This month we are very pleased to introduce you to fifth generation farmers, Matt and Kristie Dorsey, who live in the rich and scenic Sunnyslope area of Southwest Canyon County, Idaho, overlooking the Snake River. The Dorseys, with their three children – Wyatt who is 17, and their 14 year old twins, Weston and Delaynie, are farmers, ranchers and dairymen!
Both Matt and Kristie have been farming and ranching their entire lives. Matt’s great-great-grandparents came to the region in the late 1800s, and raised horses for the government. Matt’s great-grandparents began the existing family farm, raising mostly sheep. His grandparents and parents all farmed and raised sheep. His grandparents also ran a dairy. In fact, they bought Holstein heifer calves back east, which were were flown into Boise! Matt’s dad, Tom Dorsey, continued the dairy, so when Matt was growing up, dairying and farming came naturally him.
Kristie was raised on a ranch in Southeast Idaho; it is due to her background and experience that she and Matt began their beef cattle operation.
On their farm, Sunnyslope Land and Livestock, the Dorseys raise beef cattle and dairy cows. They also grow all of the feed for their livestock (which is unusual). Nearly all of their cropland is planted to forage crops which they feed to their beef and dairy animals – alfalfa hay, wheat and barley feed, and a lot of pastureland. In addition, they grow mint, which is sold for its oil that flavors many of the foods we each.
The Dorseys have been busy the past few years adding a new dimension to their operation – Dorsey Organics! The process to obtain organic certification is difficult and can take years to accomplish. For example, it has taken a whole year for their farm and record inspections to be completed. It takes fully three years from the first year of organic methods before each acre of land is certified USDA Organic. Except for the mint, all of their cropland and pasture, which grows food for the cows, is in transition to organic. Matt believes that it will be well worthwhile, because demand for organic food is growing rapidly, and the price he will receive for his product (organic milk) is much higher than non-organic milk.
In their effort is in becoming an organic dairy, they will be transitioning their entire herd from Holsteins (large black and white cows) to Jerseys (smaller, light brown cows). Jerseys produce a smaller volume of milk than Holsteins but with higher fat and buttermilk components, making them good cheesemakers. Jerseys also do very well on pasture – they don’t require as much feed so they’re more efficient than Holsteins in their feed consumption. The Dorsey’s organic milk will be sold to the Sorrento Lactalis Company in Nampa, Idaho, to be made into organic cheese.
Matt and Kristie like the philosophy of organic. They take care of their soil and the land, because that’s how they make their living. Almost all of their land is no-tilled, they don’t plow at all, in an effort to disturb the land as little as possible. This keeps the organic matter of the soil as intact as possible. Matt’s father and grandfather used to till the land, and Matt was the one who actually did the plowing. When he went off to college, nobody was here to plow, so it didn’t happen! So they just converted their operation to minimum and no-till. *If you’d like to read more about no-till farming, click HERE.
In addition to their dairy, Matt and Kristie have a successful beef cow-calf operation. The mother cows calve in the natural environment of their pastures, and they stay on pasture until after they the calves are weaned. At weaning, the calves are 700-800 pounds, and they are brought into the Dorsey’s feedlot, where they are fed alfalfa hay and grain until they are “finished” and ready for market at about 1,200 pounds.
Matt likes to work, he especially likes raising the crops. As for interests and hobbies, he likes to watch his kids participate in their hobbies and sports. For the past couple years, he’s raced RZRs (Polaris) – he likes speed!
Kristie likes housekeeping and gardening (you can tell – their home and garden is beautiful). This spring, she is getting a jump on her vegetable garden by starting her seedlings in her kitchen. The seedlings keep warm on a heating pad right on the kitchen counter! Kristie also works part-time at the Wilder Canyon-Owyhee School Service Agency (COSSA). She sets up adult training classes for the community – fitness, welding, auto shop, CPR, wood shop, woodland fire fighter training courses. Kristie says this is very satisfying and gratifying work, being able to assist so many people in her community with their education and training.
Their son, Wyatt likes to farm, he is a really good tractor guy, and will drive tractor all day long. Wyatt also loves and is good at football. He’s the left tackle on Homedale High’s Varsity team. He plays first baseman on his high school baseball team, too, and he also wrestled this year, which Kristie says helped him improve his game of football.
Weston also likes to farm and work with his dad. He loves to ride dirtbike motorcycles, and to race RZRs with his dad. He just got a drone, is learning to use that. He can check out the family’s farm fields, he can check the pastures and feedlot to see how the cattle are doing. His high school is offering to pay him to film their football games, and the Owyhee Avalanche (their community’s newspaper) has asked him to do some filming for them. Weston is sort of famous around his community for this.
DeLaynie has many interests and talents – she loves to ride horses. She has a beautiful singing voice and used to sing in the Treasure Valley Young Artists’ Choir. She loves volleyball and softball, and plays on the school teams. Right now, DeLaynie is running track. She runs the 100 yard dash, the 400, and the long jump and triple jump.
Now for the question and answer part of our interview:
What are the biggest challenges you face as a farmer, dairyman and rancher? Oh, so many taxes – property taxes especially. And irrigation challenges; we hope that we have enough water to last throughout the growing season. We appreciate having the water to irrigate right now, and we hope it lasts through until harvest. Also, the regulations and government agencies that make decisions about our operation greatly affects us.
What is the best part of farming for you? There are great rewards to farming! The best thing is that you’re your own boss. Being able to work with your hands and being able to be outside (which can also be a challenge). Raising our family to be responsible, and to take responsibility for their actions, and to teach them to work hard, that there’s nothing wrong with hard work. We feel blessed to have the opportunity to work the land as a family. We want people to know and understand what it takes to raise the food that they buy in the grocery store.
What is your education? Matt has an Associates degree in agronomy from Ricks College in Eastern Idaho, and a Bachelors degree in Animal Science with a minor in Business from Utah State University. Kristie has an Associates degree in Office Education from Ricks College and a Bachelors degree in Business Education from USU. The two met at Utah State.
Do you participate in any civic or industry organizations? Both Matt and Kristie are very involved in their community as well as in Idaho agricultural leadership. Matt: Leadership Idaho Agriculture (LIA) graduate, Canyon County Farm Bureau Board President, Chairman of the Thomas Jefferson Charter School Board, started a charter school (when Wyatt was in Kindergarten), it’s a really successful and great charter school. Past: Young Cooperaters for Darigold (Northwest Dairy Association), President (both Matt and Kristie) and elected to be National Milk Producer Federation President Couple, LIA Chairman of the Board. Kristie is an LIA graduate, Idaho Ag In The Classroom Chairman of the Board, LIA Board of Directors, Canyon County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.
Do you have any stories you’d like to share? Matt was 8 years old and was helping his dad burn weeds. Matt was driving the tractor (!), which had an enclosed cab. His dad was holding the burning wand, and was doing the burning. It got to be lunchtime, so they had parked the tractor by a frog pond, and came into the house to eat. When lunch was finished, Matt ran out ahead of his dad, jumped into the tractor cab and started up the engine. He pushed in on the clutch, which engaged the wheels closest to the pond and drove that tractor right into the frog pond! His dad saw him pop up out of the tractor and into the pond, he ran and got to Matt and got him out of there. They washed him off and then Matt slept for 24 hours. The family never could figure out how Matt got out of the cab, and Matt didn’t know either. They think that it was divine intervention, which has always seemed to be the only explanation.
Another story is about son Weston. One time he went to a dance, but came home early in order to disk a field – he wanted to get a jump on the fieldwork. Now that’s a dedicated farmboy!
Is there anything additional that you would like for our readers to know? The public’s negative perception of farmers can be difficult for us to handle. We want people to know that we are stewards of the land and of our livestock. That is how we make our money. We care for our land and our animals, and they care for us.
We are proud of this farm family, the Dorsey Family. We admire them, that they have been able to stay on their family land for five generations and over 100 years, and that they have a vision for the future, to keep their land healthy and progressive for generations to come.
THANK YOU MATT AND KRISTIE DORSEY!