Let them eat dirt!

As a first time mom I received lots of advice from everyone on how to keep things clean for my baby. “She dropped her pacifier on the floor, you better not give it back to her.” ” You have to sanitize everything.” “The dog licked her hand; hurry and clean them before she sucks her thumb.” Not only did people share with me their clean advice, but I’ve watched friends chat over social media about all the protections they do to keep baby “healthy.”

 Well, frankly, I think by trying not to hurt are kids with germs we are hurting them. The U.S. is one of the cleanest countries, and our children show it by getting sick so easily. If you travel anywhere else in the world you’ll see  moms who love their kids but don’t put them in a bubble. I’ve watched  

 children living in South America in homes with dirt floors, outside squat toilets, and bucket showers, and they were fine! Were they covered in dirt? Yes, but they bathed.  Their moms just don’t follow them around with hand sanitizer and wet wipes!

By allowing our kids contact with germs and dirt we give them the chance to build immunity. Are there bad germs? Of course, and that’s where vaccines come in to help. You may not agree with me but my little girl sucks her thumb after petting our sheep and playing in dirt (and probably manure). If she drops her bottle on the ground in public we pick it up and go. Our dog licked her spoon the other day and she promptly put it in her mouth. Did she die? No.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want her crawling a all over a public restroom floor, but she needs a few germs! Millions of children around the world survive everyday. Why are we so worried? Let them have fun! Let them have dirt!

Dear Consumer…

 In today’s world of equality where we are fighting for equal treatment and open-mindedness for all, I have a request. We asked society to be open-minded to different cultures, religions, race, sexual preference, but why can’t we be open to hearing about people’s careers and not stereotyping everyone. I’m a college professor the stereotype for that means I’m smart, well-educated, eloquent, and  in this case I likeIMG_3224 to think the stereotype is right, but I’m young, I’m a female, and I’m very personable with my students. So you could say I break the mold. My husband and I are farmers.  As a researcher at the university and communicator I  know the stereotypes well.  We are older, we may not be as well-educated, and all we are out for is money. The stereotype say we sell out to “big ag.”
Just as you’re open to someone’s race, please be open to understanding us as the farmers  who feed your family. Our farm is an LLC, not because we’re out to make money, because we have to protect ourselves legally. Farmers employe help during planting and harvest, not because were a large corporation trying to grow , but because this isn’t a one-man job. Every year we put hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line at the mercy of mother nature and economic markets around the world. We gamble, and some years maybe we make money but other years we struggle to pay bills, if we even can, all while trying to feed and clothe our family just as you do yours. We want to take vacations just like you do, we want our daughter to have a good college education, just like you do. And so we try to grow our operation not to be greedy but to make money when we can to balance the bad years with the good.

Every trip across the field whether it’s spraying chemicals, planting, or harvesting costs us money, let alone puts off  emissions into the environment. So we’re not going to do it anymore than we absolutely have to. We’re not going to put on pesticides just to throw on pesticides, we only do it when we need to to produce a healthy crop. On our farm we do  no-till to reduce our trips across the field compacting the soil and hurting the environment. We soil sample by the acre and only apply fertilizers and pesticides on the square foot of soil that needs it, and only just to make it grow well.

We don’t want someone to stereotype based on the color of their skin, so why do you stereotype me as a Farmer and how I care for my livestock. My animals are part of my family; they eat before we do. No one opens Christmas presents or goes to church before the animals get their breakfast. I will stay out in the below zero temperatures all night long to make sure a lamb survives. I don’t abuse my animals to make money, I take care of them. But yes they are business. If you were a hairdresser would you think you could just go in and start chopping someone’s hair and be successful? No, just like I couldn’t go in and harm my animals and still have money to feed my family. My sheep get antibiotics when they’re sick because I want them to live. My daughter gets antibiotics when she’s sick because I want her to live.

Please don’t stereotype my family for the profession we have. As educated consumers you can’t believe the images and the stereotypes always put before us in the media when it comes to race, religion, sexual preference, or gender, so why do you take everything for face value  when you see something negative about my family. I’m not against being a vegetarian, I’m not against organics, I’m not against GMO or chemicals. I don’t make my mind up based on one blogger’s opinion or one news report. I do research myself, and I look at all the facts and where those facts come from before I make an informed educated decision. Please get to know all sides of agriculture before you lump us all into one stereo typical box.

Sincerely

A wife, mother, college professor, and farmer

Why do I dock my lambs’ tails?

I was in Nicaragua a few weeks ago and while on a farm I noticed that all of the sheep Pelibüey  were not docked. This made me reflect on the US sheep that I see every day in our barn. Why is it that the American sheep industry docks (shortens) tails while all the sheep I have seen in European and South American tend to not. In many instances American sheep are treated as well if not better than sheep I’ve seen internationally, especially in Nicaragua. My sheep are a part of my family, and I would never want them to do something that is harmful.

So why to do we dock tails in the US. There are several health reasons that lead to this common practice amongst the US lamb industry.
– It reduces a build up of fecal matter. After all sheep can’t wipe. It also helps with flies.
– It aids in lambing as it makes it easier to watch the udder and monitor for issues.
– It aids in shearing as it isn’t in the way.

So why don’t they do it around the world if it aids in health? Because several hair breeds don’t have large wooly tails that are in the way. These breeds are the ones we find more often in Europe and South America like the Pelibuey ,Barbados, Dorper, Kahtadin, and St Crox. Several breeds also have shorter tails already like Finnsheep and Romanov. For m
Ore checkout Sheep 101

So next time you see some sheep grazing without tails, know there is a farmer who cares for their health .

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I Believe…

This is a repost from October, but being FFA week I feel it is appropriate.

If you can finish this sentence, then  you can understand when I say how much of an impact the National FFA had on my life. This week I am spending my time in the National Convention newsroom for the 14th year in a row. Through pictures I watch the stories of amazing youth unfold over the week. From children who are shy and reserved to outgoing and loud. They are all coming out of their shells and improving their lives through the workshops, sessions, and experiences here at FFA. It isn’t about all the competitions or awards (those are nice), it is about motivating youth. You talk to my husband and myself and both of us will recall a speakerIMG_2511 at the National FFA (and/or Ohio FFA) convention that was a turning point in our lives. Their inspirational words struck chords in us that made us the outgoing, successful agriculturalist we are today. Our farm wouldn’t be nationally recognized for conservation practices without the training my husband got, nor would he be the amazing professional speaker he is. I would not have the research and teaching career with out an ag teacher who pushed me forward way back when.

So what is the point of this post you ask? Simple. Gratitude. I am so thankful that I was given the chance to be a part of a youth organization like this, and thankful that I still get to be a part of it today as a professional. While I know we can’t tell our children who to be or what to do (even though I want to), but you can bet my little girl will be in the FFA. I look forward to the day she puts on that blue jacket and becomes the woman she will be. She doesn’t have to be a state officer like me, or win state proficiencies like John and I. I just want her to experience it! Experience the motivation, the excitement, the dedication to an industry you love, and leadership skills to be gained.

Lessons from a duck

Fellow working mommies have said to me recently that they don’t know how I find the time to do all the things that I do, but what I find funny is everyone who said this to me I thought the exact same of them. We as mommies tend to compare ourselves to other women without realizing we are all not that different. Some don’t understand how I have so much time to travel when I have a toddler. Well I don’t understand how they work out with kids at home.

I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this recently while traveling away from my daughter. How do I find time in the day to do everything? I tend to feel like I’m not getting anything done; that I’m letting others down because I’m not productive enough. But apparently my outershell tells a very different story.

When people ask how I am my favorite response is I’m a duck. I may look great on the top view but underneath I’m swimming like mad trying to keep afloat. I think that is how all moms are. We can make it look good but we all have this tendency to be doubting ourselves and swimming like mad. But maybe we don’t always have to be that crazy underwater. I was watching a few ducks swim the other day when I was traveling abroad with students and something hit me. While the ducks paddle to get where they need to go they also tuck their feet behind them and coast part of the way. If I’m always comparing myself to a duck then maybe I need to learn from this unexpected behavior. Maybe there are times when I need to coast and with both parts be smooth and cool.

We have to remember that it’s okay to leave work with something not done. It’s okay to get home and only focus on your baby. It’s okay to go to bed with the dishes in the sink, really it’s okay I haven’t swept the floor in two weeks. If my little one is clothed and happy and healthy nothing else matters. I think it’s the lesson all of us moms need to learn, especially my fellow peers in the academy. We always want to be paddling, but it is ok for us to hold our feet still and enjoy the ride. I’m going to stop beating myself up because I didn’t get the journal article in today. Stop worrying that students will be mad because I wasn’t able to be on campus this morning because I need time with my daughter.

I challenge all my friends to do the same. Let’s stop paddling like crazy and enjoy the view more. Because you know what; my duck friends still got across the pond.

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A Little Christmas Lamb

Who said Christmas dinner had to be ham or turkey? We had lamb raised from our farm (can’t get any more local than that)! Looking for a good dinner for your family? Try it out! Did you know 4 oz. of lamb has 27.5 g of protein?

Lamb Chops with Apple Stuffing

2 T Olive Oil Divided                                             2t dried rosemary
1/2 cup chopped Onion                                        1/2 t slat
2 cloves garlic, chopped                                      1/2 t pepper
2 cups cornbread stuffing                                  2/3 cup canned apple pie filling chopped
1/2 cup apple juice                                                  1 cup chopped walnuts
8 lamb rib chops 3/4 inch thick

1. In large skillet heat 1T of oil and cook onion, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper over medium heat for 3 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2. Add stuffing, apple pie filling, apple juice and walnuts. Mix well.

3. In 13x 9 pan spread out dressing and set aside.

4. In skillet heat remaining oil and quickly brown lamb chops on each side.

5. Place chops on top of dressing. Roast to desired temperature. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.   (145 for rare/medium; 160 for medium; 170 for well)

699 calories, 43 fat, 23 protein, 50 cholesterol, 60 carbs

 

 

 

What does Mickey teach us about ag?

Mikcey_Featured-460x280Watching my 20 month old explore and learn the world around her I can’t help but think back to my theoretical courses in my PhD program that discussed how individuals form their views of the world around them. Being in agriculture and in communication I find myself constantly looking to understand how people shape their views on food and fiber. There are tons of theories in education, psychology, and communication that help us understand this phenomena. Whether it is social cognition, semiotic analysis, schema, or any number of theories that you use to conceptually understand how we shape our view of the world, they all explain that your environment, culture, and upbringing have huge influences in how you first shape your cognitive understandings. A colleague of mine (and previous student of mine) and I have been discussing this more and more in relation to entertainment media. She recently finished a dissertation looking at popular movie portrayals of agriculture and I had a master’s student look at top 20 movies in the last 10 years and how they banner_2777portray agriculture brands. We have even more recently started thinking about this early formations of understanding (as research shows it is hard to change these original views learned through media and society) about agriculture. What do cartoons teach youth about agriculture? If we want to help our world understand modern agriculture, how is it being represented in their first experiences with it? Watching shows with my little one has given me a whole new chance to view such representations of agriculture from the view of a toddler and a parent. I think back images-1to my early learning and remember cartoon episodes I watched that taught me about our world. So what do these “representations” of agriculture teach society? Does it enforce the real image of agriculture? One of science, sustainability, good animal husbandry? Or does it give children a false sense of the world? We are getting ready to embark on such a study. I can’t wait to see what we find. Will we be able to change these representations? Probably not, but it would help us understand where to start as we work to change the negative views of our industry that are out there. So next time you turn on Mickey Mouse and he is racing after jumping sheep think about what it is really showing our youth?

Farm Economics– Salt, Pepper and Shaker head to a new home

Growing them up rightOne of the most important things I learned growing up on the farm is that it is a way of life and thus a business (even if it is a small family farm). I think this one of the best lessons we can teach our children.

I’ve visited several sustainable organic farms in South America and have heard from more than one of them that every thing that lived on the farm had to have a job or it was gone. The chickens gave eggs and fertilizer. The cows milk and pasture aeration. The dogs are guardians. In businesses you don’t keep employees around that don’t produce. And on the farm it is the same way.

We had this lesson at the farm this week. We had 3 ewe lambs this year that just didn’t fit into the breeding program I am developing in the flock. Since they wouldn’t be “workers” it was time for them to move on from the farm. Normally this wouldn’t be too hard to do, but these three ewes were special to two special little girls. We worked with a friend’s daughter this spring/summer to help her in her first year of 4-H showing lambs. Salt, Pepper and Shaker became her girls. She walked them almost every night (with Harlie’s help of course), and showed them at the county fair. Again they weren’t the “show” quality we wanted but were a good first year project for her. So when we decided they needed to go it reminded me the lessons we all have to learn. It was hard to tell this little girl that her “friends” have to make their way on the farm or we have to find them a new home. Kids in 4-H and FFA (and on farms period) learn this lesson every year. They raise livestock that they form relationships with and then have to say goodbye. It might seem like a mean lesson for children, but truly doesn’t it prepare them for life? At some point, unfortunately, we have to say goodbye to everyone we love in our lives. For Salt, Pepper and Shaker that time was now.

Thank a farmer today!

A Place to Lay your Crayons

So this Fall I (ok Grandma) got Harlie a little table and chair set at an Amish auction my parents’ neighbors had for the Amish community school. It was so cute, but not ready for a Toddler to use. I wanted it to have a rustic feel so I did a little creative searching and came up with a great end product!

So here she is with the before. She couldn’t wait for me to get it done before she used it! And the after beside it!

So how did I get the old look?

Step 1: I stained the edges of the table and legs that I knew I’d want to show through a little.

Step 2: I took a candle (one of my leftover emergency candles from living in Florida during some bad hurricanes) and I rubbed it along all of the edges I knew I might want to show through. You can see in the photo there was a little residue left. I tried to use my hand to wipe some of that off so it wouldn’t have a clump under the paint.

Step 3: I painted the table and chairs as you normally would. I painted it a sea foam color as I hope to make that one of Harlie’s colors in her room as she grows out of her nursery motif.

Step 4: This was the fun part! I antiqued it by taking a very fine sandpaper (make sure it is fine so it doesn’t leave marks) and I sanded the edges where I wanted it to look old. I also did a slight sand on the top of the table so the paint looked a little worn. Now my husband thought I needed to sand and reveal more, but I just wanted a slight feel of antique to it. So Here is what it looked like.

I believe in the future of agriculture…

If you can finish this sentence, then  you can understand when I say how much of an impact the National FFA had on my life. This week I am spending my time in the National Convention newsroom for the 14th year in a row. Through pictures I watch the stories of amazing youth unfold over the week. From children who are shy and reserved to outgoing and loud. They are all coming out of their shells and improving their lives through the workshops, sessions, and experiences here at FFA. It isn’t about all the competitions or awards (those are nice), it is about motivating youth. You talk to my husband and myself and both of us will recall a speakerIMG_2511 at the National FFA (and/or Ohio FFA) convention that was a turning point in our lives. Their inspirational words struck chords in us that made us the outgoing, successful agriculturalist we are today. Our farm wouldn’t be nationally recognized for conservation practices without the training my husband got, nor would he be the amazing professional speaker he is. I would not have the research and teaching career with out an ag teacher who pushed me forward way back when.

So what is the point of this post you ask? Simple. Gratitude. I am so thankful that I was given the chance to be a part of a youth organization like this, and thankful that I still get to be a part of it today as a professional. While I know we can’t tell our children who to be or what to do (even though I want to), but you can bet my little girl will be in the FFA. I look forward to the day she puts on that blue jacket and becomes the woman she will be. She doesn’t have to be a state officer like me, or win state proficiencies like John and I. I just want her to experience it! Experience the motivation, the excitement, the dedication to an industry you love, and leadership skills to be gained.

Different type of “Tailgating”

This time of the year means one thing to farm wives… harvest widow. For a few months every fall my husband is a tornado of work. If I do see him he is running for parts, fixing a combine, or cussing the rain. All the while he’s watching the price of corn and beans hoping for a good income. Farmers make their year’s salary over these few months and it is totally up to mother nature how much they will make.  The only thing I can do to help him in this crazy time (since I’m not allowed to drive equipment for good reason) is to be there to help when he needs me to get parts, move him as he switches fields, and make sure he is fed. That last one is the hardest. My farmer doesn’t stop for anything…including food. So dinner has to be something that is one handed and quick. So all those great dinner recipes we fall back to go out the window. I turned to my fellow farm wives for ideas this year since I was sick of the stand by of hamburger, sloppy joe, and shredded chicken. Based on some great ideas I made up this tasty concoction last night!

I took:IMG_3366
Swiss Steak
Onions chopped up
1 Tb of butter
2 tsp of garlic salt
1/3 cup Worcester Sauce
Cheese slices

Melted butter in skillet and softened the onions. Added in garlic salt. Cut swiss steak into pieces big enough for buns and cooked it in the skillet on medium heat. I flipped it every once in a while and poured the Worcester sauce over the meat while cooking. I tried to keep the sauce and onions on the meat as it cooked. While it was cooking I toasted the buns and put slices of cheese on each bun. Put it all together and in a bag to head to the field. It had good reviews so I call it a success!