Young dairy farmer in Pavilion says agriculture is a great career choice
The way Pavilion resident Stephen Gould sees it, a career in agriculture is a great choice for a young person. There's opportunity, innovation and lots of options for somebody industrious enough to jump into the field.
Gould speaks today at the NYS Agriculture Society's annual meeting in Liverpool as part of a panel called "The Next Generation of Agriculturalists: Millennials' Perspective on Their Future in Agriculture."
He'll be joined on the panel by three other recent college graduates who are pursuing careers in agriculture.
After two years at Alfred State, Gould transferred to Cornell and earned a degree in animal science. He graduated in May and took a job as a farmhand on his family's farm on South Street Road, Pavilion.
Har Go Farms was founded by his grandfather in 1956 and is now run by his father, John, and mother, Sue. Gould expects someday he'll run the organic dairy farm, but for now, he's cleaning out stalls, managing the summer grazing and helping to build a winter shelter for calves.
It's his full-time job and it's exactly what he wants to do with his life, he said.
"I think it's a great lifestyle," Gould said. "You can do anything here. You can be a mechanic, a veterinarian or an accountant. When you're a farmer, it's always changing every day. You also get a great sense of accomplishment, to build something, take something as unorganized as nature and organize it into something productive."
While Gould has chosen to be a farmer, he said one of the great things about agriculture today is there are so many jobs in research, farm services and production. A young person really has a world of options.
"There's a lot of youth who are excited about jobs in agriculture," Gould said.
With exploding demand for food around the world, especially in China and India, it's really an exciting time to be in the ag business, he said.
"Then domestically, there's a lot of innovation," Gould added. "In dairy, you have Greek yogurts, drinkable yogurts and new spinoffs on just plain milk. There's strong demand for dairy, but there's other work. There's research being done on how to improve production, how to get more production per acre of crops or vegetables."
In Gould's own family, there's a clear example of the diversity of career opportunities for young people. His brother Michael graduated from Cornell with a degree in food science and now works for Chobani in Idaho.
Gould's other brother, Matthew, is a student at Penn State and his sister Kathleen is an occupational therapist.
The farm went organic in 2008 and Gould thinks it was a good move.
"It's hard because there are fewer tools," Gould said. "But the whole organic philosophy is they don't want to kill anything. They don't want to use chemicals to kill bugs or use chemicals to kill weeds. They're all natural and holistic. I agree with that approach. I think any farmer, deep down, would not want to use any tools. They would love to make it all work, but organic isn't as productive. On the operations side, it's not as efficient. That's the constant challenge, to make it efficient. It's been a steep learning curve for us."
The Goulds run 150 head of milking cows on the 600-acre farm. Their fields must be kept chemical free and feed must be bought from certified organic suppliers.
"I enjoy it," Gould said. "It's a challenge. It's something not a lot of people are doing and we've had pretty good success with it."
The hardest part of farming, Gould said, is that cows don't take breaks. They need constant attention.
There are no days off on a dairy farm, he noted.
Gould was a wrestler in high school but says he doesn't follow a lot of sports these days -- the Bills at the beginning of the year when it looked like they might be good, but otherwise tunes most of it out. He likes to read, especially historic novels such as "Gates of Fire."
He also does a little woodworking and enjoys spending time with friends and family, but otherwise, he works and thinks he has a pretty good, if demanding, job.
He'd recommend ag to any young person, he said.
"Whether you're on a farm or in the service side of the industry, there's a lot of growth and a lot of opportunity in agriculture," he said.