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Down on the Farm

Say Cheese: Special Edition

May 2024

by Laura Emery, Staff Writer

Double the Fun on the Farm

  • Photos Courtesy Julia Showalter

It’s double the dirty fingers, double the curious questions, double the trouble — double the hugs and kisses, and definitely double the love.

Uriah and Isaiah are 4-year-old twin brothers from Rockingham County, Va., who have boundless energy with which to explore the world around them. The twins enjoy life on the farm together: riding bikes, feeding calves, helping in the garden, riding on the tractor with their Papa, picking flowers and more.

They also share a younger brother, Gideon, who is just a little over a year old. “Gideon spends his days trying to keep up with his big brothers,” their mother, Julia Showalter, says. The three boys love playing with the family’s two gentle German shepherd dogs, Kalillah and Dora.

Sherman and Julia are members of Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative and have a farm 10 miles west of Harrisonburg. “We have dairy cows and poultry houses,” Julia says. “We appreciate the speedy work the co-op does restoring electricity when we have outages.”

Memories of Life on a Farm

  • Photo Courtesy Cindy Steedman
  • Photo Courtesy Cindy Steedman

For Cindy Steedman of Cordova, Md., her three chickens — Amelia, Betty and Dorothy — not only provide eggs and entertainment — they evoke fond memories of her childhood. Steedman is a member of Choptank Electric Cooperative.

“I miss those days,” she says, wistfully. Steedman grew up on a 250-acre dairy farm along with her four brothers and three sisters. “There was always work to do, including milking cows twice a day, getting up hay and straw, helping my dad harvest the crops, helping my mom in her huge vegetable garden (planting, picking, canning and freezing), gathering eggs from chickens, and much more. We never ran out of things to do,” she says.

To this day, Steedman says the smell of freshly plowed earth, newly cut hay and silage bring back fond memories of her childhood on the farm. “Growing up on a farm taught me responsibility, respect, resilience and independence,” she explains.

Steedman smiles each day as she watches her chickens, who she fondly refers to as “the girls.”

She says, “Having a few chickens brings back those fun-filled memories!”

Wild Boy, Wild Cow

Photo Courtesy Bradlee Blosser

He calls the little game he plays with her “wild cow.”

Walker, a 5-year-old boy with a penchant for playfulness, will take off running and Peach will come bounding after him. Peach is a calf on the family farm that Walker is responsible for feeding and raising.

It’s all part of the joy of living on a 40-acre farm, a place where unexpected friendships can blossom. Walker and his parents, Bradlee and B.L. Blosser, call the Elkton, Va., farm home. “We purchased my husband’s family farm right before Walker was born, and we are happy to raise our son there,” says Bradlee.

The Blossers run a small beef operation with approximately 20-30 cows, depending on the time of year. They also run a fencing business “on the side,” so the family stays very busy — but never too busy to enjoy the great outdoors. Walker loves interacting with the cows on the farm and working alongside his parents, as well as fishing, swimming, and playing with the family dog, Harley.

“I am grateful to raise him on a farm where there are endless things to keep him busy. We are able to show him that hard work yields reward. He is able to experience the full circle of life — which, at times, can lead to some hard little talks. We hope he is instilled with responsibility, respect for the land, and an understanding of the importance of a strong work ethic,” she explains.

Between Horse and Human

Photo Courtesy Krista Puckett

Something magical happens when a child falls in love with a horse. For Ashlyn, that special connection happened last year at a nearby farm in Burrowsville, Va. Her father, Brent Puckett, describes the memorable encounter: “Ashlyn loves watching all of the Spirit movies, so it was really a magical moment for her to get to meet and befriend a real horse like Autumn.” Ashlyn’s mother, Krista, captured the moment on camera.

“I like how Autumn’s nose tickles my hand when I am feeding her her favorite snack …  peppermints,” Ashlyn, 6, says. She also loves Autumn’s coloring. “I just love her brown hair. It looks so pretty on her.”

The Pucketts live in Prince George County and are members of Prince George Electric Cooperative. “We don’t live on a farm of our own, but we’re in a rural area on about nine acres that includes a pond that attracts plenty of wildlife,” says Brent.

Ashlyn enjoys playing outside with her 2-year-old brother Daxton, fishing in the pond, spotting turtles and frogs, and eating snacks on evening paddle boat rides.

A carefree, happy first grader, Ashlyn loves and appreciates animals on a deeper level. “While she certainly likes dressing up like all her favorite Disney princesses, she absolutely has a fascination for all the discoveries she is able to make outdoors. She will say, ‘I just love learning about all of God’s creation,’” her father says.

Ashlyn enjoyed playing soccer last fall and is looking forward to starting the spring season on her local soccer team. Ashlyn loves reading and spelling. “She also loves going with her mom to the kids painting class at Creative Friends Art Center in Hopewell,” Brent notes.

Pony Up the Kisses
  • Libbie Smith (Photos Courtesy of Dedee Waldrop)
  • Harry (left) and Wade Smith

Libbie, 8, is a country girl at heart.

She’s very affectionate with the animals on her family’s farm in Beaverdam, Va. They’ve become like family members to her.

Dedee and Denny Waldrop, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative members, read Cooperative Living and regularly submit photos of their beautiful grandchildren to the Say Cheese column.

“We have a 129-acre farm, and both of our daughters, Kelly and Blair, have built on the farm. They have 10-acres each. Our daughter, Blair Moore, has three kids — Harry, Wade and Libbie,” Dedee explains. “It’s nice to have our family very close by.”

As for her grandchildren, she says they are thriving being close to family and enjoying the “simpler” lifestyle of farm life. “They’re definitely country kids,” she says, with a laugh. “They have dogs, a new cow named Geraldine, five or six horses, and lots of chickens.”

Blair Moore, the kids’ mother, says Wade and Libbie love interacting with the chickens and horses on the farm. Wade, 5, in particular, loves to work in the garden planting and picking vegetables.

For 12-year-old Harry, the farm is a place of healing. At 9 years old, he was diagnosed with leukemia. “Harry is finishing up chemotherapy,” Dedee says. It’s been a difficult journey for the entire family over the last three years as Harry has dealt with health issues, but Dedee believes that the farm has been a source of comfort for her grandson.

Harry is happiest when he’s on his four-wheeler or helping out around the farm. Harry voluntarily bushhogs the fields for the neighbors because he loves giving back to the community — a community that has rallied around him and his family during difficult times.

“We’re very proud of all our grandchildren,” Dedee says. “And love seeing them enjoy living on a farm.”

The Little Showman that Could

Harper Powell (Photo Courtesy Crystal Powell)

It was her first time showing, and Harper was nervous. She knew all eyes would be on her and Thunder. Thunder, a Vanderhyde Dairy calf, was ready to go; her white spots bright and clean, tail brushed and fluffy, and nose perfectly pink with black speckles.

Showing a calf in a dairy show — like the one at the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex last April — isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s not like walking a dog. It requires trust between the one leading and the animal being led.

With her parents, Kevin and Crystal Powell of Pittsylvania County, proudly watching from the side, Harper and Thunder entered the show ring. “She was nervous to show Thunder almost right up until the show, and I think Thunder knew she was nervous. But with her 13-year-old brother, Caden, walking beside her in the ring for support, you would have thought that Harper and Thunder had been doing this forever!” Crystal explains. “All that she has learned, she has learned from her very patient big brother.”

A first grader at Heritage Academy, Harper and her family have three cats, a dog and 17 chickens.

For the Love of Animals

  • Lainey Ulmer (Photos Courtesy Tabitha Ulmer)

Lainey, an 18-month-old with a ton of energy, is suddenly still. She gently cradles a warm, fluffy young chick in her hands.

Her parents, Keith and Tabitha Ulmer of McDowell, Va., are not surprised that their daughter is smitten with the chick. “She eagerly runs to the brooder to scoop one up. ‘Awe’, she says, as she gives each one a hug. She would spend her entire day with them if she could,” Tabitha says.

The Ulmers hatch chicks every spring as a fundraiser for the Highland County FFA Chapter. “Many lessons come from hatching chicks … as Lainey gets to see the full production, from collecting eggs in the hen house, watching the eggs hatch, and feeding them as they grow into hens,” Tabitha explains.

Lainey is a lover of animals, big and small. “Whether it’s cuddling with lambs, tending to chickens, riding horses, caring for cattle, or playing fetch with her dogs, she’s always surrounded by her furry and feathery friends. Her love for critters knows no bounds,” her mother says.

Keith and Tabitha own and operate Ulmer Livestock Services and Broken Arrow Livestock. The Ulmers are proud to be members of BARC Electric Cooperative. Tabitha says, “BARC is a cooperative that prioritizes community involvement and supports local initiatives.”

Joy Underfoot

Photo Courtesy Kegan Morgan

“They are a sight to behold in the first few weeks of life,” says Kegan Morgan of Little Gems Farmstead, a 21-acre property tucked away in the Shenandoah Valley.

On this farm, piglets are aplenty. “They are so tiny, full of energy, and abounding in the newness of life,” the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative member explains.

There’s a lot to appreciate about life on a farm, especially in the stillness of dawn and dusk. “Life unfolds before you if you take the time to be present, patient and watchful,” she says.

Morgan says she’s raised a variety of livestock in the past: cows, sheep, goats, chickens and ducks. “We even had a huge garden,” she says. “This year we are at our smallest, only keeping what’s efficiently managed in our current location: heritage breed hogs.”

Morgan says she enjoys being a member of REC. “We are always grateful for REC and the work they do in rural areas to keep the power on during challenging weather conditions. We couldn’t keep our hogs secure on electric fencing without the dependability of the co-op when the going gets rough.”