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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

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.

30 Things I Love: Scones

Scones

I love scones. Whether they are homemade, from a coffee shop, come frozen from Schwan’s, I love them.

My first taste of scones happened at a coffee shop. I had thought that scones were dry, crumbly, and not very sweet. Then I tasted a pumpkin scone. I was hooked. That particular coffee shop closed, and the nearest one from that chain was now two hours away. Having the “I don’t need to buy that, I can make it myself” attitude (which I think came from my dad who made beautiful pieces out of wood), I started searching for a recipe that would taste similar. Now I am constantly looking for scone recipes. I haven’t found a great raspberry white chocolate scone recipe, but Schwan’s has a good version, so I just buy those frozen to bake at home.

When our town’s farmer’s market was beginning in 2013, I knew I wanted to bring something to sell that most people wouldn’t be making on their own. Scones, caramel rolls, and cinnamon rolls would be the basic fare I would bake each week. After that was decided, it was time to find recipes that had the flavors and textures I like. I’m not big on dry scones, so when I found a recipe for Vanilla Bean Scones from the blog, Iowa Girl Eats, I knew that was one I had to bring each week. I made a few changes to adapt it to my style of baking, and to make it more economical to make. A second flavor was needed, and I wanted to try something a little different. I searched for a maple bacon scone recipe that wasn’t super dry, but didn’t like most of them. I adapted one I found, but I’m still not happy with the texture. I will be tinkering a little more with that recipe this winter until I get it the texture I like with the flavor of the original recipe. The last couple of weeks of the market, I make the pumpkin scones that got me started on this little obsession. They are my signal that fall and comfort food season is fast approaching.

Do you have a recipe obsession? What are your favorite things to make?

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

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

 

30 Things I Love: Coffee

coffee

My friends and family know I love coffee. In fact, this is the 5th post about coffee this year!

For many years, I liked the smell of coffee, but didn’t enjoy the taste. I got my caffeine fix through soda (we call it pop here in Minnesota), but that wasn’t as pleasant to drink right away in the morning. Then, my friends eased me into coffee drinking. Now, I am totally addicted.

I know we all have different olfactory sensitivities, and that plays an important role in how we perceive taste. I happen to be one of those with a more sensitive nose. If a food’s taste doesn’t match the aroma, I probably won’t like it as well. I discovered that I liked the taste of coffee, if it tasted how the beans smelled when they were freshly ground. This may be the reason this Mrs Olson doesn’t enjoy Folgers as much as other coffee.

I’ve said before that I like the ritual of drinking coffee in the morning while catching up on social media, and reading the news. I also love having coffee right away in the morning as a wake to fire up the old brain cells so I can function in the morning. This is probably why I liked the quote on my photo so well. Another good thing about coffee in the morning, is that I can fake being a morning person once the caffeine kicks in. Before I became a coffee drinker, I’m not sure how I survived being married to a happy morning person!

Some people are pretty opinionated on how dark your coffee needs to be (black coffee, no cream, no sugar is their preference), but I like all types of coffee. My favorite coffee style is a mocha latte made with 1/2 ounce of dark chocolate syrup, 8 ounces of 2% milk, and 4 ounces of espresso. Sometimes I’ll brew another shot, but I try to reserve that for really tough days. Otherwise I’m a little like Hammy in Over the Hedge. If I’m drinking brewed coffee, and not espresso, I like it with just a splash of milk. If the roast is good, and the coffee tastes how it smells, I’ll drink it black. The choices on how to make your coffee are one of the things I love about it. You can make your coffee according to what will make you happy that day.

Are you a coffee drinker? How do you enjoy your coffee?

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

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

 

 

30 Things I Love: My Heritage

Stroopwafel and Coffee traditional Dutch treats

I love my heritage. Last Christmas, my side of the family decided that we would research and prepare foods from the countries where our ancestors were born. The list of countries is quite long, especially when you add those of your spouse. We each brought a main dish and a dessert from one (or both) of the countries we were assigned to. The food was delicious, and we all ate way too much!

Part of the planning for our meal was researching the traditions, the foods, and the culture of the different countries. I was given the task of researching and making foods from Germany and the Netherlands. German and Dutch food is quite filling, and great for cold winter days. The cultures are very different, yet the Christmas traditions are very similar. When I was trying to find cookie recipes, I came upon the Stroopwafel, and wanted to try it. I haven’t attempted making them yet, but I have found them at a few stores nearby. They are delicious! I learned that they are eaten either warmed by placing them on a cup filled with a warm beverage like coffee, or eaten cold. They are good either way. 🙂

My mom and sisters shared about their countries: Norway, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, England, and Poland. (I hope I didn’t forget any major ones!) One of the things I really appreciated, was realizing what parts of our traditions may be related to our heritage, and what parts are the result of wanting to blend in with other Americans my ancestors arrived in the United States. When we asked our Dutch relatives what traditions their mother had at Christmas time, there weren’t any distinctly Dutch traditions regarding food.  They did, however, keep up with Dutch tradition on being frugal, and acting properly.

Call it nature or nurture, or whatever kind of influence you want…but I find myself loving cheese, coffee, and pickled herring…although not together. Thanks, Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Dykstra!

Do you keep up with any of your ancestor’s traditions? Do you find yourself gravitating towards the foods associated with your heritage?

 

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage

Want to read more 30 Day Blog Challenge posts? Click here!

 

30 Things I Love: Pizza

30 Things I Love: Pizza

I love pizza. Pizza is my answer to the question, “if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?”. Do you remember the scene in Forrest Gump where Forrest and Bubba are talking about all the kinds of shrimp dishes there are? Pizza is like that.

Pizza can be frozen, purchased as ready to eat or bake at home, or home made. It can have a thin crust, thick crust, be hand tossed, or stuffed. The crust can be made with white flour, whole wheat flour, corn meal, or a blend of flours. You can have tomato sauce, Alfredo sauce, or no sauce. You can have extra cheese, 6 cheese, or regular cheese. The topping choices are endless! I don’t have the patience to figure out exactly how many types of pizza you can make, but I think it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of a zillion. This is why I think I could live on pizza for the rest of my life. I would never get bored with it!

My family will be traveling to Italy at some point, and I’m really looking forward to eating pizza in Napoli. I know the gelato, the pasta, and the pastries will all be great, but the photos of the pizza…Mmmmm. The first time I ever had a Margherita pizza was at an Italian restaurant in New York City. Since that dining experience, I have searched out other Margherita pizzas, and ravioli like Fresco by Scotto made.

I like to watch a few cooking shows on Food Network, like Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. If a pizza place is featured, I like to look at what they are doing to make their pizzas special. Is it something they do to the dough to make it taste a little more savory? Is it the toppings they use, or the sauce? There are many places that I would like to go to and see for myself how good those pies are…and if I can replicate some of the better flavors at home.

What is one food you wouldn’t mind eating for the rest of your life? Do you have a favorite pizza joint?

To find other 30 Day bloggers, head on over to Holly Spangler’s blog.

 

DIY: Easy Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup

Easy Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup

You know fall has arrived when you see pumpkin spice foods and beverages advertised everywhere. Here you will find an easy recipe for Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup, and two recipes that use it.

Pumpkin Spice Does Not Contain Pumpkin

Even though the word pumpkin is in the description, it does not mean actual pumpkin is in pumpkin spice products. This is not some sort of scam, or swindle, or bait and switch. Pumpkin spice is the description of the spice mixture that gives pumpkin pies, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin scones their excellent flavor. By itself, pumpkin, like most squash, doesn’t have a lot of flavor. It is an excellent source of vitamin A, and a good source of vitamin C, and potassium. I like to eat pumpkin in various forms, but I wouldn’t want to drink it, unless it is part of a smoothie. Trying to add actual pumpkin to a latte would be kinda gross, actually. I like my lattes with flavor, not fiber.

What is this Pumpkin Spice Blend?

Pumpkin Spice is a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. You can buy it at the grocery store, or make your own.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Making Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup

A simple syrup is a way to add sweetness and flavor in one easy step. Since the sugar is liquified, there is no sugar sludge in the bottom of a cold drink, which is a huge bonus in my book.

I had all of the spices on hand, but not all of them were whole spices, so I used ground spices. Cinnamon is not really soluble, and I don’t like the mess it leaves in the glass or mug when I’ve finished a cinnamon laced drink, so I decided to use an empty tea bag.

Spice Filled Tea Bag

I put 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon cloves in the tea bag, then tied it shut with kitchen string.

I measured out 10 ounces of water into a small sauce pan, and heated it to boiling. As soon as it started to boil, I turned off the heat and added the tea bag. I let it steep for about 5 minutes, then removed the tea bag.

Infusing Water with Spices

Infusing the water with flavor gives you more control over the final flavor intensity. It is my preferred method of flavoring simple syrups.

After the tea bag was removed, I measured the amount of liquid left in the pan using a kitchen scale. I needed to add about an ounce of water to bring the total volume back to 8 ounces.

To the 8 ounces of infused water, I added 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar, and stirred well. The pan was placed back on the stove, and brought to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Once it reached the boil, I set the timer for 3 minutes, and let it boil gently.

CarolynCares Making Syrup

When the 3 minutes were up, I removed the pan from the stove, and let it cool. I like to split the batch into two smaller glass jars, because I think it keeps longer. I used two small Mason jars, as pictured at the top. After the jars were filled, I placed them in the refrigerator where they can be stored for about a month. If it lasts that long!

Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

10 ounces water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

Measure spices into an empty tea bag, and tie shut with kitchen string. Pour water in a saucepan, bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat, and place tea bag into water. Let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bag, and set aside. Measure water, and add water if necessary to make 8 ounces. Add sugars, and place pan on stove. Heat to boiling over medium high heat. Boil gently for 3 minutes. Let cool. Store in glass containers in refrigerator for about one month.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

This is the drink that started the whole craze. Thank you, Starbucks! You can easily make a PSL at home using espresso, or very strong coffee. I have my own espresso machine, so that is what I used.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

8 ounces 2% or whole milk (milk fat brings out the good flavor in coffee)

2 shots espresso, or

1/2 cup very strong coffee

2 tablespoons Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup

Heat milk in microwave or on stove top while espresso/coffee is brewing. Pour the simple syrup into the bottom of the mug. Pour heated milk over top, then add the espresso/coffee. Stir gently. Top with whipped cream if desired. Enjoy!

CarolynCares Latte Milk

Measure milk, heat over stove or in microwave

CarolynCares Espresso

Brew espresso or coffee

 

 

 

CarolynCares Pumpkin Spice Latte

Place simple syrup in bottom of mug, add hot milk, and espresso. Enjoy

Apple Cider Sparkler

When we host dinner club, we try to find a featured beverage for the evening. One of the requirements is that it needs to be able to have a non-alcohol version as well. We found a recipe that sounded good, then adjusted it for the non-alcohol version. We loved the version we came up with better than the original.

Apple Cider Sparkler

1 tablespoon pumpkin spice simple syrup

2 ounces apple cider

5 ounces ginger ale

ice

Put simple syrup in bottom of 12 ounce glass. Add apple cider, and top with ginger ale. Add ice. Enjoy

If you want to make it with alcohol, add up to 1 ounce of vodka with the apple cider.

CarolynCares Apple Cider Sparkler

The Possibilities are Endless!

I plan on trying this in a tea recipe that I like, but hate the spice residue left over in the bottom of the cup, as well as a fall martini recipe. This would also be a good simple syrup to use on a spice layer cake to help keep it moist (to learn that technique, click here).

Have fun, play a little in the kitchen, and feel free to share your ideas in the comments below!

 

 

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!

 

Don’t Be a Pringle – The Importance of Individuality in American Agriculture

We all read comments about how farming should be as it was in “grandpa’s” day. We need to look a certain way, or raise a variety of animals in order to be a “real family farm”.  They want us all to look the same…like Pringles.

CarolynCares Pringle

I don’t know about you, but I think that is boring! I also think it is rather foolish to insist that all farms look the same, and grow or raise the same things. My farm in Minnesota is not able to grow oranges or grapefruit. Nor are we able to raise onions or cabbage in January. On the other hand, farms in southern Texas are not able to grow field corn like we can. Climate, soil types, and rainfall are all things that affect how well certain plants are able to grow in an area.

I like to think that American agriculture is a lot like a bag of potato chips…

CarolynCares OriginalChips

When you open a bag of potato chips, there are all different sizes and shapes. The same holds true for American farms and ranches. If you look closely at the bowl of chips, you will see some that are large, some small, and some that are unique. Even though they are very different, they all taste the same. They are, after all, basically the same thing. Original flavor potato chips.

If you look at these chips as farms, there are all different sizes and shapes of farms. Some are large, some are small, and some are unique. If you put all these farmers in a room (bowl) together, you have a bunch of farmers who are farming for basically the same reasons – they love the land, they love their animals, and they want to take care of both so that they are able to pass their farm or ranch on to the next generation.

When you cruise down the snack aisle of the grocery store, there are a lot of choices between flavors, cooking method, potato type, and brand. We can look at those as being different types of farms. There are dairy farms, vegetable farms, livestock farms, crop farms…you get the idea.

I asked each member of my family what their favorite flavor of potato chip was, and they were all different. I’m pretty sure that differences in opinion within a family on how to do things on a farm or ranch is not that uncommon, either.

CarolynCares Different Flavors

This may seem overly simplistic to some, but I hope you get the idea. We need the diversity in agriculture in order for us to have the opportunity to eat a well balanced diet. A well balanced diet meaning a variety of foods eaten in moderation, not meaning a potato chip in each hand. 🙂 We need the diversity in size, in management style, in location, and we need both vegetation (crops), and animals to make our food system work as a whole. There is no one right way to farm or ranch. That should be an individual decision made by the farmers and ranchers who are on their land and tending to their animals every day.

Suddenly, I’m hungry. I think I’ll go eat a Pringle. I just won’t be one!

Wordless Wednesday – Favorite Christmas Cookies

CarolynCares Peanut Blossoms Cookies

 

Peanut Blossom Cookies

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup shortening

½ cup peanut butter

2 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1 ¾ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Sugar for rolling

48 milk chocolate candy kisses

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, shortening, peanut butter, milk, vanilla and egg. Mix until fluffy. Add flour, baking soda and salt. Blend at low speed until stiff dough forms. Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately top each cookie with a candy kiss, pressing down firmly so cookie cracks around edge; remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

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