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A2B-Lancaster Farming, Saturday, June 6, 1998
MARSHA ANN CHESS
Mercer Co. Correspondent
JAMESTOWN (Mercer Co.)
Albin and Betty Wester,
Jamestown, Mercer County,
started dairy fanning a little dif
ferently than many other farmers.
It all started when they brought
a family Jersey cow to their eight
acre home 22 years ago. It grew
into a Jersey farm in the early
1980 s. Today they milk 57 head
and have an expansion in prog
Westers still own only the ori
ginal eight acres, but they rent ap
proximately 200 acres on which
they grow com silage and hay.
They buy all of their grain and
some hay. In the past they bought
nearly all of their feed.
Despite their small acreage,
manure has never really been a
“We’re out of the way up here,
so it’s not a real problem,” said
Albin, adding, “We take great
pains to keep it off the road and
make sure the wind is not blowing
toward the neighbors’ houses
when we spread.”
They started farming because it
was something Albin had always
wanted to do.
“I’m a farm boy,” Albin said,
“the farm Idnda grew on the rest of
Growing up. Wester had work
ed on Holstein farms, but he really
likes his Jerseys. “We think
they’re the cow of the future,” he
In addition to being a dairyman,
Albin is a retired teacher, an artist,
and a builder.
“It’s interesting,” he said “I’ve
been all these things and I have a
daughter who is an artist, one who
is a teacher, a son who is a carpen
ter, and another daughter who is a
farmer (currently a dairy science
MARSHA ANN CHESS
Mercer County Correspondent
Marsha Ann Chess is a Decem
ber 1997 graduate of Penn State
University with a degree in dairy
and animal science.
A Mercer County correspon
dent for Lancaster Farming, she
is employed on her family’s
Pleasant View Farm, in Fredonia,
Mercer County, where her duties
include milking, and calf and
heifer care and management.
When she is not working on the
farm, she enjoys horseback rid
ing, reading, exercising her Shet
land sheepdog, writing, sewing,
While in college, she was
active in the Penn State Dairy
Science Club, Delta Theta Sigma,
the College of Agricultural Sci
ences Student Council, and was a
member of collegiate 4-H.
She competed in public
and was on the 1995 Penn State
dairy judging team.
She served internships with the
Jersey Journal and Pennsylvania
Farmer magazines in 1996 and
Chess was active in 4-H for 11
years, with projects in daily,
dairy goat, horses, dog care and
training, and veterinary science.
She was a member of her coun
ty 4-H council, and also served as
a member of the Penn State 4-H
Ambassador state team, as well
as a junior advisor.
In addition. Chess was Pen
nsylvania Jersey queen from
1992- and the Mercer
County dairy princess from
Wester Jersey Farm: The Art Of Becoming Farmers
and pre-veterinary student at
Delaware Valley College).”
At present they are in the pro
cess of budding a parlor and add
ing onto the free stall bam with
plans to milk 100-150 cows in the
"We’re growing slowly, doing
90 percent of the work ourselves
with help from our son. It’s en
abling us to avoid taking on a lot
In addition to building the new
parlor and expanding the free stall
bam. Wester is working on an art
studio in which to paint portraits.
He hopes to have time to spend
painting after they get the parlor
up and running.
Westers run the farm them
selves with the help of a girl hired
part time, and Albin’s right hand
“girl,” a border collie named Es
As they look to the future, they
hope to get into merchandising
and have that as part of their in
come. To reach that goal they’ve
been working to improve the
genetics of their herd
“We started with some not very
good cows,” Betty said “They
were all grades, but we put them
in genetic recovery and really fo
cused on our breeding program.”
It has worked. Their herd aver
aged 51 pounds per cow on their
most recent test day.
Both Albin and Betty feel they
appreciate good cows more now
than they would have if they had
them when they started.
Westers are not the only ones
who have noticed their success.
They received the Pennsylvania
Jersey Management Award in
It hasn’t always been easy, get
ting up at 4 am., and learning as
they go, but they have survived.
Albin laughed and said the biggest
In other pursuits, she won the
senior division of the All-
American Jersey Youth show
manship contest and placed
seventh in the Jersey youth
In 1991, she was the state 4-H
award winner and delegate to the
National 4-H Club Congress.
Chess said she takes some
pride in the fact that she has
worked with all six breeds of
daily cattle, and said it gives her a
chance to assess the comparative
strengths and weaknesses of each
breed in order to evaluate merits
fairly, although, she said she con
siders her Jerseys and Brown
Swiss to be personal favorites.
Albfn and Betty Wester and their grandson Gus show off their future parlor.
Albin and Betty Wester along with grandson Gus, and Al’s right hand dog Esther
take pride In their Mercer County Jersey Farm.
challenge sometimes has been not
“I didn’t know anything about
fanning when we first got mar
ried,” Betty said, “I was afraid of
anything larger than a terrier.
“One thing that really helped us
learn was 4-H. Our youngest
daughter, Leanna, got involved in
4-H and I had to take her. 4-H
helped build our interest and
taught us about animal care.”
Now, Betty said she has com
plete confidence in her ability to
work with the cows, although she
feels there is always more to be
“In some ways building from
scratch has been good,” Albin
said, “but it would have been nice
to start with one big bam instead
of having to keep building on.”
One advantage they feel they
had was not having any bad habits
or being set in their ways.
Ablin said his advice to others
wanting to get into the dairy busi
ness is to hang around good Dann
ers and learn from them.
Albin and his right hand girl, Esther, take a break as the
Jerseys look on.
“Keep your ears open and lis- Albin added, “We’re very posi
ten,” Betty said. “Think positive,” live.”