Soul of Farming: Dairy Moms

by Rootstock Editor

March 8, 2020

by Rootstock Editor

"We [farm women] are the glue that holds our family and our farms together."

– Carrie O’Reilly, Organic Valley farmer

“I definitely fell in love with farming the same time I fell in love with my husband, so it’s very easy to see the romance in farming,” Carrie O’Reilly says.

Tony laughs. “There was something about that pink cowgirl hat. That’s what she was wearing the first night we met.” All the ladies were wearing pink hats that night to celebrate Carrie’s mom’s birthday at their favorite bar. The O’Reilly boys had heard there was going to be a live band and sort of crashed the party. Tony’s cousins encouraged him to ask Carrie to dance. After that dance, he was a goner.

Today, Tony and Carrie and their children, along with Tony’s brother and sister-in-law, Chris and Abbey, and their children, farm nearly 600 acres in the gently rolling hills of eastern Minnesota.

“When you’re part of a farm, you [farm women] are always needed and you’re always important,” says Carrie. “We do a little bit of everything. Farming is busy and it’s draining and exhausting. But we’re the glue that holds our family and our farms together. We make sacrifices, but raising kids on a farm is just an incredible experience, especially an organic farm.”

The O’Reilly family pose in a green pasture with cows and blue sky in the background.

Carrie and Tony O’Reilly with their four children at right, Abby and Chris O’Reilly with their two children at left, and a bovine photobomber at center. Green Acres Organic Dairy, Minnesota.

For these young O’Reilly relatives, organic is the norm. They’ve never farmed any other way because the extended O’Reilly family, who have farmed roughly 1,500 acres here since 1894, have been certified organic since 1994. The family has honored their land and their livelihood for a long, long time, and the land supports the extended family and their dairies in return. The O’Reillys have been members of Organic Valley since 1994 and were recognized with the prestigious Ray Hass Organic Pioneer Award in 2019.

The farm is paradise for the kids. “In summer they live outside,” Carrie says. “They’re all about the calves. They help out in the barn, too. They let cows in and out when we’re milking or they help scrape manure, and they all love to ride in the tractor with Tony or Chris. In many ways, they have as much of a vested interest in the farm as we do.”

And there’s nothing like having all your cousins live within spitting distance. There’s never any problem finding entertainment!