Idaho Mom Balances Family and Farm Life

  • Article
  • October 1, 2013

Jeannie Wolverton has days like many other moms. Each morning, she gets her 8-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son off to school and is in the car line when the final bell rings. She is a constant presence at their sporting events and helps with homework each night.

What makes Wolverton unique from the other “soccer moms,” however, is each day she helps produce more than 100,000 gallons of milk as a third-generation dairy farmer in southern Idaho.

Wolverton couldn’t imagine life any other way.

“I feel so blessed and honored to be involved in this family dairy,” she said. “When I wake up each morning I get excited about our industry. I love being a part of it and I love hard work.”

Wolverton never had to look far for work ethic inspiration. Grandfathers on both sides of the family started dairy farms in southern California more than 60 years ago. Her grandfather Doc Aardema eventually relocated to Idaho where Wolverton recalls fond childhood memories of farm life in high desert country, not far from the state’s famous Sun Valley ski resort.

“I loved the freedom I had growing up on a farm,” she said. “I loved living in the country and being around nature. I always felt calmness at the farm. There was a lot of work, but it was such a great way to grow up.”

Still, Wolverton wasn’t sure she wanted to make dairy farming her career, so she studied nursing in college. She worked as a registered nurse but never could shake the farm from her system.

“I loved nursing, but I kept feeling that I had to go back to the dairy,” she said.

She eventually shifted career paths, much to her family’s delight. Aardema took her under his wing and taught her the farm’s many business aspects.

“That was a huge eye opener,” she said. “He taught me everything I know.”

Aardema, 92, still has a presence at the farm when he isn’t traveling with his wife of 70-plus years. Wolverton’s parents also are at the farm as well as other relatives who truly make farming a family way of life.

But it takes many other hands to make the dairy run. More than 100 employees have various responsibilities including milking the cows and making sure their daily comfort and nutrition needs are met. Wolverton is proud that the farm provides so many jobs and is a major contributor to southern Idaho’s economy. The farm purchases various goods and services from local businesses.

Between it all, Wolverton rarely catches her breath but that’s just fine with her.

“It’s a busy day, it’s a busy life but I love it because I believe so much in the product we produce,” she said. “To me, there’s no product that’s healthier and packed with more nutrition than milk. We are part of an amazing industry.”