His laugh is contagious. He has the mind of a businessman, but the heart of a dairyman.
"We're producing about 275,000 pounds of milk a day; five to six semi loads of milk a day go out of here," says Velmar Green, of Green Meadow Farms
in Elsie, Michigan. "My problem is as I get older, I don't have hobbies. I don't golf. My hobby is the farm. So, I just enjoy the farm."
Green, just named the 2013 Dairyman of the Year
at World Dairy Expo, has been a dairyman all of his life. As the second generation, he’s considered a groundbreaker, cutting a path in an industry with plenty of hills to climb.
"After i got out of school in 1960, i hate to date myself, my brother and i increased the heard to 1,000 cows," he says.
At that time, a heard of that size was unheard of. Today, Green Meadows Farm spans over 8,000 acres with an equal number of livestock in the mix.
"I think at last count they said about 8500 head," he says.
That means they have 800 calves on milk every day. With an operation of this size, there’s not a lot of down time. So, for decades, Green juggled sitting on numerous leadership boards while running the family farm.
"We've always been on the cutting edge of technology," says Green. "Even in the 1980s, we had one of the first digesters."
And today, it’s robotics he’s got his eye on now.
"We're just waiting for the industry to catch up with where we want to go," Green says. "If you went in the milking parlors you'd see us milking on herringbone parlours. I think the robotics are here. I’m just waiting for robotics to come on larger operations, maybe in a robotic carousel or something like that."
He knows it’s the future. It’s attracting the best young individuals into the dairy industry, however, where his heart shines through the most.
"We train all the vet students here from Michigan State," says Green. "All the vet students come through. We have an intern program where we keep take one of the best students every year and have them here for a year."
As for the future of his farm, Green’s son Craig and his wife Darcy, manage the day to day operation, taking over just before milk prices plunged in 2009.
"I always say our family, and particularly Craig and Darcy, if they survived 2009, they can survive any year, and things have been going up since."
He’s sure Green Meadows farm will continue to prosper for generations to come, with younger hands carrying on the family legacy. As for other young dairy producers, Green has some simple advice.
"If you don't have that passion, and you don't want to get out and get your hands dirty and milk the cows once in a while yourself, then you better not be in the business," he says.
A business where his employees are family and new life on the farm gives him more reason to keep rolling and laughing along.
Read, watch and see all of Dairy Today's coverage of the 2013 World Dairy Expo.