The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Natalie Schmitt: Thinking Out Loud: "Making It To Expo"


It amazes me how things work out, if you just give it time to all come together. This story happened the first of October 2014. The deadline to purchase tickets for the National Dairy Shrine banquet was fast approaching. Michael and Katie were being recognized for earning scholarships. Our dear friend, Russell Wirt, was being honored with the Pioneer Award. It was a banquet we wanted to be at, but it looked like World Dairy Expo and corn silage harvest were heading for a collision.

Then it happened. Right out of the blue, a freaky frost hit our fields. The neighbor on the hill still had fresh green corn stalks. Our fields were tinged with dead brown leaves on top and grass green leaves on the bottom. The coop was having a dry down meeting the next day. Mark and Al took stalks in for testing. The results were 63, 65 and 68% moisture. The field man looked at the guys and asked what they were doing there? They should be home chopping!

All of the sudden it was crunch time. The daily chore list was extended to include climbing silos, lifting silo unloaders, hooking up blowers, changing heads on the chopper, greasing boxes and checking tires for air pressure. This all had to be done before we could even begin to drive into the fields.

Mark does all of our chopping. He enjoys the job, but it really bugs him to drive over corn just to open a field. You work so hard to raise a good crop and then to just knock it down seems like such a waste. Fortunately a neighbor family just bought a big rotary chopper. It seems very few people in our area were hit by the freaky frost and they were available to come over and open up our fields. With his chopper, Larry could drive where ever he wanted, regardless of how the rows were planted. The head on his chopper also chopped twice as many rows as Markís chopper. We really had to run to keep up with him. Unfortunately, even new equipment can break down. The breaks gave us a chance to sneak a few chores in between loads. Nothing like multi-tasking.

Luckily the corn wasnít drying down too quickly. We had to keep moving, but it wasnít a race against time. The lack of permanent help was accentuated as we plugged away doing the daily chores and the added harvest routine. Darren and Dan helped out when they were available. Jonathon even snuck in a trip home to lend an extra hand. Their help sure took some of the pressure off of us trying to do everything but we are going to have to make some changes in the near future.

Of course, when youíre busy, why not add something else to do. During all of this rush, we needed to get the barn washed. The classifier is due to be at our farm this weekend and the barn needed a good fall cleaning. The fly specks and mud splatters had added an unwanted color on the white walls. Just as we finished up with the corn silage, the kids made it home to help wash the barn, clean sheds and haul manure. It is amazing what can get done with some extra and experienced help around. I was even able to fit in some canning.

Things were starting to look good to make the trip to Madison, but it wasnít a done deal yet. We still had to find help to fill in for us while we were gone. Darren was able to block off those dates for us. Austin adjusted his class schedule to come home early. I filled the van up with gas and packed our bags. We were finally ready to make our run east. Of course we didnít know we were going until Wednesday night. We left after morning chores the next day, just in time to make it to the banquet.

I love going to Expo. I wonder who Iíll run into in the barns or at the exhibit hall. I am always amazed at how big the event is, yet how comfortable it feels seeing neighbors and friends all over the place. We traveled over 400 miles and ran into at least a dozen dairy farmers from Benton County! We generally donít see each other unless weíre at the annual DHIA banquet or county fair. I think we also ran into enough MN Holstein members to have a quorum for a business meeting. I was waiting for the coliseum organist to start playing ďItís a Small World After AllĒ in a polka beat during the shows as the theme for the day.

Besides running into old friends, we also met new ones. A high school sophomore won a trip to Expo for a video he made about his interest in dairying. This was Ryanís first trip to Expo and he didnít know where to look next. Everywhere he looked there was something new to learn and discover. I think he probably learned or was exposed to more opportunities in four days at Expo than he could learn in the classroom this semester. The most amazing thing to him was how the fitters prepped the cows for the show ring. I reminded him the fitter just puts the finishing touches on the animal. The farmers and herd managers have been getting the cows show ready every day for the past year.

Ryanís trip to Expo has him excited about his dairy project. He knows he needs to work on his clipping skills to be ready for next show season. As soon as he mentioned clipping, a light bulb went off in my head. We could use some help getting cattle ready for classifying and an FFA judging workout. He needs to practice. I think we might have a good match on our hands here. It is amazing how things can work out.


As their 4 children pursue dairy careers off the farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their Minnesota farm. (Natalie grew up in Stronghurst, the daughter of Becky and the late Larry Dowell.)