5 Reasons To Love a Farmer

It’s Valentine’s Day so while it is not the only day to express my love for my Farmer, it’s a good day to remind others why it’s great to have a Farmer for a valentine. I’ll admit, being married to a farmer is never easy, but there are so many great parts of being a farm wife, living the farm life and waking up with a farmer each morning.

1. They are care takers: Before we had kids, my husband was already taking care of babies, animals and living things all around our farm. I appreciated his willingness to stay up all night with a newborn calf or slosh through mud to help a mother cow that was having trouble giving birth. He showed me early and often he knew how to care for others.

2. They drive big tractors: While the appeal of a tractor has diminished slightly over the years, the idea that my husband gets to command big trucks, huge tractors and even bigger combines is always something worth bragging about. The best part is they all come with buddy seats so there is always room for me to hitch a ride (and maybe even enjoy a date night in the field).

3. They don’t have an 8-5 gig: I always say my husband is flexible but not always available. He doesn’t report to an office and doesn’t punch a time clock which means he can get away from the farm when he needs or wants. It’s not always that simple but if there is something I want him to join me for or need him to attend to, there’s no asking the boss for vacation time.

4. They can fix anything: My husband may not be as skilled in the “fixin” department as others but he usually has the tool, trick or duct tape to jimmy rig about anything you need. The one thing he can’t do – patch the holes in his jeans or replace the buttons on his shirts. I’m guessing sewing is one skill he won’t be picking up anytime soon.

5. They have big hearts: The last but certainly not least reason I love being married to a farmer is their big hearts, kind souls and Midwest manners that make them gentleman and all around great guys. Most of my husband’s farmer friends are great husbands and fathers as well. Farmers grew up learning the value of hard work and aren’t afraid to pitch in when it’s needed. Farmers are some of the best people you’ll get a chance to meet – as long as you don’t mind a little mud on their shoes.

Want to reach more about life with a farmer hubs, check out some of these great blogs by fellow farm wives:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenny-dewey-rohrich/15-real-reasons-to-date-a_b_4688680.html

https://wfbf.com/blogs/nothing-like-a-farmers-love/

https://www.gracegardenandhomestead.com/how-to-love-a-farmer/

Women Lead Ag – Just Look Locally

I just finished a podcast about women in agriculture. It wasn’t your usual, more women need to farm, instead it focused on the lack of women in leadership and decision-making positions at the many national farm and food organizations. As someone involved in both policy and advocacy, this issue caught my attention. But it also caught my ongoing frustration with the conversations surrounding women in leadership roles (more about that later).

The podcast featured three women ag reporter and their first example of male dominance was at an American Farm Bureau Federation’s national meeting and the claim was that there was only one women in the room voting on policy issues. I can neither verify or dismiss that claim but I can say that men do normally outnumber women in the organization – at the national level. But as a women involved in Farm Bureau that doesn’t bother me. Why? Well Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization that derives all policy positions from the local and state level. So if we look not at the national voting delegates, they are merely taking marching orders from their states. So if you look the people sitting in board rooms on a Tuesday night in a rural Kansas community, you’re likely to find as many if not more women than men. That reassures me that women are and will continue to play an important role in shaping and implementing ag policy. Listen to the complete podcast at: https://simplecast.com/s/42337269

The same holds true for several other agriculture organizations that allow their membership base to determine policy positions and direction for involvement and action. The focus of male/female ratios should not be solely on the top of the organization but on the local level where decisions are made and input given for those at the state, regional and federal levels.

But on the larger issue of women in leadership. Sheryl Sandberg sparked a movement with her book, Lean In, that promoted 100 percent, no-excuses involvement at the workplace. Women should always be working toward the next promotion and leadership position. That’s all good and fine for the women who can or chose to be 100 percent career focused. But for the other 90 percent of us, there is more to life than professional success. There are children, spouses, friends, communities and all of the joy that comes in the small moment and downtime in our lives. Success at work is wonderful – I strive for it daily – but to declare that women must reach parity with men in all industries and walks of life, I have to raise my hand and ask the question if there are that many women who really want to give it all up to sit at the top of the company organizational chart. Sure, success sounds great and the money that comes with those positions would make many aspects of life simpler. But it would, no doubt, diminish time with kids, connections to the local community and the flexibility and freedom that comes with fewer work responsibilities. I, for one, am not prepared to give that all up just to even the playing field with men. I know how and where I can play a role in policy development and advocacy and have found that I can make a different from my farm and my kitchen table.

I trust and know that if and when women want to rule the world, they can and will. And for those women who have a singular focus on career and professional success, that time will come much quicker. But for others of us who want to be present for our childrens’ school plays and Saturday football games, that success may come later in life. Or it may never be fully realized at all because somewhere along the way we figured out there was more to life than a big paycheck and the corner office.

Taking a Note From the Trump Campaign

Author’s Note: I must preface this article by emphasizing that this is in no way an endorsement of Donald Trump in his bid for the presidency. It is, however, a study of his ability to attract and ignite new voters.

In July 2015, Trump declared his candidacy for president of the United States while at the same time taking his first step into the country’s political sandbox. He has gone from New York businessman to presumptive GOP presidential nominee in less than a year, and seemingly broken every campaign rule along the way.

Now I am by no means an advocate for many of the tactics Trump has used to attract and retain his millions of loyal followers, but as a communications instructor and marketing professional, I cannot help but take note of his messaging success.

We in agriculture all seem to understand the goal, but too many consumers are still unaware of our mission and unwilling to listen to our point of view. Maybe it’s time we reassess how we conduct our own campaigns and take a few cues from the man who has made himself a household name.

The following are my five takeaways from Trump’s political playbook that I believe can help us in agriculture continue to connect with consumers and activists:

1. Connect with their issues. Trump has expanded the tent of the Republican Party by speaking to voters who previously felt abandoned and ignored. He specifically calls out the obstacles and difficulties people face and at the same time draws in voters who previously felt abandoned by the party and ignored during conversations.

As advocates, we must lead with empathy and meet consumers where they stand. It’s not about finger-pointing and name-calling but finding common ground and mutual understanding.

2. Find new faces. Trump’s ability to step outside of the traditional GOP talking points and policy stances has enabled him connect with millions of people who previously never felt embraced by the party and political system. These legions of new voters are now part of the conversation and the Republican electorate.

Many agriculture advocates can tell you which mommy bloggers or movie stars are anti-GMO or have spoken out against animal agriculture, but have no clue what their neighbor thinks about pesticide use and organic produce. Sadly, I’m guilty as charged. I often overlook the people in my daily orbit as I reach to connect with those outliers. Our conversations must start at home and travel with us to everyone we encounter.

3. Find your voice. In a sea of politically correct speech and party-approved talking points, Trump quickly rose to the top with his brash yet simplistic speeches and rallies. He has no stump speech he repeats at each rally or acronym-filled policy musings to fill the time. Instead he uses his own unique form of speech to simplify his message and drive home his thoughts.

Every one of us fighting for the future of agriculture has a unique story to tell. While we all have common interests and goals, our voices and approaches can and should remain our own. Use your own viewpoints and beliefs to connect with voters. It may not look or sound the same as the farmer next door, and that’s OK.

4. Always be willing to talk. Many have blamed the media for Trump’s rapid success, claiming their willingness to give him free air time and publicity has given him a clear advantage over others running for office.

Trump’s amazing amount of media coverage is largely the result of his willingness to speak with journalists anytime and anywhere. A reporter for The New York Times Magazine recently wrote a profile on Trump and revealed that Trump’s press secretary often travels with him and will simply hand the phone to Trump when a reporter calls asking for an interview. No games, appointments or worrying about the who and what. Trump simply takes the call and talks.

Few are comfortable enough to speak with reporters or members of the media at a moment’s notice, but we can all make ourselves more approachable and available. Take every opportunity to connect with reporters and tell your story, because if you don’t, someone else will. And it may not be the story you want told.

5. Bad hair, don’t care. Trump has risen to fame despite a head of hair that has been the butt of political jokes this entire election cycle. He owns his looks and doesn’t let a little comb-over get in his way. It’s part of his character and over-the-top persona.

None of us is perfect and we rarely look camera-ready, but that that shouldn’t prevent us from stepping up and stepping out. We’re all human. We all have unique characteristics that endear us to one another. We shouldn’t let our waistline or wrinkles prevent us from speaking out and sharing our story.

When we allow our imperfections to shine through, consumers will see that we are also just moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, trying to do our part to provide quality food for our families and theirs.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Kansas AgLand, published by The Hutchinson News. 

On Being A Farm Wife

I never aspired to be a farm wife. I just wanted to live in the city, raise my 2.5 kids and navigate a successful yet fulfilling career in the public relation industry with a husband that wore a suit and was home at 5:15 every evening. Then I met my farmer — now my husband — and that all went out the window.

I am now a mother of two, a farm wife, a full-time professional and passionate advocate for an industry I knew nothing about a decade ago. I live miles outside of town, have no idea what time my husband will be home from work tonight and have seen a cow give birth.

I was recently asked to speak to a group of livestock owners about the role of women in agriculture and as I pondered what that looked like I realized just how much a farm wife contributes to the success of the industry.

Farm wives must be the cooks (or in my case the fast food picker-up-ers), the laundry attendants, the house cleaners, the nanny, the chauffeur (for the hubby, his farm help and the kids) and the office manager. On top of that, when the hubs is busy — be it a Tuesday evening or a Saturday afternoon — this all must get done with no help or second parent. Farming is more than a full-time job, it’s a full-time lifestyle that doesn’t take weekends, holidays or sick days. That means farm wives must always be at the ready to help out, alter plans and lend a hand on the farm — while taking care of the kids.

For those women, like myself, who work in town, balancing the corporate world with the farm can be a challenge of epic proportions. Schedules clash, the tractor breaks down minutes before a meeting and the hubby might not make it back from the field in time to get the kids from daycare if the wife is away for business. That’s where family and forgiving babysitters come in handy.

Farm wives are strong women, they have to be. They wear a million different hats. They know a paycheck isn’t a guarantee and their date nights, free time and family vacations are at the mercy of mother nature or a few stubborn cows. They might go days without seeing their husbands and can fix a wonderful, wholesome meal only to have to save a plate because her husband can’t make it home in time to eat with her and the kids.

It’s a blessing to be a farm wife but it’s not for the faint of heart.

The Only Option is to Help

Antibiotic use in animals has again made headlines as another national restaurant chain announces plans to move to serving only antibiotic-free animal products.

The change was the result of pressure from outside lobbyist organizations with a mission to discontinue the use of all antibiotics in animals. What’s disappointing is the restaurant chain’s lack of attention to facts, science and the people who actually raise the animals. Fear and misinformation again won, leaving farm animals as the ultimate victims.

My husband and I raise Angus cattle on our fourth-generation family farm in Central Kansas. We believe in the humane treatment of all of our animals and therefore use antibiotics in our animals on an as-needed basis to cure an illness and help the animal return to full health.

Antibiotics are not our first line of defense against sickness in our animals but they do allow us a resource to help the animal overcome illness, fatigue and stress. Without the ability to use antibiotics, we would be forced to watch innocent animals die from basic, treatable conditions.

We keep records of all uses of antibiotics to ensure the withdraw period has passed before the animal enters the food system. However, most of our animals remain on our farm long after the antibiotics are administered.

What most consumers don’t realize is that all beef sold in grocery stores and used in restaurants is antibiotic free and tested, by the USDA, for antibiotic residue before leaving the processing plant. The standards are strict and farmers and ranchers do everything they can to ensure the beef enjoyed by consumers is healthy and safe.

Everything we do is to protect and support the health and welfare of our animals. We don’t want to have to doctor sick animals so we do everything we can to ensure their health and wellbeing. But when we do find one of our animals is not feeling well, it is our duty to return them to health. That’s part of being good stewards of our animals and your food.

Beware The Comment Section

I did it to myself. I clicked a link for an article bad-mouthing agriculture authored by a publication that has never been friendly to farmers But as a livestock owner, mother and concerned citizen, I wanted and needed to see what this group was saying about antibiotic use in livestock.

Turns out it was nothing new. The same old finger-pointing and miss-representation of the issue and the fact. And I could have stopped there. Opting to move on and keep my opinions to myself. But I did it. I kept scrolling . . . right down to the comment section.

I hadn’t commented on an article in a while. And I quickly remembered why. The section should come with a warning: “Enter at your own risk. Reading comments can lead to high blood pressure, headaches and anxiety.”

In today’s digital world, the comment section of any online article has become a digital playground dominated by a pack of demeaning and malicious activists with no intentions of learning from the other side.

As a agriculture advocate, it is my job and passion to work with others to explain the other side of the issue and exchange thoughts, ideas and concerns. I aim for a dialogue and honest, respectable conversation focused on the issue, not the person.

It didn’t take long for the hate to find me. After commenting on a few errors in the article, I found myself bombarded by two brash and vile readers with no limits and no filter.

A self-described 51-year-old vegan triathlete expressed her delight in the idea of my drinking myself to death. “We would all be happier,” she wrote. What?!? Hiding behind a screen name and avatar, she asked no questions and quickly moved to name calling and insulting. Apparently she’s not a fan of meat-eaters and livestock producers. It was spectacular how childish an adult could act when protected by a computer screen and anonymity.

A second gentleman asked if he could eat my child if he got hungry – because that was akin to me raising cattle for beef. I simply had not words. It was obvious they were looking for a fight – not a conversation.

So with elevated blood pressure and a new opinion of humanity, I shut my computer and crawled into bed wondering how we got to this.

When did it become acceptable for adults to name call and belittle people with opposing views? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I follow politics and sports. But I never realized the level of hatred, immaturity and loathsome behavior some people are willing to stoop to over a simple disagreement in dietary choices.

There are many things in this world I don’t agree with but I would never and could never use the language I witnessed in the comment section. This world is dealing with major, complex issues. Wars are raging in the Middle East, displacing millions. African nations are killing their own people and human trafficking is rampant around the globe. Ask a victim of any of those situations and they’ll tell you they don’t care what they eat – they just hope to live to see their next meal.

The growth and efficiency of American agriculture has allowed for a huge diversity in products available to consumers. The ability to choose should be heralded as a benefit of living in America, the land of the free. But choice is instead the catalyst for online, verbal warfare. Americans have the freedom to consume a plant-only or gluten-free diet. They can opt for grass-fed over grain-finished beef and choose locally sourced over imported produce. It’s the result of farmers and ranchers working hard to meet growing consumer demands. Most countries and people have only one choice and sometimes that choice is whether to eat or allow someone else to have the meal. We are blessed beyond belief and we should be thankful.

So to the lady who wishes death upon me and to the gentleman who thinks I’m an idiot a**hole, I hope you enjoy your next meal and I hope you give thanks for the ability to eat three meals a day. It something we should never take for granted. And if you ever have questions or concerns about your food. Ask a farmer or come visit. I’ll be happy to show you around. And I pray you find a more constructive use of your time, energy and passion.

Antibiotics In Our Animals

These calves are not feeling so well. Given their young age, only a few days of sickness can lead to death. We pay close attention to all our animals and when a calf is showing signs of illness- like lowered ears (bottom picture) or scours (diarrhea in calves, top picture) – we give them a place in the barn and do everything we can to nurse them back to health. That includes administering antibiotics. It’s not the only took in our toolkit but sometimes its the most powerful and key to health.

Some consumers want to deprive ranchers the ability to use antibiotics in their animals. That would basically mean we would have to watch our sick calves die from regular and treatable conditions. We practice the responsible use of antibiotics in our animals and record all uses so that sick animals never enter the food supply.

This little girl is not feeling well. She has scours - which is basically diarrhea - and has been under close watch and care for about a day now.
This little girl is not feeling well. She has scours – which is basically diarrhea – and has been under close watch and care for about a day now.

Sick calf2

Parenting

Me and the little guy on his first plane ride to Florida.
Me and the little guy on his first plane ride to Florida.

My last blog entry was all about our wonderful mother cows and sometimes I look at them with empathy and sympathy – for any of your breastfeeding mothers out there you would cringe while watching a calf nurse. But I also see that their one and only goal is to keep their calves fed, safe and warm. Sometimes I envy the simplicity.

I am not only a mother but a full-time professional who balances work, motherhood, domestic duties and a few non-profit obligations on top of it all. Combine that with the fact my husband works 80-plus hours most weeks and I’m basically a single parent for a few months of the year.

This is one of those months. Outside of the normal work hours, my husband and his father split the night hours, checking the mother cows and calves every three hours. Sometimes that check takes 10 minutes and sometimes it leads to an all-nighter of babysitting expectant mothers and watching over newborn calves. Regardless of the number of hours my husband spends in bed each night, he gets up every morning to do it all over again.

I know I am not the only mother with a spouse who can’t make it home for dinner every evening or who is absent from the weekend activities and errands more often than not. I am fortunate in that I can call and visit my husband most days because while he isn’t at home, he’s right down the road. Some spouses are halfway across the world defending our country and our way of life – and to those individuals I tip my hat and offer a sincere thank you.

Outside of the stress of just trying to get it all done each day, going a day, evening or weekend without a spouse means there are no time outs or “me” time. You have no “other half” to watch the kids while you run to the grocery store or make the quick trip to the mall. There is no one to hand the kid off to for bath time or to read the same book for the 1,000th time. It’s you and them and only you and them.

But for all of the times I have grumbled about my situation because my husband is spending yet another Saturday at work, I have also learned to appreciate the irreplaceable one-on-one time I have with my son. I know all his habits, I can decipher his toddler language and can comfort him when something just isn’t going his way. Because we have spent so many mornings, evenings and weekends together, I am his go-to, his protector. And that’s pretty cool. Dad may have the keys to the tractor and access to the cows, but I have the ability to console him when he’s sick and find the blanket he’s misplaced.

I didn’t grow up hoping to find a husband who wouldn’t be home for dinner or away for entire nights and days at a time. But I love and respect what my husband does and I know he is living out his dream. For all the moments I want to complain and fight, I have to remember that there are millions of other women in my shoes and I am one of the lucky ones. Some are fortunate to have a spouse that will eventually return home. Some have forever lost their partner and others are simply hoping that one day they will have the opportunity to just be a parent. My situation may not be what I envisioned as a child but I know I have much to be thankful for.

It’s never easy juggling a job, friends, children, cooking, cleaning, laundry and extra obligations. But I count myself fortunate to have a wonderful little boy who enjoys my company because it’s only a matter of time before friends, sports and the farm will pull him in a million directions. I will never love the idea of going it alone but I have learned to appreciate the time I get to spend as a parent. It’s priceless and fleeting.

Cow Facts – For The Fun of It

I ask a lot of questions – always have. It’s what lead me to pursue a career in journalism since the most important trait of a good journalist is the ability to ask questions. When I started dating my husband, the questions only seemed to increase – there was so much to learn, so much to figure out and so many questions that rattled in my brain. The poor guy, he never saw it coming.

We’re four years into marriage and while I’ve learned a thing or two about farming and cattle, the questions still remain. So, since the basis of my blog is passing along my new-found knowledge of the farming world to you, the reader, here are a few fun facts about our cows that I’ve learned along the way.

January 25

– A cow will sleep between 4 and 5 hours a day.

– A lactating mother cow will consume about 70 pounds of feed per day. We feed our animals twice a day.

– The average cows will drink 1 gallons of water for every 100 pounds of body weight during cooler and cold weather. That means the average mother cow will drink 12 to 13 gallons of water per day during the winter months. During the hot, summer months that amount can double.

– Like humans, a calf’s milk consumption will increase as it grows but a 2 month old calf will drink about 2 gallons of milk per day.

– As I eluded to earlier in my post, mothers can often be heard bawling for calf. It’s a low repetitive almost horn-like noise that can be likened to a mom calling for her child to come inside for supper. The calf will likewise bawl for its mother. A mother and calf can also find one another by smell. (We use ear tags to help us pair mother and baby together, when necessary.)

– A heifer is a female cow that has not delivered a calf. Once a heifer has calved she is referred to as a first-calf heifer until she delivers her second calf the following year. (Because heifers have not been through the birthing process, we monitor them closely and make sure they help clean and feed their calves within hours of the calf being born.)

And add for your reading pleasure, a few additional fun cow facts . . .

– A cow will always get up rear legs first.

– A calf will gain just over 2 pounds per day. Between February and October a calf will gain more than 500 pounds.

– Baby calves are born with teeth. They will lose those teeth after a few months and new teeth will replace them. This will happen twice between birth and age 5, when their permanent, adult teeth grow in. But, unlike humans, the next tooth is already under the gum and will almost immediately replace the lost tooth.

Have more cow questions – send them my way. If I don’t know the answer you know I’m happy to ask, it’s kind of what I do!

A Little Down Time

For those farming only crops, the end is in sight. Most rushed to get the last fields cut before the season’s first snowfall. Those that didn’t make it have only days – maybe hours – left in the field before a slowdown for the holidays and winter chill.

But farmers who raise crops and cattle aren’t winding down for the winter. They’re simply taking a break and catching their breath before winter moves in for good.

My husband and his father manage not only our crops but our growing Angus cow herd. Our cows have returned home from a summer of grazing and will be delivering calves starting in January. A calving season typically lasts three months so the men will be on calf watch until nearly April.

Between now and New Years Day, my husband will keep himself busy hauling water to our cows grazing in our picked corn and milo fields, vaccinating and tagging heifers and steers as they arrive to our farm and organizing feed sources for the long winter ahead.

The mother cows are in their final months of pregnancy with their calves so nutrition and proper medical care – if necessary – is essential. As 2015 approaches, all of our animals will be moved to more secure calving areas that provide protection from the wind and snow. The guys will make daily trips to the fields and facilities to check on each animal and when calves start arriving those trips will become hourly visits to ensure each new calf is up, active and nursing.

The work of a cattle farmer is never done and as some farmers settle in for a winter of maintenance and meetings, my husband and others will be busy battling the cold to care for our cows and their newborn calves.