Luke Brubaker of Brubaker Farms in Mt. Joy, Pa., was named the 2013 Top Producer of the Year last night at Top Producer Seminar's annual award banquet in Chicago, Ill.
Luke operates a 950 cow dairy with his wife Barb and sons Tony and Mike. The family also produces 250,000 broilers each year and farms more than 1,000 acres.
Grown from modest beginnings, Luke purchased the farm from his father in the 1970s with only 18 cows. When his sons returned from college in the 1990s, expansion ensued and today the farm supports three families and 10 employees and a gross income of more than $5 million per year.
Luke lives in the house his father bought in 1929 and his grandchildren play in the creeks he played in as a child. He farms the same land his father did, but farming in Lancaster County has changed since his father's days. Pressure from urban development and strict environmental regulations means selling a gallon of milk isn't easy. The Brubakers manage with extensive environmental permits, an odor management plan and soil conservation planning.
"Unlike when dad farmed, when all you had to do was work hard and produce a good product and you were successful, the risks are higher today," says Brubaker. Every business endures setbacks and in 1999 the Brubakers suffered a fire that completely destroyed their 1,000 head hog unit. The setback was a turning point for Luke and caused him to focus efforts on the dairy and to make it a profit center, with the expansion of cows, heifer facilities and bunker silos.
When milk prices turned downward a few years ago, Luke once again was faced the dilemma of how to grow the operation without adding more cows. So the Brubakers got innovative.
They constructed a manure digester to convert cow manure into energy and negotiated favorable electrical rates with their local utility, which means the digester generates serious revenue from the farm. The digester also takes in cafeteria food waste from a local college, and now produces enough energy to provide fulltime power for nearly 200 homes. To further reduce energy costs, the Brubakers have installed nearly 1,000 solar panels on the barns.
The Brubakers are constantly facing tough decisions on farmland purchases because of Lancaster County's high land prices. They manage costs and position the business finances in a way to prepare for capital investments. The farm produces high yielding crops and its dairy and poultry operations have well-maintained facilities and state of the art equipment
Luke is not only an environmental and business leader, he is a leader in the community and serves on state agricultural boards. Brubaker Farms is known for its field days and recently renovated one of its barns into an education room.
Luke says Brubaker Farms does not need to be the largest operation in the area, just a profitable business known for being good farmers.
Learn more about Brubaker Farms:
See full coverage of the 2013 Top Producer Seminar.
Thank you to the 2013 Top Producer Seminar sponsors and co-sponsors:
Agrigold, Agrotain, Asgrow/Dekalb, Apache Sprayers, BASF, Bayer, Cargill, Challenger, Dow, ESN, Firestone, DuPont Pioneer, RCIS, SFP, Syngenta, Top Third Ag Marketing, Advance Trading, Integris, Michelin, Novozymes, Kennedy & Coe, Illinois Soybean Association, Water Street Solutions