A dairy farm is a busy place. Employees and owners are constantly moving around; suppliers, consultants, mechanics, and others are often running in and out; and there’s always another job to be done or thing to fix. If they say the kitchen is the heart of the home, I will argue that the heart of all this action on a dairy is the office.
Of course, that’s true in the operations sense; whatever this “control center” for a farm looks like, it’s where business is handled, records are kept, and plans and decisions are often made. It’s where salespeople might stop in, and visitors check out first.
Still, most people working on the dairy, even the manager at times, probably don’t spend too much of their time within the walls of the office. They are out milking cows, working in the field, feeding animals, fixing machinery, and doing a million other things. There is heart in each of those tasks and the places they happen. But the true pulse of the farm can be felt when all of that energy comes together, and that often becomes possible in a barn office.
Maybe for some, it is a meeting room or other common area on the farm where everyone can gather for a quick meeting or informal get together that acts as the center of the dairy. Either way, it’s a place where everything stops for a bit and the team can reconnect and regroup about their purposes.
Growing up on my family’s dairy farm with my brother and two cousins, our office was (and oftentimes still is whenever we are all home) a regular place to hang out and catch up after milking. We’d talk about how the day went and things to do the upcoming days and weeks, more often than not with some good old-fashioned farm community news thrown in. Even at the end of a busy day, that was when everything felt most alive.
With time and questions, I learned how to read DHIA reports and sire proofs in that office, and it’s where we knew we could find the registration papers for any animal on the farm if we wanted to talk pedigrees. It’s where I watched and learned from my dad writing up vet check lists and other records, and it’s where I heard him and my uncle make plans for the weeks and months ahead. The (since-replaced) couch is where I sat and heard many stories from our old hoof trimmer, a dear friend.
For our family and many others, a barn office is the place to display awards, photos, and other memories of the farm and its animals and people over the years. It’s really special to be able to look up and see some of the accomplishments of my grandfather and great uncle in the cows they bred and organizations they served.
Barn offices might not be as fancy or polished as other offices people work in, but they are a unique place for farmers and their families, employees, consultants, and friends to do business and learn from each other. They support the present while honoring the past and building the future. And that mission is the underlying heartbeat of any dairy farm.
Katelyn Allen joined the Hoard’s Dairyman team as the Publications Editor in August 2019 and is now an associate editor. Katelyn is a 2019 graduate of Virginia Tech, where she majored in dairy science and minored in communication. Katelyn grew up on her family’s registered Holstein dairy, Glen-Toctin Farm, in Jefferson, Md.