Ramona Rosinger is a small dairy farmer with her husband, Jim, in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Their 60-cow farm on 200 acres can often be a 24-hour, seven days a week operation.
On top of the demanding responsibilities in the barn, Ramona works overnights as a package router at Fingerhut, a major distribution center for catalogues and Internet sites. For ten years, she's used the extra money from her first off-farm job to help supplement the family's dairy business.
One dairy farm a day goes out of business in Minnesota as larger farming operations increase their production and push the milk returns down for all producers. Off-farm income for many small farmers is a matter of survival.
Here's what Ramona told Livelyhood about why she works two jobs:
Ramona: I think I was tired of being here [on the farm] all the time. There's a lot of pressure on the farm, and I think when a wife on the farm is home, you're taken for granted.
All of a sudden, you're in the middle of lunch, and you think you're making a beef roast or something, and they say, "Say, Mom, you have to run for a part. We broke down." And away you go.
I was just ready for a change. You all of a sudden get in your head you want to do something else. Life gets kind of dull if you always do the same thing day after day. You need a change somewhere.
I get in the car, and I go off to work to Fingerhut and think, "Boy, is this nice." I don't have a thing to worry about.
Was farming something you planned to do?
Ramona: My father had cows. And it was actually a lot like our farm today.[My sisters and I] always said at home, not one of us wanted to marry a farmer, and we said we never will.
And none of us did, but after I got married, my husband hauled me to the farm, and he bought a farm. I cried all the way out there when he bought the first farm. And he promised me I would get back into the city. But I don't know, he bought a calf and a cow and pretty soon, it just grew.
Jim, my husband, was very green at it. As a matter of fact, he never could milk a cow, and somebody actually had to teach him. That's amazing. I had to kind of chuckle when he said he was going to start milking. I said, "You can't even milk a cow."
But one of the neighbors showed him how to milk the first cow he milked, and it was hilarious. But he sure knows now how to milk them now.
How do you use your paychecks from Fingerhut?
Ramona: I buy some of the groceries. I buy the gifts, whatever comes up. There are always additional expenses a family needs. If there were some little odd bill that would come out, I'd pay that.
It's a feeling, too, I think when a woman works. You have your own check, and if you want a few extra things, you buy it. I don't have any guilt--I don't at least--maybe I should, but I don't. I have no guilt when I spend a few dollars on myself. I figure I work and I deserve it, where before I had a hard time taking money out of the milk check.
Are their incentives to being an employee that you don't have as a self-employed farmer?
Ramona: We always paid our own health insurance before I worked [at Fingerhut]. For the family, it was at least a couple hundred dollars every month and that was about fifteen years ago.
[Health insurance through Fingerhut] is one reason for me working that really helps, because I also have my husband on my policy. I don't think a lot of people realize what a big plus that is, because your insurance really adds up. That would be one of our reasons today why I would keep working--just for the insurance.