Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dropping Milk Prices, Emotional Stress

If you don’t know by now, consider this your notice, milk prices on-farm have been dropping for months and currently are at the lowest point they have been in almost 7 years.  The last time financial impacts like this hit the dairy community there was a mass exodus of producers, many of which wish they didn’t have to sell their cows but they couldn’t provide for their families anymore.  This is our current reality.  Today I read articles about record cheese inventories in the United States putting pressure on milk price to drop even lower.  I heard from fellow dairy farmers that the exodus has started again, dairy farmers are being forced to sell their herds and even land in order to pay off debt and save themselves.  This dip in prices will have long lasting effects on the dairy community, no matter the size of the farm.  It does not discriminate.  So as a reader, why should you care?  What is my purpose in sharing this with you? 
These dairy farmers work tirelessly for their families, their cows, their farms, and yes you the consumers.  They are experiencing emotional stress that you can’t even describe.  These dedicated farmers wake up every morning fully aware that they are literally paying admission to milk their cows.  They are not receiving income from their farms, but paying just to keep them.    Many farms are accumulating thousands and even millions of dollars of debt just to feed and care for their cows.   But it isn’t the financial situation that concerns me the most.  What concerns me the most is the emotional and mental health of these amazing people.
These men and women will most likely sacrifice everything they have to give to keep doing the one thing they know and love, milking cows.  I talked to a dear friend in Ohio who has a small herd.  He told me he will farm until he’s completely broke and go to a food bank for himself and his wife before he sacrifices his cows.   That’s right, he would sacrifice for his family before he would sacrifice for his cows.  He’s not alone, I know many just like him.  I know of farmers trying to make cuts to the budget, but they refuse to compromise their soil, water, and cows’ well-being.  These passionate men and women believe in a hope that is impossible to describe, because many believe if they keep pushing forward through the hard times that good times will soon follow.  Their perseverance pushes them to keeps them fighting for their calling.   Crops were planting this spring and hay is being harvested, farmers’ optimism continues, but at what price?  I can see the stress on their tired faces.  The worry is in their eyes: how will they feed and clothe their families, how will they pay even part of their monthly bills, how long will this last and can they make it that long? 
What can you do to help farmers?  Keep drinking milk, eating cheese and enjoying yogurt.  Dairy foods are some of the most local foods we have available, with the average gallon of milk traveling no more than 100 miles to the grocery store from the nearest dairy farm.  By drinking milk, you are helping your neighboring dairy farmers.  Please help these amazing farmers provide for their families and yours, by doing something as simple as making sure you and your family enjoys 3 servings of dairy each day.  And while you’re at it, please pray for these hard working heroes, they need all the love and support they can get!  Thank you!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy Mother's Day to my Mom

In order to properly give recognition to my mother this weekend, I thought it was time that I did a blog post dedicated to her.  So here’s my Mother’s Day Dedication to my Mom.

I am the oldest of 4 children.  I have 2 other sisters and a brother.  My mother and I have bucked heads since the earliest memories I have.  I am an independent spirit, I am passionate, I am head strong, I am willful, I am just as much my mother’s daughter as I am my father’s daughter.  If she doesn’t realize it, she should now.  I can remember the fights with her in kindergarten when I wanted to wear my favorite purple corduroy pants for picture day and she wanted to put me in a flowery and lacy dress.  I won that fight, and I stood proudly in the back row of my class picture.  I remember demanding to grow my bangs out in 5th grade and the awfulness that came after that.  I was a tom boy and my mom was hoping for more of a little lady.  I wanted to tag along with dad doing chores, milking cows, riding in tractors and getting dirty. 

When I hit my teen years I really challenged my mother.  I wasn’t too much of a trouble maker, but every time she gave me a boundary that I thought was unrealistic I challenged it.  I tried shorts that were too short and speeding tickets to football games.  These were not my proudest moments and I know I am responsible for more than a couple gray hairs, but my mother remained firm.  Every time we fought, I apologized and tried to do better.  I knew my mother was being firm out of love for me.  Now as a 30-something woman, I look back and see how much of blessing she was for my siblings and me.  Those boundaries helped keep me from bouncing too far off the straight and narrow path.  When there was an injustice at school, mom went to bat for us, meeting with the principle to make sure our lives were fair.  Her love for us was so passionate at times that it came out as frustration when we made choices she knew were less than our ability.  She taught her daughters the value of modesty and respecting ourselves for more than our appearance.  She encouraged us to travel and try new things, but at the time seemed like she was just bossing us around.  She taught us the value of a dollar, hard work, and how to save and sacrifice for something we really wanted.  She gave her time to drive us to school events making sure that we experienced the arts, sports, and community service through 4-H and church. 

Most of all mom led us in example of how she treated our father.  She has always worked to care for dad: doing cooking, cleaning, laundry, running errands, serving him lunches in the fields.  She ended her career to stay at home and raise 4 children, while helping my father farm.  Dad often says that was one of the most wonderful things mom ever gave him…4 beautiful children.  Their marriage like so many others faced hard times, and it wasn’t perfect but it worked for them.  Mom prayed with dad and shared that faith with us.  I’m sure more than once she said a novena on my behalf.  To this day I will default to praying the rosary in times of crisis or severe weather thunderstorms; that is all mom.  Mom made sure we knew that you could argue in a marriage and make up, that you could work through the conflicts.  So much that mom did for us while we were growing up, I feel like I took it for granted at the time. 

I see women especially, that didn’t have a mom like mine, and I see how much they struggle in life trying to find out who they are.  If it wasn’t for the hard boundaries and lessons in faith and self respect from mom, I don’t know if I would be half the woman I am today.  I see now how important her example was in who I am today.  Yes we still buck heads but we can handle conflict because of how she taught me to handle conflict.  I know at the end of the day, when mom gets really passionate about something, it is because she loves me so much and only wants the best for me.  On this Mother’s Day weekend, I say thank you and I love you to the best mom I could’ve ever imagined! And God Bless you always and forever!