This spring, we started and finished planting before we could get into the fields last year. The 2020 spring weather was sunny and warm. The winds blew to dry out the fields. Due to COVID-19, all family members were on hand to help with everything from working the ground, picking rocks and fetching more seed when the planter got low. It was a real team effort. When the rains came in on the weather radar, the planter headed for home.
    The grass seemed to green up early, and the lawn mower has been used a few times already. Flowers and trees in bloom look spectacular with the blue sky and sunshine, but also appear bold and bright with the gray skies before the rain storms. The scents of the lilac blossoms will soon fill the air.
    We all noticed the wildlife around the farm as the spring season came this year. Without the airplanes flying in and out of Madison, the sky has been quiet except for the voices of the birds announcing their arrival. The Canadian geese and sandhill cranes, along with the killdeer, fly into the fields searching for a place to nest. The barn swallows have returned to their nests from the previous years and are swooping into the puddles to pick up mud to make repairs so their chicks have a safe place to hatch. Wild turkeys have become very active, strutting and dancing near the tree lines, doing their best to attract the hens. The same as last year but different because our lives have slowed down, and we are able to stop, look and listen.
    The sheep have been sheared, and lambs are hopping in the pasture. Ducks are laying eggs all over the lawn until they decide where they should settle down to nest. The geese have become aggressive and are protecting their eggs, working together to keep us away. This is spring time, and this is how it is every year. I am not racing to finish chores because a bus full of kids are coming for a tour. This year, I have not hosted a single spring tour.
    Meanwhile, the cows are continuing to give birth, but now we are not worried so much about the calves being licked dry. The warm spring breeze feels good on the calves. The calf jackets have all come off and are washed and tucked into totes for next fall.
    As we enter the haying season, I cannot help but think about what this harvest year will bring. Will we have the weather we need to make quality feed for our cows? This is the same question every year, but this year it is different. Do we continue to plan for milking 240 cows, or do we plan on milking less cows? Will the country recover this year or will it be the next? Does the future for farming seem as promising as it had in the past with the pressures of the challenges that have fallen on our industry to get food to the people who need it?
    This will be the year we all remember for all of the things that seemed to have gone wrong. There are so much activities from families and communities reaching out through social media and different ways to show compassion. The hard work on the farms will continue just as it always has, but I have noticed others who are acknowledging the financial difficulties we all are facing. People we do not even know are phoning to see if we are OK. They ask if they can do anything to help dairy farmers. It is the same as last year, but this year it is different. We have always been encouraging people to buy milk and dairy products. It is not new that farmers want consumers to support local farmers and try to pull together so no one gets forgotten.
    The financial problems of the dairy industry are not anything new. We have to watch the consumption of milk decline and the competition of other products fill the shelves next to our jugs. We have challenged ourselves annually to become better farmers, because if we do not, it will be harder to make ends meet. Our industry pushes forward with new products and innovations to meet the consumers’ demands. We will get through this, but it may end up somehow as none of us could imagine. People really needing people. Acknowledging that we all matter, and we all want the world to be safe so we all can become better people in the end.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin.  They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.