April 24, 2013 Day 3
(Pictures by Lindsay Kennedy)
Our first stop of the day was in Darlington, Maryland to visit the Bonita Farm – a racing farm that also breeds, foals, breaks horses, and trains. It is a family operation managed by the family patriarch Mr. J. William Boniface. Absolutely beautiful facility – green grass – rolling hills – immaculate barns. This family prides themselves in producing champions – still the natural way. The list of horses in the winner’s circle is long and at the most prestigious tracks. Mr. Boniface also has a long list of troubled youth that he has given a job and turned their lives around. This was an amazing operation run by an amazing man.
We next toured the Waffle Hill Farm – a black angus operation in Churchville, Maryland. This family is dedicated to farming – they are transferring their farm into a preservation program that will insure the farm will remain intact and dedicated to farming.
The Broom’s Bloom Dairy is an interesting mix of ancestral history and new beginnings. The farm and house date back to the early 1700’s. The Dallam family milks about 65 cows by hand every day. They believe in an all natural approach in the milking process – the grains fed – and no artificial growth hormones. But the dairy operation alone has been tough so they diversified and opened a small café famous for its ice cream and cheese products. Believe me as a certifiable ice cream connoisseur – the ice cream was to die for!! Not to worry my fellow Texans – still not as good as Blue Bell.
Our last stop for the day was the Riehl Farm – an Amish Farm – owned by Sam and Susie Riehl. In most of our stops we are being given insight into a business – an association – a political agenda – a farm operation – an opinion. Sam just wanted to share his heart. When asked why – he answered that it was all about the family – love of family – time to enjoy and share family. Children only have an 8th grade education in Amish schools. Gasp – right? He said that his father had asked him if he had enough education to prepare him for life. They ALL have choices and can leave the Amish community whenever they choose. If one leaves, he can return – although Sam said that once someone spends time in the “outside” world they seldom return. What valuable lesson might we take away? Sam said we should not get greedy. Greed causes many problems and much heartache. I asked him about his cattle operation. With tears, he told me that he had had to sell all his cows and it was one of the hardest moments in his life. But he said – God has a plan – accept the plan God has for you – sometimes that plan includes letting go and moving on – but it is God’s plan and we need to find the joy in that. It was a moment of truth for me – as if the message was for me directly. The drought has been so hard for our ranching operation and even now we are behind in Spring rainfall. My heart has been so heavy – constantly wrestling with what I was going to do with my own herd that I have already cut back. Before I left on this trip – I knew without significant rain soon – I would once again be facing selling my calves early – selling my replacement heifers – culling the herd again. Sam’s words rang true – God has a plan – God is in control – I must trust God no matter what my circumstances. I knew then that as the scriptures say – I choose God – my family will always choose to serve and honor God no matter our circumstances or difficulties – to God be the glory!!
Back on the bus with our thoughts – minds churning with all the new information to process. The bus now headed away from the farms and into New York – Manhattan – the Millennium Broadway Hotel where I had stayed for years – where the doorman knew me and sang “keep smiling” or “New York – New York” as we left the hotel each morning on our way to our offices. I felt like I was going home – my last office was 530 7th Avenue just off Times Square. As the Manhattan skyline came into view – I was flooded with memories. I had made a choice years ago when my Dad became ill – to leave my New York career in fashion – to return to the family ranching operation. Life is tough. It is not a spectator sport – especially for farmers and ranchers. I have learned much about life since my return to the ranch. I have learned to trust God for each day. My sister died of cancer at age 30. She had a framed piece – “God let nothing happen to me today that you and I can’t handle together”. God is enough my friends – that’s ranching – that’s life!!! I miss New York – the thrill of the deal – and most of all my dear friends. But I would not change my decision to return to the ranch and the life lessons I have been afforded.