This is the time of year when, our hay safely stored and much of the season's work behind us, we farmers begin to get a bit more introspective. We square up on finances, we ruminate on what worked well this year and what didn't, and we ask ourselves all sorts of questions. Why are we doing this? Is this the life we want for our family? How can we make things better? What do we really want out of our farming career? As I work out the answers to these questions, I like to begin in the spirit of gratitude. Here are some reasons I'm thankful to be an organic dairy farmer.
- Great food. I mean, the best. (Here's a fun Donegan Family statistic: we estimate that our family of four consumes about 12 gallons of milk a week!)
- Great exercise. Our cows graze pastures that are up to a half mile away from the barn. Since they travel to the barn twice a day to be milked, and they have to be fetched and returned each time, that's four miles of walking just for the day's milking. And the scenery is great.
- Fresh Air. I never take for granted how lucky I am to be able to spend my working hours outdoors in one of the most beautiful places on this earth.
- Great entertainment. We don't tend to get bored often here on the farm, but I will say that I prefer watching the cows grazing in the sunset from my living room window to any kind of television or movies.
- Fun. Our young sons don't attend any kind of daycare or preschool, and the farm provides them with fun, creative outlets of all kinds. Animals... the great outdoors...meaningful work... what more could they want? (And in the dead of winter, when we're snowbound and stir-crazy and going somewhere in the car is out of the question... we can venture out to the BARN!)
- Educational Opportunity. I have learned more about the world and what it means to be a human being in my seven short years as a dairy farmer than I did throughout the sum total of all my schooling years.
- Family. Though our lives are incredibly busy as we struggle to balance a farm and a growing family, I appreciate that the farm gives us all a shared focus. We share not only the work, but the lifestyle as well, and having a family farm helps us to move in one direction somewhat cohesively -- not in several different directions at once.
- Health of the Community. We farm in a largely residential area. We rent our home farm from a former dairy-farming family, and we use additional neighboring fields belonging to 12 or so other families in the neighborhood. Since we are always working out and about, we are friendly with all of our neighbors in a three-mile radius. It feels good to know, and work cooperatively, with the variety of people that live in our neighborhood.
- A Sense of Noble Purpose. There are many jobs in today's world that questionably contribute to the greater good of society. Farming organically in harmony with the natural world, and providing people with real, healthy food, just feels good.
- Girl Power. Living in a testosterone-filled household like mine, it's wonderful to walk out to a barn full of bovine ladies, and feel that the numbers really are in my favor.
There you have it. Now, I should just print this list out for my husband to read every morning when he's getting up at 4 am to milk the cows.