Many of the men and women who farm now or have farmed in the past probably didn’t seriously take on the occupation at 10 years old, but that is the case for Mike Mullikin.

Mike’s parents, Elbert and Illene Mullikin, purchased the rural Wauzeka farm in the 1940’s from Freddie Stuckey. Illene’s parents helped them with the down payment of the farm by purchasing about 130 acres of the land. Over time, Elbert and Illene began to struggle to make the payments on the farm and believed they would lose the property. However, Freddie Stuckey told the couple to make the payments as they could and to catch up when they were able. After several years on the farm, the family decided to move in to town and take a break from farming. Living in town was not where Mike wanted to be. Mike regularly asked and almost begged for the family to move back on the farm. After about three years, Mike’s persistence finally paid off. Mikes father finally sat Mike down and asked if he really wanted to move back to the farm and farm it. Mike said yes and his father’s reply was this: “If you want to go back to the farm we will go, but the only way that we can make it is if you are by my side every day and we do this together.”

The Mullikin family returned to the farm. It was the summer of 1963 and Mike can still remember when Charlie Walker, a livestock dealer from Wauzeka, backed up to the farm gate and unloaded the first of the dairy cows that began the herd on the farm. The air was thick with the smell of lambs quarters while the cattle chewed their feed. That was a half a century ago and Mike is still holding true to that promise he made his father.

Mike and Julie were high school sweethearts and were married shortly after graduation. At the age of eighteen, Mike became a full partner with his dad working and managing the dairy farm. In the late 1980’s, Mike and Julie purchased all livestock and machinery from Elbert and Illene. Mike fondly remembers his father’s reaction to being debt free for the first time in his life. And so began the next chapter of the Mullikin family farm. The farm consists of approximately 400 acres with about 115 of that being tillable. They also sustain a milking herd and cattle of about 200. The milk from the farm goes to Scenic Central Milk Producers and the crops from the farm feed their herd.

Throughout the years, the Mullikins have endured many ups and downs. Balancing family and church with farming has been a constant struggle, but Mike and Julie have successfully raised five children on the farm and have sixteen grandchildren as well. It was never easy for Mike to stay behind and fulfill his duties on the farm, while Julie attended events without him. While Mike didn’t always get to go to events, the farm granted him the best kind of quality time with all of his children. All three of their sons, Eric, Andy, and Michael Jon, worked alongside Mike growing up in addition to lending a hand at various times as adults. The couple’s two daughters played an active role as well. Heidi enjoyed being Mike’s milk hand, while Heather enjoyed helping Julie keep their family and home cared for. No matter what struggles this family has been faced with, they are proud to not only have kept the family farm running year after year, but also to have made many improvements upon it. Along with Elbert and Illene, Mike and Julie improved the manure pit and machine shed and also built a silo. After many years living in the main farm house, which was divided into an upstairs and a downstairs apartment, Mike and Julie built a new home on the farm just a few years ago.

Mike and Julie’s goal would be for the Mullikin Family Farm to stay in the family for all of those future generations to enjoy. It takes a good plan to make that happen and well, a good plan they have. For the past couple of years a young couple from Iowa has been living in the farm house and working as herdsmen on the Mullikin farm. Mike and Julie made it possible for the young couple to purchase the milking herd to help them acquire equity and then milk that herd on the Mullikin Farm. Mike would then be able to retire from milking, still retain ownership of the farm, and go on enjoying some of what he has always loved by raising the crops for the new herd owners to feed their herd. They hope that their family legacy will be passed down to future generations of the Mullikin family. While their children have all chosen other career paths, some of their grandchildren have inherited their love of farming and have shown a desire to continue the family farm.

Mike realizes that someday his herd may leave the farm and milking may no longer be part of the Mullikin Farm’s daily ritual and that is okay. I think there may be some new adventures on the drawing board for this young couple. Mike and Julie will both tell you had it not been for their faith in God and their love for each other that their walk through life could have easily taken a different path. It is this extreme dedication to faith, family, and farming that awarded Mike and Julie Mullikin’s farm family of the month in February 2014.