I farm because I grew up doing it. I grew up on my grandpa’s hip, on my dad’s hip. While following them around and riding around with them, I learned a lot. I feel like I know more about life and get to learn more about life than the average person because I am part of a grander circle. I get to see life come into this world and I see life leave this world. How many other professions get to see that?
Somebody asked me in second grade what I wanted to be. I said I wanted to farm. The feeling of wanting to farm has always been there. Sure, sometimes in the difficult times, I have that feeling of why am I doing this? And in those times, I say to myself that I have always wanted to do this so why not keep going. It’s more than just a farm for me. Obviously it is a way of life, but it is also a business that needs to succeed and I need to make decisions based on that.
In my early 20s, I had plans. I wanted to be here by X and there by Y. I understand that a lot of the issues in the dairy industry are out of my control. So, what I have been working on lately are the things that I can control. If I want this place to survive and thrive, I can’t just go with the status quo. I have to work on the things that I need to fix and not think about the things that are out of my control.
It’s hard for me to pull time to work in the office, but I am getting better and trying to delegate more because I want the farm to do better and I need to be better family oriented too. Since I was young, I have always worked 7 days a week. I have a family now and I want to instill a good work ethic in them, but I also want to instill family time in them as well. Even though it’s hard to balance that, I have a team that I can trust to do those things so that I can focus on other parts of my farm and my family. I look at my employees as leaders and I am giving them tasks as such. It’s not that I am going away, but I am trusting them to do stuff without me.
Part of what’s driving me right now is accepting the fact that farming is not easy, but let’s get on with it and figure it out. Nothing has been given to me and nothing will be given to me. What’s different now is that the changes that are going to happen in the future are going to be mostly mine and that’s a little nerve-wracking.
When I make a decision, I want to make based on numbers and knowledge and not on feelings and the only way I can get there is if I have the right help in place. I am so passionate about what I do that I think I’ve been making decisions based on emotions and outside forces for the last couple years. I am working on getting to the point where I can analyze the numbers and decide what needs to happen around here based on that knowledge and what I know about this farm. And because I have a great group of employees that take care of the day to day stuff so well, I have been able to focus on these bigger decisions.
In order to get more family time in, I am trying to just work half days on the weekends and bring my kids in with me. Even though they’re still pretty little, they can come ride in the skid-loader with me and help work my fresh cows. Then, they can go ride with grandpa for a little bit. That’s what made me fall in love with what I do. I can work cows in the morning and I get to go drive tractor in the afternoon. I love to plant corn. If I have a tractor and a planter sitting there, I’m in my complete happy place.
Working with my kids on the farm brings me back to when I was growing up. I loved my grandpa a lot. I always thought he was the smartest man in the whole world. I felt like he could do anything and that he had a lot of wisdom. I thought that the way he approached life and people made him a very smart individual. He was a very good teacher to me and my brothers.
We used to take these road trips to chase feed, parts, whatever else and those were always special to me and my brother. I mean we got to spend time with him and we just talked about things. He gave us this feeling that he always had our back no matter what.
I always thought he was very tough. He grew up in the 30s and the 40s so he was born during the depression. Those individuals that came from that era are just amazing to me, absolutely amazing individuals. They knew more about life than I could know.
I just enjoy older people. I try to listen to their wisdom and soak some of that up. The generations before me have taught me a lot and have helped me become the farmer that I am today. Like all things, I know I can be even better so I want to keep applying what I have learned from them to what I do on this farm and make this place even better. I feel like farming puts me in touch with what really matters and it is a gift to be able to follow those that went before me and to do this for a living.