To Whom It May Concern

IMG_2498.jpg

To Whom It Concerns,

There’s a crisis going on right under our noses and many people have no idea.

Farms are selling out; farmer’s dreams are being auctioned off and livelihoods are washing away with the tears of generational farmers.

I’m not sure who will be reading this or what I really expect to happen but I need to pour out my heart so I can see straight.

old barn down road from air.jpg

We are dairy farmers. My husband is 3rd generation and one of our four sons is hoping to continue. Hoping is the key word here.

The price we receive for our milk has been cut drastically over the last few years. It has come back a bit but well under the amount we need to break even let alone make a profit. The experts are predicting at least one more year of these farm-breaking prices.

As dairy farmers, we are used to the roller coaster prices but this dip has been deeper and longer than ever before with no relief in sight.

While our income has been slashed our production, costs are the same or more. We’ve trimmed down and cut back on everything possible.

Some reading this think “oh, that’s too bad” and never give it another thought. Some think “sell out and find another job, no big deal”.

That is comparable to telling a pro-golfer he can never pick up a golf club again, or a race car driver that he will never sit in a car seat again or a mother that she isn’t allowed to care for her children ever again.

IMG_2929.jpg

I truly believe a farmer is created. There is a seed dropped into the heart of a farmer at the time of conception that God puts there. We were created to care for his critters and tend his land.

Who else will work from before sunup to well past sundown? How many would be willing to work in a cloud of dust and dirt all day? How many professions require being covered in manure, silage juice and cow slime?

Farmers put their animals and farm first. Vacations are what we read about and hear from others. A half day’s work is done before church on Sundays. Ball games, drives in the country, leisurely strolls in the park are foreign to farmers. Oh, there may be a rare event that just happens to fall in between making hay and harvesting corn that can be attended.

Get togethers are always worked around milking times, planting and harvest. And many a supper out has been canceled due to something breaking down at the farm.

Knuckles are bloodied from slipping wrenches, shins are bruised from a well-placed cow hoof, and stitches are the norm when working on that one dang piece of machinery that you are trying to hold together because there just isn’t enough money to replace it.

IMG_8976.JPG

Add freezing cold temperatures and blowing snow that clogs the road before you can even get one pass done to the mix to make taking care of the farm even harder.

Everything waits for chores – Christmas morning, birthday celebrations are a couple that are put on hold until the last cow is fed or milked.

I have seen three of my four sons eat dirt, clean pieces of hay out of their eyes, cough up dust, and have disks in their backs blown. I have jumped in tractors and choppers to help keep them awake so the field can be done before the rain hits.

Months and months of work and money can be put in the ground only to not receive enough rain or too much rain and lose the whole thing.

Why are prices so low and farming so tough? What’s causing it? Personally, I’m not sure. I’ve heard that the European nations lifting their quota system and too much milk on the market are a couple.

Then let’s add in the fear mongering companies that try to scare the consumer into purchasing their high-priced products. A certain company is slapping their non-GMO sticker on everything that is placed in the grocery store whether or not it could possibly be a GMO product. And there is absolutely no scientific or medical proof that there is anything wrong with GMO foods.

Here we farmers have learned to grow food on less ground, with a smaller footprint, with higher yields and we are getting punished because someone is creating a false premise just to forward their own agenda.

Milk alternatives are slickly packaged and placed side by side with dairy. Some consumers have no idea there is no dairy in these products. I have NO problem with using other food sources for another drink but please don’t piggy back on our dairy. Don’t market that the alternative to dairy is healthier. It’s different.

We are coming from a place of discouragement, exhaustion, and depression. There is a thought that if you are honest and work hard you will be rewarded for your efforts. This is not and has not been happening for farmers in a long time.

We’re tired, sore and quite frankly some of us are scared spit less because we have no answer to the problem. We aren’t even sure what caused the problem and have no idea how to fix it.

We are praying for wisdom and guidance and some feel their prayers are falling on deaf ears.

At a time in our lives when we should be pulling back and slowing down we are working as hard as ever to fill the void that unaffordable employees could fill.

Part of me wants to do everything possible for my son to succeed as the fourth generation. Part of me wants to tell him to run – as fast and as far as he can from the farm.

But then, I realize that seed that started in his great grandfather and before has sprouted and is growing inside him.

12011323_976230352439825_4294250088681487372_n.jpg

Trusting God, seeking wisdom is our first and last hope.

If you eat, wear clothing, sit on furniture, take medicine then you have farmers to thank for that. Considering life without farmers would be non-existent, please take some time to pray for us.

If anyone reading this has any constructive, credible suggestions, please share.

While I have gotten this off my chest it is still in my heart.

IMG_2508.jpg

 

 

 

 

Life is Like Uncle Ted

IMG_5339.JPG

My Uncle Ted. What a guy!

Growing up as kids, us cousins, would spend a few weeks of our summers up north at the cottage. There was nor will be anything better than those summer weeks.

One of our treats was to visit the sand dunes. Back then it was much less commercial and easier to do what we wanted where we wanted.

The wheels of the car could barely stop turning before the doors flung open and we leaped out (no seat belts to hinder us then) and started our crab scramble up the hill. We all knew we had a short window to get a start before Uncle Ted released his torture.

We didn’t enjoy the climb, take in the scenery and never looked back. We knew at any minute Uncle Ted would strike.

We could be 10 feet up the hill or one third up the hill when “Got cha!” he would yell as he grabbed our ankles and pulled us down.

We would holler, complain and laugh all at the same time.

Then we would start again. We hoped he would be distracted by something else and not notice our movement forwarded.

Again, out of nowhere the ankle grab and his laughter pulled us back down. Sometimes all the way back, sometimes not too far.

Again, and again this happened until he either got tired, or our laughter started to subside or it was getting closer to leaving.

Eventually, finally, after all the torture and travails of Uncle Ted we cleared the top.

We knew every year it would be the same, yet we looked forward to it and would never want it any other way.

As, I was assessing a negative turn in my life I thought “life is just like Uncle Ted. We are climbing up and moving forward and at any given time something will grab our ankle and pull us down.” It could be conflict, sickness, economics, stress, family issues, strife, you name it. There is plenty out there to pull us down.

We can sit in the spot where life pulled us down and not try to move forward because it’s too hard, too sad, too tough, too alone or we can move up, dig in and climb again.

Each time we get pulled down we know we have a choice. Each time we get pulled down we see we’ve survived the last set back – as long as we chose to move forward.

I don’t know what your Uncle Ted is. We all have them. I’m dealing with a whole family of Uncle Ted’s right now but the problems will not define me nor change my course.

I choose to scramble ahead keeping just ahead of Uncle Ted. If he grabs me I know I will sit a minute, pray a bit, catch my breath and then I can choose. Sit there while the rest of the world climbs ahead or I can dig in, crab crawl and enjoy the time I’m ahead of Uncle Ted.

One day when we get to the top we will look back at Uncle Ted and laugh about the fact that we gave him so much power over our lives.

Who’s your Uncle Ted?

An Island in the Swamp

24068422_10210785854185223_7387461409026208151_o.jpg

They say, “Drain the swamp”. I agree.

Even in the swamp there is an island. And island of wonderful, beautiful, caring, Godly people.

My niece was killed in an auto accident in Virginia just outside of Washington DC. We made the long 10+ hour trip down there. Our concern was for our nephew being so far from his childhood home of Michigan. “How will he do alone without his Leah? Who will help him through this?”

Our concerns were pointless as we soon found out – even before we left to travel south.

My brother and sister-in-law made the all-night trip immediately after hearing of the accident. They were brought into a home of one of the families that attended church with my nephew and niece. He called to let us know there were many families offering their home for others to stay if wanted.

Another family hosted eight other family members for a few days.

When you think about bringing in a grieving family to take care of them, there is a lot of work. And these people did it with so much love. There’s food to prepare, beds to be changed, beds to set up, towels to wash, extra work in the kitchen. Add to that being cordial and inter acting. And there were small children to entertain too.

Others came along side and walked through the funeral arrangements. They put together the photos, videos, helped plan the service. And, what a service we had.

When we arrived for the visitation the evening before the funeral, my brother brought us around to introduce us to those who had been and was still helping my nephew. Over and over we were introduced to loving, caring, grieving friends.

And they all were there due to the love of Leah. She was a special woman who planted seeds of love. Hearing everyone share their life they had with her encourages us to be better. That’s what she did when she was there – she made life better.

We have no doubt that there will be many who will keep their promise of “Keeping charge over Michael” for us as the family travels back to Michigan.

Our hearts were lightened by the outreach of love by our new extended family members.

When God is in the midst he is able to create islands in any kind of swamps.

As you travel through this life, look for the islands. Better yet, be the island.

 

 

CAFO Farm Guilty! Accusations Are True.

IMG_2508.JPG

Well, it happened again.

It’s happened before and I didn’t want it out in the open.

5.JPG

We’ve been accused of having a beautiful farm.

They say our CAFO farm doesn’t look like a factory at all. They checked out the back rooms, watched from a distance and never saw a board, a poking stick or pitch fork used on the cows on the place.

IMG_2791-002.JPG
IMG_2873.JPG

Another claim that was issued is that the farm is clean and the animals are well cared for. They were shocked when they saw a nutritionist and our herdsman colluding together about the best recipe to feed the cows. They were concerned that the alleys were cleaned more than once a day – thought that may be an inconvenience to the cows.

And when they saw the freshly trimmed hooves they were aghast. How can this be?

They all just stood there with their mouth slack jawed while watching the milkers whistle and cajole our cows into the parlor.

And the fact that there was laughter coming from the farm in different locations was a hard concept for them to comprehend.

The kicker that just about sent them over the edge was when they saw us working WITH the employees. The blood drained from their faces when finding the crock pot of chili in the work room.

One of the employees had the audacity to pull them aside and tell that periodically they find gift cards in their check – for no reason!

Once that first employee spoke others did too. They told of the personal loans, of getting help fixing their cars, helping the kids in school. It was embarrassing to us.

The shame has just overcome us to the point that me must speak up and admit it.

IMG_5756.JPG

We are a CAFO farm that cares for our employees, our critters and our land. We work long exhausting hours to accomplish this and do a great job.

We would apologize for the disappointment to the critics of large farms but we’re too busy dropping off donuts to the night crew.

IMG_3314.JPG

These Boys . . . These Men

IMG_0178.JPG

 

I partially own them.

This group of good looking guys have a lot of my love.

This is a unique group because most of them have been together since school began. They have been in and out of my life and home for many years. There are three sets of brothers who are best friends with each other – two of those are my sons. My furniture has been draped by their clothes, the floor piled with shoes and their bodies strewn all over anywhere for a night or two at a time. I’ve had random pair of socks, stray pairs of underwear (makes you wonder how they missed that), and T-shirts that no one claims as theirs.

My kitchen table has been surrounded, my grocery bill has been pinned to the wall of fame at the grocery store for the longest running receipt, and there have been more chocolate chips cookies leave my home than butterflies heading to Florida.

And I loved every minute of it.

IMG_0175.JPG

When I look at this picture I see a pile of spaghetti all tangled together, covered in love. That is my favorite dish.

One of my boys (not son) got married last night and all the rest of the mangy crew arrived – most of them.

As I made my rounds hugging necks so many times I heard “Hi Mom!” I was superb at controlling my emotions because I couldn’t let my make-up be ruined. Music to my ears. Two words became a symphony for me.

This group of guys get together at least two times a year. They come from all corners like robins returning in the spring. They purpose to have this relationship.

There are many reasons why this group is so special. Over the years, they have held each other up, called each other out and were the best and worst for each other. They have survived themselves. Through the years there have been mothers and fathers who have passed. There have been good choices, bad choices and horrible choices made by this group, but the best choice was and is, is to be better. Be better together, be better as a person, husband, father, son, friend.

I’ve always known this group was extraordinary but got to see it in a different light last night – a brighter light.

My son brought a friend from Turkey to the wedding and he had been telling her all about the guys and their history.

She told me he had nothing but good to say about all of them and she thought “that’s nice.” It wasn’t until she saw them all together that she started to see the whole picture. And, to ad blessing onto blessing, the boys who are married have the most wonderful wives and they all seem to get along too. She felt very welcomed and included in the group. She categorized this group as a culture of their own.

I guess I’m blogging about this to show my love for them and appreciation that I get to have them in my life.

I also want to encourage parents who still have kids at home – open your doors and open your heart. Set another plate at the table and throw another pillow on the floor.

Cookies and milk around the kitchen table is excellent ground for sowing seeds – sowing seeds of love, grace, mercy, understanding and the reality of Jesus Christ and eternity. No Bible is necessary to share the love of God.

While I would never impose, I have no doubt that just about any of these would come to help me if called.

There are a lot of wonderful young people out there that just might turn into something wonderful if they have a landing place to be loved on. Not that home loving is bad or was lack in this group but there is something about someone who doesn’t “have to” love you that does.

This group is amazing. We have IT guys, designers for international companies, lawyers, occupational therapists, veterans, security, business owners – amazing young men.

I’m so proud of these men and the journey they’ve traveled thus far. I pray you all have a group in your lives – you may have to look for them but there are those guys out there.

IMG_0177.JPG

We're a Farm, Not a Responsiblity Training Camp

IMG_2989.JPG

“You’re so lucky you could raise your kids on the farm. What a blessing. They got to learn how to work and be responsible.”

“Is there anything my kids can do on the farm for you? I want them to become responsible and have good work ethics.”

“Can my kids live with you this summer? I think it would be good for them to see how to live and have to work.”

Seriously, all three have been spoken to me. While I appreciate people associate farming with hard work – which is an understatement, I just don’t get the disconnect with working and home life.

“If my kid is hanging around with whichever son they were referring to, then I know they will make good choices and be responsible.”

Heard that one a few times too. I consider it a complement and a blessing but my sons shouldn’t have to be the “good choice” meter.

Since I am running a dairy farm and not a responsibility training camp, I thought I might share a few ideas to help the “non-farm” population grow their kids into responsible, hard working, appreciative adults.

Do you eat?
            Kids can shop with you – carry in the groceries, put them away, set the table, clean the table, do the dishes, load the dishwasher, carry out the trash.

Do you wear clothing?
            Kids can do the laundry which includes sorting, folding and putting away.

Does your house self-clean?
            Kids can dust, vacuum, wash windows, re-arrange furniture, clean out the garage, clean out the basement.

Do you live on land?
            Kids can weed, plant flowers, mow lawn, plant, weed and harvest a garden. They can clean the driveway, front porch, etc.

Wigglie #2 helping his dad - Son#2.

Wigglie #2 helping his dad - Son#2.

Do you own pets?
            Kids can feed them, water them, brush them, check them for ticks, treat them for fleas, go to the vet with them, clean out their pens, litter boxes or cages.

Do you own a vehicle?
            Kids can wash it, and vacuum it. They can help change the oil, check the tires, etc.

I could continue. Everything listed here can be done in their own home. Bonus – they can do this for other people and make a little money or just be kind and bless others.

Grandkids and friends picking rocks with Farmer.

Grandkids and friends picking rocks with Farmer.

Farm kids do work hard. They are responsible – they must finish the job. There’s no quitting at 5:00. Holiday weekends aren’t on the farm calendar. Bad weather doesn’t stop the job for some things. There’s no time or space to lay the blame for something – just get the job done, do it well and move on to the next one.

I’m proud of my sons and their ability to work efficiently, honorably, responsibly and do a great job.

Also, we love having outside kids come work for us. Some have been with us for years, became full time and some have moved on to great opportunities.

We enjoy sharing our work with others when possible but I personally have a hard time knowing there are neighborhoods filled with kids sitting on couches injuring their neck muscles because of phones, and other devices.

I also see too many kids that need “intervention” from someone when things go wrong. They haven’t had enough real-world reality to deal with things. Learning that as a breathing member of this earth comes responsibilities, hard work, some hard times and there will be things that make you uncomfortable but you will survive. 

None of my kids liked hauling poop, missing an outing or smelling like spoiled silage. We didn’t take the hard or uncomfortable things away – which probably had a little to do with them becoming good, responsible adults. That and a lot of prayer.