Agriculture Community Reacts to 3 Northern Michigan Farm Closures This Week

This week Shetler Dairy Farm in Kalkska County announced they’re selling their business.

They’ll be closing August 17th and selling to Farmer’s Creamery in Mio.

This announcement comes in the wake of two other recent closures of local farms, including Christmas Cove and Fouch Orchards.

The former had aging owners looking to sell, while the latter says they can’t turn enough of a profit.

The local agricultural community is surprised, and saddened, but not necessarily shocked. 9&10 talked with farmers who say conditions outside their control have made it difficult to be in the industry. Weather, foreign competition, trade wars and tariffs have all presented challenging obstacles to overcome.

“When you’re in the business of farming, there are 50 different things that are outside your control,” said Jarris Rubingh, a dairy farmer in Ellsworth. “We’ve been having depressed milk prices for a few years…last year Michigan lost 300 dairy farms.”

According to data from the U.S.D.A, there are six times more farmers who are seniors compared to farmers younger than 35.

There isn’t enough young blood replacing retiring farmers or those who pass away.

Greg Shooks, of Shooks Farms, is an exception. He’s a young father and fourth generation farmer. His family farm in Central Lake has been operating for 105 years. But he says centennial farms like his are becoming fewer and fewer.

“Agriculture is such a family driven industry, your roots run deep inside the business,” said Shooks. “My heart breaks for the families experiencing this tumultuous time in agriculture.”

Shooks says many farms are struggling to compete against cheap imports, making it all the more important to buy local.