as being innovative and open to the public.
Tom said Mursu Dairy has seen an uptick in interest ever since they put two robotic milking systems on their farm.
“We’ve always had an open door,” Tom said.
Tom has served on cooperative boards, and Tom and Tammy serve on the Otter Tail County American Dairy Association. Jeremy serves on the West Central Holstein Club board.
The whole Mursu family is involved in planning and implementing an annual visit to the farm by the New York Mills kindergarten class. Each year, the students come to the farm to see and learn about where milk comes from. Princess Kay of the Milky Way usually pays a visit to the school that day as well. The event started in 2014 as an idea between Tammy and daughter Bridgett, who is a kindergarten teacher.
Mursu Dairy has come a long way in the past 70 years. Tom’s parents started to rent a dairy farm near New York Mills in the mid-1950s. After a couple of years of renting, they bought the farm.
Tom’s dad, Martin, would get up every morning and milk 12 cows by hand. Then, on his way to his job at Wadena Silo Company, he would drop the milk off at the creamery. As Tom got more involved in the farm, the cow numbers slowly increased.
By the mid-2000s, Tom was milking 50 cows in the 36-stall tiestall barn. In 2012, the Mursus talked about improvements.
“That got to be too labor intensive so something had to change,” Tom said.
Their solution was to build a new barn and purchase two Lely robotic milking units. Construction started for the project in fall 2012 and was completed in June 2013. Today, the Mursus milk around 145 cows.
“Those first years, we had a lot of people come to visit,” Tom said. “It did not take long to fill the guest book Tammy had set out.”
The Mursus farm 500 acres of owned and rented land. They harvest dry corn, silage corn and high-moisture corn. They raise their replacements and forages.
“It was an excellent year for forage,” Tom said.
Jeremy farms full time with his dad and is in charge of robot maintenance, taking care of the cows, breeding and helping with fieldwork. He has been farming full time since winter 2008.
When Jeremy graduated high school, he went to Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls. While there, he took a course in taxidermy and then did taxidermy work for the next two years. He then pursued a degree in elementary education.
While Jeremy was student teaching in fall 2008, he realized that was not the career for him. Since then, Jeremy has been farming with his dad. Vanessa cares for their two children and helps when she can, especially in preparation for the kindergarten visit.
Tammy helps on the farm by feeding the calves and does the bookwork. The calves are housed in the original barn that is more than 100 years old.
Tom and Tammy’s son, Trent, is a welder in Detroit Lakes. Both Bridgett and Trent come to the farm to help at various times of the year.
Martin, 93, comes to the farm every week day.
Of Tom and Tammy’s 11 grandchildren, those who are old enough to join 4-H lease animals from Tom and Tammy and show at the county fair.
Tom and Jeremy are working with an estate planning attorney to transition the farm to Jeremy.
“I think flexibility is the way to go,” Tom said.
The flexibility is also why the Mursus decided to go with robotic milking in the first place. Because they are a small farm, they do not have any employees and wanted to have the flexibility to get other things done around the farm and off the farm. They never expected to have so much attention after putting in the robots. Almost immediately, the Mursus started to welcome visitors to see the robots.
“Robots are pretty common now, but when we first got them, it was a new thing,” Tom said.
Word spread about the new technology and soon friends, friends of friends, neighbors, community members and church groups were coming to the dairy.
Tammy keeps the guest book in the office of the barn, and it contains names of people from around the world. One memorable guest was a woman from Malaysia, who was living in New York City to attend college and made her way to Mursu Dairy. She came to New York Mills with some friends who had family in the area.
“She didn’t know the difference between a hay field and a corn field,” Tom said. “We let her feed a calf; that was an experience for her.”
The Mursus said she learned a lot while visiting Minnesota and left an impact they will not soon forget. Tammy said they helped her see the good of the American farm.
“She came to realize that farmers do take good care of their animals, and in turn, the cows take care of us,” Tammy said.




Cutlines:

Mursu Family 1: Photo Submitted
Tom (from left), Tammy, Vanessa, holding Johan, and Jeremy Mursu stand by their farm near New York Mills, Minnesota. The Mursus were named the 2022 Minnesota Milk Producer of the Year.

Mursu Family 2: Photo by Tiffany Klaphake
Jeremy Mursu checks the computer to see how their cows are producing Nov. 2 at their farm near New York Mills, Minnesota. Jeremy is the third generation to dairy farm.

Mursu Family 3: Photo by Tiffany Klaphake
Jeremy Mursu drives the tractor and ration to the freestall barn Nov. 2 at their dairy farm near New York Mills, Minnesota. Jeremy is the third generation of Mursus to dairy farm.

Mursu Family 4: Photo by Tiffany Klaphake
Tom Mursu adjusts the monitor of their robotic milking system Nov. 2 inside their barn near New York Mills, Minnesota. The Mursus use two robots to milk 140 cows.