My Working Class Roots

Growing up, I never imagined that I would some day marry a dairy farmer. In fact, I really didn’t give farming much thought as a child. I was a child of wild land firefighter and had deep family roots in the timber industry. Most everyone I knew was involved in some aspect of timber from logging to putting out the flames when the forest caught fire.

My grandparents owned a logging business. When I stayed with them, I would wake up to the loggers showing up before the sun came up to head to their work site. They would show up later that evening completely filthy and exhausted. I remember thinking how I never wanted to be a logger because they had to get up early, worked all day and got incredibly dirty. As I got older it became obvious that not only were they working long hours but they were also not getting rich cutting down trees or hauling logs to the local mills. They did it to provide for their families and jobs in our small rural community have always been hard to come by. Continue reading My Working Class Roots

First Generation Farming: We Bought a Farm

From the time he was a child, my husband wanted to be a dairy farmer when he grew up. His parents sold their cows when he was young but that didn’t get in the way of his dream. He worked for various dairy farms in his community growing up and after high school.

He moved to my hometown in 2009 to start his farm. His lifelong dream had finally come true. Shortly after he moved, we met at the local feed store. The following year we were married, and his dairy-farming dream and passion quickly became mine.

For the past seven and a half years we have been leasing a farm from a local family. Their father, a retired dairy farmer passed away in a tragic car accident. They took a chance on my husband and allowed him to lease the farm we are currently on. It was mentioned in the beginning that this farm would not be placed for sale, something we understood and respected. Several years ago, we decided it was time to try to find a place of our own. It’s not exactly easy to find a turn key farm that isn’t at least a million dollars. As a first generation, small family farm, that is simply something we could not afford. We became discouraged, wondering if they would continue to lease the farm or what the future held for us.

In 2015, to our surprise, the family reached out to us about purchasing the farm. We were completely caught off guard. The mother let us know that the children wanted the farm to continue as a dairy farm and they knew that we were the right family. They loved seeing a young family out working with kids running around as they drove past.

Everything felt like it was falling into place.

We quickly realized that we were either “too new” or “too small” of a farm for agriculture lenders to work with. We also quickly realized that the past six years of keeping our head down, staying out of debt and running our farm on a cash flow only basis actually hurt us when it came time to need a loan. Apparently you must have a bunch of debt to get a bunch of debt or something like that. We had the option of using the Farm Service Agency but at that time we would need to wait for the next round of funding.

We began to get discouraged again.

We explained the situation to the family along with the fact of current low milk prices, we felt like the down payment would put us in a bad position. Every year we shake the hands of several farm families in our community that sell us feed and we did not want to take a chance of not being able to honor our word and make our payments by stretching ourselves too thin. However, to our surprise, the family was willing to carry the contract and accept a down payment which was much less than what is typically required for farm purchases.

Now at this point in the story, you are probably wondering what we did to deserve this. I have a theory. For the past seven and a half years, my husband has put in countless hours to make this farm a success. He is no stranger to 80-100 hour work weeks and when he shakes someone’s hand and makes a deal, he honors his word. This is something both of us take very seriously. When times were tough, we kept an open line of communication with everyone we do business with. We never tried to back out of our obligations or hide from tough conversations. We are far from perfect, we’ve made plenty of mistakes but we also own up to them and do what we can to make them right. In addition, many of these families have become so much more than just folks we do business with. Many of them have become like family.

Despite if I am wrong or right, an amazing family took a huge chance on us. Twice. Today we signed the closing paperwork on our farm. Today, my husband’s lifelong dream of owning and operating his own dairy farm came true. I am so incredibly proud and excited to be part of this journey. Today starts a new chapter for our family and our farm.

We may not know what our future holds, but we do know who holds our future. We are going to continue to put our trust in Him, continue to work hard and pray that we get to continue this amazing way of life living our American dream.

Stauffer Family 2016

Why I Advocate for Dairy Farming

This fall marked the third year since I started sharing our farm online. The year I started was an incredibly hard year on the farm. I was angry when I wrote my first blog post, “I Want Consumers to Feel Farming“. It was hard seeing all the negative articles being shared about what we do. I let it all out in that blog post. I was exhausted. I was tired. I was hurt that so many of my friends and family would share such things. No one even bothered to ask me. Then I realized, I never made myself available for them to ask. So I decided to speak up.

As someone that is typically very private, sharing our farm on a regular basis hasn’t been easy. It may be hard for some to understand but farming is so very personal. It is my husband’s life long dream. It takes ahold of you. It consumes you. You cannot imagine any other life. A life without cows. A life lived working a 9-5. A life where you can’t work side by side with your children. It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. Opening up our farm, sharing the daily struggles, the blood, the sweat and the tears only to have everything we do and believe in to be constantly torn apart can take it’s toll. Continue reading Why I Advocate for Dairy Farming