Prock confronts regulatory burdens, hurdles for young people starting out
By JULIA HOLLISTER
For the Capital Press
DENAIR, Calif. -- Ray Prock, a Stanislaus County dairyman, says he was raised with a passion for the industry.
"My parents started the farm in 1972 with a small number of cows," he said. "I suppose most kids have dreams of having careers other than the family business. But I learned about dairy operations and it became second nature to go into business with my parents."
Denair, south of Modesto, is the third location of the dairy. In 1974 it was near Sacramento but the land was sold for housing subdivisions. The current herd includes Holsteins, Jerseys and some cross-breeds. The farm has a 240-acre sister operation in Klamath Falls, Ore., where they raise hay for the California dairy a six-hour drive away.
"There is no average day," he said. "I work with my father and one of my brothers. We have to pay close attention and schedule days to back each other up. We never know when a cow will get sick or a piece of equipment breaks down."
He is secretary of the Agchat Foundation, a group he helped found whose mission is to empower farmers to use social media. He is also an officer in the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau and is active with the California Dairy Campaign and Dairy Cares.
Wayne Zipser, executive director of the Stanislaus Farm Bureau, said Prock supports agriculture in the county and the nation.
"I know of no one who is more knowledgeable about communicating to the ag sector and to the general public about the importance of agriculture and the dairy industry than Ray Prock," Zipser said. "Ray has given of his time freely away from his family to promote the great stewardship of family dairy farmers throughout the country.
"The dairy industry has gone through some very tough times the last several years and Ray has not only continued to be a top-notch producer but has been a superior spokesman for the industry," Zipser said.
Prock agrees the dairy industry faces challenges.
"It is difficult for young people to get into the dairy business," he said.
"All the California regulations, environmental impact reports and permits are not easy to comply with, and you have to start with significant capital," he said. "Most of those starting out buy an existing facility rather than start a new one because it's cheaper."
Prock said profit margins are getting smaller because of the cost of corn for feed and complying with regulations.
Stanislaus County enjoys a great infrastructure and an excellent environment for farming, he said, but an increasing influx of people from the Bay Area present some challenges, as is the general economy.
Ray Lin Dairy
Location: Denair, Calif.
Owners: The Prock Family
Years farming: 41
Co-op membership: Ship to Hilmar Cheese
Total cows: 500
Employees: Four, plus three family members
Quote: "We strive to be the best farmers possible and give our best to our community, animals and environment."