June 11, 2016

Calving and Harvest Favorite Times for Sharon Portenier

A fourth-generation farmer in her family, Sharon Portenier was raised near Guide Rock, Nebraska. "I loved it growing up, even though I didn't get to run the tractor as much as I would have liked since I had brothers," she said. After marrying her husband Kif, they relocated to the Harvard farm that had been in his family for nearly 100 years. Other than a brief clerical stint filling in for a friend on maternity leave, Sharon has always worked on the farm. She handles the bookkeeping as well as helping with calving and harvest. On top of all that, she does laundry, cleans house, prepares meals and does the yard work. The mother of four daughters, Sharon has instilled a strong work ethic in her children.

"We're a family farm and we always made sure our girls understood that it takes the entire family to make it work," said Sharon. "The calves needed to be fed before they could go to the basketball game; there were things to do before we could move onto the fun stuff." At the same time, Sharon knows that her girls were able to have a life filled with great memories. "The girls got to take lunch out to the field to their dad and grandpa. We used to go camping out in the pasture where we had a pond stocked with fish. And I was there to see them off to school and pick them up at the school bus almost every day," she said. "We were able to make the afternoon school programs and athletic events."

As third-oldest daughter Jessie returns to the farm, Sharon appreciates having the additional help, especially with the cattle operation. "Owning livestock is a daily commitment. If you want to take a short vacation, you just can't take 350 cows to then kennel to have someone else take care of them," Sharon said. Calving starts in February and Nebraska's severe winter weather is typically a challenge to the newborn calves. "There have been many times that my husband and I will just stay in the pickup on a cold, wintry night and drive around every half hour or so to see if there's a new baby calf out there somewhere," she said. "If it's wet and cold, it's vital that you scoop them up and get them to the barn where they can be warm and dry to avoid getting sick. "That's another great benefit of having Jessie around--to help during this very busy time of year."

Like her daughter, Sharon is committed to providing the best care for the cattle they raise, while also understanding that some animals are raised for food, "You certainly get attached to the animals, but yet you're distanced from them," Sharon said. "They're on our farm for a purpose--to put meat on people's tables." Calving and harvest are Sharon's two favorite times of year. "Calving because we get to see those little babies being born and that new life is so good," she said. "And harvest because you get to reap the benefits of an entire year's work."

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