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New Palestine family works through the challenges of starting a dairy farm from scratch

Estes Family.png
Posted at 9:18 AM, Aug 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-02 09:18:50-04

NEW PALESTINE — Kerry Estes and his wife Christiana had a dream to start-up a family farm. In 1999, that dream became a reality with the purchase of land in New Palestine.

In 2005 they began milking cows, but starting a farm from scratch wasn't easy.

“We had some great difficulties getting started, but the Lord took care of us and helped us get going," Kerry Estes said.

The farm sits on more than 100 acres, which the family also uses to produce feed for their cows.

150 cows get milked every day by a team of just six family members.

Kylee Estes says she has a lot of jobs on the farm.

“I clean off the beds where the cows sleep, push up the feed and feed the calves," Kylee Estes said.

Her sister Laura also takes on many roles.

“I work in our pasture getting feed ready for the cows," Laura Estes said. "I come back up, I milk the cows, and then I work in our calf barn and work a little bit with calf healthcare. Making sure they're happy and healthy.”

Their brother Jason also lends a hand mixing calf grain and helping in the calf barn.

Mom Christiana says dairy farming is a year-round job.

“I milk the cows every day. Morning, evening, 365 days a year," Christiana Estes said. "I also test milk on every cow to make sure they're milk is high quality. I wash the milk lines. I make sure that everything is clean and up to standard.”

Once the milk is collected, it is chilled and stored until the milk hauler arrives.

Kerry and his son Damon round out the six member family crew. Damon says he feels blessed to work with his brother and sisters.

“The vision of the farm is that it's a family operation. That is the most important thing and the most special thing to me," Damon Estes said. "Getting to be out here with them twice a day every day and getting to know each of them deeply and their personalities, getting to see how those personalities play out as they do their work.”

That work happens no matter what weather extremes they may face. Kerry says the severe drought of 2012 took a toll on the crops they grow to feed the cows.

“I thought we're going to lose the farm," Kerry Estes said. "I really did. We went out, and we sowed a crop of oats and turnips, and I'll tell you what, we got a bumper crop off of that and we grazed on that until Christmas Day.”

But 2023 is turning out to be quite the year for the Estes family.

Their farm may center around cows, but this past May was also about horsepower.

Kerry served as the official milkman for the winner of this year's Indy 500. Kerry says handing the bottle of milk to Joseph Newgarden was extra special for him because the Indy 500 champ had visited the farm before the race.

“I give him the milk. He turns and he's like, ‘I was at your farm!' It was such a cool thing," Kerry Estes said. "It could not have been scripted any better.”

Newgarden even named a cow after his mom, Tina. Kerry says an experience like that is tough to beat, but his focus for the future continues to be on his family and the farm.

The next time you reach for that jug of milk at the grocery store, Kerry tells me he hopes you'll think of the farm families who work hard to produce it.

“My desire is that consumers just realize we're just ordinary people. We have families. We're just trying to make it," Estes said.