The Story of Willie

Why do people raise animals and grow food? The connection between people, land and animals is powerful. Traditionally, we often think of this connection between male farmers, but women have always been involved in agriculture – caring for the land and animals. In today’s world this number is growing. More and more women are starting their own farms, running food businesses, organizing farmers markets and spurring the local food movement on.

The Story of Willie is not about the big picture shift in agriculture that I just mentioned, but it is about one woman’s connection to the land and the animals she cares for. cheryl willie

I have known Cheryl practically my whole life. Whether she realizes it or not, she has taught me a great deal. She is an example of a woman who raises animals for show, breeding and production, but she does so with great care and compassion. She does right by the animals she raises. She cares about producing offspring with sound genetics and studies at great length the lines they come from, and whether or not they should be bred. I have never understood the argument of, Farmers don’t really care – they’re in it for the money and using animals to meet their needs. But here’s the thing, in order to raise healthy animals, animals that produce eggs or meat for human consumption you have to care for them properly, otherwise you end up with a product you can’t eat. It’s that simple. As a young kid, Cheryl taught me that balance. She also taught me that it is OK and you should form bonds with these animals. Perhaps this is a perspective unique to a woman, perhaps not. Frankly, I cannot see it any other way. Animals teach us a great deal. At times they are the purest reflection of what we should be as humans.

Cheryl and her family lost Willie; tragically a dog killed her on Sunday. In Cheryl’s eyes Willie was an amazing animal, devoted, came when called and asked to be held. This is the real side of raising animals. For whatever reason animals are raised on a farm, you experience loss. Sometimes unique bonds are formed and they end up teaching us more than we ever thought was possible.

Who would have thought that day I begged my parents to bring home two goslings seven years ago a very special bird would of joined our family. Willie was nothing but out of the ordinary and more than just a goose to our family, especially to my mother. There is definitely an emptiness to our yard this morning without her presence. Grace, daughter

cheryl holding willieFarming is much more than just growing food and raising animals. The connection to the land and animals runs deep. It is not easy and it can be heartbreaking at times. I often think that perhaps we as women, do have a unique connection to the land and animals, but I could be wrong as well. When I decided to embark on the 30 in 30 journey I really wanted it to also be about sharing stories. To share with the community what it is like to experience the world through the eyes of women. Sometimes I think our voices do not get shared enough, but the world is changing. This is just one story I wanted to share because like Cheryl, I understand that unique bond between people and animals….the amount of time and energy you have to put in to care for one properly, to do right by it. I think this is something that Michigan Food and Farming Systems understands as well. If you would like to make an empowerment investment in honor of Willie please click here.



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