May 12 2022 08:00 AM

We are very thankful for the working relationships and friendships we have established with our country neighbors.

One of my absolute favorite things about living in the country are the friendships formed with neighbors. I know these friendships occur in more urban settings sometimes, but country neighbors truly form special bonds — despite being spaced out more, even by several miles in a lot of situations. I do think each generation handles neighborly interactions a little differently, but the farming lifestyle and my parents’ example gives me the desire to form these connections in our little gravel-road community.

The old ideal of borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor is not lost on neighbors in our area. Things like renting cropland from someone living across the road, herding up so-and-so’s loose cattle, borrowing a tool or piece of machinery from a neighbor down the road, looking after each other’s farm when needed, or even bartering goods are all charming neighborly gestures we experience in the country.

Our gravel roads really start to bustle as the weather warms. The onset of spring and summer (I say this because Iowa kind of missed out on spring this year and jumped right from winter to summer) promotes neighborly interactions even more as people start field work, plug away outside in their yards and gardens, or drive around checking fields in their ATVs. Casual stops to chat and check-in become common practice, and we see each of our neighbors more frequently during the warm, long country days.

My mom and her good friend/neighbor always remind me of what being a good neighbor really means. They take time to call and casually check in on one another, and my parents and these neighbors take time away from their farms to go to local restaurants regularly (mostly to talk about cows and crops, but I think other topics are broached occasionally, too). Over the past few weeks, we’ve even been doing some good old-fashioned bartering with them. As their beef cows have calved, they’ve needed some good colostrum for a few bottle calves. Luckily, we have plenty of quality colostrum on hand from our dairy cows, so we’ve been trading them our surplus colostrum for their farm fresh eggs. Whenever I catch a glimpse of my mom and her friend doing their milk and egg swap, I can’t help but think how delightful and simple the interaction is.

Barters like this are common among our little community. We usually trade surplus manure from our farm as fertilizer for a few other farmers’ fields in our neighborhood, and we get cornstalk bales off their fields to use as cattle bedding.

The other day, my dad helped someone down the road herd several loose beef cows into one of our pastures until the owner (a different neighbor) was located and able to come pick them up. This kind of situation happens a lot this time of year.

Neighborly connections are such a heart-warming piece of our lifestyle that I’m sure other farmers also cherish. I encourage everyone to form a relationship with their neighbors — not only for friendship and the social factor, but because you could be great allies for each other when you’re in a pinch. It is also that time of year to really keep an eye on your farming neighbors to ensure a safe planting season for all.

Sending lots of love to all!

- From your friendly Iowa neighbor

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.