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milks 140 cows. “Now you can actually invest in a piece of equipment that enhances the farm, instead of just repairing something that is worn out. That wasn’t a choice before Mar- cellus shale. And making those investments in your facilities and new technology can improve cow comfort and herd per- formance, leading to greater profitability for the farm.


“One of the most exciting things about Marcellus Shale is that we have one of the largest gas finds in the world right here. It could deliver energy at a very affordable price for many years to come. Yet the acres above the ground can still be produc- tive in feeding our nation and our world. When you look at the estimates in global population growth, these acres need to stay in production because we’re going to need them.”


The opportunity with Marcellus Shale is also a generational opportunity.


“Some dairy farmers may be able to use gas income as a way to retire but still keep their farms in production agriculture,” Coolidge explains. “There are also a lot of young people who want to get started in the dairy business. Farm owners could retire, work out rental opportunities to help young people get started but keep the leasing rights for retirement income.”


NEW BUSINESS MODELS Sugar Branch Farm is one example of a business that found


an opportunity for a new model with the expansion of the Marcellus Shale industry into the region. Jim Van Blarcom, his son and two sons-in-law operate a 450-cow dairy in Columbia Cross Roads, with 1,700 acres of cropland and a 5,600-sow, farrow-to-finish hog operation. The Marcellus Shale income they receive helped them grow to the size and scale they are today.


“It takes a large amount of capital to expand a dairy,” Van Blarcom says. “We had penciled it in for years, and it was always on that borderline. It could have worked if everything went well, but if prices fell or something else happened, we couldn’t generate enough cash flow.


“When gas leasing came along, it pushed the numbers to the point where they worked, and you had that little bit of back-up from the gas if you hit a few rough spots when you were most vulnerable. Growing made it possible for two more families, in addition to the two that were already involved, to be in our dairy business.”


Marcellus Shale income allowed some of Van Blarcom’s neighbors to take a different path.


“Many of our neighbors were still in the business but ap- proaching retirement. The gas income allowed them to retire, maintain the land and invest in some of those things they’d wanted all their lives,” Van Blarcom says. “Because they re- tired, we were able to rent the land to expand our operation. Our growth in the dairy herd has more than taken up for what was lost in the smaller herds that left the industry.”


The Center for Dairy Excellence is working to support all dair- ies as they make decisions about their future. For folks in the northern region of Pennsylvania, Marcellus Shale income has changed the scenario before them and provided more options and opportunities. The center is looking forward to continuing to be a resource for dairies in this region as they move forward to grow their businesses and invest in the next generation of dairy in Pennsylvania.


Sugar Branch Farm is one example of a business that found an opportunity for a new model with the expansion of the Marcellus Shale industry into the region. Jim Van Blarcom, his son and two sons-in-law operate a 450-cow dairy in Columbia Cross Roads, with 1,700 acres of cropland and


a 5,600-sow, farrow-to-finish hog operation. The Marcellus Shale income they receive helped them grow to the size and scale they are today.


Marcellus Quarterly 2014


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