While some dairy farms are challenged to find the next generation of farmers, Tiashoke Farms had the opposite problem—if you can call it a problem. Although Frank and Terry Ziehm pushed their three sons to explore life beyond the family farm, they all came back. Stuart Ziehm, the youngest, worked in California and Pennsylvania on operations milking thousands of cows. “As big and bright as all those other opportunities were, no opportunity was bigger and brighter than coming home to work with family,” he reflects. Stuart has worked side by side with his brothers, Brian and Eric, along with their father, to grow the business responsibly and sustainably to a level where it can support all four families.
Among the three brothers, there are now seven fifth–generation Ziehms on and around the farm, helping feed the calves and giving tours to the occasional lucky visitor. Things have changed, though, since Stuart and his brothers were young. “We grew up riding our bicycles in the barn and the driveway,” Stuart says. “Now there’s more big equipment and it’s more challenging to include the children in everything we do.” His wife, Jessica, also a fourth-generation dairy farmer, adds, “It’s a family farm, but it’s also our family business. We needed to modernize, which has allowed us to be more sustainable, as well as viable.”
Jessica and Stuart Ziehm speak with pride about the careful work Tiashoke does to minimize its environmental impact and about partnering with the local stewardship association to conserve 500 acres of their land. “The family farm is one of the last industries that makes a living from the land,” Jessica says. “It makes us extremely proud to be able to serve as the caretakers of this land, and ensure its future is in agriculture. We’re the lucky ones.”