Sometimes I tell people I grew up on a farm. This is partly true. My uncle, a cattle farmer in Kansas, had a few extra head of cattle on his farm. My family had just moved to southeastern Missouri and was living on quite a bit of acreage — something new for us.
My father is from Boston — he’s a big guy, played college football, still maintains a thick Boston accent and, of course, an affinity for clam chowder. As you can imagine, he’s not much of a farmer. But for some reason, my uncle thought it would be a good idea if we raised some of his British White beef cattle. It was quite the experiment.
We lived on that property for about four years on 27 acres. Of course, living in a rural area, my younger sister and I were both involved in 4H. She was an excellent sport — raised a steer every year, usually with a Disney-themed name, and showed him at the Cedar County fair. But, despite being on a farm, my direction with the cattle was a little different — I liked to photograph them. I guess you can see where this is going now.
I received my first digital camera for my eighth-grade graduation — a five-megapixel Canon Powershot point-and-shoot something-or-other. I thought I was so cool, taking pictures of inanimate objects in the field and posing my sisters for pictures. I won a blue ribbon at the 4H fair for a very “artistic” photo of worn flip-flops by the pool. But the cows were some of my favorite subjects.
Not that this is a revolutionary thought, but I think where you grow up, and what you surrounded yourself with, really dictates what you are drawn to, whether you know it or like it or not. And around here, agricultural stories are my favorites.
I feel at home in my cheap boots, walking through mud, the smell of the cows not disgusting me, but instead dredging up memories of my childhood. I guess that’s why I spent so much time on this Mt. Crawford Creamery story as I did — something my coworkers can probably attest to, with some annoyance at my absence.
I enjoyed spending time outdoors with Kenny and Frank and the Will family — waking up at 3 a.m. to make the 5 a.m. milking, yawning all the way, just to hang out in the barn, snap away and talk shop in the times between. I followed them around for two weeks like a little shadow, not acting as a contributing member of their farm, but just as a picture-taker — capturing memories for them and myself, just as I did as a young girl. It felt natural, and I felt at home.
I really enjoyed working on this story. It was hard to balance the happiness that I felt being there with the fact that the Wills were sort of forced into this as a last resort — that's not usually a good thing. All in all, I wish them the best of luck in their new venture and hope to get out there and get a bottle myself soon.