There is an agricultural meme I’ve seen on social media with a picture of cows eating hay, with a caption that goes something like this: “Here is my Caribbean cruise eating my European vacation”. It’s a funny meme, mostly because it’s true. If my husband and I chose not to have cows, we would have the time and money to take vacations. So why do we choose to have dairy cows? Because our lives and hearts would be much emptier without them.
I am at least the tenth generation in my family to farm. I chose this lifestyle. It’s not for the faint of heart. No days off, 12 hour-plus days, and working outside in every type of weather are all physically and mentally demanding. There are early mornings in the frigid cold and blowing snow when I’d rather stay in bed. Dealing with frozen water pipes and frozen toes day after day during the winter months gets old quickly. During snowstorms, it seems most everyone else can enjoy a snow day, watching the snow fall outside their living room window. Yet there is no snow day for us, as we must be out in the storm, feeding and milking our cows.
Yet, there are often moments of joy and happiness. Seeing a newborn calf take her first breath still fills me with awe. When our favorite cow delivers a healthy calf, we can see her future potential.
There are few things more rewarding than seeing that sick cow or calf that I had been treating for days and losing sleep over finally recovering and getting back to her normal self. Getting up before dawn allows us to see the beautiful sunrises. When the weather finally warms up, we can enjoy it without being stuck in an office all day. Through the summer months, we expectantly watch our crops grow which provides our cows with feed throughout the year. The spring and summer rains that come and water those crops, sometimes followed by a spectacular rainbow, fill us with hope. We are blessed to be caring for God’s creation and that He trusts us to do so. It’s our purpose in life.
We also get joy from investing in our youth by working with 4H kids who would otherwise never have the opportunity to care for their own calves. The kids come to the farm and take part in the raising of their calves, then show them at local fairs through different competitions. They in turn help us with daily chores and learn the value and rewards of hard work. I love it when my young nephews come to the farm to visit the cows, play in the hay, and go for a tractor ride. Even families from our surrounding communities stop by with their children to visit the cows or to see a tractor up close. Not everyone is blessed enough to grow up on a farm, and we love to share part of that experience with others.
For me, the good far outweighs the challenges that are a part of dairy farming. Every day, we see the rewards of our hard work, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Melissa Greenbacker Dziurgot
Greenbacker’s Brookfield Farm