Guy takes the lead on managing the animals and pastureland. Gage handles the finances. "That business degree is another tool for my toolbox—not that I love it," Gage says, "but it's an important skill for the farm. And my brother doesn't get pulled away when the red tape comes down."
Every day on the farm the family, along with a hired staff, work hand in hand to get the work done. It's a team effort and every day is a new day of rewards and challenges. Gage's business acumen also helps the co-op as a whole. Farmers like Gage with useful business skills often lend a helping hand with business strategy and to promote the co-op and the Organic Valley brand that all the farmer members own. The most important thing is to take ownership of something and then commit to making it work. Pooling resources like this is the key to what makes a successful co-op, Gage says. "At the end of the day, we all have a big stake in making this venture successful. Because I tell you what, I don't want to have to try to sell all this milk on my own. I know what's involved."
By pooling their resources with the co-op, the Stueves, like hundreds of other family farmers, free their time to focus on managing their herd to ensure the health of the animals and the milk they produce.
It's always been a family affair at the Stueves farm. It's more true now than ever, as the brothers have started their own families. Between the two of them, they've got five little ones. "We spend a lot of time as a family on the farm," Guy says. "The kids love it—especially when the calves are born. They're fascinated by the births."
Even though the oldest of the children is just five years old, they already have their farm chores. Grandpa Lloyd keeps a flock of 30 chickens on the pastures, and it's the kids' job to collect the eggs. "They love it. They have their special baskets and hats, and they go out collecting."
Transfer of knowledge from farm parents to their children has been a part of farming for all of American history. In the Stueve family, it stretches back at least three generations. Now, a fourth generation is beginning to learn how to live with nature and harvest its bounty. With any luck, they in turn will raise their own children in the tradition of stewardship, hard work, and conservation that forms the heart of the Stueve farm.