Jostock family, Wabasha County
After nearly 40 years of milking Holsteins, Eddie Jostock of Wabasha County decided to make a change. He and his family moved away from the hard work of dairying into expanding their hog operation and raising red and black Angus beef. His son Alan has even added meat goats to the rolling landscape at Rolling J Farms.
That’s not to say they’re completely out of the dairy world.
“My youngest daughter (Becky) is engaged to a dairy farmer,” Eddie said. “She likes cattle. They have robots so they have a little different perspective.”
Eddie and his wife Lynn dairied on the farm Eddie’s parents bought in 1944 until 2015. Eddie grew up there, and he and Lynn raised their four children there alongside the cattle and pigs, while also renting land on another nearby farm. The 50-cow dairy, which also produced dairy beef, has transformed into a quickly-growing Angus herd, which they’ll soon be able to market.
“The first two calves I got out of my red Angus cows were heifers, so I doubled my herd,” Eddie said. “Now there’s a grandmother generation, within two years (of retiring from dairy).”
Their pigs keep the Jostocks busy, too: They have about 250 baby pigs to market hogs at a time, with about 50 sows, farrow-to-finish. Breed-wise, it’s a mix of Berkshire, Duroc and Chester white. They’ve increased the sow numbers since retiring from dairy as well. The pigs get sold to Niman Ranch, a California-based meat company that is Certified Humane ®. The Jostocks raise pork in bedded pens without antibiotics or hormones, per Niman Ranch guidelines. They can use genetically modified grain.
Diversity has always been a part of the Jostock farm operation. Eddie said that growing up, they had sheep and laying chickens in addition to dairy and hogs.
“Something my dad always said was not to have all your eggs in one basket,” he said. “If milk prices were down, maybe the pig prices would be up, and vice versa.”
Alan, who’s purchased several of the Angus cattle himself, added the meat goats.
“Our landlord offered to help me get started,” Alan said. “She understands that our farm needs to have livestock on it. It’s too hilly not to have it in some pasture.”
Rolling J Farms is one of many in southeast Minnesota that are marked with steep hills. This puts the land at risk for erosion. The Jostocks are doing all they can to make sure that doesn’t happen with their soil.
“A lot of people have torn up pastures on places they shouldn’t have,” Alan said. “You can’t haul it back from the Gulf of Mexico when it washes down there.”
Only about half of Rolling J’s acres are tillable, so they keep many of them in pasture. They’ve also been experimenting with cover crops recently. Eddie said his dad had the ingenuity to start using contoured strips with their row crops.
“The benefit for us is being able to save our land,” he said. “My parents were left with something, I was left with something and I want my children and grandchildren to be left with something.”
The Jostocks appreciate how Minnesota Farmers Union provides a support system for farmers and a way to make their voices amplified in the Legislature.
“I think it’s a way to bring farmers together, so you don’t feel like you’re the lone ranger on the good or bad things that happen in life on the farm,” Eddie said.
Alan said he finds MFU to be an opportunity for farmers to make a difference, even if they don’t have all the time in the world.
“It’s a voice for all farmers, no matter what party you’re in,” he said. “Some farmers don’t have the time to get there to voice their concerns. I don’t have time to do it, but I’m glad there’s someone out there to listen.”
Eddie’s taken an active role in bringing people together as the President of the Wabasha County Farmers Union. He and Lynn attended this year’s National Farmers Union Legislative Fly-in in Washington, D.C.
“I would never have gotten to share my ideas at the United States Department of Agriculture if it weren’t for MFU,” he said. “That means a lot for everybody.”