These are the sorts of images you’ll find on Bobbi Frost’s Instagram feed, which she maintains as part of her social media for Harrold’s Dairy in Creswell, OR. She’s the fourth generation working on the farm that her great-grandfather started in 1946. The fifth generation, formerly just daughter Max, got a new member in November when Bobbi and her husband Patrick welcomed baby girl Bo.
An Instagram feed that alternates sunlight, silage, and her small children provides what Frost says “the average consumer wants to see and still can’t believe happens every day.” That’s valuable stuff in the age of damaging online campaigns about agriculture. And yet this doesn’t feel forced or scripted as a strategy. These are snapshots of her daily life and, in spite of keeping a Facebook account, it’s Instagram she finds relaxing.
Her ease on social media and use of smart phone apps around the farm made her the face of the “Millennial Dairy Farm” in a Slate article in 2014, and yet it’s inaccurate to pin Bobbi Frost as notable only for her age and her smart phone.
While the Instagram feed looks effortless, she’s equally adept with other outreach: visiting classrooms and hosting field trips as part of Adopt a Farmer, writing testimonies to the state legislature, and joining the Oregon Aglink Board of Directors in 2017. The outreach, of course, begins with her work at the dairy.
Her career kicked into gear as soon as she obtained her bachelor’s degree in animal sciences. “When I graduated from OSU in 2011, I was fortunate to have a family that was ready to welcome me with open arms into our business,” she says. By the following fall, her family bought more cows and soon took on a neighboring farm that added 300 acres. “That purchase has probably been the biggest game changer.”
With the added herd and acreage, the farm has dialed in a new rhythm for their days and seasons. The 350 cows are milked thrice-daily now, instead of twice, making for some added labor but less stress on the herd between sessions in the milking parlor. The family works between 900 and 1000 acres each year for their forage needs and additional grain.
“We grow a lot of grass mixtures for forage: fescue, orchard grass, and clover type mixes,” she begins, “we also grow all our own corn silage and double crop most of that ground with annual rye as a cover crop.” Barley and wheat make up most of their grains, with husband Pat using almost half of it for their own brewing. “We are also using forage oats as part of a crop rotation, with the goal of adding alfalfa to the mix sometime in the next 12 months.”
Frost’s husband was an unexpected addition to the farm team. “Pat was a history major and part of the Naval ROTC” she says. After 3 years as a Marine Corps officer, including a tour in Afghanistan, he returned to Oregon with no immediate plans to farm. As Frost puts it, though, “he came home during corn silage season and I was short a couple truck drivers.”
These days, Pat handles the dirt-farming side of the operation, leaving Bobbi and her father to take care of the dairy and its cows. However, Pat’s transformation “from a suburban kid to a farmer in his own right” doesn’t mean that Bobbi is one to shy away from learning new skills.
“The cows and crops come a little more natural to me,” she says. “I have never considered myself a mechanical person, and there was never any part of my formal education that said “this is how all this works.” So when something breaks down in the middle of the night or when she’s by herself, there’s nothing to do but dig in and figure it out.
Frost is quick to credit this spirit of pushing forward to the generations that worked the dairy before her. “The option to be part of a healthy family business is one of the greater gifts I have ever been given,” she says, and it’s a gift she doesn’t take lightly in the face of challenging futures for dairy.
“It seems to be one of those times where we are going to have to button down and endure. My ultimate goal for the dairy is to have a business that, when the time comes, is viable enough that my girls can choose whether or not they want to farm.”
With two children under the age of two, she admits, “that’s obviously pretty far into the future.” It’s never too early to start thinking about the future of the farm, though, just like it’s never too late to give credit to the past.
According to Bobbi Frost, when it comes to willingness to plan ahead and push through the uncertainty: “I am lucky enough to be the recipient of four generations of that kind of thinking.”