Families can vividly recall many milestones together. Maybe it’s the kid’s first days of school, the dysfunction of family gatherings, the loss of a loved one or the peace and quiet when the children grow up and move away. We have experienced all of these memories together, yet none compare to saying goodbye today on September 1, 2015.
Two years ago, Dad made one of the toughest decisions of his life to put our Gomes Holstein Dairy Inc. cattle up for sale. Since then, we have been asked the question time and time again by consumers and fellow dairy farmers alike, why? My answer is simple:
It is time.
Time to make changes for our family’s future. As all dairy farmers know, the profits and losses that come with the dairy industry are unpredictable and constantly fluctuating. More importantly, a successful dairy requires a dedicated dairy farmer who is extremely knowledgable, patient, tough and willing to work 24 hours each day, 365 days each year with as much passion in his heart as he has cows in his pasture. That dairy farmer was my dad. (and my grandfather before him and great grandfather before him!) Although he has a passion for dairy that will never die, he has also realized he has worked hard on this dairy for over 60 years. He has reflected on times when he did not sleep for days or leave our driveway for months. Surely, the good times the dairy has brought our family greatly outweight the bad, but he has decided it is now time to enjoy life in a new, less demanding way.
However, Dad did not make this decision alone. Our family and trusted employees spent a great deal of time analyzing the dairy situation. (After all, Gomes Holstein Dairy would have never been as successful as it was without ALL of our efforts working together.) My brother and I had to make a tough decision as well, as we decided we will not be taking on the dairy to continue as the next generation of dairy farmers. Our father, grandfather and great grandfather dedicated their lives to establishing quality, high producing cattle with great genetics behind them and thankfully, our family was blessed to have time to carefully choose a new owner for our cows, who we trust to take care of them and continue their successful careers as milking dairy cattle.
Once the decision was made and the buyer was chosen, nearly 600 cows and heifers, proudly branded with G2 on their hindquarters loaded up and traveled over six hours to their new home in Tipton, California at Jongsma Family Farms. My family and I even made a trip ourselves to ensure our cows would be well taken care of. During this trip, I also said farewell to two of my retired show cows who left our dairy with the herd. As expected, the Jongsma dairy is beautiful! Dad could not have chosen a better environment or nicer family to sell our cattle to.
As nice as their new home may be, strong emotions still flood our family’s farm. Generations of Gomes dairy farmers have loved and cared for these cows as much as they did their own children. We learned to share Dad’s time with over 500 other living beings who depended on his gentle care as much as we did. Likewise, letting go of them is as hard as letting go of children and siblings of our own. It is a chaotic mix of excitement, heart break, joy, fear, wonder and curiosity as we look to the future.
Today is the end of a generational tradition, but the start of a new one. We may not bond over branding or milking cattle anymore, but we will spend time in the orchards and fields irrigating and harvesting instead. We are blessed to live in a place where generations of dairy farmers can take a risk to diversify and cultivate something new after nearly 100 years of producing the finest dairy products. With this change will come learning, discovering, growing ….and of course uncertainty and a few guaranteed failures along the way. But several things are for certain: our crops will continue to be harvested each year, our dairy will forever be in our greatest memories, our passion will always be in our hearts, and we will forever be a proud farming family.
Change is a process and there is joy in the journey.
Then and now…