Published on Friday, February 3, 2017
Personal experience is a powerful teacher. For Michelle Miller, it was what ignited her passion for farming and educating others. Michelle grew up in Wisconsin, where she was involved in 4-H. Her friend had a farm where they would ride horses and do chores after school. They made great memories, but as she got older, Michelle was drawn to the city.
After high school, she moved to Los Angeles and earned her degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Michelle did wardrobe styling, and had goals of working in movies and fashion. Spending time in the Hollywood scene and working for Gucci fueled her fashion-focused lifestyle. "Really, I was about as far away from agriculture as you can be." Michelle reflects.
When she wasn't working in the city, she was traveling. In her 20s, Michelle visited all seven continents.
"Throughout that time, I watched these movies and heard these stories. I kind of became anti-GMO.” Michelle recalls. “I was super worried about pesticides, hormones and antibiotics, factory farming, and all this stuff I believed.
One day while bartending on the beach in Florida, she met a young Iowa farmer named Doug. “I first came up here about four years ago when we started dating and began learning from his family.” Michelle remembers. About a year later, Michelle officially joined her boyfriend on his family’s fifth generation farm.
Moving to rural Monona, Iowa was eye opening. “It's really been like a complete 180.” Michelle smiles. “When his family started teaching me about GMOs and the cattle, and I started touring these big farms I was like, 'Holy crap! People's perceptions are completely off.’
Experiencing farm life for herself prompted Michelle to speak up. She shares her perspective as The Farm Babe on social media and writes regularly forAgDaily. “I know what it feels like to be on the complete opposite end of the spectrum because I was that girl. I was fooled. I used to waste thousands of dollars thinking that I had to buy hormone-free chicken when there's no such thing as added hormones in chicken. I thought that I had to buy antibiotic-free meat, but there are no antibiotics in meat because of withdrawal times. Now my goal is to help people not fear their food.”
On top of her writing, Michelle stays busy with her own piece of the farm. "This was my first year as a shepherd. Doug’s uncle mentored me, bringing me into his sheep farm business since he wanted to retire.” She explains. “I was mentally prepared to sell the lambs when they were market ready, but I wasn't mentally prepared to lose one too soon. I wish people could see how we put our animals’ needs before our own all the time. We had a set of triplets. When I went out there, they were very weak so I brought them in the house with a bottle. We sat up by the fireplace. It was like two in the morning. For hours, I sat there with tears streaming down my face. It was the most emotional moment for me. Trying, giving 400% and having this lamb die in my arms, I was so devastated. I wish people could see that. I wish that they knew how much farmers really care."
Like many livestock farmers, Michelle has always been an animal lover. Since moving to Iowa, she and Doug have renovated the old milking barn on their property to become BuckingLamb Palace. “I think it's right to use animals as food, but I think we need to treat them like kings and queens while they’re here. They do so much for us that I think we owe them a great deal of respect. They don't just feed us. They give us clothing. They give us raw materials. There's so much that comes from livestock that I think a lot of people aren't even aware of. We owe them a very good life.”
After the lambs have lived good lives on her farm, it’s rewarding to know people in her own community are enjoying her product and appreciating the flavor. “I like to go to farmers’ markets and interact with the community. When I have friends, family and customers come back and say, 'That was the best steak I've ever had or the best lamb chops I've ever had, that tells me my hard work is paying off. I'm giving back to the community with the animals that I treat so well. It’s that connection with livestock and the community, and producing a good product. I just really love working with animals and educating people about how their food is produced; helping them understand what we do and why."
That’s why Michelle Miller farms.
Author: Natalina Sents
Categories: Why I Farm, Why I Farm Roadtrip
Tags: Beck's Blog, Why I Farm, Beck's Hybrids, Natalina Sents, Iowa, Sheep, Why I Farm Roadtip, Michelle Miller, Doug Sass, Lamb, Farm Babe