April 9 2024 02:14 PM

One dairy girl’s reflection on growing up on her family’s farm.

Editor’s note: For many of us, our passion for dairy cows and agriculture began at a young age. Growing up on a dairy farm teaches skills and provides experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. We received the following poem from 16-year-old Atley Shafer of Maryland that summarizes this perspective quite well.

Before I am anything, a woman or a student, I am a farm kid.
The value of agriculture, work, and family provided me with experiences that have shaped me:
The long days — some containing sweat and tears, and early mornings, waking up to the darkness at 4:30.
Walking into the parlor for morning milking, when everything is still, only hearing the silence.
Drinking my coffee in the parlor while milking, enjoying the sweet but bitter taste.
Feeding calves in the afternoon with cats begging for a drink of milk.
Moving heifers for 8 hours straight, counting down how many more trailer loads until dinner.
Checking for newborn calves and watching as a new mother cleans her prized possession.
In the winter, getting to watch heifers play on the white carpet of snow as I button my overalls to fight the low temperatures.
Seeing the summer sunshine, putting glitter on the cows while they rest in the freestall barn.
Riding in the fields with cousins and friends, working with ornery heifers for the fair, and helping repair machinery, when I have no clue what I’m looking at.
Cleaning out a barn, feeling like my arms can’t hold a pitchfork any longer.
My dad teaching me to drive the tractor driven by three generations before me.
Late nights riding in the tractor, only seeing the rows of corn ahead, and delivering field dinners as they rush to finish before it rains.
All this has made me. Shaped me. Taught me.
All in all, I am grateful for the place where I’ve lived, learned, and changed —
the farm.

Atley Shafer
The author lives on her family’s 330-cow dairy farm, Shafdon Farms LLC, where she helps with milking and all aspects of calf care in addition to field and equipment work. Atley is an active 4-H, FFA, and state and national junior Holstein member. She is also involved in her high school’s journalism class and has written multiple agriculture-focused articles for the school’s online newsletter.