July 8, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.
The NexGen: Adventures of two dairy daughters
Pursuing purpose, perseverance
Summer in Minnesota. We long for it. Dream about it. Count down the weeks and days until it begins during the many months of snow and cold.
We now find ourselves in prime season, at the height of our Minnesota summer. It is a time of busyness on our dairies and in our farm businesses, in our homes and with our families.
At NexGen Dairy, we’ve been especially busy this summer. Between accompanying youth to several Minnesota dairy youth shows, working in our market garden, constructing a new heifer barn, completing the daily tasks on the dairy and fieldwork, we are finding the days speeding by. This season has also been especially tough with the lack of rain, summer heat and a depressed milk market. Lately, we, along with many of our peers, have discovered ourselves often running on empty at the end of a long day. In these times when we feel tired, challenged and stressed, it’s important to take stock of the small daily blessings on our dairies or the small sense of pride felt in the completion of a small task. These small, often simple things can give us a quick reminder of why we decided to become dairy farmers or work for a dairy business.
This past week, our entire team was busy chopping hay, and Megan was left to pregnancy check heifers with Adeline, Ellen’s oldest child, who is 7 years old and home for the summer. Adeline took on the task of reading the vet check list and directing Megan to the heifers that needed a pregnancy diagnosis or an ultrasound examination. She then recorded the results and any other information for each heifer on the list. Slowing down and working patiently with a 7-year-old was a small blessing. It’s easy to focus on getting things done quickly, but these moments are what we need. How many aunties are present with their nieces and get to know them as they grow up? How many interesting questions are asked by 7-year-olds about what we’re doing and why? Throughout those moments and questions, we find ourselves reminding ourselves why we do what we do.
Ann Voskamp, a Christian author, states it well: “The whole of life – even the hard – is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big idea of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks for this one small thing. The moments will add up.”
Our lives are an accumulation of days and small moments spent on the dairy. When we are challenged, looking for small blessings can make all the difference. A few examples of small daily blessings we cherish at NexGen are a hot cup of coffee and conversation in the barn in the morning with our father, a healthy heifer born from a good cow, a greeting from an energetic employee starting work for the day, getting up early in the coolness of the summer morning to hear the quietness or the birds waking up as the sun is rising or just watching the cows eat fresh feed that has been delivered.
A similar idea can be applied to small, simple everyday tasks. When feeling overwhelmed, focusing on the small things, on small wins, can give us something to work toward. Yes, big management decisions are important. However, when things feel too large to handle or are out of our control, focusing on small wins is extremely helpful. Admiral William H. McRaven emphasized this point further in his book, “Make Your Bed.” He notes that completing a small task at the beginning of the day – a small win – “will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. It will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”
These little wins throughout our summer and our lives build to the pinnacle of a successful season and a life filled with purpose and time well spent. And so, we pause here in our article, amid summer, and move forward into the remaining season, focusing each day on the little things – maybe slowing down for a few minutes, reflecting on the blessings we are afforded and/or perhaps a small success of the day with our farm, with our family or in our lives.
Megan Schrupp and Ellen Stenger are sisters and co-owners of both NexGen Dairy and NexGen Market in Eden Valley, Minnesota. They can be reached at [email protected].