She milks, births, waters, pets, and sometimes serenades the bovines at Traders Point Creamery with a trumpet. Her musical repertoire is cow appropriate: “Back Home Again in Indiana” and “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
“I play for them frequently, so the older cows are kind of tired of it, but the young ones are totally into it,” says Stewart, 25, a trumpet performance major at Indiana University. “I had this idea to train the cows to come up for ‘Reveille’ in the morning. It didn’t work.”
Founded in 2003 by Fritz and Jane Elder Kunz, Traders Point was the first USDA-certified organic dairy farm in Indiana. The 130-acre compound in Zionsville also includes the Loft Restaurant and a farm store, which sells artisan dairy products such as organic cheeses, housemade ice cream, and killer chocolate milk.
Hired in 2014, Stewart worked at the dairy bar for two years, biding her time until she could move outdoors. She doesn’t come from a farming family—unless you count a few backyard chickens—but she now cares for 62 cows, 100 chickens, 75 chicks, five guinea hens, and three ducks. At first, she was a one-woman show, working 12-hour days, seven days a week. A few times, she hired assistants who quit because the work was too taxing. So her brother came to help. Then her mother. And now her father.
“Tractors and cows. How can you beat it?” says Bruce Stewart, who volunteered to clear trails, fix fences, and weed after seeing his daughter buried in work. He put in so many hours, he was hired, even though he has a job running his fourth-generation business, Stewart Electric. “You’re out there in nature,” he says. “When you get tired, you can talk to a cow. Some of them will listen.”
Macy Stewart never backs down from the grueling routine. Twice a day, at 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., she milks the cows. In the morning, she moves the herd to fresh grass, roping them inside a movable electric fence. (A single cow eats 60 pounds of grass a day.) Next, Stewart feeds the chickens, collects the eggs, washes them, and brings them to the store. Then she moves the dry herd—the cows not being milked—to fresh grass and tends the other animals.
“It’s always something. But if it was easy, everyone would do it.”
Stewart has office duties as well. She tracks milk production, manages the budget, directs employees and payroll, attends meetings, fixes broken equipment, buys hay, and whatever else comes up—and something always comes up. Lately, it has been coyotes preying on chickens. “The coyotes don’t leave any evidence,” Stewart says. “Every now and then, you’ll see one feather on the ground. They grab the bird and run.”
The death of animals is the worst part of her job. Stewart once had to deliver a dead calf from a birthing heifer in a snowstorm in February. The mother was so exhausted, she lay on the ground, her front legs paralyzed while Stewart wrestled out the stillborn calf. (After a week of “cow therapy,” the mother recovered.)
But most days spent with the cows are happy ones. Stewart enters a penned pasture and Prancer lumbers over, a thousand pounds of drooly, bovine neediness. Stewart scratches his neck. Flies buzz. Dung perfumes the humid air.
“Prancer loves attention,” she says. “We can put a Santa hat on him, and he’ll pose for all the pictures.”
Cows can be jealous, bossy, shy, devious, or, like Martha, flat-out snotty. “She puts up a front as if she’s a big bad cow, but she’s not,” Stewart says. Like people, cows have their moods. “Sometimes they wake up on the wrong side of the barn and aren’t feeling it.”
Though Traders Point eschews chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones, Stewart uses some modern techniques. Yesterday, a box of chicks arrived in the mail. Yes, you can order baby chicks over the internet for $3.50 apiece. Stewart picked up her new charges—shipped in a cardboard box punctured with holes—at the post office at 5:30 a.m. and transferred the fluff balls to a warming coop softened with wood chips.
One day, Stewart wants her own dairy farm, a dream her mother believes she will achieve. “Farming is her passion, and she has the determination to do it,” Lisa Stewart says.
Another positive: Stewart knows when to ask for help, like when the power goes out. As the creamery has no generator, the restaurant closes, and the servers put down their trays and help Stewart milk the cows by hand, creating an impromptu, laborious milking party.
“It’s always something,” Stewart says of the unpredictability of farm life. “But if it was easy, everyone would do it.”