Finding a role in my family’s small dairy operation is quite literally the oldest goal I can recall from my memories. I spent my days at the heels of my dad or uncle, co-owners of the farm, or by the side of my older sister while she fed and watered the calves. As my eyes studied her sequence of memorized moves and the satisfied reactions of my favorite farm creatures, I couldn’t help but long to have a chore of my own.
One day, my dad granted my wish and let me give water to some heifers on my own. All I had to do was put the hose in the large tub, lift the handle of the water hydrant to release the water, and push the handle back down once the tub was full. Though too simplistic to pass a second thought now, I felt extremely excited to put my best foot forward for my dad and our animals.
Once I began to see the water near the tub’s limit, I pulled at the handle only to realize I was not getting it to budge. Tears began to rim my eyes in frustration as I propped all of my weight against the handle with no success. Finally, I sprinted to find help while water poured into the living quarters.
That day’s incident stirred up many feelings of anger at myself, but I stayed true to my quest. “I just want to help!” my mind would replay.
Soon—basically when I could lift a bucket or watch an open gate—chores were not just granted to me; moreover, they were laced into my daily schedule, whether I accepted them or not.
At times I truly cherished the moments spent outdoors, greeting and feeding the calves I had named and known to love. The appreciation circulated from my dad, and the underlying common ground of our farming conversations was everything I had wanted from a young age.
Sometimes, though, chore time overlapped with my favorite show at the time, or Iowa’s freezing temperatures made working outside seem unbearable. Piled up excuses created a feeling of resentment toward our lifestyle at times. Why was I to allocate multiple hours of the day doing chores when my friends weren’t? Why couldn’t my family take a vacation and escape the struggles of work for a while?
This mindset made the transition into my hectic high school schedule an easy one. The hustle kept me away from the farm’s responsibilities all but a couple of nights a week, and I was too caught up in my new communities and activities to pay much thought to it.
When I moved away for college to an area where a farming background is less common, I realized just how much the way we run our operation molded my identity. Effectively using the tools in my possession, leading an adaptive mindset when issues arise, and quickly dismissing any fear of getting my hands dirty are just a few major traits that my time as a farm kid enhanced.
It took creating a dairy blog for a digital advertising course to recall the same sincere gratitude for farming that I felt at the water hydrant. I wanted to use the blog to provide a visualization for the operation, yes, but also the family behind the early mornings, days in the combine, nights in the barn, and everything in between.
Just the other day, I overheard a conversation between a man and his grandson. In the man’s hands lay the door of a large cabinet taken from his old farm, painted white. Scribbled on the door were records of each season’s events, marking the weather, building maintenance, or any other notable occurrences keeping the crew busy. You could almost hear a gear in the man’s tone switch once he spoke of his notes, as if a part of him remained back, ageless in appearance, experiencing such satisfaction in his daily role on the farm.
Listening to the man’s recollection and excitement in passing down the information, I caught myself feeling an overwhelming sense of pride for my farming family. At that moment, my greatest wish was that my father would be in possession of a white door, as well as his father, and his father before that. That they could possess a record so personal. It amazes me how a piece so simple can withhold so many accounts that cannot be uncovered anywhere else.
The records on the white door have ignited my desire to rediscover my role in my family’s farm, even if I no longer reside there physically. My life has granted me success and happiness in plenty of areas outside of the farm, but no part of me now wants to sideline my roots as I regrettably did in the past. On top of that, I am moved to take note of the regular happenings in my day that may just turn into a source of nostalgia later on.
So, if you’ve made it this far, thank you for supporting my ever-changing, yet necessary role for my farm. My white door, you could say. Continuing this role may include sharing additional personal accounts or reaching out to politicians to support agendas that help local farmers. Perhaps it’s as simple as scheduling more frequent phone calls with my dad to check in on how he and the farm are faring. I’m still figuring this one out.
I just want to help.
Learn more about Josie on the Contributors page.