April 2 2021 08:00 AM

The hands of a farmer tell the tale of a life filled with hard work and compassion.

For generations of Schmitt men (my grandpa, dad, brother, and hopefully, my nephews), their hands have told the story of dairy farming. Their large, bear-like paws are callused, cracked, scraped, and permanently stained with grease, dirt, and iodine. Understandably, those aren’t the hands some would associate with beauty, but think of all the beautiful, incredible, and miraculous things our hands do on a daily basis.

Every imperfection is evidence of endless days using the most original tools — our hands. In the spirit of Easter and springtime, new beginnings surround us. The grass is greening, crops are starting to be planted, more baby animals are being born, and so on. A farmer’s hands can be powerful in the face of battling weather and fixing machinery, or they can be nurturing and compassionate in handling livestock and welcoming a new calf to the world.

Growing up on the farm, we would laugh about my dad’s big hands, but we all knew they told a story and showed a great deal about the life he’s lived. From milking cows day and night to mending barbed wire fence, his hands are all the evidence you need to see the work he’s put in year after year caring for his cows, tending to crops, and providing nutritious and wholesome dairy products to our family and beyond.

My mom has taken care of our calves and milked cows in the parlor alongside my dad since they got married — not to mention, raised four of us kids. While she doesn’t appreciate the cracks, scrapes, and stiffness of her hands and fingers on a day-to-day basis, I know she values the family farm lifestyle that made them that way.

Similarly, my 28-year-old brother’s hands progressively show the years of working on the farm through similar characteristics of my dad. Today, his sons, who are 4 and 7 years old, have hands that are nearly flawless with youth. But, as the years pass, I cannot wait to see the stories that are sure to be told through the imperfections their hands will gain.

Everyone has experiences throughout their life that replace traditionally perfect skin with raw and meaningful marks of memories. I, for one, am excited and hopeful for the stories my hands will surely tell one day.

Molly Schmitt

The author dairy farms with her parents and brother near Hawkeye, Iowa. The family milks approximately 300 head of grade Holstein cows at Windsor Valley Dairy LLC — split half and half between a double-eight parallel milking parlor and two robotic milking units. In the spring of 2020, Molly decided to take a leap and fully embrace her love for the industry by returning full time to her family’s dairy.