Associate David Surprenant was profiled last month in the first in a four-part series in the Kankakee Daily Journal, called “Thank a Farmer.” The story, which ran on Aug. 15, was called “How David Surprenant Went from Selling Milk to Calves.”
David is a second generation farmer, having taken over the original dairy farm that his father, Lawrence, started in 1953. David was the last dairy farmer in Kankakee County when he sold his dairy cows in 2018. He now raises 150 black angus beef cows in a cow-calf operation that produces calves twice a year, while running row crops of corn, beans, wheat, alfalfa and sorghum.
He still remembers a term paper he wrote back in middle school about conservation.
“That has stayed in my mind, the way our forbearers farmed,” says David, whose wife, Associate Susan Surprenant is an equal partner in their farming operation. “Everything they did encouraged conservation.”
He is all about conservation now and sustainable farming. His Black Angus feed on a natural pasture, which is best for the cows, he says, and increases the number of their productive years. His 160 acres are divided into 40, four-acre plots, which he rotates every day for the animals, giving the pasture plenty of time to regrow and recharge.
One of the Surprenants’ newer ventures is planting cover crops, including rye, wheat, clover and oats after their corn and beans are harvested.
“Cover crops have many benefits, including eliminating soil erosion since the roots help hold the soil during snow and rain events in the spring and winter,” David says. “It also soaks up any nutrients that the previous crop of corn and soybeans did not use, hence eliminating fertilizer run-off.”
Promoting conservation and sustainable farming prompted David to agree to be interviewed, that and to shed a light on the industry so as to encourage the younger generation to get into farming.
“You see very few young people getting into farming,” he says. “It just costs too much to get into it.”
While David is an active member of the Kankakee County Farm Bureau, which promotes sustainable farming, he and his wife have chosen to lend their volunteer opportunities to the Viatorian Community. They have been associates since 2006 and both serve on leadership teams.
“The Viatorian Community,” David says, “has been our passion.”