Meet Cotton. This pretty girl got rowdy with her friends and sliced open her back leg. It’s not a pretty cut but we immediately worked to help her heal fast (see fashionable bandage). Imagine if this was your baby. Would you ask the doctor to not give it antibiotics to fend off infection and further illness? I know I’d do the exact opposite. So since Cotton is one of our farm babies we ensure she is given everything she needs to stay healthy and fight off anything while her leg heals. We consult a vet and make sure all we do is in her best interest. Cotton isn’t going into the meat supply but will hopefully grow to be a mommy some day. But if she was we’d be careful to watch withdrawal times for the antibiotics before she’d leave our farm. If you wonder why we do things on the farm please ask us? We are happy to explain all we do to protect our animals.
This week I find myself back at my 20th National FFA Convention (16 working in the FFA newsroom). I have been here for my proficiency, my American Degree and my Honorary American, but one of my most memorable moments was last night watching one of my students give her retiring address as a National FFA Officer. Watching this amazing young women share her passion with so many in such an eloquent way reminded me how LUCKY I really am to work with students. Over my years in academia I have had the chance to work with so many amazing students. All have gone on to change the world around them. I can’t even begin to list all of them, some who have become great friends as well. I hope deep down that at some point I have been able to be a part of their journey and made even a little impact on them. If I have I have done my job, but more importantly they have all touched my journey and made it amazing! I am blessed to know them all.
How much do you show off your farm? This weekend my husband and I will be hosting our ninth year of leaders from around the state of Ohio learning about agriculture. We bring them in during the busiest time of our farming year so they can see exactly what we do to produce the food that they’re eating. We bring them in all day Friday and Saturday to let them see local agricultural businesses, talk to industry leaders, and see exactly what our farm is about. Over the years we’ve had over several hundred people visit our farm and ask us questions about the food we raise and the practices we use. These people are not our neighbors, they are people from business and industry from around our state, from Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton in military, medical, and government industries. We think it’s really important that were sharing our story anyway we can.
We hope that our daughter someday will take over the farm, and for there to be an environment in which she can farm using practices that we know are the best for the environment we need to make sure that our voters are consumers know why we do things.
And we don’t stop with just this weekend, we also host film nights on the farm where we invite families and kids to have the same conversations in a fun environment.
You don’t have to plan for months for a large event on your farm just grab some consumers and let them come for a day on the farm. And don’t just show them pretty pastures, show him everything you do, explain why you do it. That’s all people want to know. If we all just invite a few think of the impact we can make in educating a population that is 2, 3, or 4 generations removed from the land.
Do you remember that first moment you held you precious angel? That moment you were overwhelmed with love for another human being you had just met? Love so strong you would do anything for them? Even though my little girl tests my patience daily as she navigates her toddler years, I am reminded of that love every time I see her.
It is that very love that keeps us using GMO crops on our farm. You see she drinks and bathes in the water from the well right next to those fields. She runs through the crops with her puppy looking for adventure. And yes, the better the crop the more money we have to take her to gymnastics or the zoo. By raising GMO crops we are able to be more environmentally friendly. We don’t have to use as many chemicals as her grandfather used to, so I know her water is safe. While they may be large, those fields are our “garden” and we rely on them to feed and clothe her. If we didn’t have the ability to use GMO crops, I hate to think what the environmental impact would be, and I hate to think of how less product produced would mean I’d have to say no when she asks to go to camp some summer.
We all want the best for our babies. Before you decide GMOs are bad please think about my little girl and read the research yourself. I love her as much, if not more, as I did that first time I held her. I want to be able to farm in a way that ensures her health and the health of the environment around her. Wouldn’t you want that for your baby?
A mom and farmer
*** This is a re post of a guest blog I did for Ohio Farm Bureau’s Growing our Generation***
We no longer live in a world where you can ignore the things happening around the globe. I have been blessed to have the chance to see agriculture in over 14 countries around the world, and the one thing I have learned is that we have a lot to learn!
While I encourage everyone to see the world for themselves, I am the first to admit that it can be very hard to get away from our family and our farms, let alone the cost can be daunting. But that does not mean we can ignore it. We all have to be citizens of the world.
I have watched farmers raise guinea pigs for food in Ecuador because that is the only protein they have space to raise. I have watched farmers in Tanzania struggle to deal with harsh environments and poor technology causing low yields. I have seen farmers in the UK try to explain the many animal rights regulations put on them, causing them to change everything they do. And I have seen farmers in Brazil willingly give up to 80 percent of their farmland to natural forest in an attempt to improve the environment.
In more than one part of the world, I have had conversations with people telling me that they watch our country and our government as a model of first world success. Everything we do politically and agriculturally in the United States has ramifications around the world. It behooves us to be educated about how that same world is affecting what we do. Our global partners around the world influence our trade policy, our technology, and add fodder for those against us. Take a look at the anti-GMO blogs and you are bound to find an argument or two talking about GMO labels in the UK and certain chemicals being banned in multitudes of countries. If we want to lobby and advocate effectively, we cannot ignore what others are doing.
Maybe you can’t run to Brazil to better understand the world soybean market tomorrow, but you can be informed. Take some time to follow news online or get it delivered to your inbox through sources like Agri-Pulse.
As I mentioned earlier, as part of the Farm Bureau’s PAL program I was recently in Brazil with Monsanto looking at agriculture and trade. Check out my class’s blog about our trip and learn a little about the issues Brazil faces in a time of political unrest.
Here I am again sitting in the airport waiting for a flight. In the last 14 months I have been in 8 countries and numerous cities in th US. Leaving my little girl gets harder every time, but I know I’m going for growth for myself and my students. This trip is extra special though. No students. No family. This is a trip with the American Farm Bureau PAL program and Monsanto. I’ll be the first to admit I have been around the world on 6 continents but I don’t necessarily understand all there is to international trade. This trip is allowing us to learn about the massive crop industry in Brazil and how important of a trade partner
As we share thanks this season, farmers have a lot to be thankful for.
As we pause to reflect on all of those who “labor” for our country and enjoy the last few days of summer it is important to remember that not everyone gets the day off. In fact, farmers never get
a day off. My sheep are part of my family and they have to eat everyday. We will be up early as always and in the barn late into the night on Labor day as every other day. While we aren’t in the fields yet, there are many farm families who won’t get a day off of harvest this weekend. When the crop is ready and the weather is right you keep going! Not everyone is willing to work a job with no days off, let alone deal with the risk and stress involved in the job. As you stop to barbecue with our friends. Please take a second to thank the farmers who are providing that food for you, because they are probably on a tractor somewhere! Thank you to my Farmer!
As the new Fall Semester gets underway there are a few things I want to share with you from a professor. We know you are anxious this first week about how your classes will go. Guess what? So are we! Is our class ready? Are we ready to teach, grade, and engage you? Is our material challenging enough to push you to grow and learn without pushing you too far?
Over the summer while you were working and enjoying the warmth, I was at conferences trying to learn to be better for you. I am constantly thinking of how I can be a better teacher for you. How can I be the one who helps you think critically about my content? How can I be a support for you during your time here? How can I make the impact on you that my teachers made on me? How can I make you the best you to have a great future?
As day one starts I hope you remember a few things:
I hope that you have an amazing year. I hope you get all you can from my class and others. College is one of the best times of your life. It is more than in the classroom. I know that (remember I went to college too). I want you to get a great degree and career. Know I am here to help you get there and as long as you respect me I will respect you.
Being short, the size of my sheep has always been important to me. I don’t want to breed something that is going to be taller than me and over power me. Recently, I was talking to a judge at our state fair about the “growth” of our sheep industry, not out but up! We continue to breed and judge for height while breed standards and conformation get ignored. We will get to a point that they are too tall and the meat processors won’t be interested, i.e., the cattle industry.
Over the years we have seen beef make that move to taller stock, but that has taken a swing in a different direction. One I think we in the sheep industry should follow. They aren’t worrying about height as much as build, muscle, etc. And we are seeing them get progressively shorter.
As I see sheep in other countries, I’m always jealous of their standard heights. These Suffolks form a show in Scottland are a great example. When was the last time you saw a Suffolk like this? Most in the US are taller than me! (ok maybe a little exaggerated, but not by much) If we are to compete in a global market we should be breeding for wool, conformation, meat quality, but not height. Height doesn’t increase the value at the end of the day, it is a wasted product. As breeding season hits think about what is most important in your genetics? Your breed integrity and quality, or being the tallest in the class?
Realistically I know it will take a swing in the show ring as well, but that won’t start if we don’t start talking to our judges and breeding as we should.
I know many bloggers have given their two cents on lessons learned in the show ring every year and what we are teaching our children, but after a few weeks of watching another fair I can’t help but add in my opinion!
A little background… I grew up in a very competitive county where showing market lambs was big business, but thankfully my parents steered me in another direction… breeding sheep. I showed a market lamb every year, but I wasn’t out for champion. I was more excited to show my breeding sheep. I quickly learned the lesson of hard work all year ensuring you are producing a quality animal that was ready to produce offspring, not just win a ribbon. And this is where I worry we are going wrong today.
At the state fair every year we see market lamb numbers go up or stay level, but kids showing breeding sheep keep declining. Yes youth learn skills in the market industry, but I think it is also important they are learning the importance of what is needed in the breeding barn to produce the wool and meat needed around the world. I’m not blind and I know some treat even their breeding flocks as show strings, but I think our youth should be learning about the whole industry, not just how to fluff legs right.
In a recent trip to the UK, my students (who grew up in the show stock world) and I watched a couple classes of sheep at a national show. There wasn’t a market lamb class, it was all breeding sheep and people were not “showing” them as we would see in a US show ring. It was fun to watch, but my students were in awe. I think for our industry to grow and continue we need to be developing youth who have a passion for breeding and raising sheep, not just making sure they are fresh the day of the show.