Life with 500 Toddlers

Guest blogger, Jessica Peters, is a 5th generation dairy farmer in northwest Pennsylvania.

In high school, I was the girl who stayed home. I always used the farm as an excuse to dodge plans. I had to feed calves, there was hay to make, or I had to milk the next morning. They weren’t really excuses because they were true, but they were ways for me to get out of plans. Yes, I had more chores and responsibility than the average teenager, but I also just liked being home on the farm with my family. When most teenagers were choosing their friends, I genuinely enjoyed hanging out with my parents and helping around the farm. Honestly, I don’t think my friends truly understood how I felt until they started having kids of their own.

A few years ago, one of my friends shared an article that hit home. It was an untitled letter to the author’s friends who didn’t have kids. It detailed what it was like to be a new parent and why they wanted to spend all their time with their kid. It wasn’t just that the kids needed the attention, or that the parents couldn’t find a babysitter, the mother genuinely wanted to be with them. Just like I genuinely enjoy being with my cows. The article went on to say that it didn’t mean that they didn’t want to be around their friends, they just also wanted to hang out with their kids. I wasn’t trying to avoid my friends, I just also wanted to be around my family and on the farm.

Truthfully, cows and kids are a lot alike. Young kids can’t tell you when they’re sick, you have to notice the signs – like cows. You are completely responsible for them. You feed them, clean-up after them, worry about them, and care for them in every way. Your kids, like my cows, always come first. Even when you’re not feeling well and want to stay in bed all day, it’s your job to soldier on and make sure they’re taken care of. If you have to make a choice between a fun night out with your friends or your kid (cow) sick at home, your choice may not always be easy, but it’s clear.

My cows drive me crazy. We have the same routine every day but some days they seem to just forget how to follow it. Other days, it takes all day just to feed and care for them. They’re all I think about, but don’t seem to appreciate anything I do. They have the overwhelming ability to completely ruin my day, week, or month!

Then I think about what life would be like without them. Yes, they drive me crazy, but they’re also the force that drives me. They make me so fiercely proud that some days I can’t stop smiling. Just when I’m about to breakdown and completely lose it, one of them comes up from behind me and gives me a little nudge. While I’m scratching her head, I think about how different life was before them and the amazing life they’ve given me. Sound familiar?

I have never, and never will, believe that any animal’s life is worth the same as a human’s, but that doesn’t mean I don’t fiercely love my cows. I want them to be healthy and happy. I make sacrifices for them almost daily, sleep being the most common one.

Just like a parent, I’m not asking or sympathy, I chose my path, but a little understanding would be nice. Understand that farmers are putting all of their heart and soul into producing a safe, healthy, nutritious food for you and your real kids.