LaGrange farmer starts unique rent-a-calf program to save dairy farms
LAGRANGE, Ind.-- Working to breathe new life into the dying dairy farm industry in Indiana.
One farmer has made that his mission in light of the decline in dairy farms across the Hoosier states.
The LaGrange county farmer started a program to allow kids to virtually ‘rent a calf’ in hopes of increasing their interest in the industry.
Century Farms owners Brian and Riley Lewis remember the time when their dairy farm was surrounded by more than a dozen others.
“The problem is there's only like half a dozen English dairy farms in the county anymore. No one has the counties anymore. Nobody has the cows to do it. As the numbers go down, and the families move on and kids grow up, there’s no more dairies," said Brian Lewis.
According to the Indiana Dairy Producers Association, more than 10 percent of the states dairy farms closed in 2018.
This year, another five percent closed.
Century Farms' doors have been open for over a hundred years—so to keep it that way, Riley Lewis is starting a lease program allowing local kids to essentially rent-a-calf for 35 dollars to help them gain experience in dairy farming.
“I figured, I have the animals so it was a perfect fit. Its just a good way to get kids who wouldn’t have a chance to do larger animals a chance to do that. Also get a experience that they don’t get to have anymore," said Riley Lewis.
The kids get to spend quality time with the calf's over eight weeks.
“We take turns taking care of the calves here. We got to shave our cows and bathe them," said Eden Carey. She's one of eight kids in the program.
One of the best perks is the kids get to show them off at the LaGrange County Fair.
“Well I always wanted a show cow. I’ve always wanted to be a farmer," said Carey.
That's the reason why her mother took advantage of the program.
“My granddad was a dairy farmer, my uncle was a dairy farmer, they closed up shop. I know its difficult. These are small farms but we’d like to keep these small farms in our community. The only way I think to do that is to have kids come up and be raised in that so they could potentially take it over," said Tricia Carey.
The kids will get to show off the calf's this Wednesday at the LaGrange County Fair, but it doesn’t end there.
They’ll continue to build their relationships with these calf's year after year if they choose to and continue to show them off at the fair.