Brothers Prepare To Take Over The Family Farm
Jared and Josh Lund spent their childhood working, playing and learning about life on their family’s Idaho dairy. Started by their parents in 1989, the dairy has grown from its original size to now accommodate 2,000 milking cows on two facilities. This year, the boys solidified their commitment to the farm, becoming partners with their dad and forming J3 farms. Jared, 26, manages the cows, Josh, 24, runs the farming and their dad handles the business side.
The Lunds are in lock step with the rest of the dairy industry in figuring out a succession plan for their farm business. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, today the average age of a farmer is 57.5. As the older generations age, it’s critical for the next generation to be trained and prepared for ownership. That’s exactly what the Lunds did.
“We both went to college and then went to Wisconsin to work before coming home,” Jared says. He earned a business degree from the University of Idaho in three years. Josh went to WyoTech. Following college each boy completed an internship at Pagel’s Ponderosa farms.
“I spent six months at Ponderosa and worked in all the departments besides farming,” Jared says. “I’m not a big farmer, I can’t sit in the tractor all day. I love cows.”
Working at Pagel’s Ponderosa taught Jared more than appreciating the weather in Idaho, he jokes.
“Something I picked up from John [Pagel] is to treat employees like a team,” Jared explains. “The employee relationship is something that I take pretty serious because if you treat them terrible then they aren’t going to do the best job and they aren’t going to want to work for you. If you’re good to work for, then word gets around. It’s crazy how many people just want a good working environment.”
Similarly, Josh says his time on the farming team at Ponderosa has also impacted their business.
“Years ago framers just put silage in without even tarping it,” he says. “Now our main focus is putting it in right, to give the cows the highest quality feed and it’s paying off.”
The boys say their parents, Jeff Lund and Julie Veldhuis, didn’t push them or their two sisters into the dairy industry but instead encouraged them to do whatever they wanted with their lives. Jared wasn’t always sure he wanted to dairy but after college realized he was being pulled back to the farm by the cows.
“I wanted to get college over with fast. But if I could go back, I would definitely stay in college a little longer and just enjoy it,” Jared says. “I’ve always had thoughts about doing something [other than dairy]. Not saying that I never wanted to, because it’s pretty rare to have a family operation. It just took some time to actually want to come back in here. My dad was just like, ‘well, you guys just see what you want.’ Not a lot of dairy kids are going right back into the business now.”
A recent poll by Dairy Herd Management found parents are discouraging their kids from becoming dairy farmers. In fact, 64% of the farmers who voted in the poll said they don’t want their kids to enter the dairy industry. And with the current market environment, which experiences extreme volatility sometimes as the result of a simple tweet, it’s understandable farmers and their kids have reservations about entering the business. The Lund boys experienced the same mixed feelings when approached by their dad about forming a partnership.
“With how things are now, we didn’t really want to be brought into it, looking right at a loss, but I think we’ve got it figured out,” Jared says.
The Lund boys are focused on the future. But, growing the herd to a larger size is difficult in Idaho. In their county building a new CAFO is not an option.
“I wish I was this age in the 90’s when it was just ‘Let’s get bigger and make more money,’” Jared jokes.
While they are limited in terms of growing cow numbers, they’re not restricted when it comes to progress. Both have innovative ideas they would like to incorporate into the business ranging from trying new reproduction programs to implementing new farming practices. They are also getting geared up to run the business on their own someday.
“We’re trying to learn as much as we can from dad while he’s still here every day,” Jared says.