Growing up on a dairy farm offers a terrific education

BRIDPORT — For many teens, life’s all about hanging out with friends, sports, getting a job and coordinating weekend festivities.
For some Addison County teens, it’s about working and helping out on the farm. Although not every person who grows up on the farm takes an interest in the field, there are those who are passionate about farming and continue the generational trend in Vermont and care for their surroundings and their future.
As a young girl, all I wanted to do was farm. I took advantage of every opportunity to work with my dad, Tim, and I would follow him in the barn with the milking, and sit next to him in the tractors while doing field work. I always had tons of questions for him about how things worked and why we did things the way we did.
The animals were always an intriguing subject and I just wanted to understand everything about them. I always wondered how they could eat grass and turn it into the delicious dairy products we eat every day. The fact that I was caring for another living, breathing thing was also weird to think about at that age but now, that’s what makes the job worthwhile.
When I got out of diapers, I started showing young calves in the PeeWee Showmanship classes at the Addison County Fair and Field Days. I always bugged my dad to help me go walk my calf.
After PeeWee classes comes showing through 4-H. 4-H involves a lot of paperwork and more time spent with the heifer. I remember sitting in the barn for hours with Cori, the first calf I showed. By the end of the summer, it was sad to see her go back into the pen where she’s supposed to be with the other cows, but the bond between a trainer and that animal stays. To this day, I go back to the barn sometimes and visit with cows I’ve showed after my daily chores of caring for the chickens and barn kittens.
When entering high school I became involved with the agricultural programs at the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center. After all the experience from the farm it was different sitting in a classroom and actually learning about everything. Common practices on the farm started to relate to many things we talked about in class and all the pieces started to come together.
As I look to college, I’m hoping to further my education in the dairy and poultry business as well learn new techniques to bring back to the farm to hopefully teach my kids someday.
In Addison County, family farms aren’t more than just a business, it’s a way of life.
Ashley Howlett is a junior at the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center and lives on Champlainside Farm in Bridport with her parents, Tim and Julie Howlett. She is a member of the Bridport Clovers 4-H Club.

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