Take a short drive through the country southeast of Cortland and you’ll come upon the rural town of Cincinnatus (pop. 1,056). There you’ll find a beautiful dairy farm sitting up on the hill with a picturesque view of the crop fields and pastures below. This is the Waltz organic dairy farm.
Alta and husband, Jake, have been farming together since 2008 with their daughters Mandi and Maudi who represent the 5th generation in the family dairy farm business.
The Waltz family agrees that while it takes a lot of hard work, organic dairy farming is very rewarding and never boring because every day is different. The farm benefits from the unique female perspective of Alta and her daughters. “As a woman, I think there are differences in the way my father and husband run a farm,” says Alta. “Mostly these men in my life are more apt to take risks, a trial and error approach. My approach is more of a detailed and fact-based approach. Going off what has worked in the past or something new that I’ve learned, then running the numbers to make sure those ideas make sense.”
Alta continues, “For women interested in farming, my advice would be what I give the little girls in our family. Never underestimate yourself – mentally or physically. If you know what you want, keep your goal in mind, and learn what resources and tools to use – the capability and capacity for success is there! Be eager to learn and try new things, ask questions, and talk openly about what is working and what isn’t.”
The Waltz family discovered that organic farming is a productive choice for dairy farmers. “Being an organic dairy farm is a real process every day with all of the paperwork, charting and careful selection of supplies,” says Alta, “But in the end it’s been very rewarding for our family.”
The Waltz herd features diverse breeds with a mix of Holsteins, Jerseys, crossbreeds, Dutch Belted, and Linebacks. While Alta and her daughter, Mandi, favor the Holsteins; Jake and Maudi enjoy the diversity of breeds. “The Holsteins are real milk producers and the Jerseys are known for their butter fat which makes the milk a bit richer. So, there are some advantages to having a diverse herd,” says Alta.
“We have been working with the Byrne family for just about a year now. It’s a great relationship because Byrne truly celebrates their farmers.” says Alta, “My girls and I get to share in how everyone’s hard work pays off – from the milk produced on our farm, to the products created at Byrne. My girls are proud of that and the work we put in as an entire family.”
The Waltz daughters (pictured here with cousin, Peyton) are among a small group in their school district that live a farm life and help with the daily farm chores. Many of the other students believe the girls are lucky to have cows, ride tractors, and tinker around the farm with their Mom and Dad. The girls’ classmates and teachers often recognize that the girls work very hard to help the Waltz family be successful at dairy farming. They are proud to be farmers and often share their lifestyle in their writing pieces or at share time. The girls are okay with the long days and late dinners, often racing the clock to get their chores done in order to make it to games and school activities, and, sometimes, even doing their homework in the barn so Mom can help with questions. “We are together and at the end of the day that is what counts.” says Alta, “Our family is everything and we are keeping up a family tradition one foot in front of the other, side by side!”