Perhaps you have followed along the last decade by reading my Hoard's Dairyman column, "Around the Kitchen Table," where I share stories of growing up on my family’s dairy farm and the lessons learned. I really love the title of my column because so many good conversations happen around farm kitchen tables.
This holds true for me, especially when I was growing up. My father would invite sales representatives inside our farmhouse to talk about dairy, whatever they were selling, and really, about life and family. Like me, my father was chatty, and he had a true gift of drawing people in and learning more about them. Many times, these conversations turned into an extra plate being served at the next meal.
While the sales reps enjoyed my father's wit, they really enjoyed my mother's cooking. They always knew baked goods would be on the counter for all to enjoy.
After my father's passing, I heard from one of our previous A.I. sales rep, Matt Nunes, who made several stops to Pleasant Ridge Dairy in Bend, Ore. Our farm was always Matt’s last stop because he knew my father would be chatty, and he knew a meal would be waiting. I remember Matt bringing scrapbooks and proudly showing photos of his family to my father on several of his stops.
Later on, Matt's wife, Mandy, informed me that my father never purchased one straw of semen from Matt over all the times he had stopped by. Admittedly, I was embarrassed and apologized for my dad’s frugalness. She said there was no need to apologize, as that was early on in Matt's A.I. career, and he learned that working in sales probably wasn't his strong suit. Those who know Matt and Mandy know they faired just fine, as they now milk cows in northern Wisconsin.
Mandy went on and said how much Matt enjoyed all those heart-felt conversations around my family's kitchen table and the warm dinner plate my mother would serve him.
I just had to smile when I think about the kitchen table conversations that were had at Pleasant Ridge Dairy. My late father was a hermit of sorts, and he often didn't leave the farm. He jokingly explained, "The people came to me." My father used to keep pocket-sized journals that briefly documented his life and those who stopped by. Recently, my sisters and I have read through them again and our hearts found joy.
While I know sales meetings happen less around farm kitchen tables now, I sure have fond memories of all the sales friends and fellow farmers that stopped in over the years and enjoyed a piece of pie around our family's kitchen table. How many of you have similar stories to tell?
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.