Sweet, happy calf . . . and man!
Frankly, I’m not quite sure how to take the news I woke up to this morning. Apparently, dairy farming is ranked (best to worst) number 199 out of 200 jobs to hold or pursue in 2012.
I’ll admit my initial reaction was a defensive one. “What criteria is this list based on? Don’t ‘these people’ know I left a successful, financially secure career to work on a dairy farm less than a year ago? Don’t ‘they’ know there’s more to life than a big paycheck?” (My nostrils flared, followed by an indignant sniff.)
Then, I was sad. Stereotypes abound about many vocations – but farming is among those that bear the brunt of some of the least flattering. I’ve heard negative assumptions regarding everything from a farmer’s level of intellect to general state of personal hygiene. Ouch. This new ranking – quoted in the Wall Street Journal, no less – will not help to dispel those myths. (My shoulders slumped, my head lowered, and frustrated tears welled.)
However, I quickly rallied and the fire in my belly was stoked. Here’s my opportunity to speak a small piece about how I see farming. Farming is about the happiness you feel while watching calves hop and buck across the barnyard. It’s about knowing how to build a barn and repair a broken down tractor (or backhoe or skidsteer . . .). It’s the satisfaction you feel after receiving perfect scores on inspections done by government and commercial agencies that rate your farm on everything from the health of the herd and the cleanliness of the milkroom, to the handling of milk and personnel safety. It’s standing at the edge of a newly mown field dotted with round bales and the sweet scent of fresh grass on the breeze. It’s about the rush you feel after saving a calf’s life, or nursing a sick cow back to health. It’s greeting your children off the school bus each day. It’s the sense of deep pride that comes with knowing that what you and your family do every day (cows don’t take a day off . . .ever) creates a comfortable, safe and – I’ll go there – compassionate environment for your animals. In turn, your charges reward you with companionship, endless yarns to tell friends, and of course, milk.
A view from our offices
Are there hazards? Absolutely! (I only had to blubber my way through Court’s death scene in The Man in the Moon once to have that point driven home many years ago.) After “I love you,” the last thing I say to Rob when he’s heading out to work is, “Be careful.” There are dangers, there are risks, but the rewards trump them. Farming is about keeping a piece of living history; food diversity, safety and availability; and vital rural landscapes alive and thriving.
I guess it all boils down to this: I arrived to work this morning to learn that two calves had just been born. Two bulls, both from the same sire but different dams, one the spitting image of the other. Perhaps a nice set of “twin” oxen for one of the kids to show at the summer fair. I’m 199% sure I made the right career – scratch that – life choice. (My shoulders straighten, my head rises, tears of joy well.)