Sept. 24 2020 11:50 AM

Feeding the farm crew and my family is a job that is never done.

‘Tis the season for a messy kitchen.

My late mother was a fabulous cook. Everyone raved about her meals, and especially all her desserts. Truth be told, she didn't learn to cook until she married my father and soon after had to feed a family of eight. Growing up in a wealthy military home, she hadn’t learned that task, and my father liked to tell everyone he lost 20 pounds the first year they were married. She would always smile back and say, "You look like you are doing fine now, Bob!"

This time of year, some days require meals in the shop for our chopping crew.
That thought makes me smile, especially because some nights lately, dinners have been less than desirable. Grilled cheese, breakfast for dinner, and tacos. How many tacos can we eat?

I'm either cooking up a storm or telling my crew they can fend for themselves. All joking aside, how many of you can relate to the nonstop cooking that happens always, but even more so during this COVID-19 year and especially during harvest?

My kids are growing, so that means they require more food. More times than not, I fry some bacon, scramble some eggs, and cut up some fruit for breakfast. That is served with milk, of course. Their bodies and brains need all the protein.

Before I have the breakfast dishes cleaned up, it's nearly time for lunch. My grocery bill has skyrocketed, while my pantry and fridge never seem to remain full. The snack bucket is always empty. I know my mom is smiling down from above and quietly reminding me that someday I will miss this. It was such a drastic change for her to cook for eight people, and then again after we all left the nest and she only had to cook for her and my dad.

Even though I told myself I would never turn into my mother, I have. So, when I pulled a lasagna out of the oven at 11:45 a.m., my daughter asked, “Is that lunch or dinner?"

I responded, "Does it really matter?" Rarely do we all sit down to eat at once, so I'm always warming up a late plate.

Another late, warmed up plate for my husband. I can't quite remember the last time all five of us sat down at the dinner table together.
I've not jumped onto Instacart or any of the online grocery apps. When I'm going down each and every aisle, masked up at the grocery store, I'm thinking I probably should. When I ask my kids what should I buy, they always reply, "I don't know."

Feeding a crew is no easy task. I remembered back to 2006, when somehow I managed to nurse a 2-month-old baby while my 2-year-old colored, and then I put the said baby in the cradle so I could grill up pork chops, bake cookies, and cut up fruit. I loaded all the food and the kids into a vehicle and drove to the farm to feed the chopping crew.

Fast-forward to now, and life seems easier, yet harder. My kids can feed themselves, and I don't have to drive to the farm. But, the task of feeding our family and crew is endless. Learn to batch cook when you can, and when you are stretched thin, extend grace to yourself and order a pizza or grab some subs.

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.