March 26 2020 08:00 AM

The world has stopped, but dairy farms operate 365 days a year, even during a pandemic.

Looking at our farm here in East Moline, Ill., it is business as usual. Cows still have to be milked three times a day. During a pandemic, routine is needed and appreciated, as it brings a sense of calmness and certainty to our family.

My three kids, Tyler, age 15; Cassie, age 13; and Jacob, age 9, have done very well in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. They have been helping at the farm a lot. Admittedly, I haven't really hunkered down and homeschooled them. They've read, of course. But the way I feel, being in the thrust of a major crisis, is that there certainly is more to life than deciphering AP algebra problems. Perhaps the biggest lessons kids need to learn, now more than ever before, are some life skills. I wholeheartedly believe the classroom is everywhere and a dairy farm is a great learning opportunity for kids.

The kids helped our veterinarians with herd health and even oversaw a necropsy performed. They took an on-the-farm A.I. class, sorted and vaccinated cows, fed calves, moved round bales, played basketball, and have become very good at washing their hands and being content not leaving the farm. Honestly, they have not yet complained once about the pandemic.

Scott is doing well, too! Suddenly his days on the farm seem oddly better. Inquisitive minds asking millions of questions and little helping hands by his side — all of which is a good distraction to the nonstop news regarding COVID-19.

I’ve tried to get out for walks and have had some writing projects that have helped passed the time. I’ve organized closets, conducted farm bookwork, made some new recipes, and honestly, Scott has endless farm projects (vaccinating calves, sorting dry cows, and so much more) to occupy all of my free time. I'm reminded of what my late father would tell us growing up, "Never say you are bored on a farm!"

Truthfully, every once in a while I’m teary eyed. Then I tell myself, "K, you’ve got this. You’re not being asked to send your sons off to war, nor are there big planes crashing into buildings.

Perspective is huge; we will get through this. However, naturally, my heart easily feels for those less fortunate — the homeless, those in domestically abusive homes, the elderly, the poor, the sick, and really the uncertainty in it all.

Take a deep breath and remind yourself, this too shall pass. That is what I'm trying to do. I’m encouraging us all to find positives in each day — the sunset, kids’ giggles, twin heifer calves, fettuccine Alfredo for dinner, and a family farm that is open for business 365 days a year. Farm life provides us with fresh air, exercise, and a plethora of learning opportunities. Soak it up. But, also rest when needed and pray often. This pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint.

Finally, reach out to one another. Send a friendly text, Facebook message, or call to someone who’s close to your heart. A simple hello and how are you can really make a gray day brighter.

Be well, my friends; this, too, shall pass.


Karen Bohnert

Karen Bohnert is a second-generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State Univer-sity. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.

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