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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.

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

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.

Faith, Relationships, and Food

Faith Relationships Food

As I was trying to decide how to write what was on my heart regarding all the arguments around food choices, I came across this passage which pretty much summed up what I was feeling. I would encourage you to read the whole thing, even though it’s a bit long. This version put it in everyday language, but the basic meaning matches the 3 other translations I read.

Romans 14   (The Message)

Cultivating Good Relationships

14 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.

6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

“As I live and breathe,” God says,
    “every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
    that I and only I am God.”

So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

15-16 If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!

17-18 God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.

19-21 So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.

22-23 Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.

I encourage all of you to really think about how we treat our family and friends when it comes to their food choices. If we ridicule them, or shame them, or make them look bad on social media or at the coffee shop, we are not pleasing God. He knows what’s in our hearts, and certainly knows what comes out of our mouths…or keyboards. As it says in the passage above, “Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit.” Let’s work on building each other up, and showing Jesus’ love through our words and our actions.

Wordless Wednesday: Love Your Brothers and Sisters

Love Your Brothers and Sisters

I come from a pretty close family, and love hanging out with my brothers and sisters. Even though they make me mad at times, I still love them.

When we read 1 John 4: 20-21, I’m not sure that the meaning is just our immediate siblings, but brothers and sisters in Christ. This verse challenges me when I feel hurt by another Christian…it makes me not want to love them. But I must. I am challenged to love those who are not fellow believers as well…because some day they may become a brother or sister in Christ. This is one area I’m working on with my real life relationships as well as my online relationships.

 

3 Phrases Agvocates Should Lose

Agvocates do nothing from rivalry or conceit

As agvocates, we share our perspectives of agriculture from the lens of our own truth. My lens, or filters will be different from all other agvocates, because I have different experiences and my farm is different from all others. Having that diversity is awesome when it comes to agvocating, especially if the main message is a unified one: Agriculture is important in the United States, and we are blessed to have the safest, most abundant food supply, with the best choices available to fit everyone’s desires. So, if we see things through our own lens, which gives us our own truth, how do we stand united?

Over the past 18 months, I have been to many conferences where speakers and consumer researchers have told the attendees to meet their consumers on an emotional level. We need to make them feel good, and help them understand that no matter what they purchase in the grocery store they are supporting a farming or ranching family. Looking at agvocating from that perspective, I see three phrases or ideas that we should lose in order to reach our consumers on that emotional level.

Food Shaming

It’s pretty safe to say that there isn’t a person alive in North America who hasn’t felt the sting of judgement from their friends or neighbors. Heck, some of us have felt the sting of judgement from our fellow agvocates. The most popular form of judgement is food shaming. Typically, it is seen as a totally granola mom telling all her friends they have to eat only organic to “properly” raise their children. There is a lot of outrage in those instances. When a mom who feeds her kids organic gets shamed, and told that she’s just wasting her money on a marketing scheme, is that any better? There isn’t as much outrage when that happens, but to me, shaming is shaming, and it needs to stop. We will never be the trusted source of information for consumers if we are making them feel bad about their choices. Bottom line: nobody wants to feel stupid for the choices they make. We lose their trust, and they go elsewhere for their information (Peta, HSUS, etc). We need to stop shaming our consumers…and each other.

#Stand4Science

I’ll admit that this hashtag and the accompanying tweets associated with it annoy me for a couple of reasons. First, most of the tweets have a “I can’t believe you don’t know this” attitude when telling people about some study or another that proves that biotech or whatever is safe. The problem with that attitude is, we make consumers feel dumb. How many people have a science degree, or can understand what the studies are saying? We’re told when giving speeches or agvocating in public to speak at a 4th grade level…I’ve read many study abstracts, and I can tell you, they are not written at a 4th grade level! The Center for Food Integrity’s 2014 research talks a lot about this very thing. We cannot forget about the impact that emotion plays when people are deciding whether or not to trust your truth. Secondly, many of the tweets associated with this hashtag make it sound like the only science in agriculture is biotechnology. When you think about it, biotechnology is a pretty small part of the science that goes into raising a crop, even if the majority of corn, soybeans, and cotton raised in North America are genetically engineered. We all need to pay attention to soil science, plant science (including weeds), pathology, animal science, and hydrology…not to mention computer science, and engineering. I know I’m missing some major ones, but you get the idea. Agriculture involves a lot of science, no matter what you grow. We just can’t assume that our consumers will “get” the science that we work with every day. Heck, I don’t understand the science that goes along with range management or animal nutrition, because I don’t ever work with that. Fortunately, I have trusted friends I can go to when I have questions. That’s what we need to be to our consumers.

Biotech is the only way to feed the world

I’ve had many great conversations about this phrase. Looking at it from an agvocating point of view, though, I think we need to lose it. As consumers, we are all a bit self centered. We want what we want when we want it. When we are making our way through the grocery store, we are not thinking about how many people in the world the average farmer is feeding. We are thinking about checking off our grocery lists, or we’re trying to remember what it is we needed as we’re being distracted by kids, neighbors who want to say hello, or the little old ladies who need help getting a bag of cat food into their cart. This message is being lost on the consumer. I don’t know about you, but I eat a pretty diverse diet. I like my cereal or eggs in the morning, but the rest of the day I’m eating a variety of meats, potatoes or rice, and vegetables. For snacks, I like fruits, or coffee. I don’t like eating the same thing all the time, because I get bored with it. There are what, nine genetically engineered crops on the market? Foods made with those crops do not make up the entirety of the average diet. We need the diversity in agriculture to make the whole system work. We celebrate diversity in every other aspect of our lives, why not in agriculture? When the whole choir only sings one note, there is no harmony. When my BLT has no L or T, it is just a bacon sandwich…but that actually doesn’t sound all that bad….

So, what should we be saying when we agvocate?

In our lenten series at church this year, our Pastor has been talking about not separating our faith from our every day life, but to treat it as we do everything else. The funny thing is, I have taken a ton of notes during his Sunday sermons lately, because they fit agvocating so well. The verse on the photo above summed up my feelings about how to agvocate effectively without running the risk of alienating other farmers or our consumers.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2: 3-4”

How cool would it be if we all agvocated that way…doing nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

We can do this when we tell our story, since we know it better than anyone else. This also goes back to each of us having our own truth. Nobody can argue with you if you say, “On my farm, we do this…” or “On my ranch, we do that…” That is your story, and your truth. You can find things in common with your consumers if you write about things they may be able to relate to. They won’t relate to farming, but if you develop a relationship with them over a common topic, you will be their trusted source when you do write about agriculture.

I absolutely believe we can speak as a unified voice for agriculture, but it’s going to take a little change in attitude from all of us. Will you join me in supporting all of our farming and ranching families?

 

30 Things I Love: Clouds

Clouds

I’ve been accused of walking around with my head in the clouds, but sometimes I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I love watching cloud formations changing as they move across the sky. The bonus is when the sun kisses the clouds as it sets.

The photo above was taken when Anna and I were on our way home from an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. When you’re heading west in prairie country, it is impossible to miss a gorgeous sunset. Sometimes I try to get a photo out the windshield with my cell phone when I’m at a stop sign, but other times, the sky calls for the “good” camera and pulling over onto a gravel road to get out of the van to get the right shot. This was one of those pull over and use the good camera nights.

Our willingness to pull over and enjoy the beauty of the clouds and the sunset got me to thinking…how many times do we rush through life, and never notice the beauty that surrounds us? Anna and I could have all kinds of excuses to keep going the night I took this photo. Her appointments at the clinic were exhausting, and we were both tired from the travel. It had been a long couple of days. Instead, we were both willing to pull over and document the beauty in the skies in a stop and smell the roses kind of way.

Life is hard, and it can really get you down. It’s okay to stop every once in awhile and look around at the clouds in the sky, and be thankful.

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky. ~Rabindranath Tagore

 

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage

Day 6: NASCAR

Day 7: Black Velvet for Photography

Day 8: Strong Coffee and Strong Hairspray

Day 9: Peacefulness

Day 10: Winter’s First Snow

Day 11: Freedom

Day 12: Dairy

Day 13: Jonathan

Day 14: Coffee

Day 15: Seasons

Day 16: Scones

Day 17: #AgNerds

Day 18: Playing in the Dirt

Day 19: Friends

Day 20: My Church Choir Family

Day 21: OxyClean

Day 22: Small Town Celebrations

Day 23: Clouds

Click here to go to Holly Spangler’s blog, and see the link for other 30 Day Challenge Bloggers

 

 

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

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!

 

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