BIRNAMWOOD — Vicky Beran understands stewardship. She shows the meaning of God’s message — “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pt 4:10) — on a daily basis through her care of her family, their dairy farm and her parish, St. Philomena.
“I love farm life. You work so closely and spend so much time with your family that there is an incredible closeness,” she said. “You take care of the land and the animals that you are so blessed to have.”
Beran grew up on a farm between Aniwa and Mattoon and didn’t stray far after meeting her husband, Alan. High school sweethearts at Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School, they were married in 1984.
The couple purchased their farm from his parents in 1994, expanding it over the years from 50 milk cows to 120 today, plus 100 head of young stock.
They also improved facilities, adding a free stall barn and machine shop that in 2015 hosted over 2,500 people for the Shawano County Breakfast on the Farm, a June Dairy Month tradition.
“We’ve been involved in the dairy breakfast every year since and are glad to help others,” she said. “It’s not the kind of event that can be handled by one or two people. You need a lot of volunteers.”
Their farm is a family operation, involving their two sons, Alan and Jeremy, daughter-in-law Stacy, and nephews Adam and Noah.
“As a parent you are always guiding your children,” she said. “You see what they are good at and what they enjoy, and that is what you push them towards.”
Son Jason enjoys driving and maintaining equipment, she said, and Jeremy enjoys maintaining and cleaning equipment. “They all make a great team,” she said.
There are also regular visits by grandchildren Ava and Clay.
“They love feeding the calves and playing with the kittens and dog,” Beran said. “They also like being around the cows and watching the milking process and learning something new every day.”
Beran has a nearly around-the-clock lifestyle. She starts her day at 4:30 a.m. and spends the early morning hours alongside her husband milking cows and washing and cleaning equipment. She then tends to the 20-plus calves, bottle or pail feeding them, before returning to her kitchen and making breakfast. Animals always come first on a dairy farm, she explained.
Midday is devoted to handling the myriad of recordkeeping a modern dairy operation requires, or helping with the never-ending fieldwork, even throwing hay if necessary.
Then it’s evening milking and feeding, dinner for the family, and many nights a bowl of popcorn by 8 p.m. There is Mass on Sundays, bowling on Monday nights, and once a year, a trip to Rural Life Day, a diocesan celebration of gratitude for the land and those who produce food to nourish life.
“It is a great event for families,” she said, although she is concerned by diminishing numbers of participants as the numbers of small farms dwindle. “We always get our seeds blessed. We say that is why we have such good crops.”
Recognizing the importance of introducing generations far removed from the land to agriculture and crops, Beran regularly hosts fourth grade classes for a day on the farm. She helps her mother, Carol, do housekeeping for the Shawano County housing program, and brushes up on skills and knowledge through seminars.
Understanding that many of the residences nestled around the dairy are owned by non-farmers, the Berans strive to be considerate.
“We have such a wonderful community,” she said, explaining that they try to limit the hours when machinery is running, dusty fields are being plowed and manure is being hauled. A patch of sweet corn earmarked for the neighbors also helps.
And if her parish calls, she and her family respond. “We do what we can” she said. “We volunteer our time and donate baked goods, which I love to make.”
During June Dairy Month, and throughout the year, Beran makes it a point to promote Wisconsin’s array of cheeses and other dairy products. The milk the farm’s cows produce is hauled to Marshfield-based Mullins Cheese, where it is transformed into the squeaky cheese curds that appear on the table at almost every family and community event.
Hard work brings its rewards. She recently was named 2018 Farm Woman of the Year by Antigo-based WACD Radio. The farm also received a 2017 Achievement Award for Maintaining Outstanding Milk Quality and Commendable Farm Conditions.
“There are a lot of women working hard on the farm, keeping the household going who don’t get the recognition they deserve for all the work they do,” she said.