For most families, Christmas morning means children waking up early greeted by gifts left under the Christmas tree from Santa Claus. After a cup or two of their morning brew, it’s time to open presents together around the tree.
However, for farmers and families life on the farm continues on Christmas morning.
“Farm life on the holidays definitely looks different than it does for most families. The cows wouldn’t be very understanding if we took a day off, so there are still lots of jobs to be done,” said Kenda Lamb of Lamb Farms in Oakfield, Genesee County. “On holidays we just focus on taking care of the basics, to allow for as much time with family as possible. This means feeding, milking and cleaning barns still need to be taken care of.”
Kendra and her husband, Matthew, have two children Claire, 10, and Chloe, 12. While every family is different, and each have their own traditions, the Lamb family children wait until the cows are fed on Christmas morning to start opening presents together.
“It depends on the family. For our kids, they wait until their dad is home from the farm to open their gifts on Christmas morning. He usually tries to pop in around 6 a.m. to allow them to open the gifts from Santa, so that they have some things to enjoy until he gets home from the rest of the chores around breakfast time,” said Kendra. “Of course, this is each family’s preference. While my husband and I both work on the farm, I stay home with the kids on Christmas morning. We try to pass the time by starting to prepare breakfast, turning on all of the Christmas decorations, and the kids will play with those Santa gifts. Growing up in a farm family myself, my siblings and I waited impatiently while my parents were in the barn milking until we were old enough to help in the barn to make chores move along more quickly.”
Similar to the Lamb family, Meghan Hauser of Table Rock Farm in Perry, Wyoming County, celebrates Christmas after the morning chores are complete.
“On our farm, for Christmas, we hope to have everyone work a shorter shift than normal. Often, we will try to get some tasks done the day before. We just want to work on the basics on a holiday. Often team members will help each other complete their tasks,” said Hauser.
As a 35-family farm, Table Rock Farm, is filled with family members who each use their own discretion as to how they celebrate together on Christmas morning when it comes to gift giving and gift opening.
“At my house, my kids, when younger, would open their stockings and wait until I got home to open other gifts. When my kids were older, they, too, would come to the farm to help get tasks completed sooner,” said Hauser.
Lamb Farms is a large operation with many children on the farm, including employees with children. Kendra, who also grew up on the farm, considers life on the farm during the holidays to be just as normal as ever. It’s common for both the farmers and their employees to work during the holiday.
“It depends on farm size, but for our farm it takes five people per eight-hour milking shift, so we have lots of help. In addition to milking staff, there are those caring for the cows’ health, delivering babies – they love to arrive on holidays – feeding the cows and calves, etc. We try to just do the minimum work on Christmas, and our employees’ families are in the same boat, working around the farm schedule for their celebrations,” said Kendra.
Maintaining traditions takes time and effort. Lamb Farms celebrates each Christmas with a party as they enjoy great food together. Employees, and their families, enjoy a fun, joyous celebration with the Lamb Family each Christmas.
“For the animals, it’s just another day I suppose. But cows love consistency, so I think that’s a gift in itself. We also have a star on top of the farm silo that is lit during the Christmas season,” said Kendra.
It’s also important to be open to exploring new traditions. Table Rock Farm is celebrating Christmas this year by bringing in a food truck for lunch and dinner hours, so employees can have a special meal.
“It’s a special privilege to be a farmer on holidays like Christmas. Although non-farmers may enjoy having the entire day to relax, we as farmers, have important work to do, and it feels good to know we are taking care of the needs of the cows,” Hauser said. “I so appreciate that all of our team members understand their important roles, too, and want to make sure cows are cared for every day.”