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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Long-time dairy farmer closes business

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Because of current economic conditions, lifelong Clay County resident Larry Sampson recently called it quits as a dairy farmer. [Click to enlarge]
While waiting for two semi trailers to take 35 dairy cows to their new home in Kentucky recently, Larry D. Sampson wasn't sure of his feelings.

"Don't know what I feel about all this, yet," Larry, a man of few words, answered when asked how he felt about his family dairy business closing. "Guess I'll figure that out in a few days."

Introduced to the family business at an early age, Larry learned how to use milking machines when he was 10-years-old. Waking at 4 a.m.; everyday afterward for 55 years, Larry has done what he loves best, be a dairy farmer.

"I guess the best part of it all has been being my own boss," Larry, 65, said while keeping a watchful eye on his herd. "That, and the cows I guess. They become a part of you after a while. You sort of get attached to them."

According to Larry's son, Bill Sampson, his father "knows them all" and he will miss not having them around.

"Tuesday will be the first morning he won't have to get up at 4 a.m. and come tend the cows," Bill Sampson said about his father. "I figure he'll be here anyway. Not many people work year round, or around the clock anymore, like he's done all his life. This farm, it's all he's ever known, all he's ever done. He's a true dairyman."

Herman Brown, Sampson's grandfather, started the dairy business sometime in the 1920s on the 200 acres of land comprising the family farm located on West County Road 1200 North, Brazil. The business sustained itself for many years, but recent cost increases have become unbearable.

Although milk production was enough to fill a 500-gallon tank every other day, the revenue from the milk delivery is not enough to cover increasing farm expenses.

Larry said the cost of rebuilding a cow barn destroyed during a February storm was also a factor in deciding to end the family business.

"When the costs begin to equal and start to exceed the output, something's got to give," Sharon Sampson said. "Feed costs have doubled recently, and it continues to go up every week. All the costs to maintain a farm are going up."

Amid the family's personal tragedy, Sharon tried to find some good.

"He's a home body, so I don't think we'll be going on any vacation real soon," she said about her husband's new life. "Now he can enjoy a free weekend for once. He's done this all his life, even on the holidays. Maybe he can rest now, but I doubt it. He'll probably find something to do at the farm."

As 4:30 p.m. rolled around, the front yard of the Sampson family farm was filling with vehicles. Family members and friends wanted to be there when the semi trailers arrived to take the cows away. They also were unsure of what to feel, but knew they had to be together for Larry.

"Life sure will be different from now on," Larry said. "The economy is in bad shape, and I don't know what to do about it. But I do know one thing, the little guy just can't make it anymore."

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