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HERd Management: It takes a village to run a farm: Appreciate yours and reach out if needed

Ashley Messing-Kennedy for Progressive Dairyman Published on 31 March 2019

When we were pregnant with our first daughter, people always said, “It takes a village to raise a baby.” If you’ve never had kids, you might not realize that maxim is definitely true. Even if you don’t have kids, having and running a farm is really similar.

It truly takes a village to run a successful operation, regardless of the size. We couldn’t survive without our village, and I promise you the village is a lot larger than you imagine.

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At our nutrition company, we regularly communicate with six people – from our two nutritionists to the truck driver who brings our feed out to the people we work with in the office. A farm village stretches so much further than what you initially think about. In each business, at least two people touch everything to deal with a farm.

Add into this village some of the most essential people we have, and I get to our employees. When I am writing this, I am at the tail end of the polar vortex. Brutal weeks like this remind me we couldn’t do it without our village. To our employees who made it to work and got the work done by our side, I feel like I cannot express how much we appreciate their dedication.

My mom came to help watch the girls when daycare was cancelled or get them to daycare so I could stay out in the barn. And my dad? He still came over and helped thaw pipes, including fixing the same piece that broke two days in a row. He did numerous jobs to keep us going through the day. We couldn’t do this without each and every one of them.

This past fall, we had a tragedy hit our village. Adam had worked at our farm for four-and-a-half years. My husband jokingly called him my brother since we worked together so much. He was a truly kind, caring guy. He loved our daughter Calli dearly, and she was always excited when Adam played with her out in the barn. He believed in strange conspiracy theories, was a fellow Harry Potter lover, and we shared our favorite podcasts back and forth constantly.

We never thought one ordinary night would be the last time we would see him. Over the years, I have received a lot of difficult phone calls. Getting the phone call from my employee’s wife telling me Adam had taken his own life is one I will never forget. I hung up the call and didn’t even know what to do or say. I paced in circles around my house and tried to process it. I truly thought the next morning he would just show up, and it would all be a sick joke. Suddenly, a person we saw, worked with and cared for was gone. The truth of it hit me when the county morgue called to enquire about any odd behavior from Adam the day before.

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I’m not telling this story to make you sad. I am telling you this story to help you appreciate your village. There is very likely nothing I could have said which would have changed what Adam did. We had openly talked about mental health; I had made it very clear to him he could come talk to us, and if he needed help I would find him the right resources. Sadly, he still found it too hard to reach out. I hope you won’t realize too late how much you appreciate someone. Say thank you regularly, buy them lunch or just try to be around as a listening ear when someone needs to vent. Sometimes simple acts make the biggest difference.  end mark

Ashley Messing-Kennedy

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