MARTINTOWN — After 109 years of dairy farming, the Bidlingmaier Century Farm is taking a step back.
Area farmers gathered Feb. 24 at the rural Martintown farm as 72 milk cows and springing heifers were auctioned off as Jeff and Barbara Bidlingmaier made the difficult decision to focus instead on their beef cattle.
The auction itself was a family event as much as the farm, with Jeff’s brother Tom of B&M Actions serving as auctioneer.
“You have to make a change of life to keep your peace of mind,” Barbara said. Many farmers throughout the state have been forced to take new paths or close their farms altogether, and the Bidlingmaiers are no different.
The farm’s help quit during the polar vortex that took hold of the region in early February and, with the death of Jeff’s mother, Marilyn Miskimon, on Valentine’s Day, the family decided that it was time to downsize. They celebrated Miskimon’s life and honored her memory by providing the auction’s visitors with lunch.
“It’s hard to find help in the dairy business,” Barbara said.
Though the auction reflects the end of an era for the historic family-owned farm, Jeff and Barb Bidlingmaier will continue working on the farm, now focusing instead on their beef cattle.
They hope to see the next generation continue on the farm’s legacy as a century farm, which requires that the farm stay in the family and remain operational.
“It’s hard to say, but it would be great if that were an opportunity,” Barbara said. The pair’s own three daughters, Amy, Ashley and Angie, have each moved on to their own farms, businesses or jobs, but Barbara remains hopeful that a family member of the younger generation will step up to the plate.
“After 109 years, you hope it can stay in the family,” she said.