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

sawyer (8 of 17)

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.

A Mothers Guide to Calving

Pairs at home
Every year a group of mother cows and their new calves reside in the pasture right outside our front door. It’s pretty neat to wake up and see the mothers eating and babies running and playing with one another.

We are about a month into our 2018 calving season and I am loving all the new faces on the farm. Our first baby calves starting arriving in early January and will continue through March. Everyone understands the basics of pregnancy and birth, but here are a few details on the who calving process I know my fellow mother friends will appreciate.

  1. Cows have the same gestational period as humans. Cows and people carry their unborn for 40 weeks or 9 months. Calves can be born early and easily survive, but if they come too early they will often suffer from undeveloped systems and fragile health. But with a little extra care and a watchful eye, these preemies usually end up just fine. A full-term calf will weigh somewhere around 70 pounds at birth, and that number jumps to about 85 pounds for a calf from a mother who has previously given birth. (Why the increase? Cows usually have their first calf at age two and will continue to grow so that they have a larger frame and more room to carry a larger calf once they hit 3 years of age.)
  2. Calves receive all nutrients from their mother. Be it in the womb or during the first months of their lives, calves subsist exclusively on the nutrients delivered through their mother’s milk. That means we, as the farmers, must provide the mother with a nutrient-dense, well-rounded diet. Because these mothers’ third trimester occurs in the late fall and winter months, when grass is more scarce, we provide supplemental hay, distillers (made from corn during the ethanol production process) and grain pellets to ensure they are receiving enough protein and carbs. We will continue them on this diet through the spring since they will need the extra calories for nursing. Just like humans, a mother cow’s milk is the only food a baby calf needs for the first six months of their life. They can and often do try to eat grass or hay during that time but their digestive systems simply are not mature enough to process those items. By the fall they will have transitioned to a diet of grass supplemented by mother’s milk. P.S. Calves are born with teeth – ouch!
  3. Birthing is a natural process, but a little help is sometimes needed. For centuries humans gave birth with little to no medical assistance. Babies were born at home with a doctor no where to be found. The same is true for cows. However, just like in humans, things don’t always go as planned. Our first time mother cows are called heifers and those ladies require the most oversight. My husband and his father will take turns checking on our heifers every four hours or so around the clock to ensure everyone is doing well. But it’s not uncommon to have to pull a calf from a mother who is struggling or is just worn out, and on the rare occasion a veterinarian will be called out to perform a c-section. A mother cow will then need to begin licking her calf clean and encouraging the calf to stand and drink. This should all happen in the first few hours after birth. If it doesn’t we will intervene.
  4. Daycare is a thing. If you drive by a pasture or field with mother cows and baby calves, you’ll often find one mother with a group of calves. No she didn’t have quadruplets, she’s just the designated babysitter for that day. Mother cows work together to watch over baby calves because the calves will initially spend most of their time sleeping or lounging in the sun. However, just like humans, a baby calf and mother will recognize one another by scent and sound. A baby knows when it’s his or her mother calling for lunch.
  5. Mothers Rock. Most of us humans would earn passing grades on mothering but I’m gonna guess that our mother cows would exceed us in parenting abilities. Remember, mother cows do not have hubbies to lean on when caring for these babies, they are on their own. But they do an amazing job of feeding cleaning and watching over their calves. They will tuck the babies away under shelter or in a hedge row when the weather gets crummy and will stand guard when prey like coyotes or wolves attempt to attack the younger members of the herd. As I noted before, the mother cows work together – that’s where we get the phrase herd mentality – to protect one another and their young. That strong maternal instinct makes our jobs so much easier and allows us to keep watch but not have to be present every moment of the day. In fact, a vast majority of our mother cows will give birth and raise their calf with little to no intervention from us. And that’s the way we prefer it. When selecting bulls and cows for our cow herd, we look for maternal instincts – yes some breeds of cattle are considered more maternal than others – strong udders and well built mother cows.

There is so much more cool stuff I could share about our mother cows but I’ll leave it at this for now. Have a question, shoot me an email or leave your questions in the comments section. I’ll be sure to follow up and address it ASAP.

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/

Distance Distorts Understanding

Conveniences in food purchasing and preparation are leading to continued decline in connection to agriculture

Combine and grain cart

We Americans want it all. We want the big paychecks and the 40-hour work week. We want well behaved kids but don’t want to tell them no. We want big houses but little upkeep. And we want the trendiest, healthiest and riches foods but none of the input required to get it to the table.

Today’s culture has become obsessed with cooking and all things food. We have multiple television channels devoted to cooking and culinary trends. Food retails were responsible for more than $500 billion in sales in 2016 and just recently, retail giant Amazon jumped into the grocery market, buying Whole Foods and sending shock waves through the industry.

But like all things in our busy lives, we don’t seem to actually have time to shop for and prepare these amazing foods we are insisting be found on our dinner table. Heck, we hardly have time to sit down and enjoy a meal. Grocery stores now offer online ordering and curb side delivery and if you can’t possibly make it to the parking lot, a dozen or so new companies specialize in delivering meal kits directly to our homes.

While all of this convenience is nice, it’s also a bit worrisome. At a time when we have become so entrenched in dictating food policy and eating habits not just of ourselves but others – see article on school districts reducing meat consumption of its students – we are farther removed than ever from the people, places and systems that grow our food and deliver it to the table.

I’m certainly not one to point fingers. I just polished off a frozen microwave meal and handed my children Eggo waffles as they walked out the door this morning. But I still believe in cooking and making the weekly trek to the grocery store to personally pull the boxes and cans from the shelves and throw them into the back of my always dirty car. And being married to a farmer, I get to witness each part of the growing and harvesting process. Today less than 2% of the country’s population shares my experience and understanding of the food system and that’s too few.

That decline in direct connection to food has been in stark contrast to the uptick in regulations, proposals and pushes to label, stipulate and mandate ingredients, growing practices and preparation techniques. We want unblemished products from untreated seeds and unprotected plants. We want healthy and balanced ready in 30 minutes and for less than $5 per person. We want our farmers and ranchers to raise products using outdated and ineffective growing practices but want to use 21st century technology to deliver it the next day to our kitchen table.

As American consumers, we have access to the most abundant, healthy and affordable food supply on the planet. Nowhere else can people enjoy so much for so little. But our push to move technology out of the field but onto our kitchen table has further distorted most consumers’ views and understanding of how food is raised and impacts our bodies and overall health. We want to see all Americans with equal access to all things healthy and gourmet but we don’t want to see farms grow or consolidate to realize the efficiencies necessary to produce affordable grains, beef and dairy products. People who have never in so much as peeled a potato want to tell others how and what to eat.

American consumers cannot continue to take a hands-off approach to purchasing and preparing food but insist on dictating how our farmers raise their crops and others get their nutrients. If consumers want to make decisions on meals, they need to be more involved in the growing of the food. But the more we walk away from buying and preparation, the most uneducated and uninformed we all become in regards to our food.

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.

April 2017 boys swinging
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.

April 2017 in Pasture
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.

#WheatHarvest16: What Is a Bushel?

Most wheat harvests take about a week. It’s a long, intense week that starts mid-morning and runs well past sundown for five to six days in a row, but it doesn’t stop, take breaks or run on for weeks at a time.  But #WheatHarvest16 has been a very different type of harvest. This year the combines have stopped and started more times than I can count. We’ve endured at least three different rain delays and have been slowed by mud spots and wet wheat. Wanting to get the grain in the bins, anytime the sun is shining my farmer is in the combine, finding a dry field to cut.

Sunrise over wheat

Wheat prices are also dismal this year. Wheat prices are averaging almost $2.00 less per bushel this year when compared to 2015 prices. For an average field of 80 acres, that’s averaging 65 bushel an acre (that’s being very conservative) that comes up to $10,400 less in revenue from the sale of the grain when compared to a year ago. As wheat harvest trudges on, wheat prices continue to drop. Not good news for farmers who use the payout from wheat harvest to pay land notes, purchase seed for the next crop or purchase new equipment. The only bright spot is the record-breaking yields, some farmers reporting harvest 100 bushels an acre. While everyone isn’t seeing triple-digit wheat, nearly everyone is cutting high-yield fields.

What is a bushel of wheat?

A bushel of wheat is the way in which we measure the amount of wheat in a field. The term comes from the days when wheat and other crops were harvested by hand and a bushel was the amount one could fit into a bushel basket. We still use the term today but the measurement of a bushel is much different.

A bushel of wheat weighs approximately 60 lbs. So when a truck loaded with wheat arrives at the elevator, it is weighed on large, in-ground scales. The wheat is then dumped into the storage facility and the truck is weighed again – this time without the grain. The difference in the two weights is the assumed weight of the grain. That total is divided by 60 to determine the number of bushels dumped.

Farmers can calculated the total yield – and average, per-acre yield – of a field by adding up the weight of the wheat dumped from that field. As trucks leave the coop facilities they are given tickets with the time and total pounds dumped, those tickets allow the farmer to both remember and later formally record the total pounds of wheat delivered to the elevators.

Learn more fun wheat facts at: http://www.wheatworld.org/wheat-info/fast-facts/

The guys were in the field all day Saturday (no, farmers do not take weekends off) and were ready to start cutting after church Sunday. But the rain moved through, again. By mid-afternoon Monday things were dry enough to start up again. Everyone is hoping that this is the last week for #WheatHarvest16 – but with more rain in the forecast, this may carry into yet another week. Stay tuned!

Saturday Menu

Lunch: Beef soft tacos; Rice; Chocolate chip cookies

Supper: Cheeseburger sliders; French fries; Peanut butter cookies

Monday Menu

Lunch: Ham and cheese pockets; Chips; Cookies

Supper: Roast beef sandwiches on pretzel buns; Creamed corn; Fruit tarts

Farm Raised

Evan is obsessed with cows so it only made sense that he dressed as a cow for Halloween this year.
Evan is obsessed with cows so it only made sense that he dressed as a cow for Halloween this year.

Former Kansas State University football standout and current Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson was recently profiled by Sports Illustrated. The reoccurring theme of the profile was Nelson’s farm upbringing. And Nelson admits, without the hard work and dedication he learned from the cattle and crops, he would not have made it to where he is today. (Read the entire article here: http://www.si.com/nfl/2014/12/05/jordy-nelson-green-bay-packers)

My husband is the third generation of the Sawyer family to farm in McPherson County. He knew from an early age that he wanted to farm for a living, so the hours, weeks and years accrued on the farm left an imprint on my husband – one he hopes to pass along to our son, Evan. He is who he is today because he grew up on a farm and involved in the agriculture world.

As a farm wife I know there are downsides to the farm life but I also know there are things my son will learn that cannot be replicated within the city limits. Here is my list:

1- Work Ethic: Banks, restaurants, grocery stores all have set hours. The work stops when the doors close. Farming does not. Not only does it often require 12-plus-hour days, but farmers that raise livestock must work 365 days a year – animals don’t take a day off. When the work is there, it must get done, regardless of the time of day or the day of the week. The time clock doesn’t exist on a farm.

2- Appreciation for the land: Kansas always get a bad rap for it’s flat landscape and lack of scenery. But the soils of Kansas are some of the most productive pieces of land in the country and world. My son may not realize it right now, but the land is and will be his most valuable asset – larger than any tractor, animal or piece of equipment. But as Derek and all farmers will tell you, you only get from the land what you put in. Evan will soon come to realize and appreciate the beauty in a wheat field and value of open, flat pastureland. We work daily to improve the land so it will continue to provide for our family.

3- Critical Thinking Skills: Most people would assume critical thinking skills are only needed in a board room or corner office. But being able to problem solve and assess situations is vital to making it in the farming world. When you are on the tractor there are no co-workers in adjoining cubicles to ask for advice or bosses to call with questions. A farmer must problem solve on the spot, find a way to get new parts to the field, a calf to the hour or a broken irrigation system functioning again. There are also the larger issues of analyzing practices to improve yields and testing feed to determine nutritional deficits. Rarely a day goes by that my husband doesn’t have to think on his feet and solve a new problem.

4- A Love of Family: My husband farms alongside his father. Family is what built our farm and family is what has kept it together. It’s never easy to work and live with the same people everyday but it is a valued part of owning a family farm and it’s something I hope my son will have the opportunity to experience. My husband works daily to not only put food on our table but to build a business for his child/children to return to someday. And he hopes to be still manning a tractor and working with cattle when the next generation takes over. My husband appreciates the wisdom and guidance his father provides and I know my son will think the same of his father.

5- A Stubborn Streak: As a mother, the idea of having a stubborn child is not something I look forward to. I have a stubborn husband, I don’t need a stubborn son. But I know it’s that stubborn streak that has allowed my husband to succeed and hold his own in an industry dominated by operators a generation older than him. Whether that’s holding a salesman’s feet to the fire or demanding an answer to an issue with his cattle, Derek’s inability to wave in the breeze means he stands for what he believes in and doesn’t back down easily. I hope that one day my son will inherit that same desire to stick with it and hold his own – I just hope he knows that his mother always gets the final say – and is always right!

6- A Love of Animals: One of my son’s first words was cow. Probably not the most common first word but it’s not surprising considering half of his wardrobe includes a cow and they reside outside our back door. From an early age, we took Evan to the farm to see and interact with the cows. The large, black, loud animals never scared my son. Today when we take him to the farm, he begs to get into the pasture with the cows for a friendly game of tag. Our farm dogs have taught him to not fear dogs – large or small – and our cats are oh so tolerant of his “petting”. If he’s not looking at a tractor or cow book, my son is flipping through pictures of animals. He knows their names and sounds and jumps at any opportunity to pet and meet a new animal – be it a goat, pig, bunny or chicken. Farmers understand and truly appreciate their animals – providing them with food, water and a safe habitat. Growing with the animals and helping during calving season will only strengthen that passion.

Farm Visit

We welcomed a few friends to the farm this week. Two-year-old Reed and his mother wanted to see cows so we showed off some of the mother cows and baby calves we still have at home.

It’s always fun to have friends out to the farm but more importantly, each visit provides an opportunity for people to learn something new about our cattle, our farm and how we raise our animals and grow our crops. Any opportunity Derek and I have to educate consumers is much appreciated and taken advantage of. In this case, I think Reed and his mom both learned something new about cattle and beef production.

Cows at silos Red Pairs Horses Evan and Derek at silos

Packaging Can Lie

Buying organic has become the trendy, hip way to shop and select fruits, vegetables and milk. But I have found many friends and family members have bought into the hype of organic without first understanding what they are purchasing and what the label really means.  

Just the other day, my sister told me she purchased organic milk for her son “because it has more vitamins and nutrients” – at least that’s what the packaging said. She didn’t know how or why that was possible, but that’s what the label said and she was only trying to do what was best for her son.

The United States Department of Agriculture has set broad definitions for the organic label but many companies use the term to define a much larger production process. Most organic product is grown without the use of pesticides and herbicides. Those are chemicals used to keep weeds and insects out of the food and fields. But organic can mean chemicals are used – but they must be organic chemicals. I won’t get into organic chemicals because I, myself, am not familiar with the difference. Regardless, any chemical used in conventional farming has been proven safe for human consumption.

For dairies and feedlots, organic classifies the feed given to the animals. The milk produced at both organic and conventional dairies is exactly the same.

According to the American Dairy Council:

“There is no difference between organic and regular milk. Both contain the same unique package of nutrients that makes dairy products an important part of a healthy diet. An 8-ounce serving of organic or regular milk offers the same amount of nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium.”

The same premise holds true for apples, bananas, grapes or any fruit and veggies you pick up at your local supermarket. The nutritional value of both the conventional and organic produce you purchase is exactly the same.

Organic food doesn’t contain fewer calories and doesn’t make a personal healthier. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying organic, but if you chose to eat organic, know that you are doing it for what the food does not contain, not for the supposed added benefits the packaging my describe. 

Top 10 for 2014

Yes, I know. This time of year is supposed to be spent in reflection and looking back at the year that was. That’s all well and good but I have never been a terribly nostalgic person, preferring instead to look ahead at the future and all it’s possibilities.

So with Christmas wrapped and 2014 right around the corner, here are my top 10 hopes, wishes and dreams for 2014 . . .

(1) Growth and prosperity for family and friends. I would not be the person I am or have the fantastic life I do without my wonderful family and fantastic friends. I have a mother and father that would – and often do – anything for me. I have a sister I am blazing the new parenthood trail with and a husband that works tirelessly everyday to provide a home and life for my son and I. My in-laws make our dreams of farming and ranching a reality and my father-in-law is three employees in one. My friends provide continuous support and companionship for the occasional adult-only night out and a listening ear when the road gets a little rocky. I know my circle of family and friends will continue to grow in 2014 and I look forward to new welcoming faces, young and old.

(2) New milestones for our son. Derek and I welcomed our son, Evan John, on April 12 and I don’t believe we have sat still since. As everyone warned us, our baby has turned our world upside down. It’s now all about him, on his schedule and catered to his needs. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being a parent is rewarding and I’m looking forward to seeing Evan continue to grow and hit new milestones. He’s a happy and charismatic little guy that so desperately wants to be on the go and into everything. I know life will only get more hectic once he begins to walk but I also know with walking comes talking, hugging and words. I know my husband looks forward to the day Evan can accompany him in the feed truck and on the combine – without mom, of course. We work to provide him a farm and animals he can love and I’m excited to see him take it all in.

(3) Continued leadership from my husband. Derek has always been a natural leader and has found a family and place in Farm Bureau. He’s served at the local, state and national level and continues to be asked to lead and help move his industry forward. He will continue serving on the Kansas Farm Bureau resolution’s committee and lead the county Farm Bureau board as president. And starting in 2014, Derek will become a member of the very first Kansas Dept. of Agriculture Marketing Advisory Board. He applied and was selected from a pool of applicants to represent the state’s agriculture industry in helping guide the Dept. of Agriculture’s marketing efforts both domestically and internationally. It’s never easy having Derek gone for meetings and conferences but I always enjoy seeing him utilize his leadership talents and know he will continue to be a great spokesperson for his industry.

(4) Female leadership. Speaking of our state agriculture department, I am excited to see a woman at the helm of a still male-dominated industry. In late 2013, Jackie McClaskey was named the new Secretary of Agriculture. McClaskey was at Kansas State University when my husband attended so I have been fortunate to know Jackie for a few years now. She is a great lady, a great leader and will do great things with the department. I always enjoy seeing women break gender boundaries and I know she will do female producers and advocates alike proud.

(5) A farm bill. On the federal level, I am hoping lawmakers can get in the spirit of the season and come to a compromise on the new farm bill. I shouldn’t say new, this bill has been in production for two years now. The agriculture industry needs a farm bill. Producers, like my husband, must make planting and marketing decisions and need a farm bill to know what the future holds. It will take compromise and cooperation but I’m confident 2014 is the year of productivity on Capital Hill.

(6) A new crop of calves. Owning cattle means we never truly have downtime on the farm. Once the crops are out of the field, the cows return home and the daily feeding and water routine begins. There are times that those tasks keep my husband at work far longer than I would like. And I guarantee there will be at least one social function we will be late to because a group of cows manage to escape from the pasture. But all of that time and hard work is rewarded with a herd of new calves. We will start calving in about two weeks. From there it’s a continuous parade of baby calves. Some will come on their own with little commotion and no help from us. Others will require hours of monitoring and assistance from my husband or the local veterinarian. Regardless how they come, once they are on the ground they are fun to watch grow, play and find their way through fields and pastures.

(7) Weekend racing. Now comes the selfish part of my list. As I mentioned before, having a baby changes everything, including your long-held routines and habits. I have been a nearly daily runner since middle school. That’s more than a decade of waking, running and tackling the day. With a baby in the house, that routine doesn’t always happen as hoped or planned. While still pregnant I purchased a treadmill for my basement. I use it and occasionally sneak out of the house while the hubby and baby are asleep to run outside with the dogs and take in some fresh air. But my runs aren’t as frequent or intense as they were pre-pregnancy. It’s been a nice change but I am ready for the 8-milers and Saturday morning races. I am back in running shape but am looking forward to getting into racing shape. I love my weekend races and am anxious to get back on the starting line.

(8) More blogging. On the sideline with my running is my blogging. It has gone weeks without updates or new posts. I always enjoy sharing my pictures and stores and hope to be more regular with my blog posts and updates. Add to that keeping our new farm website (www.sawyerlandandcattle.com) updated and I have a part-time job to add to my full-time position. Thankfully I have two great subjects – my hubby and my son – and lots of great landscape and animals to capture.

(9) A little R&R. And now comes the whiney part of my list. I grew up taking regular vacations. Have I mentioned I have great parents? I knew marrying into the farming world, vacations would be more infrequent and occur in the precisely two week period between when all of the animals have returned home and the first cow calves. But last winter came and went without a trip out of our great state. Two Farm Bureau conferences – which for the past two years had provided some form of travel and sight-seeing – took place without us and the summer flew by without a trip. So I have informed my husband that we need a vacation in 2014. Something that will take out of our everyday, away from the hustle and bustle of life and provide us a day or two of little to nothing at all. It sounds fantastic and I’m already starting to plan.

(10) The unknown. And finally, the planner, type A, control freak in me is looking forward to the unknown. Yes the new adventures, hidden obstacles and undiscovered pleasures that await us in 2014. Be it new friends, new opportunities or just a new normal, I’m excited to see, experience and live it all. I have always been a planner and it kills me to not know what the next day holds but I’m trying to relax, go with the flow and just enjoy the ride. I know we will survive whatever we encounter, likely make some new friends along the way and live to see another day.

I wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2014 and best of luck in the new year!