The Mikitas are all about making sense. Today, Scott and Robin milk about 67 Holsteins that provide milk for Organic Valley, and they have reclaimed their family life. Even so, they don’t go away much. “Everything I want to do and see is right here,” Scott says. Robin, a former rodeo queen, is a horsewoman, but doesn’t have much time for rodeo these days, not with two young boys and a dairy herd to manage. She keeps three horses and uses them some for ranch work, but mostly for pleasure riding if she has time.
Robin grew up in a ranching family, too. She and Scott met at Colorado State where she was on a pre-veterinarian track. When she graduated, she and Scott were married and she quickly put her skills to work on the ranch. “She handles most of our vetting needs and manages the calf program.” Scott laughs, “I’m not allowed to handle the calves.”
It was Robin who spearheaded the Mikita Dairy’s move to organic certification. “There wasn’t much to the transition for us,” Scott says. “Pretty much the only thing we had to change was the purchased feeds, which are now all certified organic, and the milk replacer we used to give the calves after they were weaned. Now they’re fed fresh whole milk straight out of the bulk tank.” After researching options of where to sell their milk, it was the Organic Valley/ CROPP cooperative that stood out to Robin.
Since the farm is run only by family members, they didn’t have time to get into creative marketing techniques to sell their product, and they weren’t much inclined to that sort of thing anyway. “The Co-op model is a great way to do business,” Scott says, “because it allows us to get down to business, to do what we do best and that’s to take care of our cows so that they can take care of us. The co-op handles the rest.” The fact that member/owners of Organic Valley are paid a fair and stable price for quality products was a big attraction, relieving them from the uncertainty of huge swings in milk prices that are far removed from the actual costs of farming. “Making food for people is the most important and constant job in the world. It doesn’t make sense that you can’t get paid for it consistently. The co-op recognizes this fact.”
Calhan has the distinction of being the highest non-mountainous incorporated town in North America, but the eastern plains that claim the sprawl of the Mikita ranch are fairly flat. It is classic short grass prairie land, and makes great pasture for the Holsteins. The Mikitas raise their own alfalfa for winter feed for the animals, but when the weather warms and the pasture greens up, the cows are in the fields. “My favorite time of year is spring, because that’s when the stock can get back on the grass and everybody’s happy.” And on this family farm in Calhan, happy cows just make sense.