When you see the picture of this man, you see the stereotypical farmer. And I couldn’t be prouder. That man is my dad. ‘Dave’ is my hero. When I’ve had a bad day, I call my dad. There is no other person who can make me feel better. He is the man who taught me everything I need to know about farming. I do everything just like dad. My mother can preach for that. I always have to point it out to her that ‘dad doesn’t do it that way’. It drives her nuts, but makes me feel like I’m doing something perfect (as least to my dad’s specifications).
Dad is a 60 year old man who always has a smile on his face (well unless the cows got out). My dad has been farming his whole life and if you asked him, he would be saying he’s been farming since he was 5 years old. Dad has a huge passion for agriculture. Always has. He has the biggest heart and does anything for anyone–including his cows. My sister and I believe that dad should have gone to college for animal humanity. He really is that farmer that cares about his cows more than his children (and he is an amazing dad so that says a lot).
I don’t even know how to explain to you all how much my father has taught me on the farm. He’s taught me so much more than how to take care of cattle.
He’s taught me how to take care of our land. He’s explained how valuable our land is and how extremely important it is to him. He tells of how we are so lucky to own the little piece of land that we do and how hard it is to be able to have what we have. My dad wasn’t handed our farm from his dad. His older brother got the farm and dad was on his own. Dad didn’t let that slow him down at all. Off he went. He had jobs and rented farms until he found what he wanted. Which just happens to be my favorite place in the entire world. Westwind Farm. Yep, in 1994 my dad finally was able to afford and buy the farm he’s always wanted. The man who owned it before us didn’t have any children and was happy to help my dad, the young farmer, out. There were Shorthorn cattle on our farm before we bought it and there are still Shorthorn cattle on the farm. The original barn and corn crib are still there and a few other ‘rustic’ things that I will NEVER get rid of. Our farm really is a cute place and I’m extremely proud of it.
My dad. The cattle farmer. I love the sound of that. I know that what my dad does everyday is important. Now let me explain (the best I can) of how my father has taught me to love ag.
I haven’t always loved farming. In 6th grade I absolutely hated it. Just because I didn’t like it, didn’t mean I didn’t have to help. (If you’re wondering why I didn’t like it, it was because I was going through a stage in my life where I wanted to be bigger and better than a farm girl from Iowa. Oh little did I know.) My dad was an equal opportunity employer. Whoever he could get his hands on first was outside helping him. My sister and I joked that mom was really good at hiding. My sister was always great at taking naps at the exact time dad wanted to sort cattle or grind feed. (Dad would never wake us up if we were sleeping. He never wanted to be a pain.) So there I was. The only one left in the house that wasn’t busy and dad needed help. I could have punched my mom and sister. They were SOOO good at being busy. I didn’t want to go outside at ALL. I hated sorting cattle and everything that involved being outside. I thought I should be shopping, hanging out with friends, or on AOL chat. I didn’t have a choice though. I went outside and helped my dad. I did NOT like him at that time. I thought he was a bully and that other kids have no idea what I have to do. I was always having a pity party for myself because I was the only farm girl I knew that actually had to help their dad. I look back and wish I could have slapped myself in the face. This was the beginning of my growing love for agriculture.
You see, when I was little and I got to show cattle and play with the kitties, I thought farming was AWESOME. Then I got put to work and I realized it was hard work. At first I really hated it and thought this was some cruel punishment for being born on a farm. It took years of growing up, maturing, and developing to realize that my farm was WAY more than I thought it was. I never realized how much it taught me and helped me grow until I was in college. I never realized how much my dad had given me in life.
There was never a task on the farm that I wasn’t allowed to help with.
I’ve helped pull calves, sort calves, feed calves, and treat calves. I’ve helped AI cows, sort cows, make pets of the cows, feed cows, help/support cows, treat cows, and pet cows. I’ve sorted bulls, treated bulls, fed bulls, make bulls my pets, and had to say goodbye to a few that I really loved. With all my cattle I’ve run them through the head shoot to give necessary shots, de-wormer, and pour them to keep flys off of them. I’ve memorized every cows identification tag, what color she is, and who her calf is EVERY year. That’s a lot of numbers and babies to keep track of. I’ve named, showed, worked with, fell in love with, and adored many 4-H and FFA calves. I’ve had to say good-bye to MANY animals that I cared for. What has this taught me? Discipline, food chain, way of life, life/death, nutrition, animal care/humanity, love, faith, upkeep, management, and hard work. How did this help with my love for agriculture? I realized that I’m more than just a ‘worker’ on the farm. I am animals caretakers. I’m the ones they rely on. They support you. There is a bond you grow with them that makes you smile. They are always there and never let you down. They make you smile and laugh on bad days. They begin to trust you and love to see you come around. They become so much more a part of your life than any other job could do. It really is a family business–your animals become your family. Who’s dad could really say that they’ve provided that much for their daughter. My dad can.
Working with chickens. Gross, right? Well I happen to love chickens. We’ve butchered chickens and raised hens. We’ve done it all. What has this taught me? Well a lot. HARD WORK for one. Butchering chickens is a hard and long process, but I do it every year. Also responsibility. You still have to feed, water, and check your chickens twice a day. Not going to lie, I’m still afraid that every chicken is going to peck me to death, but I’m still alive so I guess they’ve also taught me perseverance. Even though I’m afraid of them, I STILL go into their pen and take care of them. It also taught me to not be afraid of something. “Take Life By The Horns”. I’m still more afraid of them than our 2,000 lbs bulls. Even though I’m afraid I still kind of like them. I love going out every morning to pick eggs from our hens. Ya I wear gloves, even in the summer, in case they peck me, but I LOVE doing it. It’s kind of like seeing life happen everyday (these aren’t fertilized eggs), but it still counts. I love picking up the hens that follow me around. Yes, I do have a few that are my pets. Their names are Hen1 and Hen2. When we’re working outside they make cute little noises, follow us around, and are always a part of the action. It’s kind of hard to not like the little things. Having these things around is something that not many people get to experience anymore. They aren’t in a confinement, they’re free range so they’re more of a pain, but they’re still part of the fun on the farm. Did your dad ever let you play with chickens? Mine did and still does.
Making hay, grinding feed, hauling manure. The usual farm work. The things I USED to hate, now it’s the things I beg to take off work to help with. I don’t need to go into detail with what this has taught me because I think you all know what I’m going to say. It’s pretty much common knowledge about what the work on farm helps a person learn. What about how it helped me love agriculture? Well not until I was trapped in a classroom for 17 years, did I really realize how much I loved the fresh air, the smell of cow poop, and the constant work load. The fresh air in your face is probably one of the best feelings ever. Being your own boss everyday is amazing. Making things for the animals you love is kind of a neat feeling and just being able to work side by side with my dad makes it perfect.
My dad has made everything on the farm fun and full of memories. There isn’t one fence made that doesn’t make me laugh. There isn’t a dent, broken piece, or banged up item on the farm that doesn’t have a story or memory behind it. Every building has a unique story and a piece of my dad in it. My dad has made agriculture important to me. Through everything we do on the farm. He doesn’t even know it. He probably thinks it genetic to love farming. No dad, it’s not, you are the reason I love to be outside with my cattle. Being around a man who has such passion for what he does I think really rubs off on a person. He’s put me in situations that I really don’t want to be in. He’s made me work hard. He’s made me see the bad and good of farming. He’s made me experience every part of farming so I could very easily of made my own decision of what I thought about it. The lessons he’s taught are indescribable. You just always pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Farming is a gambling game and you’ve always got to be ready to play. Do it right the first time or you’re doing it again. When there’s death there’s new life. It’s part of the farming life (when something dies). You’ve got to be able to sell your animals, it’s just part of the life. It’s not hard work if you make it easy. Never sort cattle mad. Cattle can sense your fear. Don’t do something to your cattle if you wouldn’t like it done to you. Patience isn’t something I have, but you need. Being safe is more important than getting something done faster. Always wear your hair in a ponytail and keep loose strings off your clothes. Don’t wear your flip flops out in the yards. You’re a shit magnet. …… He’s had so many important one liners that I can’t even name them all. My dad is my hero in my life and him teaching me to love ag is just one of the best things he’s ever done for me.
Little girl Kellie who hated farming has grown up. She’s realized what’s important, who’s important, and how much agriculture affects her life on a daily basis. Thanks to my dad I’m the woman I am today. I’m the farm loving, farm strong, woman in agriculture, agricultural advocate I am today because of him. So dad, I just want you to know that you buying the farm in 1994 was one of the best things you could have ever done. Not only has it been such a learning experience for me, but I’ve been allowed to figure out my life. It’s been my saving grace. When boyfriends broke my hearts I didn’t go out drinking or get stupid–I just went out in the pasture, walked with my cows, petted my pets, sat in the feed bunks and got licked by my calves, or just sat outside loving the fact that the pasture was my little get away from the world. You’ve allowed me to grow as a person and become so much better than I thought I could have ever become. You’ve taught me lessons that most don’t get to learn. Being prepared for life was one of the greatest things the farm has taught me. There are so many more lessons to be learned on a farm than just how to farm. So when I thank a farmer at night, I thank my dad for just more than putting food on my plate.