Ernest and Norma Martin moved from Pennsylvania to northern Ohio in 1994, about a year after Ernest’s brother Mark. They sought the same things Mark and his wife Marian did: land a young farmer could afford to start out on.
“It was rough the first couple of years, but the pasture keeps improving as the soil structure improves,” Ernest says. The Martins’ herd of 65 Holstein/Normandy cows has thrived on the improved pastures.
When the Martins started thinking about transitioning to organic, “I was nervous about it, but we saw how much healthier the soil was when we started grazing, because we weren’t using any chemicals, and we’ve seen a tremendous improvement in herd health. If we feed the cows a healthy diet that’s as close to what nature intended as possible, they rarely get sick. If I had stayed conventional and kept on having the vet bills that I had that first year there was no way I could have stayed in business.”
As a family of nine, their consumption of organic products has followed the process of making the dairy organic. “We’re feeding our cows organic feed,” he says. “Why aren’t we feeding ourselves that way, as well?” Their seven children, aged from 1 to 15 years old, have thrived as well, and love to help out on the farm. The oldest is in charge of moving the fences when they rotate the cows to fresh pasture every 12 hours, and the youngsters love to feed the calves.