Marvin and Kim Lynch dairy farm together in the town they’ve both called home since birth – Cascade, IA. During their time on the farm, they have been blessed with 3 boys, Wyatt, Willy, and Waylen, who love the farm life just as much as Marvin and Kim. With rolling hills, plenty of apple trees, and over 300 acres of land, you can certainly say that the Lynch family has found a beautiful piece of land to call home.
How it all started
Marvin always knew he wanted to be a dairy farmer. Starting in first grade, Marvin remembers being tasked to clean the feed alley in their old stanchion barn everyday. By the age of 12, he helped with feeding, fieldwork and milking. Throughout high school, not only did Marvin continue to help on his parent’s farm, but he also helped out on neighboring farms. After high school he started working full-time for his dad on the family farm.
Kim grew up on a dairy farm, as well. In the words of Kim, “I wanted absolutely nothing to do with a farm,” as they both laughed. She added, “Then I met Marvin and gave in.” Growing up, Kim remembers her responsibilities on the farm including feeding the calves and helping with milking.
The O’Lynch Dairy has been in the family for three generations. It all started when Marvin’s grandparents, Jarald & Harriet, bought the property in 1947. The farm was then passed down to Marvin’s parents, Richard and Joyce, in 1977. And in 2007, Marvin and Kim become the official owners of O’Lynch Dairy. If history is any indicator of the future, one of Marvin and Kim’s sons will be the proud owner of the farm in 2037. Wyatt, their oldest, has plans to get a Dairy Science degree after high school and then return home to farm.
When it comes to farm responsibilities, working together is key. The Lynch boys being 18, 16, and 14 are old enough to operate equipment, meaning everyone fills in where they are needed and fieldwork is a family effort. But when it comes to the cows, Marvin primarily handles all of the feeding. Kim and the boys usually run the show in the milking parlor. As well, Kim works part-time off the farm at the local hardware store.
Milking takes place twice per day, 5:30am and 5pm, in their swing 14 parabone parlor – a cross between a parallel and herringbone. On average, it takes the Lynch family a little over an hour to milk 90 Holstein cows. Their milk is sold to Organic Valley Coop.
The Lynch family owns 336 acres of land and rents another 96 acres. They grow organic corn, oats, beans and hay. The cows are fed corn silage, haylage, dry hay, and a mineral/grain mix while also having access to organic pasture.
Transitioning to organic
The Lynch farm hasn’t always been organic. Once a month, National Farmers, their milk handler, sends a Dairy Update with the milk check, and Marvin and Kim kept noticing an advertisement from Organic Valley that showed organic milk prices. Marvin and Kim liked the idea of an organic farm, and the market stability of organics was also a plus. “We were tried of the ups and downs of the conventional market,” said Marvin.
Marvin and Kim started transitioning to organic in 2006, a year before they officially purchased the farm. “It was tough,” Marvin said. “In 2009, the conventional milk price was $9/hundredweight, and we were having to buy organic feed, which had a premium on it, and we didn’t get on the organic truck until October 2009, so it was very stressful financially.” When talking about whether or not they feel they made the right decision, Kim said, “One thing we found with transitioning is that our cows are healthier.” Marvin added, “I’m gad we did what we did. It paid off.” Kim went on to say, “It is a lot more labor, a lot more man hours.” Marvin agreed and said, “But I guess you get rewarded for it.”
Over the years Marvin and Kim knowledge on organic farming has grown. “At first, I learned not to plant my corn too early, to make sure the ground was warm enough so the corn would grow faster than the weeds,” said Marvin. “Weather is always a challenge with crops.” He added, “As far as yield, we still get a good yield, but we did drop in production. As for overall health, the cows live longer – you get more calves out of a cow, so we have more replacements, and the cows give milk for more years too.” Since they’ve been organic, Marvin said their cows are able to produce milk till they’re bout 6-7 years old – “that’s about 4 calves.” When they were conventional, he said their cows would produce till about 4 years old.
The good and the bad
Probably the most challenging day on the farm that the Lynch family has faced was in September of 2018 when one of their barns set on fire. Kim remembers that they were chopping hay that day, and they came back to find the barn on fire. Inside the barn was both hay and equipment that was unsalvageable. The fire was started by a chemical reaction that builds heat in high-moisture hay bale stacks. Kim said, “Times like that, it’s good to be in a small community.” “People show up to help,” Marvin added.
When talking about what Marvin and Kim like most about farming, Kim said, “For me, I like the part of being your own boss, and everyday is something different.” She also feels like it’s a great place to raise kids. Marvin said,” I enjoy the fieldwork and spring time when it’s time to get the fields ready.” He also added that he enjoys the process of witnessing a heifer calf grow up and give birth to it’s own calf – “that’s neat to see.”
Looking back on the dairy industry that way it was 10 years ago versus today, Marvin said, “I bet 10 years ago there was probably 20 dairy farms in a 5 mile radius, now there’s probably only 3. The bigger farms are getting bigger.” Noticing the spiral affect that has on the local community, he said, “We don’t have as many feed stores as we used to or implement stores.” When expressing their concerns about a changing agriculture industry, Kim said “I’m afraid the big ones are going to keep getting bigger, and there will be even fewer family farms.” Marvin added, “Which I don’t think is good at all.”