Travis and Melissa Marti
Those who personally know Travis and Melissa Marti might be surprised to know there was a time Travis wanted to pursue a career completely outside of agriculture. Having been raised all his life on the Wood County farm Travis said, “My goal in high school was to get out of here.”
It was while attending college in Michigan that Travis met Melissa, a non-farm girl pursuing a math degree and a teaching certification. Once Travis earned a mechanical engineering degree, he interned with Cat, then accepted a full-time position in Dearborn, Mich., with Ford Motor Company. Meanwhile, Melissa was teaching in Ann Arbor.
It soon became clear to Travis that working a job that had him “in meetings all the time” wasn’t the right path for him. “I wanted to be able to execute decisions, and that wasn’t happening,” Travis said.
In 2007 Travis and Melissa made the decision to move to the Marti homestead. Melissa was pregnant with the first of their four children and both were eager to start the next chapter in life on Travis’ home farm.
Years earlier, when Travis left for college, his father Mick and Grandpa Ron were running the herd of 120 milking cows. Today, Marti Farms employs 7 full-time and 3 key part-time employees; 400 cows are milked 3 times a day in a double-10 parlor and housed in a 4-row sand-bedded tunnel-ventilated barn.
All calves are raised on site in a refurbished stanchion barn. Cow comfort and feed management are top priorities. “The cows pay the bills,” Travis said. “Everything we do is to support their production – they are the queens around here.”
In addition to partnering with the right consultants to guide them in making sound breeding, nutrition and herd health decisions, Travis and Melissa point to ongoing education as a key to progress. Travis was one of about 30 PDPW members who participated in the inaugural class of Financial Literacy for Dairy™, a multi-session, multi-level curriculum designed to equip dairy producers with an in-depth understanding of financial strategies specific to dairy farming.
The curriculum was developed with homework assignments to allow participants to apply classroom learnings to their operations in real time. “It’s extremely important to understand the fundamentals so you can build into the higher levels,” said Travis.
"This class really helped us understand our farm's financial indicators and ratios so we can better evaluate the financial health of the business,” he said. “This knowledge has been especially useful as we navigate through this downturn in the dairy industry."
PDPW’s Herdsperson Conference and annual Business Conference are other events the Martis make time for – either for themselves or team members. “These events are extremely valuable,” Travis said. “Our employees come back with so many ideas. And it’s good for them to feel valued.”
The Dairy’s Visible Voice® program – another multi-part curriculum developed by PDPW – is another event they’ve participated in. Centered on leadership development through effective communication, Dairy’s Visible Voice teaches on the topics of media training, crisis management, effective leadership and social media strategy. “I loved this one,” Melissa said. “All producers should have access to the key talking points you learn about through this program.”
Travis and Melissa recognized value in setting up a Facebook page to showcase their farm and it’s been an effective tool for reaching and educating consumers far and wide. “Our primary objective is to let others know our cows are well taken care of. They’re comfortable, happy and healthy,” Melissa said. “And they make healthy milk.”
With nearly 1,800 followers so far, their Facebook page is a testament to the value of continuous learning. In addition to the posts Melissa routinely makes to educate their followers about topics such as “Magnet Monday”, “What’s that Wednesday”, and “Foodie Friday,” the Martis enjoy opening up their farm for tours as a way of showing people firsthand how calves, cows and crops are cared for.
“I enjoy doing the tours, and it's especially rewarding when they are groups that don't have much farm experience,” Melissa said. “They're always amazed at how technical everything is – from the feed that we feed the cows to the perfect timing in the milking parlor to the volume of milk each calf gets based on how old they are – we monitor everything!”