Sept. 10 2020 10:20 AM

Writing a letter to your younger self is therapeutic and also a good reminder of how far you have come in life.

My family and me on our family dairy farm in Bend, Oregon, in the early 1980s.

Dear K,

Remember when you said you would never live on a dairy farm when you grew up? I'll end the suspense — you end up marrying a dairy farmer!

Before you would turn 18, you flew the nest, but that's because you truly believed there was a bigger world that awaited, with bigger opportunities ahead. You were brave, K. When the job offer came 2,500 miles away from home, you didn't blink an eye and drove east. I'm so proud of you.

After constant worry if you would ever find Mr. Right, you found him at the least expected place — a sales arena in Louisville, Ky.

At some point in your late 20s, you quickly shifted your priorities from what your wardrobe consisted of and what your Friday night plans were, to purchasing diapers for your baby boy and making a late dinner plate for your husband, who was still out combining corn.

You would get the daughter you always prayed for at the same time your husband got the freestall barn he always dreamed of. The timing made days and nights intertwine, but then you blinked, and you saw you and your husband living your best life.

This is a picture of me, many moons ago, in first grade.

Just when you hit your groove, working a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, writing stories, and spending the after work hours caring for your sweet babies, your day job suddenly came to an end. You shed tears, even though your own mother told you this was a blessing in disguise. And, Mom was right (Mom is always right). It all worked out, especially since another baby would soon be on the way, and your hands would be ever so busy caring for three children.

Life has a way of working out, K, even during the hardest of times. After years of sickness, you got a call on a March morning that your mom had passed away. Paralyzed by the news, the family you always hoped and prayed for comforted you in the days that followed.

The dairy would expand again, in 2013, with another freestall barn. The farm would go through droughts, floods, and a barn fire, thankfully not all in one year. Sadly, you would lose your mother, father, brother, and your childhood farm all before you hit 40. However, your husband would not waiver, steadfast by your side and faithful with his purpose. Both the farm and your family would continue to thrive because of hard work and sure dedication. This would fuel you with hope that you would cling to for years to come.

Eventually you would build your dream house on the family dairy farm. And today, your babies are now old enough to drive tractors and haul wagons and so much more. They are mimicking the life you once had, and you are reminded that indeed some of life's best lessons happen in dairy barns, cornfields, and around the kitchen table of the place you call home.

You were so in tune with your future at a young age, K. You knew your life had bigger opportunities somewhere else. It just happened to be on a dairy farm in East Moline, Ill. All you had to do was keep your eyes open and move east.

When life is heavy, K, do me one favor. Think of all that you have overcome and realize you are one strong girl!

Yours truly,


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 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.