Cedar Grove Farms, where cows are kids

HERSEY – With names like Fudge, Poison Ivy and Pinkilicious, cows at Cedar Grove farms are treated like much more than just an animal.

Some are named by grandchildren who show the cows at the county fair. Farm owner Jerry Mitchell said some cows seem to name themselves.

“You can almost tell what to name them just by looking at them,” he said.

When he first began working on the farm in 1970, each of the 60 cows had their own name. Now, the farm has more than 400 cattle and though not all of the animals have names, it’s not uncommon for tears to be shed at their departure. They all are treated with special care from birth to adulthood.

“It’s like raising your own kid,” said Chrissy Carmichael, Mitchell’s daughter. “Seeing them born, raising them and then milking them - that’s the joy of my job. It’s hard sometimes because I get attached.”

Cedar Grove farms spans 1200 acres, rented and owned, and is operated every day by Mitchell, his wife, Lynn, Carmichael and three hired hands. Carmichael hopes to someday take ownership of the farm, which she returned to ten years ago.

She attended Michigan State University and has a degree in animal science. Her nutrition classes for dairy cattle fostered a desire to be a veterinarian, but she later decided to carry on the family business.

“Here I still get to be a vet. I get to work with people, I get to work with animals. I get the whole package,” Carmichael

said.

From feeding calves to caring for the animals as they grow, Carmichael said she learned everything she knows about farming from her grandmother, Wilma Johnson.

“I used to spend hours with her,” Carmichael said. “Part of the reason that I came back (after college) was because I just loved being out there with her and the calves.”

The farm was named Cedar Grove farms in 1942 because of the abundance of Cedar Trees in the surrounding region. Unique from other farms in the area, the family lineage of Cedar Grove farms is dominated by females.

Andrew and Christina Klumpp, Lynn Mitchell’s great-grandparents, established the farm in 1881. The farm was passed down to Fred Klumpp, Mitchell’s uncle. Wayne and Wilma Johnson, Mitchell’s parents, partnered with Fred in the late 1940s and took sole ownership after Fred’s passing in 1966. The pair had three daughters; Karen, Lynn and Kathy. Lynn married Jerry in 1971 and the two worked on the farm before taking ownership in 1988. Lynn and Jerry also had three daughters; Jennifer and Rebecca who graduated from college and sought occupations outside of farming, and Carmichael.

“There weren’t many sons,” Lynn said. “The farm went from daughter to daughter.”

Jerry said having women work on the farm is no different than having men.

“Chrissy drives tractors and feeds cattle. There are opportunities for everyone, (male and female,)” Jerry said. “You just have to like what you’re doing.”

One thing Chrissy likes about the farming business is sharing ideas with the local community of farmers.

“Each farm is different and we all feed off of one another. I have a lot of people who ask me how I raise such healthy calves,” Carmichael said.

Her secret? Time and effort.

“I spend a lot of time with my baby calves,” Carmichael said.

Much like the dry period cows must go through after they become pregnant, Carmichael will take a break from her work on the farm for a while when she has a child of her own, expected on May 28. She hopes her children will want to carry on the business and become the sixth generation on Cedar Grove Farms, but said she will follow in her parent’s footsteps and encourage her children to do what they want to do with their lives.

“If (farming) is not what they want to do, I’m not going to discourage them,” she said.

Growing up on the farm with her two sisters, Carmichael has many fond memories. Once she had her classmates over to construct the class float for the Homecoming parade, before she graduated from Reed City High School in 1998.

Hosting guests at Cedar Grove Farms is becoming more common since a quilt block was placed on the farm’s barn in 2010. Travelers following the Osceola Quilt Trail often stop by to view the quilt block, painted to look like a windmill.

Though they are attached to their work, the Mitchells occasionally take time to get away from the farm. Last fall they went to Wisconsin for a dairy expo and a year ago they traveled to Florida.

“We get away, we just don’t go every weekend,” Lynn said.

Along with working on the farm, the Mitchells attend Hersey United Methodist Church with Carmichael and her husband. Carmichael also is a 4-H group leader, on the planning team for an event for community members to tour local farms called Breakfast on the Farm, and is involved with other agricultural endeavors such as representing farming at career days and events when asked.

“We try to educate the public (about farming) as much as we can,” Carmichael said.

From getting up at 5 a.m. to milk cows and often spending nine hours on the farm on Sunday, the day they work the least, the Cedar Grove farmers agree that the life of the farmer is the life for them.

“I like walking back through the woods and seeing things grow,” Lynn said. “I’m not much for city type living.”

“I always like growing crops,” Jerry said. “Every year is different because you can’t always go on what you’ve done before.”

“A lot of people can’t comprehend this kind of work, so they don’t do it,” Carmichael said. “I get to see the sunrise and set, and those are a couple of the most beautiful things.”