Our farm is a fourth-generation dairy farm. Over the years, I have heard so many stories of what it was like before my time. I can only imagine what I didn’t see, considering all the changes I have witnessed in the past 30 years.
My great-grandfather started the farm back in 1941. I wish I could just get a glimpse of it all — not necessarily work on the farm at that time, because apparently it was all muscle back then with hardly any machinery around the farm to help out with the day-to-day chores. I love to hear my grandpa point in a direction and give me a good old story about that happened there on the farm.
My dad and uncle came back after college to help run the farm with my grandfather. Sometimes I will let Dad tell the story of how he worked 7 days a week and 7 nights a week, and all it did was snow or stay over 100°F 365 days out of the year. As soon as my grandfather hears him, though, he lets my dad know really quick that he had it a lot better than he did, which is very true. Each generation, the operation runs more smoothly and efficiently. The workload is still pretty heavy, but not as physical as it used to be.
My cousin, Josh, and I returned to the farm after college as the fourth generation. Our parents actually told us to go study something else just make sure this is what we wanted to do. It was in our blood, though. We knew we were coming back home.
My uncle has always said you have to have thick skin if you’re going to work on our farm. That’s probably for two main reasons: they’ll pick at you in a heartbeat, and they’ll also let you know when you are wrong. We’ve always been a pretty straight forward, “tell it like it is” kind of family. We all know what the others are thinking most of the time, and we tend to agree on most things. We respect each other and work very well together.
The last few months has been challenging for me. We had to shift workloads around in the family and just about everyone here gained a little extra work. We had a few bumps in the road, but it has definitely made us stronger.
I have had to do a lot more with the robotics of the operation, and I learned a great deal. So, I will take it as a glass half full kind of thing. That’s the good thing about family businesses. If something comes up and we need to work a few extra hours here and there, no one even has to ask, it just gets taken care of. We look after one another and get the jobs done. I wouldn’t trade my farm life for anything, and I thank God every day for it.
Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.