Monday, March 30, 2015


The guys spent some time these past few weeks to fence off a pasture with strong, three-strand, high tensile fence.  We're going to put heifers in our pasture on another road, so we wanted to make sure the fences were great.

Heifers are young, they're new to pasture, and they have to figure out the fences.  A single-strand doesn't work quite as well because they can blow right through it without even really noticing it.  They also graze and sort of nose right under them, sometimes, if there's something interesting to eat on the other side.  But with three-strand, it's more of a real boundary.

They're also flexible, so that when deer (or cattle) run through them, they stretch, but don't break.

So the five of us went out to check the fence and make sure it was ready for the heifers, but it was also just an excuse to go for a walk in the woods.

Pulling branches away from the fence:

Making sure it's low enough... look how brown it is!  There were a few spots of green, but not many.

And wrestling, which happens pretty much all the time now.  This wasn't checking the fences at all, but at least all of us are entertained by a 4-year-old body slam.

I told my mom we'd done this, and she said she was so excited to have cattle on her road again.  She said, "I've missed them!  I can't wait until they're out there!"

Some people want an ocean view, some people want cattle.  Luckily, we're living in the right place.


Peter Schwarz (Midland Water Superintendent), J.J. Metz (CPS crop consultant), Chad Krumnauer (DNR)

I went to career day at Kris' old high school (Valley Lutheran in Saginaw).  Kris' cousin Jess teaches there and asked me to represent dairy farming.  It was so much fun!  It was such a well-organized event.  They had representatives from every industry you can think of - 70 people in all - and students had the chance to attend various panel sessions.

I asked the students why they chose our session, and of course some of the students were from farms, and plan on having their own farm.  (We're replacing ourselves, it seems.)  Of course I encouraged those who want to start from scratch, too.  The majority of the people who said they wanted to own farms were girls, which pleasantly surprised me.  Probably less wrestling.

If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Meeting it up

I loved this view outside our meeting.  We have Amish and Mennonite members.
Happy first day of spring!  So happy to greet the new season.  (And that's not just because we're farmers.  It's like a collective sigh of relief here!)

While it's still meeting season, we had our annual Michigan Milk Producers Association meeting, where we hear reports from our president and general manager, give awards, and my favorite - recognize the 35-year members.

Senator Judy Emmons, 35-year MMPA member and dairy farmer

Why is it my favorite?  Because each person - and there are a lot of them - are offered the microphone to say a little something, and it's always funny or touching or both!  I started taking notes during it of little snippets ...

- I'm glad there are a lot of younger people here, because the older I get, the more stubborn I get.

- This is the youngest group of old people I've ever seen.  Go Spartans!

- This is the fifth general manager that I've had since I've been a member.  Everyone here looks pretty old, and I guess I fit in.  As for milk prices, my grandpa always said that nobody can throw a stone high enough it won't come down.

- There's nothing better than raising children on a farm.

- I used to think when I was sitting there, God, what a bunch of old people.  Now I'm up here.

- It's a privilege to be able to be home with my family.

- Please keep sending true farmers to the legislature, because no one understands it like people who have done it.

- My husband has been gone for three years now, and we worked side by side all those years.  I sure miss him a lot.  But my name's on the contract now!

There were funny slides, like our general manager Joe Diglio (I really like him), showing his magazine photo from the 90s when he saved the co-op money by acting as a model to sell MMPA attire.  As we all had a good-natured laugh about it, Kris leaned over to me and whispered, "We still sell that denim shirt!"          

And lunch always ends with one of my most favorite foods in the world:

We did all the important business - like resolutions, elections, and discussions - and we even got to hang out with our far-away friends afterward.  Back to the farm ... 

We dried up ten cows.  That means that ten of them are at the end of their lactation periods and will calve in June.  Not all of them give milk for the same amount of time after calving, and it depends on when they gave birth last year.

So, we've stopped milking ten of them so they can prepare their bodies to have calves.  Over time, we'll dry them all up, and the calving will begin.  Get ready, get set ... it's going to get cute around here.

Want to know more?  You can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley, or get the posts in your email by filling out the form on the right.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Celebrating Michigan

The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development asked me to contribute to National Ag Week.  For those of you who already know me, it's a familiar story.  For those of you who are new, here's my background!  This article appears on their site:

Even though I grew up as the sixth generation on our family’s dairy farm, I didn’t see myself continuing the tradition.  I was adamant that I didn’t want a job that depended on the weather.  It seemed we were always worrying about it at home – was it ever going to rain?  Did it rain too much? Was it going to rain when the hay was down?  Why didn’t it ever rain!?

It’s not like I didn’t embrace the lifestyle.  I showed our Guernsey calves in 4-H, I washed the parlor when my dad milked, and I loved everything about living there, but I didn’t think I wanted it as a career.

I got my MA from Michigan State and my husband Kris and I worked in marketing around the country.  But Kris was also from a dairy farm … and one day we started talking about owning our own business.

Michigan and dairy farming suddenly seemed very attractive.  My parents were thinking about retirement, so we moved from Connecticut to Michigan, settled into my family’s 136-year-old farmhouse, and bought the farm.

We’re the sole owners of Evergreen Dairy, and the farm is more than a business – it’s our lifestyle. Part of what I love to do is to go into the community and talk to people about farming.  We also enjoy having people come and tour the farm.  Since you can only reach so many people in person, I also write a blog – Truth or Dairy – that shows and tells what it’s like on our dairy farm.

Another wonderful part about the Michigan farm lifestyle is that we have so many organizations that support and promote farming.  We’re involved at the local, state, and national level.  For instance, our milk co-op is Michigan Milk Producer’s Association, and through our involvement with them and National Milk Producers Federation, we’ve had the chance to represent our industry in Washington, D.C.  Through Michigan Farm Bureau and American Farm Bureau, we always get the chance to come together with other farmers and have our voices heard. It’s great meeting so many active people from all the different farming industries to communicate on what we all have in common – the desire to run our family businesses.

This year, I had the opportunity to represent farmers through U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, in a position called the Face of Farming and Ranching.  The other four spokespeople and I are spending this year talking to consumers and communicating about farming and food questions.

Along with the enthusiastic people we work with in the agriculture organizations, there are important people closer to home.  Every day, we’re thankful for our neighbors and team members – who are often the same people.  We’re so fortunate that they share our same passion for farming.

Then, there’s the support system – there are so many industries that sustain a farm.  Just to name a few, we work with milk haulers, electricians, builders, machine dealers, and seed salesmen.  We have veterinarians, nutritionists, feed haulers, and planters.  Some days, it feels like everyone’s at the farm at once!  Each and every person serves a valuable role for making sure that quality milk comes from our farm to your table.

I still sit on the porch, willing the smell of rain in the air to turn into a downpour.  We still continually check the weather to see how it’s going to affect what we’re doing.  But – agriculture is Michigan’s second biggest industry, and we’re eighth in the country for milk production.  Not bad!  It turns out that Michigan weather is great for dairy farming … and the people are even better.

The article appears here:  An Inside Look at Being a Michigan Dairy Farmer

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ag week

Not only is it Ag Week, but it's also reading month.  As a result, my son's preschool teachers asked parents to come in and read to the class.  

My favorite types of books to read to classes are farming-related.  I brought in a milker and some cow models ...

I love tiny chairs
And I read 'The Cow in Patrick O'Shanahan's Kitchen'.  If you're interested in doing it, Michigan Farm Bureau has lesson plans.

Great time.  The kids were cute, super attentive, and loved the cow models in particular.  They loved them so much I thought their little legs might to snap off.  (The toys, not the kids.)

If you have the chance to go read to a class, have fun!  Meanwhile, back at the farm ...

- tons of meetings this week.  We're meeting with the nutritionist and vet (together), and we have another co-op meeting.

- going to dry up a group of cows, which means we stop milking them before they calve.

- Kris is trying to schedule his entire life around NCAA basketball.  You know, work life balance.

Want to know more?  You can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley, or get the posts in your email by filling out the form on the right.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Confused season

This is the creek from one side:

Oh!  Just a little snow on the bank ... the grass ... it looks definitely spring-like!  But if you look in the other direction, here's the creek from the other side:

Giant chunks of ice, too frozen to make their way under the road.  Yesterday it was fun to watch, because every once in awhile, a chunk would break free and all the ice would groan and shift.  I kept hoping I'd see it break through all at once!

While the season is changing, we're getting everything ready at the farm before it becomes BUSY ALL THE TIME!  We're cutting down dead trees along the fence line on our pasture, building fencing on pasture, and Kris is trying to do a new payroll and a new summer schedule while he still has time to be inside.

We're dealing with other cow issues, trying to make sure they're all healthy, (sometimes the change in weather is hard for them), but so far they're doing fine.

It's just a generally good feeling in the air - all the neighbors are outside talking, everyone at the barn has time to stand outside to see each other ... even though we're all still wearing winter clothes. Well, about half of the winter clothes, anyway.

Doesn't this picture say 'spring?'  Tigers shirt, shorts, tricycle AND sled.

But soon that ice will break through.  We're ready for it!


U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance asked me to write an article about how farmers keep antibiotics out of milk, and it's generating a lot of interesting conversation.  Check out the comments on the article here: Food Dialogues.

If you want to know more about the farm, you can like my farm page on Facebook
follow @carlashelley or get the posts in your email by filling out the form on the right.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

MSU Agronomy Club

I was talking to my friend on the phone and told her I was on my way to speak to the MSU Agronomy Club.

"Agronomy?  Is that a combination of agriculture and ... astronomy?" she asked.

"Well, of course!  You know the milky way," I said.

"And the mooooooon," she laughed.  "Look at all the material I'm giving you!"

So yes, tonight I had the honor of speaking to a group of MSU students from a range of disciplines - crop and soil sciences, horticulture, agribusiness, and animal science.

When I first got there, they were talking about college student things.  One guy said he couldn't buy milk, because he kept letting it go sour.  A girl said she left cider AND milk in a fridge for a month. Another guy said that he left bread for so long that the mold was yellow.  Another guy said that he had to tell his mom that Parmesan cheese was supposed to be kept in the fridge, not the cupboard.

"Do you cut the mold off of cheese and then eat the rest of it?" I asked.

The room answered: "Of course!"
"Everyone does that!"
"Cheese is kind of like mold anyway."

I love college students.

It was fun speaking to them, and they also had good questions afterward.  I really enjoyed it - as anyone would seeing a group of smart, driven college students!

I ran into two people I knew - Taylor Truckey, who I happened to sit next to on a plane to Kansas last fall, and Matt Thelen, who I've known so long that I once taught him how to swim!

Agriculture really is a small community, in a wonderful way.  Agronomy ... the final frontier.

If you want to know more about the farm, you can like my farm page on Facebook, follow @carlashelley or get the posts in your email by filling out the form on the right.

A tour of the milking process & a first rodeo

As part of being a representative for USFRA, they invite me to write features for their site.  This month's feature is A Tour of the Milking Process.  Enjoy!

That is obviously an older picture ... no one is wearing short sleeves right now.

This past week Kris and I took the boys to visit Kris' family in Texas.  We had the chance to go to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, and it was educational and fun!  (Just as promised!)  

That's bigger in Texas.

Giant barn filled with livestock

There were a million schools on field trips there, and we did all the activities right along with them.

The show is giant!  We saw a cow being milked, sows nursing piglets, turkeys, chickens, bee hives ... along with farm machines.  Besides all of the educational parts, it is an actual show.  People were readying their animals to be shown and judged.  


Buy your feed here!

Livestock washing area


Brahman, a cattle breed.  So interesting to see!  Long ears and a hump.
Along with all that, there's a carnival, music, and the rodeo events.

During the day, they also have mutton bustin'.  (That's right!  No 'g'.)  This is an event where children of a certain weight range can mount a sheep and hold on for dear life.  

This is what was my favorite - you can just do it!  It's like going on a ride!  Sign a waiver, put on a vest and a helmet, and away you go!

Our son Ty met the weight requirements, and had a fun time doing it ...

Clearly, this is a life skill for farming.  My ancestors used to have sheep, but we never have ... if we did, they could practice this daily!

Meanwhile, back on the farm ... all is well.  We're all pretty used to the cold weather and all looking forward to the warmer weather on the horizon.  The cows are pregnant, healthy, eating well, and we're only two weeks from spring!  March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb ... that you're trying to ride.

If you want to know more about the farm, you can like my farm page on Facebook, follow @carlashelley or get the posts in your email by filling out the form on the right.