Lisbon, New York
Allison Akins is a junior at SUNY Cortland, majoring in mathematics. The school is about a three hour drive from Five Mile Farm, where she was raised in Lisbon, NY. The farm has been home to the Akins Family for more than 160 years. Its 1,200 acres of fertile fields lie just south of the St. Lawrence River.
Growing up, Allison worked alongside her grandparents, father, brother and the farm’s employees, tending to 600 plus Holsteins and all of the chores associated with maintaining a farm.
The Akins are raising the 7th gen of dairy farmers at Five Mile Farm. That’s #farmlove http://ow.ly/LFI9h on the @cabotcheese blog!
It’s certainly been a change for Allison to be away from the farm attending school, but she does her best to keep up with what’s happening back home. She often calls on her 10 minute walk to and from class and her family also sends pictures of what’s happening on the farm.
This week Allison took a little time away from her midterms to answer our Farmer Friday questions. Thanks, Allison!
Has being away at college changed your sleep pattern?
Growing up on a farm, I had to do chores before school. It is an understatement to say I sleep more at college than at home. 8 a.m. classes are a breeze compared to 5 a.m. calf feedings! In all honesty, I still struggle getting up for the 8 a.m. classes, so this semester is great because my earliest class is at 11 a.m. My father always jokes about me “getting soft” while away at school. But what can I say, I like my beauty sleep!
Ever visit local farms?
Although I haven’t visited any farms in Cortland, I do enjoy meeting other young farmers at school. It’s funny, when I wear my farm jacket, or a Cabot shirt, it seems every student with a farm background will approach me. We end up talking about our mutual love for our farms. Many of the students here grew up in cities, and have absolutely no idea about farming. Several of my college friends have come home to visit our farm to learn more about it. I take pride in how I grew up and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Do you still help out when you’re home on vacations?
When I am home on breaks, or if I come home for a weekend, I always try to pitch in where I can. Helping out gives my father some time off, which I know my mother enjoys! I work full-time on both the summer and winter vacations. During these major breaks, I usually manage the calves and maternity cows.
What do you miss most about the farm?
I miss the calves and how innocent and carefree they are. Nothing makes me smile more than watching the calves jumping, and enjoying themselves. I also miss my family! Between my mother’s cooking, my father’s early-morning jokes, and hanging out with my extended family – there’s a lot to miss! It’s hard to explain the pride I take in working with my family, and being an integral part of our successful farm.
What do you miss the least?
Trust me, I do not, I repeat DO NOT, miss the 5 a.m. alarms. Even though I have been getting up early for a long time, I am still not a morning person. I also don’t miss the days when we work over 12 hours in the fields. Those are the days my butt goes numb from sitting on the tractor seat too long.
Is there an aspect of dairy farming that has helped prepare you for college?
I grew up working hard, and trusting myself to make decisions. On the farm, there isn’t always someone telling you exactly what to do. You have to make a choice and deal with the consequences, both the good and the bad ones. I’ve learned the more effort you put into a job the first time, the less likely the chance of you being sent back to fix it. Having to work while I was in high school, and being actively involved in clubs and sports, has taught me great time-management skills. But the most important thing about growing up on a farm, working side by side with my family, is the fact that I know I have a wonderful support system behind me.
Do you see dairy farming being part of your future?
One of the most frequent asked question that I get is, “Are you going to return to the farm when you graduate?” In all honestly I do not know. There are pros and cons to choosing to go back to the farm, or getting a job somewhere else.
Ideally, on graduation day, I will see the light and know exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life. I have thoroughly enjoyed growing up on a farm. The values and lessons learned about life through the farm are irreplaceable. What I do know is my family will support me in whatever I decide to do. Actually, my family is encouraging me to get out and try something different, to get a broader understanding of the world. They have taught me to not live with regrets, and take chances. I enjoy working with people, and I have a serious case of the travel bug. So for now, I’m going to enjoy the last year I have of college, and see where life takes me. But of course, a piece of my heart will always stay with Five Mile Farm, no matter where I end up.