Nov. 12 2021 08:00 AM

My parents’ commitment, passion, and hard work as a farming couple is evidenced by a collection of aerial farm photos proudly displayed.

My parents, Steven and Connie Schmitt, celebrated 35 years of marriage this week!

This week, our family is celebrating several November birthdays, as well as my parents’ 35-year wedding anniversary. My parents, Steven and Connie Schmitt, are the most hardworking and dedicated people I know — hands down. Clearly, I’m very biased in this area, but I think others who know them would agree that their level of forward thinking and family focus is awe-inspiring.

Full disclosure: I’m sure when they read this post, they’ll be a bit embarrassed by the attention, but I want to give credit where it’s due and shine a bit of light on some incredible people in my life. So, congratulations, Mom and Dad — we love and appreciate you both so much!

Walking into my parents’ garage, you’ll see a row of farm photos that show the growth of their dairy farm over the past 30-plus years. Then, when you walk into the house entryway, the most current aerial farm photo catches your eye right away. I grew up helping hang and change these photos out as they were updated every few years.

My parents’ farm in 1987, just one year after they got married.

I recently walked by the row of older farm photos in the garage and stopped in my tracks to actually analyze and appreciate them, something I don’t do often enough. These photos show the progression of new construction projects, herd growth, and on-farm improvements made for cow comfort and health over multiple decades. It is incredible to compare the first photo of their farm from 1987 with our most recent photo from 2019.

In 1998, I was 3 years old. This was the state of our family farm during my toddler years.

At first glance, most people would probably notice all the additions to the farm over the years — freestall barns constructed, a milking parlor built, bunker silos multiplying, cow pens shifting, machine and hay sheds popping up, and so forth. But a few things remain the same from that first photo in 1987: the barn we still use for dry cows today, the farmhouse in which my siblings and I grew up, and the two people who had the determination and love to build this family and a sustainable dairy farm together.

Just 5 years later and you can see the growth and improvements made to the farm in this 2003 aerial photo.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I am beyond grateful and proud of the home, business, and life my parents built. They have and will continue to give their all to the dairy and family they’ve created, taking both challenges and triumphs in stride. My three siblings and I all got to watch them do it and be part of their journey — my brother and I still work on our farm, Windsor Valley Dairy LLC, today.

Our most recent aerial farm photo is from 2019. A few things have changed since then, including expanding our robotic milking barn and adding another manure pit.

If you live in a rural community, chances are that you’ve been in a home with one or more of the aerial photos I referenced. Or maybe you have a collection of your own. I know I love to look at everyone’s farm photos when I visit — whether looking back at photos of my grandparents’ farms, my boyfriend’s family farm, or a neighbor’s. Each farm and family have a story of its own, and these photos are one very visual way to experience and appreciate each step of the journey.

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 four 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.