In this post I want you to meet my friends Chelsy and Jenny – both family farmers, mom’s, AgVocates, and great people. You will notice our products are different but that under the surface we also have a lot in common!
The main things we share is that we blog about our life in farming and we have created tiny humans. You might notice our differences right away; Jenny is an almond farmer from California and Chelsy is an organic dairy farmer from Washington. From opposite ends of the industry and distinct differences in the dairy aisles…can we still support and cheer on one another? I’d like to say yes, because I’m a fan of farmers – even those who farm differently than I do.
Almond Girl Jenny
Hi everyone, I am Jenny an almond farmer from sunny California. I met Nicole this last December through a blogger exchange and instantly knew this was a girl to follow. You may ask yourself, what does a Michigan dairy woman and a California almond farmer have in common? More than you’d think, and I bet it is some of the same things I would have in common with you…
I grew up on my parents’ almond and walnut farm in Northern California. Growing up we had chores and responsibility. I had sheep and pigs through 4-H and FFA projects that I was expected to take care of. Feeding, cleaning, even purchasing their food and having an operating budget of my own was a normal part of my childhood. During school breaks and weekends, there were always jobs on the farm for me to help out with. Irrigation and pruning were just a few of the orchard responsibilities I was tasked with. Farm life was the only thing I knew, and I loved it.
I knew that I wanted a future in agriculture so after high school I went off to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. It was a long six-hour drive from home but I wanted to make a name for myself and learn more about agriculture than what was in my own backyard. While studying Agriculture Business and Fruit Science I of course met a boy. He was an almond farmer too, but in the central valley. This was a foreign land to me. In the central valley, agriculture was large scale and more corporate farms were established there.
But then I traveled to this small town of Wasco, an agriculture community that didn’t have much else than almonds and roses. It was here that the boy and I would start our own future. That almond farmer would become my husband and his family’s farm would become our livelihood.
That same work ethic and sense of responsibility is what my husband was also raised on. We are both 4thgeneration California farmers and are now raising the 5th generation. Today, it’s my three-year-old son and 9-month-old daughter that keep me busy. Chasing them around the farm and watching as they learn about agriculture first hand is so rewarding. When my son wakes up in the morning and asks to go to the farm, I know I am raising him right. I hope that one day our farm is there for him and his sister. My kids see the fun tractor rides, running through almond blooms, and family meals in the orchards. But they also see the long hours, crazy harvest season, and the frustration when things don’t go as planned. Yet, they still love the farm and enjoy seeing family every day.
That’s why I am an AgVocate. Farming is tough. Owning a business in California is tough. But it’s the passion for agriculture and raising children with a sense of pride and responsibility that keeps me going. I am a proud mom, farm wife, farmer and blogger. I bet we have more in common than you thought, huh?
Organic Dairy Mama
About Me! I grew up in Wisconsin on a 70 cow conventional dairy farm. I was involved every day feeding calves before school and feeding them after practice in the evening. I started showing dairy cows through 4-H when I was 9 years old and fell in love with it. Every summer involved dairy cows and best friends. This is when I really started to appreciate and love dairy farming and knew I wanted to be in the industry even after 4-H and high school.
Fast forward a couple years and I met my Farmer, at the National 4-H Dairy Conference nonetheless. He was actually more interested in video games and paintball than thinking about dairy farming at the time. But, I went off to college and he moved to Wisconsin from Washington State for a few years. He eventually moved back to the farm in Washington while I stayed to finish my degree. Every break that I had in college I would make the 2,000 mile trip to see him and the farm; it kept calling me back. I finally earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science, but still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my degree. I didn’t necessarily want to be “just a dairy farmer” so I worked as a dairy nutritionist for awhile, but it still didn’t feel right. I wanted to be involved in the day to day operation on the farm, and that is exactly what I am doing now.
After college, we got married and I made the move to Washington State, and here I am on the farm as a wife, mama to an energetic two-year old, and a dairy farmer and I wouldn’t change it for the wold.
We have made some amazing advancements on the farm and were the first farm North of Seattle to install two Voluntary Milking System or VMS (aka robotic milkers!). Our farm has been certified organic since 2009. We currently milk 100 cows and have 300 acres that we grow grass (for pasture and feed), corn and alfalfa. Farm life is hard work, there is no denying that, but it is a passion and a lifestyle that we love. I wouldn’t want to raise my family any other way than on the farm.
Michigan Farm Girl
My name is Nicole and I share my farm story on Michigan Farm Girl. Our dairy farm started in 2008 by my husband and I, completely from scratch, not a family member on either side having experience with cattle but a very supportive agricultural community. Not only am I big supporter of beginning farmers, I am strongly attached to below average operations. We milk 60-70 cows, own 65 acres on land and rent around 300 acres. In total we care for 165 head of cattle and have two part time workers to help with milking chores. We have a swing 8 parlor and milk our cows twice a day at 6:00a.m. and 6:00p.m.
Conventional farms of ALL sizes follow the same regulations; whether small or large 97% of farms are family owned and busting at the rafters with pride and love for their animals. We’ve always wanted to milk enough to support our family, which includes two daughters and a son (8, 5, and 3). The kids are definitely living the farm life and get as dirty as possible all summer long! They are learning to help with chores and take on more responsabilities, they each have a few cows that ‘belong’ to them, and they understand that while these animals are part of our family they also provide for our family – we care for them and they care for us.
We sell our milk to a co-op called Michigan Milk Producers Association, it is picked up daily and hauled to processing plants in lower Michigan. Majority of our product is distributed to brands for ice cream, cream cheese, dry milk, infant formula, and butter. Our co-op also owns a cheese plant in Middlebury, Indiana called Heritage Ridge Creamery.
Dairy was my husband’s passion first, I didn’t know a single thing about cows and couldn’t have cared less about agriculture as a young adult. Once we started farming I had to learn everything; I asked a lot of questions and suddenly I cared a whole lot about this industry. Every day I am thankful for the land and the opportunity to raise my animals, watch my children grow, and just be here doing what I feel is right. It’s important to me that I remember how much I’ve learned and help answer questions for consumers who are unfamiliar with modern farming practices. Follow my family farm at www.mifarmgirl.com, also on Facebook and Instagram at michiganfarmgirl.
The way we farm IS different and the products we provide ARE different; we are women in agriculture, we are mom’s, we are trying our best every day to provide for our families – and that is the most important thing to remember. Stay tuned for our next collaboration!