Marilyn Hershey

One of the beautiful benefits of working on the farm is having an unfiltered view of the sky.

Some days it seems to be a hovering canopy and other days the skies above open to an endless view of the heavens. It is a good reminder to look upward.

On one of those blue-skied, opportunistic days, I was walking from the barn to the house and something caught my eye. I stopped and took notice of the moon that was a few hours from setting in the west.

I have seen the moon in that stage a gazillion times, but in this moment, I stopped to take another look. I probably paused because the moon has been in the news this year; the summer of 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.

There was a ton of excitement around those famous few steps, not just on that day but in the anticipation that led up to the walk. Skepticism was also a part of the process, and there were many people watching, reading the news, and doubting that this “space thing” would happen.

The possibility of entering space, disrupting the heavens and reaching our most visible moon, was all over the news. Although I was not a firsthand witness to this discussion, I often hear the story of how outer space was heavily debated between my Grandpa Stoltzfus and Aunt Becky.

My father has several siblings and his younger sister, Becky, stood her ground; she was sure the science would win. My grandfather was under the strong impression that this would not, could not, ever happen. This was a disruption to the heavens.

Aunt Becky and Grandpa Stoltzfus were living in two different opinions, and both were so strong that when the news and the anticipation escalated, they made a bet. Grandpa promised Aunt Becky $1,000 if a man ever walked on the moon. That is a huge chunk of money, and even more so 50 years ago.

We all know that Aunt Becky won the deal. The family story goes on that Grandpa contributed his loss to a new roof that was needed for her house.

We have come a long way since that time period, and people tell us that science and technology will evolve even faster in the upcoming decades than ever before. There will be inventions and new ideas embraced at a much faster pace.

I don’t know what that means for me personally, but I do know that our farm and our industry will be affected, like it or not. As a side request, I would love to have a robot to chase our wandering heifers back into the pasture.

A Young Dairy Leaders Institute (YDLI) reunion recently took place in conjunction with the National Holstein Convention in Wisconsin. I came away encouraged by the enthusiastic young dairy leaders with drive and willingness to contribute to the industry and embrace the future.

Change is something our next generation encompasses with such excitement that I can’t help but think that they were born for this time period. Their mindset is more apt to embrace innovations; look at what they have witnessed in the past 10 to 20 years. Technology is a way of life, not a luxury.

Surrounding myself with their passion also gave me encouragement for a project that we are working on at Dairy Management Inc.

The project is a long-term strategy looking out 10 years from now and identifying possibilities for dairy. What will the dairy community look like? How can dairy be relevant for the future generation of farmers? What matters to consumers?

Food choices are being introduced at an incredibly fast rate, and dairy should be adaptable to meet consumers’ nutritional and emotional needs. People need milk for sustenance, nourishment, and lifelong benefits. Aside from that, the taste of dairy cannot be beat; we like milk with our cookies, cheese on our pizza, yogurt parfaits, and ice cream cones.

This study makes me wonder what our food will look like in the future. How does dairy continue to be a necessity in this world of absurd ideas?

My Grandpa acted on his instincts that the seemingly impossible could never happen. Aunt Becky looked up and was willing to risk and dream for innovation. After all these years, I feel like I am still standing at that same crossroads of unbelievable and reasonable.

One thing is for sure: Science, technology, and new ideas will not come to a halt. They will keep coming at us at an incredible pace. I understand that there are times when people shoot for the moon and miss the mark completely. I also know that some of these innovations will come to fruition.

Who knows, maybe 50 years from now our grandchildren will be milking cows on the moon. That sounds insane, unimaginable, and a total disruption to the heavens. But will you bet against it?

The author and her husband, Duane, own and operate a 550-cow dairy in Cochranville, Pa.