Cows have to be milked twice a day.
This inconvenient fact is just part of life for the typical Amish dairy farmer.
Milking is usually done at 12-hour intervals. Popular times are at around 4 or 5 in the morning and the same hours in the afternoon. It takes an hour or two, depending on the number of cows and hands. Because of the early start, afternoon naps are not uncommon.
Milking time also causes some other difficulties.
Vacations can be more difficult to take for a farmer, compared to, say, a factory worker. Cows won’t wait while you’re in Florida.
Also, cows are like kids. They like to go where they’re not supposed to be. When they get loose, perhaps by exploiting a weak spot in the fence, they must be chased.
I was obliged to assist in a couple of incidents involving trampled gardens and illicit flower-snacking. The offending bovines were promptly penned, fortunately with only minor losses inflicted on the morning glory crop.
Farmers are also subject to fluctuating prices for their milk, which have generally been low in recent years. This is one reason an increasing amount of Amish dairymen have switched to selling organic milk, a higher-margin niche market.
In some ways, organic is the perfect match for the Amish. It can be more profitable on a smaller scale. Also, the ‘Amish-made’ mystique fits well with the ideas of ‘all-natural’ and purity that the organic label suggests.
Farming has long been considered the ideal Amish occupation, however.
For a time it was just about the only Amish occupation.
Farming has been connected with Biblical ideas of working the land. Farm families tend to be bigger. Slightly more children of farmers choose the Amish faith than children of fathers with other occupations.
For all these reasons, of all Amish occupations, farming holds perhaps the most prestige, if that is the right word to use.
However, small business is rapidly overtaking farming. In many communities farmers are in the minority compared to business owners or factory workers.
The biggest irony? In areas where land prices are stratospheric, business owners are now often the only ones who can afford to purchase farmland.