MADISON TWP. — Jason Canjar is a rarity.
Mr. Canjar, 39, quit his job last summer as a U.S. Postal Service mail handler to become a dairy farmer.
“Everybody thought I was nuts,” Mr. Canjar said as he paused near a manure-storage tank on his 200-acre farm near the Elmhurst Reservoir. “Some people said I wouldn’t make it six months.”
More than nine months after he inherited the dairy farm operated for decades by George Yedinak, Mr. Canjar seems pleased with the career switch.
“I’m busy 16 to 20 hours a day,” he said, as he entered a barn where he milks 48 Holsteins daily at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. “It’s not a job. It’s a passion.”
Mr. Canjar grew up in Madison Twp. and still lives there. He started picking rocks on the Yedinak farm at age 12.
“I just kept sticking around,” he said. “I always wanted to farm.”
Eventually, he helped with haying, credited Mr. Yedinak with teaching him mechanical skills and continued working part time on the farm into adulthood.
Mr. Yedinak, 66, died suddenly in August.
He willed the farm, which was established by his father in 1948, to Mr. Canjar.
“George knew it would continue as a farm,” Mr. Canjar said. “I think that’s why he left it to me.”
Mr. Canjar resigned from his postal job after 14 years and committed full time to his rural passion.
“The day I quit was one of the happiest days of my life,” he said. “I love farming. It’s just so peaceful.”
The existence may be peaceful, but dairy markets have a stormy history.
Fluctuations in milk prices in recent years have driven thousands of dairy farmers out of business.
Mr. Canjar knows the history and sets aside funds to weather the next downturn.
“You can’t count on the markets being there all the time,” he said. “I’ll stay with it as long as the farm can maintain the bills.”
Mr. Canjar not only has to handle the bills, he needs to be nimble enough to meet the work demands and market uncertainty that make dairy farming so risky, said Will Keating, a dairy farmer near Mount Cobb.
“You’ve also got to be a mechanic, a horticulturist, a veterinarian and everything else to save every dollar you can,” Mr. Keating said. “Jason has a good head on his shoulders. God bless him and good luck.”