MORRIS TOWNSHIP, Pa — With a pencil in hand and a firm belief in the future of dairy farming, Zach and Heidi Kreger are excited to be a part of an operation that has been in their family since 1943 — a farm that now shares the Dairy of Distinction honor.

Although the view of the farm has changed since Ben and Hazel Kreger established the herd, the drive and determination to farm were passed down through their son, Dean to his son and daughter-in law, Jim and Nancy, and now to Zach and Heidi. Dean’s son Tim is also a part of the operation.

Zach and Heidi Kreger’s story began at Penn State. Even though Heidi grew up on a 50-cow dairy at the opposite end of Tioga County and Zach’s sister, Jennifer, and Heidi served as dairy maids together, the two hadn’t met.

“I was the guy who stayed home to milk the cows so his sister could go out and promote dairy,” Zach Kreger said.

He earned a degree in animal science in 2011 and she graduated in 2013 with a degree in ag management. Zach Kreger fulfilled a life-long dream of farming when he returned home after graduating. It was then that the Kreger family built an addition on the barn to add 17 stalls, a new milk house, an office, a utility room, fresh pens and a bathroom.

In 2015, Zach and Heidi purchased the cows and the milking equipment. Today they are milking 70 cows with a total herd size of 80 mature cows and have 66 replacements. With help from Jim and Tim Kreger, they farm 300 acres and raise hay and corn. Together they bring a keen eye to the business and have worked to add feed storage and to renovate an equipment shed to provide space to house their heifers and dry cows.

“Adding feed storage was a really big deal for us,” Heidi Kreger said. “We’re not short on corn silage space anymore.”

As young farmers in a challenging environment, Zach and Heidi Kreger are firm believers in watching their expenses and making wise decisions both in the business and in their personal lives.

“I would say to the college kids that want to farm is do your financial homework. Know what markets are available, do your cash flow projections, don’t be afraid of a balance sheet,” Heidi Kreger said. “We’ve come a long way. Cost of production is huge. The financial analysis that we’ve done on the farm has really helped us to move beyond chores and the daily tasks and more of a dairy business management.”

Beyond the farm, Zach and Heidi Kreger also manage what they call their “personal cost of production.”

“We live very cheaply,” Heidi Kreger said. “With farming we’re not going to be four years out of college and buy a house like some of my friends have done.”

“We drive a Cavalier, not a Corvette,” said Zach Kreger.

They also are open to advice from outside sources.

“Talk to as many people as you can,” said Zach. “Everyone has seen something and knows something that you don’t.”

Carolyn Moyer is a freelance writer in north central Pennsylvania.