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“If you’re going to do something, do it well.” And other lessons I learned on the farm.

I’m a dairy farmer’s daughter. Even though my family sold our herd 15 years ago, I’ll always be a dairy farmer’s daughter. While I don’t miss the times when a major thunderstorm would spook the heifers, causing a necessary round of cattle sorting, I’m thankful to have had the experience. Here are a couple life skills I learned on the farm.

Kindness

“Treat people the way you want to be treated.” –Diana Rabe (Yes…. I know this is also the Golden Rule that starts “Do unto others…” but the first place I learned it was from Mom.)

Cows and their offspring are huge animals. Working with them can be difficult, but a rule on our farm was that we were never to hit an animal or our siblings. (Though sometimes you may have mistaken siblings for animals.)

 

Imagination

Every stack of bales (for the record, hay is green, not yellow like you see in children’s story books; the yellow stuff is straw) represents an opportunity:

  • To build a castle for the most delicate princess
  • To create one sweet landing pad for jumping bodies
  • To find a snake (YIKES!!)

 

Commitment

When dealing with living things (in this case: our herd, crops, employees and family), there’s no room for minimizing your obligation to do everything it takes to ensure the best care. No one was more committed to the farm than my dad. And before him, my Grandpa Marvin.

 

Accountability

“Most people don't recognize opportunity when it comes, because it's usually dressed in overalls and looks a lot like work.” –Thomas Edison 

When I was three, I began doing chores with dad. Don’t go calling the authorities – it wasn’t child labor. This was just the beginning of the opportunities my siblings and I had to prove ourselves worthy of being put in charge. By age 10, we each had a barn of calves of various ages to tend to. When we all became involved in sports and extra-curricular activities, the accountability to the farm didn’t decrease. We still had to find a way to tend to our barns and make the game/concert/birthday party/etc. While it may have felt like “work” at that point, as an adult, I have truly come to realize the opportunities this accountability has afforded me. Now if I can only figure out how to give my kids equal opportunities… we only have dogs, but I guess that’s a start.

 

Excellence

Dad used to say, “If it’s worth doing, do it right,” and, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”  Sharing the perfectionist gene with dad (we’re both Virgos) means we both pursue our interests and tasks with an eye on quality. There’s always something to be done, and there are always improvements that can be made on those things others think are done. Dad’s focus on excellence not only earned him leadership positions in organizations, it also earned him accolades among the farming community. It brought awards to our operation and it brought visitors to our farm from across the globe to celebrate everything that Dad had made sure was done right. Today, I understand that there may be many definitions of “right,” but I’ll never be satisfied with good enough. 

 

Dealing with Loss

When you’re raising animals, you will have to deal with loss. We were a small operation with between 70 and 80 milking cows. The cows were impeccably cared for, each one was given a name that followed the same first letter of its mother and every cow had a sign above her stall with her breeding history on it. Each was trained to go to the exact spot in a barn every day, which allowed us to get to know them on a more personal level and ensure they received a customized diet for their unique needs.

I recall a very cold and snowy winter day when dad made a very hard decision. One of our cows had been sick and was not recovering with treatments from our veterinarian. Her illness was visible in her eyes, and physically, she wasn’t herself. The diagnosis wasn’t in her favor. Dad made the decision to have her euthanized. Of course it wasn’t the first time he’d made that call, nor would it be the last. But this was the first time I realized how connected he was to the animals and how important it was to make decisions that are in the best interest of the animal, even if it means losing something you love.

 

What are the skills you learned when growing up? Who influenced you?

 

Posted by Roxi.

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