Let me start off by saying that no major decision should ever be made during a crisis. Let's be honest, it would have been real easy to throw in the towel and find a new occupation during last month's polar vortex. At least for us it would have been.
We never lost power, but we nearly lost our will when pumps wouldn’t work, tractors didn’t start, and the feed mixer got stuck. We bundled up, plowed snow, and worked to care for our cattle in temperatures that plummeted to negative 55°F. When the sun went down, we learned firsthand what real arctic cold was like.
My husband, Scott, and I had a few moments during the polar vortex that had us questioning why we are doing this, and to be completely honest, a few tears on my part, mostly because I was plumb exhausted. We all were.
During a moment of extreme fatigue, Scott said to me, "I really wonder some days if anybody is listening to farmers and if anyone really cares?" I just looked at him, truthfully not being able to console him, and wondering the very same thing.
And, then it was time to feed calves. I, along with two employees and my daughter, Cassie, went over to feed them. I looked at our baby calves, took out my phone, and snapped a few pictures of the cute Jersey calves before my phone died because of the extreme cold.
When we were done feeding and I came inside, I turned my phone back on and posted the photos to my Instagram stories. I then turned my attention to making dinner.
Guess who replied to those photos?
Katie Couric! Yes, the television journalist, news anchor, talk show host, and formerly of the Today Show — yes, that Katie Couric!
I was ecstatic! I’d admired Katie for decades and followed her on Instagram. Katie, being the reporter she is, asked me how we manage to keep those cute calves warm in the extreme weather. I was able to open up dialogue with an iconic person who has 565,000 followers on Instagram.
Katie gave a shout out to dairy farmers and also loved the fact that my daughter, Cassie, was helping during the winter weather. She shared two of my photos to her Instagram story.
So, just when you think nobody is listening or cares, think again. After Katie shared her picture, I told my daughter, "Hard work pays off, Cassie Ann." And really, hard work advocating and persistency and consistently telling our dairy good story pays off, too. Because, if we aren't telling our story, who will?
Karen Bohnert is a second-generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State University. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.