Avery Humpal is pictured with her favorite cow, 3621. (submitted photo)
By Denise Lana,
By Denise Lana
As the youngest of four sisters raised on her family’s 400-cow dairy farm, Avery Humpal is no stranger to hard work and long days. Even as I geared up to leave Decorah to interview her at the family’s Humpal Farm near Ridgeway, she texted me, saying she had to finish helping her dad with bedding cow pens before our interview could take place. I navigated my way along gravel dirt roads, cutting straight and long through green fields, making my way to Avery’s address. As I arrived and exited my truck, the 17-year-old, clad in jeans and dark shirt, greeted me with a brilliant unassuming smile, straight flaxen hair framing her youthfully dimpled visage.
We sat and chatted without pauses or uneasy hesitations, and it was immediately obvious that Avery was very comfortable talking about her family and the farm, her hobbies and past times, but mostly her deep love for all things dairy and cows. Her blue eyes lit up as she talked about her favorite cow, describing to me how this cow had come to the farm when Avery was five or so. Every time she works near where the cow is, the cow always comes over and bumps her with her snout, prompting Avery to give her scratches and pets. “She’s the only one I can go up to. As a calf, she would come up to me and was never scared of me.”
Avery laughs when I ask what the cow’s name was. “I just refer to her as 3621, since that’s her tag number.”
Being chosen as Winneshiek County Dairy Princess Alternate seems a natural choice to me, as I observed Avery discussing how the family’s dairy farm has been passed along from one generation to the next.
“It’s a third-generation farm, started in 1806,” Avery explained. Grandfather and Grandmother Humpal started with fewer than 100 Holsteins. Her dad, Darryl, the youngest of eight children, worked the farm until he was old enough to step in and take it over. Darryl married Avery’s mom Michelle in 1992, and along the way, Darryl expanded the farm’s free stall barn, and gradually more and more cows were added.
Now the farm milks nearly 400 cows 3 times a day. “It takes five hours to milk the cows, so we are working almost constantly,” the rising senior at South Winn explains.
One of her fondest memories growing up on the farm was feeding calves. “We would always go out with my mom and play with the calves while she did the chores.”
“I love being out here on the farm, it’s taught me so much about work ethic and life in general,” Avery shared. “You hear all these people complaining about how much they have to work, and they have two days a week off; but when you are constantly around farmers who work seven days a week, they might have only one day a month where they are off.”
As the Princess Alternate, she does the same tasks as the princess.
Complete story in the June 8 Public Opinion Newspaper.