It seems like its been eons since the last time I blogged! I have taken a small respite the past couple weeks. Not because I had nothing to write about, but because I have been really, really busy. So, go grab yourself a coffee or an iced tea, sit back and find out just what I have been up to lately. One note of caution – this post is filled with a bunch of random farm ramblings and a longer post than normal, but there’s pictures! Trust me, it’s an easy read. Enjoy!
Let’s start with family:
Starting of a New Career!
Big changes in my household. My youngest daughter graduated from NDSU (North Dakota State University – you know – the university football team that beat Iowa State a couple weeks ago) this past May. Her degree? Ag Communications with a minor in Agribusiness. Excited that she finally graduated, she spent the summer job hunting. Finding a job as a new college grad is not exactly easy. For one, there needs to be job openings and secondly, many of the job openings require job experience – something new college grads don’t have. She had a few interviews, but disappointment would always follow when they hired someone with experience. As parents, we just kept telling her God has a plan for her and it would all work out for her. And I absolutely do not blame these companies for hiring experience because they need to hire the best person available for the job and it’s normally experience that sets applicants apart.
So fast forward to the end of August. Another job opening. She learned of this job through her network. (Can I say you cannot overstate the importance of networking?) This job opening is with Beth Nelson and Associates. So who is this company? They do ag consulting with smaller commodity organizations such as Wild Rice, Alfalfa, Canola, Forage and the Midwest Poultry Consortium. She landed an interview for a communications specialist position and later that day, was offered the position. I sincerely thank them for giving her, a new college graduate, a chance (and experience).
I have three daughters and they are all unique in their personalities and talents. The two oldest are married and have children. One is a nurse practitioner and the other works in the office at a local manufacturing company. All three of them do things I could never do and I am proud of each one of them!
A week ago, I took a short trip (with the same youngest daughter) to Estes Park, Colorado. We saw zillions (well, maybe not quite than many) of elk. It’s the beginning of their rutting season (which I knew very little about) and we were fortunate to hear the males bugling and gathering their harem. Not sure if this is quite the proper terms but it was cool anyway! And let me also state, don’t plan on golfing in Estes Park in the late afternoon as the golf course turns into an elk social gathering. Kind of reminds me of employees gathering around the water cooler, but with a different agenda.
Now let’s move onto the farm:
Harvest is fast approaching. And farming NEVER goes without a hitch. The past three years we were in a drought. This year it was dry in July and parts of August, but we finally received rain in August! Yay! But, a couple of weeks ago, we received a very early killing frost. Our first frost is usually mid October, but this year, it decided to come on September 12. And . . . our spring was late. Not good. The frost was spotty, hitting lower ground and spared hillier areas. So, our crops are not 100% ready for a frost, Yes, we still have a crop but the rumor mill says our yields may be effected by a 10-15% decrease in yields. Ugh . . . So much for our excitement from the August rains. But we will see. It is what it is. Nothing we can about it. (I say this a lot) To be a farmer, you really need tough skin because things happen that we have no control over. But we just make the best of it.
Not in the budget. Wasn’t planned but pigs need water and so don’t we. So there was no question whether we should do it or not. We were getting sand in our water. So we knew our well just gave up the go. Probably going to cost us close to $15,000 when we are done. Yep, that hurts.
Ugly. Just downright ugly. Commodity prices have tanked. No other way to say it than that. Corn and soybean prices are less than what it costs to produce. We are small farmers and we have been farming for many years (as in over 35 years). For the most part, our costs are generally low because our land costs are low (because we have some of our land paid for) and we don’t have high machinery costs. And even with our low costs of producing corn and soybeans, the prices we can sell them for are less than what it cost us to produce. And the costs I am talking about does not take into consideration any pay for our personal labor (yep, that means working for free). It wasn’t long ago that corn was selling for $7-$8 per bushel. Today, at our local elevator, corn is $2.82 per bushel. And beans were $13-$14 (or more) per bushel, today, $8.87. Our expenses have not nearly decreased to the same extent the selling price has dropped. Not. even. close. How many of you could survive on having your wages drop by over 50%? This is why we also raise pigs. Ag diversification is important in times like these.
Last, but not least, me:
Let me just state, even though this section is about me, it’s really not about me. It’s about what farmers need to do for agriculture. Farmers need to be talking about what we do and why we do it. And anyone can do it. I am a grandma from rural Minnesota just talking about what is happening on my farm and speaking the truth about agriculture. In the past couple weeks, I have done quite a bit of agvocating and I am so lucky that I can do this.
National Hog Farmer Magazine
Kevin Schultz of National Hog Farmer magazine interviewed me about agvocating. And, honestly, I thought maybe the article might be on page 58 of 60. But, no. Lo and behold, I am on the cover! Are you kidding me? If I would have known that I would have dressed more appropriately, Like worn a dress or something! (okay, not really) But I really wanted to wear my “Pigs, the inventors of bacon” t-shirt because I LOVE that shirt. So not a really good clothing choice, but then again, I don’t take myself very serious. All kidding aside, thank you to National Hog Farmer!
Minnesota Accademy of Nutrition and Dietetics
On September 9, I spoke, as a volunteer of CommonGround Minnesota, at the Minnesota Accademy of Nutrition and Dietetics conference in the Twin Cities. 65 dietitians listened to a total of four presentations. Presentations were on probiotics, coconut oil, the paleo diet and then me, where I talked about GMOs from an agricultural perspective. My presentation was 15 minutes long. So in 15 minutes I basically talked about what GMOs are and why we use them on the farm. I also talked about the importance of food choices and in order to make good food choices, we need to use our critical thinking skills and learn about how foods are marketed. On a side note, my presentation was very different than the other three, as the others were very technical in material directed specifically towards and from dietitians. Mine came from an agricultural perspective. So how did it go? Since I am my own worst critic, I am not really sure. At this point, my only point of reference is based on how many questions there were . . and there weren’t many. Talking with some of the other dietitians after the conference, it seems that GMOs are a hot topic in the dietetic world. They also said that many dietitians have their minds made up on GMOs both pro and anti. I am somewhat disturbed by this because GMOs is all about science and so is the field of dietetics. And the subject that was most popular that evening? Coconut oil. Because I knew you wanted to know.
I also had the opportunity to be a panelist at the Workforce Conference sponsored by the Minnesota Pork Board. This conference is geared towards those people that work in the pork industry. I was a panel member, along with three others, where we discussed the ways we each agvocate because agvocacy is not a one size fits all. The other three members were Ryan Veldhuizen, who was in the Farmland movie, Ben Clark, a barn manager for New Fashion Pork and Rep. Rod Hamilton, a Minnesota state representative. And thanks to Michelle Rook from WNAX for doing a great job facilitating our discussion. In addition to the panel, I presented a short talk on agvocacy. It was a really fun time and I truly admire the passion of the other panel members! We all shared some great stories and I got to share the story about how Matthew Prescott (HSUS) called me out in a Washington Post article and put a link to my blog post, Let’s Take “Factory” out of Factory Farm. Really Matthew? A grandma from rural Minnesota?
Oh, and have you seen the move Farmland? If not, please make sure you do (and make sure your bring a tissue along – you will need it). It will be released to online sources this fall. Once I have the information, I will pass it along on my Minnesota Farm Living Facebook page. Be sure to follow www.facebook.com/minnesotafarmer (and like it!!), for the latest updates!
I said this was going to be random. Yes, colonoscopies suck. But cancer sucks worst. And you probably guessed I had a colonoscopy recently. And everything is fine. When you have family history (which I do) you have to take these things seriously. So, here’s advice : If you are in the age range and you know you need to do it, JUST DO IT. End of story. And . . . no pictures for this one.
Nearing the end of my ramblings
Now that I feel I have a few moments to breath. My house needs a major cleaning. My lawn needs mowing. I need to pay bills. Oh, and I didn’t talk about my garden. Kind of a disaster this year. Too much rain early on and the weeds won the race. Oh, well, next year will be better (farmers are the eternal optimists you know!) And I need to start thinking about preparing for long hours during harvest season, which translated means making food for the freezer. I will be blogging about some other ag topics soon (and more typical posts), so until then, enjoy your day!