As a mom of two young boys, I frequently feel like I’m herding a pack of wild animals. Trying to keep them from killing or being killed really is no small feat. And until my own motherhood, my appreciation for the role and its responsibility was underwhelming to say the least. But now I speak with the utmost sincerity and respect when I say—to my own mother and all moms out there—”Way to go, girl.”

But, can you imagine a herd of 50? Or a flock of 500? Or both at the same time? That’s exactly what Grass Roots farm mothers face every single day. In addition to their human broods—which range from 2 to 6 human offspring and even a few grandkids—these farmers are taking care of hundreds of heads of livestock. And because our animals are raised outdoors and are regularly moved to fresh paddocks, they require extra TLC.

For example, consider all the crazy rains we’ve had this spring. There were a couple of days when I was trapped inside with my twin-pack of bouncy toddlers and I thought I was going to pull my hair out. Or theirs. Or all of ours. But we were warm and dry and had plenty of food. I didn’t have to haul hay out to a pasture in the pouring rain at 2:30 in the morning to cover the grass under a couple thousand cool, wet feet.  But Andrea at Falling Sky Farm braved the weather and ignored her own exhaustion because she wanted to make sure her flock was warm and well tended to.

So why do they do it, our mother-farmers who rise before their children and stay up well past curfew? Melanie Ward at Fresh Food says, “I love working in a way that I know is the most responsible thing for the environment, for the animals, and for my family…And I just love my pretty chickens.” 

Melanie also speaks fondly of working alongside her children and grandchildren. “It feels wholesome. Farming allows us to teach them tough life lessons. They’ve learned things that would have been a lot harder to teach in a different environment.” She also enjoys the observational element to the job. “I love sitting in the brooder with my granddaughters and watching the baby chicks. It’s all so full of life.”

Check out the broods of each of our our mother farmers below. And I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Mad props, mamas.” You deserve to be celebrated every day.