May 28 2021 08:00 AM

My childhood career aspirations have come full circle and are part of my job today.

My 5-year-old self was confident in wanting to become a veterinarian when I grew up.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We all know the question. The question can be greeted with inaudible rumblings, flustered body language, or a decisive answer. These answers and the confidence in which they’re said tend to ebb and flow throughout our lives.

Our answers may come from the mouth of a confident 5-year-old wanting to become an Olympian or an 18-year-old starting college in an undecided major to a 40-year-old professional with a clear next career move or a retiring 65-year-old looking for life’s next great adventure.

I’ll admit that I’ve always had a pretty set answer to this question. Like the rest of the population, it’s a question I’ve answered time and time again. While it changed a couple of times so far in my life, it’s always followed a common thread — animal agriculture.

Until my junior year of high school, my answer remained steady, “I want to be a veterinarian, specifically for large animals.” Then, during my junior year, my response shifted to wanting to be a communications professional for an agricultural company. I’m not sure what exactly influenced that abrupt change in mindset, but I imagine it was a combination of a few things: my wooziness while helping declaw a cat during a vet job shadow; my realization that I would rather be out in the world working than spending that many years in school; or maybe it was because my oldest sister had introduced me to the communications career path. No matter the reason, my mindset shifted away from becoming a veterinarian.

I spent several years of internships and after-college jobs following the writing and public relations career path at a few companies tied to agriculture; however, I was pulled back to our family farm by my love for living in the country, working day in and out with my family, surrounding myself with the level of understanding you can only get from animals, and spending time working with my hands outdoors.

Here’s the funny thing I’ve realized lately — I have combined my three answers to the famous question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’ve become a farmer. While that was never my verbal response to this question, I knew in the back of my mind, and mostly in my heart — I wanted to farm.

Some animals require a lot more work than others. After hurting her back in a fall, this girl is one of my project heifers that I check and work with religiously to get her back to her healthy self. She’s recuperating with our younger heifers in a bedding pack with full pasture access.

As for my veterinarian and communications interests? Well, my farmer identity and job description encompass these two passions and much more. I spend many early mornings, late nights, and rainy days as a writer for several agriculture companies that help tell the farmer’s story, promote agriculture, and advocate for dairy.

During my daily farm chores, I get to be a veterinarian in my own way. While I don’t have near the skill set of a licensed veterinarian, I still get to spend parts of every day checking young calves for signs of illness, helping treat sick cows, vaccinating newborn calves, or putting practices into place to prevent illness, disease, or injuries in our herd. That’s all aside from the days we have our local veterinarian out for routine herd health visits or emergency procedures.

It’s funny to think that my 5-year-old self wasn’t so far off with the aspiration of becoming a veterinarian one day. Everything seems to come full circle and culminate into what we’re meant to do. And, who knows what my answer to this question will be in another 10, 20, or even 40 years, but I’m so excited to find out.

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 four 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.