Catching up With a Modern Day Cow Worshipper

Earlier this summer, Jess Peters, a Northwestern Pennsylvania dairy farmer, welcomed a tour to her farm that was unlike any she had ever hosted: a group of Bhutan refugees who had once farmed back in their home country.

We caught up with Peters to ask a few questions about the experience; you can also read more about the visit in her post: A Modern Day Cow Worshipper.

You say "Never say no to a tour." Was this the most interesting tour you've ever had on your farm? Why?

I think it was definitely the most unique tour we’ve ever hosted. We’ve done all kinds of tours; we love them all. This tour just hit home a little harder I think because of what the group had been through. With milk prices the way they are, more than ever this year, before we make big decisions we’ve had to ask ourselves “Well, what if we aren’t milking cows in a year?” And that is a really scary thought. To see a group of people who had to reinvent themselves in the later stages of their lives be so positive about it was invaluable to me.

It sounds like they learned a lot from you during this visit. What did you learn from them?

This tour reminded me of how lucky I am to be able to do what I love in a place that lets me. Over the previous month I had been complaining a lot. Farming consists of long hours, low pay and hard work. And some days, the cows that I love so much don’t seem to reciprocate the way I’d like them to. But here was a group of people who were simply grateful for the opportunities they had been given. I am lucky to live in a country that protects my rights, and a place where technology is never-endingly finding ways to make my life easier.

They called you a cow worshipper. How rare is it for people to understand just how much you care for the cows on your farm?

Pretty rare, I’d say. Most of the people who come here have no idea what we do. Well, they THINK they know what we do, but by the end of the tour they realize that they didn’t have the slightest inclination to the scope and magnitude of it all. Allegheny College is just a few miles away from our farm and every year we have 3-4 different classes that come for a tour. When they come their faces always seem to say ‘I don’t want to be here’ or ‘what could I possibly learn/gain from this?’ I always say in my opening talk that over the next hour or two it’s my job to show them how much we love and care for our animals. We must do an OK job, by the time they leave we get comments like ‘I had no idea how much work this is’ or ‘I can’t believe how much you do for them’ or ‘you must really love these cows – I don’t know why anyone would do all this work, otherwise’.

They obviously come from a country quite distant from the U.S. Do you think they understood your work better than folks from big U.S. cities?

I think so. It was clear that even though we have all of these technological advancements that they didn’t, they understood how much work went into making an operation of our size work. They may not have known much about the machinery and how we do things here but they understood the need for it and why we do everything we do. A cow is a cow, whether it’s from New Zealand, the USA or Bhutan.