June 26 2024 01:34 PM

Those of us who live on multigenerational farms are surrounded by the history of our families.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to Europe for a week. While there, we walked through so many historic centers, art museums, and old buildings. It felt like walking through someone else’s life. You could see the mementos and artifacts that made up the lives of the people who lived there hundreds of years ago.

I was struck so many times by the things people chose to highlight or save — the things they felt most important to pass on to tell their stories.

Weirdly, while I was standing in an old church, I thought of how my family’s dairy was similar. No, we don’t have huge stained-glass windows or old art, but we are constantly surrounded by our history and what is important to us.

My family, like I am sure many farm families do, has a tradition of carving names and dates into concrete as we pour it. If you walk around our farm today and know where to look, you will see our farm’s story carved out in the concrete.

In the old concrete wall silo, it says 1978 and 100°F. At the front of the milking parlor, my 12-year-old signature is carved. In the newly poured concrete in the calf barn, my son’s 1-year-old handprint is etched into the entryway.

Each of these marks is a simple reminder of what is so important to us. The story of our family laid out over generations of memories made on the farm.

Just like that old church told the story of the people that gathered in it through beautiful architecture, statues, and artifacts, so does our more meager and less impressive scratches in the concrete. The marks of my grandfather and father and even myself will live on for our future children and grandchildren to see and understand the work and love we pour into our farm.

This might be the most attractive characteristic of generational farms to me. The way they are kept, maintained, and passed on tells the story of the people who care for them so deeply. During this June Dairy Month, I hope you take a moment to look around your little piece of heaven and enjoy the marks that remind you of the stories that built your farm. Have a very happy and safe June Dairy Month!

Maggie Gilles

The author is a dairy farmer in Kansas and a former associate editor at Hoard’s Dairyman. Raised on a 150-cow dairy near Valley Center, Kansas, Maggie graduated from Kansas State University with degrees in agricultural communications and animal sciences.