The following post was written by Jill from Crooked Lake Farm. As a fellow farmer, Jill wishes to engage with other farmers as well as educate non-farmers on what farming is about and what happens on a farm. If you have any questions you wish to ask, please feel free to leave Jill a comment or engage with her on Twitter andFacebook!
Back in December, I was having breakfast with a group of people at a conference I was attending. I was talking about how my husband’s family farm has been in the family for 100 years this year. One couple mentioned to me how they found it admirable that my husband and I were the 5th generation to farm the land. Another couple in the group, turned to me a said, “Why would you even quit your job to come back to farm?” Below I have listed the top five reasons, in no particular order (and trust me…there are more than 5, I didn’t want to go on and on) why I quit my job and came back to the farm.
- I love working with animals. I truly do. The cows are “My Gals.” I even refer to them as that. I love every aspect of animal husbandry, from bottle feeding sick calves to giving the cattle their annual vaccines. Ever since I was 12 years old, I wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. I continued on this career path, learning the anatomy of cattle and swine early in high school. Once I entered University, and realized how cut-throat getting into the veterinarian school I wanted, I decided against this career path and went into Range Science. Fortunately, many of the classes “crossed over” and I still received great experience in the Animal Science side of things. Now working on the farm full time, I’m able to fulfil my veterinary dreams, especially working alongside our actual veterinarian.
- No Daycare. When I worked full time, my son went to daycare. I had a lot of guilt about this at the time. I always worried about the “what ifs,” things beyond my control. But my son loved daycare and the social aspect of it, and I’m grateful for that experience for him as it’s shaped him to be the little man that he is. But then my daughter came around, and early on, she was a momma’s girl. Not the social butterfly her big brother was. This worried me and, in all honesty, was one of the reasons why I quit working. Now working on the farm, I bring her with me when I have to do things, and she loves it! She herds cows with me, yelling, ” ‘Mon Girls” at them. She helps me care for sick calves, providing them with hugs and extra “pets”. She helps me feed them, riding in the tractor with me. Even my son, when he’s not in school, helps out. He opens gates for us to drive the tractor through, helps me with chicken chores, and absolutely loves when we ask him to drive the skid steer for something. Not only are they learning a great work ethic from us, but they are learning about life, animal husbandry, and whatever else we are doing at the time.
Helping mom with chores
- I’m my own boss…well, sort of. Technically, my husband and his dad are co-bosses. Depending on the day, though, I can pretty much do whatever I want. If I want to do something with the kids, I can. If I want to quilt that day, I can. Sometimes we have to get something done on the farm that requires all three of us, but we usually pick a day that works, and do it then. It’s very flexible, and I’m a lot less stressed now, especially during the farm busy times.
- I can still apply my degree, even though I’m not “working.” My degree is in Range Science. In my former jobs, I would go and inspect people’s grazing leases, or the provincial land where they leased to graze their cattle. I would do Range Health assessments to see if their management practices were sustainable. Now I apply this knowledge to our own land. Looking at our grazing practices and making sure we are sustainable. I move the cattle before they eat all the grass, so the grass grows back up so they can have more days out on pasture. We practice a rest-rotation grazing method. Moving the cattle often, and always giving one pasture a season’s rest. I find with my degree and prior knowledge, we can not only keep our cattle on pasture longer, but we are helping the health of the land, even helping restore some land that has always been marginal.
Range cage to compare grazed vs. ungrazed biomass
- Every day is different. One day I could be shovelling chicken manure, the next day running errands for the farm, and another day vaccinating the cattle. Some days I help my husband feed the cattle, other days, I attend to the kids and their activities. No two days are ever the same, which is one of the many reasons why I love what I do!