Karen Bohnert

This is a friendly reminder to all of you, and myself — never give up on your dreams.

I once had dreams. Big dreams. Far-reaching dreams. It was cultivated from my gift of gab and my ability to write stories, intertwined with my love for dairy. The dream was planted when I was just a teenager as my late father’s career advice for me was to either drive taxi cab in a large city or write for Hoard’s Dairyman, which of course, the later eventually became a reality.

I never saw myself living in a big city despite landing my first job out of college with the American Jersey Cattle Association, which moved me to Columbus, Ohio. Tall buildings didn’t attract me; open space did. Crowds didn’t amuse me; farmers did.

I dreamed of the day that I would marry a dairy farmer and write my stories from the comfort of my kitchen table. I always felt like that goal was far-fetched, hard to reach, and not likely to happen. Regardless, I continued to dream.

Dream big, friends. With a lot of work and a lot of luck, dreams do come true. But, I’ll also remind you, that when you reach your dreams, keep pushing forward. Never get too comfortable. If you want to make progress in life, you have to do things that scare you, that push you, and that make you uncomfortable.

We have to push past the fear of failure. Fear limits us. Fear paralyzes us. When times are hard, like now, it can be difficult to follow our hearts. But, it’s a tragedy to let fear stop us. Push forward. Recognize that achieving your dreams is worth the price of being temporarily uncomfortable.

I realize it is difficult to dream big with $14 milk. Be reminded that good times don’t last forever. Thankfully, neither do bad times.

I know during the thick of the storm, it’s hard to see ahead and believe that the light will turn on. It’s easy to get behind on our workload and behind on our bills, and it is real easy to get behind on our dreams. It’s hard getting out of bed each and every day, convincing ourselves that it will get better.

We are trying to live a simple life. One that provides for our family and grows food for our expanding world. We are forced to get by with lower milk prices and rising costs, while facing more scrutiny than ever before.

We continue on because it is our life. We continue because generations before us plowed through good and bad times and sustained to pass it on. We want to be able to do the same. We continue because in all honesty, we believe in what we do.

In a way, it’s hard to understand why we are going through the tough times that we are currently facing. It was only four years ago that we had record milk prices. Days were busy then, as they are now; but now, the nights are short and encompassed with so much worry. The high milk price was short lived, and now we are facing what seems like an eternity of low milk prices.

How do you get through tough times? For me, it is my faith. I cling to it always, but especially during tough times.

I also firmly believe that we have to believe in ourselves, in our abilities, in our services, and in our farm. I feel that when I’m going through tough times, I must acknowledge my feelings. Yes, I can feel what I feel; we can talk about those feelings, but I also encourage you to try to see past the hardship.

Prioritize self-care and ask for help. And, it is really important to try to adjust your focus, not on what is going wrong, but what is going right in your life.

I always tell my children that half of success is showing up. So, we show up. We rise early, pull on our boot straps, and keep moving. Plow deep, continue to dream, and push forward. When times are tough, we must become tougher.

We cannot pray for an easy life; we must pray for the strength to endure tough times. That is what leads to greatness. That is where real growth comes from. That is what real satisfaction stems from.

Go back to when you first had the dream of milking cows. Who inspired that? Your father? Your grandfather? Someone else?

I think of my father, sitting on the wobbly, kitchen barstool, sipping coffee. He had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face when he planted the seed that inspired me to become a writer. Every now and then, I think back to how he made me feel that day and how he believed in me, far more than I ever believed in myself.

During tough times, I’m quietly reminded that dreaming matters. It provides us a platform that launches both growth and success.

Think of these words from Christopher Reeve, and dream big: “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”

Around the Kitchen Table is a regular column in Hoard's Dairyman. The author and her husband work in partnership with family on a 500-cow dairy in East Moline, Ill.