Although Ross Cooper took ownership of his land a quarter of a century ago, he has been farming his entire life. Raised in Fillmore County and graduating from Spring Valley High School, Ross married Maribeth in 1998 and they embraced a journey to remain in a rural setting. Maribeth (also employed with the City of Rochester) is a master at blending the roles of the business and farming worlds. Raising their son Christian on the farm seems to have instilled a love for agriculture and there is a special relationship established working side by side with as a family, which the Coopers understand well.
“We’ve always been a diversified crop and livestock farm, mostly Angus and crossbreed cows,” comments Ross. Deciding what kind of cattle to raise is often determined by what the market wants and what makes the most economic sense. When Ross was growing up, their family farm raised continental breeds – Angus and Herefords. “We changed to exotic breeds – Simmental and Limousine, and now back to Angus due to ups and downs of the markets.”
Challenges abound in farming and weather related problems are always present especially during the time of calving. However, the rewards of farm ownership are plentiful, especially when a person’s son has an interest in taking over the family business so a farmer has someone in which to hand down his farm. Since there is no “typical day” in the life of a farmer, creative approaches to embracing the list of what needs to be done is necessary. Every day, details involve focusing on what is presently needing attention with livestock, equipment, and buildings as well as researching the best options available and planning ahead as decisions are made. Days are long often starting before sunrise and lasting well beyond dusk.
Farmers depend on family and close friends for physical and mental support during the rough days/years they face. “Most people are too far removed from the farm to understand the struggles faced by farmers,” says Ross. “When beef in the grocery store costs $6.00 a pound, folks think that we are making a lot of money, but they don’t realized that the farmer is only getting approximately $1.00 a pound for that beef. It’s frustrating. Presently, the four main packers who process over 80% of the cattle are gouging the consumer as bad as they are gouging the cattlemen. On a single animal, they are making over $1,800. We have no say what the prices are in the stores or restaurants.”
Yet farming is more than a business; it is a way of life. Small farmers and ranchers enjoy a closeness and freedom in the work they do. There is a special bond between the farmer and the land and animals he cares for each day. “This spring has been wonderful for calves with moderate temperatures and a bit on the dry side,” mentions Ross. “It’s so much better than the last few years when it was so wet. I have most of the crop in, except for the vegetable crops, but last year at this time, I was just getting started.”
The ways of farming have certainly changed over the years and today’s farmers keep detailed records as they make decisions on the best ways to work with their land and animals. “We love what we do!” says Ross, adding with a chuckle “Our animals are cared for better than we are.”
Taking a drive through the rural areas can bring great joy as sights of calves dancing in the grassy meadows and freshly plowed/planted fields come into view. Readers are encouraged to thank our area farmers for the hard work they undertake which is so vitally important to our daily lives.