Kieth and Karen Penry
Age: 50 and 46
Most Joyous Moment:
I (Karen) can’t really say that there has been one hardest moment; farming is a hard life. A life that I ran from for many years. A life that my mother cautioned me to avoid. A life that my mother-in-law abandoned as soon as she married. A life that my husband’s grandfather tried to discourage my husband from taking on. And yet, here we are.
We have experienced death and broken machines, spoiled feed, broken fences, and oh so much more. We’ve bought animals with implied promises from customers, only to be left holding on to unsold stock when those promises are broken.
This is my story—as a wife that didn’t really want to go down this road because I knew how hard it would be and also as a wife that loves and supports her husband and believes 100% in the family farm.
Here are some truths about how hard it has been:
The truth is… My family does without before my animals do without.
The truth is… We sell our products to customers before consuming them ourselves.
The truth is… Between the ranch and teaching and homemaking, I feel like I work two full-time jobs and then some.
The truth is… We are often tired, wet, cold (or hot), dusty, dirty, and smelly.
The obvious question is, “Why do you do it?” That answer is as complicated and many faceted as the number of things that can go wrong in one day on the ranch. I do it because I love my husband. I do it because I feel like the earth is a gift from Heavenly Father and we need to manage it responsibly. I feel a responsibility to protect the earth and give back to nature. I feel like learning to live sustainably and sharing my story is my calling. I do it to preserve the family farm. I do it because it is the right thing to do.
The truth is… we are doing the best we can to be true to our beliefs while trying to stay afloat.
The truth is… We do get discouraged. There have been many times when we have thrown up our hands, ready to quit. Luckily, most times one of us is up when the other is down.
The truth is… We will never give up. We believe in what we are doing. We hold tight to our faith and to little moments of joy–like the joy I felt yesterday when I saw not one, but two herd of deer grazing on the side of the road as I was driving to work. Joy, faith, a desire to do the right thing; those are the things that sustain us. Sometimes, it is all we have. Sometimes, I pray with all my might that it is enough.
Most disappointing moment.
Our most joyous moment was buying our own, albeit small, family farm. After spending 14 years living in town and working on another property, we were finally able to buy 40 acres. There are so many times when we walk outdoors–winter, spring, summer, and fall–and breathe in the fresh air with a smile on our face. We say to each other and ourselves, “This is it. We own this. We are living our dream.” Our life is hard every single day, but we are so grateful for the opportunity to be here. We love this hard life!