Kyle Moser stands in the double-8 milking parlor that he is leasing from Dale Swanson near Tyler, Minnesota. The parlor, which was built in 1980, had sat empty for 13 years before Moser and Swanson brought it back to life.
PHOTO BY JERRY NELSON
Kyle Moser stands in the double-8 milking parlor that he is leasing from Dale Swanson near Tyler, Minnesota. The parlor, which was built in 1980, had sat empty for 13 years before Moser and Swanson brought it back to life. PHOTO BY JERRY NELSON
    TYLER, Minn. – Even though he did not grow up on a dairy, Kyle Moser always wanted to be a dairy farmer.
    “When I was a kid, I decorated my bedroom with all sorts of dairy related things,” Moser said. “It probably drove my parents crazy.”
    Moser’s parents, Brian and Marlys, grew up on dairy farms, but both of them chose off-farm careers.
    “One of my favorite things to do when I was growing up was go to my grandparents Leon and Ida Moser’s dairy farm and help them milk,” Moser said.
    After graduating from Russell Tyler Ruthton High School in 2005, Moser enrolled at Ridgewater College in Willmar. He graduated from Ridgewater in 2007 with a degree in dairy management.
    In 2006, Moser began to work on the dairy farm that is owned by Roger Peters. The Peters operation is located a few miles south of Tyler.
    “I worked for Roger for nine years,” Moser said. “Roger is a great guy and a good friend.”
    As he worked for Peters, Moser began to slowly build up a small herd of Jersey cattle.
    “I really like Jerseys,” Moser said. “They have a good temperament and don’t eat much. They are very efficient.”
    In 2015, Moser decided to go out on his own with his 40 Jersey cows.
    “I was given the opportunity to rent and share the dairy facilities that are owned by Rich DeRuyter, located at Ruthton, Minnesota,” Moser said. “But I couldn’t find another facility to rent after the three-year lease was up, so I had no choice but to sell my cows.”
    Moser retained ownership of his 40 young Jersey heifers and resumed his position working for Peters.
    Eventually Moser found a home for his herd not too far from him.
    Dale Swanson owns a dairy farm that is located a few miles southeast of the Peters farm.
    “My dad, Howard, purchased this farm in 1966,” Swanson said. “In 1967, he built a double-4 milking parlor. This was one of the first parlors in this region. He also installed an underground pipe to transport manure to long-term storage. He was the first one in the state to do that.”
    After graduating from high school in 1976, Swanson enrolled at Ridgewater College where he earned a degree in machine tool technology. He then took a job in Minneapolis.
    “I only lasted nine months in the city,” Swanson said. “I couldn’t stand all the rush, rush, rush, so I came home to farm with Dad.”
    In 1980, the Swansons upgraded to a double-8 milking parlor and added a 140-cow freestall barn. They eventually grew their operation to the point where they were milking 250 Holsteins.
    Swanson began to notice the first troubling symptoms in the mid-1980s.
    “I could tell that I was gradually becoming weaker,” Swanson said. “It got harder and harder to do ordinary things. Before long, climbing our 80-foot silo was completely out of the question. Just getting around has become more and more difficult as time goes on.”
    Swanson’s physicians remain at a loss as to what is causing his muscles to weaken.
    “The doctors at Mayo Clinic can’t even figure it out,” Swanson said. “All they know is it that it’s some sort of neuromuscular disorder. We know that it’s genetic because our daughter also has it. But she has it even worse.”
    Swanson and his wife, Brenda, have one child, Tashauna.
    “Operating the dairy got to be too much for me, so we exited the business in 2007,” Swanson said. “We then began to raise heifers for local dairy farmers, including for Roger Peters.”
    In March of 2019, Swanson was diagnosed with bladder cancer.
    “I’m being treated for my cancer with immunotherapy and am feeling really good,” Swanson said. “Kyle came over to help with chores when I got sick. I’ve known Kyle for about 10 years. I graduated from high school with his father.”
    Moser had noticed the unused milking parlor on the Swanson farm and had an idea.
    “It was about five years ago when I first asked Dale if I could lease his dairy facilities,” Moser said.
    Swanson agreed to the proposition.
    “I wasn’t quite ready to quit farming at that time,” Swanson said. “But after my cancer diagnosis, I knew it was time to throw in the towel and let Kyle have his dream.”
    Swanson and Moser came to an agreement that allows Moser to rent Swanson’s dairy facilities on a per head, per day basis. Moser will buy feed for his dairy herd from Swanson, paying on a monthly basis. Moser will also rent a skidloader and other essential equipment from Swanson.
    “Our agreement accomplishes three things,” Swanson said. “It keeps our buildings occupied and it lets us make a little money. But above all, it helps a young guy get started.”
    For the past several years, Swanson has been hiring a neighbor to custom farm his land.
    “Maybe after 2021, we will do things differently and rent out our land,” Swanson said. “But we have already talked to the neighbor who farms our land, and he has assured us that Kyle will always have access to all the alfalfa and corn silage that he needs.”
    Before Moser could move his cattle onto the Swanson farm, the milking parlor, which had sat unused for 13 years, had to be brought back to life. Moser also installed a neck rail in the parlor to make it a better fit for his Jersey cows.
    “We had bedded our free stalls with sawdust, but Kyle wanted to switch them over to sand,” Swanson said. “We put an excavator attachment on the skidloader and used it to remove some of the packed clay from the stalls and make room for sand.”
    Moser had hoped to begin milking Oct. 1. Unforeseeable delays pushed Moser’s start date back to the first week of November.
    “Our good friend and neighbor Tom Garrow has been really great about helping Kyle,” Swanson said. “Tom would pitch in wherever he was needed, be it sorting cattle or helping to fix things up around the farm.”    
    Moser said he appreciates Garrow’s help.
    “(Garrow) came over here for the first full week to help me push my cows through the milking parlor,” Moser said.
    Looking ahead, Moser hopes to expand his herd soon.
    “In the next month or so, I would like to buy some cows and double my milk herd to 80 head,” Moser said.
    Swanson said that the most important part of his decision to help Moser was his deep desire to pay it forward.
    “My dad helped me get started on this farm and now it’s my turn to help Kyle,” Swanson said. “It has always been Kyle’s dream to milk cows. We are going to do everything that we can to make sure that Kyle makes a go of it.”