It doesn’t happen as often as it should, but trips back to the family farm are quite a treat. I made the rare trip last weekend. My dog, Rosco, was due for a check-up. And since I’m loyal to the family vet, we made the two and a half hour trip north. He loves those car rides. A chance to feel the breeze in his ears. And when we get there, no leash. No fence. Just free. He becomes a farm dog for the weekend. And I become a farm girl again.
It’s nearing the end of calving season on the my family’s farm. I’m always excited to find out how many “babies” Dad has had and what funny names he comes up with. Inevitably there is always a “Buster” or “Baby.” This year it’s “Bobo,” a bucket calf of a cow who didn’t want him. It was dinner time. So dad mixed up the bottle, we jumped on the 4-wheeler and were off to the pasture. I asked Dad “Which one is he?” I should have known. Bobo was licking his lips and hopping towards the 4-wheeler. He knows Dad brings him food.
After Bobo has had his fill, or at least drained the bottle, he scampers back to the herd. Dad drives me around the pasture pointing out his new calves and which cows are still due for theirs. (He’s had some of the mammas for 15 years. To him, I think they’re somewhere between pets and work.)
A little background on my family’s farm. My dad raises cattle and crops. (I will briefly explain the cattle and get into the crops another time.) Dad has the same “mama” cows he keeps year after year. Each year, they have a calf. Dad will raise those calves until a certain weight and the time is right for selling. He will evaluate the female calves, maybe keep one to become a heifer for breeding. (Heifer is a fancy term for a young, female cow who has not had a calf.) Otherwise, they’re all sold and move on in the typical life of cattle.
Now that the animals are fed, it’s time for the family to eat. My little sister and I help our mom prepare the most country of meals. T-bone steak with baked potatoes and sweet corn. (And yes. That steak was once a cow.) Now, I’ve never grilled steaks before. My husband is usually in charge of grilling at our house. But, since he didn’t make the trip, I try my hand. They came out closer to well-done than medium, but they were juicy and delicious.
Sitting at the dinner table, I realize this is the culmination of why family farms exists. People, just like my dad, all over the state, work hard to feed a hungry world. They stand in pouring rain to welcome a calf into the world. They bring a young lamb inside on a cold night. They toil in the field during a dry summer, hoping for something green. They don’t clock out at five. They don’t get vacation. And when things don’t go their way, they don’t give up.
So when you pick up that perfectly plastic-wrapped steak at the grocery store for Fourth of July weekend, don’t forget the farmer or rancher who made dinner possible.