[Note from Amanda: This is a special guest blog post from a dear friend. Deborah describes the experience of having her family’s dairy farm auctioned due to financial difficulties.]
I wish there were words that could convey to you the pain of watching your life work sold as your dairy operation falls out from under you. I wish there were words to describe the heartache knowing that the dreams your sons and their families had for continuing your legacy and compassionate care of your herd were dissolving into thin air, like the snow currently melting off the barn roof and in the farm fields. I wish there were words that could express the sorrow of watching strangers who had traveled for hours to bid for and drive away with your girls; the animals you have cared for even since before their birth, your family, your babies. The relief knowing that a few neighbors would take home some of these girls so you can visit a couple of them occasionally and know they would be loved. It’s a crack in the heart, an earth and life shattering moment. It’s an ache that doesn’t heal. Words cannot describe it, but I hope they can help you feel it, just a little bit of it. I can attest that any job loss is devastating. Still, it pales in comparison to this; to watching the animals that are more family than income be sold because circumstances, injury, and agriculture market prevent the ability to carry on for another generation.
I wish I could tell you the pride I have in the man who is my father-in-law. I wish I could tell you the honor it is to be able to say I am part of this family, even if only by marriage. I wish I could tell you adoration I have for the man who raised my husband to be such a hardworking, selfless and decent man, just like his father. The man who will influence my own children and who has impacted me so deeply in the last nine years. To me, this man gives a face to farming. The face worn by years of lost sleep, of heartbreak, hard work, and sacrifice. His body has been injured repeatedly with the love and commitment that it takes to care for his dairy herd, his girls. The decades of hard, physical labor and long hours that he has put into the farm for the entirety of his life were given out of love for the dairy life and his family. He did this job to ensure your family had access to safe, nutritional food so that you wouldn’t have to add farming to the list of your daily tasks. This is true. But the decades of hard, physical labor also ensured a happy, healthy herd. They ensured his girls would be well cared for, treated with love and compassion. He is a farmer, but it is so much more than a job. Farming is life – a way of life, a way to sustain life, and a way to raise others in understanding of the sanctity of life.
His life work as a fifth generation dairy farmer may seem as though it ended with the dissolution of the dairy operation for which he sacrificed his heart and his body, but I will tell you that it has not. My family is grieving our inability to carry on his legacy in dairy farming, but I refuse to let his efforts go unnoticed and unappreciated. Remember him next time you stand in the checkout lane in your local grocery store. Remember him and the many others who give their life, their health, and their love to sustain others. It is so easy to assume farming is a heartless career carried out by unintelligent people when you have not met a farmer. Let his story be your introduction. Farmers pour their hearts into their work. Do not let their compassion, efforts, love, and selflessness be forgotten or neglected. Do not let his life’s work be unappreciated.
Deborah – A Farmer’s Daughter-in-Law
Deborah married into a Mid-Michigan fifth generation dairy farming family. For the last three years, Deborah and her husband have helped on the family farm. In this time, she gained her first experiences with dairy farming; she particularly enjoyed working with the calves. She is currently pursuing a degree in crisis counseling and is involved in community and youth outreach in her free time.
Thank you for putting into words what many of us “farmers” ponder often. I am a farmer’s daughter operating a beef and grain farm. As my husband and I are reaching a retirement age, the future of our farm is in limbo. Our children have college degrees and very good off the farm jobs. They do not want us to sell the farm but it is not practical for our children to leave their employment to take over the farm. Everyone would like to come back to the farm part time but the farm needs a full time operator. For now we just continue to do what we love. Praying God gives you a new love and maybe some 4 H projects for your children to help them continue to love the farm, the animals, and the bond the farm can provide.
Don Heller says
I too had to sell out and it broke my heart. I was the last of the farmers on both sides of my family. Remind yourself that net worth does NOT equal self worth.
As a Lutheran Christian I found that who I am is not defined by my occupation. Being a farmer was important but it was not who I am. I had to go to the baptismal font and remember that in the waters of baptism I was named a child of God. That is who I am. I am a child of God. Let that sink into your being for a while. Whatever your faith or spiritual background is remember who you are is defined by God… Not what you do, your successes, or your failures! God defines you as His child… And that is very good!
Well said! Our identity is in God, not our occupation!
I watched this amazing man weep over this devastating loss, but know in my heart it was God’s plan.
Nice letter Debi!! Love you!!
This is a beautifully written post and I admire you for sharing it with the world. I remember my Dad selling our dairy herd right after my parents divorce. It was only the second time I had seen him cry (first time was at the passing of his own Dad). The pain is real and I can relate. Here’s hoping your father in law can find a new joy and love to put his passion into. Prayers & Hugs!
Beautiful said Deborah. Growing up I too helped on my grandparents dairy farm. Memories I will hold dear for the rest of my life. The values it gave me and what it meant to be a part of something greater is priceless.