Sunday, July 4, 2010
Honey Brook, PA: Elmer Kauffman
Being a friend of Daryl's has many wonderful benefits. When I told him the nature of this project he offered a helping hand right away. Being very involved in the farming community around Ephrata, Morgantown, and Terre Hill, Daryl offered to connect us to a few local farmers doing different things. Not only did he connect us, he chauffered us to three places all day on Friday, escalating him from awesome-person status to hero status in my book.
The first appointment was with Elmer Kauffman, an Amish dairy farmer whom Daryl has hauled cattle for. Without Daryl's help we never would have been able to speak with Elmer, so many many more thanks to Daryl for his support and involvement in our project.
Upon arriving at Elmer's we followed him into his home, which had beautifully polished dark wood floors and homemade quilts over the backs of chairs. We grabbed some folding chairs and followed Elmer out to the barn to hear about what he does. Elmer is a youthful looking 29 year old with a few kids and about 80 cows that he and his father milk. Elmer's hand was swathed in a thick gauze bandage with burdock from a recent injury involving a round baler.
He talked about how supportive the Amish community has been in light of his injury; when he had to go to the hospital and then was out of commission he found his farm was run by his neighbors who pulled together and cared for his animals and his fields. Elmer is a conventional farmer and said he has noticed in recent years that his crops have had much higher yields, which he suspects is due to chemical engineering to the seeds. Elmer does his field work with several HUGE mules (he was featured with them in a calendar with a mule theme which we can verify because he gave us a copy!).
Elmer said that he wishes someone would think of more streamlined technology for milking parlors. He, like many conventional dairy farmers that we've spoken to, has issues with the milk pricing system in the US. It's a very complex system that nearly nobody really understands. It has created financial issues in dairy operations all over the country with historically low commodity milk prices these past couple of years. Elmer was extremely generous to spend time with us, and while he declined to be photographed due to the Amish faith's aversion to graven images/pride, we did get a sweet shot of his gargantuan mules.
Posted by Trav Williams at 2:42 PM