Learning on the job

Written by Emily Battmer

Although he is the general manager of the 3,500-acre, 3,300-cow Del Rio Dairy in Friona, Texas, Nathan Morony only entered the agriculture industry less than five years ago.

Nathan and his wife, Crystal, met during high school. After dating through college, the two got married and lived in Arizona, where Crystal’s family originally operated Del Rio Dairy. There, Crystal did some bookkeeping with the farm while Nathan worked in construction.

“He was my city boy,” Crystal says.

When developers started driving agricultural land prices up in Arizona during the mid-2000s, Nathan says plans were made to move the dairy to Texas. Texas provided the opportunity for Del Rio Dairy to expand, increasing the size of the farm from a 1,300-cow operation in Arizona to its current capacity.

When the construction market started to go south in Arizona a few years later, Nathan says his father-in-law offered him an opportunity with the dairy. The couple made the move during 2010, and now, Crystal works as the office manager while Nathan oversees the rest of the operation, though no one planned for him to take on so much responsibility so quickly.

“Initially, I was supposed to come onto the farm and find a place, a job I’d be interested in doing,” Nathan says. “Instead, the manager who was here before me served notice before I even arrived. I was kind of thrown into this position I’m in now right off the bat.”

Nathan says making the transition has been challenging because so much goes into managing a dairy operation. He has had to learn quickly while also focusing on the business needs of the operation, but he says his personality and the support of his family have helped.  

“Those challenges fit my personality really well, so I’ve been able to adapt somewhat smoothly,” he says. “I focus on what’s important, and I defer to professionals as often as I need to.”

Crystal’s father, Rocky, has been one of those professionals. Nathan says Rocky has played a pivotal role in easing the transition, as he is always willing to step in and take a more hands-on role when necessary. Nathan says working closely and learning from Rocky has been an educational experience.

Crystal says the Moronys have found other educational opportunities through their involvement with the Young Cooperators (YC) program. The couple first got involved with the program two years ago at a YC conference in San Antonio, Texas. Since then, Nathan and Crystal have attended DFA’s Annual Meeting and two National Milk Producers Federation meetings, as well as participate in lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.

“There’s a lot of stuff about our co-op that we didn’t know, and it’s just good to understand how it works,” Crystal says. “It’s also been a great way to network and meet people. Coming from Arizona to here, we didn’t really know anyone, and it’s nice to meet people, especially people our age.”

Nathan says he thinks any level of involvement with the YC program is beneficial for members, the Cooperative and the industry.