A Year Without Dean.

Today marks one year since our family lost my brother Dean Strauss. While our farm’s ownership and the labor force are made up of more than just the Strauss family, Dean’s passing changed so much for everyone here on the farm. I wanted to share some reflections on what the last year has been like for our farm and for me personally. 

Rick snapped this photo of the sun setting over the farm the day that Dean passed.

On the farm, everyone has their role. They often overlap some and working together was always an important part of what makes our farm work, but with Dean’s passing suddenly the jobs he did had to shift to others. Everyone had to step up and take more onto their shoulders, the day to day job duties and responsibilities changed, but our goals and purpose did not. 

Before Dean’s passing, I focused more of my attention on the cows, I am a cow guy. I often joked that I knew we grew corn, beans, wheat, and hay but that was as far as I went on the crop side. Dean did a lot of the financials, crop, and nutrient management planning and office type jobs, so in the last year, I have shifted to a more front office and people management role. Now I not only know what we grow but I can tell you what’s in each of our fields. 

I have enjoyed learning more about nutrient management planning. It was a learning curve for me to go from the sidelines where I knew the overview of the plan to now being the point person. In the last year, I took on all things related to cow manure. I have spent a lot of time learning the regulation and paperwork side of balancing the nutrient needs of our land with best practices for manure application. It’s been a shift for me but whether you’re feeding cows or feeding the soil, it’s all the same. You put in what you get out and you get out what you put in. It may not be glamorous to be the manure guy for the farm, but I wear the title well.

As anyone who has followed along here for the past few years knows, Dean was also kind of the public face of the farm. He wrote a lot of posts here on our blog and Facebook, and he served on various boards as well. So, even though I prefer being in the background, I have taken on sharing the story of our farm here with you guys. 

I am definitely not alone in the shift in responsibilities and we wouldn’t have been able to get through this last year without everyone on the farm stepping up.  My dad gave up some of his well deserved free time and took on keeping our office running and doing payroll. Pancho and Hector our herd managers stepped up to fill my role with caring for the cows. Bryan, Rick, and all the guys in the shop took on more too. All of the partners on our farm did what they could to help us get through too. I really appreciate all the extra everyone involved with the farm has done in the last year. It’s been stressful and there’s been a lot of uncertainty, but we made it through.  

Of course beyond the business side of the farm and losing an integral coworker, I lost my brother. 

Dean and I are seven years apart. I always teased him that I was the taller and better looking younger brother. With our age gap, growing up we weren’t super close but we grew up milking cows in the stanchion barn and doing chores together. That set the stage for after college when I came back to the farm, we knew we had a common dream and goal.

As I said before, we each had our own areas of the farm that matched our strengths, and that worked well for us. But when we decided to start looking into crossbreeding our cows Dean and I took several trips to California to visit dairies there that had adopted crossbreeding. The decision to crossbreed our cows was one we made together and we really enjoyed our trips to visit California together. 

The sunset over the farm this summer.

This last year has been difficult. Throughout the year I’ve told myself that if I could get this first year without Dean under our belt, I would know that I had this. So today is a day for me to look back over the last year and see how our team and our farm has continued. I can see that we’ve got this and I am proud of our team and what we have accomplished. Dean’s contribution to our farm helped build the strong foundation needed to continue and his memory will guide us into the future. 

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