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What Kind of Impact are You Leaving on Others?

making a positive impact on others

The impact we have on others, whether through a brief chat in a checkout line, or serving on a committee together is something I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately.

This past summer, I took the opportunity to participate in some Life Coaching. I’m approaching a milestone birthday at a rapid pace, and I want to go into this next decade feeling better about life than I did when I entered the current decade.

A couple of things really stood out to me when I looked at the results of the various assessments I took. Leadership is a pretty strong theme. Along with leadership, the threads of communication, empathy, fun, extroversion, harmony, and passion (to name a few) helped me to see how uniquely I am made. They have also been a source of contemplation…how can I use this information to be the best me?

Following my coaching sessions, I have focused on the impact that I have had on others…good and bad. As part of the leadership focus, I have also been observing the behavior of others as mental note taking on how actions directly affect those we encounter every day. I have witnessed some pretty awesome encounters in the checkout lines at Walmart, where people have been kind to strangers, and patient when the process is taking a bit. There have also been some pretty negative experiences where I wonder why I am volunteering for certain groups, or why I try to share my farm story online.

This leaves me with the question: What kind of an impact are you leaving on others? Are you making sure that those you encounter leave with a positive impression of you…or are you making sure you win the argument at all costs? With all of the division, hatred, and violence in the world today, my challenge to you is to make sure you are leaving a positive impact on those you encounter every day. Doesn’t matter if it is in person, or online. You don’t have to agree with everything a person does or stands for to have a positive impact. If nothing else, be kind. Always.

Thankful Thursday – Legislative Assistants

Legislative Assistants

A huge shout out and thank you to all the Legislative Assistants out there!

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to head to Washington DC for a few days of Farm Bureau meetings, and a day on Capitol Hill. I love when we are able to visit our elected officials. I have learned so much about leadership, and how to work with those you may not agree with politically.

One of the things that has been repeated with every visit, is the importance of building a relationship with the Legislative Assistants. When I see Senator Amy Klobuchar’s LA, Brian Werner, I try to get a selfie or a photo with him if his day is not crazy busy. He is a native of my county, a connection that has led to a recognition when we see each other either in DC, or when he is traveling to Minnesota for his job. In the photo above, I was able to greet him at a hearing about the Farm Bill in his home town.

Legislative Assistants are human, and we need to treat them that way.

While we were waiting for our meeting with Senator Klobuchar, we had the chance to ask questions of her office staff. They were busy answering phones, and reading the emails that were coming in. They explained the process of sorting emails to the appropriate file (not the deleted folder), and how every call is logged. Even with the volume of calls they receive, the two staffers were very friendly on the phone. Ever feel like calling up your senator or representative and ripping them a new one? Don’t. The people on the other end of the line are human, and they don’t like being yelled at any more than you do. Ripping someone a new one is also a poor reflection on you or the organization you represent. The Golden Rule applies to congressional staffers, and our elected officials.

Meeting with a Legislative Assistant is a good thing

Sometimes schedules are so crazy that we cannot meet with our Congressmen or Senators. Having the ability to sit down with their LA’s is a good thing. They are the ones who will research, document, and make recommendations to their boss about whatever it is that you are wanting them to work on. Drop them a business card on your way out of the meeting, and follow up with a thank you email as soon as you are able. I’m still working on mine from two weeks ago, but I will get them done!

 

I’m thankful that we have talented, smart, and energetic individuals who are working as our Legislative Assistants. Whether they are working for a boss in DC, or your home state…in the office on the Hill, or in a field office, we need to treat them all with a bit of kindness, and show them a little appreciation now and then.

Feeling Grateful

grateful for what I am

I have many things to be grateful for…

This past September didn’t go exactly how any of us predicted it would. We were sure that I would be spending about two weeks in Kentucky after Lydia was born, but there were also many unknowns. I had a bit of time to contemplate the month as I drove home from Pikeville on the 27th and 28th – about 2 days worth of time – and I kept coming up with the same theme. I have so many things to be grateful for.

Anna, Doug, and Lydia

grateful for the Meyer family

If it weren’t for Lydia’s arrival on September 1st, I wouldn’t have gone to Kentucky in the first place. I was so excited when they asked me early on in the pregnancy to spend some time with them after their bundle arrived. I am grateful that they didn’t kick me out after spending 24 days with them. A new baby is stressful enough when you are first time parents, but Anna and Doug also have her multiple sclerosis and his medical school schedule to deal with. We were a bit concerned when Anna had to be hospitalized for a few days due to an infection, but at the same time, I was thankful that they put Anna on the labor and delivery floor so Doug could bring Lydia to spend the days as a family of three. Anna’s infection triggered a MS relapse, so I was asked to stay a little longer to help care for Anna while Doug’s mom was there to take care of Lydia. Two moms in the house for a week, and we all survived! It was good for Karen and I to get to know each other better, and I liked that it helped me to understand Doug a little better as well. It wasn’t always easy being patient with each other, but looking back on our time together, I am grateful that I was able to stay and help as long as I did.

Jonathan

I know it’s pretty sappy, but I have to say, I am so grateful for Jonathan. He was so understanding and encouraging when I was homesick. I left home on September 1st, and arrived back home on September 28th. That is the longest we have been apart from each other in the 28 years we have been married. Jonathan and Laura did come to spend a couple of days in Pikeville during my time there, but most of that time was spent oohing and ahhing over our granddaughter.

After I arrived home, Jonathan has been kind enough to let me ease back in to “real life”. There are many things I need to catch up on before harvest gets super busy, and I am thankful that he has been so patient with me.

Farm Bureau

I am grateful to be part of an organization that understands the importance of family. While I was in Kentucky, I missed a few county annual meetings, a state board meeting, and an event with the American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. I felt bad about missing the meetings and event, but I was assured that family is first. There are many organizations that are not as forgiving when it comes to family events. That is another reason why I am thankful to be a member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

Family and Friends

I have a pretty awesome family, and an amazing group of friends. I am so grateful for the prayers offered when we asked for them…and for those offered when we didn’t ask. I also received texts, notes, and messages that seemed to come at just the right time. Thank you to the family and friends who lift my spirits constantly.

Living in a different region

grateful for seeing God's beauty

This is a view off of the front deck at Doug and Anna’s house during a rain storm. They live in a hollow (pronounced “holler”) in the hills. You can see the road winding up the road. They basically live on the side of an Appalachian mountain. I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, and I’ve lived on the prairie of Southwestern Minnesota for 28 years. After awhile, the mountains seemed to close in on me…but at the same time, the views were breathtaking. I am grateful for the opportunity to live in a different region of the country for a month. I fell in love with the Food City grocery store in Pikeville, and even brought home some southern versions of foods we like. I’m pretty sure that if I wasn’t bringing home some boxes of Anna’s, I would have tried to bring home many more groceries from Food City! Anna and Doug have some pretty awesome friends as well. I had the privilege of meeting some of their medical school friends this trip, and am thankful they let this “granny” hang out with them. (Yes, I was totally called granny at one of Lydia’s pediatric appointments…I don’t have a bun like granny in Beverly Hillbillies, or the granny in the Tweety cartoons…yet.)

Feeling grateful…

My trip to Kentucky contained a roller coaster of emotions…heck, I cried all the way through it on my way home after leaving sweet Lydia…but the overwhelming emotion is one of gratitude. Thank you for all of the thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, and friendship.  It’s good to be home.

So, Where Does Your Corn Go?

corn tassles at sunset

One of the questions I get asked most when telling my farm story is “Where does your corn go?” Our corn is certified organic, so it doesn’t go to the local elevator where our neighbors deliver theirs. We have a few options, and work with buyers to find the right price and right market for our crop.

Animal Feed

One possible use for our corn is animal feed. Organically raised animals that eat ground corn must eat certified organic corn. We have shipped our corn on rail cars to California, New York, and places in between. Living in the Southwest Minnesota, we have the soils and proper weather conditions for raising pretty good corn. The animal feed market is influenced not only by livestock farmers in our area, but all over the United States.

Alcohol

This market may not be my mom’s favorite, but it has been a good one. Last year we sold our corn to an ethanol plant that makes consumable alcohols as a division of their business. They make regular vodka out of conventional corn, and a few times a year clean the plant and make organic alcohols with organic corn. They make vodka for a couple companies, as well as the alcohol that goes in organic vanilla extract, alcohol based cleaning supplies, and pharmaceuticals.

People Products

Typically we think of sweet corn as being the type of corn used for humans. However, there are many products on store shelves made from field corn. Corn chips, tortilla chips, corn flour, starch, and corn meal are a few examples. We have sold corn to cereal companies in the past as well. There are also many non-edible items made from corn and corn oils, but those typically are not organic products, so they wouldn’t use our crop.

We’re not that different, really

When you look at where our corn goes, it sounds pretty similar to where conventionally raised corn goes. One of the reasons so many farmers raise corn is the fact that it has many uses!  I think that’s pretty cool.

Mature Field Corn

There’s Always More Than One Solution

Solution

 

As my dad might say when figuring out a creative solution to a problem, “There is more than one way to skin a cat!”  It’s good to think outside the box sometimes. Happy Friday, everyone!

Farm to Fork Class Comes to the Farm

Last November, thanks to the Minnesota Farm Bureau’s Speak for Yourself program, I had the opportunity to share my farm story with the Farm to Fork class at Tracy High School. At the conclusion of my presentation, I invited the class to come visit our farm, since we are less than 30 miles from their school. On April 27th, they took us up on the offer.

The day dawned cold and windy with 100% chance of rain. We had tractors and machinery parked in the shop and the machine shed so we wouldn’t have to stand outside. I was very thankful that Jonathan and Adam took the time to clean the shop so we could meet in there…and they even turned the in-floor heat on again. In April in Minnesota, it’s not unusual to go from heat to air conditioning to heat in the span of a week.

We started out in the shop where we had our planter tractor parked with the corn and soybean planter attached. We talked about how the planter works, and how we use GPS technology to plant in a straight line, and how we can adjust the depth the seeds are planted according to the recommendations for that seed. Many of the students have helped plant gardens, so they understand the importance of planting the seeds at a proper depth. We also talked about how we use computers to plant just the right number of seeds in an acre, and how we can adjust that depending on soil types. The three monitors we have in our planter tractor were running so the kids could see what kind of information we use when we’re planting. They were able to climb up into the tractor if they wanted.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork tractor experience

While in the shop, we also talked about the records we keep and the process we go through to become a certified organic farm. We had our Organic Systems Plan, Clean Truck Affidavits, and Yield Maps & Soil Tests books that they could page through.

Next we walked over to the machine shed. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining yet. The machine shed was chilly, but at least we were out of the wind! Jonathan talked about the field cultivator and the tractor that pulls it, and how we can change the tracks on that tractor to narrow ones that will fit in between our 22 inch rows if we need to. The kids were standing around the pallets of seed that were waiting to be delivered to our seed customers, but they didn’t seem to mind.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork track tractor

The rotary hoe is parked to the left of the tractor in the photo, so we walked over and talked about why and how we use it. Then we turned and talked about the combine. It was a good time to talk about farm safety as well. The kids could see the size of the machine up close, and realize that this isn’t really meant to be on the road. I hope the message of giving the combine room in the back, and only passing when it is safe to pass is a message that sticks! The kids had the chance to climb up into the combine cab and up on the back to see what it looks like. I think they liked this part!

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Combine

We viewed the flame weeder from the door of the machine shed, since it was starting to rain at this point. Back in the shop, we gathered around our newest project, a cultivator. This cultivator has a camera that “sees” the crop and adjusts the cultivator’s position accordingly. I’ll explain that a bit more in another post.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork students

The kids were able to put their hands in a bucket of wheat seed, and we talked about how the seed we plant becomes the food they eat. Sometimes King Arthur Flour buys our wheat through one of our grain buyers. We also have sold corn and soybeans to dairy and poultry farms to supply feed for their animals. To help connect the farm to fork concept, I baked some of my favorite scones for our guests using ingredients that could affect our farm when they are purchased by consumers. The King Arthur Flour, and Organic Valley dairy products are two of our potential markets. The organic sugar and egg may not directly affect us, but show that those choices are available to consumers in southwest Minnesota. The ground vanilla beans are there because I love using ground vanilla beans in my baking, even though it is considered a premium ingredient.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Ingredients

The students asked some great questions, and know they have someone they can ask when something comes up that they want to understand a bit more. One of the reasons why I love to share my farm story with groups, and why I love hosting groups on our farm is that connection I now have with all those I visited with.

It is important to Jonathan and I that we show consumers the impact that farmers and agriculture have on them. We talked about how Jonathan and I are giving consumers a choice by farming organically, and that we don’t mind what their families choose, since agriculture is filled with farmers and farm families like ours. No matter what they purchase in the grocery store, it started on a farm.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Scones and Organic Valley milk

To me, there is no better way to cap off a morning on the farm than by eating a vanilla bean scone with a carton of Organic Valley Chocolate Milk served from the workbench. Thanks to the students for being awesome, and thank you to Mrs Campbell and Ms Noll for making both visits possible!

Some might think it is scary to host a Farm to Fork or Family and Consumer Sciences class at their farm. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t have to be an expert on everything. Most of the kids just want the chance to meet a farmer and get a little hands on feel for what it takes for the food they eat to get to their table. If you are interested in hosting classes, contact your Farm Bureau and see if they have programs that will help you connect with teachers.

 

A huge shout out to my friend, Emily Zweber of Zweber Farms for supplying the chocolate milk…and to Jonathan for cleaning up the shop, getting equipment parked inside, and talking about farming to the Farm to Fork class…and to our hired dude, Adam, for cleaning the shop with Jonathan, and picking up after us and turning off equipment and turning out lights when we were done.

Cover Crop Residue Tour

Jonathan and I went on a little farm tour a few weeks ago, and stopped to check on the fields with cover crop residues. We use oats, which we spread on the field with a spin spreader, and Tillage Radish, which is planted with the row crop planter. This past fall had perfect growing conditions for the cover crops, so they grew really well.

We have a three crop rotation on our farm. Each year one-third of our acres are planted into corn, one-third is soybeans, and one-third is a small grain such as wheat. After the wheat is harvested, we apply hog manure to that land for the corn to use the following year. After the manure is incorporated, we plant our cover crop. The root systems of the oats and Tillage Radish are very different, but work in harmony to improve soil health. The oats stimulate microorganisms in the soil that digest the organic matter making the nutrients available for the corn to use in the spring. Oats are also good at suppressing weeds.  The Tillage Radish tap root breaks up compacted soil, and creates water channels that help the soil to hold water instead of the water running over the top. Both the oats and Tillage Radish are good at storing nutrients from the manure in their stems and roots, which are released when the organic matter is worked into the soil in the spring.

oat cover crop

Here you can see how the stems from the oats formed a thick layer over the soil. This field had no wind erosion this past spring, even though we have had some extremely windy days. The soil underneath was cooler and wetter than our fields without a cover crop.

cover crop finding radish

We were looking for some Tillage Radish residue and the holes they leave behind. The end rows in this field only had Tillage Radish planted, due to timing issues. It also makes for a good experiment to have just the radish in areas that typically suffer from compaction issues. We found a few rows where the tops of the radish were above ground, so we could look at how they decompose.
cover crop pulling radish

You can see how Jonathan was able to tease the radish out of the ground. The top of the radish was exposed through the winter, and was a little spongy when squeezed.

cover crop decaying root

You can see how part of the root has decomposed, yet some remained. This was the part just under the soil line. It was much softer than the top of the plant.

cover crop tillage radish depth test

Here I was trying to see how deep the root channel was. I couldn’t touch the bottom. The root channels vary in size depending on how close the radishes were planted, and how large they grew.

cover crop radish hole

This hole wasn’t as big in diameter as the other one, but was very deep. When it rains, these holes give the water a place to go instead of the rain just running over the top of the soil. It is one reason we use our corn planter to plant the Tillage Radish in rows. When we plant corn over the same rows in the spring, the corn benefits from the moisture held in the soil.

Using a cover crop has become an important part of our rotation. We are seeing the benefits in increased soil organic matter, better water holding capacity, and better erosion control. We are also seeing benefits to the environment in wildlife activity (deer love the tillage radish), water holding capacity, and erosion control. A true win win!

How Do You Want to be Remembered?

carolyncares live how you want to be remembered

Have you ever given any thought as to how you want to be remembered after you’re gone?

Listening to the memories that people shared at my father-in-law’s visitation and funeral got me to thinking about what people would say at my funeral. While that seems a bit morbid on the surface, and thinking about my own funeral is not something I dwell on, it was good to reflect on how our actions speak so loudly in how we are remembered.

Many of the memories shared were not about specific conversations, but about the way Kenny made them feel welcome when they visited, or about watching how he cared for my mother-in-law in her advanced stages of multiple sclerosis, or about things he did to help them out of a tight spot. It wasn’t his words, but his actions and attitude that left an impression.

I came across this quote from Oliver Goldsmith while working on a communications presentation. “You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.”

So, how do you want to be remembered?

In our daily interactions with others, are you treating them in a way that will leave positive impressions, or negative ones? Will they remember you fondly, or will they leave feeling hurt?

We can choose how we treat others in every single conversation we have, whether it takes place at the grocery store, at church, at school events, on Facebook, on Twitter, on our blogs, or wherever. The attitude you bring into the conversation will leave an impression, good or bad.

While words may not be what is remembered the most, they can convey an attitude. Using negative adjectives to describe people who don’t share your opinion isn’t the best way to sway their opinion of you or your cause.

When advocating for agriculture, or for a cause close to your heart, it is easy to get lost in the emotions of a conversation. These situations can make or break how others will see you, or how they value your opinions in the future. How will you be remembered after an interaction with someone who has a different opinion than you do?

My challenge to you is the same as my own challenge. Be someone that others want to know because you make them feel good about themselves. Treat others in such a way that they will remember you fondly as you go.

 

“If you go out looking for friends, you will find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you will find them everywhere.” – Zig Ziglar

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Kenny

Remembering Kenny

Jonathan and Kenny on the last day of harvest 2015

 

My father-in-law, Kenny Olson, passed away on January 22, 2016. I have been mulling over ways to pay tribute to the man who taught me so much about farming, about living out your wedding vows so faithfully, and handling life’s difficulties with humor and grace. In essence, he showed us all how to live out our faith.

These verses in 1 Corinthians 13 really sum up much about what I know about Kenny.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

When Jonathan and I were dating, we lived 3 hours from each other. This meant visits to the Twin Cities for Jonathan, or trips to the farm for me when we wanted to see each other. I was pretty nervous the first time I came to the farm and met Kenny and Lois. Thankfully, they were both so welcoming that I felt better immediately. I think he was pleased when we were engaged on his birthday in 1988.

Kenny and Jonathan were so patient teaching this city girl how to drive tractors, pick rocks, hoe weeds, and run to town for parts. If he was upset at me about mistakes, he never let it show. There was a time when Kenny and Lois had guests stop by for an evening of visiting while we were still working the ground after harvest. I volunteered to take the evening shift in the tractor to chisel plow so Jonathan and the girls could hang out at the farm and visit with the guests as well. I was on the far end of the field when all of a sudden, the chisel plow fell off the hitch, hydraulic hoses flying. Neither Jonathan nor Kenny had their two-way radios on, so my only choice was to drive back to the yard, leaving the chisel plow where it was. The guys were a little surprised when I drove in to the yard, and were happy I was not hurt, and that the hydraulic hoses had pulled cleanly out of the outlets on the back of the tractor and were in one piece. Neither one of them were upset over that incident. They just made sure the large pin was held in place with wire after that, so it couldn’t get jerked out of the hitch again.

My mother-in-law, Lois, lived with Multiple Sclerosis for 30 years. Kenny lived out the wedding vows, “in sickness and in health” so beautifully. He wasn’t real fond of driving into the Cities to take Lois to medical appointments, but he did it anyway. When Lois needed to use a wheel chair, he had a ramp built to get her in and out of their home, and made other modifications to make her life easier. When it came time for Lois to move to a nursing home in a neighboring town, he drove the 22 miles to pick her up for church every Sunday morning, then brought her to their house in town for the day before returning her to the nursing home in the evening. He spent many days visiting her when he wasn’t helping on the farm. I know it wasn’t all sunshine and roses dealing with Lois’ illness, but he chose to live out his love through patience and devotion to her. That has been a great example to all of us.

Kenny had a wonderful sense of humor. When we were looking for photos for our farm’s 100th anniversary celebration, we found many photos of Kenny and his brother having fun. Apparently, they liked to pull old Model T cars, without engines, behind other cars and run them up and down the road ditches. Kenny also enjoyed telling stories and having fun, even while hoeing out weeds in the soybean fields. He found a way to make the unpleasant tasks more tolerable with humor. The last month of his life, even after the dementia caused him to no longer recognize his family, he would still make people laugh with self-depreciating humor, and joking. He had such a pleasant nature, that everyone who worked at the memory care unit where he lived loved him.

Kenny has been such a great example of living out your faith, even when life gets hard. I feel so blessed to have been able to be a part of his family for the past 27+ years.

Celebrating 5 Years of Carolyn CAREs

Celebrating 5 Years

Celebrating 5 years of Carolyn CAREs

2015 marked my 5th year of blogging. What better way to celebrate this milestone than to highlight my top 5 posts!

5. Top 10 Things I Love About Farm Life

This was a fun post with my top 10 things I love about life on the farm. Even though this post was written a few years ago, the list remains pretty much the same…especially number one!

4. Don’t Be a Pringle

The expression “Don’t Be a Pringle” means we are all unique, and shouldn’t try to be like everyone else. Agriculture is so diverse, we can’t really be like everyone else, even if we try. It doesn’t matter if what you grow is different than what I grow, or if our methods are different. We are all feeding our communities…after all, if someone is eating, chances are pretty strong that someone had to grow the ingredients that went into that meal.

3. 90 Days 9 Lessons

This post is a little more recent. Last May, I was told ever so gently by my doctor that I needed to make a few changes. I was pre-diabetic, and needed to work on losing weight, getting my blood glucose levels under control, and dropping my triglyceride levels. Since that post was written, I’ve lost a few more pounds, but have a ways to go yet before I hit my goals. I really need to go back and focus on number 5 and find my number 6’s!

2. Baby It’s Cold Outside

I love living in Minnesota, and I love Minnesota winters…most of the time. A few years ago we had multiple polar vortexes that dropped our temperatures to well below zero for days at a time. We raise our crops organically, but have made the decision to raise our pigs in barns because we think they are happier and healthier when kept out of the extreme weather situations like the polar vortexes.

1. United We Stand…Resisting the Attempts to Divide Agriculture

If I had to write this post over again, I probably wouldn’t change it much at all. This post was the first one that was read by more than my mom, I think. It was written about a year after I started blogging, but still says a lot of what I want to say today.
“I will never make anyone feel bad for the food choices they make. We all have different taste in clothes, shoes, cars, TV’s, computers, orange juice, cereal, etc. We don’t tear each other apart for those differences, why do so many feel it is okay to condemn food choices? I see no need to have an us vs them attitude in agriculture. What benefit is that to anyone? I would encourage everyone to have a mixed, balanced diet filled with color…and the occasional deep fried Milky Way on a stick.”

 

Thank you for celebrating with me, and for riding along on this journey for the last 5 years. Here’s to many more!

 

**Shout out to Sweet Cheeks Honey and Sartori Cheese for the delicious products in the photo above.

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