“I take pride in having decided to stay here and raise my family here.”—Dawn Johnson
Gabe (15), Clay (13),
Live and Farm in:
Spring Run, Pennsylvania
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.”
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.
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.”