New Horizons Writers’ Group

No Country Bumpkin

Bob Hirt

A few weeks ago we invited an old friend, Jerry, and his wife to join us for several days at a timeshare in Southern California. Despite the several days of cold, overcast and rainy weather in Escondido, we had a good time together, playing games by the fireplace, eating out occasionally, exploring the area and showing them around the Welk Resort.

Jerry’s parents were dairy farmers back East and their farm was a little over two miles from our home in Western New York. Not only was I their veterinarian but we were Godparents to their first child. We were married the same year as well, in 1968. We’ve been friends for more than 50 years.

Jerry moved to Arizona many years ago for health reasons, the humidity of the East being a source of general discomfort for him for many years. Not having a job to go to out West, he sought out something related to his background: dairy farming. He soon heard about a huge dairy operation not far from their newly-acquired home. He wasted no time in checking it out. Compared to the Mom and Pop farms of much of New York State, this farm was more like a General Motors assembly-line. Rather than the usual twice daily milking routine, some 3,000 dairy cows there were being milked three times daily, in almost robot-like fashion. He didn’t want any part of that rigorous, very demanding schedule.

He had other ideas. He loved his rural origin, loved the farm, but he really excelled in the mechanical aspect of farming. He savored doing field work, operating and fixing tractors and machinery. He really excelled at it and he thrived on learning about almost anything that aroused his curiosity. On his tour of this huge farming operation he quickly became aware of the level of efficiency on which it ran. It was an enormous operation and it was ultra-modern, and very, very efficient. The farm was equipped with a relatively new concept at the time, a Methane Digester, to dispose of some of the cow waste – the excrement produced daily by these animals. The methane gas formed in their bodies is both belched out as well as excreted and is now considered a significant environmental polluter. Briefly summarized: By going through a series of complicated procedures the methane gas is collected, processed, compressed and fed into a diesel engine. The engine operates a generator that produces the electricity. The electricity that was produced energized their entire farming operation. Not only was this dairy energy-efficient, it had a significant surplus of electricity that was sold back to the Arizona electrical grid. Jerry never let anything intimidate him and soon he became so knowledgeable about the methane digestion process that he was loaned out to help other large dairy farms set up a similar system!

I found out rather recently that many years ago, Jerry was nominated, and then awarded the American Farm Bureau Federation’s New York State Farmer-of-the-Year Award. It didn’t end there. He then went on later to be awarded the American Farm Bureau Federation’s U.S. Farmer-of-the-Year prize in the late 1980s. Wow! Jerry had never mentioned this. It was Joanie, his wife, who informed us of it one day when we visited them. What an incredible honor that is! Talk about our being impressed? This guy Jerry, my good friend, is no country bumpkin!