This past week, we said goodbye to our intern, Ruth Jones, from Wales, U.K. She was here through a program operated by Global Cow, a small company that connects farmers. Young farmers looking for an international experience are able to come to the United States and intern with a farm family. They stay in your home, eat with your family and join in on the daily happenings on the farm. They are not paid, but their insurance is covered by the host family.
    Ruth had experience with cows because her family, in North Wales, milks 350 cows, and she is planning on transitioning into owning the farm as her parents get closer to retirement. She came to the United States to experience other opportunities she did not have available to her when she went to university for her animal science degree. Her goals were to learn about new farming practices and possibly take an A.I. class to be able to help breed cows at her farm.
    She arrived in late September and participated in a brief dairy short course program that was put on during the World Dairy Expo. She visited farms and met young international farmers looking into the possibilities of the dairy industry. They spent three days together traveling and experiencing areas of Wisconsin, seeing the autumn leaves changing and the beauty that surrounds us every day in the fall. It was spectacular.
    When Ruth came to our farm to intern, it was a different experience for her, because she was used to getting up at 4:30 a.m. to head out to milk cows with her mother and father. She would feed calves after milking and then break for a big breakfast that her mother would make for her family and their hired Polish helpers.
    Ruth is 23 years old and was right in step with both our daughters, Anna and Catherine. She enjoyed sleeping in until 5:30 a.m., and then eating cereal and having a cup of coffee before heading out to check the computer to see who needed to be fetched or treated. After pushing a few cows through the robotic milking machines, we walked over to feed our calves. Because her family is milking 350 dairy cows, they have more calves than us, and it seemed pretty easy to her to get bottle babies fed and pails washed. We took a moment to sweep up the nursery and feed the chickens, goats and sheep, then it was time to get ready to welcome the school kids that visited every day in October.
    Ruth is knowledgeable and easy to talk to, but she was shy to give tours to children and teachers because she said she lacked confidence. That disappeared quickly. When the children reached up to hold her hand and when they would give her leg a hug when they were getting on the bus, she melted. The teachers shook her hand and complimented her on her knowledge and child handling. She felt appreciated and beamed with pride. Along with giving the tour, she was also able to drive the tractor, which she did not do at home, so that made her feel good, too.
    Anna and Catherine thought it would be great for Ruth to see what Halloween is like in the United States, so I made Ruth a cow costume that matched Anna’s and Catherine’s, and they all went up to State Street in Madison, Wisconsin, during the Freak Fest. They had a few drinks, danced and tried to stay dry. They had plans to stay out late, but the wet cows came home early.
    As the weather changed during the last week of October, Ruth experienced snow and freezing rain. Giving tours was more challenging; picking pumpkins with the kids in snow pants and winter jackets, trying to keep mittens on while holding chicks and hand feeding goats. After finishing the tour, we all were needing a shower and a hot cup of coffee to warm up. All of this is something I am sure she will never forget.
    As the tour season closed, and we took down the corn shocks and fed the pumpkins to the goats and sheep, we talked about the holidays. We explained  Thanksgiving and why it is our favorite holiday. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pies and football. A holiday about being thankful for our health and happiness. Getting together to eat and relax with no pressure about purchasing presents for others. Unfortunately, for too many farmers, Christmas is stressful when money is tight.
    Ruth has never experienced Thanksgiving. But, she loves Christmas and looks forward to it all year. Ruth enjoys opening gifts, but also the families gathering in each other’s homes and sharing a traditional meal. Traditional meals that go back to the Celtic times. They serve rack of lamb, blood pudding and a flaming cake that takes months to make because brandy is added to the batter weekly. They eat stuffing and other dishes that we have in their celebration, but nothing can beat the flaming cake.
    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.