June 14, 2021 at 3:57 p.m.
Farmgirl at heart
The people I have met on this journey are amazing. It hardly seems like work when I get to tour farms and have conversations with the dairy farmers throughout my territory. Everyone is always so welcoming and interesting to learn about. Many times, I feel like I’m talking to a longtime friend. If I haven’t already met you, I hope to some day.
I grew up on a dairy farm in Custer, Wisconsin, which is about 10 miles east of Stevens Point. The farm has been in my family since 1945. We milked between 90 to 100 cows in a tiestall barn. Most of our all-Holstein herd was registered, and every gal had a name. We also raised pigs and had around 10 sows as well as a boar for breeding and raised piglets to 40 pounds before selling.
The animals were by far my favorite thing about growing up on a farm. I loved all the cows, cats, dogs and pigs I befriended throughout my childhood. I owned a small herd of registered cattle within my parents’ herd, which included my favorite cow, Hopscotch (stay tuned to learn more about her in a future column). My cattle were a big part of my life and also helped pay my way through college.
Early mornings were my least favorite part of farming. To this day, I am not a morning person. Our days started at 4:30 a.m. no matter what. If you were out late the night before and only got a few hours of sleep, that was too bad. We had to do our barn chores, and if we were lucky, we snuck in a nap during the day before afternoon chores.
I am the youngest of five children, and working on the farm was mandatory for me, my brother and sisters. I gravitated toward the barn from a young age before I was even a useful helper. As I got a little older, my jobs were many and included milking cows, feeding calves, cleaning and bedding stalls, watching for heats, helping my dad with mating decisions, moving cattle, registering animals, and occasionally feeding cows and pigs. I did registrations back when you had to draw the markings on each side of the animal by hand. It was a relief when we finally graduated to taking photos instead. Hours of time were saved. Picking rocks was my least favorite job. It was always hot, dusty and miserable.
I was a member of 4-H and the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association. I enjoyed showing cattle and judging cattle. I started leading calves around when I was 4 years old and couldn’t wait until I was finally old enough to show at the county fair.
My parents sold the milk cows 20 years ago in May in an on-farm dispersal the week before my wedding. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye to the girls, but the time for change had come. It was a whirlwind holding an auction and a wedding so close together, but everything turned out well.
My husband, Chris, and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We have two children – our daughter, Felicity, is 17 and our son, Elijah, is 14. This time of year, we are busy attending their softball and baseball games.
I’m thankful for the work ethic instilled in me while growing up on a dairy farm, which helped prepare me for the real world. Looking back, those days spent on the farm were some of the best days of my life, even if I didn’t always know it at the time. I now live in the city, but I’m grateful I had the opportunity to grow up on a farm. They say you can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl. I will forever be a farmgirl at heart, and I’m thankful I can continue to be a part of the wonderful dairy farming community through my work at the Dairy Star.