It’s more than a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s more than a family business, it’s a family passion. Dairy farming is a way of life.
While I was growing up in the little Canadian town of Lacombe, our dairy barn was literally in our backyard. I knew exactly where I could locate my dad at midnight, 8 a.m., and 4 p.m. every day of the week – the milking parlor. My mom was the brains behind the business. And after school and on weekends my older brothers were busy feeding cows, caring for calves, and maintaining machinery. Me? Oh, you could find me playing on hay bales, snuggling with baby calves, and sneaking milk to set out for the barn cats.
Fast forward a decade and a half, and these same daily activities are still being carried out, only now at our West Texas dairy farm. A few things have changed – the main one being that the scale at which we operate has increased. My parents together own and operate their dream family dairy operation. Cows are being milked not only every eight hours, but also every hour in between. My brothers continue to do the same tasks as years back – taking care of cows, calves, and equipment. Me? Oh, you can find me in Northern Ghana, where I have found myself searching for that same lifestyle I left behind in Plainview four months ago.
And I found it. Maybe not quite like I was used to in Lacombe, or Plainview, or even Lemelerveld (the small Dutch town where the dream began for Mom and Dad!), but I found the closest equivalent.
A few times each week, I pay a visit to the group of dairy farmers near my home in Jimle. Just like any dairy farmer I have ever known, these folks are dedicated to their cattle. Each morning, I can count on them grazing their cattle at specific locations on my jogging route. Even if I miss a morning run (I mean, when I miss a morning run), I know for a fact they didn’t hit the snooze button like I did. Even when the rest of the country is operating on Ghana time, I know they won’t be; each and every day, their cattle are milked at the same time. This large extended family unit works alongside each other to care for these cows. The men, women and children (no matter how small) each do their part in herding and milking the cattle. Their work is accomplished diligently and the adults proudly know their cows and the children joyfully play with the cows.
Tireless dedication and family focus are the two main characteristics of any dairy farmer across the globe. Okay okay, I haven’t traveled the world over, but I do know that if you find yourself in the Netherlands or in Canada, the United States or Ghana, you can be certain that dairy farmers work as a family and play as a family, are committed to their cows, and are some of the best people you’ll ever meet.
Regardless of the which corner of the world, family passion is consistently evident in the cow milkin’ lifestyle. There’s just something about those cows!
Dianne DeVos received a bachelor and masters degree in Agribusiness from Texas Tech University. Before becoming an AgriCorps Member, Dianne raised dairy cattle and studied agriculture in Ethiopia and Brazil.