Special Report

Charles Crave talks about the farm, the family, the future

Imagine for a moment that you allow a group of people in your county to make plans to basically take over your farm, a gradual three-year process that culminates with three hectic days. At first it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, you do a few media interviews, pose for a few pictures. Then, people start sizing-up your farm, making plans and before you know it, you start to see a city of tents and poles and street signs start to pop-up on 80 acres of your hay ground. Then the machinery rolls in, truckloads of it, huge machinery and equipment and booths and displays. There are semi-trailers packed with tables and chairs and food and refreshments and all of a sudden, for three days, some 50,000 people will visit your farm.

That is a brief synopsis of what it is like to be the host farm for Wisconsin Farm Technology Days. That is what the Crave Brothers and their families are going through this week. On Wednesday morning, I had a chance to sit down and chat with Charles Crave, the eldest of the four brothers and the one the other three point at to say, “It was his idea!” “It’s been a really positive, pleasant experience for our whole family,” is his answer. In the 20-plus years that I have covered this show, I can safely say every host family I have met would agree with Charles.

Charles and George were the two initial partners in the operation, starting in Mount Horeb then purchasing this farm near Waterloo. Brothers Tom and Mark joined later to build what is a showcase for dairying in America’s Dairyland. “You have to learn to give-and-take, set common goals and work to achieve those goals.” Charles adds you need to address the things that need to be addressed and you need to celebrate the things that go right, “And Farm Technology Days is a celebration of some of the things that have gone right.”

He says one of the key elements leading to the success of Crave Brothers Dairy Farm is the attention they paid to the cows. “We started breeding for feet and leg confirmation around 1980” in anticipation of someday having a slatted-floor barn. “So, when we built our slatted floor barn, the cows were ready to go.” Like many top dairy producers, focus on cow comfort has been at the forefront, that was taken into consideration with every improvement on the farm from curb height to organic bedding.

Two of the more recent innovations on the farm are the anaerobic digester and the cheese factory, in both instances, the brothers sought out the opinions and ideas from experts in the field before making decisions. The same can be said for the people who help with the dairy herd and the crops. “We rely on them for their best efforts because our mutual best efforts are tied together.”

Time will not stand still and neither will Crave Brothers, Charles and George already have children in their 20’s and they are becoming a part of the future of this 21st century family farm.

AUDIO: Charles Crave talks about the experience

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