“We have a private ditch down here that’s classified as public waters, and we would have had to put a 50-foot buffer on it,” Scott said. “Going through the MAWQCP, we could get it down to 16 feet. There are some areas where the water runs off the field, so we had to put grass strips there too. It was a pretty easy system to go through. We have regulatory certainty for like 10 years, which is nice because you never know what’s gonna happen with regulations.”
The MAWQCP is a good option for farmers who don’t want to worry about evolving regulations and incorporate conservation practices that are best for their specific land. Information about the program is on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website.
Opportunities for growth
The Hoeses doubled their land size last year, going from 600-1,250 acres. They purchased land near their original acreage and rent out about two-thirds of it. They were able to do this because they’ve managed to avoid the brutal effects of low milk prices.
“We were set up financially better coming into the last few years,” Eric said. “We knew our numbers and cost of production. Last year we about broke even. We didn’t buy anything when prices were high.”
Still, they’re deeply aware of how low dairy prices are affecting other family farms like theirs. They do face the issue of needing to find workers.
“We do have part-time help, but either Eric or I have to be here. For us to leave the farm together is almost impossible right now, until we find someone more reliable,” Scott said. “That’s hard with such low unemployment numbers right now. It’s the same with milk truckers; they can’t find people to haul milk, but they have to do it every day.”
Spouses Yvonne and Erica both have off-farm jobs, though they pitch in when they can. Yvonne is a tour director for a bus company and was in South Carolina at the time MFU interviewed the Hoeses. Erica is a personal trainer at a nutrition club in Waconia that she and Eric are part owners of. They have three young children, which take up most of their time outside of their careers.
Farmers Union leadership & education
Scott and Yvonne have the distinct honor of being the first Farmers Union Enterprises Leadership Couple from Minnesota. Farmers Union Enterprises is made up of five state organizations: Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The leadership couples program began in 2008. Each state picks one couple to go through the program.
“It was mostly getting to know other states and what they do there,” Scott said. “You had to interview each other, practice public speaking. We got to go to Washington, D.C., the NFU Convention in Las Vegas and other states’ conventions.”
He’s following in his dad’s footsteps in Farmers Union leadership, having grown up in the organization. Eric got his own membership in his mid-20’s when he applied for the NFU Beginning Farmer Institute. He was one of four from Minnesota in his class.
“We went to D.C., the NFU Convention in Santa Fe and Shepherd’s Way Farms here in Minnesota,” he said of the experience.
That led him to apply to speak at a young farmers summit in Bordeaux, France. Eric represented the United States in a breakout session, speaking on how government plays a role for young farmers and the various young farmer loans in the U.S. And he has a funny story to tell from it.
“I was told, ‘Someone will be at the airport in Bordeaux to meet you there,’” he said. “I ended up walking around lost. I ran into a dairy farmer from New Zealand who was as lost as I was. We ended up being roommates.”
Being involved with Farmers Union, as well as other local groups, is important to the Hoese family because they want to stay informed and proactive.
“People ask me what’s going on in the township or state or Farmers Union and I can tell them,” Scott said. “A lot of people complain about things but aren’t involved in trying to solve the problems.”
This June Dairy Month, support our Minnesota dairy farmers buy having a glass of milk, a slice of cheese, a bowl of yogurt or an ice cream cone. And, bring your friends and family to a Breakfast on the Farm, like the one the Hoeses are holding on June 22!