In the farming community, it’s very common for all members of the family to work alongside each other. Not necessarily because we were such fantastic workers, but because our parents thought it valuable to teach us how to work. Both by telling us how to work, but also leading by example. Consistently investing into his farm and his family, my Dad (Rich Appel) has spent his life building a legacy he can be proud of.
“Even though there is a lot of working hours on a farm, you’re not away from your family. Your kids get to see you working and you have the opportunity to teach them how to work. You get to be the one to do that. To see your kids really learn how to work and start thriving. To see them turn the corner from not really knowing how to work and kind of just going through the motions, to where they are hammering down. Because we all hammer down on this place- hammer down and get ‘er done.”
For me, once I understood the “hammer down” mentality I would just cruise through my list in the cheese room. The faster I worked, the sooner I got to do what I wanted to do, right? It wasn’t long after I was taught to yes, ‘hammer down and get ‘er done’, but at the same time quality is important. As a result, my siblings (as well as many other farm kids) and I tend to work quickly no matter what industry we’re in, but it bugs us when a task is not done well.
“Having the cheese business, we had opportunities to have our kids do jobs where it was not dangerous, but yet they could feel they were being a part of the process. They were actually a big help. It was the kind of thing where just an extra pair of hands really helped the process, so they could be useful at a pretty early age. Then we were all working together.”
One day we will be able to convince our dad to take his retirement, something he has worked hard towards. When I asked him about it, he seemed to take comfort in the possibility of not simply selling the farm he had worked so hard to invest in.
“It’s beautiful if farming can transition into the next generation. Then you can go from the farm being a full time livelihood and job, to where it’s more of an enjoyable hobby. Also just the joy of seeing your kids benefit from all the things you have done, even benefiting from it now. Not only did you benefit, but the sacrifices you have made are benefiting your kids. That’s huge. It’s a big sense of accomplishment for me. When you invest 25-30 years into a piece of property, in our case it’s a couple generations now, you identify with that piece of property. It becomes, somewhat, a part of your identity.”
In our family, Dad is the first to have grown up on, married and raised a family on, and eventually will retire on the same farm. He has spent all but about 5 or 6 years in the exact same house and worked the same land. It just goes to show what type of “investment” he, as a farmer, has committed to! Being in it for the long haul ensures the effort a farmer invests into his land (and the animals who reside there) is as prime as he can make it.