Celebrating mothers who are dairy farmers is a testament to their dedication and hard work in providing nourishment not only for their families but also for their communities. These resilient women rise early and work tirelessly both on and off the farm. Their nurturing spirit extends beyond their own families to caring for the land and animals that sustain them. Mother’s Day is an opportunity to honor their efforts and unwavering commitment to their livelihoods and the dairy industry.

We talked with four dairy farmer moms and a mother-daughter duo to learn when their careers in farming began, their hobbies, motherhood, and everything in-between.

Meet mother-daughter duo Lisa and Casey Porter of Porterdale Farms

Did you grow up in a farm family as well? How long have you been part of the Porterdale Farm?

Lisa: I grew up on a farm in Erie County, New York with my mom and dad and three siblings.  We all showed calves in 4-H, played sports, and went to church and school together. We didn’t have much, but we didn’t know it because we had each other and that was enough. Greg and I got married in 1987. His childhood was quite like mine, except he had lots of family members nearby as he grew up, whereas my relatives were all out of town. After Casey was born in 1996, I stopped working off the farm and started working for Porterdale in the farm office.

Casey: My earliest memories were made right at the main farm in Adams Center. I can remember feeding my barn kitties and running out to visit my dad in the barn once school was out. Later, we moved about 5 miles away to a house with space to raise heifers and our 4-H project jerseys, which is where I spent most of my childhood.

What has it been like raising a child as a working (farming) parent?

Lisa: It was complicated until I began to work for the farm! If I could go back and do it again, I would stay home as a full-time Mom with our sons, David, and Jamie, and not work off the farm. Working for the farm after Casey was born was perfect timing and I am so blessed that it worked out that way. When Casey was little, the farm office was in my in-law’s home.  My father-in-law was partially retired by then, so I took her to work with me and Grampa would play with her while I worked! When any of the kids were sick and I couldn’t come to work, not only did my “boss” (my mother-in-law) let me have the day off, but she also asked how the kids were feeling, made us chicken soup, went the pharmacy for us or brought ginger ale and crackers if anyone had a stomach bug. I could usually stay home when the kids were sick, off from school, or to volunteer at school or go on a school field trip. If I had to work when the kids were off school, they could come with me to Gramma’s. My mother-in-law was an excellent teacher and I loved learning the ins and outs of farm books from her.  We worked together for 16 years, and I cherished every moment of it. Mom retired in 2013 and passed away in 2014. I still miss her every day.

Casey: Exhausting! And so incredibly rewarding. I’ve always been a morning person, so the early mornings have only gotten better with sleepy little smiles to wake up to.

Lisa, you mentioned that you like to bake! What’s your favorite family recipe and why?

Lisa: We have a few! First is homemade pizza. We have pizza every Friday night if it is possible. My wonderful mother-in-law started the tradition and when Greg proposed to me, it was conditional, “If we can have pizza every Friday night, will you marry me?” The next is “Toxic Chocolate Cake,” which has been a favorite and made into “Death by Chocolate,” another family birthday favorite. Last is what we call “Poor Man’s Pie,” which is a fruit cobbler.  We throw in whatever fruit is in season and bake it on the grill.  It is our go-to dessert because we always have the ingredients on hand, and it is so easy to make.

Casey, what are some of your hobbies?

Casey: I generally say my hobbies include anything cow related! We have brought a little string of jerseys to the Jefferson County Fair for as long as I can remember, and now I get to share that tradition with my own children. This past year, between my nieces and nephews and cousins, we had eight kids and calves to care for. I think I had more fun than all of them combined!

What has been your greatest adventure as a mother while being a dairy farmer?

Lisa: Surviving county fair with three kids, every year since 1998!  Lots of kids, calves, dirt, manure, sleeping bags, crock pot meals, tears, smiles, friends, lack of sleep, laundry, preparation, winning, losing, ribbons, band aids, etc. It is so much work and so much fun,. We are now doing it with our grandchildren and great nephews. We say it is like a very dirty week of summer camp for families with all our best friends.

Casey: Raising a little baby with a tween at home has been an adventure! We are so blessed to have a girl who loves her baby brother. The breadth of problems we deal with cracks me up some days, from dirty diapers to sassy girls at school, having the right stuffed cow at bedtime to the right calf for showmanship. I am learning and growing each day as we navigate these challenges together!

What is your favorite part about being a mother?

Lisa: To Love and be loved. Your baby loves you, with perfect love, just because you are there caring for them and caring about them, without judgement. In turn, we love our children because they are our children, without judgement, no matter what.  It is the perfect picture of how God loves us, and we endeavor to love Him: perfectly, and without judgement, no matter what.

Casey: My favorite part has always been seeing the start of a new life and being able to watch it mature and grow. That has easily become my favorite part of being a mother as well! Each week the kids are learning and growing so much, and I have a front row seat to it all!

What is your favorite family tradition?

Lisa: My favorite family tradition is Christmas Eve. My dear mother-in-law started the tradition of inviting our church family to our barn, a stable, on Christmas Eve after our evening church service to eat angel food cake, drink hot chocolate, and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. We don’t sing anymore, but we do have corn chowder, homemade rolls, go to church together, and meet at the barn afterward with our family and church family. Now, we are meeting in our maternity barn.  There are always calves there and sometimes a calf is born when we are there together.  My mother-in-law said that legend was that at midnight the animals speak.  We have never stayed that late though because there is always last-minute wrapping to do and chores in the morning. Every spring, we also hike to a waterfall on our farm and dunk our heads in the freezing cold water and declare that it’s not really spring for us until we do that!

Casey: My mother always made holidays extra special for us, from scavenger hunts on Valentines Day to hot dogs and hamburgers on the 4th of July with the farm employees, and Christmas Eve at the farm. It’s hard to just choose one favorite tradition! We always had something a little extra special to look forward to, and now it’s just so sweet to see her do the same for her grandchildren. We are so lucky to have her!

Lisa, tell us more about your involvement with Operation Christmas Child and the Good News Club? How did you get involved and why are those initiatives important to you?

Lisa: Operation Christmas Child is an outreach of Samaritan’s Purse. I became acquainted with it through a local friend, who is now our regional coordinator.  Over the years, our kids have been instrumental in helping shop, pack and carry boxes, and still are. Our 4-H club used to put together boxes. Now, I put together boxes with our grandkids and facilitate the collection of boxes from our church. The boxes provide children with basic school supplies, hygiene items, and a few small toys. It is amazing the difference that a shoe box of simple gifts and a message of hope and faith can make. When so little can give so much, it is a wonderful investment of our time, energy, and dollars, each of which can be in short supply on a farm at times. We make a point to share with those in more need than we are.

Good News Club is an after-school Bible club that is hosted in local elementary schools.  I started volunteering in 2005 when Casey was in 4th grade and have been participating ever since. We host multi-week sessions in the spring and fall. Now, Casey is 28, and a mom herself. Many children who come to Good News Club do not have the opportunity to go to church, Sunday school, or Vacation Bible School.  Good News Club brings that opportunity to the children at their school building where they are familiar and comfortable. Now that our children are out of school and grown, I enjoy the opportunity to get to know young children from families in our community!

Meet Elizabeth Cashell of Cashell’s Cattle Care

Did you grow up in a farm family as well? If so, where? How long have you been part of Cashell’s Cattle Care?

I grew up in Centre County, Pa. with my three siblings, just outside of State College, in a rural community where we raised show heifers and a few hogs.  My dad, Dr. Bob Cloninger, is a large animal veterinarian in the area, and used his connections and clients to allow us to house our milk cows at their facilities. I attended Penn State University, majoring in Animal Science, with a science option and dreams of conducting life-changing research to help the human population. Following PSU, I attended Washington State University, where I created a rodent mouse model that mimicked miscarriages to complete a Master of Science degree in Animal Sciences.  I realized how truly hard those roles in academia are, always fighting for funding, so I chose to join industry instead of continuing education. I worked for Genex Cooperative for five years in Ithaca, N.Y., where I managed the production laboratory to create over four million units of conventional semen annually. When I moved back to Pennsylvania, Ben had been assigned to a territory as a nutritionist in the northern tier of Pennsylvania. We grew to love the dairy industry in this region and purchased an old horse farm, where we remodeled it for heifers and began raising show heifers for the surrounding area. We both grew up showing cattle, so it seemed like a natural business plan for us. Seven years ago, we purchased a dairy that has allowed us to manage a live calf program, in conjunction with the boarded heifers. Cashell’s Cattle Care is just Ben, me, and our three kids, Brynn, Easton, and Rhett. We have some great friends and neighbors that have become family to us, that help us achieve our goals.

What is your favorite way to decompress after a long day?

Listening to our kids telling us about their plans during dinner. As of yesterday, they’re starting a roadside stand.  They’re going to sell vegetables and flowers (they love gardening and canning from the garden). The kiddos have big dreams and goals and aren’t afraid to work alongside Ben and me to accomplish them.

What do you catch yourself doing or saying that reminds you of your mom?

I catch myself sitting with one kid here and there while they eat. I always remember my mom not wanting anyone to eat alone, so as our schedules become hectic and jumbled, I try to remember to slow down and enjoy the 10 minutes while they tell you about their latest idea or what they did at school.

What is your favorite part about being a mother? 

Watching the “ah-ha!” moments.  Be it building a Lego set, or finding a hose that will properly reach the wash rack.  Being able to give the kids the tools they need to succeed is absolutely my favorite part.

We hear you have a couple soccer players in the family. What three items do you always have on hand as a soccer mom?

Snacks, blankets, and extra layers since we live in the northern tier of Pennsylvania. Brynn, and Easton both are active in sports, but you can get snow, sun, and rain, all in an hour game.  And Rhett is just along for the snacks, so you’ll be at the concession stand all day with him!

What is it like raising a child as a working (farming) parent?

It is hectic, as parenting for any parent is. But the kids ALWAYS come first. We’ve had our fair share of medical emergencies with our kids, but it has been a blessing that I “only” work on our farms. I have the flexibility to take care of the kids. Farm work can wait until the middle of the night, but the kids can’t.

You’ve told us you’re a coach for Dairy Quiz Bowl. For those of us outside the 4-H world, can you explain what that is and how you became a coach?

I was born into it, honestly.  Dr. Bob (my dad) is quite a well-known coach for the state of Pennsylvania, including teams that my siblings and I were a part of. We spent most summers traveling to the national Holstein convention as a family, something I have been able to share with my own kids now! I help kids in our county learn about the dairy industry and the Holstein cow, in preparation for the Pennsylvania Holstein Convention, held in February every year. At the convention, the kids can compete as a team of four or individually to showcase their knowledge of the industry. This year, two junior members from Bradford County will be representing Pennsylvania at the national contest in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the dairy jeopardy contest.

Meet Crystal Stambaugh Edwards of Pheasant Echos Farm

Did you grow up in a farm family as well? If so, where? How long have you been part of the Pheasant Echos Farm?

We moved to what is now Pheasant Echos when I was 13. Prior to that, we had rented neighboring farms and raised heifers for others. My dad is a first-generation dairy farmer. I knew early on that I would probably always have the desire to be involved with cows in some capacity or other. I had different jobs off the farm being a vet assistant but ultimately ended up coming back full time when I was 20. Since then, I have overseen herd management including the daily milking’s.

What is your favorite family tradition?

Probably our annual Outer Banks trip. We’ve been going since I was pregnant with Blaine. We rent a big house and invite other families along, usually being outnumbered by the children! It’s chaotic but I love it! Another would be Christmas Day milking. It’s usually all my siblings in there helping to get it done and now that my boys and nieces are grown, they chip in and help also.

You mentioned that your family loves the annual beach trip to the Outer Banks. What are your three beach day must-haves?
Three beach must-haves are have a low beach chair, cold beverages, and of course, to have a good time with good company!

What is it like raising children as a working (farming) parent?

Raising kids while being a full-time farmer isn’t always easy. There was some major mom guilt when my boys were babies. I felt like I should always have been with them, but that just wasn’t the reality. I tried the whole pack-n-play in the parlor or stroller, but found it was extremely difficult to focus and get my work done. And, my babies just weren’t happy out there. As they got older and mobile, I had an entirely different worry about their safety around equipment and animals. At 14 and 16 now though, I’m loving having them work alongside me in some other area on the farm. They both say that they would like to return to the farm after graduation. My guess would be that it wouldn’t necessarily involve the dairy but more the crop/fertilizer business. But that’s fine with me as long as they are happy!

What surprised you most about motherhood?

The most surprising thing about motherhood for me has been how much I have thoroughly enjoyed every age and stage of watching my boys grow up. You think you’ll miss the newborn, and the inquisitive toddler, but watching them grow into young men and being able to have good conversations with them has been incredible. I also have a young driver now and while that brings about a whole new set of worries, it also does my heart good to know that he’s maturing with a pretty good head on his shoulders.

The kids are away for the weekend. How would you spend your child-free time?

Kidless weekends are usually spent grabbing lunch with friends, staying a little later at the barn in the evening rather than hurrying home to get dinner out, or SLEEPING! Never enough of that in my life!

What is the greatest piece of parenting advice you’ve either received or would like to share?

As far as good parenting advice goes, I’d have to say just trust yourself to figure out the whole parenthood thing. Every single person does it differently and there really is no right or wrong way! And I promise, even on the days when it seems like maybe the kids weren’t your top priority as they should be, they’ll still love you!