Tag Archives: farm kids

A Farmer’s Sacrifice

By Glen Cope, Former AFBF YF&R Chair

Three Generations

When I was a young man, my father and I took our old farm truck to visit one of our relatives. He was an old man who had been a farmer his whole life, and my father liked to stop in from time to time to check up on him. The old man always did most of the talking which was fine by me. I loved to listen to his stories of days gone by.

It was hot the day we visited, very much like the day he recollected for us. He told of being a young boy when his father, his brother and he were hoeing corn in a field next to the dirt road where he lived.

He recalled that it was a Saturday afternoon in the 1930s, and like most farming of those days, much of the work in the fields was done by hand. While they were working, neighbors began to pass by one by one on their way to the local one-room schoolhouse for a community picnic.

He and his family were planning to attend the event, but his father seemed to be in no hurry to leave their work to go to what he considered something less important than the task at hand.

The two boys, however, were eager to quit for the day and join their friends for the activities and the good food that would be awaiting them. After listening to his boys complain, their father calmly stated, “Boys, those folks may beat us to the picnic but they won’t beat us out of bed of a morning.”

I laughed as his father’s words reminded me of my own father, who is a workaholic in his own right and always prioritizes tending to the cattle and improving the condition of the farm before any recreational activity.

This is the mantra of all farmers. Our responsibilities are centered on making sure things are taken care of on the farm before anything else is attended to. Livestock require adequate feed and forage as well as clean water. Cows that are calving need to be checked regularly to prevent potential calving problems.

Fences must be maintained to prevent livestock from getting into the hayfield. Weeds and pests must be reduced as much as possible to maximize yields for the crops.

I am six foot, five inches tall, so when I started the ninth grade, the high school basketball coach was persistent in trying to recruit me for the sport. I attended a very small school, so a boy of my stature was a coveted prize for the basketball team, though my skills were more developed in the realm of farm work than handling a basketball.

When I finally had the blessing of my parents to join the team, my father explained to me that he would not be able to attend many of my games because duties on the farm came first. So at my games, many times the seat next to my mother was empty. Yet, I appreciated and respected his sacrifice because I knew he wanted to be there.

This is the sacrifice many farmers must make in order to make a living on the land as well as to feed a growing nation. The spring-time planting season requires long hours to get the seeds in the ground before a rain that would make field conditions too muddy. The cows on a dairy farm must be milked twice a day regardless of inclement weather, children’s school activities or even the farmer’s desire for a day off.

Since I’ve returned to our family farm and have a son involved in school activities, I now understand how my father felt missing out on my activities because of the requirements of the farm.

My sweet wife has been understanding on more than one occasion when we would have to postpone our anniversary dinner date because hay needed to be baled and put away safely in the barn before the rain.

Now, I’m not complaining. I chose this life and am content to live with the restrictions that are a part of the lives of all farmers. I am, however, grateful for all my fellow farmers and their spouses and children who, without complaint, continue to sacrifice every day on behalf of all Americans who depend on them to provide sustenance and the necessity of food and fiber.

Whatever You Do…Don’t Milk The Cow!

I have always loved the fall time, but the past 12 years have been especially wonderful. You see, my husband, Dustin, and I fell in love in the fall. I remember the beautiful fall leaves, crisp apples, harvest time and freshly weaned calves bawling, their foggy breath making white clouds on the crisp mornings. All of it led up to the best move I ever made. I said “yes” on that snowy December day to the man I thought only existed in fairy tales, and forever looks better every day.

Life back then was happy, simple and exciting! Little did I know it would soon get more challenging – still wonderful – but more difficult in ways I didn’t anticipate.

Shortly after becoming engaged, Dustin and I were visiting his mother’s family in the town of Beaver, Utah. After hearing that we were engaged to be married, a sweet, little, old woman took me aside and (after congratulating me of course) said, “Whatever you do, don’t milk the cow. I’ve been married for 60 years and although I am very good at milking cows, I never once showed my husband I was because as soon as he knew I could milk the cow then guess who would be taking the late night milking, with a baby on each hip, when his church meetings ran late.” She smiled at me and shuffled off.

I remember considering her advice for a while, and on the ride home, I told Dustin about the encounter. I thought her advice a little silly. I was, after all, a strong, independent woman who could handle a milk cow as well as any man, maybe better. I did not think of the old woman again for several years, when I would finally understand what she really meant by “don’t milk the cow.”

My realization came slowly, more and more with the birth of each of our children. I will never forget Valentine’s Day ’06. I had a new baby and the weather outside was bitter, bitter cold; the wind was relentless. Dustin was called away on business and left his very capable wife – me – to take care of two of the range cows who had just calved. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, there was a problem: both cows were “big teat” cows, which means the teats on the cows udders are too large when full of milk for the small calves to be able to nurse. To remedy this problem, the cows must be milked until the teat is small enough that the calf can fit its mouth around it and nurse. Still sounds relatively easy right? Until you do some baby calculations…

First off, I had a new baby. How often does a newborn baby eat? Every few hours, right? Which meant I was spending much of my time feeding her. Then there were the new baby calves. How often do newborn baby calves eat, especially in below freezing temperatures? You guessed it! A lot! Add to all those times the babies needed to eat the fact that these were not milk cows, but beef cows on the range that were not used to being milked by human hands and you can see I had quite the challenge.

So, I would feed my own baby, pile all my kids into the car and then drive my car to the corrals. I turned the heater on full blast for the kids and told my oldest to roll down the window and yell if the baby got fussy. Then I ran the cows into the chute and milked them while managing to dodge the hooves of disgruntled mother cows expressing their displeasure at being milked. It was miserable! I couldn’t concentrate on the task at hand with my little ones in the car.

Was I a capable mother? Yes! Was I completely capable of handling the cows and calves? Well…were Dorothy’s shoes red? Did Moses part the Red Sea? Are John Deere tractors green? Of course I was capable, but when I mixed the two the situations, they were almost more than I could handle. To add hail to my parade that was already being rained on, it was Valentine’s Day! Where were my dozen roses?!?

I laugh now as I remember having the thought, “It’s lucky Dustin was smart enough to take the truck and trailer with him because if he hadn’t I would load those cows up and haul them to the livestock auction!” It was then I remembered the old woman and what she had told me: “Don’t milk the cow!” That wise woman had been trying to spare me this day. She knew how hard farm life could sometimes be for women trying to balance the needs of children, husbands and the farm.

So now the moment of truth: If I could go back to the day the old woman imparted her wisdom, would I still have shown Dustin that I could milk the cow? Would I have ridden right alongside him every day, over rivers and mountains and meadows?

Well…do Dalmatians have spots? Do mules wait 50 years to kick you good and hard in revenge for a long ago mistreatment? Does my husband think the bovine is the most amazing animal God created? The answer is yes! And yes! And yes! Do I understand now how small children can make the work of a farm wife a bit more challenging – more wonderful a hundredfold – but still more challenging? Yes I do! I am so grateful for my five daughters and that they are “milking the cow” on our ranch every day. They have loved to work right alongside their dad from the time they were big enough to toddle to find their boots. I wouldn’t change it. I’d milk the cow again.

So, here is a shout out to all the farm mom’s out there and for all your “late night milkings.” I think of my own mom, a mother of nine, who grew up in urban Phoenix. She adapted and did amazing!

To all you farm husbands out there: remember to treat your farm wife like a princess at least once a day. She may be wearing muck boots, but she deserves a crown of jewels.

And to all you single women in agriculture who are amazing and running the farm as well as any man could: keep a steady eye on the horizon, prince “farming” may be right around the next windrow. He’ll come and carry you off with his 150 “green horses.”

My prince showed up in cowboy boots and rode a horse named Bess. Yes, I’d milk the cow again and again!

Kids These Days

We’ve all heard it. We may even be guilty of saying it. “Kids these days have it easy.” “Kids these days don’t know how to work.” “When I was young I would have been outside playing, not playing video games or with my nose in a cell phone.” “Our country is going to be a mess when these kids are in charge.”

But maybe kids these days don’t have it so easy.

Our children’s generation has not known a time without conflict and terrorism. They ride to school in their parents’ cars with news stories of school shootings playing on the radio in the background. They don’t have the ability to leave the bullying at school because it follows them anywhere someone can access Twitter or Facebook. Every generation has its own adversities to overcome. We’ve all had different stresses, inventions and privileges that have played a role in developing us into the people we are today. Kids these days will be no different.

As a Biology teacher in our local high school, my days are spent with teenagers of all kinds. In fact, there are days that I see other people’s kids more than I see my own. Spending so much time with this younger generation, I feel like I have a unique view of “kids these days,” and there’s something I would like to share:

I am not worried about the future.

Kids these days are resilient. They think outside of the box. They can take an idea and run with it in directions you and I may have never thought about. They will be able to take today’s ever-changing technology and come up with new and innovative ways to integrate it seamlessly into our farms and ranches. They know how to work, and work hard. They are interested in finding the best, most efficient, and ecologically-friendly ways to accomplish what needs to be done.

Kids these days are on their way to greatness, but they’re not there yet.

It is our job as (I hate to say it) the older generation to help our children transition into their future. We are responsible for teaching them how to be honest and fair in business, how to be a voice for agriculture, how to be stewards of the land. When issues come up in our local, state and national governments, we need to show them what it means to step up and protect our way of life and their future. With a better awareness and understanding of the issues and policies put in place today, we can transition into a better future for our kids, for when it’s their turn to take the combines around the fields and enjoy dinner on the tailgate with their own children. For when the kids these days have kids of their own.