As a young girl playing with dolls I never imagined manure would be a consuming issue in my life.
I was raised on the East side of Michigan and my dad worked at Fisher Body. He was home every day by 3:30 PM, had each weekend off and we would go to the cottage every year as a family for vacation.
In June of 1971, I graduated and walked down the church aisle in September, right onto the farm in West Michigan.
The honeymoon stage of farm life lasted a while. I learned side-by-side with my father-in-law, who was 2nd generation on the family farm. His vintage tales of using a horse and plow helped me to fall in love with the farm. But not before a falling-out-of grace with farm life.
All the rules I had been raised with were out the window. Dinner as a family happened only on Sunday afternoons after church. Farmer would leave early every morning and not come home until late at night. I became frustrated, anxious and resentful. I was home, raising four boys on my own, and not involved with the farm. I had all I could handle keeping our home standing and the boys fed and clothed.
As our sons grew older we all became more involved with the farm. In the winter, we would carry milk up to the calves, warm liquid splashing the all over our pant legs. By the time we got home, we were walking tin men in need of oil. The pant legs would be frozen stiff and our coveralls could stand up by themselves in the mud room to thaw out.
Slowly, I took over the lawn maintenance and flower planting and gradually I relieved Farmer from bookkeeping. I now drive tractor when needed, and I am the glorified “go-fer”. I go for whatever is needed, and deliver food and people to various places. One nice thing is that it’s it easier for me to find my car in the parking lot of the mall. It’s the only one with a corn stalk or wad of hay hanging from the bumper.
When Farmer and I were first married we milked 125 in a 4-stall herringbone.
Throughout the years, at times, we’ve had to pick and choose which bills would be paid as the milk prices have fluctuated as much as a post-menopausal woman. Then, add in the droughts, too much rain, bugs and whatever else came our way.
Now we have 1500 cows and milk 700 three times a day in a double 12 herringbone. We employ 18, which includes three of the four sons. The parlor milks 23 hours a day.
We use AI and some sexed semen and have just started using genetic markering.
We own 800 acres and rent another 200, raising corn and alfalfa.
Our feed is kept in Harvestores and we have a couple cement silos as well.
We store our manure in two Harvestore Slurrystores. Which brings me back to the manure. There’s a whole lot of it with that many cows.
We qualified to be Environmentally Verified with MAEAP, which was no small thing. It took a lot of work.
Our Excellence Award from our milk coop was bumped up to Superior this year.
Because of our number of cows, we are now labeled as a CAFO farm and have strict regulations we have to meet. When I hear the media and uninformed people talk about the awful factory farms, I get angry and frustrated, and my passion for the truth rises.
I started to blog (www.afarmwife.com) so I can do my part in getting a real picture of agriculture out there. I want to show the good, the bad and the ugly of farming, and connect people to the milk they drink. My goal is to create an emotional tie to the farm for those reading, and draw-in all walks of life. My blog covers the technical side of farming, but includes much more than that, such as photography, recipes, humor (and farming offers plenty of fodder for humor!) http://www.afarmwife.com/2012/08/purple-cattle-wrap-and-panty-liners.html
I have a 5 – 10 minute spot each Wednesday morning on WHTC-1450, a talk-radio station based out of Holland, Michigan. It’s called “Random Ramblings of. . .” where I talk about farm issues – fun, technical and randomness. I want the public to associate a hard-working farmer behind the gallon of milk they pick up from the gas station. I want them to realize a real live person is behind the cotton T-shirt they pull on in the morning. I also share how we’ve improved as farmers. How we take better care of the land, use less water, etc. The station covers all of west and southwest Michigan and is live on –line at www.whtc.com. I also have the radio program podcasts listed on my blog.
Last year 300+ toured the farm. My daughter-in-law hosts preschoolers and I have various groups that come through each year. We end the tour with milk and cookies.
Our goal on the farm is to strive for excellence. The land and the critters belong to God and we are doing our best to care for them. http://www.afarmwife.com/2012/07/steadfast.html
Farmer is third generation making our sons fourth generation. Our biggest challenge now - other than the day-to-day operation - is farm succession. We are trying to pass on what Farmer’s dad and Farmer worked so hard to create.
I have a hard time expressing my love of the land and for my BEBs (brown eyed bossies). While the start of my farm experience was a bit rocky, I would not change where I am for anything in the world.
Blog contributed by: Diane Loew of "A Farm Wife"