Marilyn Hershey

The author and her husband, Duane, own and operate a 550-cow dairy in Cochranville, Pa.

Fall is one of those seasons that is so refreshing in our part of the country. We have just come through the hottest and most humid time of the year, and every person working on the farm and every animal is ready for the relief of cooler weather.

The season typically fades out slowly, giving us warm days and cool nights for a bit before the polar blast hits us. It is a pleasant time of year and one of my favorites.

The sights, smells, and tastes of the season come alive, and this season seems to be more vibrant than others. The leaves on the trees give us a beautiful backdrop to the farm, people are baking everything pumpkin, and seeing the huge mountain of silage in the trench is always a great feeling.

Ironically, this time of year also has a sting. It was during the fall that my nephew lost his battle with cancer. Even though many years have passed since that time, fall is always a reminder to me that we had to say goodbye to Kyle way too early.

This is also the season in which Dairy Management Inc. lost a strong advocate when Dean Strauss passed away from a car accident. He had a passion and enthusiasm for dairy promotion. I easily see his mission is being lived out in the Wisconsin community, and I feel that Dean is sitting on my shoulder at meetings.

Last year, those feelings surfaced in a stronger way when a friend of ours was quickly losing his earthly battle. Barry was a longtime Holstein enthusiast, and we have the most wonderful memories of him at cow sales, Holstein conventions, and state and local Holstein club events.

One thing is for sure, when Barry was in the room, there was laughter, stories were as tall as the silo, and people were feeling great. He had a hearty laugh and a gift of making sure everyone felt connected and comfortable. His wife, Monica, was equally as dynamic, and the duo left a positive mark wherever they went.

The family’s imprint on the dairy industry went far, and Joy-Wil Holsteins was a recognizable name. He was a breeder who always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else.

Even though they got out of the registered Holstein business many years ago to focus on their grain operation, Barry always had an interest in Holstein genetics. It wasn’t too long into a conversation before he and Duane would be talking about bull and cow families, both new and old.

Barry’s influence reached deep into the small-town community that surrounds us. I know you can picture this, because I see this small-town effect spread across the acres of our vast country. It is the way we are as farmers; we are embedded in the communities in which we live.

I don’t think any of us realized how far Barry’s influence extended until someone mentioned having a prayer parade to honor his life. I have been to parades that memorialize a life or a body of people, but I had never been to a prayer parade that honored a person who was still living. This was unique.

The farming community came out in droves. As I mentioned, their farming family had a grain business, and trucks came from four states and several counties to pay tribute to Barry and the family. Duane and his father drove a cattle truck, which was fitting as that was our strongest connection to the family.

More than 250 cattle trucks, grain trucks, and farming equipment lined up for miles, weaving around the back roads. The first piece of equipment in the prayer parade was a combine driven by a friend and neighbor. One by one, the farmers drove their equipment past the family. Most had signs of encouragement. Amazingly, Barry had the strength to sit in his truck and wave to everyone driving past.

As was typical of Barry, he did not let the day pass without encouraging others with his words. I talked to him briefly after it was over, and he was so humbled by the support and the love that was shown to him and his family that day.

It took some courage to write this article. Reflecting on this deeper content, I felt like it was too sad. However, as farmers, we understand this part of life and death. Sometimes it is good to open chapters that are difficult. It also shows a farmer’s true character when I see situations like Dean and Barry, and I know that the family is surrounded by love and support from the farming community. I would like to think that dairy farmers go above and beyond in the ways we lift each other up in hard times.

The Thanksgiving season sometimes means we have to look past the pumpkin pie and really see what matters in life. It is great to belong to a farming town where people can lay aside differences, opinions, and agendas and come together for a time of remembering and celebration. This is not always easy, but it helps to take away the sting. For that, I am truly grateful.