Farm to Fork… or Chopsticks? 

I shared previously about visiting a beef farm in Japan. Over the past few days, I’ve enjoyed some great food, visited more farms and warehouses, traveled from the south end of Japan on the Shinkansen, and now I’m in Tokyo as part of the Governor’s Trade Mission. 

Shinkansen – the “bullet train” in Japan

I always look forward to riding the Shinkansen. Comfortable, easy to navigate through the train stations, and it travels 320 km/hour (200 mph) so I can get where I need to go easily and quickly.

I ate at a “Korean BBQ” restaurant. One of my favorites! The table has a grill in the middle, and the meat comes out raw so that you cook it one piece at a time. The pictures below are all Wagyu beef. Presentation is important here in Japan as you can see. 


The next day, I was taken to dinner at a restaurant owned by one of my customers. It’s “French inspired” he says. It was underground, very cozy, and I loved the deer head on the wall! 


This customer was 3rd generation to run his feed business. He began to import feed from other countries 7 years ago (including grass straw from us!), and also added 4 restaurants to their company. Soon he will be adding a cheese-making factory and I’m excited for him and can’t wait to visit it. 

You might be asking why the restaurants and why the cheese factory… that maybe it doesn’t make sense with the animal feed company. Well, he sells feed to local beef and dairy farms and then purchases the beef to use in the restaurants and purchases the cream from the dairy for his cheese factory! Literally “farm to fork” as we would say in America. Although here in Japan, it’s chopsticks! 

After dinner, we visited an amazing place called Wine and Sweets where his cheese was already being used in the best soufflé I’d ever eaten – hand made in front of me by the owner and baked while I was enjoying a Riesling. Yummmm! 


And yes, they have forks as well. Cheers! 

Beef Farming: Japanese Wagyu

I’m no expert in beef farming, or dairy farming for that matter. I’m almost embarrassed to say I visited dairy farms in China, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, and camel dairies in United Arab Emirates before I toured my first American dairy farm (compliments of Van Beek Dairy with my then second grader). It’s funny really – when one farms, non-farmers kind of expect us to know all about ALL farming. When I was on a radio interview once the year I was Farm Mom, the host kept asking me about chickens. I didn’t know the answers and he couldn’t figure out why I didn’t know! I said we farmed grass seed, not chickens, and he just shook his head. So while I don’t know a lot about how beef is raised, I sure am thankful for those ranchers and farmers who do. 

Ever heard of Kobe Beef? You probably have, and you probably know it’s also very expensive in America. Kobe is a “brand” of Wagyu beef from the Kobe area of Japan. Wagyu cattle is the breed of beef cow – like Angus or Hereford. 


I was able to visit a 3rd generation beef farmer, which was exciting because I’m a 3rd generation grass seed farmer. His grandpa started the farm, his dad didn’t want it, so now he is the 34-year-old CEO of the 1000-head Wagyu beef operation. 


You might be asking why we are selling them grass straw from Oregon. The short answer is Japan is an island with a large population where there isn’t a lot of land for pasture for their animals. What isn’t cities in Japan, is mainly mountains. In fact, the farm that I visited was on multiple levels – basically built on the side of a mountain, because the flat ground is needed for rice fields or houses. Because the cattle can’t graze on pasture land, they have to import their feed. Because Oregon’s grass seed farmers can’t burn their fields anymore, many choose to have the straw baled. So, basically we are able to export an un-needed product out of Oregon to Japan where it is needed. And, one of my dad’s favorite lines: We turn Japanese Yen into American Dollars. Boom! 

They also use their domestic rice straw, pictured below, as a fiber source in their diets. It’s so interesting to see different ways farmers bale their feed. The “bale type” is totally based on what it’s being used for, the transportation needed to get to its final location, and the equipment that is available. As you can see here with this bale, it’s loosely baled, which means it came from a local farm with a cost-effective piece of equipment. The weight packed into the bale doesn’t really matter if it’s close by and you don’t have to worry about transportation cost, and warehousing space doesn’t need to be maximized. A lot to think about when talking about food and how it’s produced. 

Japanese rice straw in small, round bales


And if anyone is interested, here is a rice straw field that is ready for harvest. They are waiting for the field to dry out so they can harvest the crop. Sounds like Oregon this summer!

Japanese rice field

  Farming around the world is pretty amazing. And while there will always be similarities among the way different farmers in different countries farm, we all make decisions based on the resources or constraints we deal with. So basically, whether I’m in America or in Japan, whether it’s Angus or Wagyu… BEEF, its what’s for dinner.

Bad Bill Crushed: HB2859, a Win for Farmers, Ranchers and Foresters 

Today, over 100 farmers, ranchers and foresters showed up at the Oregon State Capitol for a public hearing for House Bill 2859. Irony would have it that we just finished the wettest month in record in February and then today, March 1st, was beautiful and sunny. Guaranteed had it been rainy, we would have had twice that many at the hearing.

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And in overflow outside the hearing room because it was packed!


Brenda Frketich did a great write up about the bill earlier this week if you want to learn more about it: read it here. Or you could find it here on OLIS. With the sharing by many people on Social Media and with Oregon Farm Bureau doing a great job gathering grassroots, the natural resource community showed up!

Why? Honestly it’s simple: our way of life and livelihood was being threatened.

After over 30 farmers, foresters and ranchers testified to the Revenue Committee what this bill would do to their operation, Chair Barnhart literally said, “In other words, you win.” Because of the overwhelmingly response from the natural resource community, the committee understood the ramifications. It was the first time I had ever heard a round of applause in a committee hearing! It was fantastic!

Farmers, ranchers and foresters: great job, way to show up and make your voice and your story heard!

For a summary, see some Tweets from the day.


And for pictures of some that testified and attended, see here:


There’s a lot more to fight this legislative session unfortunately, but today I’m happy for the win.

 

To see submitted testimony on OLIS, see here

 

Our Ag Story, What’s Yours? A Keynote Address.

One week ago, I had the opportunity to give the keynote address at the 2017 Dunn Carney Ag Summit with fellow agvocate and friend, Brenda Frketich. While there were some unintended laughs (see Brenda’s Nuttygrass blog here), the theme was certain: thank you for listening to our story, but what’s yours and are you willing to share it?

Our hope is that we inspired people to share their story. The agricultural community needs more that do. If you’d like, please read the transcript of our keynote. We’d love to hear your story.

Keynote address follows… thanks for reading!

Shelly: Is that Brenda Frketich? Haven’t I seen you somewhere?

Brenda: Well maybe if you’ve had your TV on in the past few voting cycles…you know a lot of Trump, Hillary…and then there’s farmer Brenda talking about measure 97, a gross receipts sales tax, measure 92,  GMO labeling, measure 84, repealing the Oregon estate tax…you get the drift here.  My name is Brenda Frketich and I’m a third generation farmer from St. Paul.  I grew up farming and after a short hiatus down in Los Angeles to get a business degree from Loyola Marymount University, I found myself wanting to get back on the farm.  In 2006 my dad offered me a position as an intern, and I haven’t looked back.  Today I am the owner operator of Kirsch Family Farms.  I farm 1000 acres alongside my husband Matt, and a team of very dedicated employees.  We farm a variety of crops including hazelnuts, grass seed, wheat, clover, vegetables and vegetable seeds.  Beyond crops we are also raising a few kids, we have two sons, Hoot who is 2, and Davor who is 1. Up here with me today is Shelly Davis.  Shelly, I feel like I see YOUR face everywhere.

Shelly: Sometimes it feels like that! Most likely you would have first seen it when I won America’s Farmers Farm Mom of the Year given by American Agri Women and Monsanto in 2015. Since then I started blogging, and have become more outspoken about the current situation of farming and transportation here in Oregon. I’m at the state capitol too much – as are you – and tend to be involved in different organizations. My name is Shelly Davis, and I’m a third generation farmer from Tangent. Along with two of my siblings, parents and close to 50 employees, we help manage about 1000 acres of grass seed, hazelnuts and wheat. We also run a 34 truck trucking operation hauling agricultural products and bale about 23,000 acres of grass straw that we compress, containerize, and export to Asia as feed for dairy and beef farms. My husband Geoff and I are raising 3 girls, 14, 11 and 9. He manages his family business and he’s a 3rd generation glazer. Running our separate family businesses and raising a family sure keeps us hopping. I mentioned I blog.. you blog too Brenda, called Nuttygrass. Where did you get that name?

Brenda: Well back in 2012 I was at a conference about how to be an advocate for our industry.  I was talking about how I really enjoy writing and how I was already telling stories about farm life, mostly to many of my college friends who grew up in places like Southern California, pretty removed from the farm.  A blog seemed like a great fit, and the speaker, agvocate in her own right, Michele Payn said, “Well you’re a nut and grass farmer, why not call it NuttyGrass?”, and here we are today.  When I started it really was just as simple as telling stories and letting friends keep up with me on my farming adventures, but it has evolved into much more.  

The content that I produce at times can seem fluffy, like just a cute photo, or something very non-controversial, but there are also times that I challenge my readers to take a step back and look at the bigger picture as to why we are really doing what we are to grow our crops.  And that also requires me to take that step back and ask myself, “Why do we do this on our farm?”

From the beginning I decided that I was going to be transparent and that is what I have done.  It’s not always pretty, I have posted some pretty sad and honest posts, but people need to hear that we aren’t just always standing in our fields smiling in the sunshine, there is a reality out there that needs to be understood.  And on our farm it comes with spraying, it comes with pesticides, it comes with risk, losses of crops, and stress.  But also it comes with a great life, hopefully a living, joy at what you can accomplish, and yes even some wins.   

Shelly, your blog is called Daughter of a Trucker – doesn’t sound too farming focused, can you talk more about that?

Shelly: That’s a great question. Our friend Marie Bowers has had her blog since 2011 called Oregon Green and she writes mostly about farming, and you have your blog that also mostly talks about farming. I’ve always been extremely proud of my family’s trucking background on top of our farming history, and it turns out that trucking and transportation in Oregon needed a voice! I started Daughter of a Trucker literally days after the port slowdown started in November of 2014. I found that the general public didn’t know what was going on, and didn’t understand how international container shipping ports worked and why this was such a big problem.

I found my blog to be my voice.

In addition to transportation, I also write about our farm, happenings at the legislature, and items of concern in Oregon in general like the Owyhee Monument talks, which considering today is inauguration day and President Obama did not designate the Owyhee Canyonlands for a monument, I’m going to call that a win for the Natural Resource Community! I mentioned America’s Farmers Farm Mom earlier… Farm Mom is in it’s 8th year, it’s a national program that recognizes women who balances life at home and on the farm with a passion for community and agriculture. I was nominated by someone outside the agricultural and farming community and I would say that connecting with those outside the agricultural audience has been my biggest success in blogging.

I think that’s probably both a struggle and focus for all of us: reaching that outside audience. We can preach to the choir all day long, and I will continue to do that in order to inspire others to do the same, but our goal is to explain our story to those that don’t understand it.

I was absolutely inspired after meeting these other “Farm Mom” nominees from different parts of the country and learning about their struggles and their successes. There’s so many people I’ve met through the country that have literally said “There’s farming in Oregon?” Uh, ya, there is. It’s given me a platform to talk about farming that isn’t corn, soybeans and cotton. That of course is no offense to our new ODA director who has come from Iowa! But like she said, Oregon is diverse and that makes it exciting. It also makes it challenging. Farm Mom gave me the final prompting to get my voice out there as much as possible whether that’s radio, speaking, or blogging. You know, one thing I really struggle with is consistency. I’m more of a passion blogger – when something hits, I write about it. But, you are a consistent blogger, and I think that’s amazing. It takes quite a commitment doesn’t it?

Brenda: It does take a lot.  Being consistent while connecting with all types of people is the balance that I try to achieve.  I want those who, I like to say wear all kinds of shoes to find value in what I share.  I say that because my non-farmer friends and I often joke about how different our lives are.  While I am wearing muck boots out in a field many of them are wearing heels and working behind a computer everyday.  Then some days we are just moms and have our tennis shoes on because quite frankly our kids are becoming increasingly faster than we are.  I want to hit on all of that, on the life of a working woman, the life of a farmer, and the life of a mom.  


Because of that I can go from posting a photo of my kiddos playing out in the field, to writing about GMO’s and people still come back to read even if they really only liked the photo of my kids.  I want to bridge the gap that exists where people connect to me in one way but then assume things about my profession as a “farmer” and how I farm.  I want my readers to know that yes, I’m a mom, yes, I go grocery shopping, yes, I have to make healthy food decisions for my family, of course, I don’t like the idea of being poisoned, of course I want to take care of the environment.  Then I go to work as a farmer, and I take on the responsibility of growing safe & healthy food and of taking care of the land.  I want people to see that regardless of the shoes that I wear throughout my day, none of my basic beliefs change.  After I have gained their trust and some understanding, I can then hit on some of those bigger issues.

Shelly: What kind of bigger issues are you talking about?

Brenda: These days it seems like I get a lot of people sending me articles asking what I think about everything from GMO’s and pesticide, to water quality and organic farming.  Many times I can use this as blog content, instance when a friend of ours, Anna Scharf, tagged us in a photo on Facebook about herbs at Fred Meyer that were labeled, “non-GMO”.  We saw it as an opportunity to connect with our local grocers and let them know that there are actually no GMO herbs, so really there is no need to label them!  

Or when people became unglued because there was a blog on why wheat is now toxic and is slowly killing all of us because we are all spraying it with Roundup right before harvest.  I wrote on how we treat our wheat, when we spray roundup, and why it’s a good tool for us.  

Those are just two examples.  Shelly, what are some of the bigger issues you have covered in your advocacy work?

Shelly: It seems my pieces on the ports and labor slowdowns garnered a lot of national attention and led to being able to talk to big publications like The Economist and the Wall Street Journal. I say this not to ask for kudos but because it goes to show that what I know – what you know – is not only valuable, but the information that you and I might take for granted because we grew up doing it, is so necessary to be heard on a much greater stage. Oregon agriculture, our economy, and transportation both locally and internationally is more entwined than we thought, and now we’re realizing. It. You mentioned your response to the Toxic Wheat blog post. That blog that you wrote made it onto the Huffington Post, which is crazy! But, isn’t that what we want? Our story to be shared in hopes that it gives the outside world a different perspective, a farmers perspective. 


One thing I’ve noticed by putting myself out there… I’ve learned a lot. Because I need to know my stuff if I’m going to write about it! I’m sure you’re the same. Do you get contacted a lot because of your blogs and topics you write about or the fact that you’ve been a face to campaigns?

Brenda: I do get contacted pretty regularly for many different opportunities.  And I often get asked how I was found, especially with some of the very public media campaigns I’ve been a part of.  A large piece of that comes down simply to just being a good source for the media.  Now I realize the media can be tricky because as much as we love to hate them, they are necessary and do play an important role in how we are viewed by the public.  So if I’m contacted I always try to get a certain amount of information before answering any questions.  Who are they, who do they work for, what is the story about, who else are they interviewing, what is their deadline.  Then before I answer anything I pull up google and make sure this is someone I want to talk to.  Make very sure that this article doesn’t have a chance to misinterpret myself, my farm, or agriculture as a whole.  Obviously there will be mistakes that happen, I have been misquoted at times, but having those relationships is important.  And being a good source does not go unnoticed.

Beyond media work however, I always take advantage of any outreach I can.  For instance I try to take every opportunity to invite people to come and tour our farm.  When I give presentations I never hesitate to mention that we have an open door policy at Kirsch Family Farms.  I have given a fair amount of tours just because someone called me up, sometimes even years after they heard me speak, and asked to bring a group out to see what we are up to.  I know Shelly does the same, and we extend that same invite to all of you here today.  

Testifying at the legislature and having that type of involvement is no different.  If you want to know what’s going on, if you want to have the opportunity, then join the organizations who support us.  Not unlike the media looking for a good source, groups in agriculture are always looking for people to come and help support their efforts.  Let people know you’re interested and they will come knocking at your door, at times almost knocking down your door to help them out.

The end result of this, thanks to social media and our level of connectivity in today’s world, we are all able to go beyond the one facebook meme, the one tweet about harvest, the one blog post about growing up on a farm and share online to extend agriculture’s reach.  We want to be telling our story, we don’t want anyone else to do it, because they will inevitably get it wrong.     

Shelly, what do you think?  How do you feel about being contacted?

Shelly: You know the saying, “ignorance is bliss”, well it’s true. I wouldn’t say it bothers me. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship. I’ve also learned that I can say no if it doesn’t fit within my time that is needed for family and work. Recently I learned from Senator Betsy Johnson that you have to keep going and talk to both sides of the aisle, and to be that person your legislator knows they can go to for information. I’m always honored to be someone a person trusts for good information. And this cliché also rings true: “If I don’t do it, then who?” The farming community has an incredible story to tell and some are better storytellers than others. But that doesn’t mean that every story isn’t valuable, and like Brenda said, you are the best person at telling your story. The more voices that are out there, the stronger the farming, ranching and timber industries can be! If we doubled or tripled our presence on Social Media, in the Capitol, or in the newspaper, think how strong the Natural Resource Community can be!

I know there are a few college-age attendees here today, and possibly some younger or beginning farmers. To you, I want to speak directly and I say this to FFA and 4-H kids all the time. Join us, you are more than welcome to this big group called Agriculture. I want you to know that we are your biggest cheerleaders. We want you to try, knowing you will fail at times, but that we are here to help you along. Maybe it’s getting up in front to speak somewhere, maybe it’s trying to figure out what crop to plant next year, or it’s working towards your degree in vet medicine. Whatever it is, I believe you’ll find encouragement wherever you look in this community.

Brenda –  Alright so…here’s a question that I know both Shelly and I hear all the time, “Shelly, what is it like being a women in ag?”

Shelly: Well, our friend Marie states it best: probably feels a lot like a man in Ag. Which is true, but I’d be remiss to not acknowledge some challenges. Those being children, trying to fit it all in, and not being the traditional face of a farmer. I would also suggest that being a woman in Ag is similar to being a woman in any traditionally male-dominated industry, namely trucking, military, construction and others. Our story isn’t that different than theirs. I’ve been known to say I’m always excited to see women in Ag do great things, but I look forward to the day it’s not a headline.
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I read a blog called The Dirt this week and the author wrote about this topic, she says: “The conversation should no longer be about being a woman in ag. It’s about being in agriculture PERIOD.” Kudos to Oregon, but I think we’ve been at this point for a while now, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I’m grateful for the hard working women that came before us and recognize that everyone has a different story. Mine is different than Brenda’s and our roles are different on our farms. But don’t you think Brenda, there are a many of us that have similar stories, and it typically starts with “my dad treated me like any other boy on the farm.” I can say that is true for me and my 3 sisters, and I have girlfriends that will say the same. Our former First Lady Michelle Obama has said: “Change happens when a father realizes the potential of his daughter.” I applaud the ag community for that. I also think that women have some natural traits that make us very valuable in the natural resource community – many of those are the same reason Farmer Brenda has been the face of campaigns, simply put, she’s a mom.

And Brenda, maybe you should point out the obvious?

Brenda: What? That there are two women up here right now?  

It’s true, being a woman is different in many respects but many of our challenges aren’t because we’re women, they are because we are working in a state that continues to be so unfriendly to businesses.  

Personally yes, I’m a mom, but I’m also a business owner. Not only am I the HR department, I’m the secretary, I’m the safety trainer, I am the tractor driver, sprayer operator.  I’m who my employees come to when if they get hurt on the job, it’s my name on the operating line, but I’m also the one they come to when they need more toilet paper in the bathroom or pop in the pop machine.  One of the biggest challenges I face to be honest, is wearing all those hats.

Legislators and agencies think it’s just one more form to fill out, one more thing to track such as unpaid sick time, or they say to me, “well there’s only three different ways we count employees in this state so that shouldn’t be so hard.  Right?!”  And maybe it’s not hard for that one thing, but it’s the one thing on top of a million things that is asked of us as employers here in Oregon.  Not to mention that at times it also lacks the common sense that we have built our businesses on for generations.  Which makes it an even tougher pill to swallow.

But then there is always the hat of being a mom that we have hit on already, and that just adds a whole other layer to the balancing act that Shelly and I sometimes struggle with, but have found that by working together, some days we can hit it out of the park!

Shelly: Remember the time you needed to speak to the legislature on behalf of Farm Bureau regarding pesticide usage a few years back? You were pregnant and Hoot was 1. You had no childcare that day, but knew how important it was to testify. I’m pretty sure Kathy Hadley and I took care of Hoot while you testified. You were tired, you were busy, and you needed help. But you did it because we all needed you to. And one of the reasons you were able to do it is because you had people supporting you and friends to help you out. The point is, advocating on behalf of the entire agriculture industry can be exhausting and take up too much time. You do it, I do it, we do it, because it benefits us, our farm, and even more importantly our future farm.


Brenda: Thank you Shelly for saying that – and as a woman, as a mom, as an advocate I would like to thank you all for your support.  It’s truly an honor to be up here in front of an audience of farmers, those who are working in our industry, and those of you who support us day in and day out.  Farming is not just a job but a way of life.  It’s a way of life that is hard to explain, exhausting in its ability to encompass your whole outlook, and also rewarding as hell at the end of the day.   I wish I could come up here after all of these speakers today and have Shelly and I list off the reasons why it’s going to be so easy to farm in Oregon moving forward, but business wise, I don’t think that is our reality.  I think our fight is always just beginning, always changing, and always being challenged.  

My story started with coming back to the farm after living in Los Angeles and getting a much different look at a life away from St. Paul, town of 322.  It continued with my passion for an industry that seemed to the public to have a lack of transparency.  And has continued to evolve as I became a mom, as I grew as a farmer and as a business woman.

So what is your story?  To the farmers in the room today, as only 2% of the population, your life is a story within itself!  Every day that you head out into your fields is an opportunity that you can use to do something as simple as taking a photo and sharing it.  I can promise you, that photo of your everyday will look like heaven on earth to those folks stuck behind a desk browsing their facebook page.  And for all of you who aren’t farmers, but I know work hard for our industry, you’re not off the hook.  We need you to share our story, we need you to help us get our message across.  We need your reach.

The challenges that we face sometimes seem to be incredibly daunting.  But I also know that my grandpa, the first generation on our farm had challenges ahead of him every day that his feet hit the soil, as did my dad, and they were both resilient.  My only hope, is for a future here, where my two boys as the fourth generation will have the opportunity to be just as dirty with the dust from our fields as I did.  But we need an industry that is willing to work, not just for their own farm, but for their industry.  

Shelly: I’m glad Brenda mentions her grandpa, because my story almost always includes my grandpa too on so many levels. My dad has said to me many times: “Shelly, Grandpa Merrill worked hard, I worked hard, and we just kept our heads down and kept to ourselves. We thought working hard was enough and that our elected officials and the community around us were grateful for our work and were like minded.” I’m standing here today to say that is not the case any longer. If my past generations had been more outspoken, would we be where we are today? I can’t say. But I do know this is where we are and I have a simple, yet great ask: Please – will you get involved? We need you. Every person out there – each and every one of you – has a passion for agriculture in some form, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

You are smart, you are passionate, and we need you.

You might not want to speak in front of people, I get that. But maybe you can write a letter, maybe you can make a phone call, maybe you can join a local commission, a county farm bureau. Brenda and I know a lot about what we do, but Oregon Agriculture is so much bigger than that.

I have an action item for you: I want each and every one of you to do at least one thing that you didn’t do last year. Go to a county farm bureau meeting, go to the capitol and watch a public hearing with someone you know, submit testimony during the upcoming legislative session, read about the Adopt A Farmer program and maybe sign up for it!, join your local Oregon Women for Ag chapter, start a Twitter account and show your farm story – the opportunities are endless.        

We both appreciate you listening to our story today, and our great hope is that it inspires you to tell yours.

Communication and farming – one family’s story 

How often do you hear of “fifth generation farm” or “family business since 1935”? They are out there, in fact I know a few personally, but it doesn’t happen very often. This statement has haunted me since I first read it years ago: 


It’s been said that more than 30% of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation. 12% will still be viable into the third generation, with only 3 percent of all family businesses operating at the fourth-generation level and beyond.

Why is this? I’d say that everyone might have a differing opinion on this — taxes, regulation, lack of interest, markets change, the next generation just doesn’t have what it takes, and the ideas go on. My opinion: a lack of communication. It might not be the main reason, but I would suggest it to be a contributing factor in any family business problem. 

I don’t have the answers, and anyone that knows me and my family all know that we are not masters of communication. But we have one thing for sure going for us: we are aware of it, and we try to work on it. 

How does this family work at bettering communication? 

  • Family meals – every Monday. If you can make it, great. If you can’t, no worries. My mom can be thanked for this. She is an excellent cook and we all are ever so grateful for a prepared meal every Monday. 
  • Group text. Oh boy, the in-laws might not always love this (in fact my husband is just grateful for the mute option on his phone), but every family member is included, and we are all up to date on the latest shenanigans. We talk farming, we talk kids, we talk business, and we share in each others successes and share in each other’s failures. Every day, every week it’s different. But we communicate about it – and we’re better for it. 
  • The kids and grandkids are ALWAYS welcome on the farm or in the office. I have never heard my parents shoo any of us or our kids away – if they are busy, they let the grandkids be a part of it. I try to mimic that. My kids and nieces and nephews are always welcome. I want them to know they are a part of this family farm and business. It happens regularly that a salesman will walk into my office and my nephew Jude is sitting on my lap. When my daughter Samantha was 4, she was the one that welcomed our future Operations Manager in the door when he was checking to see if we were hiring. That day she just happened to be watching cartoons on a computer while I was finishing up some work before leaving for the day.  We were hiring, and he was hired soon after. I’m pretty sure he knew exactly what kind of business he was walking into: a family oriented one. 
  • Like my dad says in the article I reference below: “you have to get over yourself.” We all have faults and we all have failures. But we also all have successes and things we are great at. If you asked my siblings, they could write a list of things I’m not good at. But they’d also give you a few things I am good at, too. 


Like I said, we work on it. When Progressive Forage called and wanted to interview us about communication, I jumped at the chance. I’ve learned so much from others around me, maybe someone can learn from our failures and successes as well. 

I’d also encourage everyone to share their failures and successes with others. We’re not perfect, none of us are! But I certainly hope more family businesses and farms succeed. I have a group of friends that share with each other – and I am better because of it. I’d encourage you to find your group as well. 

And please read our interview and article here – thank you for reading and I wish you success in whatever you do.

Progressive Forage – Farming’s Communication Conundrum

A big thank you to the author: Cassidy Woolsey. She took what I didn’t think to be coherent ideas and made them a fantastic story. My hat is off to you Cassidy, thank you. 

Earth Day thoughts from a “modern” farmer

So, what is Earth Day anyway? And why do farmers care? I thought Earth Day was some sort of environmentalist’s day? Right and wrong – the farmer is the original environmentalist. Yes – this is our day. And we care.

Farmers, simply put, make their living off the land. The land is our most precious resource and we take care of it. My family has been farming the same 150 acres since 1972. My grandpa made farming decisions with me in mind 44 years ago. Farmers are forward-thinkers, because they have to be. It’s in their job description. Yesterday’s and today’s forward-thinking farmers adopt modern technology is order to produce more with less. All in effort to take care of the dirt that takes care of them.

Modern technology in every other industry is celebrated. Do you want to have heart surgery with 1920 technology? How about your kids… would you like them to go to a school where the administration doesn’t believe in using computers? Do you watch TV on a black and white television where you have to walk across the room to turn the knob? And where did you get your news lately? Was it at the touch of a button? The modern farmer embraces technology that helps them to be sustainable for future generations and to ensure their neighbors have food, clothes and a roof over their head. Let’s celebrate this Earth Day with this in mind.

Farmers use the tools at their disposal in order to maximize yields and minimize inputs.

 

Combine_Then and Now_meme

Farmers use bigger, faster combines. For example, with a larger header they can make less rounds in the field. With less rounds, we use less fuel, and produce less emissions.

Haystack_old

Stacking hay in Nebraska, circa 1950’s

 

 

Stacks in field_meme

Stacking straw in Oregon, circa 2013

Farmers use more efficient pieces of equipment. That old “stacker” was the most efficient piece of equipment at the time. The new stacker is the best we’ve got right now. To put into perspective, the mound of hay in the picture above is probably 12 ton. Compare that to the grass straw stack below it is about 60 ton. It took probably 2-3 men to hand stack that, and most likely took all day. My brother stacked the 2 truckloads of grass straw in about 45 minutes. Simply put, we can do more with less. That’s what we as modern farmers strive for.

Let’s talk water. Hazelnuts 5

Do you see the black “hose” running through the orchard? That’s called “drip irrigation”. Drip lines are an efficient method for delivering water to specific areas. A drip irrigation system delivers water directly to the soil around the roots of the trees. Drip irrigation lines deliver water to the trees slowly, so that very little water is lost from evaporation or runoff. And that’s my youngest daughter, Sam, helping move the irrigation lines closer to the trees as they sometimes slip down. See, my dad and I are making decisions with her and my other two daughters and nieces and nephews in mind.

This Earth Day, I’m thankful for modern farming.

For another farmer’s story on Earth Day, check out my friend Brenda’s blog here.