Lessons from a Farm Girl in an IT WorldBy: Pam Koehler-Zastrow
I was raised in a barn, and I mean this literally. My father was a dairy farmer, and I spent my younger years in a playpen set up in the middle of the barn. My parents and older siblings would tend and milk the cows while I snoozed away amongst the noise. To this day I cannot sleep in a silent room.
As I grew older, I took on responsibilities like feeding calves, milking cows, cleaning equipment and keeping tabs on the multitude of barn kitties. I had a unique life compared to my schoolmates and for the longest time, I resented being different than “the townies” I hung around with. Little did I know that my childhood chores would help me make life choices in my adult life. Here are a few lessons from the farm that guide me today:
Be with people who are willing to get dirty. Growing up, my siblings and I couldn’t go hang with our friends until our chores were done. The best friends were the ones who came over and helped us get through the work together. These are people I respect and admire today. The lesson — If a person is not willing to get a little dirt on them, they are not going to go the distance with you.
You may need to cause some pain for the right result. To give total care for animals is called husbandry. Unfortunately, there were moments when the right thing for the animal was going to cause pain in the process. One time a cow got her leg caught in a gate and the only way to get her out was to re-pinch the leg. If a cow stays immobile for too long, it will lose circulation and cause damage to the limbs. It took a few minutes for me to get the courage to just pinch the leg back through, but it was a swift moment in time. The cow was not happy with me, but we mended the leg and she was back to the pasture.
Let the team do their job. When I was 8, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Because of his treatments, he was not able to milk the cows for a few weeks. However, this did not keep him out of the barn. He would set up a hay bale in the middle of the barn aisle and watch us kids do the work. We were expecting a lecture, but he quietly sat and let us do our job.
As I work with the staff at IGEN, I can say they are a group of people who remind me of my roots back on the farm. They’re tough and happy to help. I’m glad to have them on my team, and even if we run into a few bumps, they are willing to get into the dirt too.