A Personal Narrative from Carilynn Coombs

Published in The Farmer’s Pride  March 15, 2018

The day a piece of paper changed my family’s life – When I was little I had dreams of becoming a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, and eventually the president of the United States. In those dreams I would marry a rich dairy farmer, have 12 children, and while we would work hard we would never want for our needs.
In 2010 I became a teacher; I teach consumers about agriculture and share the message of my dairy and other farmers across the state. In 2014, I married my farmer, and what we lacked in finances we made up in love for each other. Cliché, but very true.
My husband is a third generation dairy farmer. He is a man who has more work ethic than 75 percent of the rest of the population. In 2015, I became a mom and a doctor; a doctor of boo-boos, that is. And in 2017, I became the president of our newly built house.
You could say I have achieved everything I have ever dreamed of, except the 12 kids. I may have been a bit overzealous as a little kid. Yet, little did I know, everything I had ever dreamed of was about to be endangered.
On March 2 we received a devastating piece of mail. It stated that the producer agreement between our farm and Dean Food’s would be terminated effective May 31.
I cried. No, let’s be real, I bawled. I was driving so it was easy to let the tears flow. In that moment, I pictured my life without Holstein cows in my front yard, I pictured my boys asking where their cows were going on the day we sold them all, and finally I pictured my husband bawling because his dream was gone forever.
You see, the only thing my husband has ever dreamed of doing in life is to milk cows. Even when his wonderful parents told him to get a job off the farm in high school, he found another local dairy and milked cows for them. He went off to college to get an animal science degree, to then come back home and milk cows. He grew up with dairying (as did I); his father did it, and most important his grandpa, Creed, did it.
Dairy farming is a way of life for us; we live and breathe this farm. We have missed countless birthdays, weddings, date nights, and family gatherings for our cows, yet, we would never trade our life for something different or easier.
The thought that my husband’s dreams are being shattered breaks my heart. The thought of not raising our boys on the farm destroys me. I am terrified that everything several generations of our family has worked for could be ripped from our fingertips. This thought is more than I can bare; it is more than any person should have to bare. I have cried more in the last week about this situation than I have since my grandfather died in 2007.
Many people have asked me why Dean’s chose to drop us, especially my father’s side of the family who grew up in an urban area. I have a hard time with that question because it isn’t one individual thing that has done this.
Many people are calling for a boycott of Walmart and Dean’s and I can’t believe that would make anything better because they are only a piece of the puzzle.
The economic side of the dairy industry is very complex and to be honest, I wish I understood it more. Our pricing system, set by the federal government, is a complex series of equations based on various factors from commodity prices to supply/demand. It only takes a one percent change in supply/demand to cause a massive change in the market price, and our market is very sensitive.
Are you confused yet? Yeah, me too.
The only thing I truly understand about dairy economics is that when there is too much supply the way to balance it out is to increase demand. I have had so many people ask me how they can help and what brand they can buy in order to make a difference. If you are looking for a way to help, consume dairy products. Every day consume milk, chocolate milk, cheese, ice cream, sour cream, or yogurt. To me, it doesn’t matter which brand you choose, consuming dairy products period will help us all.
By Carilynn Coombs
Field Reporter