POLK COUNTY, Fla. -- Mike Carey, the owner of H.C. Dairy Farm, says there’s never been a more challenging to be a dairy farmer in Florida.
His farm is the only one left in Polk County, operating at 902 Walker Road, for more than 40 years.
During the height of production at the location, Carey said they had 850 cows producing 6,000 gallons of milk a day. Before the tornado hit, the cows were producing upwards of 1,600 gallons. The storm cut that number in half.
“Sometimes, you can love things, but you’d like to make a living at it,” Carey said.
The Oct. 18 tornado ripped through the heart of Carey’s farm. The storm killed six cows, but, another 12 were seriously injured. Carey’s heard of 120 now down to a little more than a hundred.
“We are probably gonna have to put them down,” Carey said. “They got cut from the flying debris and tin, things like that. This storm, thankfully, we didn’t have any buildings fall on them.”
Covered in dirt, sweat, and still cleaning debris, Carey worked the land until the sunset over the horizon. Another day on the farm, whose days might be numbered.
“I’ve worked all my life. Maybe, you know, I haven’t seen some of the United States; maybe I’d like to do that before something else happens,” Carey said with a smile. “Sometimes, you can love things, but you’d like to make a living at it.”
Inclement weather, global warming, poor milk sales, labor issues and tariffs on China are all hurting business, Carey said.
The stress caused by the tornado will hurt milk production for more than a year. Each cow brought in an estimated $12,600 in milk each year. The storm might claim a total of 18 cows seriously hindering production.
“My total damage is between $300,000 and $400,000,” Carey said.
Weeks before the tornado hit, Carey said his insurance provider dropped coverage.
Carey and his wife are now praying for a miracle and any help the community of Lakeland can provide.