This is my truth

By now it seems that the whole world knows about the animal abuse discovered at Fair Oaks Farm. I myself have been waiting to write my thoughts out on here because I was waiting to get all the facts.

And the facts as much as I know them are these: yes, the abuse did happen. And the people who did it were fired. The manager sent out another video apologizing for not seeing it sooner and detailing the steps the farm will be taking now. But the other facts are that ARM watched this abuse happen for months and all they did was film it. They talked about on the farm they were supposed to see something and say something, but they didn’t report it for MONTHS.

So since both of these videos have appeared animal activists have renewed their fight against the dairy industry that they would have everyone believe is cruel although many of them have never set foot in a dairy farm in their lives. There are bad people everywhere and in every business. Dairy farming is no exception to that. Even on my small dairy farm where like five people work we’ve had people who were employed by us abuse our cows. But they no longer work for us because like most dairy farms abusing our animals is not what we do.

Well this, this is my truth and the truth of at least 97% of dairy farmers as far as I know. My cows are the most important things in my whole life. I owe everything I am to them. I think about every single one of them every day, whether dead or alive. And yes some have died because there was absolutely nothing left for us to do for them. No day goes by where it doesn’t hurt.

People would like others to think that farmers do everything for profit. I’ve done my research and I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve said this in other posts, but the milk price has dropped 18% since 2014. When we sell calves to other farms when we don’t have much room left, we barely get $10. One we sold recently we got like $4 for. Dairy farming might be the least profitable industry in America these days. But that doesn’t stop us.

We don’t do it for the money. We do it for the cows. The cows that we love with all of our hearts and that we would never think of trying to hurt. The truth is that milking cows that activists think is so bad takes like ten minutes out of their day and is like a breast pump for human women. They give so much milk every day that it is too much for one calf to drink and often times by the end of the day it drips out of their udders and makes them uncomfortable.

When cows have calves, they are some of the worst and best mothers I have ever seen. I’ve seen cows give birth and never look at them again, even if the calf is right in front of her. I’ve also seen others take over and clean up the calf even if it’s not theirs. And the fact is that cows weigh over a thousand pounds by the time they have their first calf. Often cows will lay sideways or in weird positions. If a calf was left close by they would easily be squashed or hurt by the end of the day. So when we move the calf for their safety it’s often just to the end of the barn, not that far away from the mom.

Everything dairy farmers do is for their cows. Before you go and attack someone’s livelihood make sure you know exactly what you’re talking about. Don’t believe everything you read or see on the Internet if they’ve never set foot on a farm either. Talk to your local farmers. Every single farmer I know would be more than willing to give you a tour of their barns that they’re in more often then their house. They will show you everything they do and answer any questions that you have. Then and only then once you know the real, full, honest truth from both sides then you can choose which side to take. But until then do not try to tell me what I do is wrong or that I hurt the cows that mean more to me than my own life. Because I will never stop loving them and I will never stop doing what I do because I know it’s the right thing for the cows and that they wouldn’t survive without us. And that is my truth.

The one in which I go into a feminist rant

Throughout my relatively short life on the farm there are two main stereotypes I have heard and had to deal with. One: dairy farming is a cruel industry, and two: it’s a man’s job. I might come back to the first one because I talk about that a lot, but today I’m choosing to focus mainly on the second one.

As a woman in the dairy industry I sometimes find the second stereotype to be even more annoying than the first one. I’m not sure what it is that made me think a lot about this lately but it seems to continually come up and weigh on my mind in these past few days. But maybe it’s just the fact that I have yet to post on this topic that made me think that now is the correct time to do it.

There are many things over the last few years about why women shouldn’t be farmers. The biggest one is that it’s a “man’s job” because women can’t handle the “hard stuff”. It’s either that or when women want to be farmers their immediately labeled a tomboy or assumed to be a lesbian. I’m not saying that being a lesbian is a bad thing because I don’t think that at all and many of my friends are or a member of the LGBTQ community.

But that is off subject a bit. As a woman who is definitely a tomboy but not a lesbian I find every single stereotype about women farmers to be annoyingly stupid. As someone who has also been a feminist for a very long time I find basically every single stereotype annoying. Another aspect that continually comes up is that a straight woman farmer needs to have a boyfriend or get married so they’ll have a man to help them do that stupid “hard stuff” that I mentioned before. I have never had a boyfriend in my life, through nothing but my own choice. And I may never have one or get married because I don’t know if that is what the future holds for me or not and because unlike another stereotype that comes up not just in farming but in everything a woman’s life should not revolve around a man or being in a relationship.

Whenever I tell someone at college that I plan on taking over the farm after I graduate I always get a slightly surprised reaction no matter who I tell. It is probably because I am going to college for creative writing and not at an agricultural school but I’m sure my being a woman is unconsciously a part of it too. Because it’s a man’s job that still to this day some people think only a man can do.

The idea of something being a man or woman’s job is ridiculous to me. I firmly believe a person should be able to do the job and career they want without being judged or having things assumed about them because of that type of label. Why shouldn’t I as a woman be a farmer, and why does that have to be so uncommon? Because of the hard stuff that I keep mentioning?

Let me tell you about this hard stuff that I supposedly can’t handle. I can lift grain bags that weigh up to fifty pounds. It can be a struggle but I can do it. And if I can’t do something like that I figure out a way that I can. But that’s not the hard stuff I hear about the most. What I hear most is about the emotional hard stuff.

When I was thirteen years old my first cow died. She was nine months old and while I did not actually see her body after I saw her the day before and it’s something I will never forget. When I was sixteen on the way home from a bowling match I got a call telling me my cow that was having a calf that night had the calf that was born dead. A few months before on our alpaca farm we had an alpaca die for the first time. That was the first dead body I ever saw. And about one month after the cow had the calf that was born dead, the cow had to be taken away because if we had waited one more day she would no longer have been able to stand. She died on the trailer. And when I was eighteen nine days after my newest calf was born she died and we still don’t know why. And just last year my third cow that I ever had and that I loved for five and a half years died. Not to mention the other pets I have that I’ve lost. All this and I only stopped being a teenager last year. So you tell me, what exactly is the hard stuff that I can’t handle?

Life with asthma

I normally just write about farming things but I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, because it’s just as much a part of my life as anything that I do. I have had asthma since I was eight months old, with one period of time in there where it had faded enough that I didn’t need to do anything about it. I don’t remember being told that it was gone, but I do remember a few days in there when I realized how much harder it was getting to breathe, and I remember telling my mom that we should go see the doctor. I remember the appointment and getting Advair once again and for the first time in my life getting an inhaler. I wish I could say I never had to use that thing, but if I could say that then I obviously wouldn’t have needed it.

I don’t remember how I felt on that day, but I sure know how I feel when I have to use my inhaler. I know how it feels when I can’t breathe, I know how terrible it feels. There have only been a few times in my life where I’ve felt utterly helpless, and at least 50% of the time it’s after I’ve had to use my inhaler.

I don’t really know why, but I think that feeling is really why I don’t like to talk about it. I never realized I didn’t like to talk about it until one day in high school I mentioned it in the middle of a conversation and my two best friends I had at the time freaked out. Do you know how weird it is to realize you’ve never told your best friends you have this problem? Because I didn’t either until that day.

Not being able to breathe as well as others was the number one reason I never got into sports, at least not running ones. It’s also the number one reason I hated gym class. It would’ve been fine except for all the teachers I had would continuously yell at me, whether it was running the mile (I know y’all know what type of torture that was, but imagine it when you can’t breathe after half a lap or earlier) or just tea doing anything that involved exercise. I can’t tell you the amount of times I was told to “just keep going you’ll be fine!” When you’re in the middle of an asthma attack that’s not what you want to hear.

Before I graduated high school I entered into my school’s fitness class thinking it would be better than gym. In ways it was, but in some ways it was worse. I remember jogging on the treadmill and having to stop because I couldn’t keep going because of my asthma, and my teacher looking at me like I was dying, and realizing she didn’t know or hadn’t realized I had asthma either. If I had thought she would let up on me a bit after that I was wrong. After that it once again became “you can do it!” But this time added to it was “you shouldn’t be so scared of it, you keep exercising and by the time you graduate I bet we’ll have gotten rid of it!” Nope. No. Just no. If it was that easy don’t you think I would’ve done it a long time ago? And I’m not scared of it, maybe I used to be but once you’ve had something for twenty years you know how to deal with it, but that doesn’t mean you want to, or should be forced to use your stupid inhaler that’s supposed to be for emergencies only, every other day.

Since coming to college I’ve used it less. And somehow I’ve become more comfortable talking about it. In high school I knew like two other people who had asthma, and one of them was my cousin, the other my best friend. Here you make one small mention of it in a group chat, and next thing you know you’ve met five other people who have it too. Then a work friend’s sister has it, then suddenly you’re talking about it in a Nonfiction Writing class and you realize you finally don’t feel weird talking about it. But you know it’s still hard to have it happen and to even have to think about pulling out your inhaler in front of people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been tempted to throw my inhaler across the room. Last time was literally a few hours ago when I went out in the cold and felt my lungs get the cold and heavy feeling I get in the cold weather sometimes, and suddenly I felt like I might pass out before I got back to my room and I had to concentrate on every step so I wouldn’t fall out there in the cold. I’ve heard my grandpa talk about having problems breathing in the cold, and it’s the same thing. It’s not just a problem older people can have, it’s something that I’m sure most of not all asthmatics have experienced.

The last major attack I had was when my dog pulled out of my grip and ran away from me up the road. There was a hunter on the road that she was originally going after but after he got in the car she just kept running. I ran after her, calling to the hunter to help but if you think he did you’d be wrong. I panicked thinking I wouldn’t get to her and it was a Sunday so outside was pretty deserted. I did eventually catch her, but was weazing the rest of the day.

That’s what it’s like with asthma. It’s not something terrible to live with and talk about, not like cancer or something like that. That’s not at all what I’m getting at with this post. I do think it needs to be recognized more. Anytime I go outside and smell smoke from a cigarette or weed from someone in my dorm hallway smoking it, I have to cover my nose and try to not breathe as much for fear of getting light headed and having an asthma attack right then and there. And if someone doesn’t have it it almost seems like they barely realize it exists sometimes. Not unless it affects them directly. Well take it from an asthmatic. It exists, it sucks, but most of the time it’s fine. If you know someone with asthma you don’t have to watch them every second of the day. They’re not just gonna stop breathing right in front of you. But don’t expect them to run places fast or to smoke or be able to handle being near smoke. And most importantly don’t tell them if they keep going it’ll just go away because that’s not how it works. Just treat them like a person, but be there for them if they need you. Because life happens, especially when you have asthma.

I wrote a book!!

“My mother always said things look better when the sun comes up.”The government has changed. They have made it law that anyone in middle class or lower is no longer allowed to be known by a name, only a number. When a dairy farmer, Natalie, suddenly becomes telepathic with a cow, and her brother goes to help the resistance, her life will never be the same.

My book is called When the Sun Comes Up, it is available in both paperback and on the Kindle be sure to check it out on Amazon!

On Growing Up, Responsibility, and Family

So a few days ago there was a video on Facebook that was this guy saying a whole bunch of wrong things about 4-H and FFA, and on Facebook I wrote a response that didn’t connect to the video so he wouldn’t get the publicity he wanted so I thought I should put it on here too. All my Facebook friends have already seen this, but you’re always welcome to read it again if you want to, and if you’re not my friend on Facebook but read this blog of course I encourage you to read it, especially if you don’t know much about 4-H and FFA.

Ok I know most of my agricultural friends have seen the video of the man saying a bunch of rather ignorant things about 4-H and FFA that was so out there it was obviously for attention and nothing else, but for those who haven’t it’s honestly not even worth the watch especially since it’s just what he and the page wants. This is why I’m posting my thoughts like this so it doesn’t actually connect to the video and it doesn’t fully give the wanted publicity. The first thing is that I have been a member of 4-H since the third grade but only got into the animal section seven years ago. And I don’t know but I don’t think I’ve been a victim of child abuse, and I’m pretty stinking sure I’m not about to go out and be a serial killer. Also 4-H and FFA are in no way the same organization, and livestock is not all either of these organizations that have changed my life for the better are about. I was an active FFA member for my last few years of high school and I just aged out of 4-H barely a week and a half ago. I know for a fact I have not spent these last few amazing, dare I say best years of my life, learning to treat animals as objects. If anything I learned to treat them as my family. I learned responsibility, communication, I FINALLY learned how to actually talk to people (those who knew me at a young age know that that wasn’t my strongest suit for a long time). I learned love, I learned hard work, I learned heartbreak, and that things can always look better when the sun comes up. FFA and 4-H are basically the things that taught me how to be a responsible adult and helped lead me to a life I’m proud to live, even though there are plenty of hard times and even though I’m only nineteen and basically still a kid in many aspects I’ve already lost four of my cows who are basically my family in every way except for that they’re not human. This is my life and it always saddens me when I see people out there who don’t understand and never will understand or think anything except for that it has to be wrong because it’s what they believe or say that it’s wrong because they’re looking for attention. But as long as I can even though most don’t listen I will keep spreading my truth that I know because I’ve lived it, and I will keep farming as long as I can because I know it’s right and it’s what I love to do. Thanks to everyone who bothered to read this full thing especially if you haven’t seen the video and have no idea what I’m talking about. Much love to you all ❤️❤️

On Saving Dairy

Recently over the past few months things have gotten progressively worse for many dairy farmers. Milk prices aren’t what they used to be, and many local milk plants that farmers sell their milk to are closing down, making some farms have to close as well. Our farm has been pretty lucky that our plant that we send our milk to is still running but across the border, not so far away from us in PA many have been affected.

This is why a local dairy farmer (one that also happens to work for my mom), also the one that had the fire I mentioned before, is trying to change that. Just the other day there was a meeting of county executives along with the farmer (and her husband I think???”) along with a few other people that I don’t fully remember. But anyway, they were meeting because these farmers are trying to start their own milk plant for the farms in Pennsylvania that have been affected by recent closings.

Dairy farmers are some of the stubbornest people I’ve ever met in my life, and I’m sure some would probably say I’m included in that. But even though sometimes stubbornness isn’t a good thing, there are many times when it is. Especially when it is applied to doing everything they can to let the world know that farmers won’t go away easily, and when they will do everything they possibly can before, if they ever, give in and let the dairy industry fade away. And while us dairy farmers persist, the dairy industry continues on, and somehow will for a long time to come.

Why Dairy Farming Is Important

I realize seeing as this was really the main point of starting this blog, I probably should’ve had this been my first blog post, but I didn’t think of it at the time. Lately I’ve seen all the problems the dairy industry has been having due to just poor circumstances and the times we’re living in. But this doesn’t mean that the dairy industry will die out. It just means that we will deal with hardships, and we will come back stronger. But all the negative media we get doesn’t help at all. I just read a story yesterday about someone who wasn’t a part of the industry not quite understanding what a farmer was trying to do, and the farmer lost three cows because of it. I’ve also heard of many accounts from people who just really don’t understand that not just dairy farms, but every single farm in the world help to bring food and sustain the world who’s population is now almost exceeding 7,000, 000. So here’s just a few reasons why dairy farming is important, and why if it did fade away we would all have a very big problem.

1. No Farmers No Food

I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying at least once in your life, “No Farmers, No Food”. Well I’m here to tell you that this is more true than most anything else when it comes to farming. Pretty much anything a person eats has come from some type of farm. Farming isn’t just the animals, though obviously that’s where the milk and meat comes from, but even dairy farmers plant crops that sustain others that don’t eat those things. Also there are so many things in the world that have milk in them, or are made from milk, or are related to milk that a lot of people don’t realize.

2. Responsibility

Growing up on a farm helps many kids all around the world to learn how to be responsible for something besides themselves from an early age. Since I’ve started on my family dairy farm I’ve had many people come up to me over the years and tell me I am very mature for my age, and I know for a fact that if I hadn’t started taking care of my own cows I would never ever have heard that. Over the years my cows have become more than cows, they are basically family, and if I had never started with them I would be a much different person, and I have no idea where I’d be today.

3. Public Interest

Even with all the negative media surrounding the dairy industry, it’s one of the best parts of the county fair that I go to every summer when someone who doesn’t know much about cows comes up and starts asking about them, because they genuinely want to know more. There are those out there that are still and always will be interested in dairy cows and how the farm works, even though they don’t do anything with farming themselves, and sometimes that is refreshing.

4. Jobs

Not just dairy farming, but all of the farms in the US employ a good percentage of people. I’m not sure of the exact number so I’m not going to say an exact percentage, but I do know that at least where I live if farms went away most of the community would be stuck with no job and without an ability to get another because they’ve been farming all their lives and they don’t know how to do anything else.

5. A Common Cause

When farming is a normal and most common thing in a community it gives people a common cause to help and protect it. Just a few years ago when I was in high school and a part of the FFA, the FFA leader left and then the school almost got rid of it along with all of the agriculture classes offered. But the community got together and stopped it in every way that they could, and we got a different FFA leader. With the community mostly farms it just didn’t make sense not to have agriculture classes in the school, which is what most of the community thought.

6. ** We Take Care of Our Cows **

I starred this one because it is the most important point I have, especially with all of the negative media saying the opposite. Dairy farming gets a bad reputation from those few factory or industrial large farms that get the videos of them on the internet of them mistreating their cows. But those are few and far between. More often than the factory farms are the family farms, which love their cows more than themselves, and will do everything in their power to give them as much of a happy and comfortable life that they can and to help them when they’re hurt or sick. Just a few months ago one of the family farms I know caught on fire. As soon as the farmers realized they were running into the flames to save the cows, and one even punched a fire fighter when he tried to tell her she couldn’t go back in there. There was also a chance of them getting hurt or electrocuted, (they think it possibly got struck by lightning), which is why they couldn’t go back in. But it was a small fire and they got it out, only losing a few in the process. The farm is back up and running now, and the rest of their cows are fine.

This is just one of the many stories I could tell of farmers doing everything they could for their cows, not thinking about themselves at all. There are also many other points I could make about why dairy farming is important and will never be gone, (at least not while I have anything to say about it), but I will leave these six points here for now. I might add more later in a different post, but who knows. And this is one of the most important messages I want to portray with this blog, and a message I think the world needs right now. No one will ever be able to convince me otherwise about any of these points because I believe in them full-heartedly, and I believe that when you believe in something you fight for it. I am also a feminist, along with a believer in rights for the LGBTQ community (not quite sure what to call that), so there are many things I believe in, but I believe in the dairy industry most of all. And I know when you believe in something, you fight for it no matter what.

“I, for one, am actually still incredibly idealistic, and I still can credibly or very strongly believe that you have to keep fighting for what you believe in, because it’s only when you stop that you’ve truly lost.” Vanessa Kerry