My love for dairy cattle began as a child, when I joined 4-H in Clermont County. My family had a barn full of horses in the backyard, but I was drawn to the Holsteins at the dairy down the road from my school. I spent my junior fair career as a dairy exhibitor, jumping into FFA during high school so I could be a part of the dairy judging team. And although my path after high school didn’t lead me to a college majoring in agriculture, I never lost sight of my passion for cattle, volunteering my time and talents within my agricultural community.
After several years of serving as a 4-H advisor and Junior Fair volunteer, my oldest daughter, Emma, was eligible to become a 4-H member...and she wanted a dairy calf. Much to my surprise, her father talked her out of it, fearing that Emma had made this decision under duress from years of being outfitted in cute cow dresses and growing up in a home surrounded by my extensive bovine collection. So, he bought her a feeder calf and a couple of lambs, which began my journey that led me to where I am today.
Two years and a divorce later (the divorce had nothing to do with the calf and lambs), I was calling a small dairy about leasing a heifer for Emma’s 4-H project. Just as I had done thirty- something years earlier, Emma had found her passion, following my footsteps into the show ring. That leased dairy heifer led to my daughter purchasing a calf at the Ohio Fall Sale, then a bred heifer at the Spring Dairy Expo. The Clermont County Fair progressed into this mom hauling her daughters and a handful of heifers to State and National Shows,
It was at that first Spring Expo in 2012, when my dear friend, Jenny Fenton, wanted to introduce me to a fellow dairyman. Little did she know, I had already crossed paths with him when I was a 4-Her and he was a “professional showman.” Needless to say, I was still harboring a grudge from when he made me cry at the County Fair 25 years ago, and Iducked into the bathroom to avoid seeing Donald Bickel.
But Don was relentless (as many of you know), and we would run into him at the shows that the girls and I were attending, giving advice on fitting and “helping with homework.” It wasn’t until he showed up at the World Dairy Expo, and my daughter took my cell phone and answered “Yes” to his text about dinner and a movie, that I let go of the past and gave him a chance to redeem himself. Since then, my life has never been the same.
Next thing I knew, the girls and I packed up our Ayrshires and Guernsey and headed to our new life on the dairy farm. Today, I am happily married, juggling kids, step-kids and three of the cutest grandsons you will ever meet. I gladly gave up my 45-minute commute to the city for a walk to the barn, and traded in my high heels and suits for muck boots and bibs. My Fortune 500 clients became a feed mill and country store and my business lunches have been replaced with food drops to the fields.
Oh, there’s been a few hiccups on my quest to figure out what it takes to be the wife of a dairy farmer; accepting the fact that I will never be on time for anything ever again, realizing that seasonal calving stinks when you have three dozen bucket babies, and defending my inability to drive a standard (not that I am against learning, I just need a teacher who is going to be patient with me). But I’m where I belong...helping the local FFA Chapter, attending 4-H events and spending my days with the people and the critters that I love and cherish the most.