Honoring Farm and Ranch Moms
As we reflect on the women who raised us this Mother’s Day, SDFU would like to celebrate the many women who support the state’s No. 1 industry – farm and ranch moms! To learn more about the farm and ranch moms featured in this article, click here.
by Lura Roti for SDFU
Samantha Miller, Aberdeen farm mom
Experiencing the little moments where her children’s individual personalities shine. That’s what Samantha Miller enjoys most about being a mom.
“Even though they look like siblings, they are very much individuals,” says Miller of her three young children: Hadalynn, 6; Remillie, 4, and Rylence, 2. The Millers will welcome a fourth child this summer.
She recalls a recent moment with her oldest, Haddie. “She has her own Bible, and although she cannot read yet, she came downstairs and said, ‘Mom, I read the first three pages of my Bible. I don’t know how to read yet, but Jesus and me, we go through it.’”
Because she stays at home with her children and homeschools, Miller says she gets to take in many small moments each day. Due to recent circumstances, she decided to take a break from her small business, The Farmers Wife, a clothing boutique in Aberdeen. She customizes Haddie’s curriculum to the kindergartener’s interests and learning style.
“She is a hands-on learner, so I incorporate math or reading into baking or other crafts,” says Miller, explaining that Haddie picks up concepts quicker if they are part of activities she already enjoys.
Miller says she and her husband, Nathan, were inspired to homeschool by her mom, Julie Mielitz, who homeschooled her younger sisters. “We always agreed it was something we were interested in doing,” Miller says. “It goes well with our farming lifestyle. We are able to travel to the zoo or aquarium on days when Nathan isn’t busy with farm work.”
Nathan farms with his dad and brothers. The family lives on Nathan’s great-grandparents farmstead and just six miles from Nathan’s mom and dad.
When she worked in town, her children spent a few days each week with Grandma Barb. And even now, they spend time each week doing crafts or baking with grandma.
“We are family-focused. I like that kids get to spend time with Grandma or ride in the tractor with Grandpa,” she explains. Although she grew up in town, she has many happy memories from days she spent on her grandparents’ farm. Raising her children on the farm is something Miller appreciates.
“They can be outside,” she says. “Just a little more sense of safety and freedom than if we were living in a neighborhood.”
Even though she homeschools, COVID has impacted Haddie’s life because her ballet lessons are now cancelled, and they are not able to have playdates. Miller says she has been careful in how she explains the situation – sharing just enough information that Haddie understands why things have changed, but not too much that she worries.
“I just told her, there is a new illness that makes you sick. And they are trying to keep people healthy by keeping people home.”
A highlight for the family has been drive-in church. On Sundays, their pastor and the church band stand on the roof of a now closed Aberdeen retailer. Thanks to a local radio station, attendees can sit in their cars, with windows rolled up, and tune into the service via their car radios.
Faith plays a large role in the Miller family and farm. “I keep saying that what everyone is going through right now, this is what farmers go through all the time,” Miller says. “The not knowing what will happen. You plant your crops but don’t know what will happen. It is all in God’s hands. Whether the weather or markets will cooperate. We really don’t know. The only thing we can do is pray and know that God has a plan and He is going to take care of you.”
Brenda Reis, Reliance ranch mom and grandma
Growing up, Brenda Reis loved working cattle with her siblings. When she and David married and moved onto his family’s Reliance ranch, she enjoyed helping him with cattle chores. Becoming a mom didn’t change her opportunity to work outdoors.
“I took them with me. If I was checking cattle, they would ride along on the horse with me or in the pickup, until they were old enough to ride their own horses,” Reis says, explaining that as her children, Shawn, April, Shane and Zane grew up, their tradition of working together as a family stuck. With all their children living within 15 miles of the ranch, she also gets to see her grandkids quite a bit when the family comes together to work cattle.
“Even today with COVID, working cattle together is one way we can be together, but still maintain social distancing,” she explains.
To help the grandkids feel connected to the family ranch, when their grandchildren turned 5, she and Dave gave them a heifer calf. “It makes it fun for them to know that certain cows are theirs and the money earned from the sale of offspring goes into a college fund for each grandchild.”
Work on the ranch is never done. But Reis says if her kids were involved in something, she and Dave made time for it. Even though it’s tough with 12 grandkids, they continue this tradition, making time away from ranchwork to watch their grandkids show livestock in 4-H, rodeo or play school sports. “I’ve always been glad our job was not a 9-to-5 job. With ranching, (there’s no exact timeline) it’s work that you need to make sure gets done,” Reis explains. “Our kids totally remember that we went to things. They also remember the one time we didn’t.”
Along with making time for grandkids’ activities, Reis says she also tries to set aside time to take them camping, fishing or invite them over for Grandkids’ Night. A tradition that began when her oldest grandkids – teenagers now – were preschool age. She and Dave would set aside a Friday night each month and all the grandkids would spend the night at the ranch. “Their favorite thing is to hear stories of when their folks were kids or about what we did as kids.”
Rodeo is another pastime she and Dave enjoy sharing with their children. It began when their kids were young and the couple helped organize the local Play Days Rodeo. More than 40 years later they remain involved. “We have always been involved in our community. We taught our children that if you want to see change or make a difference in your community, you need to do it yourself. All our kids are actively involved in the community as well.”