Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dayton, Virginia: George Rohrer

George Rohrer's place is tucked away on a beautiful meandering farm road just before things start to get more residential. He is a kindly and welcoming man and he made us comfortable under a big shade tree in his front yard with 3 or 4 of his numerous corgi dogs wrapped around his (and our) feet.

George was born at this house into an Old Order Mennonite family and is related to pretty much every one of his neighbors. He decided to leave the family farm as well as the Mennonite faith when he was a young man and he ended up in Arizona trying his hand at various trades. George found that, in his case, there was nothing he could do that was as satisfying as farming. So, after a few years passed, he came back to Dayton and started taking over the family dairy.

As the regional president of the Dairy Farmers of America he has won numerous awards for his product and practices. He told us that the way milk is bought by corporations is very difficult for a farmer of his size. It's such an unpredictable market and dairy farmers have no way to recoup if the market is flooded and their milk does not bring in the price they were hoping for. He suggested that, in the whole country there may be three or four people who truly understand milk pricing.

George's kids still live in the southwest and do not show interest in coming back to the family farm. He seemed partly sad that the fate of the farm is unsure, and partly relieved that his kids will have more stable income. His brother farms on the property as well, taking care of the turkeys and chickens that reside in the 2 huge poultry barns on the property.

He waved us off to the produce auction where we ended up seeing him again and continuing to chat over really good homecooked mennonite grub. If you've ever heard of shoofly pie, it was represented in all its glory there at the auction (though we went for the keylime).


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