Gary Schnurr takes a sample of milk Oct. 28 from a farm near Norwalk, Wisconsin. Schnurr runs the same general route every day and parks the truck at his home in Kendall, Wisconsin, every night.
PHOTO BY ABBY WEIDMEYER
Gary Schnurr takes a sample of milk Oct. 28 from a farm near Norwalk, Wisconsin. Schnurr runs the same general route every day and parks the truck at his home in Kendall, Wisconsin, every night. PHOTO BY ABBY WEIDMEYER
KENDALL, Wis. – There is nothing more that Gary Schnurr enjoys than spending time with dairy farmers. While not a farmer himself, Schnurr has been hauling milk for almost two decades around the Kendall area, where he lives with his wife, Alma, and his three children, Aria, Ronald and Arthur.
“I’ve been around farms my whole life,” Schnurr said. “I really enjoy talking with farmers and finding out what’s going on day to day.”
Schnurr hauls milk for Tim Neubauer Trucking, LLC, of Sparta. Schnurr’s day begins around 5:30 when he leaves for his route. Schnurr picks up milk from farms and delivers it to various processing plants throughout Wisconsin. Once all the milk is collected from the farms, the rest of Schnurr’s day depends on where the load is scheduled to go.
Schnurr said the routine of picking up milk has remained consistent, even if the hours are not. In all his years of hauling milk, there have been times he began at midnight and other times when he did not get home until 10 p.m. Schnurr said some farms are done milking by 6:15 a.m. and some do not start chores until after 7 a.m., and the haulers do their best to schedule around the farmers’ routines.
Over the years, Schnurr’s routes have taken him to farms in Monroe, Juneau, Sauk and Vernon counties.
Just like farming is a lifestyle for many, hauling milk is a lifestyle for Schnurr and his family.
“My father-in-law, Alvin Hageman, always told me the only people crazier than the ones producing the milk are the ones that pick it up,” Schnurr said, who began hauling milk in 2003 for M&M Trucking.
Schnurr enjoys seeing the different ways people farm and how what works for one farm does not work for the other. When Schnurr raised steers of his own, he would take advice from each farm and use what worked best for him.
“The knowledge you can get from farmers is good,” Schnurr said. “Farmers are 40 different aspects all in one. They’re a vet, nutritionist, agronomist, herdsperson, all of it.”
Schnurr’s career has allowed him to develop relationships with the farms he has picked up milk from. He has watched kids grow up and has even been invited to several weddings.
“There’s a guy on one farm who just turned 21. I was picking up his milk when he was just a little guy coming out and talking about seeing the new ‘Cars’ movie, and now I see him in the tavern,” Schnurr said.
While there is a lot to love about the job, Schnurr said hauling milk does not come without challenges. Winter is Schnurr’s least favorite season. The only time the weather prevented him from picking up milk was Christmas Eve in 2008. He was hauling in a snowstorm, and the truck slid down a side road. Two farmers with their biggest tractors and a road grader with chains on all six tires pulled Schnurr out.
On his way to the next farm, Schnurr got stuck in a snowbank that was 5 feet tall. After shoveling for an hour, a farmer tried to get Schnurr out with a tractor, only to get stuck himself. Finally, the MX270 Case tractor with chains on all four tires successfully freed the truck. Two farms had to wait until the next day for their milk to be picked up.
“That was the only time I had to let two farms go without being picked up,” Schnurr said.
Some of the better memories of winter include all the Christmas treats he has received from farmers. Schnurr said by the time he gets done with his route on Christmas Day, his passenger seat is piled high with goodies.
“I can eat Christmas cookies out of the freezer all the way through July,” Schnurr said.
Perhaps his favorite was a farm near Wisconsin Dells where a woman in her 70s cooked Sunday supper for her whole family and would share with Schnurr.
“She would bring out two plates every time, and it would have steak, pancakes, eggs, two pieces of cake, everything you could want,” Schnurr said. “I was sorry to see them go to every other day pick up because I missed out on a lot of Sunday suppers.”
Schnurr reciprocates to farm families when he can.
“Little things like washing the bulk tank off, letting them know if there’s build-up in the tank, or if the washer doesn’t sound quite right,” Schnurr said.
One time, Schnurr’s truck was broke down at a farm, so he helped unload four loads of small straw bales while he waited for the service truck to arrive. There were a few times he helped pull calves, and once, he even held up a microwave while the farmer put the screws in quick.
Schnurr said spending extra time with farmers and their families developed a trust over the years. Schnurr said he has seen farmers leave their creameries at a profit loss just to keep a good milk man.
“One of the hardest things was when we sold the trucks for M&M because a lot of those farms I picked up every single day for 15 years. That was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever gone through,” Schnurr said.
Schnurr still keeps in touch with a lot of the people from previous routes. He believes the relationships he has built while hauling milk are the best part about all his years in the business.
“I like where I’m at. All in all, it’s treated me pretty good over the years,” Schnurr said.