I am finishing up a story about a family in Enon Valley, Pa. The story could be a novel. It has all of the necessary elements: tragedy, love and hope. I’m not sure when it will be published, but I had to share the story behind the story. It’s why I like farm reporting. I enjoy the families behind the farms.
The Kenny family raises Jersey cattle and has begun converting from a traditional dairy operation to a grazing operation.
Here is where the love part comes in.
Bob Kenny married his wife in 1952. They married in late September and less than a week later, the couple moved from Beaver County to Lawrence County to begin their lives.
They answered an ad in the Farm and Dairy!
They packed up what they had, which was not much, and took jobs working for a dairy farmer. They worked for a salary the first year. The second year, they worked for shares.
Eventually, the couple would purchase the land, equipment and the cattle.
Bob invited me into the house to meet his wife, Alma, and I enjoyed our conversation a great deal. This couple is the true meaning of love. They shared stories of their farm and family life with me. Stories that I treasure.
Alma told me about starting out and not making a great deal of money. Bob used their last 50 cents to buy chewing tobacco.
I said to Alma, “I bet fire came out of your ears!”
She quickly responded, “It came out more than my ears that day!”
I started laughing. (The story came out as he offered me a “bite” of his stash in his front pocket. I declined.)
Then she told me how she was the milker when they were starting out. She said they didn’t have a lot of money for help, so it was up to her. She talked about going out to milk in the morning with their three children. She said she sent the oldest ones in to get ready for school while she worked to get the milking done. She would eventually realize they hadn’t returned for inspection before heading to the school bus stop. She said she stopped milking, grabbed the other child and headed back to the house where she found the two arguing. She broke up the fight, got them on the bus and back to the milking parlor she went.
Sometimes, it’s not one story that helps you write “the story,” but the stories that help you take a look at the entire family. That’s what I realized about the Kenny Farm.
As I looked around the kitchen, I realized the Jersey cattle in the pasture were more than just cows. They had been their life. The cattle made them who they are as a couple and as a family.
Jersey cattle figurines filled the China closet and the area above the stove.
The conversation drifted toward their late son, Don. He passed away suddenly in August 2010 from a heart attack. By talking to this couple, it easy to see the void left behind by the death of their son. He was an equal partner in the farm, so he was more than just their son. He was their business partner.
They told me how he would plant large gardens with potatoes and sell them.
They talked about how he would get an idea and they (like many parents) would think it was crazy, and before long he was making side money with it. This included selling large rocks he found while working fields and compost from the manure he was hauling anyway.
Alma and Bob talked about his love for his horses. When he passed, he had a team of Belgians and teams of Haflingers. The Haflingers are still part of the farm, but the Belgians have been sold.
Then they talked about his love for the cattle. How when things got tough in 2009, he was open for options in how to make that milk check stretch.
The couple looked at each other with love in their eyes, but sorrow in their hearts.
The Kennys reminded me that when you find the right love in your life, you just know it. They have survived 59 years together through good times and tragedy. It was clear from the conversation, the two consistent things were their love and Jersey cattle.