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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.

The Impact of a Unified Voice

Speaking with a Unified Voice - Farmers to Washington

 

Agriculture is under attack by the Environmental Protection Agency, individual states, and federal judges. It is time to get involved, and make your voice heard. What is the most effective way to get your message across? By joining a farm organization.

This past March, I had the opportunity to visit Washington DC with the Minnesota Farm Bureau. This was my 4th trip to DC with Farm Bureau, but my first trip as a member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Board of Directors. I came away with three things I think everyone involved in agriculture should know.

Every farmer should belong to a farm organization

I know, I know. We’re all really busy, and it’s tough to take on one more thing. But what if that one more thing makes your job easier in the long run? For example, fourteen Minnesota Farm Bureau members traveled to Washington DC together in March. That is a small fraction of our membership. We were speaking on behalf of all Minnesota Farm Bureau members that week. When we met with our Congressmen and Senators, they knew we are speaking with a unified voice for all of our members.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been to the Minnesota State Capitol for our Day on the Hill visits. It’s another trip that I love, and it’s an easy one day event for us. The messages we bring to our elected officials, whether state or national, are those that came from our members in the policy development and voting delegate sessions that happen every year. Your voice in your county matters.

Politics may not be your thing, but it affects everything

When I first got involved in Farm Bureau, politics weren’t my thing. I had kids to worry about, I was taking on a few more farm responsibilities, and just didn’t think my opinions mattered anyway. The more I got involved with Farm Bureau, the more I realized how much of our livelihood depended on our elected officials. I started paying attention, embraced the opportunities to attend legislative 101 type sessions at our Leadership Conferences, and learned how the political process works. Then, Jonathan and I won a trip to Washington DC with the Young Farmers & Ranchers group, where we learned how powerful the Farm Bureau voice can be. I went in to that trip pretty wide-eyed, and came home fired up…in a good way. I gained a new respect for those who work hard at getting our message in front of the House and Senate every day. I know I couldn’t do it!

Every farmer should go to Washington DC at least twice

Why go twice? Isn’t once enough…a been there done that kind of thing? As I mentioned above, my first trip to Washington DC was pretty much a wide eyed experience where I was taking in so much information, and seeing for the first time how politics affects agriculture at the national level, that I really didn’t feel like I made much of an impact. When we went on our second trip, I was much more comfortable about speaking up in our meetings, and felt that I was making a difference. In March, one of our Congressmen expressed how he appreciated how Farm Bureau speaks with a unified voice, since they represent all sectors of agriculture. He mentioned how we are a lot like Congress in that we have to learn how to take all of the different voices and come together in agreement on our policies. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. The group on this spring’s trip was very diverse, which really brought home our Congressman’s point. We had beef, dairy, pig, conventional, and organic farmers in our group speaking as one.

Whether it is the American Farm Bureau addressing the issues surrounding the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule, or the Minnesota Farm Bureau addressing Governor Dayton’s buffer strip campaign, our elected officials take note of our message, whether or not they vote the way we would like, at least they know exactly where we stand. That is the impact of a unified voice.

Is Water Quality a Red Herring in the Quest for Land Control?

Water Quality. We hear the term in the news, in press conferences, and in editorials surrounding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s proposals to regulate land use primarily in agricultural areas. What is water quality, and what does it have to do with land control?

 
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Rule, which would redefine what the term “waters of the U.S.” means, has a host of issues. However, the way they are selling their proposed change is in the name of water quality. Thing is, their rule change has nothing to do with water quality, since all the waters in question are already covered by the Clean Water Act. What it does talk about at length, is jurisdiction. The EPA thinks it can do a better job at implementing the provisions of the Clean Water Act than the states can. I don’t know about your state, but Minnesota is doing a great job at identifying impaired waters, establishing a game plan, and achieving it. Personally, I think states, who involve people who live and work in the watershed, are much more effective at protecting water quality than Washington bureaucrats who have probably never set foot in the watershed they are trying to regulate.

 
So, what is the point of redefining what constitutes a water of the United States if it isn’t going to change the national water quality standards outlined in the Clean Water Act? Could it be power? Control over agricultural lands? The Rule would broaden the scope of the EPA, and basically puts them in the business of regulating a farmer’s activities, which is not what Congress intended. If your land happens to be within the boundaries of the newly defined significant nexus, you may need a permit from the EPA to do ordinary farming practices. Farmers are already working towards the water quality goals of the watersheds their land is in. On our farm, we have taken advantage of voluntary programs, and federal farm programs that encourage soil and water conservation. We have planted marginal lands into Conservation Reserve Program grasslands, planted living snow fences, and use cover crops. Soil samples, plant tissue samples, and manure samples are tested to determine the correct rate of manure application each fall. We are doing what we can to meet or exceed the standards set for the watershed our land is in.

 
Redefining the Waters of the United States in the name of water quality is deceiving…a red herring. The EPA is simply looking for more ways to control what happens on the land. Land owned by farmers and landowners who are already complying with CWA standards.

farmers care about soil, water, and wildlife

Water quality has also been a hot topic on the state level in a few states lately. In Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton has asked for a 50 foot riparian buffer strip along all rivers, streams, and ditch banks and everywhere water flows “most of the time”. Sounds good on the surface, but like the EPA’s WOTUS rule, the Governor’s plan has some major flaws.

 
Farmers are not opposed to buffers. In the right locations, at the appropriate width designed for that particular location, they can be very effective. One-size-fits-all makes no sense if the goal is improving water quality. However, the news media has been blasting agriculture for not doing their part to improve water quality, and is telling the public that we need these buffer strips to achieve water quality. When I read the proposed Senate and House bills, I was puzzled. What exactly is this water quality they are talking about? Under the Purpose of the bill, it lists “protecting water from runoff and erosion; stabilizing soils, shores, and banks; and provide aquatic and wildlife habitat.” (HF1534, MN House of Representatives) Is that what water quality is? If that is the state’s definition of water quality, we can achieve that in without a mandatory, one-size-fits-all 50 foot buffer strip.

 

 

One of the Governor’s reasons for the need for the 50 foot buffer strip is the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s latest report on the Missouri River Basin in Southwest Minnesota. As I was reading the full report, a few things stood out. Governor Dayton kept referring to how bad the water quality is, but the same report that had the media blasting agriculture for all the water woes also contained some positive news. Two of the major watersheds had improved water quality over the past 10 years. Pipestone Creek and the Rock River both showed decreases in Total Suspended Solids and Total Phosphorus, two areas of assessment that is mentioned many times in the MPCA’s report.

pipestone creek water quality improvement

rock river water quality improvement

The other thing that I noticed is that there is no water quality standard for Total Phosphorus in streams, and there are no Nitrite/Nitrate standards in streams or lakes. When reading the chemistry results from the tested waters – where there were water chemistry reports – there were numbers present, but no parameters for TP or Nitrite/Nitrogen. If there are no water quality standards, or water quality goals, how can we know if we have achieved the desired result?

 
The idea of no water quality standard or goal in the proposed bill was brought up at the Governor’s Buffer Strip Session in Worthington, Minnesota. I was happy the gentleman asked the question, since I had noticed the lack of goals in the bill, but just thought I was missing a point. That question raises another one. If there are no Total Phosphorus standards for streams, how are we to know when we have reached an achievable goal? Is it the historic levels dating back before the European settlements? What if those numbers were historically high, even before the prairies were turned in to farmland? Are we just going to be chasing an unachievable number?

 
Spring Lake, near Prior Lake recently made a request to the EPA to change the standard for Total Phosphorus from 40 ppb to 60 ppb after a lake sediment core was studied, and it found that Spring Lake historically was high in Total Phosphorus. So, if TP was high before the land surrounding Spring Lake was turned into farmland, is it agriculture solely to blame? I don’t think so.

 
It remains that there are no true water quality standards set out in Governor Dayton’s Buffer Strip bill. Even when farmers are accused of not doing their part to improve water quality, the MPCA’s own documents show otherwise. So, if there is no true water quality standard in the bill, using water quality as the selling point is deceiving…a red herring. What is it that the Governor truly wants? More land.

 
In December, the Governor held a Pheasant Summit to address the decline in the pheasant population in Minnesota. It was there that the first mentions of a 50 foot buffer strip plan were heard. When the Governor announced his plan a few weeks later, it was not met with much enthusiasm. In January, the buffer strip idea was introduced as a way to increase water quality. Water quality is an emotional subject, and has been used as a rallying cry for the Governor’s plan to put the Department of Natural Resources in charge of those 50 foot buffers on privately owned land. In the name of water quality, farmers have been raked through the mud and have been characterized as being uncaring polluters. As mentioned above, we do many things to improve water and soil conservation on our farm. We care about water quality just as much as our friends in town do. We drink the water from our wells, we bathe in it, we use the water for recreation, and we depend on the rain for our crops. Jonathan and I are not unique in that aspect.

 
If the EPA or the Governor were truly more interested in water quality than control of property rights, they would support incentives for farmers, businesses and non-farmer land owners that allow for an individualized approach that takes into account the unique features of that property. Both entities need to quit deceiving the public, and call their proposals what they really are: A quest for the control of the landowner’s private property.

Water Quality – Don’t Put all Your Eggs in the Buffer Basket

Buffer strip

In January, Minnesota’s Governor Mark Dayton announced a plan to require a 50 foot buffer strip along all rivers, streams, and drainage ditches in the state. Mandating a set buffer strip width for all of those waterways means topography, soil types, and surrounding land use will no longer be determining factors in buffer strip width. This one-size-fits-all approach won’t improve water quality like we’ve been told it will.
The NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Services) published a report in 2000 that talked about the different types of water control features that would help trap soil, nutrient, and pesticides, which would help to improve water quality. In the report, they stated how using multiple methods was more effective than a single method for controlling water flow, water filtration, and pesticide trapping. Many improvements have been made in the 15 years since this report was published. Let me highlight a few for you.

Cover crops

The use of cover crops is a relatively new trend in our area. Cover crops are a blend of plants grown for their ability to prevent soil erosion, manage water and water quality, suppress weeds, and hold soil nutrients in place. We plant our cover crops right after our wheat is harvested which will give the plants enough time to grow well and be more effective. Other farmers will use airplanes to spread the seed before their row crop is harvested. In the 14 years that we have been growing cover crops, we have experimented with different seed mixes until we found what works best on our soil. The combination of tillage radishes and oats that we use provides two very different types of plants which is also beneficial for wildlife. The deer graze on the tillage radish leaves, and pheasants use the taller oats for cover. This is a win-win for water quality, soil health, and wildlife.

Field Mapping

Global Positioning Systems (GPS), broadband internet, and computers in combines and tractors have made it possible to create accurate maps of every field. These maps are uploaded onto a computer, where we can then work with our local agronomist to determine what recipe each field needs to grow the crop that will be planted in it. Each recipe will be different for each field, depending on what we will be growing, the results of our soil and plant tissue tests, and the yield data from the year before. Our corn and wheat both need manure applied to supply the nutrients that the plants need to grow well. However, they do not require the same amount of manure, so we follow the recipes to make sure we are not using too much manure on the fields. We like to use cover crops as part of our recipe for our corn fields, since the tillage radish helps to keep the nutrients from the manure where the corn roots will be. This combination of conservation methods works great over an entire field to keep soil and nutrients from eroding, and doesn’t just rely on the last 50 feet before a water way.

Precision Equipment

Fifteen years ago, I never imagined all of the things computers and information technology could do for agriculture. Of course, at that time, I was still using a Nokia cell phone with an external antenna, and the iPhone was still 7 years away from being released. Now, besides most farmers having smart phones, there are computers in tractors, fertilizer spreaders, and sprayers. These computers allow farmers to use their field recipes as they are driving up and down the fields, many times driving with the aid of GPS auto guidance systems. The Precision Planting computer we have in our tractor helps our planter keep the seed planting depth at the perfect level through the variations in the firmness of the soil, varies the amount of seeds per acre according to soil type, and will shut off boxes at the end of the rows or where the rows overlap on curves so we don’t waste seed. We work with our Precision Planting Specialist to make sure our recipes are entered into to the computer correctly, and that the equipment is communicating with the computer. Fertilizer spreaders with variable rate technology are used by our friends. Their field maps and recipes are loaded into the computer, and the fertilizer is spread where it is needed. A similar system is used with sprayers when applying pesticides. The field map can be set up to avoid spraying in certain sensitive areas, and to avoid overlapping the spray with auto shut off valves. We don’t use fertilizer spreaders or sprayers on our farm, so I would encourage you to go to your favorite farmer or The Farmer’s Life if you have questions.

Flexibility is needed

On our farm, we have planted some buffer strips with the help of our NRCS Conservationist and local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). On one ditch where the ditch bank rises to the edge we have a very narrow grass buffer, which is all that is needed. We are also using cover crops, field mapping, and precision equipment. This multi-pronged approach to water quality, soil health, and wildlife habitat is a better approach than a mandate of every river, stream, and drainage ditch needing a 50 foot buffer. Some ditches or streams do not need a grass buffer, while some could benefit from one that is greater than 50 feet. Every farmer should be able to figure out what conservation practices will work best on their farm, and should be able to change those practices when needed. Farmers want to be able to hand down their land to the next generation. To do that, we need to care for the soil and water in the best ways we can. Putting all of our water quality eggs into one basket isn’t the best way to achieve that.
To read more on how this buffer strip proposal would affect Minnesotans, I highly recommend that you read this post by Sara Hewitt.

cover crop of tillage radish and oats

A field planted with a tillage radish and oat cover crop

 

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: My Daughters

Daughters

I love my daughters! Each one has their own personality, their own quirks, and their own style. I love how they love each other, and the joy they bring to our family.

Every year, we would take back to school photos on the first day of school. The photo above is from Anna’s senior year in high school. It is so fun to look back and see how the girls have changed! The things that haven’t changed are their love and support for each other. I am so thankful for that! Every now and then, I get messages from one that says, “my sisters and I have been discussing…”

Anna graduated from college a year ago. She married Doug in June, and they live in Kentucky where he is attending medical school. Anna is giving music lessons at a local music store, is the lesson coordinator for the store, and sells Mary-Kay. They have been busy making friends with other students and their significant others, as well as navigating all that you need to when moving to a completely different area. They have found a church where they feel welcomed, which is awesome. I miss Anna and Doug, but I’m thankful they are just a phone call or text or email or Skype or Facetime away. Anna also blogs at Anna E. Meyer where she shares about her faith, her writing, and life with Multiple Sclerosis. She has a pretty good attitude about life, which is one of the things most people love about her.

Christina graduated from college in May with a degree in theater, and an emphasis on costume design. She moved out to Custer, SD right after graduation to work summer stock theater at the Black Hills Playhouse. After the summer run ended, she was at home for about a month before moving to New York City. She lives with the other three theater graduates from Augustana College, which makes her move a little easier for me to handle. She can now say she has designed a show in New York City after being the costume designer for a community theater production! So far, she is loving life in NYC, and is making new friends in the theater world…some who have ties back to Augustana College. Christina is learning how to get around in New York, and I’m hoping that we’ll get the chance to visit her out there before too long. It would be fun to see what she sees every day, and to learn a little more about the city she now calls home.

Laura is living in Sioux Falls where she shares a house with some of her friends from the University of Sioux Falls. We asked her to take the fall semester off to help us with harvest, and she did. Jonathan had her driving semis, tractors, climbing grain bins…she did pretty much everything except for run the combine. She was also a huge help when it came to adjusting to our new foster son. He came the day we were planning to start harvest, and I was a little overwhelmed. Laura was great at stepping in to the jobs I normally do to help set up augers and get things ready to go, as well as entertaining the boy so I could go to the bathroom! I am so thankful that she was willing to come home to work this fall! Laura is also my favorite shopping partner (she shares my love of shoes), and I love hanging out with her when I can. I am so thankful that she is only a couple hours’ drive away instead of a plane ride away. It makes my mommy heart hurt to have my girls spread so far away!

When the girls were born, we had all kinds of dreams about who they would be, and what they would be like when they were grown. We’ve had many ups and downs, like a lot of other families, and I am thankful that we are close. My daughters truly are day brighteners and heart warmers!

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

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Day 25: Sisters

Day 26: My Minivan

Day 27: My Daughters

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

 

 

30 Things I Love: My Minivan

Chrysler Minivan

I love my minivan. I know many don’t think they are ‘cool’, but I love it! Our current van is a 2008 Chrysler Town & Country with 211,000 miles…and counting.

This minivan is the 4th one we’ve owned. I love how many people you can pack in and still be comfortable, especially in our current van. Besides people, it’s moved our girls to and from college every year since 2009. If I take out the swivel bucket seats in the center, I can fit a twin size box spring and mattress along with the bed frame, and multiple boxes. I’ve also hauled many farm parts, bags of seed, and tools. This van has been where no minivan was designed to go, but where you need it to go on a farm. However, I do think my next van should have a lift kit. It would make it much easier to go through fields and snow drifts!

Besides the work it’s done for hauling things, we’ve had this van all over the United States. I’ve said many times how I don’t like to fly, and prefer to drive. This van has been to northern Minnesota, South Padre Island in Texas, the northern California coast, and Point Pleasant Beach in New Jersey. I can’t tell you how many times it has criss-crossed Minnesota, been through South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. It’s been a safe, comfortable ride through blizzards, severe thunderstorms, 112 degree highs, and -32 lows.

I was pretty excited to pass the 200,000 mile mark on this van. I’ve never reached that mileage in a vehicle before, because I usually hit a deer right before that milestone. This year, I came close, but avoided the Bambi encounters, thankfully. While I hope to get many more miles on this van, I have started thinking about what type of vehicle I want next, now that our girls are grown. I keep coming back to the comfort, fuel mileage, and cargo benefits of minivans. I may not look like the coolest woman out there, but let me tell you, the sound system handles Sirius Satellite Radio’s 80’s on 8 just fine.

What is your favorite vehicle, and why?

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

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Day 25: Sisters

Day 26: My Minivan

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

30 Things I Love: Shout Stain Remover

Shout Stain Remover

One of the things I learned quickly after becoming a farm wife, was how dirty the guys can get in a day. More than once I was told it would be just a quick stop to check something, only to have motor oil, hydraulic oil, diesel, or grease all over the good clothes. As a newlywed, I felt some pressure to figure out how to get those stains out, so Jonathan would have clean clothes for church and going to town. Coming to the farm from the city, I felt a little judged by other farm women on how clean our clothes were. My mother-in-law gave me a few tips, but I tried many products to see what ones could handle farm oils and grease.

To begin with, I created a few set-in stains, so I used WD-40 to reactivate the stain, then used Dawn dishsoap to get the WD-40 out. I don’t recommend doing this on the good clothes. It is more acceptable to be wearing Eau de WD in the barn than in the pew. I have since developed an allergy to Dawn, so I try to do a better job at pre-treating now.

Back in the day, we had stain sticks that looked a little like glue sticks. They worked ok on food stains, but never quite got all the farm stains out. I tried gels, pre-treating with laundry detergent, and using laundry boosters with varying degrees of success. I pretty much gave up on trying to get the farm stains out of farm shirts. The polyester/cotton blend t-shirts are grease stain magnets!

A few years ago I purchased an advanced formula of a stain remover, and thought it did a decent job, but it was time consuming. It required a 2 hour soak before laundering. I don’t know about you, but when I head in to do laundry, I don’t have the time or patience to wait 2 hours for a pre-treater to work. So, I kept looking for a good stain remover, and decided to try the Shout Advanced. In a nutshell, my search was over.

The Shout is made to take out grease stains, and has worked on some pretty nasty stuff. It occasionally takes two treat and wash cycles to get grease out, but I was impressed at how well it removed hydraulic oil. Now that we have a toddler foster son, I am appreciating how well it takes out food stains, too! I usually keep a spare can on hand in case there’s a hydraulic hose that breaks or comes loose and decides to cover us in oil, or with the toddler, it would be in case we eat spaghetti or lasagna. 🙂  The bonus is, the Shout works well with my HE washing machine.

Do you have any suggestions for farm laundry? Leave them in the comments!

*Just a little note: I am not sponsored by any of the products that I may write about, and I am not seeking compensation for any reviews or opinions. I am simply writing about those things I love and/or use regularly.

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Other 30 Day Blogs

 

 

 

Fun Fact Friday: Where I Came From…

Class of 1986

I grew up in Champlin, Minnesota, one of the northern suburbs of Minneapolis. I had a great childhood, in part because we lived in a neighborhood where kids would get together and play ditch-em, we’d ride our bikes, or just run around the yard playing whatever sport we felt like at the time. I have many fond memories of our house there.

In 1986, I graduated from Anoka Senior High School with a class of over 675 students. On any given day, there were close to 3000 students cruising through the halls of the high school. I had friends in many groups, but mostly preferred those who were in my youth group from church since they were the ones I saw most often. Our academic classes weren’t necessarily split into grades, so sometimes you weren’t sure if someone was in your graduating class or not. It was interesting sitting through graduation ceremonies and realizing you didn’t know someone in your class. That doesn’t happen where I live now!

Jonathan graduated in a class of 40, including 2 foreign exchange students. I’m sure if I asked some of those classmates where everyone resides today, they would be able to tell me. Most of them started kindergarten together, and a few have known each other pretty much since birth. There are good things, and bad things about being a close class. 🙂

Jonathan and I have been married for 26 years, and I still find it amazing that our town population is less than half of what the student body was at my high school. It was a bit of a culture shock when I first moved to the farm, but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Every day I am thankful that I met Jonathan, married him, and am now his right hand (wo)man.

I’m pretty proud of where I came from, but I’m even more proud of where I am today.

 

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.

 

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