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Tradition of success
At 87, Bob Munk may play a less active role on his family’s dairy than he did a few decades ago, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of the loop.
“My three sons make most of the decisions,” he says. “But I keep my hand on the checkbook.”
Bob logs more than 4,000 miles a year on his four-wheeler, riding around the 500-cow dairy his three sons, Brent, Jerry and Rod, along with Brent’s sons Trevor and Cameron, operate in Almaga, Utah. While the younger generations have taken over the operation, they all agree that it’s Bob’s dedication and passion that made Riverview Dairy a success.
“I have to give Dad credit for how he set up the dairy and how he raised us,” Brent says. “What he and our mom did for us really made it possible for us to be here today.”
Bob began dairying on his father’s farm after he received a heifer calf from his uncle at just 2 years old.
“That’s where most of the herd we have now came from,” he says.
He bought his first farm on his own in 1952 when he was 20 years old. Once he had children, he continued the tradition of giving them their own cows. Today, Brent, Jerry, Rod, Trevor and Cameron each own their own livestock that make up the dairy’s herd.
“I got a heifer when I was 8, and I just kept buying cows after that,” Brent says. “We each have our own personal cows, which I think keeps us interested and invested more so than if we all just owned equal shares of the operation.”
Brent continued the tradition with his sons, and the five men now have specific roles on the dairy. Brent oversees the dairy operation; Rod is in charge of the herd’s breeding program; Cameron takes care of calves; Trevor focuses on the 1,100-acre farm operation and fresh cows; and Jerry feeds the cows and handles the accounting. They all live within a half mile of the dairy and work well together.
“It’s a lot of give and take,” Brent says. “You learn to pitch in where you can. We all like to hunt, so in the fall, someone’s always going somewhere on a hunting trip, so we work it out so everyone gets covered when they have something like that going on. It gets hectic sometimes, but it works.”
The family has also worked together to keep the farm debt-free. The only time any of them have needed to take out a loan for the operation was in the 1970s when Bob borrowed money to build a new barn.
“As we’ve grown, we’ve been careful to only grow as big as what we can grow feed for,” Brent says. “I don’t think my boys could be working their way into the operation if we had a lot of debt. That’s really made it possible for them to stay on.”
Trevor and Cameron each completed Utah State University’s herdsman program and say dairying is the only thing they’ve ever wanted to do.
“I like working with the cows, working the ground,” Trevor says. “Also, raising a family here is probably No. 1 why I wanted to stay. It’s a good way of life, and growing up on a farm, I know it instills good values and a strong work ethic.”
Trevor is also following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps by getting involved in the Cooperative. Bob served on the Mountain Area Council and on the boards of DFA’s predecessors, and Brent currently serves on the Mountain Area Council.
“I always like to have some say in where my milk is going and understand what’s going on on other people’s dairies and in their areas,” Brent says. “My dad was on the council, and I remember him coming home with new ideas and things to do, and I think it kept us ahead of the game.”
Trevor and his wife, Kiersten, currently serve as chair couple for the Mountain Area Young Cooperator (YC) Program, after being involved in the program for the past eight years.
“I really enjoy the YC conferences and events,” Trevor says. “It gives us a chance to learn a lot about the markets and pricing and more about the business side of dairying, which we’re not always exposed to as much.”
Cameron also attends YC events and is heavily involved in the family’s church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Cameron’s two-year missionary call to Mississippi in 1999 had a profound impact on him.
“Spiritually, that was a huge leap,” he says of his trip. “It really helped me to become more independent. I was away from my parents, had to deal with problems by myself. It taught me not to give up.”
As Trevor and Cameron grow in their roles on the dairy and eventually take over the operation, they say they plan to continue their father’s and grandfather’s legacy of service, whether it’s to the Cooperative or the church.
“We’ve learned a lot from our dad and grandpa,” Trevor says. “You finish what you start and work hard. We’re always well informed since one of them has always been on the council, so I think I’ll continue that if I can.”
Although Brent claims that he’ll “work until I die,” Rod and Jerry will eventually retire, leaving room for Trevor and Cameron to buy into the operation.
“Our situation, being debt-free, actually makes it a little harder for the boys to buy the other two out,” Brent says. “It’s been a big challenge for us to make that change, since if we don’t have the money, we don’t buy it. But, we’re not sitting around waiting for that to happen. We’re working with a planner to make it work and develop a timeline.”
The next generation plans to continue operating the dairy using some of the same methods currently in place, like grouping the cows according to milk production to increase efficiency during milking. But, there are also opportunities to grow and improve.
“Obviously, how we’ve been running things has worked,” Trevor says. “But, I think we’ll try and grow a little and try new things.”