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From volunteering to breeding: Colorado dairywoman shows how to make a difference

Karena Elliott for Progressive Dairyman Published on 26 October 2016
Chapin family women

“I met my husband, Foy, at the 1977 Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, Colorado,” explains Cindy Chapin. “I was the city girl. He was the country boy showing dairy cattle.”

But Cindy wasn’t keen on a future in agriculture. “I always said I would never marry a farmer because of previous experience with my uncles and cousins,” she says. Cindy knew the men always had to work often, stopping only long enough to eat at many family gatherings. “Never say never!” she adds laughingly. She and Foy were married in June of 1978.

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Today, four generations of the Chapin family dairy on the South Platte River northwest of Weldona, Colorado. Foy and Cindy’s four children, Foy, Tiffany, Cole and Cami, are all adults, and all four are involved in the dairy operation. “Keeping everybody working with each other and in harmony is a challenge that Cindy does very well,” acknowledges her husband, Foy Chapin. In addition to Chapin Dairy of Weldona, the family business includes Riverside Milk in Snyder, Colorado.

Cindy Chapin marking pregnant heifers

Like many farm wives, Cindy has always helped wherever she was needed without having held specific jobs. “I have milked cows, fed babies, raked hay, changed tires and pushed a lot of paper,” she recalls. She also went to A.I. school to help breed the heifers and cows. “She quickly realized that caring for the cows and calves come first in a dairyman's life, and she accepted that,” shares Foy.

Dr. David R. Brown, consulting nutritionist with Compass Nutrition Inc. of Colorado, has witnessed Cindy’s important role on the farm firsthand. "In the years I have had the privilege of working with the Chapins, I have observed Cindy as a powerful force in the ‘space in between places,’ a bit of glue, if you will,” he describes. “But most impressive is that she does it all from her position as a wife and mother tending to her family first in whatever trials and challenges may come their way in this life.”

“Some people are just shocked when they see me in a corral sorting heifers,” Cindy explains. “It’s not hard work, just consistent. And sometimes that’s the only time during the day I will see my husband.”

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The family-owned and operated Chapin Dairy began in 1958 when Foy's parents brought Holsteins to the family farm on the eastern prairie. Foy's dad, Don, had lived on the Weldona land since he was 2 years old. The family had also raised chickens and cucumbers for pickling.

Foy and Cindy have embraced technology during their 37-year tenure and strive to keep their operation on the cutting edge of new developments. In 1994, they built one of the first subway-style parlors in the world with milk lines and equipment located in a basement under the parlor.

Cindy Chapin feeding calf

“There is so much technology that has improved the milk production,” Cindy says. “The dairy farmers that I know are very knowledgeable in so many fields.”

Count Cindy among knowledgeable dairy farmers willing to invest the time to educate consumers on the American food supply.

“A few years ago, I was involved in some education programs with [the] local school,” Cindy says. Aside from the funny comments made by the children, Cindy was shocked to learn the level of misinformation among the adults. “One teacher actually told me she does not eat Swiss cheese; she only eats American-made products.”

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A native of Pueblo, Colorado, Cindy is also respected as a good neighbor and active community volunteer. In 2015, she was honored as a Golden Angel of the Weldon Valley following her restoration efforts on behalf of her community from the damage inflicted by flooding in 2013. She also volunteers with Relay for Life, the WALK to End Alzheimer’s and the Weldon Valley School 4-H and G.L.A.D. Club.

Cindy and Foy have made strategic decisions to involve their children in the family-owned business. One decision almost unique to women on family farms was the choice Cindy made to give up helping outside when her oldest daughter had a baby. “My time was better spent allowing her to help at the dairy and me watching Jayden,” Cindy says. Today, she and Foy enjoy eight grandchildren – Jasmyn, Jayden, Joel, Noelle, Foy G., Adi, Evy and ZJ, with the ninth grandchild on the way – and Cindy continues to help with all eight kids.

“Some days two kids leave but I’m holding the door for two more that are coming to Nanny’s!” smiles Cindy. She loves investing in the next generation but acknowledges that it’s difficult to continue finding time to help her husband. “Sometimes I think more hours in a day will help,” Cindy dreams. “Sometimes I need a wife!”

Chapin family

Cindy’s daughters know better than anyone how much their mother has done to provide them opportunity to work in the family business.

“My mom shows us what it’s really like to be women in the dairy business,” describes daughter Tiffany Chapin. “She is not afraid to get dirty, and she will do the hard stuff.”

“My mom has been such a great role model for us,” adds daughter Cami Chapin Lozier. “Raising four kids and being a dairy farmer isn't in the easy category. My mom is helping pave the way for future women dairy farmers by leading by example and showing us nothing can stop you if you put your mind to it and give it your all.”

“I would tell the younger generation to take the time to know exactly what your husband is doing,” Cindy advises. “Time goes so fast, and there are so many stories that we laugh about now. You will make unbelievable memories.”

Perhaps an additional bit of advice would be to avoid making memories sorting heifers. “Foy will agree with me that it’s stressful sorting animals with your spouse,” Cindy admits. “I have walked away from that job a time or two.”  end mark

Karena Elliott is an international freelance writer. She makes her home in Amarillo, Texas.

PHOTO 1: “My mom shows us what it’s really like to be women in the dairy business,” Tiffany Chapin says. “She is not afraid to get dirty and she will do the hard stuff.” Photo courtesy of Western Dairy Association.

PHOTO 2: Cindy Chapin marking pregnant heifers in the breeding pens.

PHOTO 3: “I have milked cows, fed babies, raked hay, changed tires and pushed a lot of paper,” describes Colorado dairy farmer Cindy Chapin.

PHOTO 4: Four generations of the Chapin family dairy on the South Platte River northwest of Weldona, Colorado. Photos provided by the Chapin family.

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