Donna Ihle

  Nicholas Bolin

    Donna Ihle is a 70 year old farmer, she started when she was just 5 years old helping her dad with the horses.  Donna runs The Ihle Farm located in Racine, Ohio, a village in Megs County, located on the banks of the Ohio River.  She owns 300 acres of farmland and 50 milking cows.  Donna has five children, three girls and two boys.  She has six grandchildren, four boys and two girls.  Donna went to Capital University in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with an education degree. She was a first grade teacher for a year.  Donna is active in her church and teaches Sunday School.  Her husband, Charles, passed away in October of 2004.  When they first started out, they would milk the cows by hand, a time consuming process that required carrying a milk pail from cow to cow, which was tedious and straining on the body.  With their current system, it is semi-automated which requires a lot less work and time, and is more sanitary.  One of her sons, Paul, who lives in Huntington, West Virginia, still helps out on the farm.  Also her grandson, Neil, who is a welder, comes down and helps his grandmother on the farm. Donna starts working at 6:00 am, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  She has two farmhands that help her with the daily operations of a milking farm.  Every morning she puts a small amount of wet and dry mix of feed out for  the cows so they will come in from the field.  She does this by herself before the sun rises, as the farmhands are not there yet.  She mixes formula milk for the baby calves.  She then herds the cows into the milking area as the milking machines are running a cleaning cycle.  By this time, the sun is starting to rise and the farmhands have arrived.  One of the farmhands works the milking machinery.  The cows eat grain while they are being milked. The milking machine milks the cows and when it is finished, the cattle leave the milking area.  Donna is very proud of the fact that the milk is never touched by human hands.  The milk goes into a holding tank and is picked up by a milk truck every other day to take it to be pasteurized.  Donna herds the cows back into the feeding area where she feeds them again.  She checks on the cows that are not old enough to be milked and the cows that are in the field with the bull for breeding purposes.  Donna returns to her house to feed her 30 plus cats.  She explained why she has so many cats “Being a farmer, everyone thinks you need a cat, being a lady, everyone thinks you need a cat, I think that is why everyone brings me their stray cats.”  Donna takes a moment to make herself some breakfast and eat before she heads into town to do her daily errands.  The whole process of milking the cows is repeated each evening before going to bed to repeat the cycle again the next day. This year Donna is thinking about selling the milking cows and buying beef cows, so that there would be less daily chores.  Donna joked that if she gets rids of her milking cows, she could still have a cat farm.  Spending a morning with Donna, as she does her chores, you can tell how much she still enjoys farming and the animals. While most 70 year old women would not even think about the hard work that is involved in running a farm, Donna feels that what she does on a daily basis is what keeps her healthy.  

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