“I hold us to high standards. We have pride in our farm and the work we do.”—Danyell Dickinson
Live and Farm in:
Who Are the Dickinsons?
As a third-generation farmer, Danyell Dickinson takes pride in living and working on a dairy and pig farm just two miles from where she grew up in Hustontown, Pennsylvania. The farming tradition started when her grandparents began dairy farming in 1945, passing the farm to her parents in the late 1980s. Danyell’s father transitioned the family into pig farming, building his finishing barn in 2007.
This farming heritage cultivated Danyell’s love for animals—a passion that grew as she grew. She milked the family cows every evening through high school and into college, where she studied animal science but still came home on the weekends to feed the calves. “It’s the structure that stuck with me,” Danyell says. “Milking cows is twice a day, every day—no matter what.”
That structure was new to Danyell’s husband, Robbie, who was first exposed to the farming lifestyle when he started dating Danyell. But he loves the freedom farming provides. “I don’t have to answer to anyone,” Robbie says. “Day to day, I can do what I want to do. I enjoy that.”
From Dairy to Pigs to … You Name It
Danyell and Robbie’s daily commitments include running two pig barns on the farm where they live with their 9-year-old daughter, Nattalee. But they aren’t alone in the work: Danyell’s brother, Nelson, manages the day-to-day activity at the dairy barn and is in charge of the crops.
Nattalee is learning the ins and outs as well, but, mainly, “she farms the pool,” Robbie jokes. “Some days, she wants to be a teacher, or an artist, or a vet. I tell her she can be anything she wants to be.”
One thing is certain: There’s never a shortage of things to do. When Robbie isn’t on the farm, he’s helping out around town or driving a school bus. “No two days are the same. “You check on your pigs first thing, check on them again at day’s end. Do whatever work needs to be done in between,” he says. “When I’m driving the bus, it’s back and forth between the bus and the farm. When needs arise within the community—road work and repairs, for example—I pitch in.”
Hands-On Approach to Health and Wellness
Misconceptions about pig farming are common. But the business isn’t what people think, Danyell says, noting that the Dickinson farm strictly follows environmental and health regulations to keep themselves, their animals and their community safe. Barn visitors are most surprised by how clean and comfortable the pigs look, she adds.
Although the Dickinsons rely on technology to improve the lives of their pigs and simplify their own lives, they believe such innovation can never replace being in the barns and caring for their animals in person. It’s the way they prefer it, in fact.
“I hold us to high standards,” Danyell explains. “We have pride in our farm and the work we do.”