Lesa Clark and Ellie Waggoner are co-owners of LeCows Dairy Farm in Kentucky. They have become best friends working side by side each day, making business decisions and tending to their cows and crops.
They also are mother (Lesa) and daughter (Ellie).
“The fact that we own this farm in a mostly male-oriented industry is rare,” Lesa said. “In fact, I’m not aware of any other mothers and daughters doing this.”
Lesa’s father founded the dairy in 1964, and both women proudly carry on his tradition.
“My dad worked so hard to get us to where we are today and he is a success story,” Lesa said. “He was a self-made man. He showed that if you work hard, it pays off.”
Lesa did farm chores as a kid before earning a degree in business administration (BBA) from the University of Kentucky in 1982. But there never was any doubt about her post-college career path.
“This farm is the only thing I’ve ever done,” she said.
Ellie also earned a BBA from Kentucky, but she wasn’t as sold on the idea of a farm career.
“What 22-year-old wants to get up at 2:30 every morning to milk cows?” she said.
After a stint in the corporate world, Ellie longed for the farm life, much to the delight of Lesa.
“Working with my mom was a huge draw to come back,” Ellie said. “To get to work with my parents and grandparents every day, where else can you do that?”
Each day, Ellie oversees the cows’ needs and their milking. Lesa is in charge of the crops that feed the cows. Lesa’s husband Dan is an engineer by trade but has become more involved with the farm recently. Ellie’s husband Dustin is an independent trucker and pitches in as a weekend jack-of-all-trades.
And it won’t be long before Ellie’s 1-year-old daughter Sadie – the fourth generation living at the farm – will be working side-by-side with her mother and grandmother.
“Sadie is our future farmer,” Lesa said. “She will grow up farming. After college, we pray she returns.”
Working as a family farm has not come without its challenges. Lesa has had knee replacements in each leg, and last year’s drought devastated their crops. They’ve watched dairy farms in their county go out of business to the point where they are the last one standing.
But the biggest blow came two years ago when Lesa’s father passed away at 83. He is one of Lesa’s inspirations for being active with Facebook and Twitter, where she shares the story of her farm and the industry.
“People are removed from dairy farming and agriculture in general,” she said. “I hear so many myths about milk that I try to debunk. I want people to know where their glass of milk came from. We are a family farm and we take care of our cows regardless of how badly we may feel or how hot it is or how cold it is. We love our cows.”