The Winter That Won’t End

Keeping our cows and calves safe and healthy in the cold and snow

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It’s snowing AGAIN here at Sawyer Land & Cattle in Central Kansas. It’s been years since we’ve dealt with this much snow in one winter, but Mother Nature has decided that we need to live like Canadians (no insult to those north of the border).

The cold wouldn’t be so alarming but winter is also the time we welcome new baby calves to the farm. Between the first of January and end of March, our mother cows will deliver a couple hundred baby calves, and it’s our job to make sure they are safe, healthy and, most importantly, warm and dry. Cows have, for centuries, endured the cold and snow so they are built to endure this weather, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help make winter a little more bearable.

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A cow’s instincts work well in this weather. As soon as a mother delivers a new calf she begins licking the calf dry and encouraging it to get up and suck. If all of that happens within the first few hours of birth, the calf’s chances of survival are good. If the calf fails to get up or the mother never gets the calf dry and fed then the cold can quickly take over. It’s our job to ensure our mother cows are doing their job – and thankfully we have a herd of great moms.

This year we created a fully enclosed space in our barn for our first-time mothers to deliver. This is an extra step to further protect our novice moms and keep them out of the elements while they figure out this new thing called motherhood.

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Two new momma cows and a baby calf enjoy the comforts of our enclosed calving barn.

For cows in our pastures, we provide windbreaks (in the form of trees or buildings) and dry straw to help protect the cows from the wind, moisture and cold ground.

The final piece of keeping our ladies and babies safe and healthy during winter weather is proper nutrition. Cows – like people- produce their own body heat to keep warm – fun fact, a cow with snow on her back is warmer than a cow with melted snow – but that takes a lot of energy and calories. We feed our cows a grain-based, energy-rich diet that provides them the calories to grow a baby calf and keep themselves warm. That means we’re on meal duty 7-days a week, rain or shine!

The farmer hubs and his father make the rounds and check on every cow on the farm at least once a day. Those momma cows we know are due to deliver anytime are checked on multiple times a day. We aim to interfere in the natural birthing process as little as possible but are always ready and willing to step in when needed. Winter is busy on our farm, but a few inches of snow or ice means extra work and attention for our cows is necessary – but most definitely worth it.

Girl Power and Girl Bosses

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Veterinarian and owner of Black Dog Veterinary Services, Alissa Kirchhoff, stands in the home she has turned into an office in rural Phillips County.

I participate in a lot of tours. Normally I’m planning a tour for my boss or I’m hosting a tour on my farm for city folks. But today I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed touring Phillips County, Kansas, with a group of smart, caring and awesome ladies who simply want to make their businesses and communities better.

During the tour we had an opportunity to see four different ladies in action – at their place of work, showing us what they do and why they love living in rural America. We discussed policy implications, opportunities and financial concerns, but the conversation kept coming back to “what more can we do?” “how can we be more intentional with our resources?” and “how do we keep rural America alive and well?”

This tour wasn’t about women’s rights or women empowerment, but what I took away from it was how great these women bosses were and how important their work was to the future of their families and their communities.

The “woman” conversation has been ongoing for a while, sparked by the 2016 presidential election and fueled by the #MeToo movement, supreme court nominees and a general push toward a more modern form of feminism that aims to have a woman in every boardroom and parity in every state and federal elected body. However, I feel the conversation has largely been absent in much of rural America. We’ve all been listening – it’s hard to miss – but I haven’t seen many of my fellow farm wives and small town moms adding to the conversation.

Today I realized why, too many rural women are too busy running businesses, caring for kids, serving on boards and finding ways to uplift one another. The group of ladies assembled in small town Phillipsburg, Kan., today included a veterinarian, two nurses, a school teacher, a nursing home administrator and a sixth-generation farm wife running a large-scale hog operation. These women get sh** done and they do with style and grace (literally good style because of the super cute boutique in Phillipsburg Kan.). They spend their days earning paychecks, caring for kids, playing taxi and now and then taking the time to come together to fundraise for a school project, plan a community event or lend their expertise to an on-going issue.

These women aren’t looking to government to mandate they have a seat at the table, they’re making their own networks, finding their own opportunities and discovering new paths to success. And they do it with busy husbands, limited resources and an optimism that is contagious.

I believe too many women in America are having the wrong conversation, it shouldn’t be how can we, as women, make ourselves equal to men but rather how can women use our unique talents to grow businesses, enhance our communities and bring people together? The women of Phillips County are doing it and it makes me proud to call them friends.

It’s Been A While . . . We’re Still Here

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It’s been an embarrassing long time since I’ve updated my blog. It’s not that we haven’t been farming or working or living our best (and most hectic) farm life, it’s just that whenever I sit down to write an update or talk about an issue something comes up and I close the computer promising to get back to it soon (I’m sure every mother out there knows exactly what I’m talking about).

But today’s the day and the boys are still asleep (up late watching the local high school football team secure a win) and the farmer hubs is attempting to get out the door to work cattle so the house and the internet is all mine! Here’s the summary of my last 6 months.

The Boys

Being a boy mom is wonderful and hectic and hard and wonderful all at the same time. My boys, Evan, age 5, and Owen, age 2, have officially learned to roughhouse and wrestle. Evan is the sweetest, smartest, happiest kid. He’s in all-day kindergarten and loves it. Evan is reading, making friends and a little nerd, just like me. But he’s also a bit bossy (also like me) and that gets him into a bit of trouble at home when he tries to make all the rules for his brother.

Owen, on the other hand, is loud and chatty and aggressive and demanding (like his father). He plays hard but he loves hard and when you need a chuckle, go find Owen. He’s sure to put a smile on your face. He loves his big brother but will not – I repeat will not – be bossed around. The bossy boy and stubborn boy have more than once come to blows and I’m just not ready for that stage of life yet. But alas, here we are.

Both boys adore life on the farm and take any opportunity possible to ride along with Dad or Grandpa. And their off-the-farm adventures haven’t been too shabby either. In a single year they have: rolled Easter eggs on the White House lawn, experienced a K-State football victory from the President’s suite, experienced the mountains of Idaho, meet too many elected officials to count, experienced a NASCAR race first-hand and flown on multiple airplanes.

The Farm

It’s Oct. 26 and we’ve already experienced our first snow. This year started out dry but has ended with above-average rainfall. We needed the rain but when it all comes at once it’s a bit less helpful. We had a decent wheat harvest and a good corn harvest. We’re half-way done cutting beans and have wheat in the ground and are growing alfalfa again for the first time in a very long time.

The cows have begun returning home for the winter and we’ll start seeing new baby calves in about 10 weeks. (Eeek, I’m so not ready for calving season).

Things in farm world haven’t been the best. Prices are still way down from just a few years ago and there is so much we want to do with the farm but just can’t find the extra dollars to make it happen. We’re fortunate that our diversification of cows and crops has allowed us to continue doing what we love but it’s been a struggle every step of the way.

My husband doesn’t like to talk finances and his whole life is in the farm so I know he’s making the best decisions possible but sometimes this farm life is just plain hard!

The Job

I’m still hard at work for U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall. It’s been a whirlwind 2 years (almost) but it’s been so much fun along the way. I have met some of the best people in the world, experienced things I never thought possible and helped represent my state and my industry in Washington D.C. It’s stressful trying to balance a 40-hour-a-week-plus job with kids and a farm but it’s worth it and I tell anyone who asks that I’m raising flexible, adjustable young men who understand that it takes hard work, sacrifice and a little chaos to put food on the table and toys on the shelf.

The Rest

Sadly, there isn’t much else outside of work, farming and the boys. That eats my time, my energy and my paycheck! I’ve long since given up watching T.V. on a regular basis and haven’t seen many of my friends in months. But I know I’m not alone, I’m blessed to have a tribe of fellow farm wives who all endure the same long days, work-filled weekends and single-parenting stints that are required when married to a farmer.

My farmer has to be one of the worst communicators in the world and has a memory for all things cows but never what I need him to remember (I say all that in love because when I’m gone he steps up to the plate big time). Thank goodness for parents and in-laws who fill in the gaps and play parent when neither of us are around. Of course the boys love spending time with their grandparents so it’s hardly a sacrifice on their part. It’s a blessing to raise our boys so close to both grandparents and all four sets of aunts, uncles and cousins. They don’t realize it now but they are so, so lucky.

I’m still running in the mornings and try to race when I have a weekend free. It’s football season so we’re catching a K-State game whenever possible and cheering on the Inman Teutons as they move through the play-offs.

The Politics

You know me, I have to get in a word our two about something in the headlines. I have a lot of feelings about a lot of issues but I’ll keep it short and sweet, all women – better yet all white women – do not think, believe, feel or react the same. I am a conservative mother of young boys. I do not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, but do not believe in ruining a life because of a 30-year-old fuzzy memory.  Women are not a monolithic voting block and should not be treated as such. I am not beholden to my husband nor any political candidate and party. I don’t vote or support candidates to ruin someone else’s life. I vote to protect my way of life, my values and my beliefs.

All that being said, no matter your party affiliation, beliefs, values or lifestyle please use the opportunities afforded to us as Americans and exercise your right to the ballot box on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Cast your vote and make your voice count.

**I’ll get off my soap box now and return to my farm talk**

That’s all for now. Evan is out of school today so we’re going to attempt to carve pumpkins (eeeek!). You can follow along with all of my trials, trips, trying moments and truly beautiful sunrises at @sawyerfarm on Instagram and Twitter.

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/

Behind the Company

As a farm wife I so often hear people talk about their love and support for farm families and local farms. The moms and dads, brothers and sisters growing wheat and hogs is exactly who they want to purchase their food from. But mention Tyson, Cargill or any company name and that love dissipates quickly.

It’s hard to love a big corporation. There’s no face, no cute kids and no great story of multiple generations working together and living on the same farmstead. But the truth is that our story is also the story of any corporate food company. The family farms, like ours, are the one responsible for growing and caring for the livestock, produce, corn and other food products that make their way to your plate via a corporate food company.

We raise beef cattle. From the time they are born until they time they are processed for beef, they are under our ownership and care (with the help of feedlot owners). Once the carcass has been processed and different cuts finalized and frozen, it’s off to the store or restaurant for consumers to enjoy.

You won’t see “Sawyer Beef” on the menu anytime soon but my husband still takes great pride in knowing that the steak at the high-end restaurant or the Big Mac you enjoyed for lunch could have come from one of the dozens of animals roaming our backyard or living somewhere on our farm.

Have faith in your food, it comes from farm families like ours. Their farm may be huge or teenier tiny, but it was very likely ran by family members dedicated to producing food and preserving the land.

Our Crazy Hectic Life

I always enjoy writing – not as much the forced, daily writing that comes with a journalism gig I once held – but the spontaneous, personal blogging that allows me to share our farm life and stories of raising crops and cattle in the heart of America.

Ironically, it seems that the same life I want to share is what prevents me from finding the time to write. But I love our life and love reading about other mom’s trials, tribulations and craziness and want to share our crazy with all of you.

First, let me explain our crazy . . . My husband is the fourth generation of his family to farm and raise cattle on our farm in Central Kansas. Right now we are in the middle of calving season, which means we will welcome a couple hundred new baby calves to our farm in the next three months. It’s a great season – who doesn’t love baby calves – but our mommas cows require a watchful eye and helping hand when things aren’t going right or the weather is not ideal for a fresh, wet baby calf to hit the ground. For almost two months, my husband and his father will take turns checking on the animal. That means he’s up every two to four hours morning, noon and night (not unlike a mother of a newborn). The cows take priority because their well being and livelihood is his top priority.

During other times of the year, planting, harvest and animal care keep my husband at the farm 60 – 80 hours a week. His job has never been 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and it sure doesn’t allow for weekends and holidays off. There are days I just want him home, but it’s not that easy. He’s the boss and the one responsible for it all at the end of the day so when work needs done, he’s the one to do it. This farm is our future and its our hope that this is here for our boys to return home to one day.

Then there’s my job. I have a great position as a District Director for our U.S. Congressman. I love my job and the responsibilities in my position, but it also is not a typical office job. I oversee staff and offices in a district that covers 63 counties and more than 47,000 square miles. There are days I can sit at my kitchen table while the boys play and nap and get my work done. But there are other days I’m on the road and unable to get home for supper or get my oldest to pre-school. I take the downtime and days at home when I can but my schedule differs widely every week and some meetings and travel requirements are simply out of my control.

And finally, there are our two adorable boys, Evan, age 4, and Owen, age 2. Evan is in pre-school and attends school four mornings a week. He just started his first sports activity – basketball – which practices Saturday morning. Owen attends daycare and for now, is just along for the ride. The boys rarely sit still but I know their busy days are still ahead of them. I look forward to baseball games and band practice but I get anxious thinking about the layer those will add to our already hectic family schedule.

Both of my boys have only known an unpredictable and somewhat chaotic schedule. I tell people who question our jobs and schedules that we are raising flexible and adaptable little boys who understand that you just gotta take each day as it comes and go with the flow! So far, they don’t seem to mind. We very much rely on a tribe of individuals, including siblings, parents, babysitters and friends to keep us going and our boys well cared for, and for those individuals I am forever grateful.

I would describe an average day, but I honestly can’t think of one. Each day is different and that’s what makes our family and lifestyle so unique. We don’t enjoy supper together at our kitchen table as much as I would like, but we find other ways to spend time together as a family – and sometimes that’s in the cab of a tractor or the side of the road in lawn chairs eating sandwiches for lunch.

I used to be jealous of those wives who had a husband home at 5:30 p.m. every evening and all weekend long. And I’m not going to lie, there are days I still wish that was our life. But I’ve come to embrace our chaos, enjoy the time I have with my boys and embrace the flexibility that is allowed in both my and my husband’s jobs. We don’t often have the same hours of open time but when we do, we sure try to make the most of it.

I know I’m not the only farm wife struggling to keep a sense of normalcy in our kids’ lives but there is something special and wonderful about growing up and raising kids on the farm. Add to that the opportunity for my boys to see what hard work, dedication to a job and commitment to a lifestyle and future means and required is priceless.

So for all you mommas with a mountain of laundry, a to-do list a mile long, a schedule that is never the same I see you, a get you and I say keep on, keepin on! To catch more of our crazy life, follow along on Instagram and Twitter @SawyerFarm and subscribe to this blog post at www.newtothefarm.com.

 

 

The Loneliness of Farm Life

I am on a group messenger feed with about a dozen other mothers that live in the nearby town. A few – like me – work during the day, but most are stay-at-home moms. The messages are usually invites to join someone at the park or reminders of story time or another kid-friendly activity taking place that day.

I often don’t respond. It’s not that I don’t want to join them, but that I simply can’t. I’m either at work, meaning I’m mile away at a meeting, or I’m home with the boys and therefore a 20-minute drive into town on top of getting the boys ready and piled into the car – so make that 45 minutes out given the sloth-like pace my 4-year-old choses to move in these situations.

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We put up a swing set for the boys last summer. With the nearest park about 15 miles away, it gets a lot of use on the evenings and weekends we are home without dad.

But the messages do more than send a small ping of mommy-guilt through me, they remind me of a group of girls I don’t get to see all that often because I married a farmer and therefore live a life much different than theirs.

There is a lot about farm life that differs from city dwelling – the obvious aspects of space, noise, fresh air and proximity to, well, everything. But the acres of open spaces and miles of farmland can sometimes be overwhelming and well, lonely.

My husband works a lot. And by a lot I mean pretty much everyday of the week – well beyond the normal 8-5. The spring is our busiest time of year – planting corn and soybeans, vaccinating and moving cows and calves to grass and watching over a maturing wheat crop. Family dinners are few and far between and many nights my husband isn’t home before 10 p.m. The boys don’t have neighbors to run with or a park down the road to escape to, so it’s just the three of us and our space, and sometimes that feels like a pretty small place.

I love my kids and cherish the time I spend with them, but talking about Lightening McQueen with my pre-schooler and playing peek-a-boo with my toddler isn’t exactly adult conversation. And on the days I work from home, I can go 12 hours without adult interaction.

The weekdays are hard but weekends are by far the worst. On Saturdays, when other families are spending time at the zoo or enjoying a lazy morning over pancakes and eggs, my farmer is out the door and I’m left to entertain two little boys for the day. In these times it’s tempting to turn to social media to see what’s going on in the outside world – because well, let’s face it, if your world is anything like mine it’s filled with dirty laundry, stinky diapers and messy kitchen floors. But instead of finding company, I find myself growing envious of the wives who get the joy of husbands each and every weekend and fellow moms who have a partner in crime to fight the dishes and weekend trips to the zoo.

And it’s not just the morning and evenings that cause me to miss my girlfriends. Since neither my husband nor I work in town, I have seen our friendships and connections to people and place unravel as time separates us. It’s not a conscious uncoupling (thanks Gwyneth) but a slow falling apart from different schedules and lifestyles that don’t allow myself or my husband to be part of evening get togethers or random “work” lunches. On the weekends when I am ready to hit the park or take a quick trip out of town, many of my city friends are enjoying family outings and not looking for a third wheel with two little boys.

The loneliness that comes with life on the farm can be overwhelming. As we enter planting season I know the stress that comes with being the only parent most days of the week and trying to juggle work, meals, laundry, yard work and whatever the boys need will be trying. My boys and I won’t see much of my farmer and outside of my work meetings and daycare drop off and pick up stops, I won’t see many friends or familiar faces. Even if an invitation for a get together is extended, I can’t ask my husband to hop off the tractor so I can sip wine with friends.

I knew all of this marrying my farmer and I know I am not along in feeling lonely and frustrated during these trying times. I try, everyday, to see the positive and blessings in this lifestyle – whether that’s a kiss and goodnight hug from my sons or the blissful quietness after everyone has fallen asleep. Farming isn’t a job or a hobby, it’s a lifestyle that encompasses not just the farmer but his family and loved ones. And while some days I struggle to accept this lifestyle and the restraints it places on my time and flexibility, I see the passion in my farmer and the vast and wonderful adventures that await my sons as they grow. It has afforded me many opportunities and made me appreciate those that chose to do the hard, dirty and thankless work.

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My farmer hubby and I after a recent Facebook Live show about cows. Sadly, the 15 minutes on Facebook was about all the time we spent together that day.

So for all of you fellow farm wives or mothers with super busy hubbies, I’m with you and understand your frustration and tears. It’s lonely and it’s hard but it’s rewarding and wonderful. And some day the kids will be grown and we’ll be on the other side of it all, secretly missing these days.

Why I Didn’t March

On Saturday, Jan. 21, women across the nation – and world – participated in a grassroots movement that caught the attention of people around the globe. Women traveled to D.C. to march on the National Mall, gathered in their hometowns or expressed their support via social media.

I had friends and family members participate, but I did not march. On Saturday morning, as everyone waved fancy signed and took selfies with matching pink beanie’s, I was sitting in a town hall meeting listening to my state legislators talk about proposals and bills being put before their committees and the governor. I was one of only four women at the event and the only participant under the age of 35. I attend these meetings whenever possible because from them I gain knowledge, understanding and a relationship with my congressman.

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My son, Owen, and I share some snuggles and selfies on the couch. Don’t let the smile fool you, this little guy wasn’t feel well this weekend.

After the meeting, I returned home to take care of my two little boys – ages 3 and 1 – who both were not feeling well and needed snuggles and hugs. I washed dirty clothes, made supper and played on the floor. That night I enjoyed a simple dinner with my family and lost a few hours of sleep rocking a baby with a fever. As a mother, I have an obligation to raise boys who respect women, who understand that things won’t always go their way and to show them unconditional love and support to allow them to chase their dreams. Nothing I did Saturday was Earth-shattering or life-changing but it made a difference in my family’s lives and those simple actions and routines will have a more substantial impact in my sons’ lives than any president or piece of legislation ever will.

Like any woman, daughter, mother and sister, I want to feel supported, included, equal and optimistic. I’ve had my failures and successes, my triumphs and tribulations. But I can’t blame any of it on the President nor will much of my everyday life be substantially impacted by the person residing in the White House. I control my destiny and I can chose to take challenges head on or stand on the side and blame others.

I work everyday to make my life, my family and my world a better place. But I don’t believe marching is the way to enact change. Instead I believe relationships with lawmakers, comments to proposed legislation and participation in any and every election possible is the most effective way to see your opinion heard and issues addressed.

I don’t want a president who gives handouts and protections. I want a president who helps grow our economy, which means more jobs and opportunities for women. I want a Congress that enacts legislation that allows small businesses to thrive and grow and a government that puts an emphasis on the safety of my life and my country.

For all of the women who chose to march, I encourage you to put that energy into getting to know your legislators, becoming active in your local and state political organizations and attending town hall meetings with law makers. Sure marches are fun and provide great photo ops but nothing is more powerful than consistent involvement and participation in the process.

A Year With Owen Douglas

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Owen plays with his Little Blue Truck and farm animals after bath

Today we celebrated the first birthday of our youngest son, Owen Douglas Sawyer. The past year has flown by – although there were days time seemed to grind to a halt. We had our good days and our bad. We survived a whole lot and spent many a late nights cuddling and rocking. Owen may share his brother’s blue eyes and blondish-red hair but he and Evan John are nothing alike. I never realized how two very different little boys could come from the same parents and upbringing.

Owen has proven to be a spirited, spunky and noisy little guy. He’s assertive, opinionated and spirited. His patience are few but his kisses are many. He has a smile that will melt your heart and scream that could break eardrums. He is everything I was as a baby and a constant reminder of my impatience, stubbornness and hard-headed ways.

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The result of my attempted 1 year photo session

I have learned a lot from Owen this past year – mainly that I can survive on a whole lot less sleep than previously thought and that despite what the parenting books will say, you cannot train all children. Some children will sleep, others simply will not. Owen sleeps, but on his own schedule and under his own terms.

He celebrates his first birthday with only four teeth, a head full of hair and the ability to walk – just not the desire. He is a crawling machine and climbs anything he’s tall enough to reach. He is a one-man tornado capable of destroying nearly anything left in his path.

Owen wakes up before the sun every morning but could not be happier about starting the day. He loves playing with his big brother and dad and still finds a moment or two to cuddle with me each day. He enjoys his time on the farm – seeing the cattle and riding in the tractor and combine. I hope he develops the same passion and love for the land as his father and grandfather. And if farming is not his dream, I hope he carries a passion for serving people and carrying for animals with him where ever he goes.

Our little man will do big things one day. I joke to many that I pray he uses his powers and personality for good, as it will be mighty. This child will be the source of my first grey hair but will also accomplish so much. We love you Owen Douglas now please just sleep!

 

Taking On The Comment Section

Scroll to the bottom of an online article, blog post or video and you’ll often find a second article, not one written by the author, but a rolling commentary of complaints, comments and conversation between readers.  The content is usually juicer than the story and the viewpoints and opinions are sure to raise your blood pressure a point or two.

About once a week, I wade into the comments section of an article. I try to pick an article I do not agree with or one that contains either misleading or all together incorrect information. I select a commenter that seems at least a bit rational and offer up a bit of counter evidence and advice. It’s an exercise in keeping your calm and offering fact-based, accurate information on farming practices and agriculture products.

As an agriculture advocate, I am constantly urged to interact with the consumers, tell my side of the story and set the record straight when I come across inaccurate information. Emailing the author of an article is one way to go about it but interacting with readers in the comment section can often be a very trying but effective effort.

With practice, I have honed my commenting and online interaction skills and just today was told by a fellow commenter that he appreciated my cool, levelheaded comments and counter-comments.

Just like many people outside the social media world, many online commenters have no intentions of listening to logic or changing their way of thinking. But, it doesn’t hurt to put the information out there, let people know you are a source for agriculture information and begin what could be a very valuable conversation with another person perusing the comments section.

So, how do you go about commenting on a story? Here the tips and tricks I’ve learned from many successful – and a few failed – attempts at making friends in the comment section.

(1) Comment using your Twitter or blog handle. Select a name that you commonly use online so people can follow you long after the article has been taken down. I often log in and comment using my Twitter handle. If they want to know more, they know where to find me.

(2) Tackle one issue at a time. There will often be several different commenters discussing several different issues, don’t try to take them all one at one. Select one piece of incorrect information and do your best to correct that person and the facts.  Don’t attempt to engage every commenter on the page or you’ll run yourself ragged.

(3) Remain cool, calm and collected. The last thing you want to do is lose your cool while trying to establish yourself as an expert in your field. If the other person wants to call you names and belittle your industry, let them. But please don’t return the favor.

(4) Make sure you are presenting facts – and not your opinion. Many people confusing fact for opinion. Stick to the facts and leave your thoughts out of it.

(5) Learn when to end. There are people that live on the Internet. They spend their days commenting on articles and blogs and engaging them means you could end up spending your entire day defending your post. Know when to excuse yourself from the conversation and simply walk away.

Becoming a frequent commenter is a great way to engage people you would not normally interact with and also establish yourself as an agriculture advocate.  Best of luck and I’ll see you in the comment section!