Carla Wardin, a dairy farmer from Michigan and one of USFRA’s Faces of Farming and Ranching, reflects this Mother’s Day on the generations of mothers who have shaped their farm and their futures. To celebrate, she made tres leches (three milks) cake recipe with her three sons. 

When my husband Kris and I decided to come back to the farm, part of it was a family decision. We knew what kind of upbringing we wanted for our then-hypothetical children. We wanted them to grow up in a close-knit community, go to small schools, and learn the work ethic, moral teachings, and life lessons of living on a farm.

Kris and I benefitted from the same type of childhood. We both grew up on multi-generational dairy farms. I’m the sixth generation in my family to live and farm on this exact same land.

As a result, when people talk about sustainability, I always like to point to generational farms as an example. Since 1879, my ancestors have been taking care of the land and water in order to ensure that we can raise great crops for our cattle and preserve good pasture for their grazing. We have always taken care to make certain that the creek that flows behind our house is kept clean. My great-great grandma hauled water from it, my great grandma washed their clothes in it, and now we responsibly irrigate from it. 

Taking care of the land and water translates into taking care of our animals. Dairy cattle have a symbiotic relationship with farmers. We give them the best feed, the best comfort, and the best care, and they in turn provide the best milk. The healthier and more comfortable they are, the better and more milk they produce for us to drink. My family has been trying to perfect this relationship for years, as we strive to continually improve the way we raise our animals.

When we bought the farm, it was the third time in my family’s history that the farm was passed down through a daughter. This will definitely not happen in the next generation, because we have three boys! 

Our initial hope we had of teaching our kids lessons through the farm has happened over and over again. They have benefitted from growing up around people who love them, being educated in schools where they know everyone, and learning the lessons of growing up on a farm. They know how important the land and animals are, they know the satisfaction of hard work, and they know that they are the latest in a long line of people who feel the same way.

As a mom, on Mother’s Day, I like to reflect on the generations of mothers who have shaped our farm and our futures (especially our moms!) and think about what’s yet to come. We always get together to celebrate – of course, with food – and enjoy the children we’re raising. Even though they’re young, they’re definitely old enough to understand the pride we have in our farm, our farming practices, our land, and our animals. We trust they will continue this way for generations to come.

Enjoy this tres leches (three milks) cake recipe, included below, which takes dairy recipes to another level … and Happy Mother’s Day from Evergreen Dairy!

Carla Wardin, a member of the second class of Faces of Farming & Ranching, is a dairy farmer from Michigan. Carla and her husband, Kris, are the owners of Evergreen Dairy in St. Johns, Michigan. She is the sixth generation to be farming on her family's farm where they milk 400 cows, and grow crops to feed their cattle on 850 acres of corn, alfalfa and pasture. To learn more about Carla's farm, visit her blog at Truthordairy.blogspot.com.

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Tres Leches Cake
First: 
Set oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13x9 inch baking dish. 
- Prepare the cake recipe.

Cake, bowl one:
¾ cup sugar
5 egg yolks
Beat for 5 minutes.

Add:
1/3 cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

Cake, bowl two:
- 5 egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
Beat until soft peaks form. 
Add ¼ cup sugar. Beat until the whites are firm, but not dry.
- Fold the egg white batter into the egg yolk batter.
Pour into the baking dish.
Bake 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let the cake cool.
- After it’s cooled, pierce the cake every half inch with a fork, taking care not to tear it up. 

Three-milk syrup:
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk until blended. 
After you have pierced the cake, slowly pour the syrup over the top of the cake until it soaks the entire cake.

Topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
Beat the cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form.
Spread the topping on the cake.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Prepare to be delighted!