This summer, we have struggled to find farm help. Fortunately, we haven’t been in this position much before now. However, replacing employees is easier said than done.
The process of interviewing candidates for employment is nothing short of exhausting, at least in my experience. I told every single candidate that stopped by our farm, “Half of success is showing up.” Truthfully, most of them would just look at me with no real comprehension of what I was trying to say.
Some would try the job out for a day and say they would come back the next day. But then they either just did not show up or responded with an excuse why they couldn’t come back to work. It was overwhelming, stressful, and frustrating.
My kids understood what I mean. “Yes, Mom, half of success is showing up!” they would say.
This week is back to school for our family. Tyler, a junior, and Cassie, a freshman, will attend school in person four days a week for two and half hours in the morning. Then they will come home to do the rest of their learning remotely. Jacob, who is off to fifth grade, will go twice a week for five hours each day, and the remainder is at home learning. With the kids back to school after five months of being home, we are losing some of our reliable farm hands.
The Jersey kids have been such amazing help during quarantine. The lessons they have learned honestly couldn’t be taught in a classroom; they had to learn those firsthand. What better place to learn hard work, commitment, and sacrifice than on our family dairy farm.
The trio vaccinated heifers, baled straw, moved cows, raked stalls, fed calves, and so much more. Earlier this week, they were busy cleaning up debris and fixing fences from a massive storm that brought 86 mph winds and a lot of damage to our farm. Honestly, the workload on a family dairy farm never ends.
As their focus shifts gears back to learning via this hybrid model, we are forced to dig deep and find good help. We need someone who has good cow knowledge and knows how to work hard. We are also looking for a milker or two.
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 University. 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.