The best things in life are really all around our farmland and our farmsteads. Close your eyes and open your heart. Can you feel them?
1. Farm smells, and I'm not talking about manure. One of the best things in life is the smell of fresh cut alfalfa hay or the sweet smell of corn silage after being chopped. Smell is the strongest sense tied to memory, and when we smell something, it forces our mind to recall memories.
2. Work ethic being taught. One of the best things in life is watching little children riding shotgun next to older generations in the old John Deere 4020 tractor, watching those little children grow taller than their mama and taking over controls of the tractors. Oh, how my heart blooms when I watch my kids, who are almost 17, 15, and 11, become part of our farm work crew.3. The satisfaction after a hard day of work. One of the best things in life is a hot shower after throwing tires and covering the feed pile ahead of a rainstorm, or after unloading rack after rack of hay bales. A hot shower feels amazing, and so does a goodnight’s rest after a full day of hard work.
4. Flexibility. One of the best things in life is a flexible schedule that allows me to make lunch, conduct payroll, write a story, feed a calf, help vaccinate dry cows, and watch my son play high school football all in the same day.
5. Accomplishment. One of the best things in life is seeing your show string all lying down after morning chores at the State Fair or shutting off the vacuum pump after a morning milking. It all gives a sense of accomplishment and a time to relax, even if just for a quick moment.
6. Cows. One of the best things in life is literally having cows outside my kitchen window. It is an indescribable feeling to be surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of Jersey cows.
7. Weather. One of the best things in life is seeing a seven-day forecast with no rain when it is time to chop corn or make hay.
8. Family. One of the best things in life is family, who has been there for you, especially on your toughest days.
9. Growth. One of the best things in life is seeing seven-day corn pop up in mid-May after a light steady rain or watching a cow develop and reach her potential.
10. Open space. One of the best things in life is to feel Mother Nature on your shoulders or to listen to different sounds that resemble all the good in the world. This includes the noise of work boots scattering gravel on an unpaved road, the roar of a diesel tractor, the sound of cows chewing, the hum of a grain bin dryer, and the sound of kids laughing.
Really, farm life is the best life. We just have to open our hearts and soak up our surroundings.
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.