Raising a Farmer

Alot of work but always room for laughter

Week 3 ~of The Morrison County Milk Project~2/4/19-2/8/1

The week started out strong with the power of milk.

Monday Vivian and I spent part of our morning on Falls Radio KLTF Party Line sharing about our Project. Callers called in asked questions and we talked about milk and food. Thank you to Ron, Melanie and Steve supporting my project. Thank you.

After school on Monday we headed to the Little Falls Girls and Boys Basketball teams practices to deliver Milk.IMG_3127

Between girls and boys practice in Little Falls we headed to our local library. We had a teachable moment on World Encyclopedias. Seriously, our lives revolved around an encyclopedia in my youth. I can still remember when we got a set. White and green they were. Homework was much easier when we had a set at home. It was a big deal.

Tuesday was a double header for Little Falls Girls and Boys Basketball. We had a dairy basket for both boys and girls game. I had some pretty great helpers, Jill and Anthony. Anthony kept asking where the milk was? When was it milk time?IMG_3156

Girls Basket winner and Boys Basket winner

Wednesday we made our way to Upsala for practice with the boys and girls basketball teams.

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The Upsala Boys Basketball Head Coach is a dairy farmer.

And then the snow came. All activities cancelled and school closed again.

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Some rescheduling and we are looking forward to week 4 of the Morrison County Milk Project.

The moment for me this week was how one single cheese stick can create an amazing conversation and a need for our community. All from one cheese stick. ONE cheese stick.

Thank you so much for the schools welcoming us with big open arms and to our sponsors! This project that started as an idea has become more than I could have imagined. Thank you, small things do matter.

KempsCobornsCentral Minnesota Credit Union, Dairy Farmers of AmericaAMPIBongards CheeseFirst District Association   

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Vivian taking a break after playing in the snow. The things she teaches me.  

 

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Morrison County Milk Project~Week 2

This last week started out colder than a freezer. Schools were closed for three days because of the cold. Actual temps were in the -30’s bringing wind chills in the -50’s. It was cold. It was fun listening to the weathermen describe the cold. We heard, “Stupidly cold” “Embarrassingly cold” “idiotically cold” and our favorite “sadistically cold”. It was cold. The week started out cold but by Thursday late afternoon we were ready to get out and about and deliver milk.IMG_2967[1]

When I first started this project my main focus was three points: to get whole milk in the hands of kids, bring awareness of the importance of agriculture in our communities and milk is a healthy food choice. To do this I bring milk to kids and the second part is raffling off a dairy basket at a home game. I never could have imagined how it was going to evolve. Into something amazing.

Small things matter and doing them with big love has always been a motto of mine. It is humbling to see those things grow. Every time we bring milk to a team the excitement it brings is pretty awesome to see. The kids say thank you once, twice, three times. Parents message me and say “thank you”. One team asked when we were going to come back with milk. People in my community ask me “How can I help?”

On Thursday we visited the Little Falls Boys Hockey team. We were welcomed with big open arms by the team and rink manager. Coach Couture promised his Little Falls Hockey team milk after every game.

Coach Couture is also Everett’s PE teacher. Everett was happy to see him. 

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Where’s Everett? Little Falls Boys Hockey Team 

On Friday, we made our way to Pierz for the wrestling match and then to Little Falls for their Gymnastics meet. I was so thankful for Emily who made it possible to have dairy baskets at both events. In Pierz the funds went to the Pierz FFA Club.

Seth Winscher represented the Pierz FFA Cub at the Wrestling match in Pierz. We enjoyed talking farming and chore time with this dairy farm kid! 

The Little Falls Gymnastic team rallied around one of their own who had lost her home to a house fire. The team had decided to give her and her family the monies raised from the basket at their meet. Small things matter. When I started this project I thought bringing awareness to my own industries struggles would be the focus. Never could I have imagined what a basket of butter, cheese and milk shakes could do for my community. Never could I have imagined the power of milk.    IMG_3082[1]

Little Falls Gymnastic Team

 

Thank you Emily for helping me spread the POWER of MILK.

 

Thank you to our sponsors for helping me make this happen.

KempsCobornsCentral Minnesota Credit Union, Dairy Farmers of AmericaAMPIBongards CheeseFirst District Association

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Morrison County Milk Project~Week 1

The Morrison County Milk Project I created and began working on the beginning of December. After meeting and phone calls and more meetings and more phone calls it came together. Watching an idea come to life and grow is an amazing thing. I wanted to get whole milk in the hands of kids. I wanted to make milk exciting. I wanted to provide awareness of how important dairy farmers are in our local communities. I wanted to share milk is a good food choice.

The kids and I, along with some helpers along the way are bringing milk to every varsity activity in Morrison County. In addition to this we are selling chances for a dairy baskets at each school to spread this message.

We began this last week delivering milk to the Swanville Boys Basketball team practice and Pierz Healy High School’s activities practice.

Swanville Boys Basketball 

Pierz Healy High School Activities

We kicked off the dairy basket giveaway at the Pierz Boys Basketball game on Friday.

In Pierz, the FFA club helped distribute the milk after practice on Wednesday. They also helped sell chances at the game. Friday night was Critical Cause Night for Jacob Furhman. The FFA club decided to give all the proceeds for their basket to Jacob Fuhrman who is in need of a surgery. One dairy basket raised $485 for Jacob and his family.

Corey Watland from Pierz FFA helped sell tickets for the dairy basket. We were able to raise $485 for Jacob’s surgery. 

When I started off the new year and this project I had in the forefront of my mind, “small things matter.” I had no idea how quickly that would happen. I had no idea what positive conversations and change can become with just getting milk into the hands of kids. Small things do Matter.

Thank you to our sponsors for helping me make this happen.

Kemps, Coborns, Central Minnesota Credit Union, Dairy Farmers of America, AMPI, Bongards Cheese, First District Association

Thank you!

      Follow us along as we share the power of milk in Morrison County!

 

 

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Minnesota Lt. Governor Inauguration Speech is more than just words

On Monday January 7, 2019 I stood in my kitchen. Everett was home from school because the roads were too icy for the buses. He and Vivian played in the living room as I made lunch. My morning was spent milking cows with my husband, on a farm he grew up on. A farm that has been in his family for over 125 years. Our children are the 6th generation to play in the same back yard just as so many before have. I look out my kitchen window and see hopes and dreams for my children and myself.

As I made lunch for my family, I knew the day was a special day because it was inauguration day for the State of Minnesota. I had the inauguration on in the background of the house as I went about my kitchen. As the new Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan began to share her story, her hopes for Minnesota and her dreams for her daughter her words stopped me. I listened to every word she said. I listened knowing her words were real.

“Their support created pathways.”

“Farm kids struggling to figure out if they are able to stay on the land that they love.”

“My job is to show young people like her(LT. Gov.’s Daughter), what is possible.”

“Young people in rural communities who feel forgotten.”

Her words stopped me because I have a young son. A son who wants to one day be a farmer. He wants to be a farmer where his great-great-great grandparents farmed. He wants to continue a legacy built on faith, love and family. I have a daughter who is vibrant and full of life. Lt. Flanagan words stopped me because I have two small children thriving in rural Minnesota. I also whole heartedly agree with Lt. Flanagan it is my job to teach and show my children their voice matters. It is my job to make sure they know each of their voice’s are strong and valuable to their community. Her words stopped me because I live in rural Minnesota. I live where I see and hear many youth feel unimportant or say, “What can I do?”

I am part of an industry where many feel forgotten, used or thrown aside. I am in an industry where many say to their children, “Don’t come back to the farm.” “Go and do something else.” I hear rural life is dead. I hear. I listen. I myself have cried those words out loud, “Why would I wish this onto my children? Why would I wish heartache onto my children?” I myself have felt like a number at times. But then I reset and push on.

Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan’s inauguration speech was more than just words, they were reality. I am hopeful for Minnesota coming together as one. I am hopeful for rural communities. img_0992[1]

 

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Sledding on the Farm

Yes, Nate may or may not have wipped me out.
You’ll have to watch and find out.
Everett got jealous when I told him when I was in school we could take sleds to school and go sledding at recess. Get out and play in the snow!

 

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Sibling Love

💕 them. They drive me crazy sometimes. I ask, “what the?” “Why are you fighting over a chair?”

I once was told by a seasoned mom she wished she would have encouraged a sibling relationship more. She wished for them to do things just them.

I’m not sure how but Everett always wants to help and encourage Vivian. At dance last night, he stood beside and did the dinosaur dance with her. She was more confident he was with her.

But I saw my 9yr old boy in a sea of little tiny girls. Not embarrassed one bit when his little sister asked him to dance with her.

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Time does heal a heart

This column was originally published in Agweek August 18, 2018

As my head lay on my pillow the night of Aug. 1, 2018, I began to think of how different it was the same night 14 years ago. Fourteen years ago sleep evaded me. With each time I would wake up, I would say to myself, “Is this really happening?”

In my childhood home, I tried to sleep on one end of the couch and Nathan, my fiancé at the time slept on the other end. In the early morning, my dad had passed away from a massive heart attack. He was 55. My world was numb.

Questions of, “Is this really happening? Is this really happening just three years after we had to say goodbye to our mom? Why? Why? Why?” I constantly asked myself, each time I opened my eyes that night in 2004. Fourteen years ago, my dad’s goddaughter stood watch throughout the night as I tried to find sleep. It brought comfort with the sounds and smells coming from the kitchen, just as if my dad was really there. It brought comfort when sleep evaded me and came in small spurts. Feelings of being protected, a feeling I knew I was no longer going to receive from my dad. My heart being broken and sad was how my body felt when I tried to fall asleep that night.

Exactly 14 years later, I began to fall asleep and my heart was full and happy. My husband slept next to me. Our home was filled with all of my parents’ grandchildren sleeping in the living room. The day was filled with laughter and joy. The morning brought me smiles as my daughter and nieces came running into the barn excited to start their day. The afternoon was filled with catching Everett and his cousin playing in the backyard and looking for monarch caterpillars. Evening brought each of my nieces and Vivian taking turns walking Vivian’s calf around the yard.

While 14 years ago was a day filled with devastating news, my present day ended with my nieces sitting at the counter as I made homemade pizzas telling me about their favorite pizza. They filled the air with their stories, laughter and smiles. As we cooked we needed to sample the toppings. When my niece ate one of my freshly canned pickles (telling me how mine are the best in the whole world), I smiled to myself. A couple of weeks ago when I crumbled and asked myself, “Why am I staying up till 1 a.m. to can pickles?” my niece gave me my answer. As the pizzas baked, Everett and his cousin turned the living room into their own world — hunting pterodactyls. I could hear them make a plan and hide behind the couch as they carried out their imaginary world.

So much has happened since Aug. 1, 2004. So much life has happened. Sadness and joy has happened. Disappointments and triumphs have happened. Healing and peace have been found.

Fourteen years ago I thought my world was shattered and thrown about. Today, I look at my parents’ five grandchildren. Children who have never met two of their grandparents. But a little bit of them shines through in their individual personalities, mannerisms and faces. Sleep this year on Aug. 1 came with a full, content heart.

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Canning pickles at 1 a.m. when there aren’t enough hours in the day

This column was originally published in Agweek on July 20, 2018

When Nathan and I purchased the farm from his parents in 2011, I worked off the farm full-time. Our goal was always for me to be on the farm full-time, and in 2014, we were able to do that.

 

When I worked off the farm, I felt frazzled all the time. Everett went to daycare. Nate was working at home, and I was working in town. Chores before and after I went to my job had me pushing my patience and time. Rushing to get anywhere, well that hasn’t changed. Many nights, I would find myself at 1 a.m. doing something where the day wouldn’t give me enough hours. I thought when I would be home working on the farm full-time, it would give me more time, to do things like can pickles during the day, like a normal person. Or so I thought. One season, I was canning at 1 a.m., and my jars didn’t seal. I said to myself “This is dumb! Why am I doing this to myself? I am tired and for what? A jar of pickles?”

 

This past weekend I found myself in my kitchen at 1 a.m., again. When I looked at the time, I said out loud to no one in particular, “I told myself — never ever again!”

During the day Everett was working on his 4-H project, canning his own pickles. He needed to be done because he was leaving the next day for a week-long camp. Everett needed his own space in the kitchen. To add to my chaos there is a shortage of fresh dill in our area. Seriously? A fresh dill shortage? I stopped at our local grocery store and was told I was the third person looking for fresh dill and he had none. I did eventually find some, grown in Peru. I quickly thought to myself about food and food grown around the world, how if I was in a different time I wouldn’t be able to purchase dill from Peru.

I had about 14 jars needing a hot water bath before evening milking. I went out to the barn. The conversation during evening milking was filled with pickle talk. How many are done? How many are almost done? Do we have enough dill? Why doesn’t anyone have any fresh dill? It’s the great dill drought of 2018.

After milking and chores, filling jars and making a brine, I found myself staring at my canner waiting for the water to boil and looking at the clock to see it was pushing 1 a.m. and grumbling to myself, “I told myself, never ever again and here I am!”

I know in two weeks I will be smiling to myself thinking how delicious these pickles are and how much they remind me of home, how my childhood neighbor kids would eat a jar at a time of my mom’s pickles, how Everett asked if we had any “secret family recipes” he could use for a project, and how many times my husband has been patient and helping me stuff jars way after dark.

When I break the seal on the pickle jar, I will forget how frustrated I was and how I told myself, “Never, ever again.” I know for a fact I will again be pushing 1 a.m. trying to finish something up because whether I am working full-time off the farm or full-time dairy farming, the day never gives me enough hours.

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Show whites represent dedication to dairy farming

This Column was originally Published in Agweek July 6, 2018

This past winter, our hearts were broken when Everett’s beloved cow 304 passed away. It was difficult to say goodbye to her. Everett was only 3 years old when he walked 304 as a winter calf into the ring for the very first time. 304 taught Everett more than I could have ever imagined.

 

304 was not a show cow for show-ring standards, but it was outside the ring where she taught Everett about dedication and trust. Everett was dedicated to her, and she trusted Everett. One year when Nate’s and my pride got in the way trying to talk Everett out of taking her to the county fair, Everett simply replied, “I won’t go then. If she doesn’t go I don’t go.” No whining, no crying — just firmly stating he will stand by his cow no matter what.

 

Everett age 3, with his father, Nate, and 304 at the Morrison County Fair in 2012.

Everett and Nathan with 304 at the Morrison County Fair 2012

This is the heart of every dairy farmer, the dedication to their farms and families. So when we had to say our goodbyes to 304, it was heartbreaking for our entire family.

Everett’s heart began to become whole again this past week. Everett walked into the ring with 304’s daughter, Lady Wilt, at the Dairy Days Dairy Show in Brainerd, Minn. A new chapter had begun for our young son. He proudly walked into the ring with Lady Wilt wearing 304’s show halter. Many years ago we had 304 and Everett’s names stamped into the leather.

As I watched him, I noticed his show whites. In dairy shows the handlers wear all white. Every summer the questions comes up “Why do they wear white? As soon as they put them on they get so dirty!”

This time as Everett walked slowly into the ring, I saw each smudge on his pants and shirt differently. I saw how many times his big heart has been hurt. I saw the four times Everett grew with excitement waiting patiently each time 304 had a calf. I saw how many times his heart grew with more joy when 304 finally had a heifer calf and it was red! I saw how many times his patience was tried in the yard working with his animals. I didn’t see or think “How am I going to get that out?”

I saw how many times he fell asleep beside me with the rumble of the tractor during planting and harvest. How he was so tiny in the barn during milking time and now he rode his bike down the aisle telling me a new story or plan. I began to think of how dairy farmers are struggling no matter how hard they work.

Show whites get dirty and smudged. They are worn proudly representing all the hard work, love and dedication that goes into dairy farming. Each smudge represents something much bigger than just dirt. Show whites represent how much work it takes to get ready for an animal to walk into the ring. They represent how much trust it takes to be a dairy farmer — the faith it takes to believe it will get better.

Everett and Lady Wilt at Brainerd Dairy Day Show 2018

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There are no tears in showing cows

This column was originally published in Agweek on August 3, 2018

Everett has been busy working on his non-livestock and livestock projects for the county fair next week. Added to the mix this year is a pig. Taking animals to the fair is a lot of hard physical work and a lot of going back and forth. Doing chores at home and chores at the fair. Late nights and way too early mornings.

 

When animals have a halter on for the very first time, they are really not sure what is going on. We, as handlers, need to keep our patience and our emotions in check. When the kids start working with their animals for the first time, I let them lose the animal and run around by themselves chasing them. My theory is, they will hold on a little tighter or longer or dig their heels in a little deeper next time because it is frustrating to try catch a calf or heifer who does not want to be caught.

 

The first time Vivian lost Caramel while practicing in the yard, the tears came. It broke my heart to have to tell my daughter, “There is no crying in showing cows. It is hard work. We can get frustrated, but we have to keep our emotions in check. Wipe your tears and go catch Caramel. If you want to do this, there are no tears.”

Vivian nodded her head, wiped her tears and went after Caramel. “There are no tears” is a hard line to navigate. As a mom I always tell my children, “You can be mad. You can be upset. Tell me how you feel. It is OK to cry. It is OK to be disappointed.” I want my children to know their feelings are validated.

To say there is no crying in showing seems harsh. Through the years, Everett understands and has been taught why there is no crying in showing — we are working with animals. Animals need a handler who they can trust. When animals are in the ring, it is all new to them.

If the animal begins to panic, the handler needs to keep it in check so the animal trusts the handler. They are animals, and they go off instinct. The animal can, at any moment, decide to do something different. We need to keep our emotions in check so we can read our animals as best we can.

Even at the fair, when I see kids about to have a meltdown, I tell them it is OK to take a break. Go get a drink of water, walk around the barn, then come back and get your work done. There are lots of disappointments when it comes to showing and taking projects to the fair. It breaks my heart to see kids who work so hard with a smile, then are disappointed with the results.

There are tears in showing, and there are tears in farming. I can’t count how many times I have cried in our own barn during chores out of fear, sadness and just plain disappointment. I have also cried in happiness. I hope I can be the mom my kids can come to with their disappointments, because sometimes tears are a good thing and they are needed. Through tears we are giving encouragement — we did really well at this, but need to work on this. So in the end, sometimes there are tears in showing.

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