Most high school kids are fast asleep at 3:45 a.m.
Not Karli Stoltzfus.
Garden Spot’s senior basketball standout does more before 6:30 a.m. than most of her peers.
Stoltzfus and her family — dad Kevin, mom Dina, older sister Kaila and younger brother Kolby — own and operate a dairy farm in East Earl, supplying products to Yoder’s Country Market in New Holland, which is also part of the family’s business.
Karli’s job: A daily 3:45 a.m. wakeup call to milk 50 to 60 cows, and feed calves. Then it’s off to school, budgeting her studies and social time, plus her basketball duties as a co-captain this season. Then another sweep of the farm at night, to make sure everything is prepped for the following day.
“It’s in my system and it’s what I do,” Stoltzfus said. “In eighth grade I started getting up at 5 to feed the calves. All throughout high school I’m up and milking the cows at 3:45. It’s rough, but I love it. It’s my job. It’s my life.”
Basketball is also a big part of Stoltzfus’ life, and she’s had a solid career for Garden Spot, getting varsity minutes right away as a ninth-grader. She’s averaging 7.2 points a game this season, and Stoltzfus has had to juggle her hoops and farm duties wisely the last four years.
“During basketball it gets kind of hard,” she said. “It’s tough to sleep because my adrenaline will still be going after games. And then I have to get up.”
At 3:45 a.m., day after day.
“I can’t imagine that alarm clock going off every morning,” Garden Spot coach Kevin Gensemer said. “I don’t know any kids that get up at 3:45, work hard for two or three hours, and then go to school. How many kids are doing that? So there is a lot of respect there. Karli is a leader, and she wants everyone else on the team working hard.”
Stoltzfus said she’s learned time management, and that working full-time on the farm has been very rewarding. She drives now, so she can mix in social activities with her peers. Stoltzfus is also set to graduate early from Garden Spot, and she has a business internship lined up, with eyes toward her future, which will include working on the family farm.
She’s been accepted at Penn State, and is also considering Penn State-Berks and Elizabethtown College, with the possibility of continuing her basketball career. That decision will come at a later date. But farming will be a constant.
“It doesn’t take away from my life,” Stoltzfus said, “and honestly, it adds to it. Like last week, my best friend came over and fed calves with me for an hour. So they get to learn about what I do, and ask me questions. They know this means a lot to me, so they’ll pay attention to what I’m doing, and I appreciate that.”
Stoltzfus and her family look after about 180 cows at any given time on their farm, and they help produce milk, sour cream, butter and ice cream for Yoder’s.
“Honestly, I love it, working with my family and growing up on a farm,” Stoltzfus said. “I wouldn’t want to change how I’ve grown up. I’ve learned so many different things through farming that I’d never learn in school: Working hard and never giving up. Determination. And that has played into basketball.”
Stoltzfus is 5-foot-8, but she thrives in the paint. She’s a glass-attacker, shot-blocker and rebounding machine — she has 600-plus career rebounds for the Spartans — and she more than holds her own in the lane against taller opponents.
“She plays like a 6-footer in there, always crashing the boards and attacking,” Gensemer said.
“I was taught to work hard at home, so I work hard on the court, too,” Stoltzfus said. “I like doing the little things that not everybody likes to do: Rebounding, boxing out, crashing the boards, diving on the ground. I’ve always done that, and I’ve always been better at that area of the game.”
Working hard on the farm — starting at 3:45 a.m. every day — and working hard in the classroom and on the basketball court. It’s what she does.
“It’s definitely a family effort,” Stoltzfus said. “Everyone has to pitch in to make everything function. Working with my family is so much fun. We’ve made so many memories being on the farm and working together. I wouldn’t change a thing.”