It hits me mostly in the summertime. This overwhelming feeling of peace and pride when I look out over our farm, it always makes me stop and take a deep breath.
    It came up on me when I delivered Ira his “man meal” and water jug in the packing tractor as he was getting back in the groove of packing first crop. There are few things that compare to the excitement of chopping on our farm. Especially this year when everything is in such uproar, it is nice to have this activity carry on as normal. I handed Ira his meal and had to chuckle, I remember feeding Keith and Peter 20 years ago – boxed tuna helper on a Styrofoam plate, with magic marker notes written on top of the plate used as a cover to get it to the field. They told me years later how the marker taste seeped into the food. Yikes.
    Full circle, I am now feeding my own child as he joins the ranks of the chopping force. Ira’s learning responsibility, and that fills me with pride. I glanced up at the piercing blue sky with not a cloud to be found and tried my best to take it all in. All was well in my world in that moment.
    It comes over me in waves when I stand out on the porch on a warm summer evening and just listen. Kids are calm after a day of running, fans are whirring their melody on the old barn for the calves’ comfort inside, the cling-clang of the headlocks as the cows partake in their nighttime meals echoes from the barns, the lone bellow of a heifer on pasture searching for her friends. The smell of irises and the flowering locus tree nearby makes me think of my mom and how much work she put into all the amazing flowers at the farm, and how so many of them are still thriving today. Then, the breeze shifts and the smell of fresh cut hay overpowers the flowers and I’m filled with peace, knowing that will feed the cows during the bleak winter months. The sight of a cow that we struggled to get back on her feet, and after many debates about her destiny, and more patience than we thought we could muster up, finally appears to be making milk and walking strong again. The everyday sight of watching an animal come into the world, healthy and perfect, evokes a feeling that never grows old; only to be topped by the pride of seeing your children intuitively grab the longest, cleanest piece of straw to clean out its nose.
    The pride I feel as I see the fresh cow that struggled to get a good start after having twins finally deciding to make milk after numerous interventions reminds me that sometimes we have to try everything to find the one thing that works. When I peek out the window as I milk the misfits, I see the scattered hutches on the pad, and see the three-week early Peanut sprint across my line of sight. She’s thriving thanks to the calf crew’s attention and love. I’m in awe of the success of their routine; knowing that every little thing makes a huge impact on the health of the calves and they will go to the greatest extent to do what’s best for them. I’m often impressed by Peter and how his patience and calm demeanor shine through even the worst and most frustrating of circumstances on our farm, and so proud he’s my brother. My dad is thriving as a grandpa, with even more time for it now because of having the kids there all day. It is rare to have a day when he isn’t spotted observing and commenting on the littlest ones’ latest farming escapades in the flowerbed. It’s incredible watching the boys learn and ask questions, try to fix things on their own, and assert their opinions on how to best do things. I love listening to even the littlest boys’ ideas on how to solve problems creatively with the cows or calves.
    I’d imagine that these things – similar sights, smells, sounds – are found on most farms. These are the things I focus on when the days aren’t so rosy and sweet. These are the things that remind me this is right where I need to be, that this is what I’m meant to be doing at this point in my life.
    Now, there are definitely days that make it very hard to find the silver lining to being a farmer. The day that comes when, after weeks of trying to solve an unknown malady with a cow, we have to admit defeat and let her go. The frustration of being told you need to limit your milk production or having years of low prices. There will always be people out there who don’t support what we do, and worse yet – try to make it even harder than it already is to help feed the world and quench their thirst for good, pure milk. They can be down the road, in your community or at a political level. And still we do it. Through all of that, still we do it.
    Why? No doubt this is a question you have asked yourself before, as all of us do. Well, somehow our alfalfa-colored glasses work to help us see beyond all the current chaos and look at the less-tangible things. The work ethic, the innovative problem-solving skills and compassion my children are learning daily to help mold them into functional members of society couldn’t be taught better anywhere else, in my opinion. My siblings and dad are there to help with the child-rearing process daily; it takes a farm to raise my kids. Our core team of employees is wonderful to work with, more like family than employees at this point. So, we keep chopping hay until 2:30 a.m. to get it off before the rain comes, carrying feed to the down cow for the third day in a row, and then pausing to look around us – finding the good things that remind us to be proud of what we do, and take a deep breath of peace.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (12), Dane (10), Henry (5) and Cora (3), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.