Hold The Judgement, Please!

Why do you pass judgement

Sunday’s second lesson was a doozy. Hello, conviction, guilt, and being humbled! Read the full text below. Don’t just skim it, read it.

Romans 14: 1-12

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Yikes! Living in a society that loves to label others, and judge them based on our own standards of what is “right” and what is “wrong” is not very Christ-like, is it?

What does this mean for agriculture advocates?

Agvocating, according to those who coined the term, is about “listening to others…and connecting with those outside of agriculture.” It is about opening doors to allow for dialogue. In the post that I linked to, it also describes agtivists, and what the differences are. There is one part of agtivism that pertains to the scriptures above. Mike Haley wrote, “Individuals practicing agtivism, or agtivists’ often take offense to others with opposing views and dismiss theirs concerns about agriculture to prove their point that today’s agriculture practices must exist in order to feed the world.”  By arguing over opposing views, or dismissing their concerns about agriculture, we are passing judgement on our target audience. We are telling them that their concerns are not important, or valid; they must think like we do in order to be right. But what if they are fully convinced in their own minds that their choices are right for them and their family? Do you treat them as a brother or sister, or do you despise them and call them unsavory names in forums where you think they will not see? “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God.”

I am thankful for forgiveness

Today’s gospel lesson and sermon talked about forgiveness. A few points have really stuck with me.

I am so thankful for forgiveness. Remember me talking about feeling convicted, guilty, and humbled? I know that I am forgiven. I don’t always think I deserve it, but God is merciful.

The gospel lesson and sermon also reminded me that I need to forgive. Asking forgiveness is only a part of the equation. I also need to extend forgiveness, “from my heart”. Not in word alone, but from the heart.

Matthew 18: 21-22

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

Look closely at who Peter is concerned about. Another member of the church. For us, it could be a neighbor, another blogger, the customer service representative you need to have fix something, an elected official…anyone you come into contact with whether in person or online. Pastor also explained that seventy-seven times is code for infinity. We can never stop forgiving others. That is not an action that is ever done, or checked off the to-do list. The gospel lesson concluded with a parable about a slave who owed money, and whose debt was forgiven…but he turned around and punished another who owed him a lot less. When his master heard about it, this was the reply:

Matthew 18:32-35

32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Putting it all together

We should not judge others based on differences of opinion about food choices, farming choices, or lifestyle choices. Judgmental attitudes create tension, mistrust, and anger. I’m not sure any of those feelings are helpful when agvocating, or life in general. Agvocating can be done in a way that is positive, and creates conversations. That should be the goal. You don’t need to write about what your neighbor is doing, or throw others under the bus because you don’t like their choices. Sharing your own story, or using some of Ryan Goodman’s 88 blog topic ideas for agriculture bloggers are great ways to start putting positive messages out there.

There are times, however, when we will fail. We all do. Which is why we must forgive, and ask forgiveness. Seventy-seven times. To infinity, and beyond. Forgiveness heals relationships, it opens doors to friendships, and it is freeing. Walking around grumbling about who wronged you takes energy, and makes you miserable to be around. At least, that’s what my family tells me.

So, instead of looking for ways others are wrong so you can ‘set them straight’, look for ways to tell your own story. Listen to those who have a different opinion, and don’t rush to judgement. Forgive those who have hurt you, and seek the forgiveness of those you have hurt.

There is a song in our hymnal that I thought would be appropriate to close with.

In All Our Grief

Help us to put aside the angry word,

the clenching fist, the wish and will to hurt.

Teach us the way in which love best is served.

Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy,

Lord, grant us peace.

-Sylvia Dunstan

 

Related posts:

Is It Possible…Truth

What Does it Mean to Love Our Neighbor?

Loving the Good – A Challenge

Who Am I to Judge – For Farmers and Consumers

September’s Harvest Moon

On Monday, September 8th, the final Super Moon of the year is supposed to happen. We have a pretty good chance of rain on Monday, but I am hoping that the skies stay clear so I can get a photo of the moon just rising over the corn fields. That is the perfect time to capture the Harvest Moon, especially when it is a Super Moon!

I have been working on my evening and night photography over the last year, and that perfect moon shot still eludes me. Part of the fun of digital photography is how quickly you can make adjustments and figure out what your settings should be just by looking at the feedback on your camera. In my haste to get out the door, I forgot to change the white balance from an indoor setting to the one I wanted. When I checked the first photo, it was blue. Had I taken a roll of film, I probably would have been pretty bummed if all my moon photos were the wrong color!

I was using my 55-250 zoom lens, which has a slower shutter speed than my other lenses. To get around that, I played with my settings a little until I got an exposure that was close to what I wanted. I would recommend using a tripod, unlike I did tonight. It will give you more options for settings to get the exposure you desire.

For this photo, I had the camera set in AV mode (Canon) and had the aperture at f/5.6 with a shutter speed of 1/320 sec. My ISO was at 400, since I was not using a tripod. To compensate for the bright moon, I dialed my exposure compensation down to -4.7. My zoom was all the way at 250mm, and I cropped the photo to get the moon to the size I wanted for the quote.  I cropped and added text in PicMonkey, which is my current favorite quick editing program (it’s all online, super easy to use, and most of it is free!).

I hope some of you will be able to get awesome shots of the September Super Moon!

September Supermoon

 

Lessons for Agvocates from the Pew

It Depends on Agvocates to Live Peaceably

I slid into the pew a few minutes late on Sunday, still tired from the trip to the Minnesota State Fair the day before. Jonathan and I spent 4 hours in the Minnesota Farm Bureau building, sharing our farming story, and giving fair goers an opportunity to meet a real farmer. The conversations were excellent, and I hope that everyone walked away with a better view of American agriculture than when they walked in the building.

Back in the pew, it came time for the scripture lessons to be read, I was trying hard to pay attention. My coffee hadn’t kicked in yet, so concentrating was difficult. Then we came to a passage from Romans 12. This made me sit up a little straighter and listen closely.

Romans 12:9-21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

A few of these instructions are good reminders for agvocates

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”

When you disagree with another agvocate, do you hold fast to what is good about that person, or love them with mutual affection, or outdo them in showing honor?  That’s a difficult task, isn’t it? I know my first reaction isn’t to look for the good in a person who ticks me off. It takes work to love someone who has used words as weapons, let alone outdoing them in showing honor. Honor to me, means showing them respect as a person and a fellow farmer.

In the book The ABC’s of Networking by Thom Singer, “R” stands for “Respect”. He talks about how easy it is to see the shortcomings in people, but goes on to say, “If all you see is someone’s faults, how can you really admire them or work with them? Without admiration, can you really show them respect?” He challenges his readers to find at least one good thing in the people that we encounter every day. Seeing the good helps us to have positive relationships with those we may disagree with.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”

Who do you feel persecutes you? Those whom you have labeled as the “anti’s”, the neighbor who delights in gossiping about you at the cafe in town, or other agvocates? How do we bless them when they’ve pushed all our buttons, or spread misinformation about our farm? I think we have to go back to the first phrase…respecting someone as a person and fellow farmer needs to be the priority. It is too easy to assume that the “enemy” doesn’t have feelings, or isn’t affected by your words of retaliation. We are instructed to bless them, not curse them.

There are a lot of blogs focused on the Food Babe being published lately. I have never heard her speak, nor do I follow her on social media. What I do know, is that the things I have read from agvocates hasn’t been very nice. She may be the enemy in this case, but cursing her (wishing her harm or calling her evil) is not the answer. Getting banned from her page should not be a badge of honor. We need to learn from the lessons of Panera, Chipotle, and Muck Boots on how to react…or not react…to these situations. As it says above, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.”  Instead of attacking those who we feel are wrong, we need to focus on getting positive messages out there, and be the trusted source for our consumers.

“Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.”

This part of the passage keeps echoing in my head. Live in harmony, do not be haughty, do not claim to be wiser than you are. Over and over. I don’t know about you, but I have issues with pride. I sometimes feel that I am better than my neighbor because I am an agvocate, and they are not even on social media. How pathetic is that? I am no better than my neighbor. I make mistakes, I get caught up in my emotions, I don’t always say the right things, I use words in anger, I am not an expert on everything. I am not perfect. But you know what? Neither are you. None of us are, so how can we claim to be wiser than our neighbors?

I’ll be honest. It bugs the heck out of me when I read a blog about a subject the author has no real world experience in. It’s kind of like a singer trying to sing out of their range. It can be painful to listen to. I’ve heard it said many times over the last few weeks that we don’t have to be the expert on everything. It’s okay to not blog about certain topics that you are not totally comfortable with. Knowing who to turn to as an expert is valuable. If I need information about dairy farming, I have friends I can turn to. If I have questions about GMOs, I have friends I can turn to. I don’t write about dairy farming, because I have never been a dairy farmer. I don’t write about GMOs because I have not used them for many years. Writing about what you do on your farm is so important, and you are the expert on what you do.

Living in harmony with one another enables us to turn to the experts in the various sectors of agriculture for a better understanding. Not being haughty, to me, means that you will accept corrections if you made a mistake in a post. Associating with the lowly is associating with those who are different than you are…which would pretty much be every other farm out there. And not claiming to be wiser than you are is being willing to let others deal with topics that you don’t have any practical experience with, or are uncomfortable with.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

Agriculture advocates really are a community of people who want the best for agriculture. As a community, we should be rejoicing with those who rejoice, and not knocking them down. We should be weeping with those who weep, whether it is a personal issue or the sting of rejection. If someone is in need of prayer, would you deny them that because they farm differently or you have a personality conflict? Lets focus on healing the relationships within our own ranks, so together we can work on a positive attitude towards agriculture.

“If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

My friend and blogging mentor, Katie Pinke, shared the Prayer of St Francis last night on her Facebook page. It fits in so well with the scripture lesson above, that I thought it would be fitting to include it here.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

 

10 Takaways from AgChat’s Cultivate and Connect

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Austin, Texas for AgChat’s Cultivate and Connect conference. This was a gathering of over 140 people from all over the United States, Canada, and Australia. It was a wonderful mix of accents and agricultural backgrounds. I loved meeting so many awesome people in person that I have talked farming with over social media for a long time. For some, it was as if we’ve been neighbors for years.

The whole conference was centered around helping us to tell our agriculture story more effectively. We had great keynote speakers: Thom Singer opened the conference, and really fired us up. Katie Uhlaender, an Olympic skeleton athlete and rancher from Kansas gave us some things to think about while she was telling her story. Montana Logger Bruce Vincent closed the conference, telling us how important it is to get our stories out there, and lead from the front. I also attended four breakout sessions, and had the opportunity to tour North America’s largest Whole Foods, which was founded in Austin.

I like making lists to help me process my thoughts after attending inspiring conferences like this one. I thought I would share 10 takeaways with you, to help you see the conference from my perspective.

10. Agvocates are Awesome! Every single person I met was exactly how I thought they would be. We all have a passion for telling our stories, so there was never a lull in the conversations. I just wish I was able to spend more time with more people. Two days just wasn’t enough to see everyone I wanted to see!

9. Every Agvocate should attend at least 1 AgChat event. Where else can you go, see someone in person for the first time, and immediately go up to them and give them a huge hug? I swear, some of them could be my long lost relatives. This feeling of “you look so familiar” was common, even with people I wasn’t following on social media. If meeting your fellow #AgNerds isn’t enough, the training available, and the expertise amongst the AgChat Foundation board members and fellow attendees makes the whole stress of traveling worth it. I’m not a good flyer…and this was my first time booking a ticket and flying by myself. The experience was totally worth the stress!

8. The City of Austin is cool…and a lot like agriculture. This was my first time staying in Austin, and only the 2nd time I had been there at all. Austin is one of those cities that amazes me. The first night we went to an upscale foodie type restaurant, and the last night it was a taco bar. We ate at a food truck for one of our conference meals, and at our banquet we had a delicious taste of Austin. There were so many great choices, that it was hard to decide which establishment I wanted to try when given the chance. The whole area was a mix of culture, taste, music, and attitude which gave the whole city a vibe that made it one of those experiences I won’t soon forget. If you were to remove one of those elements, the city wouldn’t be as exciting. That’s where it is a lot like agriculture. We have a mix of culture, taste, attitude, and styles that gives ag a great vibe. It is necessary to have a wide range of choices for our consumers, so they can choose what part they want to experience at any given time.

7. Listening to our consumers may get uncomfortable. What does it mean to you when you hear the phrase, “We need to listen to our consumers”? We had a blogger, a journalist, and a chef who really have little to no connection to agriculture speak. The blogger was in a breakout session that I did not attend, but she has been good about participating in more Q&A online following the conference. The other two were part of a panel, along with a registered dietician who does have a connection to agriculture. The conversation got uncomfortable at times, as we heard things being said about agriculture that are completely different than what we see, and it was hard to not get really upset. We really needed to go into the situation with an open mind in order to better understand where those consumers were coming from. We aren’t really listening to our consumers if we’re busy forming rebuttals to what they say while they are speaking.

6. Our consumers are smart – they don’t need educating.  How many times have you heard…or uttered the phrase…they just need to be educated, then they’ll accept my type of farming? Many of the consumers that “need educating” are college graduates. I don’t have a college degree, so how can I imply that I am smarter than they are? That’s kind of presumptuous, isn’t it? Taking an air of superiority isn’t going to foster a relationship built on trust. As we heard from one speaker, we need to engage, not educate.

5. For every negative story, we need 6 positive stories to break even. It’s easy to see how many people are so depressed when you listen to the news. Every story is so negative. It gets to the point where you never want to watch the news again. Negativity sells. This is why it is so important to get positive agriculture stories out there. We may not see an increase in corn prices because we blogged about the new calves that were born last night, or about how a combine works, but is that the only reason to blog? We need to get so many good stories about agriculture out there that we are the first choice on search engines when someone is asking why a goat eats cans.

4. We have awesome stories. I loved a point that Bruce Vincent made. He talked about how we are not perfect, but we have great stories to tell. He also stated that, “Rural cultures need a trusted ‘human face’ to share our story…that story is yours.” How much more convincing do we need? I would love it if more farmers were tweeting or sending Facebook updates from their fields, barns, and pastures. I want to hear the stories as much as anyone. When our consumers are ready to hear, give them something to read!

3. You’ll never know when you’ll need someone in your network. This was a major point made by Thom Singer. We never know when we meet someone how they will impact our lives. I know that the people I hung out with before and after the conference have made a huge impact on me already. They are my mentors and my peers. It is important to keep up those relationships, because you never know when you might need them.

2. We cannot attack others in agriculture because they don’t do it our way. Nothing makes me upset more than agvocates putting down other agvocates because they do things differently. Why perpetuate the negative stories or assumptions when you have such an awesome positive story to tell? When agvocates let their differences take over, they lose out on relationships with some pretty darn good people.

1. Building relationships takes time and work, but it is worth it! I joined Twitter 2 years ago so I could participate in AgChat on Tuesday nights. I met some pretty fun people because of those chats, and gained a lot of new social media friends. That led to my very first AgChat conference, and regional event held in Minnesota…which ultimately led to attending the Cultivate and Connect conference in Austin. It was easy to work on those relationships, as I would encounter them regularly during chats or when posting about my farm. We were challenged by Thom Singer to work on our relationships, and be the one to reach out and say ‘hello’. Be prepared, my friends. I’m looking forward to more conversations, and building more relationships with both #AgNerds and consumers.

I’d like to thank the AgChat Foundation board for working so hard at making this conference a positive experience!

The "Bat Bridge" in Austin, Texas. 1.5 million Mexican Tailless Bats live there!
The “Bat Bridge” in Austin, Texas. 1.5 million Mexican Tailless Bats live there!

 

Love Is….

I had the awesome opportunity to attend the AgChat Cultivate and Connect conference in Austin, Texas this week. However, that meant for the first time in 26 years, Jonathan and I would not be spending our wedding anniversary together. I was so worried about my flying by myself for the first time ever, that I forgot to even pick up an anniversary card. It is something that has really bothered me this week.

When the conference concluded on Friday, I headed up to my hotel room, and met one of the desk clerks who said she just put something in my room. I opened the door, and there was a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Jonathan! Missing him even more, I burst into happy tears. I’m sappy that way, I know.  I called him, and started crying on the phone right away, to which he replied, “oh, you must have gotten the flowers!” Yep, he knows me!

The flower arrangement is beautiful! It is a mix of flowers that, individually, are pretty. Together, they are gorgeous. It’s sort of like our marriage…and the quote below. Jonathan and I are individuals, but together, we are stronger.

I love you, Jonathan!

CarolynCares Love Is

Why Minnesotans Should Be Wary of the EPA’s Rule

I live in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes. Or, more precisely, 11,842 lakes that are 10 acres or larger, 6564 natural streams and rivers, and 10.6 million acres of wetlands. (source: MN DNR) Water is a big deal in Minnesota, not only for the impact on agriculture, but also as a major source of recreation and revenue from those activities. Our outdoor industry is so important, that we have a state law in effect that schools cannot start until after Labor Day so that families can enjoy one more weekend at their favorite resort or lake. There are a few exceptions, but the residents of those districts are split on whether or not it’s a good thing to start school before the last long weekend of the summer.
When I first heard about the proposed rule that the Environmental Protection Agency filed earlier this year, I was undecided as to whether or not it was a good or bad thing. The more I read, the more I became concerned. The rule is supposed to provide clarification to what some of the terminology of the Clean Water Act (CWA) means. The rule doesn’t change the fact that waters will be assessed, monitored, or cleaned up. There is no language in the rule that changes the basic CWA. What does change is who is in charge of enforcing the assessing, monitoring, and cleaning up. I have a problem with that.
It is important to know what the definition is of paragraph (s)(1) through (4) says, since it is referenced in many parts of the rule.
“(s) For purposes of all sections of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq. and its implementing
regulations, subject to the exclusions in paragraph (t) of this section, the term “waters of the United
States” means:
(1) All waters which are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate
or foreign commerce, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide;
(2) All interstate waters, including interstate wetlands;
(3) The territorial seas;
(4) All impoundments of waters identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) and (5) of this section”

The rule says that ditches are exempt if they meet these criteria:
“(3) Ditches that are excavated wholly in uplands, drain only uplands, and have less than perennial flow.
(4) Ditches that do not contribute flow, either directly or through another water, to a water identified in
paragraphs (s)(1) through (4) of this section.” According to this definition, the exempted ditches as listed are not really exempted…because all ditches in Minnesota run “either directly or through another water, to a water identified in paragraph(s)(1) through (4) of this section.” This means that the EPA will basically have control of every single ditch in Minnesota….agricultural, municipal, wherever. We have so many lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands, that it is pretty much impossible for any ditch to qualify for this exemption.

The rule goes on to try to define what “significant nexus” means. This is where I think it really gets worrisome for Minnesotans.
“The term significant nexus means that a water, including wetlands, either alone or in combination with other similarly situated waters in the region (i.e., the watershed that drains to the nearest water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) of this section), significantly affects the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) of this section. For an effect to be significant, it must be more than speculative or insubstantial. Other waters, including wetlands, are similarly situated when they perform similar functions and are located sufficiently close together or sufficiently close to a “water of the United States” so that they can be evaluated as a single landscape unit with regard to their effect on the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) of this section.”

Remembering back to Mr. Emmon’s Earth Science class at Jackson Junior High in Champlin, and the lessons on how water moves makes this definition of significant nexus pretty inclusive of all water in Minnesota. When you look at a watershed map from your county Soil and Water Conservation District, or the Natural Resources Conservation Service you will see that all of the waters in Minnesota flow to the Red River of the North, the Rainy River, Great Lakes basin, Mississippi River, or Missouri River. All of those basins are interstate waters. This would mean that the EPA would have control of all water in Minnesota.

So, why do I have a problem with that? Minnesota has done a great job of implementing the parts of the Clean Water Act that the states were given the authority over. The Clean Water Council is made up of stakeholders representing all areas affected by the rules of the CWA, and those interested in the environment. Who better to help oversee waters in Minnesota, than those who are directly affected by, and care about, the waters in Minnesota? If the EPA’s Rule doesn’t change the fact that the waters are going to be cleaned up where necessary, what is the point of the Rule? It looks more like a control issue than a clarification issue to me. This is why I think we need to #DitchtheRule.

Join me in contacting the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers asking them to withdraw the proposed rule. A rule that won’t change which waters are regulated, but one that shifts authority away from Minnesotans and into the hands of Washington D.C. bureaucrats.

(Click here to read the EPA’s proposed rule)
(Click here for more information about Farm Bureau’s Ditch the Rule)
(Click here for the Minnesota Farm Bureau Clean Water Act links)

CarolynCares Flooding
A large puddle in our farm yard

.

Same location, 22 hours later. This could be under EPA jurisdiction, due to the watershed this puddle was in.
Same location, 22 hours later. This water went into the Redwood River Watershed, which ultimately leads to the Mississippi River.

 

Throwback Thursday – County Fair Days

This is the second year that we have not had a daughter in 4-H. It still seems weird not being at the county fairgrounds every day, all day, while taking care of their goats and horses. Parts of me is thankful we don’t have the stress of show day, but part of me misses it as well. Showing animals at the county fair teaches kids so many things about life…and about agvocating.

Here is a photo from one of the last years that all three girls showed goats.

Anna, Laura, and Christina following the goat show , 2009
Anna, Laura, and Christina following the goat show , 2009

 

Where Agriculture and Horror Movies Collide

Have you watched the movie “Alien” where a creature bursts out of the chest of a human, killing him? Truth be told, I am not a fan of horror movies. However, when similar things happen to insects in nature, I am totally fascinated!

Starting today, one of our soybean fields will have little wasps that act like the Alien. They sting soybean aphids, and lay their eggs inside the aphid. This kills and mummifies the aphid. When the larva is ready for the next stage of life, it bursts out of the mummified aphid body. So cool!

So, what do these vicious creatures look like?

CarolynCares Wasp

Did you see it? Maybe this extreme closeup will help…

CarolynCares Wasp Closeup

Yep, these tiny little wasps are the size of a soybean aphid…which is about as big as the dot of a Sharpie Fine Pen. Nick, a doctoral student from the University of Minnesota entomology department came out today to distribute 75,000 of these little buggers. They arrived in their shipping containers, which were mummified soybean aphids on soybean leaves. The black dots are the aphids which house the wasps…

CarolynCares Mummies

Nick transferred the wasps, leaves, and larva to a slightly larger cup, making sure he had a similar amount of wasps in each cup (yes, someone had figured out how many there were in each cup). He then put a mesh over the top that was large enough for the wasps to go in and out, but not large enough for predators like lady beetles to get in. These cups were put in milk crates as a base of sorts for the wasps.

CarolynCares Wasp Release

Nick then went walking on the edge of the field, flagging locations for the six crates to be placed. After that he measured out about 2 meters in each direction, and placed another flag. The soybean plants by those flags will be checked in 3 weeks to see if the wasps have moved that far from their point of release.

One of the limiting factors in this research is the amount of soybean aphids currently in our fields. When we were looking, we really didn’t find many at all. This is due to the delays in planting, and the cooler weather that has slowed the growth of the soybeans. Nick was explaining the optimal time for aphid movement according to soybean plant stage, and encouraged scouting within the next two weeks.

Jonathan and I are pretty interested in learning more about how this natural aphid control will work in a real world situation. We are hoping that this will turn into a viable tool that we can use to combat the soybean aphid. Right now, as organic farmers, we have no effective method to control them other than planting naturally aphid tolerant varieties of soybeans. Nick is hoping that the wasps that were released today will not only help us this year, but their future generations will be helpful in the years to come.

How cool is it that scientists have found an Alien like way to control an agriculture pest?

 

 

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