John Mueller was never a fan of cell phones.

The dairy farmer from Clifton Springs, New York, didn’t even own a cell phone until just a few years ago.

“They’re too much of a distraction,” he says.

It is not that Mueller, a partner at Willow Bend Farm, is against innovation. As a farmer, Mueller utilizes many of the latest technological advances on his farm, like self-guided tractors and electronic identification chips for cows.

He would rather focus on growth, he says, than be tied to a phone.

“We just like to see things grow. Whether it’s the cows, or the corn, or the people who take opportunities on the farm and seize them,” Mueller says.

Mueller’s management style is focused on employee empowerment. His management team is empowered to make their own decisions and learn from them. He says the programs he instills for professional development motivate him as the leader of a farming operation that encompasses milking 5,000 cows, raising 4,500 young stock and tending 9,000-acres.

This mission of growth also makes the farm a great place to work for its 90 employees, many of whom own their own cows in the Willow Bend herd.

“Our employees who own cattle have a deeper interest in our success and are really excited to come to work,” Mueller says. “That propels their growth and the growth of our business.”

Assistant Herd Manager Josafat Pacheco started working at Willow Bend about 17 years ago.

“What I really appreciate is that I’ve had so many opportunities to grow, from milking cows, to working on the field teams, to now being a manager,” Pacheco says. “I get to work shoulder-to-shoulder with my bosses and that is a really sweet thing.”

Rachel Holtz started working on the farm in high school. She was picking rocks, then feeding calves when she first got started. Now, about 14 years later, she manages human resources and public relations.

“I just really love working here. I am learning all aspects of the business,” Holtz says.

Along with employee development, another one of Mueller’s missions is transparency about his farm practices as a producer of high quality, nutritious milk for consumers.

“In every industry, consumers are demanding accountability throughout the supply chain. For us, that starts with the dirt in the field, to the seed that becomes corn that we feed our cows,” Mueller says.

“We pay attention to every detail so that when the milk gets to the table, consumers have confidence in how we take care of our cows, how we take care of our land and how we take care of our employees,” he continued.

Mueller says he is energized by creating a great workplace and a wholesome product.

“Consumers can feel good about the milk they drink, the cottage cheese they enjoy and the mozzarella cheese that they put on their pizza because they know it comes from a good place,” he says, “and that is the favorite part of my job.”

About that cell phone.

Mueller says he does carry his phone with him most of the time, even though he says he still doesn’t care for the distraction that cell phones can bring.

“I thought it was my employees who would be trying to reach me. But the person who calls me the most… is my wife,” the busy dairy farmer says with a laugh.

Learn more about John Mueller and Willow Bend Farm by watching their episode of “This American Dairy Farmer” below.