Daryl and Carol Bartz, long-time leaders in the Martin County pork industry, were named this year's Martin County Farm Family of the Year. They credit strong relationships with family, employees, friends and professional guidance for their success.
BY KATE CROWLEY ROSENBERG
Two of Martin County’s pioneering hog producers have been named Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota Extension Service.
Daryl and Carol (Smith) Bartz married young in 1960; she was 17 and he was 19, and they needed their parents' permission to wed. They began their farming career in Rolling Green Township on rented land.
“We had a very frugal beginning,” Daryl said. “We started with 12 sows.” Those slaughter sows provided the basis for their first swine herd as they kept back a few gilts each time they sold pigs.
Daryl learned frugality from his father and grandfathers who had all suffered through the depression years in North Dakota, at one point going three years straight without producing a crop. Carol was raised in Fairmont. With two young children and a lot of hard work, they persevered.
After renting for 10 years, they had saved the down payment for about half the price of a 240 acre farm in Frazier Township. With backing from a trusting friend, they made the deal and never looked back.
“We’ve worked hard and been blessed abundantly,” Carol said.
By 1984, they helped to start Camalot Breeders, which provided breeding stock for many of the hog breeders in Martin County.
Success wasn't easy. Sometimes, they had to start over. In 1998, they took advantage of the pseudorabies buyout. “We sold every pig on the farm,” Daryl said. The facilities had to be disinfected and sit idle before they could begin to restock. Afterwards, they started a new enterprise, Wacoma, near Truman, with four producers, and later they built MLR by East Chain. But farming was never easy.
“We had trouble keeping the sows free of disease,” Daryl said. Wind-borne pathogens would contaminate the herd and cause tremendous losses. That was the beginning of the Iso-wean project where they would raise 15-pound piglets, isolating them from other livestock to protect them from pathogens.
After selling MLR, they started Center Creek Pork—a 5,000 head sow facility.
From their home base in Frazier Township, the Bartzes would finish some of the pigs at their home farm and network with neighboring facilities to finish the rest.
One of the blessings that made them successful was their ability to build strong relationships with others in the industry. “We used to get together once a month with other producers to get ideas from each other,” Daryl said.
Their relationships with fellow producers wasn’t their only gift—they built on their professional relationships with their bankers, lawyers, veterinarians and others, Carol said.
“Our vets were very good teachers,” Daryl said. The information they provided was absorbed by the staff and proved instrumental in their successful swine husbandry practices.
One of the lessons they learned from their bankers was to fudge their cash flow by building in a cushion. One banker taught them to either take their “expenses times two or divide the income by half.”
“So we were always very careful putting cash flows together,” Daryl said. The buffer it provided in their cash flow carried them through when crop problems hit or disease infected the herd.
“We owe a lot to the people who helped us along the way,” Carol said.
One of their employees has been with them nearly 40 years.
“A good employee will attract other good employees,” Daryl said. He credited his long-term employees with his success.
In today’s high-tech world, Daryl said he leaves the computer work to his staff.
“My job is to provide them with the tools they need to get the job done,” he said.
Today, the Bartzes market 50,000 head annually and farm about 2,100 acres.
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