Life as a dairy farmer may conjure up an idyllic scene of someone in coveralls, with calloused hands, and living a simple life off the land. Yes, you may see me at the bus stop wearing bib overalls, but it’s only because I’m wearing comfy leggings underneath. It makes it easy to transition from farm work to housework.
You see, I wear a lot of hats, sometimes all at once. I spend most days bouncing between the house, the barn, and during crop season, the fields, with my little ones in tow. It is certainly a wonderful life we have created, but it’s far from simple or stereotypical. We are like you; we have passions and hobbies. It’s our work and lifestyle that most likely differ.
Everyone has a unique story; For my husband, Tim and I, it started with a passion for agriculture and a dream. Cows and farming have always been a constant in our lives. Both our families were involved in farming, we both had cows and were active in 4H and FFA growing up. But we didn’t become dairy farmers in the traditional way. Most dairy farms are generational by nature, handed down through the years. We started from scratch with five cows. Then purchased 28 youngstock (female cows that have not had a baby yet) on a small, rented farm.
Funny enough, we signed our partnership on the farm years before we were even married. We work side by side every day and wouldn’t have it any other way. Everything on the farm is a shared responsibility, although we each have our own strengths and roles on the farm. We complement each other’s skillsets very well, like when I have some crazy idea to do something, but Tim is the one that has to figure out how to build or fabricate it. (Seriously though, the man can do anything!) I think the biggest key to our success thus far is our endless sense of humor. It’s key in life, but especially in farming.
My passion lies with the cows and their care. I have always said I understand them way more than I understand anything else. I know their mannerisms, quirks, and needs. It makes it easy to pick up when something is off with one of them. Every cow has a unique personality, some cows love attention, scratches, and hugs, others are mischievous and always causing trouble. They are creatures of habit, so keeping to their schedule is key, same time getting milked, same time to be fed, same time to go out to pasture.
When I’m not taking care of the cows, I’m keeping up on the business paperwork, making meals, and attempting to keep track of school schedules along with the never-ending piles of laundry. We make a lot of dirty laundry around the farm.
While our schedules revolve around the cows and crops, our values revolve around our family and friends and sharing our life with them. We cherish the fact that all our friends and family know visits are always welcomed. If you find yourself hanging around the farm on a Friday afternoon, you can bet on getting in on the takeout order. Sunday mornings are for big breakfasts after chores, and summers are spent having picnics and field meals.
Raising kids and cows are similar in a lot of ways, both are 365 days a year, 24/7 gigs. Both require you to put their needs before your own and demand your attention, nurturing, love, and care.
Having our kids beside us on the farm is one of our greatest blessings. Since they were born, they have farmed with us. When they were babies, you could find them in their stroller, watching all the hustle and bustle around them. Emma often napped during one or both milkings. It wasn’t always pretty. Some milkings were spent calming crying babies, rocking them between switching to the next group of cows. Henry hated afternoon milkings. During those times now, you can find them whizzing around the barn on bikes and scooters, pretending to be on a case or mission, racing each other, or playing “worksite” with tractors in the sawdust or sandpile. Some days it feels chaotic and overwhelming, attempting to share your work brain with your parent brain, playing referee to the latest sibling argument, kissing the latest booboo, and the endless chatter.
I wouldn’t want them to grow up any other way, they spend their days exploring and learning things most kids or even adults don’t get to. Moments like when I was just putting the last of the milking machines in the sink after milking and I caught Em, hands deep in her pockets moving slowly among the 6-month-old calves in their pen in front of the barn. As I stood there, I realized she was trying to make friends with a few of the heifers that I had mentioned would be good show calves. She was calm in her attempts, watching the way they reacted each time she reached out to try to pet one, and adjusted her tactics with each reaction as they wandered around the pen.
My heart smiles and in these moments, I am just as proud as when they master a skill in school. Not because I hope they will grow up to be farmers too, but because they are learning so much about life that they don’t even realize, and I hope these lessons will carry them to great places in life.
I share all this with you to say that we dairy farmers are people too, we have lives away from the farm, we serve on local school boards, we help our kids with homework, and we care about where we live. We’re happy to share what we do and how our farm life impacts who we are and how we live.
Birch Mill Farm
Falls Village, CT