I recently was interviewed for a podcast called, "Parenting Great Kids with Dr. Meg Meeker," regarding food insecurity and raising kids on our family dairy farm. As I was telling my story — I was gently reminded of my why. Why do I, or really any of us, farm in the midst of unpredictable weather and markets and in the era of undercover videos and so much uncertainty and scrutiny.
It is simply because we are called to do this job. You didn't choose to be a dairy farmer because it sounded easy or just because it sounded fun. Many of you are generational farmers; you farm because mom and/or dad did and because grandpa and/or grandma did. You farm because you feel this huge responsibility to be a caretaker of animals and land and family.
On the tough days, which lately seems to be most days, this is a gentle reminder — the world needs us — now more than ever before. Food insecurity is sadly a real and growing problem. One in six children go to bed hungry. This number rises in the summer months, when free school meal programs go away.
I'll be quite honest; it is hard to wrap my brain around America's food insecurity issue, when my family is surrounded by acres of corn rows and hundreds of Jersey cows and enjoys the luxury of having three meals a day.
My children receive free breakfast and lunch at school because our school community is below the poverty line, and it is less administration work to give it to all, than to figure out which students don't qualify. Several students are sent home with a backpack filled with food on Friday afternoon. When my oldest son was 7, he wanted to know why he didn't get one. I answered by opening up our cupboards and stocked refrigerator.
I've also told my children a very personal story about my late father, who grew up very poor and in a broken home. Many times, he and his sister went days without eating. Cupboards and the fridge were empty with the exception of a bag of flour.
This reason alone makes me so proud of the role America dairy farmers play in helping feed a hungry nation.
When I told my story via Podcast earlier this month, it was a reminder to me about how different the 2 percent of dairy farmers are from the rest of the world. Farmers are natural caretakers in all areas of their life — on the farm, in the community, and as they help put meals on the tables for those that simply cannot.
I understand that the farming profession is for those that work in acres, not hours. Those that have learned firsthand about the true meaning of sacrifice and hard work and ultimately appreciate what goes into the food they eat. But, really, now more than ever before, the world is counting on us to feed not only our own family, but to help fight the food insecurity problem across the globe.
Let's celebrate June Dairy Month by reminding our community the goodness dairy offers and the impact a gallon of milk brings. Go to giveagallon.com.
Timestamps of Karen Bohnert's interview can be heard at 0:16:02 and 0:42:11.
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.