Christmas on the Farm

(This post was written for Dairy Farmers of Canada’s Farmers Voice blog. Find it here.)

Christmastime really is the most wonderful time of the year. For our farm family, the Christmas season marks the culmination of a long year spent milking and feeding cows, caring for our animals, growing and harvesting crops, and general farm maintenance. It’s also a time to reflect on things that went well in the past year and on opportunities to improve in the New Year. This year more than ever we will think back to an incredibly busy summer and fall, during which we built a new barn to house all of our young stock under one roof. This project allowed us to demolish several dilapidated buildings that were formerly used to house our calves and heifers and, equipped with automatic scrapers, this barn will eliminate hours of manure removal each week. In 2015, we also finally completed our three year transition to organic dairy farming. We certainly appreciated the value of hard work and determination when we watched that first truckload of organic milk head off to the processor at the beginning of November! And this Christmas is made even more special by the addition of our newest farm kid: baby Connor is 4 months old and will be celebrating his first Christmas with us this year. Thinking back on 2015 certainly fills us with thankfulness for farm and family blessings.

Like most farm families that we know, Christmas is also a time to connect with friends and (extended) family. For us, this means that we attend and host various Christmas dinners and events. It’s always wonderful to feel the bonds of family and friendship strengthened by these gatherings. And, for me, it’s an opportunity to challenge myself to see how many dairy ingredients I can include in each dish served or brought to potluck dinners. Whether it’s generous dollops of sour cream in mashed potatoes, scads of butter slathered over a turkey, or thick layers of cheese oozing delectably from vegetable casseroles, I make it my personal mission to bolster the Canadian dairy industry with my Christmas cooking! I challenge you, my readers, to find interesting and unexpected ways to include dairy in your Christmas cooking. I promise you, everything is better with cheese…or butter…or cream…

But as any farmer will tell you, farm work doesn’t magically disappear at Christmastime! There are still cows to be milked, watered, fed. Calves need their bottles and heifers still love to munch on hay. Farm midwifery doesn’t slow down at all either – there’s still a good chance of being called out of bed for a midnight calving during the holiday season. But I wager that for farmers, myself included, this does not cause discontentment. For us, farming is a labour of love. And at Christmas, just like during the rest of the year, we enjoy being with those we love and doing what we love best. We love our cows and we love farming, so how could any of this cause displeasure? Rather, I find that at Christmas these tasks are all the more enjoyable, especially with more time to enjoy the simple pleasures of farm life: taking the extra time to pet that affectionate cow, marveling at the miracle of a new bovine arrival, or watching that delicious warm milk streaming from rounded udders is even more poignant and gratifying at this time of year. I truly believe that farm life is the best life, no matter the season.

Looking ahead to the New Year we know that, like any other year, 2016 will not be without challenges. This is especially true for our industry, as we expect to learn just how much the new trade agreement will impact us all individually. But I am fully confident that our Canadian dairy farmers and our dairy industry will commit to rising above these challenges. Farmers are resilient, as has been proven through the millennia; tough times are nothing new to farmers. Farm life is a challenging life, dependent on weather and crop success and good herd health and milk production. These new obstacles created by trade agreements will not cause the downfall of our industry. Just like we always have, we will continue fight to keep our industry competitive and our consumers satisfied with and supportive of our farms and our top-quality dairy products.

Farmers and farm friends, we wish you a dairy merry Christmas and a happy “moo” year!

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