June 16 2020 09:20 AM

After working off the farm for a few years, my love for dairying led me back home.

I manage our breeding age heifers that are housed on the farm where I live.

Two months. It’s been just over two months since I made the bold step of quitting my full-time, steady, and equally rewarding job as a youth 4-H educator (which I loved, by the way).

I grew up a farm girl, and a dedicated dairy girl at that. Competing in 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl, practicing dairy cattle judging, showing at the county fair, spending long days doing fieldwork, or waking up early in the summer months to help my dad milk cows were huge parts of my life growing up. These are some of my most notable memories.

My love for dairy started at a young age. In this photo from 1998, I was about 3 years old, drinking fresh milk from a mason jar following the evening milking.

College graduation led me to two professions I adored — venturing to a new state to work as a writer for a dairy cooperative, and then back to my home state of Iowa as a county 4-H educator.

Both of these jobs were exactly what I always imagined for myself. However, as I’m sure many farm kids can relate, home was always beckoning. Home, for me, is where my family is, cows included.

As the last year passed me by, I felt a growing urge to return to the farm life. I missed working with my family and breathing in fresh, country air. I missed helping a newborn calf take its first breaths or listening to the rhythmic pulsating of the milkers in the parlor. I missed jamming to music while chopping first-crop hay into the late hours, not to mention the incomparable smell of fresh silage as the bunker fills to its brim.

It’s been two months. I’m fortunate to have an incredible family support system. My parents and brother run our 300-cow dairy operation, Windsor Valley Dairy LLC, in northeast Iowa and have advanced the farm year after year. When the opportunity arose this spring, I jumped at the chance to come home and live at our newly acquired farm just a few miles down the road from my parents and brother.

Now, I’m working full time milking cows, feeding calves, doing field work, and tackling all the random and unpredictable tasks that come from dairy farm life (that list goes on and on, as any farmer can attest). Plus, I’m fortunate to help manage about 200 head of our replacement heifers and steers at my new home just miles down the road from where I grew up.

Two months later, and farm life is just as sweet and trying as I remembered. I came back to the dairy industry because it amazes me, and I know it’s exactly what I want to remain part of. I also know that two years, 20 years, or even 50 years from now, I will experience an abundance of ups and downs — because that’s the industry I’m dedicated to. That’s the industry I love.

June Dairy Month means something different to me this year. Something more solid, prideful, and joy-filled. Please thank your local dairy farmer and support the amazing dairy industry this month and beyond. And to all you fellow dairy farmers, it’s good to be home, and I sincerely thank you all for your hard work, persistence, and devotion. No matter how long ago you got your start or why you got into the industry, remind yourself of those little things that make dairy farming so fulfilling.

Molly Schmitt

The author dairy farms with her parents and brother near Hawkeye, Iowa. The family milks approximately 300 head of grade Holstein cows at Windsor Valley Dairy LLC — split half and half between a double-eight parallel milking parlor and two robotic milking units. In the spring of 2020, Molly decided to take a leap and fully embrace her love for the industry by returning full time to her family’s dairy.