by Evelyn Leubner

Growing up on my family’s dairy and crop farm crafted me into the person I am now. In high school, working on the farm led me to discover I enjoyed working instead of playing sports. The farm also showed me that I loved working with animals, so I went to college to obtain a degree in animal science. My roots will forever be buried deep on my family’s farm in central New York. That is why moving 1,000 miles away was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.

Growing up, my parents always pushed my sisters and I to spread our wings and do what we wanted to do. They made it clear that we were not tied to the farm for our whole lives.

When I went to college, I quickly discovered that most of my peers were obtaining degrees and heading straight back to the family farm. I always thought that I would love to carry on my family’s legacy, but as a 21-year-old, I am not ready to be tied down. I wanted to do something different.

At the end of my spring semester I knew it was time to start making moves. My college career was over and decisions for my future had to be made. Why not leave the state? I hate the cold and I wanted to do something out of the ordinary. I searched for internships out of state and came across one that was right up my alley: the Dairy Alliance. I would be working as a communications intern doing public relations work, social media and more – in Georgia.

I was nervous to hear my parents’ opinion. Would they think I was selfish for leaving everything behind? Foolish for coming up with such a radical idea? They didn’t think any of those thoughts. When I brought it up, they were excited for me. This was me spreading my wings. I had their full support.

Five years ago, I wouldn’t have had the courage to pick up and leave, but college taught me to do things that scare me. I packed up the U-Haul with my boyfriend, who decided to take on this adventure with me, and we headed south. It was so emotional as we pulled out of the driveway of the house where I grew up. I will forever have that morning etched in my mind. As we drove past the last of our farm fields, I had memories of learning how to drive a tractor, bringing my dad dinner in the fields and plenty of four-wheeler rides racing through my mind. The land, people and animals that taught me about life – I was leaving it all behind.

I am now two months into living in Georgia. It has been one of the biggest adjustments of my life! There are many days when I miss being able to drive home and have a conversation with my mom. With social media, I get to watch the wheat being harvested, pumpkins getting planted and the calf barn being cleaned. Who knew I would miss hauling manure out of the calf barns so much? I feel left out some days. All it takes is a call with Mom to remind me that I am doing this for myself and no one else. Every day I learn something new about myself and grow as a person. My roots at the farm and with my family are strong. On my bad days, I feel like a traitor for leaving the farm, but I have to remember I am paving my own path and living for me. The farm isn’t going anywhere. My parents have supported me through this all and constantly push me to reach for the moon. If they pressured me to stay on the farm after college, I don’t think I would have such a strong urge to come back. I would have never seen the world of farming in the South or learned what “shooting the hooch” is.

The two most prevalent things I have learned from living here are that family is the most important thing in the world, and that I find so much joy working with animals or on a farm.

I have taken a job working at a local farm because I missed the physical labor aspect of work so much. I know that in the future I want to start my own beef farm so that I can continue to be around cattle and educate consumers on production animals. I am not sure if/when I will move back to New York. Although there are many days I miss my family, I am enjoying the life that I’m creating here. I know that no matter what my family will have my back and I will always have theirs.

After sharing my story, I know that there are many others that made the decision to leave the family farm. In talking with them, I know that feeling of guilt is normal. For many others, the idea of leaving the farm doesn’t cross their mind. For those who are considering exploring what the world has to offer, do it now while you can. I know that if I didn’t do this now, I never would have. I can always find my way back home.