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Living a life of service: Lessons learned from a baby in a manger

Jean Kummer for Progressive Dairy Published on 24 November 2021
Jeff and Janice Kennedy with grandson

“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
—1 Peter 4:10 KJV

Dairy farmers are called to live a life of service simply in the work they have chosen to do – providing a safe, affordable and abundant product to feed their neighbors. But most farmers go beyond just caring for their cows and their land; they truly care about their communities and fellowman.

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The Kennedy family of Butler, Pennsylvania, is no different than most dairy families. In fact, most of you will find their story very familiar, a reflection of your own.

Jeffrey and Janice Kennedy, along with son Jordan, run the daily operation of their 100-year-old, fifth-generation dairy farm, just 25 miles north of Pittsburgh. Son Justin, a welder by trade, works away from the farm but offers his welding and fabrication skills when needed. He and his wife, Vickie, have two young sons, Bryson and Caleb. Jordan’s fiancée, Corrie, is from another Butler County dairy farm family.

The Kennedys milk about 70 Brown Swiss, Holsteins and Jerseys that carry the Four Seasons Farm prefix, and they farm 325 acres throughout Butler County, growing no-till corn, small-grain forages and hay.

Brown Swiss traditions

Building on quality Brown Swiss genetics that have gained the Kennedys national recognition for decades, Jordan makes most of the mating decisions and does all the breeding of the herd, plus he breeds cattle for many other farmers in the county. Janice works off the farm, but does all the farm bookkeeping, as well as managing the calf program. Her nieces and nephews have joined in the fun of exhibiting Four Seasons Brown Swiss on local, state and national levels, having great success this year with heifers at the All-American.

Community traditions

Like the generations before them, Jeff, Janice and Jordan are dedicated to the improvement of Butler County agriculture organizations and beyond. Jeff has served as adviser to the local FFA program, as well as a national director of the Brown Swiss Association. Janice has dedicated more than 20 years to the Butler County 4-H program as a leader and volunteer, in addition to being a member of the Butler County Dairy Promotion program and the Butler Fair Queen program.

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Jordan is following in his parents’ footsteps by serving as a board member for the Butler County 4-H Development Committee, a newly elected director of the Butler Farm Show and volunteering at the All-American Dairy Show each year.

Christmas traditions

The milk-can nativity on the Kennedys’ front porch (and on the cover of this issue) has been a work in progress, said Janice, with input and ideas from Jeff and Jordan. Each year, they’ve added a new piece to make it more and more authentic to that original manger scene, right down to the shepherd’s crook (a cane used to show 4-H pigs in years past, Janice says).

It’s become one of their family Christmas traditions. Another tradition is gathering together after morning chores on Christmas Day to enjoy Janice’s recipe for German pancakes (see recipe below) and to exchange gifts. Justin and Vickie’s little boys add even more joy to the cherished day, adding a new level of excitement and delight.

The Kennedys use their gifts to serve as stewards to their community with grace and humility – they just seem to “be there” whenever a hand is needed, or a kind word shared. Sounds a little like lessons learned from that baby in the manger.

Merry Christmas!  end mark

PHOTO: Jeff and Janice Kennedy are pictured here celebrating Christmas with their newborn grandson, Bryson, in 2017. Photo provided by Janice Kennedy.

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Jean Kummer is a freelance writer and dairy show enthusiast in Evans City, Pennsylvania.

German Pancake Recipe

German pancakes

Ingredients:

6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Confectioners’ sugar

Syrup ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup sour milk*
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Place the eggs, milk, flour and salt in a blender, and cover and process until smooth. Pour the melted butter into an ungreased 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish; add the batter. Bake uncovered at 400ºF for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the first five syrup ingredients and bring to a boil. Boil for seven minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla.

When the pancake is done, dust it with confectioners’ sugar; serve immediately with the syrup.

*To make sour milk, add 3/4 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to milk to make 3/4 cup.

Getty Images.

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