The Making of a Steer

January 25
A bull calf stands behind a row of mother cows enjoying dinner in the sun. 

It’s calving season on our farm. The three months of each year we welcome hundreds of new, fun and furry calves to our farm. We typically average half female and half male calves – but they tend to arrive in spurts. Six of the last seven calves born have been males but soon enough the numbers will even out and the females will get their revenge.

For beef cattle, both males and females play a role in the continuation of the herd and beef production. The females grow the cow herd and the bulls make the babies (seriously, they have the easy job). But every farm and ranch is home to a group of animals that aren’t females but aren’t true males – the steers.

We love our male (bull) calves but too many males can be a problem. Therefore, we limit the number of bulls through castration and create males without the ability to reproduce, aka steers.

Whenever possible we castrate our male calves at birth through a technique called banding. A band is placed around the testicles as soon as possible to restrict blood flow. Within a week the testicles will dry up and by two weeks the testicles will have completely fallen off.

(Side note: The process of catching the calf, safely separating it from its very protective mother and getting it in position to get the band on takes speed and nerves of steel – those mommas don’t like us messing with their calves. See mean muggin momma cow below.)

derek banding calf
The bander (the blue took Farmer Derek is holding) is used to apply bands to calves at birth
bands
The bands – small but mighty and all over my house during calving season

Steers are still considered “boys” but have lower testosterone levels than non-castrated males – or bulls. A steer can still produce an impressive, muscular frame but the meat is often more tender and desirable to consumers. And with less testosterone on the farm, everyone and everything is calmer (bulls just like to fight).

 

The Case for Outsourcing Child Care

Today’s mommas always preach the value of a tribe – having friends, family, colleagues and neighbors who support and understand the struggle of motherhood and raising kids.

We have play dates with our tribe, wine nights with our tribe and inside jokes and memes with tribe members.

But for all the glory we heap upon our tribe, we always seem to stop short in allowing these great ladies (I’m making a generalized assumption here) to actually help in the care of our kids.

Mothers always have been and always will be the primary caretaker for most families. That looks different for each families but moms are often the ones running the show. However, as motherhood becomes more scientific, more specialized, more publicized, mothers have taken on an assumption that they are the only ones qualified to take care of their unique and special little munchkins.

More and more I see mothers debating the need to home school children to ensure they aren’t influenced by negative forces or questioning whether they should work or go so far as to leave the house for the weekend to enjoy some adult time. Mothers seem to be more and more concerned with outsourcing the duty of raising their children for fear that care by anyone but themselves will destroy their children and leave a lasting negative impression on their lives.

I believe this trend comes at a severe cost to our children. The more our kiddos are exposed to new people, places, rules and environments, the more they become adaptable, empathetic and understanding children who see past their own household and realize the diversity of our society and growing world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor or allowing just anyone to raise our children or leaving kids in dangerous situations with unqualified supervisors. And the possibility of bad actors and unforeseen situations is always there – always has been and always will be. But by and large, our tribes, our teachers, our friends and our families are good people with big hearts that want to see our children grow and succeed.

My husband and I both work full-time outside the home. Our two boys have been attending an in-home daycare since each was about 2 months old. My oldest now attends full-day kindergarten and the youngest will start 3-year-old pre-school next fall. Our schedules are wacky, ridiculous and different nearly every day. My boys have both known no different. They have been raised to go with the flow, adjust and make do. And the number of people I have involved in their daily care has grown. Grandparents, daycare owner, teenage babysitters, aunts, uncles and teachers have all had a hand in keeping them happy, healthy and safe.

When people ask about how my husband and I manage all of this I joke and tell them we are raising adaptable, well-rounded little boys. And that’s the truth. I want them to see that a mom an work and raise kids and mothers are not the only ones willing and able to care for them. It worries me when mothers want to be everything for their kids and deprive them of the opportunity to learn how to adapt to new people and new situations. We cannot and should not bubble wrap our children and shield them from society. Kids will do better when they know how to adjust to new people and new places and understand that this world is full of wonderful people that are ready and willing to help make their lives better.

Public schools is good, daycare is life changing and teenage babysitters may not always do the dishes and get the kids to bed on time but they all grow our children’s worlds and tribes and allow us mothers and opportunity to enjoy our tribes and our calling.

 

Girl Power and Girl Bosses

11.2.18 Phillips County Vet
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

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.

Taking Care of our Farmers

IMG_8739
We have three farmers (and two farmers-in-training) on our farm right now. It’s a tough time for anyone in agriculture right now.

To say it’s a bad time to be a farmer would be an understatement the size of the grain piles dotting the Kansas landscape. During the past few years farming has become a losing proposition. Grain prices are down, international rhetoric and negotiations have killed export opportunities and a drought has made it nearly impossible to grow much of anything in many parts of Kansas. Add to that marginal profits, already tight lines of credit and a consumer base that thinks you are doing it all wrong and its enough to make anyone want to throw in the towel.

My husband recently conducted an interview with a local television station on farmer suicide and mental health. I have heard the statistics before – farming has the highest suicide rate of any profession, double that of veterans – but had never really stopped to think about the situation and its contributing factors. It’s a scary statistic and one that has only been made worse given the current political and economic climate.

(See his full interview here: http://www.ksn.com/news/local/kansas-farmer-talks-about-alarming-suicide-rate/1191543047)

When people experience thoughts of suicide or depression they are encouraged to seek help. But my guess is my farmer is a lot like other farmers, not prone to sharing his feelings or airing his struggles. He is a reflective man and often doesn’t even let me in on some of his concerns and frustrations. That mentality is hard to change but it’s literally killing our farmers.

There is so much in farming that cannot be controlled – the weather, rain, trade opportunities, markets, commodity prices, legislation and regulation and rental rates. It’s an industry that buys retail and sales wholesale. It bends to the whim of Mother Nature and commodity brokers and can be undone in the blink of an eye. Farmers don’t do it for the fame or fortune, but they are often the sole income for a family and are the fourth or fifth (maybe more) generation to farm the same land. That puts farmers in a unique but overwhelming situation when the future isn’t clear. Add to that the fact most farmers have never had another job or entertained the idea of working anywhere but on the family farm and you have professionals believing there is no where to go.

The agriculture community has awaken to the mental health crisis in its midst, and the newest version of the farm bill has funding in place to help create or grow support systems for farmers and rural workers. But nothing can change if farmers don’t start asking for help and recognizing the points of stress that can or will lead to more substantial actions and decisions on their part. These are difficult times by anyone’s standards and we must continue to remind our farmers that asking for help or admitting failure isn’t a sign of weakness but a normal reaction to really difficult times.

Where Can You Turn: Thank you to Kansas Wheat for putting together an exhaustive list of resources for both financial and mental/emotional issues as well as options for spouses and others who are dealing with depression. http://kswheat.com/news/2018/02/19/farmer-suicide-rate-is-concerning-but-resources-for-solutions-are-available

Our farm, like most in Kansas, is still alive and operational. We’re in the middle of planting soybeans and moving cattle to summer pasture. We continue to streamline costs and operations, when possible, and pray for rain every chance we get. But as the drought lingers and the politics of farming only gets more hectic, I hope my farmer and others across the country to remember to ask for help and speak up when it all gets to be too much. We love our farmers, without them we would all go hungry and naked.

 

Why All the Beef About Beef?

Owen eating cheeseburger
We enjoy beef in all forms – including the $1 cheeseburgers at McDonalds. Don’t be fooled by foodie elites, all beef is safe and nutritious.

I’ve got a beef with today’s view of beef. Too many times – and it happened again yesterday while flipping through a food magazine – I found an article telling me that hamburger from the local butcher is trustworthy and safe, but beef from the grocery story, well, maybe not.

Sure, the local butcher is probably a good guy and takes great care of his cold cuts. But so too are the men and women of Tyson, Cargill, National Beef and others that process millions of pounds of hamburger every year and do so safely and without incident.

We raise beef cows – lots of them actually – and while our end goal is a healthy animal that produces steaks people would pay $1 million for (ok, that may be excessive but we make really, really good steaks), we know that many of our animals will likely end up in your next fast food cheeseburger. And that’s ok. We just want you to enjoy beef.  Our animals are sold to large beef companies that then distribute the beef to restaurants, food service companies and grocery store chains. We keep our animals healthy and trust the companies producing the end products will likewise keep the beef fresh and safe for consumption. How do we know? Because federal inspectors are in processing facilities daily and put their seal of approval on nearly everything that goes out the door to the public.

Likewise, the neighborhood butcher is inspected and overseen by state and/or federal inspectors. What’s the difference? The butcher’s beef stays in house while the other must be transported. But that extra step does not compromise the quality or safety of the beef you pick up from Wal-Mart or Costco or enjoy at Wendy’s and Burger King.

In fact, many fast food restaurants are also getting into the game and keep a close eye on the beef they serve. Yep, even Micky D’s (https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/about-our-food/quality-food.html) As a whole, the beef industry collectively spends more than $550 million each year on testing, interventions and other safety strategies.

Thousands of ranchers, just like us, take pride in our animals and the beef we produce. We trust the companies that package and deliver that beef to your favorite bar or drive-thru and know that your $1 cheeseburger was created with the same quality beef that can be found in the corner meat market. It’s all antibiotic-free, raised on grass and loaded with 10 essential vitamins and minerals.

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.