BARNEVELD – Dylan and Bryanna Handel have strong roots in agriculture. And in a short time, they not only enlarged their herd, but they enlarged their territory and their family.
Shortly after getting married in 2014, the couple decided to rent a barn and gradually begin the process of farming on their own.
They started with just 16 cows that Bryanna had accumulated since she was in high school. They gradually grew their herd as Dylan continued his off-farm work and in 2016 they bought their own farm near Barneveld. The farm consisted of a tie-stall barn with 70 cows and 53 acres. Two years later, they were able to purchase another 50 acres adjoining their farm.
In 2020, Dylan was able to quit his job to work full time at the family farm B. Kurt Dairy. Currently they milk 75 Jerseys and have 45 young animal heads as well as a full range of machines.
Since 2018, the milk from their cows has been used to produce 7,000 lbs. B. Kurt Dairy White Cheddar cheese, which they market through their Facebook page as well as by word of mouth. They have found that their customers appreciate knowing where the milk is produced and the creamy taste of the cheese due to the high components of their milk.
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They also make a variety of cheese and sausage boxes which they sell at local craft fairs during the holiday season, while working with the Marshall FFA Chapter and Barneveld Skills USA on their winter fruit sales. They donate 20% of all sales to the chapters.
Their share of challenges
The pair have faced their share of challenges since their start in September 2014, just two months before farmers’ milk prices fell into a slump that lasted more than five years.
“We got two good milk checks” before the price dropped, Handel said.
They also aborted heifers due to high levels of mycotoxins in the feed that was in the silo when they bought their farm in 2016. They ended up selling 15 heifers that were part of their growth plan. their herd.
Dylan and Bryanna experimented with raising their bottom 25% of the herd on beef and raising a few as feeders. This has helped generate additional income through the sale of beef as well as the sale of young cross-bred calves. Along with the financial boost, the strategy helped them weed out bad genetics.
They also found a few farmers interested in breeding jersey bulls who buy the animals after weaning. The Handels raise all of their Holstein bulls in Jersey to help with production and components.
Encouragement and advice
Throughout their years of farming, the couple appreciated the encouragement and guidance they received from family and other farming neighbours.
Although Dylan’s off-farm income helped them get started in the business, they found that once he was able to stay on the farm full time, the quality of the feed improved dramatically as he was available to harvest the crop in a timely manner. Dylan continues to focus primarily on crops while Bryanna continues to focus on cows and young animals.
Because he is able to devote full time to the farm, the Dylan has been able to increase the feed inventory and experiment more with different cover crops such as rye for the spring harvest. The bonus is that rye also helps prevent soil erosion.
As stewards of the land, they practice regular soil sampling and maintain a nutrient management plan. Contour strips are used on cropland to prevent runoff and washout and no-till planting is practiced on corn soil. In 2017, waterways were added to the farm to minimize flooding and erosion.
Promotion of agriculture
While in high school, Bryanna was very active in the FFA, serving as president of Marshall FFA for two years. After graduating, she earned her FFA state credential as well as her American Farmer credential. She continues to organize many farm visits with young people as well as picnics so that the community can learn more about agriculture.
This year they held a farmer’s market on the farm which helped educate locals about farming. The event also served as a platform to market their cheese and the products of other local producers.
Her advocacy for agriculture now extends to her children’s school where they donate cheese and sausages as holiday gifts to teachers. The couple have four children – Elizabeth, Lyle, Clyde and Roy and they are expecting their fifth in September.
Bryanna also regularly provides home-cooked comfort food to residents of her neighborhood, picking five people every few months and offering them a meal.
Cow’s First Program
In 2019 they changed dairy and are one of the small and medium dairy farms supplying milk for the new product Queso Blanco for Chipotle. The Handels meet Newport Beach, California’s “Food with Integrity” standards, which emphasize treatment of animals and the environment.
The farm already met Chipotle standards, “so it made sense for us to go with the program,” said Bryanna Handel.
Over the past few years, the couple have worked with the company, giving tours, participating in press articles, podcast episodes and even a TV commercial, all with the aim of showing people the faces behind the agriculture.
Open the farm gate
On July 31, the family will welcome the public to their farm to educate the public about their products and the products made by other local vendors.
Bryanna says, “We will have B. Kurt Dairy White Cheddar available at our on-farm farmers market, as well as fresh cheese curds and other varieties of cheese made from blends of our milk and that of other local dairy producers.
Joining them will be 13 vendors, a petting zoo with chickens, a calf, goats and sheep. A silent auction and sorting games will also be part of the day’s events.
On her Facebook page, Bryanna featured the vendors as a wat to showcase them and their unique products to the public and encourage people to come to the event.
Vendors include Driftless Earth Roadside Flowers; View of the 4-H mounds; Banigan Farms pasture-raised meat; Burres Berry Patch products and canned foods; Lucky Cow Coffee and Gelato; Katy Mauger homemade jam; Community cafe fresh bread.
“We also have a lady who makes soap, garlic salts, farm T-shirts, woodworking too. There will be goodie bags for the kids filled with goodies from Wisconsin Dairy Farmers like coloring books, pins, crayons and Culver Kids Meal Coupons,” she said.
The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at B. Kurt Dairy, 4239 Reeson Rd., Barneveld.