Darleen Sichley of Abiqua Acres, Mann’s Guernsey Dairy near Silverton, Ore., grew up on the farm and while she enjoyed her rural childhood, she harbored doubts about whether that was where she ultimately wanted to be.
“Luckily, I had a change of heart and discovered I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else or raising my family any other way and in 2008 my husband and I joined my parents as partners in the dairy,” she said. “I’m the fourth generation on my family’s farm and a third-generation dairy farmer. We are completely family run and the four of us along with our three young boys round out our workforce.”
This upbringing gave Sichley a realistic view of what was ahead.
“My farm childhood was very hands-on so from an early age I was alongside my parents helping, driving tractor, raising calves — really everything — and learning all along the way,” she said.
“There really is no equal to this type of lifestyle, but it truly has to be a commitment to the 365 days a year involved,” Sichley said. “You can’t just take a day off or leave it at the office.”
Life on a dairy farm, she said, isn’t just a job.
“Dairy farming is truly your life,” she said. “I think that’s why most farms are kept in a family. If you weren’t raised that way it would probably seem rather crazy.”
And the work is difficult, she said.
“Hard work is everything in dairy farming,” she said. “You don’t just get to take a day off because you’re sick or tired. The cows still have to be fed and milked every day.”
The biggest struggle for Sichley as a woman in agriculture is finding balance in all her roles as farmer, mother and wife. She is married to Ben Sichley and they have three little boys. Her parents live a stone’s throw away and they help with the kids but they also work on the dairy. Sichley often has little ones in tow while performing daily farm tasks.
“I am feeling that a little extra with schools closed right now during this COVID-19 crisis,” Sichley said. “Farming, in and of itself, is a full-time job and adding distance learning on top of that has left me a little overwhelmed, but I love having my kids beside me and they learn so much every day. It’s why we chose this life and I can’t imagine raising my family anywhere else.”
You don’t choose to work 365 days a year if you don’t love what you do, she said.
“I enjoy working with family, the cows and producing a quality product that nourishes our community,” she said.
The economics, however, can be daunting.
“Maybe one day we’ll actually be paid for how hard and how many hours we work,” Sichley said. “As if we need more work to do, it has long been our dream to do our own processing and bottle and sell our milk locally.”
But, she added, there are definite advantages to being part of a co-op with the truck coming every day to pick up our milk.
“The start-up costs hold us back, but maybe someday,” she added. “In this life we love we can always dream.”