I didn’t grow up on a farm. In fact, the closest I had ever been to a dairy farm was driving past one on the bus on my way to school as a kid. We liked to call it the “stinky old dairy farm”. I will be honest, until I met my husband, I never gave farming a second thought. I never questioned where my food came from or how it got from farm to store.
In 2009, my husband moved to my hometown to start his dairy farm. He moved from an area well-known for dairy farming and had dairy several generations back on both sides. He always dreamed of owning his own farm but knew to start from the bottom, he had to do so in another area. He moved across the state away from his family and friends in pursuit of his lifelong dream. We met a couple of months later at the local feed store.
When we were dating, everything was so new and exciting. There was so much to learn and I questioned every little thing he did. I quickly realized that a farmer’s life consists of incredibly long days and some not so exciting tasks. I wanted to learn everything I could, so I began reading anything and everything about farming. Every dairy farmer I came in contact with, I asked them a million questions about how they did things on their farm. It was exciting learning that there were so many ways to do the same task and no two farms were the same.
I also quickly realized that if I wanted to spend time with this farmer, I was going to have to learn how do things on the farm so I was actually helpful instead of just in the way. So there I was learning to drive the tractor, taking care of the calves and helping milk the cows. When we had our oldest son, he was right there beside me for every task on the farm. The simple reason was that we had no other choice. We had too. We were in the midst of getting a farm off the ground with record low milk prices and high feed costs. Everything fell on our shoulders.
To this day, the majority of the work still falls on us. We are able to have one part-time employee to help milk the cows. Not much has changed as I sit here writing this, the milk prices are incredibly low and last year’s feed cost were high. But we push forward. Why? Because no matter how hard it gets, the farm is where we want to raise our children.
They spend their time outside being kids. They are learning the value of hard work and that no one owes you a single thing in your life that you do not work for. They all have age appropriate chores and are paid for their time. They have savings accounts to attend college when they are older. AND just recently the two older received ownership of their first heifer (young female calf that has not yet given birth). There are many, many life lessons to learn by growing up on the farm. Not every lesson is good, some are harsh but that is the world we live in. It is our job as parents to raise strong, caring, motivated, respectful and hard-working individuals. Raising them on the farm does just that.
So here we are on that “stinky old dairy farm” raising kids and cows
as first generation dairy farmers living the American dream.