I Sometimes Buy Organic Products

I just bought some organic salad mix at Kroger.

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Here’s a picture of it.

If I say that out loud tomorrow in my class full of agriculturalist who’ve come from production- AG backgrounds, they would likely go into defense-mode and attack me. They’d ask “What the heck Julia?!” “Whose side are you on?”

I did not buy the organic salad mix because I thought it was healthier- it’s not. I didn’t buy it because I’m switching teams- I’m not. The organic salad mix was on sale for cheaper than its conventionally-grown counterpart. I do know some “AG folks” who have told me they left a store to drive to another because they were looking for a specific fruit and all that particular store had were organically grown options.

I think that’s ridiculous. You see, I’m pro-AG. I know that  some farmer, some where, grew the organic product that I purchased- and I am pro that guy. I don’t understand why we have to put one another down. I raise conventionally grown beef. While I want you to know there are no proven health benefits from consuming organic beef, if you’d prefer to pay the premium to consume organic beef, you’re supporting a beef cattle farmer somewhere, and I’m proud of that. At the same time I hope no organic farmer is spreading lies about my product.

It’s similar to feminism. If instead of pointing fingers at and mocking other women, we all came together against issues such as unequal pay for women, we’d get a lot further. We ought to realize some women feel empowered by things other women don’t. Some farmers raise organic beef, and some farmers don’t. But I’ll support all the women and all the farmers who don’t run one another down, and instead build one another up.

What are the Benefits of Beef?

It’s important that we clarify this statement, if you mean what can you, a consumer, personally gain from eating beef with your family? The answer will be an array of vitamins, minerals, and an unmatched source of protein, nutritionally. As we all know, food can also be an emotional experience.

If you keep that in mind while you make steak fajitas or hamburgers for your family, you can create a warm family atmosphere. Studies have shown children who eat meals with their families do better in school, and feel more connected to their siblings and parents. If you let your children help prepare the meal, or set the table, you can make them feel even more a part of the experience.

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What a good lookin’ family!

On yet another hand, you could be asking what are the benefits of beef for me, as a producer. In this case, I will have to do my best to describe the bond I have with the cattle on my farm, the experiences that beef had given me, and the people I have come to meet through the industry I am so passionate about.

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One of the many strange experiences..

I’ll have to describe the confidence showmen gain from being in the ring, and making eye contact with the judge. You’ll have to understand the firm handshake showmen share with the judge when they win, as well as when they lose.2015-07-02-17-22-14

I’ll need to explain how working beside my family to tend our stock, brings us closer as a family than any other vacation we’ve ever taken, or any other activity we’ve ever taken part.

In short, there are a million benefits of consuming beef;  nutritionally, familial-y, and emotionally. There are just as many benefits I have taken advantage of within the production industry.

 

What’s it like to be a Farm-Raised College Kid?

For the past 18 years you have worked your butt off to go to college. Your parents both wanted you to go, probably even put a little money back, to help you out financially.

You experience your first week away from the farm. You are enclosed in a dorm room and the closest hay field is miles away. You constantly think about whether or not your family needs you at home. Guilt sets in, because you know your family needs your help but they won’t say so.

Then, calving season, or planting season, or harvest season comes along. It just seems like the professors know when you need to be at home, because they schedule a 30-page paper, 5 presentations, and 10 exams due in the same week. You hate your professors for scheduling such a stressful week during such a stressful time on the farm.

You hate the guilt your parents and siblings unknowingly make you feel by calling you every night to tell you how much corn they got in the ground, (not enough), or how many calves did not make it (too many), or how much hay got wet (way too much).  You feel so guilty, even if you would not have made a huge impact back home. When you know you would have made a difference, it is even worse. You lay awake at night thinking “If I drove home right now, how many tasks could I finish before I’d have to leave to get back to take this exam?”

When you walk across campus in the snow and sleet and love it because you are not breaking ice for the horses or the lambs. Everyone else complains, but there is a little part of you that is  simply glad you do not have any stock to tend.

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When it rains in your college town but your folks need the rain, you call home and ask if it’s still dry, or if they have gotten a little rain. Your mama will pick up and instantly you’ll know if its raining or not by the tone of her voice; you’ll end up saying something like, “It’s really coming down here, I wish I could send it yall’s way..” and she’ll respond “Oh baby, we’ll be alright. Ain’t nothin’ you can do but pray about it.” Everyone else stomps around in their boots and you just pray the rain is headed to your hometown. If it doesn’t you get one more thing to worry about. If it does, believe me, you’ll find another.

I love being a farm-kid turned college-student. I love the way I get to pursue this education because I want to defend farmer’s ways of life. However, sometimes the path is so full of stress, I feel the need to write about it instead of checking school-related tasks off my to-do list.

Real Excuses Only Farm Kids Get…

Growing up on a farm is challenging. You have to say “no.” to your friends when they are doing more “normal” tasks for kids your age. However, you get to experience some of the coolest things. For instance, when you are out in the field when the sun goes down on a hazy evening. Or when you get to watch the baby calf stand up for the first time. It is a wonderful life, but you do find yourself using valid excuses, that other people just don’t understand.

Everyone thinks you’re weird because your plans are always made according to the weather.

“Hey you wanna come with us to the lake this weekend?” “Ah, sorry man, it’s going to be pretty dry, I’ll have to put up hay.”

“We’re going to the mall tomorrow, can you come?” “Oh, its supposed to rain. Dad and I need to fix an old bush hog tomorrow.”

Or because you do not have time to clean up..

“Hey, were going to catch a movie, want to come?” “I wish, we had a pretty rough day today, and we just got out of the field. I’m covered in manure..”

“The creep feeder got backed up and the feed went bad. I smell soo bad..”

When people “need” you to give them an answer or RSVP in advance.

Did you not read the part about my days are literally based on how the weather behaves? I’ll do my best. Pray it rains. Pray the equipment doesn’t break. Pray nobody gets hurt.

“Hey man, how was your weekend?”

“Uh, what’s a weekend?”

 

What’s your Story?

 

My AG Story is faithfulness. My AG story is family heritage. It is doing my part; pulling my weight. My AG story is beef cattle. It is tobacco. My AG story is riding horses. My AG story is wearily praying over sorry crops and weak calves, on my farm as well as my neighbors. (He’s got mouths to feed too).

It is strong community bonds. My AG story is knowing if something horrible happened to my family we would have ten million casseroles, and just as many family and friends knocking on our door to see how they can help.

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Ben’s AG story is loving Spot so much he could choke her

It is observance, of the land, the cattle, the plants, the weather, and the 10 million other random factors which potentially make or break farmers.

My AG story is facing tomorrow, tomorrow. (Weather permitting). It is not counting my chickens before they hatch, and not expecting anyone to do anything for me. It is independence.

My AG story is explaining my thoughts differently on a regular basis because, “I was raised in a really small town, like our closest mall is 45 minutes away.” It is looking at main campus differently because, “They just don’t get us farm kids.” It is not realizing until recently, it is MY job to help them “get us.”

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The little girl whispering, “It’s okay Sarah, 2nd place is still really good!” to her lamb is me.

 

My AG story is advocacy. It is “Please, just don’t call the juice running out of your steak blood in front of her. She will explain exactly what it is and how it isn’t the same as blood.”

My AG story is a love for the environment. It is hunting game and fishing on our farm. However, it is nursing orphaned wildlife to health.

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My brother, Wade thinking atop this woven wire fence to be a vantage point.

My AG story is family.  My AG story is hard, but fulfilling work.

What’s your story?

 

Farmers feed our Dumpsters

Farmers feed the world.

However, farmers are also feeding the dumpsters.

Everything I have ever been told as a farm kid, 4-Her, FFA member, and AG major came crashing down on me in a Plant and Soil Sciences class I took last semester.

I have always been told it would be my generations job to double the amount of food we produce in a minuscule amount of years-like 75, in order to keep up with demands from a growing population. This virtually overnight increase has never been seen before in our industry. Ever. For years I have worried, brainstormed, and wondered how such a burden could be placed on my generation.

However, I was told in my PLS class, we produce more than enough food for double, or even triple our current population; it is simply being wasted.

In America, in third-world countries, everywhere, food is wasted. Lots of food is wasted.

Farmers bust their you-know-whats to produce quality food, and then it goes in the dumpster. I understand why this does not outrage some of you, because you’ve never watched a piece of machinery or a mad mama cow get the best of your daddy. You’ve never seen him literally pour his blood, sweat, and soul into the work he does to feed not only his family and his stock, but thousands of strangers all over the world.

This would be similar to your loved one putting 200% of the work they already do at their job, only for their manager to shred half of the documents they created upon their leaving the office every night.

Please, be a little more aware of what you are throwing in the trash. Be conservative when you buy groceries. If you have too much, give some to a homeless soul. Whatever you do, do not feed the dumpster.

I do not Admire Education

Farmers are the best.

And you better not disagree with your mouth full.

What other profession requires you to be a meteorologist, agronomist, animal nutritionist, animal pharmacist, biologist, pathologist, and a thousand more -ists? Sometimes with no education beyond high school? Sometimes without completing high school?

This brings me to the point of this post: Just because my daddy, or Uncle, or Aunt, or cousin doesn’t have the same level of education you have, does not mean they are any less than you. Just because somebody ain’t got the same 9-5 job you’ve got, doesn’t make them less than you.

Telling your kid “This is why you have to go to college.” When you pass a man or woman doing a job they have to physically labor at does not teach them to value an education. You’re teaching them that hard work, work ethic, and the woking class are bad things.

Believe me, I do value education, my mama is a teacher, and she and my daddy both expected me to go to college, but if I had said, “I think I want to stay on the farm,” I have no doubt they would have supported me. If either of my brothers say, “Hey mom, dad, I want to be a diesel mechanic, or a welder..” WE WILL BE SO PROUD OF HIM.

If he’s happy and puttin’ food on the table, who are you to judge?

What is there, if there is not education?  A solid work ethic, a nice (maybe even calloused) handshake, politeness, kindness, respect, understanding. I admire these attributes far more  than I value a snobby educated human who won’t give the Americans who make this country great the time of day.

 

Lessons from travel out of the South

1. First and Foremost: Tea ain’t sweet everywhere y’all. This goes without explanation, but I was in for a serious wake up call when I asked for sweet tea in a restaurant and the waiter replied, “Sweetener’s on the table.” He didn’t even add a honey or darlin’, or any term of endearment- How rude..

sweet tea

2. Not everybody likes to be called Sir and Ma’am. I got myself in hot water a time a two by sayin’ “Thank ya ma’am,” or “No Sir.” It turns out, Mama called it “Mindin’  your manners,” but these folks just aren’t accustomed to it. I would call anyone “sir” or “ma’am” out of habit, but some people just think you’re callin’ them old.

3. We have some crazy sayin’s in the South. I had never realized this one, but some of the things we say in the south take more time than to actually say what we mean. For instance, “I smell what you’re steeping in!” rather than, “I understand!” Or “You’re just about as useless as titties on a male dog.. Bless your heart.” instead of “You’re really not helping out.” I guess since Jesus spoke in parables it just goes to prove, The South really is God’s Country.

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4. Anybody with a southern accent is bound to be teased. When I hear some poor soul trying to brave the south with any accent, after traveling to other parts of the United States, I just think to myself, “Bless your heart.” Because being anywhere with a southern accent is difficult.  “You all talk real slow..” or “You guys talk funny.” (First of all, y’all is a proper noun). However, engaging someone in conversation, just to say, “I just wanted to hear you talk for a little while..” Is real mean.

5. There are people in the world who do not believe in corporal punishment. Let me just say I got my butt busted more than a few times- and also let me say I deserved about 3 times as many as I got. I met a girl (from New York) who didn’t know anyone who still used corporal punishment on their children. This blew my mind; all my friends’ best stories end with a good ol’ fashioned whippin’.

6. People will look at you funny if you wear a cowboy hat in an airport. I don’t see how I looked any more out of place than the guy with the big bull-ring in his nose, but I definitely got more looks. I didn’t intend to wear the thing through the airport, but hey, when you buy a cowboy hat in Denver, you gotta wear that thing home!

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7. Everyone should be able to experience their first time flying with an ol’ country boy. Those guys just have something about them. They’ve got the steadiest voices, and the most reassuring half-smiles. In my experience, we both liked the same color paint on our tractors, and he shared his Red Power Magazines with me. It was great. (I’m serious, there should be a “country boy loan” program for nervous first-time flyers).

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Farms are Dangerous

Farms get a bad reputation for being dangerous. I get it, my mama was a worrier too. She used to tell folks, “It’s a wonder my kids have made it this long.” Many people do see farms as a type of minefield.

But, I was raised in a rural area, and I’ll have you know I cannot remember one farm accident that claimed the life of a child. But, I can think of several vehicle collisions that took the lives of minors, I can think of victims of suicide.

I think we can agree, blindly walking across the street is dangerous, right? So from before the time your child can even talk, you were probably telling them, “Only cross at the corner. Stop, Look and Listen. Do you see anything coming?” So by the time your child is ten they’re refusing to hold your hand, but you know you’ve trained them well enough they can safely cross the street by themselves. When your kid climbs into a vehicle with you, you say, “buckle up! Seatbelts, guys!” Until it becomes second nature, when your child jumps into a vehicle with anyone they reach for the seatbelt.

Well, an  untrained person trying to do farm tasks may find themselves in danger, run up behind the horse, you’ll get kicked. Play in the grain bin, you could get smothered. Use a tobacco knife incorrectly, you’ll probably need stitches. The list goes on and on. But my parents trained us on how to avoid injury.

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The My-Mom-Made-Me-Match-My-Siblings-And-Dad-Made-Us-Stand-In-This-Tobacco-Patch picture.

It only takes one accident, you may say to seriously hurt or kill a child on a farm, and you would be correct in saying so. However, It also only takes one collision without a seatbelt, or one time crossing the street, to kill or seriously injure your child, but you trust them to go through proper safety measurers to avoid injury.

In the same way, my parents trust me not to get myself killed on our farm, because they have trained me themselves, as well as sent my siblings and I to so many “farm safety day camps” it would make your head spin. We know which chemicals are dangerous to breath in, which animals we should never turn our backs on, where to keep the guns, and how to unload them. We know what to do in case of a fire in the barn.

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What a signature Kentucky farm girl photo, barefoot, less than two feet from a cow pie, in overalls.

We are not afraid of our farm, but you better believe we have a healthy respect for it.

Why AG-vocate?

“Why do you defend farmers?”

When I was first asked the question it was hard for me not to blurt out, “Because, I grew up on a farm, duh!”

After a little contemplation I realized that wasn’t exactly right.

Why do I wake up every morning ready to advocate for this industry, and do my best to secure this way of life for my future family?

It isn’t because I enjoyed watching the horse who taught me more about love and teamwork than any sports team, grow weak and eventually die.

It isn’t because raising wholesome food for a growing population is easy.

It isn’t because waking up before the dawn every day during hay season, to drive a tractor until it’s way passed dark every night, is one of my very favorite tasks.

It isn’t because I never got in fights with my brothers on the farm.

It isn’t because the tractor’s tire never goes flat, in the middle of a really important, pressing task.

It isn’t because I wanted to bottle feed an orphaned heifer, tend to her every day as she cycled through seven calf crops, and then cry as I watched my dad make the sound decision to sell her before she passes away of old age in our pasture.

Wow, from the outside farming looks like an awful life. So why do I ENJOY defending agriculturalists?

Because I have experienced the unconditional love of more than one animal.

Because I want to be a part of the noble task of providing nourishment, fiber, and fuel to the world.

Because I grew closer to my family every time my dad, brothers, and I worked long days in the hay, and my mom brought us lunch to the fields.

Because I have seen the values that are instilled in farm families.

Because farmers do a real tough job; they bust their butts every day, to feed the world.

Because the people who spread fictitious rumors about agriculturalists, are usually talking with an ungrateful mouth that is fed three times a day, by a farmer.