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The farmer’s resilience amid crisis


I’ve sat back and watched.

I’ve listened to stories.

Images of livestock farmers selling their herds — emptying their barns of memories that span generations — have flooded my Facebook newsfeed the past two years.

Like most things these days, we have so much in front of us. In a fast-paced society run by social media we scroll by meaningful and heartfelt stories with often little to no response. We see it, we move on. It’s only something behind a screen, we tell ourselves it isn’t actually real.

But it is real.

Farmers across this state and our nation are fighting to stay above water. For dairy farmers, its milk prices. They’ve plummeted to an all-time low making it nearly impossible for many to make a living.

Struggle is nothing new to the American farmer; it’s a part of daily life. Farmers don’t want to, and won’t, let go. They’ve poured everything they have into their work.

In the business world folks move on to different careers — some data show them moving jobs about every four years on average. That doesn’t work for most farmers. They are in it for the long-haul, for a lifetime. They are committed.

When I think of farmers I think of one word. Resilience.

My relatives came to Washington state from Germany in the mid-1800s and started a dairy farm outside of what would soon become a logging and dairying town called Monroe. Theis and Marguerite Ohlsen were my great-great grandparents. Theis was killed in a wagon accident on the bridge crossing the Skykomish River, leaving his young wife, who was pregnant with my great grandma at the time, to run the farm on her own.

That barn still stands to this day. I’ve walked through that old barn. The stanchions still stand, ropes hang on the walls, and tools lay on the floor. I can’t imagine the loss and defeat she felt standing in that barn with a tremendous weight on her shoulders to make it. She milked their herd of Holsteins twice a day by hand.

Just this last week, while walking fence, I stopped to talk to our neighbor. He was checking on heifers close to calving. We stood there and talked about the wet winter, a young cow he’s trying to nurse back from an injury, the price of milk.

Then he nodded and waved as he continued on in his pickup truck. I finished walking the fence line and wondered, “What is it that keeps farmers farming?”

He’s losing money every day, yet he still has a smile on his face. That’s true love for what you do. It’s these people who keep the country fed. It’s these people that wake up each morning and follow their calling. That is the calling of the American farmer. And for that, I am very grateful.

Aleah Bright is a hobby farmer who was born and raised in Washington state and grew up showing Jersey cattle in 4-H. Aleah is enthusiastic about sharing her passion for agriculture and inspiring the future generations of American farmers.

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