Up at 3:30 am to feed and milk, clean the barn, feed again, and then do miscellaneous chores before breakfast, Vince Malnati chuckles that his wife Carol gets to sleep in almost all the way to 6:00 am. Carol then braces herself to clean the barn again, and after that they face the rest of the farm’s tasks together. The Malnatis never lack for things to do. The tractor needs repair, the fence needs mending, the field has to be plowed and the corn planted, and the cows have to be milked again at 4:00 in the afternoon. Just a day in the life, and that’s when nothing goes wrong.
Hard work understates the day-in, day-out schedule for the Malnatis. They purchased the farm more than twenty years ago and followed the path of both their parents who were dairy farmers before them. The line goes back farther to Vincent and Carol’s grandparents who were also dairy farmers before that. One generation after the other following the siren’s call of the land. And when asked if they would do it again, Vincent and Carol both say “Yes” without a second’s hesitation. Most of us would at least consider the question, but Vincent and Carol know what they love and love what they do.
The Malnatis raised three children on the farm and taught them that hard work is no excuse for ignoring your education. And along those lines, the Malnatis are educators of a sort themselves. Several times a year they invite high school and college students to the farm to show them some tricks of the trade. They share their knowledge generously, and their enthusiasm is infectious. When asked if they had any complaints, the only one they could come up with is the way milk is priced. While they are not in this to amass big profits, it is simply impossible to make ends meet when milk pays less than water. Like so many farmers, they never complain, and they buck up no matter the circumstances. But as Carol says, “You can’t ask farmers to work for nothing forever. The system just has to change.”