Guest blogger, Casandra Blickley, is the 2017-2018 Pennsylvania State Alternate Dairy Princess
“So where is your family’s dairy farm?” The question always makes me nervous, particularly when it comes from someone in the dairy industry. When I respond, “I actually didn’t grow-up on a family dairy farm,” I can see the shadow come over the questioner’s face and can see my credibility become null because I was not born a dairy farmer’s daughter.
Instead, I was born and raised in a military family, with my dad serving in the United States Navy for 24 years. My childhood consisted of writing letters to my dad, welcoming him home on the docks every couple of months and moving around the United States.
When I was 14, I began my journey into the dairy industry and quickly fell in love with cows, farming and all thing dairy. I started to wish that my childhood had been spent feeding calves, doing farm chores with my family and being around cows. Even though I had a passion for dairy farming, I didn’t have the heritage that so many people seem to think is needed to be a “true” dairy farmer.
Despite this, it has become apparent to me that dairy farming does NOT need to run through your blood and genetics, but instead a passion for it can come from your heart. This is something I had to work really hard to learn and understand.
A few years after I got involved in the dairy industry, I took a big chance and pulled into a dairy farm I passed every day. The dairy farmer owner was surprised to hear my request to work on the farm as a volunteer just so I could learn about the dairy industry. That dairyman took a chance on me, and long story short, he hired me to feed calves before school. I was thrilled and from then on, was always at the farm whenever I had the opportunity.
Some people call their barn their second home, and I can say that about where I work. From the moment I started working there, I spent almost all of my free time at the farm. Whether it was for an actual shift, staying late to watch over a sick calf or shadowing the herdsman, my time at the dairy farm helped my passion for the dairy industry grow.
But, then someone I used to work with said to me, “Well, you don’t come from a dairy farm, so I don’t know why you are trying so hard to get involved; it’s just not in your blood.” My world was rocked, and I briefly questioned my place in the dairy industry.
Instead of letting this comment push me away from my love for the dairy industry, I doubled down. Before going to bed, I would read articles on the economics of the industry and herd health to play catch up for all of the years I missed being a consumer, not a farmer.
My life became consumed with the dairy industry, dairy cows and dairy foods. All of my hard-work and my passion for the industry has paid off, as I’ve realized several of my goals, including being named the 2017-2018 Pennsylvania State Alternate Dairy Princess and establishing Doodle-A-Long Farms with my fiancé.
Looking back at myself at age 14, I can see that my heartfelt desire for dairy farming inspired me to follow my passion, and I’m glad I did. While I know farming isn’t where I came from or what my parents did, I also know that it is my future; ultimately, my passion. I can now confidently say, “Dairy farming is in my blood.”