Andee Hammen appreciates the allure of the traditional college spring break as much as any 21-year-old, with the beaches, parties, and coastal sunsets. But this year, the Iowa State senior traded all that for the smell of a manure-laden feedlot and the company of pregnant cows. As many of her classmates headed south, she drove to her parents' farm in west central Iowa to help with the annual event known as calving season.
"As I get closer to graduation, the farm and its legacy grow more important," Andee said. Maybe it's in her blood. Andee's father has farmed all his life, and her mother usually comes home from her day job and changes into choring clothes. With 1000 acres of grain and 150 cows, the farm would be called moderate-sized nowadays, but like most operations, the work never stops.
Andee has never been reluctant to get in the mix of it all. She loves seeing the new-born calves prance about on shaky legs, but she knows the harsh realities that come with cattle raising. "Sometimes things don’t work out. I remember some years ago when we helped pull a calf, and things were so bad the vet finally came. The cow and calf both died. It's an awful feeling when you've done all you can, but it just doesn't help."
Most folks would be trying to get away from the hard work and risky business of farming, but Andee knows it will be a big part of her future. "I guess it started early for me. 4-H and FFA were the keys. I enjoyed working with cattle, meeting good people, and performing at shows. I loved those few minutes in the ring when it's up to you and the animal to perform."
Andee switched to showing sheep during her high school years. "They don't deserve the 'stupid' label some people put on them. Lambs have cool personalities, and they're fun to watch."
Andee helps administer social media at the CAST organization, and she will graduate in December with a degree in ag communications. Whether she works with agribusiness or ends up rubbing elbows with cattle and sheep, one thing is for sure: it only takes a minute for Andee to communicate her deeply ingrained love of livestock agriculture.
by dan gogerty