Sara and Stacy Richter visit with their father, Tim, about the plan for the day June 13 on their farm near Verndale, Minnesota.
Sara and Stacy Richter visit with their father, Tim, about the plan for the day June 13 on their farm near Verndale, Minnesota. PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE
    VERNDALE, Minn. – Sara and Stacy Richter have a routine unlike many of their peers.
    Both young women are awake before dawn and work late into the night balancing milking cows and feeding calves, off-farm jobs and schoolwork.
    “Growing up, we always went to the barn before school, and when we got home from school, we went back to the barn,” Sara said. “We are Dad’s help. It’s just kind of what we do.”
    The Richter sisters milk 90 cows with their parents, Tim and Sharon Richter, on their dairy farm in Wadena County near Verndale.
    Sara works full time as a certified medical assistant at the Lakewood Health System of Staples, traveling between the satellite clinics in Browerville, Eagle Bend, Motley and Pillager. She also is taking classes to become a registered nurse with hopes of working in a labor and delivery unit.
    “I’ve always loved helping deliver baby calves, and I thought I might as well help humans,” Sara said.
    This spring, Sara was furloughed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic but has since returned to work with COVID-19 patients in the Browerville clinic.
    The 25-year-old’s day begins at 5 a.m. when she heads to the barn to begin milking the herd alongside her dad. By 7 a.m., she retreats to the house to get ready for her workday and then is home in time to help finish chores in the evening. At night, she typically spends a few hours on homework before calling it a day.
     Her younger sister, Stacy, 19, is also an early riser. Every morning, she goes to the barn around 5 and feeds the calves. When school was in session, she would log into online classes by 9 a.m., and then help on the farm in the afternoon.
    Before classes were moved to online, Stacy was commuting from home to Central Lakes College in Staples where she studied in the medical assistant program.
    “My classmates don’t really understand what goes on, on a dairy,” Stacy said. “Some of them set an alarm just in time to get to school, and I’m showered with a half of a day of work done already.”
    Stacy also wants to work in the medical field and likes being involved on the family dairy.
    “I enjoy getting to spend time together as a family. Some people go camping or go do things, and we have always gone to the barn,” she said. “We may not get along every day or every minute of every day, but we still show up to do chores together.”
    Throughout their years, the girls have always found a liking to the animals while their dad takes care of fieldwork.
    “I’ve been milking cows since I was old enough to be in the barn and tall enough to give them grain and let them in to the parlor,” Sara said.
    Stacy agreed.
    “When I was younger, I was the one they would put in a tractor or feed the calves,” she said. “We spend a lot more time in the barn than anywhere else on the farm.”
    At the end of the day, the girls’ favorite pastime is spent with their father. When chores are complete, they gather in the farm’s shop and have a quick snack of cheese before heading out to check the fields.
    “It’s an every night routine,” Sara said. “That’s our favorite part of the day, and Dad would say the same thing.”
    Stacy agreed.
    “We talk about the day, talk about the crops,” she said. “We usually go around the block and start the irrigators up or talk with the neighbors if they’re out.”
    They also enjoy meeting up with their uncles and cousins, who farm as well, and talking about dairying over a Sunday afternoon dinner.
    As the sisters have gotten older, Stacy and Sara have realized the importance of being on the farm with their parents.
    “Dad is getting older and it’s harder for him to do everything,” Sara said. “I think it helps a lot when Stacy and I are here. Dad has also really enjoyed getting up with us in the morning. We tell him he’s spoiled.”
    The girls feel they have been spoiled, too, learning skills and life lessons that have served them in their work off the farm.
     “If I can help people feel better when they leave our clinic than when they came in, that’s a good feeling,” Sara said. “At home, it’s kind of the same. You’re always helping the cows and calves, and helping each other. Growing up on a farm has taught me the importance of being able to be there, work hard and appreciate all you have. My work ethic has really shown in my job.”
    Sara diligently works throughout the day, and is not bothered when her days in the clinic go beyond 5 p.m.
    Likewise, Stacy has found her time on the farm has helped with school.
    “You’re raised a little bit differently on the farm than in the city,” she said. “I can tell in school, even when we were doing different assignments and using different skills, I would get in there and go. I’ve always been taught that this is what needs to be done and you just do it.”
    The Richter sisters do not plan on getting any less busy as they continue to pursue careers in the medical field and also stay grounded in their family’s dairy. Whether morning or evening, they will likely be found in the barn.