Lessons from Flying Cow Dairy

 

Most people are surprised when they learn I live on a real working dairy farm. (“Flying Cow Dairy” – So dubbed by my husband when he had a brief stint as a licensed private pilot in the 90s.) Dairy Month seems like a great opportunity to share some insights from life on the farm.

Although the career tips I usually share are based on my HR background, these pointers I’ve gleaned from my alternate existence are just as relevant and sometimes more powerful.

  1. Have a routine. Be prepared to scrap it.

Cows are undeniably creatures of habit. But nothing else on a dairy farm is quite so reliable.

When the electricity goes out, the water lines freeze solid, or the axle breaks on the bale wagon…everyone’s ingenuity, tenacity, determination, and patience are crucial.

Even as the resident non farmer, my day sometimes started by chasing cows at oh-dark-thirty and ended with a stop to pick up a crucial part on the way home. (The John Deere dealer would set it aside for me, and by the time I walked from the door to the counter in my suit and heels, the chuckling parts manager would have it out and ready.)

  1. Accountability isn’t a buzzword. It’s a lifestyle.

When hundreds of lives depend on you daily, there’s no room for ambiguity.

Unfortunately, this also means I was never able to convince the kids to make their beds. Some things just seem like arbitrary make-work compared to feeding hungry calves before the school bus arrives.

  1. Stay humble. Remember what you can control and what you can’t.

The professionals I was around 5 days a week in the corporate world often seemed to feel they had their lives under control. Farmers never have that illusion. The weather will change tomorrow (or the tractor will break down, or the next calving won’t go well…).

  1. Hold onto your sense of wonder and your learning mindset.

Life never gets dull, and the farm reminds me that if I’m open to the experience, I’ll never get dull either.

  • Chasing cows or witnessing a healthy birth before I drove off to work always gave me a new perspective on my day.
  • I learned a lot about diversity, inclusion, and belonging from the cows. (Cow personalities vary by breed. A cow with a BFF in the herd is happier and easier to get along with. Some cows love a good head-scratch; others will only respond to a handful of fresh grass.)
  • Someone else’s production can impact my results. (When the farmers plant peas near the house, the hummingbirds will disappear from my feeders for the whole week the peas are in bloom.)
  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Clean kitchen? Small stuff. Not small stuff? The preemie born on the coldest day of the winter, spending its first few hours next to the furnace vent…in the kitchen.

Farming – and life – is full of small stuff. The challenge to let go of it can help you remember what’s really important.

  1. Find what you’re good at and make your best contribution. It matters.

This is the most significant lesson of all.

It didn’t take me very long to realize I wasn’t much help on the farm. Driving away every day for the stability of a regular paycheck and benefits in exchange for something I was really good at doing was an easy decision!

 

This month, I hope you’ll celebrate with me – the dairy lifestyle, as well as the hard-working farmer who made your buttered toast, cheeseburger, and ice cream cone possible!

And if you’re seeking your own path of fulfillment, remember, your unique contribution matters more than you know.

Lorri Anderson

Lorri Anderson

Lorri Anderson is an expert consultant to businesses and a powerful coach to individuals. After a long and rich career as a strategic HR executive, she is driven to give back by changing the Human Experience in today’s workplaces, one business or human at a time.

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