Committed to Doing Things Right

05-08-2024 in Anniversary

Mike Lambert heard about the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) while listening to the radio one day.

He was a young farmer looking at possible avenues for growth. He was farming with his family, renting ground, and working an off-farm, part-time job. He knew he liked working with cattle.

The radio spot encouraged people to call with their questions about starting or growing a livestock farm. Lambert called.

That was 2012.

Brian Waddingham, CSIF executive director, took the call and came to Dickinson County near Spirit Lake to see Lambert’s farm for himself.

“Making that call is one of the best things I’ve done for my family and my farm,” says Lambert.

Lambert wanted to move his cattle into confinement. The mere mention of that can be a hot-button issue in some locations. Lambert’s proximity to the Iowa Great Lakes had the potential to create concern.

“It’s a sensitive area,” says Lambert.

Spirit Lake is the largest natural lake in Iowa. It’s north shoreline skirts Minnesota and it is connected to 5 other lakes including East and West Okoboji where more than 100,000 tourists visit each year. The Lakes serve as the water source for much of the area.

“Brian looked at the water flow and helped determine the right site for the barn,” says Lambert. He walked him through the rules and regulations, the EQIP process to help with financing, and advised him on ways to talk to his neighbors, some of whom were understandably apprehensive. “He was patient and understood the sensitivity.”

“His farm is close to the Lakes, so he was concerned about how neighbors would accept the confinement barn, and how they viewed farmers in general,” says Waddingham.

“Coalition input can help people understand the smaller feedlot is usually a farmer feeder adding value to his corn,” says Lambert. He tells of one neighbor with lakefront property who had his fears quelled by understanding Lambert would still be feeding the same number of cattle, 320 head, just now indoors.

“Mike did everything right. He talked to neighbors about his project,” says Waddingham. “And he never received a complaint about his cattle barn.” Nor any negative feedback from the DNR.

“We were focused on doing it right,” says Lambert. “It was important to maintain our family integrity and go above and beyond to ensure a positive outcome for all.” His father agreed he “got the right person for the right job” when he turned to CSIF.

In addition to his confinement barn, Lambert added a hoop structure to cover manure scrapings. “It keeps the manure where it’s supposed to be, and that adds peace of mind, especially in big rains,” says Lambert. “It pays to go above and beyond.”

Fast forward 12 years.

In the midst of Lambert’s occasional random phone chats with Waddingham, he shared some news: his 11-year-old daughter, Britney, is talking of joining the family farm when she is older.

That would make her the 5th generation on the farm, now occupied by Mike, his wife Ashley, Britney and their other daughter Lauren. His parents, Bill and Carlene Lambert, and brother and his wife, Andy and Tammy, are all connected to the farm started by his great grandfather Roy Lambert in 1916.

“She’s a red head with twice the spirit of anyone I know and she’s already driving around in the gator picking out the cattle she likes,” says Lambert. “It’s time to look at the prospect of building another barn to enable us to bring Britney into the family operation. The first building was beneficial and helped us grow. Now we hope to grow further.”

He once again turned to CSIF. “We’re wanting to grow and that’s what the service is there for,” says Lambert.

It’s been more than a decade since his first barn – a decade of rules and regulations changes, a decade of changes in public perception. He will need CSIF and its expertise as much as before.

This time around he’s not just starting out. This time he’s building a legacy.

“Sustainability is an interesting word,” says Lambert. For him it means building longevity into a multi-generational approach. “We don’t raise cattle the way my great grandpa did. Farming practices change. Time evolves. I’ve been entrusted with a legacy, and that legacy is important. That’s why I care about doing things right.”

Lambert incorporates the latest technology into his operation. He’s teaching Britney how to safely operate farm equipment. He navigates a world where a hacked computer shuts down the local grain elevator and a world-wide pandemic clears grocery shelves. “COVID certainly was an eye-opener for food security,” says Lambert.

“Farmers have to think outside the box to operate and to promote ag,” he continues. “We have to look ahead.”

Britney has a few years before she officially enters the farming operation, but Lambert knows it’s not too early to ask questions and make plans, to have the conversations.

“It is possible to expand and do the right thing at the same time, even in a sensitive area like ours,” he says. “It’s important to turn to someone like CSIF who knows the ins and outs so others can see what we know –it can be done right.”

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers was created by farmers to help farmers raise livestock successfully and responsibly. It’s a joint partnership involving the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation, Midwest Dairy and the North Central Poultry Association. The non-profit, non-partisan organization provides assistance to farmers at no cost. CSIF does not lobby or develop policy. Farm families wanting a helping hand can contact the Coalition at 1-800-932-2436

(By Terri Queck-Matzie for CSIF. Queck-Matzie is a freelance writer from Greenfield).


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