More than a Mom

Written by Peyson Shields

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure to make Mother’s Day an official holiday. For more than 100 years, those around the country — and the world — have celebrated their mother on the second Sunday in May.

Whether she was CEO of your home — or a large company — most of us wouldn’t be who we are today without the influence of “mom.” If there’s one thing mothers are good at, it’s taking on different roles while still being that sounding board for the entire family.

On DFA member farms, moms are doing just that. From owning a local boutique to coordinating farm tours to running the operation, these four moms are doing what they love with the same common ground — family.

Vintage Finds and Lovely Things

It all started with Coca-Cola memorabilia, says Crystal Moroney who started her own collection of bottles in the fifth grade.

“My mom has always had a love for antiques — I always remember going to auctions and stores.”

From there, she was hooked.

Growing up on a dairy in Arizona, Crystal’s parents, Rocky and Liz Gingg, moved their operation, Del Rio Dairy, from Arizona to Friona, Texas, in 2005. The 4,000-cow operation is run by Rocky, Crystal’s husband, Nathan, and her brother-in-law, Garth Cummings. Crystal works with her mother and sister, Heidi, in the office, handling the books.

But being on the dairy wasn’t enough for the women of the family. Three years ago, they opened Milk House Market — just a few miles from the dairy.

“In Texas, there’s a lot of junk,” Crystal says. “There would be a barn that would just sit empty for years, so my mom and I started hoarding it.”

Crystal says the store soon transitioned from housing antique finds to farmhouse décor. The market has not only been a way for Crystal and her family to do what they love, but also helped integrate them into a new town.

“It’s not just having the store, it’s about developing relationships and being a part of the community,” she says.

A mom to three kids, sons Nathan Jr., 7, and Maxwell, 6, and daughter Ruby, 3, Crystal stays busy on the dairy, at her store and handling everyday mom duties.

“The dairy is my number one priority and the store fits into my schedule,” she says. “The kids see me working at the store and dairy and all of us working together as a family. They work in the store during the summer checking out customers. They think it’s fun.”

Crystal says the toughest part of being involved in so many things is balancing family, quality time with her husband and work.

“I love working with my husband, dad and family,” Crystal says. “It has its challenges, but is always fun.”

The Heart of Teaching

For Ranell Rexing, teaching has always been her passion. So when she and her husband, Brian, decided to take the leap and open a 1,200-cow dairy, Ranell knew she wanted education to play a large role.

As an elementary school teacher, Ranell was always looking for educational field trips.

“We actually built the dairy for tours,” she says. 

From the ground up, Next Generation Dairy in Owensville, Ind., became the Rexings’ livelihood — and Ranell’s dream of sharing that with the community is now the family’s reality. Designed with education in mind, the farm’s milking parlor features an observation deck where visitors can see how daily operations are handled. 

With the dairy becoming a more prominent responsibility, plus raising four kids, daughters Blair, 13, Mylie, 11 and Aleah, 9 and son Case, 2, Ranell made the choice to step away from teaching.

“I wanted to (teach), but I compromised to be able to be part of the dairy and still do what I love,” she says. “When you’re a mom, you have to make tough decisions.”

Ranell spends two days a week at the dairy as the office manager, and gives tours in the fall and spring. 

The two-hour tour at New Generation Dairy focuses on animal care, nutrition and how milk gets from the farm to consumers’ refrigerators. With more than two-thirds of the 2,000 visitors the dairy hosts year being school-aged children, a hands-on approach is key. The interactive tour includes milking a fake cow, petting a calf and getting weighed on the scale. It even wraps up by giving kids a bottle of milk to take home.

Even though the farm sees its fair share of legislators, college students, senior groups and those in the agriculture industry, Ranell’s heart lies with the younger generation.

“I like to talk to adults about it, but I love teaching kids about how hard farmers work and getting kids to appreciate and respect agriculture,” she says.

Breaking the Status Quo

As the heads of their operations, Beth Wells-Leis of Wells-Holm Holsteins and Shelly Dickinson of Mountain View Farm, are full-time mothers — and farmers.

Growing Up Dairy

A mother to four kids and 45 cows, Beth handles all of the day-to-day tasks on her farm in Sparta, Wis. From the breeding to the feeding, she does it all with the help of her daughters Madaline, 16, Addison, 9 and Haydyn, 7, and son Gage, 5 — often times, while her husband is away on business.

“It’s not perfect, but parenting isn’t perfect,” she says. “Being on the farm, there are days where it’s not perfect either. It’s not a perfect world, but it’s our world and we make it work.”

Growing up on a farm, Beth says that at the time, the responsibilities seemed tedious, but they’re what made her who she is today. Those same responsibilities are now helping to shape the future for her children, who have grown up on the dairy and are all actively involved while they also take on ag-focused activities such as showing animals, like sheep, in 4-H.

“When they’re in the show ring and I see them beam because they’re so proud of their hard work, that’s what makes it all worth it,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for a better lifestyle.”

Setting the Example

Running a 3,600-cow dairy and juggling extracurricular activities isn’t easy — but Shelly makes it happen. The fourth-generation dairy farmer operates at different two locations in Loveland, Colo., with her husband, Martin Ontiveros, the dairy’s herdsman. Inheriting the dairy from her father, Michael, Shelly says the operation couldn’t be where it is today without the group of people that put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Shelly pushes herself hard to be the best farmer and mother she can be to her three children: Tyler, 21, Stella, 13 and Jolie, 10.

“I make a point to leave the dairy when they’re out of school,” she says. “I don’t want them to think they’re not important.” From soccer to basketball to 4-H, she keeps the family and dairy running smoothly.

In addition to her kids’ busy schedules, Shelly sits on DFA’s Mountain Area Council and the board of directors for both Western Dairy Association and Colorado Livestock Care Coalition.

Being a woman in an otherwise male-driven industry, Shelly is thankful of the opportunity her father gave her.

“I’m proud that I’m a woman and that my dad gave me a chance to do this and take this over because there aren’t a lot of women involved in dairy,” she says. “Hopefully, it will show my daughters that they can do anything they set their minds to as women.”