The NexGen: Adventures of two dairy daughters

Finding faith in the rhythms of farming

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Farmers’ lives revolve around nature’s rhythms. Planting, growing, harvesting and resting. In this rhythm, we are currently transitioning from a very busy summer season of growing and harvesting to a season of rest.
Besides the dairy, our farm also hosts a large garden where we grow vegetables and fresh-cut flowers for our small farm market, NexGen Market. This year marks our fourth year on an adventure to share our passion for farming and growing local food with those in our community. In this adventure of farming, there is one common thread that is increasingly important: pausing and appreciating the rhythms of life that farming affords.
Farming takes hard work. The up-before-dawn, back-breaking, sweating, fingers-freezing, still-working-after-sunset type of work. It has a level of risk and unpredictability, and we mitigate that with our knowledge and what has occurred before.
As farmers, we tie ourselves to nature’s rhythms, but it seems that each year it becomes harder and harder. Each summer, it’s hotter, wetter, drier, colder and busier. There is more and more to be done, and it is all less predictable than before. However, through it all, the cycle of the seasons keeps moving forward. This rhythm is a beautiful thing to remember and appreciate. We farmers are especially blessed to witness these rhythms firsthand. The feeling that we are connected to everything and that, through it all, whether we’re faced with immense challenges or small successes, the rhythm continues as it does.
Each year, our farm market expands in both the size of our garden on the farm and the support from our customers. This past week marked the end of our season, with our stand closing after another successful year.
As such, we reflect on a year of hard work, planting, weeding, harvesting, washing and packing, sharing our bounty each week in the market — a year that seemed to be busier than ever, each year busier than the previous. And so, in a year mocked with busyness, stress, unpredictability and low markets, we ask ourselves, will this year be our last? What did we accomplish? Were we successful? Was the hard work worth it?
Earlier this year, in the last breaths of winter, we found excitement in the smell and feel of our hands, once again, in fresh black soil in the greenhouse, cultivating seeds, planning and dreaming of the warm days ahead while the snow swirled outside.
In the late spring days, we appreciated the warm sun on our backs while we tended to the newly emerged seedlings, joy springing forth from the earth. In the summer, we gathered as a family around the table, thanking God for the bounty of the garden and pausing as a family with our hands gathered, reflecting in gratitude.
We watched as kids enthusiastically found and claimed a pumpkin on the vine, their faces in awe at a watermelon growing, hidden under large leaves, and their amazement at the sweetness of a ripe cherry tomato picked fresh from the vine.
We read messages left in our cash box from customers about the deliciousness of freshly grown green beans, another inquiring to know more about the variety of one of our tomatoes, and the amazement and joy another received from a bouquet of fresh flowers they purchased the week before. We paused in the evening after a hot and stressful summer day to cook with the bounty harvested from the garden in a kitchen adorned with vibrant colors of fresh flowers, their fragrance filling our noses.
We laughed together this fall as we worked alongside each other, picking and canning tomatoes with no end in sight. These are the moments that answer our questions and remind us of our heritage, our dedication, our work ethic, our faith and our connection to the earth. They remind us why we are farmers and why, through it all, we continue to work and live, moving along with Mother Nature through all seasons.
Megan Schrupp and Ellen Stenger are sisters and co-owners of both NexGen Dairy and NexGen Market in Eden Valley, Minnesota. They can be reached at nexgendairy@gmail.com.

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