Bringing laughter to the table: the heifers’ party

By Michele Payn

It was a steamy 95% humidity day when our heifers got out. You can imagine my joy as I walked out to find a knocked down fence that had stood for nearly a decade, a 4x4 corner post busted clean off and three strands of wire on the ground. Even worse - the heifers were nowhere to be found.

 It was the week between our county and state fairs - and panic doesn't adequately describe my feelings. My daughter's beloved homebred show heifer Lucky, was gone and the thought of something happening to Lucky filled me with dread. I couldn't find a hoof mark anywhere or any clues that they had entered the cornfield next to their pasture.

The heifers' party included me shrieking through the house in my boots to place a panicked call to my neighbor and jumping in the Gator with my laughing office manager to search.  We could not find the ornery moos until we were at the very back of the property, where they at least acted relieved to see me. Thankfully, my fear of them getting on the road or having broken legs was unfounded; I herded them home with no problem. However, their antics were a reminder why farm animals are kept in a fence or barn - their safety.

While it's still a little hard to admit, chasing those heifers is pretty funny. It makes for a great story at the dinner table. Every time I've told my friends about the heifers' party and my resulting panic, they laugh. The story brings to life how annoying animals can be and how hard it is to care for them, especially when they are stupid.

What stories do you have to share around the dinner table? We get so wrapped up in work that it's hard to remember to share happenings of  thefarm or ranch. While I really don't really need to relive the heifers' party, the story does amuse people - and helps give insight on some of the challenges of dealing with farm animals.

Sharing of a story isn't the only important thing around the table - it comes secondary to the sharing of a meal (whether you call it dinner or supper). Food should be a celebration, a time to bring people together.  Meals are about connecting, whether it's a hot dog or gourmet feast.

"The fondest memories are made gathered around the table" is a sign that hangs over our table.  I believe preparing and sharing a meal is an act of love - a time to connect with friends and family.  Sharing a meal is important throughout the year, and even moreso around the holidays.

Getting people back to the kitchen to enjoy meals together is not only important for families; it also can bring more reason to the conversation around food. USDA has some resources to help with family meals at, in case you'd like to share with others.

While you're at it, consider what farm and ranch stories you can tell your friends or family when you share a meal . Bring some levity by way of animal antics or tractor trouble to Thanksgiving or Christmas. Yes, we work in a highly technical business, but it's also pretty funny when you consider the amount of manure, dirt and comedy of errors we handle. Look for those stories each day, but keep your fences up!


Michele Payn lives on a small farm in west central Indiana, where she and her daughter enjoy all things pink while working with their Holsteins. Michele speaks from the intersection of farm and food, helping thousands of people around the world through her keynotes, books and training programs. Visit  or connect with @mpaynspeaker on social media channels. Her second book, Food Truths from Farm to Table, is expected early 2017.

Copyright© 2016 Cause Matters Corp. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction granted for

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