Tears in the milk room

Lloyd Tiede couldn’t hold back, not when the Le Center, Minn., farmer gave in to reality and had to tell his daughter he’s selling the farm.

“I could tell right when I picked up the phone that it wasn’t good news,” Adrianna, his daughter, tells the Le Sueur County News. “I answered and it was quiet on the other end.”

She knew what the silence meant. “No, not yet,” she said to the silence at the other end of the phone.

But it’s time, her father said.

He’s been thinking about it for five years. He hasn’t had a vacation in 30. He still hasn’t taken his wife on a honeymoon, 25 years after they got married. The kids, many of whom were the workers on the farm, grew up and have followed their own path.

Tiede is a third-generation farmer; the first to give it up.

But in today’s economy, farming stinks.

Along with low milk prices, industrial-scale dairy farms in the state continue to flex their muscle, flooding the market with milk at a rate the little guys simply can’t match. Louriston Dairy in Murdock, for example, runs a dairy operation that is nearly 40 times bigger than the average U.S. dairy farm.

The Murdock farm sits about 18 miles west of Willmar and is home to 9,500 cows. Louriston Dairy is just one leg of the broader operation, however. The farm is run by Riverview LLP, a Morris-based firm that owns approximately 92,000 milk cows throughout nine different dairy operations in the state.

How could dairy farmers like Tiede ever keep up with an operation like Louriston Dairy? Simply put, they can’t, he says.

“These big corporations, they don’t care if they don’t make money for 10 years,” Tiede said.

A week ago Monday, the first load of cows was hauled away after being sold at auction.

“Fifty-five years … it started with my Dad, then I went with my children, and I even got two with a grandson,” Tiede said in the video as he held back tears. “It’s gone … it’ll never be back.”

Tiede doesn’t know how he’s going to make ends meet now, he tells the newspaper; farming is what he knows.

“I’ve walked into the barn every morning since Monday and I’ve yet to not cry,” said Tiede.