Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Best of Friends: Reunion Weekend

This summer I have had some great adventures, I have gone to some amazing concerts, traveled around the Midwest, and spent time really enjoying the blessings that surround me, gifts from God.  On all of my adventures though, the best ones are the ones that were with friends and family.  A month ago we had a gathering of college friends (hard to believe it's been 10 years since we graduated college!) and this past weekend I was with my roommates from college.  I was blessed to live with 3 amazing women in a cozy 2 bedroom apartment right across from the South Dakota State University campus.  Inspired by one of our mothers, we decided to make a promise to each other to spend a one weekend a year with each other.  This is a commitment that as we get older we are more determined to keep.  Friends are there for you when life gets the hardest, and these are no exception.  These women have been married for 4-11 years and bring their spouses and kids when they visit. 
It was funny reflecting on how we had changed in 10 years.  When we were in college we shared meals, prayers, support, friendship, laughter, joys, sorrows and fears.  We are still sharing those things.  One of our first reunion weekends we stayed at a hotel with an indoor water park that was open late at night.  We spent that night laughing, drinking and playing on the water slides and kiddie pool.  I have the scars on my knees to prove it.  Fast forward 10 years, and I'm pulling 6 little kids around a hotel swimming pool on fun noodles.  We have changed, life happened, but I don't think we would change it for the world.  We have a few broken hearts, there have been sorrows and failures but our hearts are fuller, our lives have greater depth, we have greater joys than we could have ever known.  Even though hundreds of miles separate us and we still debate the Motherland versus God's Country, our friendships are stronger than they have ever been.
These women live their lives in big and small ways, and they are an inspiration to me.  They are devoted wives, hold jobs and professions, they are mothers, they are role models.  I know they will think that I am over praising them, but that is because they are humble women.  When I need support and prayers, they have my back.  If I need someone to talk to all I need to do is call.  God blessed me with the most amazing friends and if they ever need anything I would be there in a heartbeat.  If you have friends as amazing as this, don't take them for granted, make it a priority to visit them, call them, send a card, anything to share a relationship with amazing people.  We all know these women and aspire to be them...find some and don't ever let them go.

Monday, July 20, 2015

One Size Doesn't Fit All

Dairy Farming is a very unique business.  You can’t use the same solutions, decisions or business models on the same two farms.  Every farm has its own unique family structure, business plan, goals, environment, and animals.  I often get asked why I am not farming with my father and brother.  The answer is easy: we’re not the same type of farmer.  That doesn’t make one of us right and the other one wrong, it just makes us different and unique.  There is no single one way to produce milk, but all milk is produced by farmers that care about their animals, their land, their families and the families that consume their products. 

My brother is a smart farmer.  He makes choices that work best for his family and the farm that they work on.  A few years ago he made the choice to build a new free stall barn to give his cows a better environment to live in.  Instead of taking the jump and building a new parlor at the same time he decided to postpone building the parlor until he was in a better financial position.  This wouldn’t have been my choice, I am more aggressive and would have built the parlor, but this is what works best for him.  He will never own a large dairy or employ a bunch of employees.  He knows what works best for his skills, goals and dreams. 

My brother decided to use the existing tie stall barn and make a few adjustments to milk cows faster as he grew his herd.  Now he is working towards building the parlor.  His herd is growing in numbers and because of the nicer living environment his cows are producing more milk per cow.  Those cows are also producing an even better product because the new barn helps them to stay clean and prevent infections.  What my brother decided to do worked as he predicted and was the best choice for him.  Now on the weekends, as my schedule permits, I am able to go home and help him milk.  I enjoy working in the original barn that has so many memories of my youth.  I was able to milk cows with my dad here.  This is where we shared the joys and stresses in our lives.  My brother did it differently than me, but in the end he did it the way it works best for him.  One size does not fit all in dairy farmer, but the end goal is the same: family farmers producing wholesome milk from healthy cows on land they care for. 
Dad's Tie Stall Barn: cows coming in for evening milking. Such a pleasure to milk beautiful cows in this timeless barn.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Passion and Calling

This weekend I had the opportunity to help on my family farm.  While some part of me wanted to be at the lake for the 4th, once I took my seat in the tractor, I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.  I milked cows, I helped care for cows, and I hauled home alfalfa which was stored to make delicious food for the cows.  I worked hard and I sweated profusely in the 90 degree heat but it was the best vacation I could’ve asked for, I was right where I was supposed to be.  I have a deep faith in God and I believe that God calls each of us to a specific vocation to do his work.  From a young age I knew I was called to be a farmer.  As a young woman that seemed like a daunting vocation, but as a maturing woman I know there is no better fit for me. 

Farming is a noble vocation.  It is a vocation of faith and charity.  Farmers grow nutritious food, fuel and fiber for a growing population while caring for the land and God’s creatures, all while hoping for future generations to take the torch and keep on farming.  I am so proud to be part of the next generation of farmers as well as inspiring yet the next generation to follow.  God put cows in my heart for a reason.  God put a love of the land in my heart for a reason.  While hauling hay home I was in complete awe of the beautiful gifts the Lord blesses farmers with.  Farmers see the wonders of nature, capture the glories of life to give life.  Farmers feed people; what an amazing vocation!  Farmers care for the land; what an astonishing responsibility!  Farmers care for livestock; what an awesome duty! 

There is a small segment of the population that possesses the skills and passion required to grow and raise food to feed people and I am so proud to be called to that elite group.  There comes a time in life where you know you are exactly where you are supposed to be.  Where it just clicks.  Farming is hard work and there are difficult days but I would take a bunch of difficult days for just one great day farming.  Farming has never felt “like work” for me.   Don’t get me wrong, it is hard and I am not trying to sugar coat it, but I have always felt drawn to keep on trying no matter what my farming life threw at me.  Farming is my calling and my passion and I will keep on fighting for my vocation, it is God’s work that I am called to do.