There's No Place Like Home

Jun 15, 2022

“If you have a dream, chase it. If you want to make a change, do it,” Michael Burger, Lindsborg area farmer 1.pngsays. 

Michael and his wife, Kris Burger, have owned and operated the Deer Run Dairy in Adams, New York since 1998. The two built their business to eventually employ 18 people and milk 850 head of dairy cattle, all while raising three girls: Kassie, Katie and Krystle. 

With an operation of 850 dairy cows and a few hay fields, the Burger family found themselves spending more time in the barn than in their own home. 

“In the dairy industry you have to work 24/7 around the clock,” Michael says. 

In addition to the stress of working non-stop, the family faced strict regulations and rules from the dairy industry and the state of New York surrounding labor, land and manure all while prices continued to plummet and small dairy farms were being squeezed out of the industry. 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), dairy farmers have battled increasingly low prices since 2014. In 2020, the global pandemic greatly disrupted the business resulting in increased milk price volatility and rendered most risk management tools useless. Due to the rise of uncertainty in the industry, roughly 32,000 small dairy operations have been forced to sell their herds and find a new way of life. 

“New York has been home for 30 years, but it was time for a change,” Kris says. 

Michael and Kris were ready for a drastic change, and so was Krystle and Nathan Oakman, Michael and Kris’s oldest daughter and son-in-law. 

“I initially went to college to take over the family farm, but I don’t enjoy the dairy industry anymore,” Krystle says. “My parents didn’t want the farm forever, and I just had no desire to continue in the dairy industry anymore.” 

Kris states that their other two daughters, alongside Krystle, share a passion for the animals on their dairy farm, but couldn’t see a future in the industry. 

“There were ultimately a lot of reasons we decided to move. We just had to figure out where we were going,” Michael says.

Prior to their move, Michael took several hunting trips to the Midwest. “Every time I came home from a hunting trip, I’d tell Kris, ‘I want to move there’,” Michael says. This gave the Burger’s the starting place they needed. 

The Burger’s looked at farms in the Texas Panhandle, Nebraska, Colorado and parts of southwest Kansas before deciding on central Kansas. 

“We were looking at two farms in Nebraska before deciding to visit central Kansas on a whim. We fell in love with the location,” Michael says. “We had no choice but to move here after getting a taste of life in Kansas.” 

Krystle and her husband, Nathan, were the first to move to Lindsborg in May of 2021. Their goal was to get things started on the new farm while Michael and Kris were back home taking care of the dairy farm. 

“Every time I would call home, my parents would ask ‘do you like it? Are you sure you like it?’ and I would always say, ‘yes, I love it,’” Krystal shares. Michael and Kris then took the leap to move in September of 2021. 

Taking more than seven months to complete the move, the family hauled the past 30 years of their lives to their new home in Lindsborg. Each trip was over 1,300 miles and took roughly 25 hours to complete. 

The Burger’s knew it would be a long journey, but what they weren’t expecting was the kindness of Kansans. “Our neighbors were detrimental in the transition,” Michael says. “The good nature of Kansas people helped us a lot.” 

The Relationship Between MKC 

“When we arrived at Lindsborg, Nathan and I ordered fuel from MKC and got to talking about job opportunities,” Oakman says. “We didn’t have any animals at that point so I was looking for something to do.” 

Krystle was hired at the Lindsborg location as a counter and scale specialist in July of 2021, which is where she initially learned about MKC’s agronomy services. After a bad experience with another cooperative in Kansas, the family turned to MKC. 

“We had a lot to learn, so the professional guidance from the employees at MKC was helpful in leading us in the 3.pngright direction,” Michael says. “In New York, we raised cattle, but it was all dairy beef, and we didn’t ever sell commercial cash crops.” Once primarily producing and milking dairy cattle, the Burger family now solely backgrounds cattle and is trying their hand at farming commercial cash crops.

Michael adds, “All the employees we’ve encountered through MKC have been very professional and knowledgeable in helping us get established with crops and contracts. We’re really excited to see what kind of success we have in the future.”

MKC Strategic Account Manager in the Lindsborg area, Braidyn Unruh, is excited to help the family grow and develop their farm in Kansas. “There are a lot of opportunities to start a farming relationship with somebody from the very beginning,” Unruh says. “I have already seen so much growth in the past eight months working with this family. It will be very rewarding to help them grow their operation and watch as they continue to build their dream here in Kansas!”

Now that the family is settled into their new home, The Burgers and the Oakmans have plans to create an LLC together to continue their operation of backgrounding cattle and growing commercial cash crops. They look forward to continuing their journey in Kansas and can’t wait to see what kind of success they’ll find with MKC.

Written by: Katlin Allton, communications specialist