While eating brunch as a community, I watched the cows cross campus as they do every day, with Jerome following behind. Having decided to take him up on his offer to milk a cow, I finished my meal and ventured to the barn. With a warm and inviting welcome, he told me to come on inside…
To really appreciate this story, one must know a bit about Jerome. He’s a dairy farmer who runs his Cow-Op on our school’s pastures (in which members buy a share of the herd and receive a weekly supply of milk in return). He’s middle-aged, with the wisdom of one older than himself and the energy of someone half his years. He’s got short gray hair, a torn T-shirt and a kilt. His diet is 95% raw milk, with the occasional fresh fruit from our orchard or the meat from a cow he once knew. He’s healthy, he’s happy, and he cares about all that he does more than anyone I believe I’ve ever met. He is always willing to hear about others lifestyles, and share his own. He never seems defensive or offended by an opposing view, but rather interested by it.
While he usually milks the cows by machine, he had offered to allow anyone who was interested to milk by hand. Just as the first cow was finishing up, fellow student Lily joined us in the barn. Jerome showed us how to prepare for milking, then Lily began, while Jerome and I watched in amazement (she’s incredibly fast, as she regularly milks goats at home). I followed in an amusing attempt to repeat what she did, resulting in a weak and inaccurate stream at first, and a better feel for it within a few minutes. Still, no comparison. Jerome showed me how to attach the milking machine (this particular cow produces about a gallon and a half a day, so completely milking by hand would take a while), and explained how it works. We talked about his philosophy on his diet, his experiences that have brought him to this lifestyle, the science behind it and also against it, about the day to day operations of caring for the herd. He took an interest in our work here as students, our views, and thoughts. He thanked us quite sincerely for taking an interest in his work, and we parted ways after a few hours of conversation.
Needless to say, I’ve been impacted by Jerome – his energy, his passion for his life and work, his openness to others’ ideas, and his devotion to his own. Each has left a mark on me, and I hope to emulate many of the same characteristics in my life. A mutual respect and interest, coupled with the wisdom that what is right for oneself is not always right for another, is probably one of the most powerful tools in appreciating others, in learning, and in teaching.