Lansing at Large: A fourth generation farmer

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By Matt Montague

 

Jacob Palladino wanted to be a farmer, and then he didn’t, and then he did.

And now he is.

“My dad’s grandfather was a farmer, my grandfather owned a tractor dealership but grew up on a farm, and my dad is a farmer – so I guess I am at least fourth generation.”

Palladino grew up in Lansing around the Walnut Ridge Dairy when it was the Hardie Farms.

“My earliest memory is going to the farm and playing with my four sisters on the big sawdust pile in the commodities shed,” Palladino said. “Climbing to the top of the pile and sliding down was the highlight.”

Palladino would walk with his father Steve while he took care of the animals and ride on his dad’s lap while he drove the tractor. He learned to mix milk replacer and feed the calves.

When he was 12 years old, he started getting paid to mow the lawns and, at 14, he was up early before school, and working on weekends and all summer to clean the heifer barns with a skid-steer loader.

“I remember picking rocks out in the fields – that’s quite a fun job. It builds character. They have machines that do it now, but they don’t work nearly as well as a 14-year-old kid’s hands.”

When he was young, the herdsmen would ask if he was going to grow up and take over the farm, and Palladino would always say yes. But by the time he was 16, he was looking in another direction.

“I saw my dad all stressed out when he came home, and I was learning how hard farming was, and I was doing all the tough jobs.”

Palladino worked summers at Camp Casowasco. He loved working with the kids and thought he might want to work at a camp every summer.

“But I knew the way I was raised, and I knew that I wouldn’t have wanted to be raised any other way, and I knew that I wanted to raise a family on a farm, so I went to do it at Cornell.”

His first semester at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University cemented his decision to farm.

“I was in awe of how much science there is on a dairy farm and it made me think of how everything you do on a farm has a reason. In high school, I just did things and, in college, I started understanding why.”

Animal science majors are challenged early by “domestic animal biology.”

“It was by far the hardest class I have ever taken. It’s all the anatomy and physiology of cows, and of all other domestic animals. I am embarrassed how hard I had to study.”

Once over that hurdle, the “dairy kids” at Cornell study dairy science and principles, nutrition, herd management, herd health, farm business management, financial accounting, human resources – everything you need to know to operate a dairy business.

In their junior year, the students begin the Dairy Fellows Program.

“You go to lectures on the dairy business, world markets, and the future of the industry. Then, you go to a farm and split into groups – business, herd health, nutrition, heifers. Each group evaluates their part of the farm, the financials, data, and protocols.” Proposals are presented to the farmer and, a year later, the students return to see how their ideas worked out.

“It was an amazing, interactive way to learn.”

Then, the “dairy kids” step into the real world.

“I am at Noblehurst Farms now,” Palladino said. “Noblehurst is the dairy and they are also involved in a bunch of different things like a digester and a food waste business where we process food waste from grocery stores and restaurants into energy.”

Palladino is the herd manager for the Livingston County dairy farm.

“It’s my job to make sure that the cows are happy, and that the people who work with the cows are happy.”

To that end, Palladino works with the nutritionist, the veterinarian, and the herdsmen 12 hours a day, 12 days out of every 14.

“It’s what I love to do so it doesn’t really feel like work to me.”

When he has the time, he’d like to support youth farming programs to wrap working with kids into a better future for farming.

“One percent of the population feeds the other 99 percent, and three-quarters of that one percent are over the age of 50. We are going to need more farmers, and those farmers are going to have to be more innovative to feed a growing population.”

“If we get kids involved, we will have consumers that are educated about what we do and why we do it, and we can get kids involved in the ag industry as a farmer, or as someone who can help make farms more efficient.”

As far as his future goes, “there is no set plan. Right now, I basically do whatever I can to help the farm get better, and to learn and grow as much as I can.”

He paused.

“But a boy would always like to work with his father.”

 

Lisa’s Run

Lisa’s Run, a 5K race/walk in honor of Lisa Sweazey Topoleski, will be held Sept. 29 in Myers Park. On-site registration will be from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. at Pavilion B and the race will begin at 9 a.m. Registration forms are available at Lansing Recreation Department, online at lansingrec.com, or by request at The Last Foundation.

The LAST Foundation is a not for profit organization created in the memory of Lisa Ann Sweazey Topoleski which financially assists local families battling cancer and provides scholarships to graduating Lansing High School Students. For more information, call Jenn Suwara at 592-6705 or Melinda Sweazey at 592-7822.

 

It’s Your Funeral!

Donna Scott, local president of The Funeral Consumers Alliance, will hold an information session on funerals Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Lansing Community Library. Scott will discuss how to plan ahead and control the costs of a memorial service.

To register, call 533-4939 or email michellec@lansinglibrary.org; this session is free and open to the public.

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