Filling in for Grandpa

Teen steps in for morning chores

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SLEEPY EYE, Minn. — Teenager Emma Fischer can be found most days after school in the barn at Riverside Dairy, her grandpa’s farm. From Nov. 11 to Dec. 11, she could be found there each day before school as well, stretching her schedule to help in a time of need. 

“My grandpa, Gary (Hillesheim,) fell on his shoulder and couldn’t milk, which left my aunt (Stacy Tauer) alone in the morning, so I started coming out and helping milk in the morning,” the 17-year-old said. “I was thankful that I could be useful.”

Fischer would arrive at the barn around 5 a.m. and, with her aunt, milk 75 cows in the stanchion parlor. Between 6:45-7 a.m., she would leave to get ready for school.

“Part of me felt like I had a new purpose,” Fischer said. “Now when I went to school, I already had three hours on most of the kids there. It gave me a sense of accomplishment every day and a reason to get out of bed besides school.”

While the days got longer for Fischer, she was able to keep up with her activities, juggling the extra chores with trapshooting, FFA and school. Fischer said it was exhausting, but it did not discourage her.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” she said. “I can do it.”

Fischer is the daughter of Nikki and Darrel Fischer. She said her family helped make her extra farm hours work.

“(My brother Kyle) did chores when I was milking in the morning so that I could get to school; he would go into work late,” Fischer said. “It’s hard to dislike anything (on the farm) when I am always with my family and I am always with someone who is going to help me.”

Helping on the farm since she was little, Fischer had many jobs throughout the years.

“I raised bull calves for four years that I bought when they were 3 to 7 days old,” Fischer said. “Now when there are newborns on the farm and I give them the first feedings of colostrum and watch them wobble around and feel their way out, I would say that’s the best part.”

Fischer also helps in the field when she is needed, her favorite fieldwork being raking. She said she finds it to be relaxing and therapeutic.

“I have been on the payroll since March 2021, but before that, I would do milkings during busy field times and whenever I was needed,” Fischer said. “Most of the time I help in both the field and barn, but milking is my year-round and main commitment.”

Most nights after school, Fischer can be found at the farm from 4:30-6 p.m. or later, helping with the cattle. Her love for the farm, Fischer said, is the reason she has not had any major jobs off the farm so that she can always go to the farm when needed or when she wants.  However, Fischer currently also works at Schwarts Farms as part of an on-the-job training class for school.

“Everyone is always here for each other (at Riverside Dairy), and I am really grateful for family,” Fischer said. “My grandpa Gary and brother Kaleb are my biggest inspirations. Grandpa is 78 years old, and he never stops.”

Fischer said she has decided to keep agriculture in her life and pursue a job where she will be able to give back to the farmers who have helped her become the person she is today.

“(The idea of pursuing agriculture) has always been in the back of my mind, but within the last two years, it has grown,” Fischer said.

After she stopped raising bull calves, Fischer said she realized how many connections she had lost, such as with the individual who delivers feed, and this was one of the things that made her decide to stick with agriculture.

“I want to get back to (the farmers) that understand where my drive is coming from,” Fischer said. “I could be anything in the world, but I want to come back to this. I need to be back here and help the farmer.”

Fischer said the farm has become her comfort zone even though she knows how much work goes into a career in agriculture.

“If any kids read (my story), I want them to know it is very important to stay in agriculture,” she said. “It’s hard, and there are a lot of nights you get to bed late and have to be up early, but it’s worth it. It’s important to know there are always opportunities in the agriculture world. You just have to look for them.”

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