County dairy farmers look to future

Mark A. and Amy J. Rhody Wolfe, Washington Township, the owners of Mar-Am Farms at 73 Kurtz Road, wonder how milk products will fare in the years to come.

“I guess the biggest challenge facing the small farms is that people don’t seem to drink as much milk as they did years ago. Families don’t sit down and have a nice family supper together with a nice glass of milk like they did 30 or so years ago,” Amy said Tuesday.

June is National Dairy Month, according to the National Dairy Council. Schuylkill County is home to more than 30 dairy farms, the Wolfes said.

On Tuesday, the Wolfes talked about their history and challenges.

There were 12,743,000,000 pounds of total fluid milk products sold in the United States from November 2016 to January 2017. That’s down from the 12,776,000,000 pounds of milk products sold between November 2015 and January 2016, according to the April 2017 edition of the “Dairy Market Report,” published online by the National Milk Producers Federation, Arlington, Virginia.

There were 12,358,000,000 pounds of total fluid milk products sold in the nation from December 2016 to February 2017. That’s down from the 12,656,000,000 pounds of milk products sold between December 2016 and February 2016, according to the May 2017 Dairy Market Report.

“Sales of all fluid products were down by 1.3 percent from a year earlier during December 2016-February 2017, on a leap year-adjusted basis. Despite monthly variations, total fluid sales volumes have trended down by just under 1 percent per year on a fairly steady basis over the past year,” according to the May report available at

Mark is the son of Marvin Wolfe, Pine Grove, and the late Kathleen L. Wolfe, who died in February 2013. His parents started Mar-K Farms, 181 Wolfes Road, in 1975. Mar-K stands for Marvin and Kathy.

“Mark was born into the business,” his wife said.

“I was named after it,” Mark said.

Mark graduated from Pine Grove Area High School in 1994. Amy graduated from there in 1992. They married on Sept. 10, 1994.

Today his brother, Eric T., runs Mar-K Farms with his wife, also named Amy.

Mark and his wife bought the Kurtz farm in 2004.

“We named the farm ‘Mar-Am Farm.’ We are a small operation. We own 85 acres of land. Mark’s dad, Marvin, and brother, Eric, do the field work for us,” Amy Wolfe said. “We do grow most of our own feed. We buy a protein mix, molasses, wet brewers grain for the cows. The heifers get grower pellets and the calves get milk replacer and starter pellets.”

She and Mark do both morning and afternoon milkings.

“We milk around 50 cows. We have around 55 heifers and 20 calves,” she said.

The farm produces about 1,400,000 pounds of milk per year, she said.

The family sells its milk to Guers Dairy, Tamaqua.

They’re happy with the price they’re getting.

“It’s about $18 per hundredweight,” Mark said.

The farm has an income of about $21,000 per month, but every month there are about $18,500 in operational expenses, she said.

The couple have three children, Audrie, 23, Ryan, 20, and Ethan, 15.

“Ryan and Ethan both show cows. Ryan is with Pine Grove FFA and Ethan is a member of the South Schuylkill 4-H Dairy Club. The boys really enjoy showing their dairy cows. They raised some pigs and dairy beef too, but cows are their favorite. They will be showing at the Schuylkill County Fair and from there they will go to districts. And if they do well there it’s off to states. Cow shows are a lot of fun and hard work. Mom and Dad hold down the fort at home,” Amy Wolfe said.

“We never go on vacation, maybe a day trip here and there. The cows got to get milked twice a day everyday and, yes, even on Christmas. Like I said before, Mark’s dad and brother do our field work. We could not do it without them. We are blessed with a great family,” Amy Wolfe said.

The most recent statistics regarding milk production in Pennsylvania can be found in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Pennsylvania’s milk production for 2011 was 10.6 billion pounds, 133 million pounds less than 2010 production. The 2011 average milk production per cow was 19,601 pounds for the year, 246 pounds less than 2010 production of 19,847 pounds per cow, according to the 2012 census.

Pennsylvania held steady at fifth place in the nation’s ranking in milk production, producing 5.4 percent of the nation’s milk. California was first with 21.1 percent of the U.S. production, according to the census.

In Schuylkill County in 2011, there were 3,500 milk cows that produced 56 million pounds of milk with a $12.38 million production value, according to the census.

In 2011, there were 54,711 dairy farmers in the nation, 7,829 in Pennsylvania and 50 in Schuylkill County, according to the census.

“Schuylkill County has 41 reported farms involved in dairy cattle and milk production. The value of sales of milk in 2012 was $1,330,000,” Dwane L. Miller, an agricultural extension educator with Penn State Extension, Pottsville, said Sunday.

Source: Republican Herald


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