By Hillary Hibbard, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern: One of Arizona agriculture's dairy farm families shares their farm story with pride, joy and humor.
Arizona Farm Bureau's Ongoing Series ...
An Interview with Bill Kerr, owner of Kerr Dairy
Tell us about your dairy.
We have a dairy farm. We milk 1,000 cows and farm 600 acres of alfalfa, sorghum and oats. Rotation of those crops happens throughout the year. At the Bill Kerr Dairy, our cows are milked three times a day. We are members of the United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA), where our milk is shipped.
We have been in business since 1980 and built our current Buckeye dairy location in 1990. My wife and I just celebrated our 34th anniversary. We have 3 daughters who enjoy being involved with agriculture and the dairy.
Bill and Sine Kerr.
What changes have you seen in your lifetime as it relates to farming and/or ranching?
You don’t have the opportunity to make mistakes like you used to. You used to be able to live and learn and then just get better that way. But now if you make mistakes it can run you out of business. The banks used to be able to help you get through tough times. But it is not as easy anymore. You used to know your banker on a first name basis, but now it is about to be a meaner kind of a deal.
Why did you choose to go into agriculture?
My dad had a dairy and my grandpa had a dairy and it was something I enjoyed. You can’t beat it when raising a family.
Will anyone in your family - younger generation - pursue farming and/or ranching?
My three daughters are still involved in agriculture especially as advocates for the industry. They enjoy being involved in Washington D.C. trips with Arizona Farm Bureau and other experiences. They enjoy the lifestyle and still continuously want to learn the issues that agriculture is dealing with.
My son, Wes, is partnered with me in the dairy. Next year, we’ll have formed an LLC and we anticipate an exciting future, especially since Wes has a great love for genetics and is doing some breakthrough advances on this.
One fun memory from my son and something only a dairy kid would say: When Wes was just a boy and getting taller, standing next to his grandmother he said to his mom, “Momma I’m getting up to Grandma’s udders!” He was so proud of how tall he was getting. We’ve had a good laugh over that one for years.
Would you ever consider growing an emerging crop or changing your farm or ranch model?
I think you have to keep an open mind on everything. If we were dairying the same way we were 20 years ago we would all be out of business. So I think you need to always be looking at what to do and what opportunities there are to help pay the bills.
What are your community activities? Why are you involved?
We are involved in our church and we are involved with our kids and grand-kids activities. I’m active in Maricopa County Farm Bureau. Our family does a lot of hunting and fishing — a lot of outdoor stuff.
What is one fact/experience/achievement no one knows about you?
I married my high school sweetheart, Sine. It all started from a wink. She winked at me in the hallway. If you ever get winked at by Sine, your heart will melt. During high school, I was first team all-state in basketball in 1979 for Buckeye High School.
What do you think you do really well? Explain.
Living life to the fullest and enjoying what I do. Making the best out of bad situations. I enjoy life and enjoy my family!
Why are you a farm bureau member?
They helped me out with some issues a few years ago. Farm Bureau helped me to get heavily involved and enabled me to speak to various groups in public. I believe all these improvement in leadership and speaking help me protect my livelihood. It gives me a voice.
How will the next generation of farmers have to operate?
This generation of farmers has already made a big step forward with the technology. I think technology plays a large role in agriculture but you still need to get out and do the work hands-on. I don’t think you can use only technology 100% of the time. You begin to lose contact with your employees if you try and work behind a desk.
Technology is great but you still have to get out and be involved.