Growing up on the family dairy his entire life, there was no doubt that Donny Rollin wanted his children to share the same experience.
I love it,” Rollin said about dairying in Riverdale. Started by his grandfather back in 1929, the Rollins’ family dairy operation has grown to more than 1,800 milking cows, mostly purebred Holsteins.
Rollin was born in the San Diego area but moved with his family to Riverdale in 1975 to help his father run the family farm. Today, he partners with his brother Andy and his father Paul. Their dairy is part of California Dairies Inc., the largest dairy cooperative in California, which merged with the Fresno-based Danish Creamery, whose butter is still marketed under the Danish Creamery logo.
Rollin graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1989 where he received a bachelor’s degree in dairy science and a minor in agricultural business.
While Rollin loves working with the cows and loves living in a rural community, he knows it is hard work to run a successful dairy. “Living out here [dairy], you get an honest day’s work,” he said. “The dairy industry is very dynamic; there is a different set of new challenges within the same business everyday.”
Rollin said some of his everyday challenges include: the overall health of the herd; making the dairy more efficient; labor; and increased costs due to new fees and regulations. He said these are challenges that need to be faced by the entire industry. “We’re price takers; so it’s important to have healthy cows and to have those cows milking.”
Rollin believes his dairy has adapted well to the changes in the industry. “I see areas where we’ve made a lot of progress [to become more efficient].”
An example Rollin cited is their commitment to conservation tillage through strip-till or no-till, which is a great way to reduce costs on fuel, labor and wear and tear on equipment. Another adaptation is the merging of two milk barns into one a few years ago to reduce energy costs.
In addition to his cows, Rollin farms over 700 acres of row crops, including alfalfa, corn, oats, wheat and Sudan grass. He also farms 15 acres of pomegranates and plans to plant more next winter.
Rollin puts major emphasis on his employees’ roles in the success of the business. As with many family businesses, employees often become ingrained with the family business. One employee has been with Rollin’s dairy for 33 years, while another group of employees have been with dairy for almost 20 years.
We strive to keep a good core of employees and we treat them extremely well,” Rollin said. He looks to provide his employees with the tools and training necessary for them to be successful.Why Farm Bureau?
I really like the opportunities Farm Bureau offers,” Rollin said. “I thought the time vested with Farm Bureau would be well worth my time.”
Rollin is now serving in his third year as the Dairy Commodity Chairman on the FCFB Board of Directors. In this position, Rollin believes he is not only a spokesperson for the dairy industry, he also contributes to general agriculture.
Rollin is often used as the “go-to” person on dairy issues. He is a natural at communicating with local media. He provides answers to a variety of questions, including questions about the dairy industry and its impact on the environment, the local economy and its role in the local community.
Perhaps the toughest questions Rollin has faced through the years have come during one of his favorite days of the year: FCFB’s Farm and Nutrition Day in March. Every year, he brings a few of his milking cows to the event to show third graders the entire process on how a cow is milked. Never knowing what tough question might be asked next, one question he has been asked is: “How can you tell the difference between and a boy cow and a girl cow?” Needless-to-say, he was able to answer it in a way that kept him off the phone with concerned parents!
Outside of Farm Bureau, Rollin has served on the local Holstein Association board for 20 years and previously served on the local Dairy Herd Improvement Association board.Favorite hobby: family
Rollin has been married to Christina for 16 years, and has four children: Tristan, 11; Noah, 9; Laila, 7; and Siena, 4.
When asked what Rollin likes to do when he’s not working, he said, “To spend time with my family; trying to be a good husband and father to my kids.”
For Rollin, this has involved a number of things: coaching baseball and softball, helping his children get involved with music, taking his children to vacation Bible school, and staying involved with their schoolwork. In fact, he previously served on the “Wee Friends” pre-school board.
Rollin also has the proud role as “the enforcer” while his wife teaches the Children’s Mass every Sunday at St. Ann’s Catholic Church. It’s his job to make sure the children behave during Mass.
When the Rollin family has time, they get a kick out of riding around in their old dirt bikes (motorcycles) around the family farm.
Although having a dairy demands Rollin to work year-round, it’s obvious he still finds time to be with the people that matter the most to him.
Meet Your Board Members Profile: Ag Today, Jun 07
By: John Migliazzo