Author: Hannah Hernley – Sustainable Agriculture ’17.
For the last month I have set my alarm for 2:12 am. For the last month I have fallen asleep on my couch before 8 due to sheer exhaustion. For the last month I have seen countless shocked faces of friends when they realize I woke up for the day while they were crawling in bed for the night. What in the world am I doing? Milking cows. For the month of January, I have worked as an intern at Apple Valley Creamery and Dairy of East Berlin.
I felt the disconnect in myself and our society between a half gallon of skim milk in our refrigerator and how it got there. Every time you eat a bowl of ice cream, snack on a yogurt, or drink a glass of milk, both a cow and a human had to be awake at an ungodly hour. As a sustainability major I like to think that I am aware of these kinds of things. I like the fact that I think about where my food comes from and who produced it. The last month, I was humbled. I realized I had never once thought of the people milking cows at 3 am when I enjoyed a dairy product. And trust me, dairy is my favorite food group. It isn’t for lack of enjoying diary that I forgot about these people and animals. It was the disconnect that plaques our culture.
It is the disconnect that I thought I was above. I grew up on a crop farm; I know where my food comes from. I helped grow the food that feeds this country. I have planted seeds and ate their fruits. I have rolled my eyes at the ignorance of food systems in this country. This last month of 2:12 alarms humbled me to think more about how and where all of my food comes from.
This month I started not only praying a blessing on the hands that prepared the food, but for the hands that grew the food, and for the land that held the crops and animals. Why pray a blessing only on the steps of the process that we can see? I dare to say that the hands that prepared the food have the easiest part of the process.
Having cow manure land on your face at 4 am is not really a pleasant experience. Cows kicking your forearms are not comfortable. Hosing down the barn when it is 7 degrees is not enjoyable. Tight shoulders from fighting to get the milkers on can be tiring. There are a lot of parts with milking and running a dairy farm that are not glamourous, in fact quite the opposite. Those animals, people, and land all need the blessing of the Lord, too. Not just the hands of who have prepared the food.
After the shock of when my morning began, I had my friends ask me if running a dairy farm is something I would want to do long term. Frankly it isn’t. It is a lot of work. You never get a vacation. It is a job I could do for a few years, but I would never want to milk indefinitely for the rest of my life. This is work that requires an extra dose of blessing and awareness of.
Thank you for the blessing of food. Thank you for those gathered around the table, make our fellowship sweet and deep.
Thank you for the land that produced this food, give us the knowledge to steward it well. Thank you for the people who worked hard, long hours to grow this food, give them a restful night of sleep tonight. Thank you for the animals who gave us their bodies so we can enjoy this tasty food, give them tasty food and happy lives. Thank you for the able bodies that made this food, bless them.
Let us use the energy that this food gives us to honor you. We remember those who go without the blessings we have, give them strength and give us humbleness to learn from them.