Farm Girl

The biggest risk

Complete the sentence, I’m really good at _________________. It’s suppose to be a moment to compliment yourself, but the only words I could come up with were raw and honest and sad.

20180912_215212_0001Because hard as it is to acknowledge, it has been the truth. I am a VERY good cheerleader for other people’s dreams, and yet I allow myself to give up. When milk prices headed south and my husband looked for an outlet for his stress as a volunteer firefighter, I said “ok”. And when the farm was taking away from our savings account and my husband said he wanted to pursue a full time job as a firefighter, I said “you can do this”. And truthfully I’ve been jealous of him the entire time, envious of him for following his passions, chasing a new goal, believing in himself, and challenging himself.

I wanted things. Before the farm, before the family, before the months blended into years and I allowed myself to believe it’s no longer important. So I thought about that sentence again and I stopped.  I decided to stop being jealous of others because they were doing something I wasn’t. I decided to stop doubting myself. I decided to stop putting everyone else and all their opinions ahead of mine. I decided, to stop giving up on myself.

I thought about the words I told my husband when I had informed him that I’d quit my job 4 years ago (not a very important position by any means, but…), I had said that “I’m working full time on the farm and I’m raising my family and I’m not going to work for someone else’s dream anymore”. I decided to find that person inside me again and change my sentence.

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I told Brad that I decided I was going to build our dairy farm into the business I day dreamed about. I want to provide for my family, care for a small herd of cattle, and market my own dairy products. So there it was in words, my goals explained to someone else. And I didn’t stop because I knew that if just Brad knew my plan that I might still back down. I told my dairy inspector, my family, a few close friends. And I reminded myself  E V E R Y  D A Y — I am not stopping, I’m not taking ‘no’, and I’m going to be committed.

Which honestly, during the last seventeen months on more than one occasion I’ve thought of getting myself committed, but I digress.

Yes, 17 months I have been researching, and planning, and making business plans, plural because there has been a ‘NO’ to my dream and instead of giving up, I changed it up. I’m refusing to accept NO. And I’m here, in the final stretch of my business application and I do not know if it will be approved or denied but I do know this:

  1. I have become more determined in making my soul happy, more than ever before in my life
  2. I have learned that my introvert personality will take a back seat to my entrepreneurial side
  3. I have learned that I am determined and if it doesn’t work right now, I’ll try again

Rachel Hollis in her book “Girl, Wash Your Face” reminded me that nobody gets to tell you how big your dreams can be and that if you’re unhappy with your life, that’s on you. I’m currently taking the BIGGEST risk of my life and I pray I can follow this post with good news but in the meantime I’m just gonna continue to work on my plan — for the future of my family & farm.

Xo, Nicole

Farm Girl

Mental Health: my story

How would you feel if every day you went to work you were losing instead of gaining?

How would it feel to know that if you walked away from your career you might have absolutely nothing to show for years of dedication?

For many american farmers these are questions they have been dealing with and processing, month after month after month.  It is heart breaking that the very people who provide food for us are filing for assistance, because they cannot afford their own groceries. It has been years of low income for agriculture; watching friends and acquaintances hang up their bib-overalls, so to speak, and try to move in a different direction. But what about those of us who cannot imagine life down a different path?

I am asking today that you pray for farmers. Pray for strength and guidance; pray for a miracle. Because farming is among the highest rate of suicide victims. Because I feel farmers in general keep to themselves, put their chins down, put their muscles to work, and help their neighbors when they can. Some of our farmers need to know they are not alone and that they are cared for. There is often a stigma associated with depression; the feeling that ‘because I am struggling with something, I am weak’. I disagree with that! I think educating yourself on depression and anxiety makes you stronger. I think finding someone you can connect with and talk to makes you stronger.

My story:

I have that expectation that I can handle stress; I can be the mom and the wife that I should be, to fill everyone’s cup before I get to my own. In July 2017 I finally realized my cup was long empty and I had been crumbling for a few months. I would blame the weather and the fact that I didn’t have a tribe of close-knit girlfriends to reach out to. I blamed the dairy industry and the low milk prices. I blamed myself for not having a hobby and my family for not measuring up-not directly to them but under my breath as I wept on the shower floor.

The problem was I was grasping at straws, for this to be someone’s fault. When I stopped blaming my symptoms on this or that I realized many of them were triggered by the same situations. My heart would race, I felt panicked and anxious. I didn’t want to leave my house; I didn’t want to put myself in a situation that I wouldn’t be able to control. I had experienced sharp pains above my heart that radiated down my left side and headaches almost daily. It wouldn’t take much for me to fall apart or to snap at someone; my family usually took the brunt of it.

Feeling lost I asked a couple friends for support and they recommended I see my doctor, my husband didn’t understand the need for it. “This is life” he said, “life is hard and stressful, worry is how bills get paid and kids are suppose to drive parents crazy”. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe my husband’s point of view but in my heart I knew I wasn’t the same person I had been a year ago, so I made the appointment.

A few weeks later I walked out of the clinic feeling mentally exhausted with puffy eyes and a purse full of tissues; I held paperwork for a prescription in my hand and as I unlocked the car I took a deep breath. Now what?

It isn’t a pill that takes away the problems of the world but rather allows me to think clearly through my problems.

It isn’t a pill that doesn’t allow me to feel frustration and disappointment but rather allows me to calmly rationalize the importance of the situation before tackling it.

It isn’t a pill that will be part of my life forever but rather a tool I choose to use right now, so I can be their mom and his wife; so I can breathe easier.

Taking an antidepressent doesn’t make me less of anything. I looked at the way I was treating the people I love most in the world and I knew I wasn’t giving them the best parts of me, so I asked for help.

Mental health determines how we handle stress, interact with others, and make decisions. Feeling this way wasn’t a mom-thing. It wasn’t a farmer-thing. This is life, but we all handle it different. Please, read that sentence again. If you, or someone you know, is eating or sleeping too much or too little, having low to no energy, pulling away from people or activities, having unexplained aches and pains, yelling or fighting with family and friends, I give you the suggestion my friends gave me. Schedule a doctor’s appointment.

Everyone handles life differently. Don’t compare yourself — or your health — to anyone else.

If you or someone you know needs help:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741

Visit www.mentalhealth.com for more information.

I have been taking an antidepressant for awhile now, and when I am standing in the school pick-up line   N O B O D Y   knows that. I mean, with this post I’m telling people…but, I am choosing to talk about it because it might connect with someone. The point is, you can take care of your mental health in private as a personal issue. I see my doctor every three months and we spend over 30 minutes together at each visit, she is well aware that I do not want to be on medication long-term. I am in no way suggesting that everyone take medication. What I am suggesting is that if you feel like you are not handling the stress well {right now}, be honest with yourself and talk to someone. There are many different ways you can manage the stress in your life, but the first thing you need to do is find someone you can talk to about the way your mind and body are currently making you feel.

Xo, Nicole

Farm Girl

Finding our common ground

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.

Almond Girl Jenny

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.

Organic Dairy Mama

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.

Michigan Farm Girl

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!

Xo, Nicole

Farm Girl

The role of a farm woman

I use to watch this one farm mom, not obsessively but from the sidelines, stalker-like on social media, because everyone is honest online. I’d see her treating sick cows, snapping family photos in the parlor with a smiling husband AND kids. She was the farm wife I needed to become. She had her shit together and I couldn’t remember if I dressed my preschooler or if I let her dress herself… A few years later I overheard a conversation involving my “farm wife idol” and she was explaining how she doesn’t milk the cows.

Not a big deal  E X C E P T  that I realized this vision of a person I was comparing myself to wasn’t necessarily who she was. I’d assumed so much and beat myself down for not measuring up. I needed to stay in my own lane, I needed to focus on the farm woman I am.

I’m the kind of farm girl that sees a green tractor without a cab, not a JD4020.

I’m the kind of farmer that says we have a cool glass jar the milk goes through before it pumps into the tank, not a glass receiving jar.

I’m the kind of farm mom that makes hamburger helper and uses Alfredo sauce from a jar. And I like it.

I’m the kind of farmer who names her cows and their calves and can tell you their dams and grand-dams, but I’ve got no clue what they score on a body chart. I have more selfies on my phone with cows than kids. And when the laundry is piled high on the couch, I sit outside-I don’t need to surround myself with that kind of negativity.

I like cows more than people, drink wine from the bottle, and you can bet your backside I wished for a pair of new coveralls the night I blew out my birthday candle.

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I’m the kind of farm wife who yells at her farmer when he is being a jerk and yells at her kids when they won’t listen. I don’t keep up on the laundry, I don’t mop or clean windows or bake pies.

I’m the kind of farm wife who will tell her husband to take a day off because he clearly needs it. I will schedule myself more days than I can handle and eventually hit a wall and break down.

I’m the kind of farm girl who drags her feet on Saturday morning chores because it’s quiet in the barn and kid free, as soon as I step inside the house the real work begins.

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I may not be the kind of farm wife he wanted and I may not be the kind of farm woman I expected myself to be. But that’s fine!

The role of a farm wife doesn’t come with a guide; it doesn’t really matter if you can back up a chopper box and wagon or if you run to the parts store, if you deliver calves or deliver dinner to the field. Your role, regardless of what it includes, makes the farm run smoother. Farm women are pretty darn awesome, all in their own way.

Xo, Nicole