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College never interested me. I have always had a strong passion for agriculture. I knew that I would follow in my family’s footsteps and be a dairy farmer.
Dirk Young

Milk Money

Through modern technology and an ‘udder’ love for agriculture, Dirk Young reshapes his traditional family farm.

Dirk Young’s life has always revolved around his family’s farm. Since he was 6 years old, his family has operated its dairy farm just east of Skaneateles Lake on County Road 117.

Throughout high school, Young worked alongside his father milking the 200 head of cattle and working the 500 acres of land. Young fell in love with the lifestyle and knew he wanted to make it his life.

“College never interested me,” said Young. “I have always had a strong passion for agriculture. I knew that I would follow in my family’s footsteps and be a dairy farmer.”

As the years passed, his responsibilities on the farm expanded. Young’s father Ken eventually retired from the dairy industry, leaving Young to manage the farm. It was a role he had been working toward his entire life.

Technology has played an integral part in the farm’s success. Since taking over for his father, Young has taken risks to keep his farm ahead of the technological curve — installing an aerobic digester, implementing a computerized herd-management system, and installing a digital milking parlor.

Many of these technologies had expensive start-up costs and were relatively new in the dairy industry when Young decided to implement them in his business practices. Although Young admits every idea he has tried has not been profitable, he said he was satisfied with taking the risk.

“I have a desire for innovation,” said Young. “Technology is a driving force in the dairy industry. However, some farmers aren’t willing to take risks. I have an urge to keep our farm modern and efficient, and I am willing to take the chance.”

Young’s foresight and leadership has paid off for the farm. Throughout the economic recession, Young’s decisions have shielded the Twin Birch Dairy Farm from the rising costs that plague many farms: grain and feed prices, utility costs and fluctuating milk rates.

“Many of our systems have paid off over the last few years,” said Young. “Many people first told us growing our own grain would be more expensive for a farm our size than just purchasing it. However, prices for grain have risen over the last few years and we have saved money.”

Young has positioned his farm to be a leader in the farming industry, mixing environmental stewardship with economically successful farming practices.

Young continues to install new systems on the farm, including a $300,000 generator that will burn the methane produced by the digester into electricity. Young is the process of installing the generator, which he expects to be online within the month.

The generator will produce enough electricity to power the entire dairy operation, saving approximately $15,000 per month in utility bills.

Young believes green technology, such as methane generation, will become a staple of dairy farming. Young hopes to reduce his emissions levels and lower his carbon footprint, which are already below industry standards.

“Farming never has had a predictable rhythm,” said Young. “Farming is always evolving, keeping up with the demands of consumers. The industry is currently producing more milk with fewer cows because of technology. With the pace of technology, it is hard to predict where we will be in the next 10 years.”