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Life lessons from the farm

As I write this article, I am participating in my National Guard Unit’s annual training out at Fort McCoy. It continues to be an honor to serve alongside these men and women, and I consider myself very lucky to once again be in uniform in the service of my Country and State. The training during these two weeks is both challenging and rewarding allowing for learning and improvements to play out in a controlled setting. I had a personal experience that I wanted to share while here that allowed for some reflection and hopefully a perspective that will resonate with others.


Just as in any learning experience, we make mistakes and hopefully learn from those mistakes, but many times we internalize our failures too deeply which prevents us from moving forward. In my recent failure, I thought back to my childhood on the farm. As a young boy I many times was tasked with milking the herd on my own. I took great pride in this responsibility, but of course made many mistakes. One in particular was the dreaded mistake of milking a treated cow. For those of you not familiar with farming, when a cow gets any sort of sickness, just like humans they must be medically treated. While the cow is being treated, their milk must be withheld from the bulk tank so as not to contaminate the milk already in the bulk tank. Needless to say, that when I did forget and that milk made its way into the bulk tank, it was not a good day. This mistake would result in the dumping of the entire quantity of milk since the previous milk pick up, (Usually, every other day for our farm) which directly lead to a smaller milk check. Over 40 years later, I can still recall my sense of shame at letting my parents down. They were amazing at putting it in perspective and giving me encouragement to move on by saying “Every now and then, we all milk a treated cow.”


So many years later as an adult I now draw from those experiences and during this month which recognizes our dairy industry, I want to give special attention to our farm kids. Those young people who are placed in roles and duties of high responsibility at vey young ages. Whether it be trusted with the milking or feeding of the herd, or operating large equipment, the life skills you are gaining will serve you well regardless of where your journey takes you. You are among an elite population which grows more elite with every generation. Just like me, you will most likely not appreciate your current surroundings, but trust me, one day you will. You will also face adversity and every now and then, you will indeed fail. It is not the failure that is important but rather how you recover, learn and grow from that failure. When this happens, and it will happen, just remember, every now and then, we all milk a treated cow. I hope that this also provides some empathy when those around you milk a treated cow, so that you can encourage them to pick up and carry on.


As Winston Churchhill once said “Failure is not Fatal and Success is not Final.”

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