During the nine years that I worked with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, this verse was written on the inside cover of a Bible that was given to every employee that retired from the Association.
That single verse from the book of Matthew was very appropriate for those individuals who have given their time, talents and dedication in exchange for far less pay than they deserved. I haven’t thought much about that Bible verse since leaving the YMCA...until this summer. As I began to see Facebook post after Facebook post about dairy farms selling out and herds being dispersed, the first thought that came to my mind was, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I read about dairies that were located far from my home, even in other countries, and it seemed surreal and so far away from my realm of concern. Soon, I began to hear this same story coming from our very own friends and colleagues. The reality started hitting closer to home.
Some have decided to retire, because there isn’t another generation that wants to continue running the family farm, others have gotten out before the economics get worse than they already are, and some have simply been absorbed by the bigger, more powerful operations that continue to thrive. Regardless of the circumstances, the family dairy that we grew up with is diminishing from our countryside roads.
Even at my own dinner table, we have had several conversations about our “Escape Plan.” It’s a topic that we’ve tried to avoid, because we are both committed to making sure that there is a dairy farm for our children and our grandchildren. But every day, as I watch my husband get up and work twice as hard to earn half as much money, fighting milk prices, lack of help, unpredictable Ohio weather and equipment that should have been retired a long time ago, I ask myself “is it worth it?” And I know that we are only one of many that is facing the same challenges. It takes a good and faithful servant to try and make a living under these conditions.
But do you ever quit being a dairy farmer, even if you aren’t physically milking cows? I don’t think so. There are so many facets of the dairy industry that could use input from the dairy farmer. But it’s the actual farmers that have the least time to take on those commitments outside of their responsibilities on the farm.
Our own Ohio Dairy Industry has many opportunities for individuals to volunteer and make a difference. Breed promotion, sales support, assisting with shows, providing mentorship to our Junior members, contributing to skillathons and workshops...the list goes on and on. Not only would the extra hands, help and heart be appreciated, it is needed to insure that our industry survives the changing times. It doesn’t matter how involved or active you are in the field of dairy, it’s the amount of passion and dedication that you have for the Holstein cows (past and present) that gives you a seat at the table, so to speak.