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

Marilyn Hershey
Do you ever think about what you would do if you were rich? I am not talking about rich in land and assets, values and morals, or livelihood and opportunity. Farmers are already rich in those areas. I am talking about having more money than I would know what to do with; enough that I could get anything for the farm that I ever dreamed of.

I would want a fancy new tractor that is complete with air conditioning and computer system, various improvements for the barn and parlor that we have been holding off on, a top-of-the-line calf barn that is big enough for all our babies, or a new truck and dump trailer with all the bells and whistles. There really is no shortage of ideas when I start to make a list of upgrades I could make for our dairy farm.

I do not have a money tree to pluck, though. I do not wake up wondering, “What piece of equipment can I buy today?” I wake up asking, “How am I going to buy the skid loader that we need?”

Granted, the reason I am a farmer is not because of the money; that is a determination that has been made, signed, and sealed. This job and career is one Duane and I chose not because of the earnings but because we love to do what we do and we have a passion for caring for cows, land, and employees. We are not in this profession to become rich.

However, every once in a great while, a wish list creeps into my head, and I asked myself, “What if I won the lottery?” This certainly is not something that I dwell on or spend countless hours analyzing, but it is something that I think about from time to time, especially if the lottery jackpot gains media attention with record high levels.

I can honestly say that I never purchased a lottery ticket, and I am not sure I would even know how to properly buy a ticket. I will admit, though, that it is something I think about periodically.

What would I do with a pile of money that is as deep and high as the silage pile in our trench? I would like to think that I would be diligent and frugal with my earnings, just like I currently handle the milk check; watching every penny and knowing the checks and balances between the income and the expenses.

As many times as I have answered the question in my mind, I have never thought about what I would do outside of farming. I am fairly certain no matter how big the pot at the end of the rainbow, Duane and I would still be farming and that the majority of changes would be improving our farming practices and making our farm livelihood better.

I am sure that I would also invest a bit and buy a few things for the family, but one thing for sure is we would not plan on retiring. Our animals would still need attention, and I think that this would be a time, more than ever, that we need the cows more than the cows need us. The dairy would certainly keep Duane and I grounded.

One thing I never thought of is what I heard from a farm friend the other week. She mentioned what she would do if she won the lottery, and quite frankly, I was blown away and humbled by her insight and the kindness that looked past her own list of wants.

Wisconsin dairy farmer Carrie Mess said that this is something she and her husband have talked about. Their plan includes what they would do for the dairy industry if they ever win the big cash draw.

First and foremost, they would keep the farm running, for many of the same reasons I think all of us would keep the cows.

But in addition, Carrie said they would turn their dairy farm into an incubator farm for young families that are interested in farming but do not have an opportunity or the equity to start a farm of their own.

A young person or couple would work for Carrie’s farm for a few years, learn the day-to-day operations of a dairy, build up some young stock that would be owned in a partnership, and when they were ready and their equity sufficient, these individuals would start farming on their own. Carrie and her husband would then turn around and do it again for another young person or couple.

I think this is the most brilliant idea for lottery winnings that I ever heard. I came away from our dinner with high hopes that someday, Carrie will indeed win the lottery so that their dream — and the dreams of others — could become a reality.

Her outlook reminded me that when I dream of making it big, it is healthy to think outside of myself.

Yes, I have thought about farm improvements and I have dreamt of new tractors, fancy cows in the barn, and various equipment in the fields. The Mess family takes the wish list to a new level, though, by dreaming of passing along the good fortune to others.

Farm caps off to their dream. It’s a brilliantly rich concept.