While Jesse says he always knew he’d work on the dairy, Kathy had dreams of life off the farm after graduating from high school. In an effort to find her place in the world, Kathy tried all sorts of things — post high school she was an exchange student in France, and in college she attained her emergency medical technician certificate, received her pilot’s license, and earned a degree in English literature and history — but right before entering graduate school, Kathy had a change of heart.
After waking in a panic one morning, Kathy says couldn’t imagine a job that kept her indoors.
“It was a true revelation,” she says. “I definitely prefer to work outside and with the animals. When I told my parents about my discovery, they were a bit shocked but very supportive. I believe they had always hoped I would come home, but they wanted to make sure it was my decision.”
Before allowing Kathy to join the farm as a full-time employee, however, Carl and Janet asked Kathy to interview with Steve.
“At this point, Steve wasn’t just her uncle, he was also my business partner,” Carl says. “He had a right to turn her down, but thankfully, he saw the passion she had for the family farm.”
Since returning to the farm, Kathy has spent most of her time working with the farm’s young stock. She says her job allows her to see her work come to fruition. She’s also grateful to work with her family on a daily basis. Kathy says while everyone has their own niche, if anyone ever needs help, there’s always someone willing to offer support.
As the next generation to take over the farm, Kathy says she and Jesse rely on their DFA field representative, Will Moore, who began working with the family in 1989.
“Will is always available to come out and answer questions, help us facilitate things and talk with us about things that are working and aren’t working,” she says. “He’s another huge asset to our farm. Our DFA field man, our milk inspector, vet and nutritionist are key parts of our team effort to produce the highest quality milk”.
Moore says the Ayers not only run a top-quality farm, but are a top-quality family who is passionate about what they do every day.
“They are just one of those families that put everything they can into every day,” Moore says. “Carl once told me, ‘To be successful, we put in 100 percent in everything we do.’ Their attitude is what makes it enjoyable and so rewarding to work with them.”
In addition to her work on the farm, Kathy also serves as a delegate for Dairy Farmers of America’s Mideast Area and is active in DFA’s Young Cooperator (YC) program. She also served as a YC Council Liaison in 2008 and is a member of the Emerging Leaders Program.
For Kathy, having active roles in the Cooperative allows her to stay informed on about DFA and keeps her abreast of industry happenings.
“Getting involved has also provided me with the opportunity to network with other dairy farmers,” she says. “It’s always nice to talk with others in your line of work.”
But it’s not just the chance to get involved with the Cooperative that has allowed the Ayers to continue to succeed, but the benefits that they derive from being members of a farmer-owned organization.
To help mitigate their risk in the marketplace during the last eight years, the Ayers have used services through DFA Risk Management.