Jan. 17 2017 08:00 AM

Sometimes I wish my farm was bigger.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

I’m guessing this old adage has its origins in farming . . . perhaps someone watching a dairy cow reach under the fence to sample the grass on the other side, even though it’s the exact same grass she has on her side.

Wherever the adage came from, it still holds true today.

There are days when I wish our farm were a bigger farm. Now, before I explain myself, I do know that larger farms have their own set of challenges that I don’t have to deal with. Who knows . . . maybe dairy farmers with bigger farms sometimes wish they had a smaller farm.

My big farm envy usually flares up for three main reasons:

1. Maternity watch

As I mentioned in my last post, we don’t have a workforce that can monitor close-up cows around the clock. Most of the time, our cows deliver their calves just fine. But every once in awhile a calf is stillborn and I think, “Dang. Maybe if someone had been here to assist the cow, the outcome would have been different.”

2. Sick days

Farmers are human. We get sick just like everyone else and we need to take extra care of our kids or ourselves. On a small farm like ours, there’s not a lot of extra time in our budget for human TLC (tender loving care) and there’s nobody else who can pick up an extra shift to fill in.

3. Time off

Time away from the farm is important. We take time off for holidays and vacations, but it requires hiring people to do the chores while we’re away. We’ve streamlined a lot of the chores on our farm, so it’s easier to get away now than when we first started farming. At one time, I typed multiple pages of instructions for our hired help. No more. Keep it simple and repeatable.

My big farm envy isn’t going to change the size of our farm. But I have used these thoughts to change some nonfarm people’s perception of bigger farms.

I hear one flavor or another of this comment all the time: “Oh, it’s so nice that you’re a small family farm.”

Behind the words, the commentator is always insinuating that somehow bigger farms are less desirable.

So my automatic reply to those comments has become, “Yes, it is nice, but there are times when I wish my farm was bigger.”

Then I proceed to explain how bigger farms can monitor their maternity pens more often or more easily take sick days or schedule weekends off because of larger staffs of employees.

I also explain that many bigger farms are the result of several siblings or cousins wanting to dairy farm and that it makes more sense for them to farm together than for each one to have their own individual farm. Sometimes farmers grow their farms to a size that makes it feasible to hire employees so they can divide the workload instead of shouldering it all themselves.

Whether we wish our farms were bigger or smaller, we all have our challenges. The important thing to remember is that we should value dairy farms of all sizes.

The author is a dairy farmer and writer from central Minnesota. She farms with her husband, Glen, and their three children. Sadie grew up on a dairy farm in northern Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in agricultural communications and marketing. She also blogs at Dairy Good Life.