FORT LORAMIE — Finding a balance between family and work can be even more complicated when a husband and wife work together.
Rachel Heimerl, of Johnstown, Ohio, shared her thoughts on “The Joys and Perils of Working with Family” during the recent Growing Women in Agriculture program held at St. Michael’s Hall in Fort Loramie.
“I work on the family farm,” said Heimerl. “We raise hogs and cattle, soybeans, corn and wheat. We have a 2,500 acre farm but our main livestock is hogs.
“We raise 750,000 hogs a year,” she said. “We have a lot of pigs.”
Heimerl is the officer manager for the family business. But it’s not limited to just their farm, they work with 80 family farms all over the state of Ohio. Those farms have hog barns for the business.
“We now have 90 employees and a trucking division,” said Heimerl. “There are 25 trucks and trailers that haul feed and livestock.”
When she married her husband, Matt, it was a true family farm with her mother- and father-in-law involved in the business. Her two brothers-in-law also worked on the farm.
“They decided the farm needed office help,” she said. “I’m the dreaded in-law. My father-in-law (I’m his favorite), said we can make this work.”
Heimerl was the only fulltime person in the office. Most of the day she was by herself.
“As the business has grown, we needed more help. There’s now eight people in the office — six of them fulltime. I have a team of people I work with and have to manage,” said Heimerl.
The joys of working on the family farm, she said, comes with the knowledge that she’s continuing the family legacy for her children.
“The next generation will carry on the legacy,” said Heimerl.”There’s always something the next generation can bring to the business.”
Heimerl said she loves agriculture and loves the flexibility she has working for the family business.
“If the kids are sick, I can call a grandparent and they will go get him,” said Heimerl. “I work fulltime so the kids go to a babysitter. But if there is a sick kid, I can her with me to work if I need to.”
The perils for working for family is just that — too much family everyday.
“I love my family and my in-laws,” said Heimerl. “But sometimes I just want to get away.”
The Heimerls have been married for nine years. When she first started working for the business, the office was in the garage next to the house they lived in.
Two years ago the perils of being married to a farmer were brought home to Heimerl.
“During harvest season, I become a single parent,” said Heimerl. “But that year we were also expanding the feed mills. So harvest was for eight weeks beginning on Sept. 15. Then they decided to work on the expansion, which lasted until February or March.”
Heimerl told her husband that the length of time he spent away from the family was taking a toll on her emotionally.
“I told him we needed some space of our own,” she said. “I told him you’re stuck with me forever, but let’s buy a home or build a home.”
Last September, the family, which includes four children, moved into a new house.
Heimerl said perception and fairness also also perils when working on the family farm.
“I’m the outsider,” she said. “I see things differently. We’re transitioning from generation one to generation two in the business.
“I’ve learned that parents don’t have to be fair with each of their children. They have to have the best interest of the child in mind when making decisions,” said Heimerl.
Each family member has different responsibilities and different roles on the farm.
“There has to be a leader on the farm,” said Heimerl. “You can’t be successful if you don’t get behind the leader.”
Heimerl shared 10 things which the family does to make their family business work: communication; regular team meetings; structure; vision and goals; respect, acknowledgement, thankfulness; third party consulting; time for you; family and business separation; know your people; and think it through.
The evening also included four mini-sessions for participants to attend. They could pick two sessions to participate in.
Amy Forrest and her daughter, Lyndsey Murphy, discussed food and wine pairings. Yvonne Cecil discussed gardening for pollinators. Kathy Oliver spoke about canning and preserving. Hannah Peterson presented agriculture’s story via social media.
Forrest, who’s five-generation family farm is located in Mechanicsburg, is the owner of her own catering business, “In Good Taste.”
“There are no hard and fast rules when picking a wine to serve with a meal,” said Forrest. “There are a lot of different ways to mix things up.”
Forrest recommended visiting a local wine shop to get advice on what to serve. Let the person know what your budget is and what you’re serving, she said.
Local wineries are becoming more popular.
“The local wines are a lot different than what’s made in France,” said Forrest.
Murphy said she uses a free app — vivino — to help find what wine works with what meal.
Craft beers, said Forrest, are popular and their numbers keep increasing. As with wines, serve a lighter colored craft beer with lighter colored foods. Heavier, darker beers are good with red meats and dark chocolates.
Ciders are also popular and are a light drink good for the summer and fall, especially when grilling out.
“Your drink can also balance out salty foods,” said Murphy.
She cautioned that the higher the alcohol content, the higher the sugar level.
Forrest said champagnes are becoming more popular and are being served at dinners, not just at weddings.
“Champagne is good with appetizers,” said Forrest. “It balances out the salty foods. A lot of sparkling wines are nice. They are sweeter and are good with chicken and fish.”
Forrest said if you’re cooking with wine, pick one that you would normally drink.
“If you won’t drink it, then don’t cook with it,” she said. “If you have leftover wine, put it in an ice cube tray and freeze it. Then you can add a cube to salsa when you’re cooking it.”
Murphy said the frozen wine cubes can also be used in your wine glass so it doesn’t get watered down.
Peterson discussed how important it is to be on social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.
Oliver said more and more young people are interested in growing their own food and then freezing or canning it. A retired extension educator with Ohio State University, Oliver said, “Safety first” is the most important aspect of canning.
OSU has food preservation videos on YouTube, she said. The Ball Blue Book of Canning has techniques for canning which are approved by the USDA.
“Canning is all about the acid and Ph of the food,” said Oliver. “If the acid level is 4.6 or lower, then you can safely process the jars in a hot water bath.”
If there’s a low acid level but a high Ph level, then the food must be pressured canned. If there’s no acid in the food, then botulism spores can’t generate and grow.
Botulism spores are produced when there is no air. Pressure cooking takes the air out of the food being canned and kills the spores.
When canning, said Oliver, it’s important to know the altitude where you live as you must make adjustments in cooking time.
This is the second year for the Growing Women in Agriculture program.
“We had 85 participants this year,” said Jill Smith, Shelby County Farm Bureau, and chair of the Women in Agriculture committee. “That’s 35 more than we had last year.”
Smith said there’s a need for this type of program in the county.
“We know the people wanted it,” said Smith of the program’s growth and success.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.
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