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.

Taking Care of our Farmers

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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.

 

2017: Adventure Awaits

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As 2016 came to a close, I found myself at my computer several times, attempting to summarize and reflect on the year that was. It was quite a year for the Sawyer family – kicked off with the birth of our second son, Owen, on Jan. 5 and accentuated with tough times on the farm, a second degree for me, two big trips for the hubs and the start of pre-school for our oldest son, Evan.

It was a whirlwind of a year and one I will never forget because it taught me just how much our family can manage and endure. From an early-rising baby to an always-on toddler and a husband who works way too many hours, it was a year of learning and growing.

But 2017 is here and with it comes a host of new opportunities and adventures. On Tuesday I will officially start in my new position as District Director for Congressman-elect Dr. Roger Marshall. I believe in what he stands for and his desire to represent our district, put constituents’ needs first and be a voice for agriculture in Washington D.C. I will remain in the district, acting as the eyes and ears of the Congressman and his D.C. staff. It’s an honor and privilege to have this opportunity and I look forward to the many great Kansans I will have the opportunity to meet and get to know.

Unfortunately, hubs will endure the lions share of the challenges as grain and cattle prices continue to lag. Crop prices sank in 2016 but record yields allowed many farms, including ours, to make it. If the rains don’t come and yields fall, 2017 could be disastrous for many in the farming community. To add insult to injury, many necessary inputs continue to rise, meaning our costs will again outpace our revenues. We have invested in the various crop insurance and farm management programs available to us but nothing replaces strong exports, rising commodity prices and continued demand for our products. (See chart below for illustration of farm income.)

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Owen will continue to grow, change and learn each day. Evan will continue with pre-school, moving to a pre-K program in the fall. We’ll figure out a new normal with my new job and Derek’s continued demand of the farm, Farm Bureau and other organizations he’s involved with.

We all look forward to a happy, successful and productive 2017. It won’t be without headaches, heartache and hard times but we’ll endure and continue farming, laughing and growing.

Cheers to 2017 and happy new year to all!

The Day After – Why I voted Republican

Regardless of party affiliation, I think we can all agree that this election was an emotionally draining and complex series of events that had many different actors, aspects and potential outcomes. We struggled to make sense of people, opinions and polls. Many did not want to believe and even more made assumptions hoping they would become reality. But the race is over, the winner has been declared and yet our divisions seem as deep as ever. Today social media is full of anger, finger-pointing and doomsday predictions. I never weighed in on the presidential elections but today I feel the accusations and anger of those on the other side of the political aisle more than ever.

I make no secrets of the fact that I am and always have been a Republican. Do I agree with everything the platform does? No. But the GOP aligns with a majority of my fiscal, governing, religious and social views. And being a part of the larger picture and an actor in the play we call democracy reminds me of why I love this country and thank God everyday that I was born into the land of the free.

I was not a fan of Donald Trump and will be the first to admit he is a flawed man with a slightly flawed take on a powerful message. But he presented an argument, a grievance and a passion for a new path that millions across this great nation agreed with. We are always quick to praise democracy when it delivers the results we want but never want to admit that it’s just as effective when it propels the opposition to victory.

Everyone walks into the polling place with different motivations, passions and hopes. I vote to protect my way of life, my family’s farm and my hope of passing our business onto the next generation. I vote for fewer regulations, smaller government and fiscal responsibility. I do not believe we can spend our way out of an issue, we can’t prop people up with only a handout and we must let the free market determine our economic winners and losers. On Tuesday I voted for candidates at the local, state and federal level that likewise stood for those values and passions.

I am a well-educated mother of two. I am not a bad person because I want Republicans in the White House and making laws. I did not cast my vote to kill someone’s dream, to suppress the opposition or to put our country on a path of destruction. I cast my vote because I want to see our country prosper and I believe that is best done with a conservative approach.

America is a country of smart, hardworking and determined people. We have been great, we are great and we will continue to be great. Now is the time to put differences aside, come together and move forward.

Politics Hits Home


We are in the homestretch of a year-long primary battle between our incumbent Congressmen, Tim Huelskamp, Republican, and his challenger, Dr. Roger Marshall. This race has taken on a life of its own, garnering outside money, attention and headlines. 

I have spoken with several reporters about the race – some as far away as Washington, D.C., – to explain the backstory, the different views of the candidates and why the agriculture industry is firmly backing one candidate. I have always had an interest in politics but this race has allowed me to be involved as a whole different level. 

Like anything going on in my life, my passion for the race and the candidate I am supporting – Dr. Roger Marshall – has spilled over to my social media feeds. Most have been understanding and tolerant of my posts but a few have responded with their own posts that they are sick of it all and want nothing to do with politics. Fair enough but when you work in the agriculture industry, politics isn’t going to leave you alone. 

Like I explain to the reporters that call, politics drives many aspects of the farming world. From the EPA’s proposed new water regulations to spending bills that limit infrastructure and rural development programs, not to mention the Farm Bill, which basically determines what types of insurance and commodity programs we can use in times of need. 

The number of rural districts in the US is declining and so too are the number of representatives carrying the torch for rural America and agriculture. For those that do remain, they must be our voices, our advocates and our representatives in Washington. If our legislators do not speak up on our behalf, others will step in an fill that void, making decisions and passing laws that may not be in our best interest. 

I understand that political battles and partisan speech aren’t everyone’s idea of a good time. But to believe that burrying you head in the sand and opting to simply not pay attention means politics won’t knock on your front door, then you are wrong. The work Congressmen and Senators do in Washington impacts nearly everything we, as farmers and ranchers, do. That’s why our founding fathers protected the freedom of the people to elect their representation. Those individuals are the voice of their people and their eyes and ears in government. 

You don’t have to volunteer for a campaign or spend your evenings reading every article in Politico but I encourage everyone to educate themselves of the people and politics shaping their world and, most importantly, vote. The agriculture industry faces several substantial obstacles right now and simply ignoring the issues and the government won’t solve our problems. Elections are your opportunity to do your part, speak your mind and shape your government, one elected official at a time. 

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” – Frankin D. Roosevelt 

Marshall for Kansas 1st District

Note: This is a letter to the editor I authored in support of Dr. Roger Marshall, who is challenging incumbent Republican Tim Huelskamp. While I normally do not use this blog for political purposes, I am sharing this to demonstrate my support for Dr. Marshall’s campaign and efforts to help the state of Kansas earn back its voice in Washington. Dr. Marshall was recently endorsed by both the Kansas Livestock Association and Kansas Farm Bureau. 
On August 2, I will be casting my vote for Dr. Roger Marshall for First District Republican Representative. I believe in cooperation and transparency in government and want a Congressman who will represent our district with honesty and integrity. Selfish agendas and political narcissism have rewarded us with ineffective representation. We must elect a leader who will put our needs before his own.
Not only is Dr. Marshall committed to Kansas conservative values, but he is committed to being a leader who will listen to those who elect him. This does not guarantee consensus, but it does mean he will engage voters and actually listen to their concerns. As a physician and business owner, Dr. Marshall has earned a reputation as an honest and trustworthy community leader and professional.
We must get ourselves back on a path to prosperity and progress and I believe Dr. Marshall is the right candidate for the job. Please join me in supporting him for Republican candidate for the First Congressional District.
Sincerely,
Katie Sawyer

Elections Will Impact Ag

*This column was originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of Kansas AgLand. For more from that issue, log onto www.kansasagland.com. 

If you’ve watched even an hour of television this fall, you’ve noticed the steady stream of political ads. Yes, the number of commercials has decreased with the primary election now over, but the pitches, partisan finger-pointing and political promises continue and will only ramp up again as we inch closer to the November general election. Sadly, commercials are a part of our modern political climate, and just because you don’t enjoy the smear tactics doesn’t mean you should abstain from politics altogether.

Lawmakers have their hands in nearly every part of our society and livelihood. They are responsible for water-use regulations, tax policy and transportation rules. Say what you will about politics and politicians, but the truth remains that those who represent us in Topeka and D.C. hold the future of our farms.

Nearly every agricultural-based organization sets policy to guide its support or opposition to proposed legislation at the state and national levels. Crafting policy can be an effective means of guiding political action, but it’s not the only step farmers and ranchers should be doing to ensure lawmakers aren’t dimming hopes for future prosperity.

When the polls open for primary and general elections each year, farmers and ranchers should be among the first in line to cast their votes. Voting is your way of expressing your support for a particular politician or political party. It’s the vehicle by which you can play your piece of the democracy game because you know those waging war against farming are already plotting their moves.

We’ve already witnessed the powerful role politics plays in passing a farm bill and allowing farmers flexibility in animal production. The listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken to the threatened species list will no doubt affect farmers and ranchers in western Kansas. Legislative action will be essential in minimizing the impacts on the agriculture industry. Those wanting to end animal agriculture and stifle our right to decide which seed and inputs we use on our farms will be at the polls this fall. The agriculture industry must show up as well.

You can waver on the candidates, but the decision to vote should never be something you question or dismiss. Politics at the local, state and federal level has played, and will continue to play, a vital role in shaping farms and ranches across the country.

We all know we must continue to fight the battle of public opinion, but we cannot forget the political war taking shape across our country.

Are we relevant?

In a speech to farmers and ranchers this past weekend, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stood on the side of his political party and declared rural America irrelevant. The man who is supposed to be the voice and representative of the farming community in Washington D.C. did not support his constituent base but instead declared them out of touch and more easily overlooked than ever before.

“Why is it that we don’t have a farm bill?” Vilsack said during his presentation in Iowa. “It isn’t just the differences of policy. It’s the fact that rural America with a shrinking population is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country, and we had better recognize that and we better begin to reverse it.”

It’s no secrete that much of the agriculture community stands on the other side of the political fence from Vilsack and the Obama administration. Many of agriculture’s recent efforts, including stopping the EPA from regulating dust and the labor department from preventing children from working on the farm, were criticized. So too are framers request to have less government intervention and more meat and whole grains on children’s lunch plates. Vilsack said the farming community’s opposition to those proposed regulations and others sends the wrong message to the rest of America.

Yes, rural America often votes different from the nation’s large cities. But this country was built on the ability to elect representatives that reflect your own views and opinions – that, my friends, is the heart of democracy. If we lose our right to our own – and differing – opinion then we lose what makes America truly great.

Now I don’t know about Mr. Vilsack, but I was always taught that different is not wrong, it’s simply different. Just because I don’t agree with someone does not mean I have the right to make fun of their thoughts and ideas. The fact that Vilsack takes to the stage and insults the efforts of the farmers and ranchers sitting in the room makes me question who he really is representing – us, the farmer or Vilsack’s political party?

Yes, we all need to find a point of compromise and give a little every now and then, telling farmers and ranchers to abandon their political views is not the message Vilsack should be sending. It’s not only insulting but it’s not productive. It’s simply more Washington rhetoric that does little to move forward the conversation.

As long as rural America controls the food, fuel and fiber that this country has come to depend on, we will not be irrelevant. Our shrinking population will decrease our representation in Washington but we won’t back down on our views and we certainly will not change our opinions because it differs from the current administration.

Farmers have always been known as a stubborn bunch and I have a feeling most have no intentions on budging – no matter how many insults Vilsack throws our way.