BY: W. A. Gordon
A MERRY, little man, whose twinkling bright eyes belie the accuracy of his estimate that he is "physically sound but mentally bankrupt,'' is Theophilus Levi Haecker. Deep furrows line his face, but they are joyous wrinkles-the wrinkles of a man who has laughed much, even while arduous labor of mind and body was leaving its impress.
They call him the "Father of Dairying" in Minnesota, where 664 nourishing co-operative creameries now pour a golden stream of butter into the consuming centers of America, and a golden stream of dollars into almost, every farming community in the state. Those co-operative creameries stand as testimonials to an indomitable will for this man Haecker was a stubborn individual who would not let discouraging conditions swerve him from his determination to see a prosperous creamery in even- locality where farmers could be prevailed .upon to milk cows. He must have been somewhat of a fanatic, too, for who but, a fanatic heedless of self would have traveled on foot enduring hardships and insults, without personal reward, when others less equipped with intellect and training were prospering from the development of a new industry in a new country? But if fanaticism it was, it was the kind of fanaticism which brought happiness, not pain.
America is still young enough to look upon its pioneers as the products of log cabins, and Mr. Haecker is not disappointing in this respect. The fourth child of a family of 12, he entered the world in a little log cabin in Medina County, Ohio, on May 4, 1846. He was 7 years old when his family moved to Wisconsin to settle on a farm at Cottage Grove. Typical of the times, his first schooling was received in a. deserted log cabin. It was in 1860, when the clouds of a war which was to rend the country in half were hovering over the land, that his father sold the farm and rented another on the east shore of Lake Monona, four miles from Madison.
Back in a German border town, years before, the grandfather of young Haecker had resolved to leave the homeland and seek a country where the curse of militarism did not hang like a cloud over every farm and hamlet. It was primarily this thought that impelled his migration to the United States with his family. Yet it did not deter the grandson from offering his services to his country during the great Civil War. No call to arms at the bidding of an ambitious monarch this, but a war which involved the very existence of the Union. It need only be said that young Theophilus served his country well, for history is too much a chronicle of wars and, after all, it was in pursuits of peace that Mr. Haecker made his greatest contributions.
It was at Cottage Grove that he had his introduction to dairying, and his mother was his teacher. However, it was not until some years later, when hack at Cottage. Grove he commenced farming on his own account, that the dairy cow began to receive the earnest attention of the man who was to contribute generously toward her elevation to the, top rank of America's agricultural industry. In the meantime, following his return from the war, lie worked for a short time among his old neighbors in Wisconsin before joining his family in Franklin County, Iowa, where it had moved while he was in the army. He went back to Wisconsin to attend the state university in March, 1867, and divided his time between teaching and being taught, until 1871, when he entered newspaper work for two years.
Following this, he farmed for a while at. Cottage Grove, but on May 11, 1874, entered the office of W. R. Taylor, governor of Wisconsin, as private secretary, a position which he retained for 17 years, although each succeeding governor, before election, intended another person for that; position. Meanwhile he continued developing his farming enterprise, and later returned when his connection with the state capitol was severed. He had already acquired fame as a dairyman, and had been entrusted by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin with the task of selecting the purebred stock for the university farm. By agreement, with the regents he purchased some for his own farm at the same time and later, when he returned to Cottage Grove, started the first of his co-operative activities in the organization of a. farmers' creamery and a co-operative fire insurance, company.
These co-operative activities were later to make him famous; so were the feeding studies which had their birth upon the Cottage Grove farm. But seldom mentioned is Mr. Haecker's contribution to agricultural education made at this time. Nevertheless, it was because of his constant preaching of the need of practical agricultural education and the pressure he brought to bear upon the regents of the university, that. a short course was offered in agriculture at Madison. Farmers who boasted that they were "practical" showed the same discouraging attitude then that the farmers of Minnesota were to demonstrate later, but then, as later, Haecker's eyes twinkled and his lips smiled and his jaw set, firmly as he alternately cajoled, and pleaded-and accomplished his purpose.
Contrary to the generally existing belief in agricultural circles, Mr. Haecker was not a young man when he joined the staff of the Minnesota College of Agriculture, which marked the beginning of his memorable career in dairy investigation. It was in 1891, when he was 45 that he went to Minnesota, and at least a year later before he was actively launched in the studies which brought fame to him, and fortune to Minnesota.
But if his work prior to joining the staff of Minnesota had brought him only local fame, it was the groundwork which enabled him to make such rapid strides in his new position. Starting with the purchase of a college herd, his work carried him thru almost the entire gamut of dairy subjects.
The field for investigational work was almost unlimited. There was so much to learn, so many problems to solve. Production, manufacturing, marketing-this trio necessary to the dairy farmer's prosperity represented a fertile field for his analytical mind. It is difficult to estimate in which of the three his greatest contribution was made. Perhaps the manufacturing phase of the work received less of his personal attention, or perhaps because it received more attention from others, his contributions to our knowledge of dairy manufacturing earned less lasting fame than those dealing with the production and marketing angles.
Certainly nothing he has done in manufacturing can compare with his work in formulating feeding standards, nor with his accomplishments in marketing which the co-operative creameries of his adopted state represent. His works dealing with the care, feeding, and management of dairy cows are classics. Basic principles evolved thru those years of painful study influence many a later work today.
The famous Haecker feeding standards, the first devised in America, recognized one factor never before considered in formulating such standards. Haecker recognized that more feed is required to produce a given amount of rich milk than the same amount of lower testing milk. So his feeding standard for dairy cows took into consideration the size of animal, the amount, of milk, and its content of butterfat. His keen observation and study with the university dairy herd also showed him that the old Wolff-Lehmann and the Kellner standards, both developed in Germany, required too much protein, Haecker's feeding standards, are substantially the same as other standards now being used.
Perhaps because there has been no other who has worked with equal success in that field, Ins organization of co-operative creameries stands as his greatest contribution to the dairy industry. He had visioned the value of the farmer-owned factory as a young man, but few in Minnesota shared that vision. At Clarks, Grove he encountered a successful creamery of this type and occasionally he would find one in his travels in the southern part of the state. Usually, though, not only did he fail to find co-operative creameries but, harder to combat, no co-operative sentiment. Where farmers were interested in cows at all, they had been stung by promoters and were not anxious for any more experiences which would cost them money.
But Haecker stuck to his guns. Aided by a few creamery supply houses which were interested in seeing creameries organized on a fairly sound foundation, and were willing to extend credit to make this possible, Professor Haecker went, about the state preaching the gospel of co-operative creameries. Whenever lie could find an audience he would mount a soap box and, often in the face of a hostile reception, would tell the, farmers that it was thru this type of organization they must work out their financial salvation. Often he was forced to walk long distances between towns because the funds available for such work would permit the. use of no other kind of transportation. But to him it was his mission on earth, and neither indifference nor weariness could swerve him from his purpose. Eventually his sincerity and his common sense won farmers to his cause, and one new co-operative creamery after another was organized.
It was his sound pioneering in the co-operative field and his work of making Minnesota dairymen appreciative of the possibilities of working together that made the Land o'Lakes creameries a possibility. This immense co-operative selling organization is handling the product of most of Minnesota's co-operatively owned creameries and is building a reputation for butter of high quality. In 1928 it did a business of $47,000,000, marketing more than 86,000,000 pounds of butter.
Today Mr. Haecker is Professor Emeritus of the University of Minnesota, and has the leisure to visit, his widely scattered family or to go over the scenes of his achievements. Upon thousands of farms the principles of feeding which he evolved years ago form the basis of good dairy practices.
Each day sees those thousands of farmers; served not, only by the 664 co-operative creameries which are the fruit of his early work, but by 226 other corporate or proprietary factories owned, for the most part, by men who have learned Haecker's doctrine that a successful creamery must serve the farmer well. Those 226 total creameries which last year manufactured approximately 275,000,000 pounds of butter that brought, to the farmers of Minnesota more than $125,000,000.
Other farmers in other states have also profited by the life and work of the gentle old man who smiles as he reads the name "Haecker Hall" upon the dairy building of a great university-the same modest smile with which he reads the announcement of every new honor heaped upon him.
W. A. Gordon is editor of The Dairy Record of St. Paul, Minnesota. For years his work has placed him in close touch with the development of the co-operative movement in the Northwest of which T. L. Haecker is well styled the "Father:' These contacts have placed Mr. Gordon in an. ideal position to sum up the results of this pioneer in co-operation.