Member of Distinction: Mideast Area — Sieg Dairy

Written by Christine Bush
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When Amanda and Nate Cromer first met, they knew they had a special bond but didn’t imagine that together, they would carry on a dairy tradition that started more than 60 years ago by Amanda’s great-grandfather.

Amanda and Nate operate Sieg Dairy in Ridgeway, Ohio, in the same location where her great-grandfather, Karl Robert Sieg, started his operation. The Cromers, along with their three children, Meadow, Callie and John, live in the same house Karl Robert lived with his family. For Amanda, the decision to work at the dairy came naturally.

“I don’t remember the day I decided I was going to come home and continue the family operation,” Amanda says. “For me, that was the way it was always going to be, and now it just feels very comfortable. I guess it’s in my blood.”

Amanda and Nate met in college at Ohio State University and got married a month after graduating, but they didn’t start working together at the Sieg operation right away. Amanda worked with her father, Karl, at the dairy, while Nate managed a chain of farm stores. After four years, Nate’s store closed and he began milking at Sieg Dairy full time.

“It’s a lot of fun being so unpredictable sometimes,” Nate says. “You would think a dairy would be very predictable with the constant chores the same every day, but there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on. I enjoy that part.”

In 2006, Karl was diagnosed with stage-four kidney cancer. Amanda says at first her family was devastated, but it was her father who began to steer the family forward by preparing for a transition on the dairy.

“We all knew what was coming, but it was hard to prepare,” Amanda says. “My dad made endless preparations for us. He went out and purchased Nate a new spreader. He wanted to do as much as possible, while he still could, to make the transition better.”

Karl passed away on October 30, 2009. Amanda says she is grateful that her dad got to see her youngest child born and create a bond with him. She says running the dairy during that time kept them busy and helped them get through the tough times.

“I think at the end of his time with us, my dad was questioning, ‘is this the route they need to take?’” Amanda says.  “The fact that we’re all still here and we’re all still somewhat sane, that’s a huge accomplishment.“

The couple tackled the challenge of taking over the dairy during the financial downturn of 2009. During that time, milk prices dropped while feed prices rose, making profit margins virtually nonexistent. The Cromers tried to boost production by milking three times a day and immersing themselves in work, but they say that exhausted them. Moving to a more manageable twice-a-day schedule allowed them to begin looking forward.

“I’d like to think that Karl would be proud of the way we’ve managed limited resources,” Nate says. “Over time, we improved the home and improved the barns, improved the quality of our cattle, improved equipment lines. We’re constantly trying to get better, get more efficient and make it look nice. So, I think Karl would be proud of that.”