I’ve always dreamed of becoming a Farmer...sort of. I tend to romanticize what it would be like to wake up at the crack of dawn, feed the animals, milk the cows, collect chicken eggs, tend to the crops, and the myriad of jobs a farmer does to keep his farm running smoothly. However, after spending an hour watching and taking photographs of a friend who runs the family dairy farm, I realize that I do not have the wherewithal, stamina, focus, concentration, brains, and brawn it takes to own a farm.
While visiting Wisconsin, I asked my wife's close friend if I could spend some time taking photographs at her husband’s family-owned dairy farm. I was readily welcomed, with the caveat that I might be put to work. I secretly hoped I would be asked to work, and went so far as to look at overalls on Amazon. When I shared this secret with my wife I was met with a firm "no." (Don't worry, I saved them in my Amazon Wish List, should someone want to purchase them for me.)
Roselawns Farm is a multi-generational dairy farm run by Eric Otto and his brother. With well over 300 dairy cows and 200 acres of farmland, Eric and his family are kept busy, very busy, with all that it takes to run a farm. My respect for what farmers do to keep food on our tables has increased exponentially. Each and every day Eric, his brother, and their employees milk the cows at 6:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 9:00 pm. It's a process that takes between 5 and 6 hours per milking, eight cows at a time, 54,000 pounds of milk every other day. Think about that the next time you're in a hurry to pick up a gallon of milk!
Getting up early, I arrived to the farm around 6:00 am and met Eric along with several of the farmhands busy at work. The cool Wisconsin morning along with the smells of a working farm made my heart happy. Stepping into the darkness of the milking parlor, I was met by several stray cats that Eric was more than happy to send home with me. (I declined the offer, knowing my wife would have sent me to live at the farm.) Eric introduced me to the inner workings of dairy farming; his brain runs in overdrive. Eric tossed out facts and figures faster than I could wrap my head around. He knows every cow, how much milk they produce, how much feed they eat, how much feed the farm will need for the winter, and exactly how much feed there is stored in the farm's silos. It was an awe-inspiring experience for me, and one that left me feeling proud for this husband and father of two beautiful daughters. Eric is proud to be a Dairy Farmer and it shows in all that he does to keep Roselawns Farm producing milk for families everywhere.
While I was only at the farm for approximately two hours, I took as many photos as I could. Sadly, Eric shied away from the camera. Between now and the next time we visit I plan to talk him into a portrait. Eric did encourage me to take as many pictures of the cows as I wanted. What I find most interesting about cows are their curiosity. As I walked up and down the rows and rows of stalls, each one took notice of me. Several of them stopped what they were doing, which was chewing their cud, to investigate what I was doing. Although curious, they are also cautious. Why such an enormous creature would shy away from a human is funny to me. Cow number 505 (and pictured below) was perhaps the most curious. She, along with several other cows, followed me around the barn. I wonder how my wife would have felt if I would have tried to bring a cow home with me!
Thank you again, Eric, for allowing me to interrupt your morning to learn more about what it takes to be a Farmer. Your knowledge of dairy farming goes beyond impressive to genius. We are grateful for all that you and Farmers everywhere do day in and day out! A special thank you goes to Krystel, Eric's wife, for making this photo session possible. While she denies being a Farmer, she is certainly a Farmer's wife. Given the hours that Eric works, it's not always easy, but her love and support is always there for him.
Do you own or work on a farm? Do you know someone who does? I would love to spend more time taking photographs with an agricultural theme. Feel free to contact me here or at email@example.com. My favorite time of the year is just around the corner, The Great Frederick Fair where Farmers from all around Frederick County show off their livestock and crops. I can't wait!