New Years Isn’t Always Happy on the Farm

This morning as I read through some of the thoughts of friends on Twitter a single tweet from @farmelady Diane Heckman from central Pennsylvania jumped out at me.

When you see something like that, you almost have to say something to encourage the person facing such a tough time! I also felt like I needed to look at other tweets and her blog to see if I could better understand what was happening.

Sadly, Diane’s story was somewhat familiar to me. It’s something I’ve better understood in the past two years as I’ve gotten to know more dairy farmers through social media. Saying it’s somewhat familiar doesn’t make it any easier to take though. But I will put it together here in case some reading this blog post. 

farmelady Diane Heckman dairy farmer PA

I read through this morning’s timeline and noticed that among the tweets she was sending about something so heavily weighing on her mind, were replies of holiday greetings, talk of new books to read and thanks for people who, like me, offered some sense of support from far away.

The tweets she sent out broadly follow (for those not used to Twitter, remember there are character counts that limit you to 140 so we all abbreviate a lot):

can smell the pork and saukrt cooking in the oven downstairs, need to make mashed pot. and the dumplings and add some hot dogs to saukrt

cloudy, calling for rain , yuck ! at least dont have to go anywhere, after everyone leaves going park myself in recliner and start new book

husband said need to start advertsg the cows for sale. hope get enough to pay off some of bills .

once cows are sold, husband will start working for Twp. He is a Twp. Supervisor now and so glad he will be able to work for Twp.

Still too young for SS ,so have to have something else for income. just hope all works out and can pay off most of our bills n can keep farm

little grandson wont understand why we arent going to barn anymore , too young

hope to sell cows by spring , will keep a few , want to still have our own beef

makes me so mad that we are not getting a decent price for our milk!!!!!!! if dairy farmers were not getting cheated could maybe go on

Maybe even with better milk prices would still have sold cows, husband will turn 62 in Jan, Has knee problems, farming very hard on body

also has trouble with his arms and back, just falling aprt, getting old is not fun ! LOL !

little grandson goes to door in mornings and says Pap, knows we go out and get barn clothes on and go to barn and see Pap

Looking at those tweets, tears come to my eyes. A family dairy farm is part dairy, part family and you see that so clearly in her words. The understanding that the dairy business is tough economically, probably became clearest to me when I spent a day on Twitter with Ray Prock (@Raylindairy and blog) as we #moo’ed. Another dairyman, Will Gilmer (@GilmerDairy and blog) wrote a great blog post on the #moo effort and followed it up with some of the news coverage that came as a result.

The milk prices farmers receive dropped so incredibly low in the last few years has been added to a rise in input costs like feed and fuel, that all dairy farms I know of are having trouble. Even though there has been some price recovery the it is not enough to help farmers come out of the previous downturn.

To lose a job you love… a business you are passionate about… that is so incredibly hard that I don’t know how many of us can take it. And then to know that losing that business changes virtually every area of your life…. well, the tears are here for a reason.

The image of a grandson and granddad no longer having that reason to put on their boots & head to the barn may permanently reside on my eyelids.  But I have hope that Diane and her family will find a way to keep the farm, the way so many other dairy farmers have. That they will keep some of their cows and have reason to go to their barn.


January 2, 2011 – Diane has posted to her blog as well on the topic.

About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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