I just shared another post on face book about a family farm going under.
My first thought – “Oh, no, another one. Lord please surround these people with your love.”
And then this emotion that I can’t name (I think it is sadness, anger, despair, grief all mixed together) rose up and my mind screamed “What are we going to do about this? What is going to happen?”
That thought was followed by – “How would/did this play out for other professions?”
I wonder if the medical field, the entertainment field, the sports field professions were falling like flies – what would be the reaction?
I’ve noticed a few times lately with the entertainment industry that has had a canceled program will be revived if enough fans speak up.
The sports industry seems to thrive no matter what – although I really have no clue what’s going on on the inside. And, it’s on the inside that the truth lives.
So, how is it the main profession that keeps America, the world alive is so infected and diseased that farm after farm is dying. Farms are being amputated and there are miscarriages and terminally ill farms all over America.
Who do we blame? Who can help? What can be done?
All questions I have that are void of answers.
The intriguing part of this is that the people who survive because of this profession either have no clue or couldn’t care less.
Week after week they walk in to the grocery store, fill up their cart, take it home and place it in the fridge or cupboards. Many times, the fridge will need to be cleaned out and wasted food thrown away before the “new” food can be stored.
Food is such an easy, cheap commodity in America.
Meanwhile, back on the farm we are working more hours with no pay just trying to keep our life intact. There are no vacations, no sick days, no holidays no bonuses. The life that was once a joyful fulfillment is heavy with worry, fear and uncertainty for many.
Once again, who can we blame – and what good will that do?
A better question is who can help?
No farmer I know wants a hand-out. A hand-up for a period of time would be wonderful. To be able to make a living using our passion filled abilities is really all most of us want.
And, this isn’t just affecting the “little guys”. There may be some mega farms that have figured out how to survive. But it’s all relative. What’s large for one person is not so for another. Farmers pointing fingers at other farmers won’t help a thing.
I’m not really sure there is an expectation for this post other than trying to dump my feelings onto paper (e-paper?) to try to relieve the heaviness of carrying it around.
There are a couple things I would like to ask though.
Please pray. Pray for farmers everywhere. Farmers are now the number one group of people committing suicide.
Pay attention to what you eat and wear. You can’t go very far without eating, wearing or running into something that came from a farmer.
Show your appreciation when you can. A thank you on social media, a note in the mail would be an easy encouragement.
If you have a question, please just ask us. Don’t believe what you read. There are so many mistruths and flat out lies (which would be a whole ‘nother blog post) being pushed on us.
As a dairy farmer with 4th and 5th generation coming behind we are committed to hang on and continue as long as possible with the hope that the clouds will part and the sun will once again shine.
There is so much fear-based information or I should say lack of information out there right now especially concerning glyphosate.
If you really want to grab someone’s attention – use fear. Convince us we are hurting, depriving or harming our children or family members and we will jump at the chance to keep them safe.
And, why would any company want to scare us into choosing their product? Could it be that the bottom line is the almighty dollar?
Fear is an emotion and it’s much easier for emotions to rule than having to take the time to find facts.
Fear us easily understood and can reach out and grab much easier than looking for facts.
Facts on the other hand are cold and carry no warm and fuzzy feelings like emotions. Facts take a little time to read and understand. The science behind some of the testing is hard to understand.
People accuse us farmers of being paid by chemical companies to use their products. If only. As a farmer we are using the best products to help us be profitable. After all, farming is our business as well as our life. We have to be profitable to live.
I love my family as much as the next person as do most farmers (I can’t speak for all). But I would never use anything that I thought would harm them.
And, I get the whole emotional, passionate part. I’m emotional and passionate about the fact that as farmers we are so misunderstood. We farmers feel the blows of every “expert” that damns us or what we are trying to do – feed people.
So, let’s put our feelings aside and purpose to find real information – from both sides – that is credible and not driven by a group that is formed from emotions concerning issues.
Let’s hold our tongues, listen to each other, look honestly at the sources of our information.
Above all, let civility rein.
And maybe have a little love for each other.
This is one good source of information if you desire to learn:
1. For Wisdom – for God to show them when to move and when to stand fast. To make the right decision that will bring prosperity.
2. For Faith – that they will stay steadfast knowing God loves them and is hearing their petitions and is working things out even when it doesn’t appear that way.
3. For Good Health – Farmers work hard, long hours and don’t have time or resources to deal with sickness.
4. For Strength – Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
5. For Peace – to know that even in the tough times they are not walking alone.
6. For Protection – to keep them safe from injury or accidents.
7. For Prosperity – that bills would be paid, loans paid off, extra in the bank and the desire and ability to bless others.
8. For Joy – in the midst of all this, a joyful heart with gratitude for all God is.
9. For Love – to be able to love ALL people, even those who speak against and falsely towards them.
10. For Grace – for all things that come into their lives.
Above all things – thank God that there are those who work this hard to feed you and your family. And, when possible speak some words of encouragement to them.
Wondering about that title?
Farming is hard. Not just hard it’s more than hard. Great families are losing their farms daily. And it has nothing to do with business choices, bad management, lack of work ethic or any other issue the farmer could control.
As farmers we are a resilient bunch yet there comes a time when it’s over.
Right now, as a farmer still hanging on by our fingernails I couldn’t help but see the resemblance to the “Whack a Mole” game.
I feel like every morning we get up, go out with expectations that the day will be better than yesterday and things will start turning around. While we are pushing ourselves upwards and towards that evasive light at the end of the tunnel, life happens and we get smacked back down.
A hit from low prices. A hit from bad weather. A hit from machinery breakdowns. A hit from insects. A hit from false news about farming. A hit from social media spreading mistruths. A hit from accident or injury. A hit from __________ fill in the blank – this could go on for a long time.
Day after day we continue to rise up, work hard, pray more only to be whacked down again.
How many times can you get hit before you are done? That’s the question all farmers are asking and too many, way too many have reached that point.
While I don’t remember all the details from the movie “Groundhog Day” the part I remember is that each day is a repeat of the day before.
Farmers would be key characters in “Groundhog Day”. Each morning you start out thinking it’s a new day only to find yourself repeating the thoughts of “maybe tomorrow”, “how long can we do this”, “what can I do to change this”. As the hours wear on through the day the load feels heavier and heavier. Going to bed each night you try to talk yourself into thinking tomorrow will be different. Then, each morning you’re right at it again, day after day after day.
Farmers are tough. Some of the toughest people – physically, mentally and emotionally are farmers. The average person could never work this hard for this long for so little if there wasn’t a little bit of Superman inside.
All superheroes can only be super so long. Farmers are over burdened with depression and are committing suicide at a heart-breaking, record setting rate.
This isn’t going away. As long as there are people on the earth and as long as people need to eat, be clothed, have medicine and more, there will be a need for farmers.
Yet, how many of these food eating, crop wearing people ever give a thought to those who worked to provide it?
If you are a consumer there are a few things you can do to show your support for farmers.
1. Please pray.
2. Don’t listen to every person who slams farmers for their horrible practices. Find the source of your information and make sure they are credible. Search behind the source to see if they are connected with another group that would benefit from slamming farmers.
3. If you have a question of concern – go to the source. Ask a farmer. There are tons of us on social media that would LOVE to help you understand.
4. Don’t stand in judgement and think or speak that a farmer could have/should have done better.
5. Thank a Farmer – speak some encouragement into their lives.
Lastly, for most of you reading this your food is less costly than just about anywhere else on the planet. Appreciate your spot on this ball of dirt and be grateful.
To some this is just a body of water, that holds seaweed, snails and fish.
To me it is that and so much more.
This is my childhood’s most precious memories. This is where we would spend our summer vacation. It was heaven on earth. Swimming, fishing, playing in the woods and to make it even more spectacular we would do all this with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
We would swim until our arms hung like wet noodles and our lips would be purple and slap together from shivering so hard.
This lake holds hours of fishing in an overloaded boat where we were directed to be quiet or we would scare the fish. I remember fishing in wooden boats.
The campfires near the lake ate many a marshmallow and lulled us asleep.
Saturday night baths were a bar of soap and the lake.
Waking up at 6:00AM to slip “quietly” into the freezing cold lake was thwarted with the amphitheater sound system the water produced. You just can’t swim without splashing, squealing and giggling.
Snakes, turtles, crabs, minnows and blood suckers were fished from the lake.
Every summer one of the unknowns were – who will be in the cottage next to ours this year? Year after year we would meet new families spending their summer vacation at the neighbor’s cottages. Some of the families we saw more than once. A summer “boyfriend” was always a bonus.
One summer my brother and I were baptized in this water. Our Grandfather waded out into the lake with us and while the rest of the family watched from the dock, baptized us which added preciousness to our memories.
We found salamanders under logs, clams holding the world’s next largest pearls, chipmunks and other critters sharing the property.
The outhouse was a bonus of sorts. The stories, the bees, the smells!
I can’t eat fish today without my mind picturing my grandfather, father or uncles scaling and fileting fish under the tree on the blood and gut stained table they made for that purpose.
Whenever a cool breeze blows through cedar trees I am transported to that little cottage on the lake.
Upstairs in the cottage was one big room with 4 double beds. We would fight over who got what bed. Just getting up the steep narrow steps was a victory. And who needs anything besides heavy curtains hanging between the beds for privacy anyway?
Memories wouldn’t be complete without beestings, bug bites, pickers and a fishhook embedded in someone’s anatomy.
Everything tasted better, smelled stronger and felt more intensely at the lake.
To some, this is a body of water. To me, this is a slice of what awaits us in heaven.
Here in Michigan we have and excellent source of help in promoting dairy. UDIM - United Dairy Industry of Michigan.
I get all my swag for our farm tours from them.
They have been nothing but helpful and encouraging to us over the years and have afforded us great experiences.
Being highlighted as a Dairy Family at the Whitecaps game has been our favorite thus far.
Our latest adventure was a photo, video shoot. Take a look.
If you are a dairy in Michigan, please contact this great organization for help in promoting our product. They are so cooperative and have great ideas. Check them out:
I just watched another dairy farm sell their cows and turn off the lights in their milk house for the last time.
While I know some people genuinely feel bad for them and fewer yet really get it, the majority of the world has no clue. And, to add to that, they couldn’t care less.
They don’t connect the loss of a dairy with any consequences in their life.
Let me “clue” you in.
Every time the bulk tank is emptied for the last time we don’t just lose a business. We lose a participant in a valuable lifestyle.
We lose someone who is willing to work long hard hours for little to nothing in return.
We lose someone who doesn’t stop until the job is done.
We lose someone who puts the needs of an animal over himself.
We lose someone who can withstand being covered in slime and poop.
We lose someone who learned from the previous generation and is teaching the next.
We lose someone who will pull a calf from its mother and do mouth to mouth to save its life.
We lose someone who soldiers through blown disks in their backs, broken bones and sore muscles.
We lose someone who can fix just about anything with duct tape, binder twine and wire.
We lose someone who sings off key as they lug full pails of warm milk so heavy it feels like your arms will be pulled out of their sockets.
We lose someone who tucks their kids in the corner of the cab on a pile of coats to take a nap.
We lose someone who walks through a cornfield that is curled and burned from too much sun and no rain while promising next year will be better.
We lose someone whose hands are knarled, cut and stained with grease and oil.
We lose someone who wrestles critters ten times their weight and cradles a fragile calf in their lap.
We lose someone whose word is as good as a legal document.
We lose someone whose character, integrity and reputation are natural daily activities.
The world doesn’t have enough souls with these qualities.
The world is thirsty for what we are losing.
The world will suffer a little more with each farm that dies.
The world needs to pay attention and be concerned.
Right now, it’s so easy to write about what’s wrong with farming.
Never ever have I felt so much distress and dismay about my life I live.
Never ever have we been working so physically hard with no light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel gets longer and darker as the days go by. And, the tunnel is getting crowded.
Work hard and success will follow is what I’ve been taught. Well, if that’s the case then Farmer would be a multi-millionaire.
Just about every time I open face book to any of my farm pages there is one more dairy farmer selling out. Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017, and about 150 have quit milking cows so far this year according to USA Today.
Some will read this and think that’s too bad and never give it another thought. It’s not just losing a job. Losing your dairy farm that has been in the family for 100+ years is losing part of who you are. You feel like you are disappointing those who worked so hard to build it to this point and totally failing those coming after you who want nothing more than to continue the legacy.
When I first came to the farm I watched Farmer work alongside his father. Our sons have worked with Farmer and now a Grandson is working with his dad. There are times when we have three generations in the fields together.
When people glibly suggest just sell out and take all that money and start something else they don’t have a clue. First of all there won’t be all that money. Some will be lucky to break even. Secondly, you can’t change the DNA of your dreams that easily or quickly.
Others have suggested building a bottling plant so we can have more control over the finished product. Well, I’d like to suggest that if the money was available to build a plant then we wouldn’t be in this position.
Everything in dairy farming takes time. It takes at least 9 months for a cow to be able to give milk once she has reached the age of breeding. You can’t turn on and off your milk productions quickly. There is no quick fix.
Part of the problem is some farmers are increasing their herd size to have a better cash flow. That is doing nothing but making things worse for the whole. Yet, I can’t fault someone for doing what they think is best for themselves.
The hopelessness for farmers has become deadly. According to Kansas Wheat, from 2014 to 2015, farm income dropped 95% and farm debt levels have increased by 25%. The farmers’ rate of suicide is 84.5 suicide deaths out of 100,000.
In an article in Civil Eats - Over the past year, media reports in Newsweek, the New York Times, and an in-depth piece in The Guardian have called attention to alarming rates of suicide among farmers and farmworkers, from grain growers in the Midwest to dairy farmers in the Northeast.
Basically, right now doing what we feel we were created to do is exhausting, depressing and is wrapped in hopelessness. So, it is really easy to write about what is wrong with being a dairy farmer.
I am challenging myself to find some light in all the darkness and share what is good about farming.
Here we go:
Every day we get to enjoy the fresh air. We aren’t cooped up inside a building in front of a computer screen or repetitively doing the same thing.
Animals! There is something special about walking through the barns with cattle on both sides. It’s a calming effect. And, to help bring a new calf into the world is nothing short of miraculous.
The smells are heavenly – for the most part. The smell of fresh earth turned over in the spring and of course newly mown alfalfa is God’s perfume. Even the smell of manure is comforting at times.
Working side by side with your husband, son, daughter-in-law and grandkids is wonderful – especially when everyone is in a good place.
Having employees that work with you and being able to pass blessings back and forth between each other is rewarding.
Bringing guests to the farm to show and tell how God works is gratifying.
I have been told more times than I can count that “God is in control”. I believe that. It’s just hard at times to trust that. Oh my, did I actually admit that? Yep, at times my trust muscle isn’t as strong as I wish.
How long will this last? How long will we be able to continue? Only God knows. I just wish he’d let me know.
I’m not sure how we get to do such fun stuff but Lord, keep it coming.
We went to the Ball Game!
The West Michigan Whitecaps is our Minor League Baseball Team affiliated with the Detroit Tigers. This organization is great. It’s so family and community oriented. Three times during the season they partner with the United Dairy Industry of Michigan and highlight a farm family – that’s where we come in.
The United Dairy Industry of Michigan is there to support all dairy farmers in our state. They do a wonderful job. That’s where I get all my swag for our dairy tours on our farm. They are very creative and helpful.
Jolene from UDIM emailed me one day and asked “Hey, how would you like to be the farm family at the West Michigan White Caps game?” I thought “Heck, why not!”
So, I chose a night out of three dates. I was hoping we would be in between hay cuttings and it worked out great. We finished second cutting hay 3 days before the game.
She explained that there were four events we could participate in.
Crash Dash – someone 5 and under would race the mascot on the field.
Frosty Fly Challenge – try to catch items launched into the air.
Radio interview during the game.
I asked our grandson Clay to do the pitch, our youngest grandson Liam was the only one qualified to do the race, my daughter-in-law Holly, who is always willing to try anything, to do the challenge and I would just slide into the interviewing chair.
UDIM encouraged us to invite our families and supplied T-shirts for all of us.
I invited Dean Exoo from the Whitecaps on air with me at WHTC – my bi-weekly radio spot called A Farm Life with a Farm Wife. He joined me the Wednesday before the game. We let the listeners know what would be taking place that evening and invited them all to come along.
Finally, the night arrived. We had a little snafu with the tickets at Will Call but Dean to the rescue and we were all set.
Everyone signed in for their events. The Frosty Fly Challenge needed 3 suckers . . er, I mean contestants. So, my other daughter-in-law, Amber and my son, Dan stepped up to the plate. (get it? up to the plate?)
It was a beautiful night for a game. A little warm in the sun but the stadium was packed.
Clayton was the seventh person to throw out the “1st” pitch. He was relieved he wasn’t the only one. He did a good job and looked so dashing in a farmerish way.
Then, there was Liam. Oh my, what a cutie. He took off running and it didn’t look good at the beginning of the race, but he persevered and beat Crash.
Farmer and I were escorted in to the high echelon of the park – the broadcast booth. I made Farmer come along in case I was asked a question I couldn’t answer. Heaven forbid I answer wrong or unintelligent at the ball park – I do that enough on WHTC!
It was great. The guys up there were so nice. And Dan Hasty – talk about multi-tasking. He was broadcasting and interviewing at the same time. And, he’s a guy! (It’s well-known fact women are better multitaskers than men so lay down your hackles guys).
The interview was short and sweet, and I told him I if he would invite me back again I would bring him cookies. Well, that gave me an open invitation to “come on up” anytime. And, he just might be surprised in the future.
Frosty Fly Challenge was the last event for us. One daughter-in-law is known for her total lack of catching skills, my son who has a really bad back and our other daughter-in-law who won’t back down to any challenge. And they all lived up to their description. But, I must say there will never be such gorgeous or dashing Frosty Fly Challengers on the field ever again.
After we enjoyed more of the game we left around the 7th inning to help pass out chocolate milk to everyone leaving the game.
Farmer helped Nick and Justice who are with UDIM – two outstanding guys!
I can’t say thank you enough for the wonderful experience we ALL had.
First of all, UDIM. They truly have the best interest of the dairy industry and are there to help. If you ever want information on the dairy world you can ask me or them. If we don’t know, we’ll find someone who does.
Then there is Dean Exoo and the Whitecaps. What a wonderful organization and Dean is a servant at heart. Anything and everything we needed, he was ready to deliver.
Now that you’ve read this – go get a chocolate milk and read it again. I will be dairy delish!
The one “field” job I do is merging hay.
I normally enjoy it.
There is great satisfaction seeing something get accomplished.
Today, I was in the field with my son and grandson. Three generations working together – I sorta felt like I was Amish.
All is fun in merging until you have to pee.
And, if you don’t have the “convenient plumbing” it’s a challenge.
This field had woods on one end and houses on the other and flanked on both sides with other fields.
No problem, just drive back by the woods and hide behind the tractor tire.
Easy for you to say.
And, years ago I would have thought the same.
The issue is trail cams. You just never know where they are. I really didn’t want to be the butt (yes, I went there) of my neighbor's jokes or stories about what they found on their trail camera. Trail cams are hard to spot especially when you only have a small window to pee before the chopper or wagon comes rolling by. And, they know what you’re doing because you go from merging the rows together to heading over to the corner where there is no hay down.
When I know I have to merge I plan accordingly. No fluids for 12 hours prior. No fluids in the tractor. That plan works pretty good until I get a little whoozy from dehydration.
Besides the trail cam dilemma there is also the fear of jumping bugs. You need to know your bugs. How high can they jump and how low should you squat?
Yes, this is a real issue – nothing to laugh about.
For us farm-hers peeing in the field is comparable to men having to pee on stage under a spot light. Think about it.
Transparent. That’s what I keep saying – we need to be transparent. How can we help each other if we are living behind a façade?
So, here we go.
I’m real close to losing it. Not quite sure what it is, but it’s about ready to frazzle.
There has been stressful stress happening in the world I live in. Financial struggles due to horrible milk prices, concerns about the crops because of weather, short-handed at the farm and just plain normal wear and tear of life.
Then you add to that my inerrant desire to help and fix. I see my husband working way too hard and long hours. I’m concerned for his health. My son who is on the farm has back issues and he and his family are spent from doing “whatever” needs to be done. I move from feeding people, delivering people and parts, to merging hay, all the office work and now we are refurbishing one of our houses for a new employee. I’m taking care of most of that too. The list of things needing to be done is endless.
Then there are peripheral things. We had to tear out our old gas grill because it was 30+ years and crumbling. In order to get a new one and put it in, the brick around the old one had to be removed and new brick put down, etc. And, of course, only Farmer could do this. There is a mess on the back porch, a hole in the brick and a new gas grill perched on a table. Cement dust, tools and mortar bags litter my back-porch oasis.
The yard has more moles than a “whack a mole” factory. I finally called a service – even though Farmer said no. The service is great – should be for the price. We’re killing moles left and right.
Trimming bushes, weed whacking, mowing lawn, any landscaping, getting the oil changed in the car is on my to do list. There are so many other little issues that need fixing. I just can’t ask Farmer when he is so over burdened with everything at the farm right now. So, things get left undone. Undone “stuff” is noise to me. I need some quiet.
I have four sons – very busy and limited due to back issues. That’s something else I can’t fix. I pray for their healing and it hasn’t quite arrived yet. It’s not easy being a mama when your kids are hurting. If I ask, they will help but I know every time they help me I am pulling them away from their family and their things that need to be take care of.
I’m volunteering my time to help people discover Dr. Jim Hines – he is running for governor and I think he’s the best choice.
I could list other things but you get the idea.
And, I’ve always been the one to help others. I’m the answer to struggles. Need something? I’ll be right there.
I am tired.
I was feeling sorry for myself and was watching something on TV and the character was so happy and joyful. I found myself “wishing” I had a normal life that I could relax and enjoy. Right now, everything feels like work. Now, I know that my life is far superior in blessings than most people, so I really have absolutely nothing to legitimately complain about.
Why am I writing this? Trying to garner sympathy? Nope. Not at all.
One reason I’m writing this is to show someone who doubts God’s participation in your life that he is there.
I sat down and grabbed my “Jesus Calling” devotional and this is what I read.
“Striving for a predictable, safe lifestyle” – exactly what I long for.
The second reason for baring my faults here is to encourage someone else to know you’re not the only one who feels like life is spinning out of control. I want to encourage you to see there is no “wonder woman” or “super hero” in the flesh.
I think we are ALL over worked and tired. We are ALL busy. And, I really think we ALL “pretend” a little. After all, if you ask someone “How are you”? Do you really want to hear “I’m pooped, close to tears, can’t sleep and anxious”?
I know my exhaustion is self-imposed and can only be fixed by self-regulation. And, I’m working on it – once I get this list of to dos finished – HA!!!
Take heart, take a break and know that God cares and wants you to trust in Him and expectantly wait for what he has for you.
Now, go take a nap.