Growing up in rural North Dakota of a town of 1200 people, farming was a way of life for most people in the community. I was always classified as a “city kid” because being a pastor’s daughter, we always lived in the middle of town. But at any opportunity, I was out at my friends’ farms running through the mud, climbing straw bales, chasing cows, petting baby chicks, riding horses, driving tractors, or whatever they would let me do while I was there. Those experiences and memories rooted a deep passion for agriculture that carried over even when we moved from rural ND to a larger city when I was 10.
In college I met my husband, who was majoring in Dairy Science and Management, and I was majoring in Equine Science and Management. From day one, I knew he was going to move back to his 4th generation Dairy Farm in rural North Dakota to join his dad, and expand their dairy farm. So in marrying him I was living my dream of becoming a farmer, I just didn’t know what being a dairy farmer would entail and boy was I in for a real shock! What surprised me was how being a dairy farmer solidified my passion even more-so, grown it, and transformed it into a whole new level. So come, take a journey with me, and learn why I love being a Dairy Farmer!
1. Farmer is Not Just our Job Title
We don’t just milk cows, which is a job in and of itself, but we also are crop farmers (we have over 1200 animals to feed every day and that is a lot of feed we have to put up), we are veterinary technicians, we are managers of employees, we are office managers, we are semi-truck drivers, we are construction workers, we are mechanics, we are engineers, we are business consultants, we are public relations managers, we are manual laborers, we are authors, we are parents, and we are teachers and students…just to list off a few. There are so many facets that go into being a dairy farmer that we have be incredibly good at doing a variety of jobs which makes life so incredibly interesting and fascinating!
2. We Get to Experience Life on Every Level
We get to see every stage of life on a daily basis. From planting the corn and seeing the first plants poke through the ground, to watching a newborn calf being born, to observing a storm come and completely destroy what you have worked so hard for, or to having to say goodbye to your favorite old horse that passed away. We get to see and experience God’s miracles and how precious life truly is. To be able to see, touch, hear, smell, and experience every single day on this farm and marvel at the amazing creations that God has made for us is something so incredible that we are truly blessed. I have been told many times from people that come visit our farm that “this is God’s country” and as I sit here and look out the window I have a really hard time disagreeing with them.
3. Every Day is a New Day
We get up every morning, and I know that today will be a completely new experience from yesterday. There are so many aspects to a dairy farmer that you never really know what the day will bring, but I do know this, it will never be boring and it will always be worth it!
4. Get To Be Your Own Boss
The good thing about being a farmer is that you get to be your own boss and the bad thing about being a farmer is that you get to be your own boss. We have a flexible-enough schedule that we can have breakfast together, go to many of the kids’ activities, volunteer for community events, serve on various boards, and even travel. But, there are also many times that we have to miss an activity or an event because something came up that had a higher priority and to be taken care of immediately (such as the hay is ready to be cut right now!). For someone that doesn’t like to disappoint people, this is hard for me, but there are many times that I am the only parent that could come to an activity mid-morning at my kids’ school.
5. Teaches You to Respect the World and the Environment
Being a farmer means that usually you are working with a lot of acres of land, and also possibly a large number of animals. We have over 1,000 acres of land that we use for pasture, crops or the dairy farm itself and we have over 1200 animals. We have to be experts at sustainability, doing the best thing for the environment, and implementing safe technology so that someday our kids and then our grandkids will be able to use the dairy and land exactly how it was intended. We were entrusted with this responsibility and this is something that we do not take lightly and it is always at the fore-front of every decision we make.
6. Responsibility is Earned
Everyone on our farm from family to employees starts off at the bottom and works their way up the responsibility ladder. When my kids have gotten old enough to be able to start working at the farm, you start at the little jobs and work up to the harder jobs. This allows them to learn and see “the whole picture” and why we do each part that we do and no job is “unimportant”. My husband and I have never asked our kids, or our employees, to do something that we haven’t or wouldn’t do ourselves. Doing this gives an individual a huge sense of pride because of how hard you had to work to get to your position. It also makes you sensitive and understanding to your kids and employees that are struggling with a job or task because you have been there before yourself.
The Lost Ways…a true story about our grandparents days!
Once Upon a Time in America…Are you ready to turn back the clocks to the 1800s for up to three years?Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers were the last generation to practice the basic things that we call survival skills now. ….Watch this video and you will find many interesting things!
7. Multi-Tasking Keeps Your Brain Sharp
We have to be experts at multi-tasking because our e-mails, cell phones, and texts are constantly going off with people that have questions or want to discuss everything from cows to feed to tractors to equipment to finances to tours to kids’ activities to any random question. I always feel like every day is a challenge so it keeps you mentally focused and sharp so that you can accomplish any task that is asked of you that day.
8. Patience is Definitely a Virtue
Being that I am such a Type-A personality, I like things done and I like them done now! Well, on a dairy farm, that never works out. For example, you have to be patient to see when that cow actually has her calf. Or the first time that you are feeding a newborn calf and it takes 30 minutes to teach her and your back is cramped up from being bent over so long holding the bottle. Or why a piece of machinery that was working great yesterday, all of the sudden has decided to stop working. Or, maybe the best example is going to town with my husband who has a list of 7 different stops for parts and each time he gets out of the cars he says “be right back” and 45 minutes goes by and we are still waiting in the pick-up. Instead of getting upset and mad during these moments, I have learned that these are my “breather” times when I get a chance to relax, reflect, and have a few minutes of peace before the next adventure begins.
9. Ability to teach and educate
The last three years or so we have really taken it as a personal mission for our farm to be extremely transparent with the community. We do tours every week, we speak to local schools, we serve on various boards on many different levels, but perhaps the biggest thing is a biannual event that we have at our dairy called ‘Breakfast on the Farm’ where we host a free breakfast for the community to come out, see, and experience a dairy farm. All of this allows consumers to know where their milk comes from and that we are providing a wholesome, nutritious, and safe product that we are extremely proud of. I also have started a blog atwww.dairydishanddash.com and other social media sources so that I can reach people beyond just the local level. But, to be able to tell the story of our farm and educate people about agriculture and dairy is something that has become a new passion of mine and I am thrilled that I am able to do that.
10. Humbles you to the utmost level
The blessings of living this life are so many that I have an extremely hard time putting them into words or even writing them down so that people can understand. How do you express the very first time that you catch a new calf being born and she is all slippery and wet sitting in your lap? How do you put into words when you are fighting and fighting to keep a sick animal alive for hours and everything you do is futile as you see the life fade from their eyes? How do you talk about the overwhelming pride the first time you see your son learn to drive a tractor and the smile that beams across his face? How can you explain the overwhelming heartbreak when a blizzard accumulated so much snow on the roof that the beams started breaking and ¼ of our barn fell down? The heartache and pain go hand-in-hand with amazing sense of pride, accomplishment, and achievement. This farm is not a job, it is not where we work, it is not a career – this is our livelihood, this is our dream, this is our heart and soul poured into every aspect of it. It has our blood, our sweat, and many of our tears wrapped around our laughter, our cheers, and our immeasurable joy! To say that it is worth it is a complete understatement…instead I will say, this is what I born to do.
Jennifer Holle is a mother of four and partner in Northern Lights Dairy, a 600 cow dairy in rural Mandan, ND, with her husband Andrew and his parents.
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