When my mind races from all that is going wrong in our world, I have to slow down my breathing and think of the greatest lessons we will learn from this global pandemic. Yes, the skyrocketing unemployment rate and stock market crashing, along with our milk price, sends my anxiety to a new level of uncertainty. Still, like the children of the Great Depression, good life lessons are being taught to our kids who are growing up in this COVID-19 pandemic.
I was saddened but not shocked when our state of Illinois announced last week that the remainder of the school year was canceled. I was sad mostly for my daughter, Cassie, who would now miss out on her eighth grade graduation, along with her church confirmation and her class trip to Washington, D.C.
Then I opened my eyes and watched Cassie not feel sorry for herself and instead focus on what needed to be done. Cassie combines this amazing amount of grit and dedication, and when I broke the news to my soon-to-be 14-year-old daughter, her response was, "Well, now I can help dad even more at the farm."
The last month, Cassie has been running the barn — raking stalls, moving cattle to and from the parlor, and overseeing the maternity barn. This past weekend, one newborn calf wouldn't take a bottle, and without hesitation Cassie tube-fed it and administered newborn shots. Then, she carried the calf to the nursery. I watched in awe and asked Cassie where she learned how to do all of that. "The last month I've been helping every single day, and the employees have shown me how to do a lot of stuff. It's not a big deal, Mom!"
The skills that our children are learning during this unparalleled time will not be forgotten. My smile widens when I think of the stories my children will tell their children about living through a world pandemic. They will laugh and say, "We were never bored, that is for certain." And I can hear my daughter tell my future grandkids that she drove tractor, cleaned pens, vaccinated calves, and yes, even learned to tube-feed a calf all before she entered high school.
Farming isn't for the faint at heart, especially now, as our product is literally being poured down the drain. This makes me question why we continue on, but when I see my children stepping up and demonstrating qualities such a grit and determination and understanding the meaning of sacrifice and heartache, I know they will launch into adulthood far better than most.
Friends, when your anxiety is high, think back and remember that the greatest generation stemmed from the Great Depression. Try and focus on the life skills our kids are being taught on America's dairy farms across this wonderful country. Undoubtedly, farm life is helping plant the seeds to help our children grow into the next greatest generation.
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 Univer-sity. 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.