At the beginning of a new year, it’s always interesting to look back and catalog how much you forgot from the last one. We’re heading into our 15th year of farming, our 20th year of marriage, and the 144th year of our farm and home. What does that mean?

Wardin carla
Carla Wardin and her husband, Kris, farm in St. Johns, Michigan, where they’re also raising three...

Well, it means we’re not doing home improvement as much as just trying to hold the house together until the next person lives in it. We’ve made changes every year on the farm, right after saying, “It’ll be nice to just have things the same.” And of course, we’ve been married two decades, so we have the long-married power of knowing what each other is thinking just by facial expressions. Happy? Sad? Bewildered by our children? Yes to all. Let’s see where last year has taken us.


Ah, so excited to start a new year! The kids were in school (sometimes), and my husband, Kris, and I celebrated our anniversary by going south. That’s the exact time one of our faithful tractors – here from the time my dad farmed – decided to burst into flame. Our team members, my parents, our kids and, of course, the fire department enjoyed the new beginning.

On a happy note, we won a national milk quality award, so that tractor did not die in vain.


We added 136 freestalls to our barn because builders love working in the freezing cold. We also put in a new feeder and a new driveway because one project always leads to another. Like most winters, it was cold, but this one seemed colder than normal. The cows didn’t seem to care.



It got muddy. Like it does every March.


One April day, I wanted to note – there is just continual activity here. Milk truck, feed truck, electricians, builders, vets, salesmen, plus all our regular team members. There is always someone coming and going. It’s a beehive of activity and people and vehicles. It’s important to wear the correct attire when greeting new people on the farm. Great news – anything works, especially boots. See March.

I decided this was the perfect time to start a full-time job. It’s great, but sometimes I think about all that time I used to have when my kids were babies, when the only thing on the schedule was meals, naps, walks and going to the library.


Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Tarpley came to our dairy farm for a tour that was streamed to 3,700 students by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. It was so cool to be presenting to so many people at once. You could call it the Olympics of Farm Tours.


Our oldest sons started their off-farm job (but they will always work here), so Kris taught our 10-year-old to drive the tractor to mow pastures. Our older two didn’t start driving until 12, but that’s what happens with the youngest … any driver will do.


I took this month very seriously, as it is National Ice Cream month, so I ate ice cream every single day. This is barely different from most months, but it gave me a great excuse.


We found out we have the best friends and neighbors ever. If you just ask them to come over and put tire sidewalls on a giant pile of harvested feed, they will. It’s really incredible, as they think it is “fun” and they “like helping” and even though I feel like Tom Sawyer … I think they mean it. Please note – we do feed and water them.


We finished the corn harvest. There’s nothing more satisfying than waiting for the corn to pop out of the ground, watching it grow, praying for rain and then harvesting an awesome crop. This one was our best ever. I tried to popularize different sayings instead of “Knee-high by the fourth of July” like “Thanks to the rain, it’s over my brain.” It didn’t catch on.


In the fall, farming on Saturdays takes a backseat to Michigan State Spartan football. Just like our corn, the Spartans had a great season. Yes, the cows are still fed, milked and cared for as always, but go green!


There’s nothing better than getting together to give thanks for the year, except when you have three Thanksgiving dinners to go to and therefore three times the food. Also, we represent Team Chocolate Milk by running many races during the year, including the Turkey Trot, which helps offset the continual eating.


At the end of every year, as I lovingly force my family to go through the exercise of reliving the year and writing goals for the new one, we are like most farmers – we’re so glad we chose this business, we feel fortunate to be able to take care of the animals and land, and we’re so thankful for all of the people who help us do it. Cheers with milk for another healthy, productive and fantastic year.