It’s no secret that I take a lot of pride in the fact that I grew up on a dairy farm. I’m often asked why I didn’t choose to farm myself. It just didn’t work out that way; I can’t say there is one reason. I am grateful for my background and the perspective it gave me. I am passionate about continuing to work in dairy even if it is off the farm. I do not regret my career path, but I do have one fear. I fear my children will not know what I learned by experience on the farm.
I know there are so many clichés about “back in my day” or “city slickers” and all the stories and stereotypes that accompany them. But, honestly, that’s my biggest hang-up. Hard physical labor, the scrappiness that comes with making things work with what you have, the requirement to put the needs of your cows before your own . . . these and more are all character-building experiences that I think are important. I’m just not sure how to truly replicate them off the farm.
Those who grew up differently might say, “Well, aren’t you supposed to want better for your children?” While the experiences I list may sound unattractive to those unfamiliar, I think the lessons they taught created a resilience and grit deep within that have made me who I am. They don’t sound painful to me; they sound like home.
We have chores, expectations, and limitations in our home. We are doing our best to raise hard working and caring children. The boys don’t mind getting dirty, and my son even asked why we were leaving ‘early’ after a 12-hour day in the sun on a jobsite. I’m trying to teach them the sacrifices and trade-offs in life while also letting them know the satisfaction of a job well done. Still, I can’t help but fear what they’re missing by being off the farm.
Erin Massey is the product development manager at Prairie Farms, a farmer-owned cooperative based in Edwardsville, Illinois. She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the development process, from concept to commercialization. Erin grew up on a Florida dairy farm and has a deep-rooted passion to invigorate the dairy industry. Erin earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida. Her personal mantra is "Be Bold."