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Danyell and Robbie Dickinson

I hold us to high standards. We have pride in our farm and the work we do.”

—Danyell Dickinson
Danyell Dickinson


The Dickinsons:

Danyell, Robbie,
Nattalee (9)

Live and Farm in:

Hustontown, Pennsylvania

Farm Size

107 acres

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.”

Robbie Dickinson

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.”

Danyell and Robbie Dickinson

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.”

Danyell and Robbie Dickinson

Dawn and Drew Johnson

I take pride in having decided to stay here and raise my family here.

—Dawn Johnson
Dawn and Drew Johnson


The Johnsons:

Drew, Dawn,
Gabe (15), Clay (13),
Shelby (11),
Trinity (9)

Live and Farm in:

Spring Run, Pennsylvania

Farm Size

170 acres

Getting to Know the Johnsons

Farming has always been a lifelong passion for Dawn and Drew Johnson. The 170-acre farm they run has been in Dawn’s family for over a century. In fact, it sits on a road that bears her maiden name. Drew, meanwhile, spent much of his childhood on his aunt and uncle’s dairy farm—and longed to be a farmer too. “Everyone always said we were a perfect match because Drew was always looking to get into farming,” Dawn says.

For the Johnsons, keeping family traditions alive is incredibly important. “Our children will be the fifth generation of this family that has grown up right here, on this farm,” Dawn says. “From my windows, I can see land that has been farmed by my family for more than 100 years. I take pride in having decided to stay here and raise my family here.”

A Day in the Life

For the Johnsons, work begins before sunrise and ends long after sunset. And it has to, given that Drew divides his time between the family farm and neighboring properties through his custom farming work. Planting and harvesting others’ crops can feel like a full-time job in and of itself, but the competing demands don’t phase Drew. “I don’t have any time management tricks,” he says. “I just get done what I know needs to be done.”

Dawn and Drew Johnson

In the midst of all of this, Dawn and Drew are raising four children. When Drew’s away from the family farm, Dawn takes the lead in keeping their household running. “People tell us we should have a reality show because of the nutty stuff that goes on in our house,” Dawn jokes.

But they make it work. “Even though the day-to-day is fast-paced, we still take those moments to appreciate the sky or the way everything is growing,” Drew says. “We are part of the farming culture, which is something most people don’t get to experience. I feel really lucky.”

From Challenges Come Opportunities

Drew and Dawn’s hard-work ethic is instilled early in the Johnson kids, who started helping out around the farm and driving tractors at the tender age of eight. Even if none of the kids opts to take over the family business someday, Drew and Dawn are confident that this lifestyle teaches values that will last a lifetime. “We show them through example what it means to work hard,” Dawn says. “It will speak volumes to them as they grow into adulthood, no matter what they decide to do.”

The Johnsons are clearly committed to the traditions that have sustained their family for generations. But they also work hard to keep up with modern farming practices and technologies to ensure their pigs get the best possible care. “We have apps on our phones, so we get an alert if something happens. There’s a lot of technology at work in the barn keeping the pigs safe and happy,” Drew says.

Dawn and Drew Johnson

At the end of the day, it’s all about family—and flexibility. While it might not seem like a traditional way to spend time together, a lot of shared family moments happen while caring for the pigs. It’s why the hog barn has become such a special place for Dawn and Drew: They can work—and spend time together—when they’re there.

But family time involves play too. Whether it’s late-night fun in the swimming pool, gathering around the kitchen island to talk about their days, or shuttling between kids’ activities, the Johnson family makes the most of the precious time they get together. “You just have to go with the flow,” Dawn says. “Plans change. Things break. You work in the family time when you can.”

Dawn and Drew Johnson

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