Tuesday, September 6, 2016

9 Things You Won't Take For Granted After Traveling

I've said a million times, I'm so thankful for all I'm learning on the Why I Farm Roadtrip. But it's worth saying one more time. As I near the four month mark, I can already see how I've grown personally and professionally. This experience has taught me to be a more grateful person. Here are a few things I won't be taking for granted anymore.

1. Opening the refrigerator and finding food.
Any time I want to eat, I have to go somewhere. Craving milk? Off to the store. Time for supper? McDonalds or Wendy's? Take your pick. The reality is, even that is way easier than most people in this world have it. The fact that I can't mindlessly walk to the fridge has made me stop and be thankful each time I fill my belly.

2. Standing in front of your closet trying to decide what to wear.
Every girl has stood in their underwear staring at their overflowing closet complaining, "I don't have anything to wear." In a way, it's fun to try on a million outfits and leave the rejects littered all over your bedroom floor. But when you live out of a suitcase for months at a time, you realize that's a luxury. These days my hardest choices getting dressed are rubber boots or leather? And do these jeans still smell clean?

3. Spending rainy days lounging inside.
I miss rainy, lazy Saturdays. On the road trip, it's not an option to cuddle up with tea and watch movies on dreary days. I'm living my dream, so I'm not complaining, but there is no time for laziness with this gig. There hasn't been a single day since May 15th I haven't made phone calls, sent emails, visited farmers, been interviewed, sorted photos, scheduled social media, blogged, or transcribed audio. Even if I could just sit around doing nothing, I'd still have to go out to get food, drive to my next interview, or get gas. Road tripping is rain or shine.

4. Knowing what you're doing tomorrow.
Most days I have a decent idea of what I'm doing the next day, but there are so many extra variables living on the road. Everything can change in an instant. I've learned to be flexible. It's a lesson I really needed to learn, but I miss knowing I'm going to class at 8 AM, work at noon, and have meetings at 5 PM and 7 PM. A typical day depends on at least five other people's schedules working flawlessly, zero traffic, no wrong turns, and perfect weather. You can imagine, that works out about 2% of the time.

5. Clean public restrooms.
Nasty restrooms are the biggest bummer of road tripping. There's nothing worse than pulling off your route, running into the bathroom to find pee on the seat, TP on the floor, and a hairball in the sink. On the flip side, I want to give every where with sparkling bathrooms a five star review. When this adventure is over, I'm excited to get back to my bathroom and do my business in clean, private, peace.

6. A hot shower.
I've learned you can get clean, hot showers at truck stops, but that's not always convenient. There's something about coming in the house, kicking off your boots, stripping off your sweaty clothes and hoping in the shower when ever you want (in your own bathroom, then standing in front of your closet debating what to wear). Most of the time, I'm smelling myself as I drive 30 minutes plus for a shower. Freshening up between visits means caking on more deodorant, soaking myself in Febreeze, and changing to dry socks if I'm lucky.

7. Your own bed.
I'm in a different city every single day. It's so fun to see so much of the country, but nothing is consistent. I feel like Goldilocks sometimes. One night my bed is a little soft, sometimes the pillow is too flat, the sheets are scratchy, it's chilly. Getting comfortable, and getting much needed rest is a process every night. When I get back to my bed with two pillows, fluffy blankets and a fan, I'm going to sleep like a rock for a week.

8. Running into people you know.
Growing up in a small town, sometimes I thought it was annoying I couldn't go anywhere without running into someone I knew. You couldn't go to the bank or post office "real quick" because somebody would stop to chat. Now, there are days I would give anything to run into a friendly face. I still catch myself waving at familiar cars or scanning crowds for somebody to say hello.

9. Going places without directions or a GPS.
Thank goodness for technology. Without it, I'd never find my next interview, places to shower, or eat. That being said, there are some days I would like to go get gas without my phone and that bossy voice reminding me to take a left in 500 feet. Before traveling, I never thought about now nice it is to know how to get where you're going.

I have so much to be thankful for. I'm so glad traveling has opened my eyes to the littlest blessing I used to take for granted. Hopefully this post challenges you to consider what you take for granted. Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Foodie Friday: Why I Farm Roadtrip, June

I'm still enjoying eating my way through the Why I Farm Roadtrip. I love getting a taste of each place I visit, and there are several places I want to go back for seconds. Here's a look at the tastes of June.

I was so lucky to be able to meet up with Elizabeth Burns-Thompson while I was in Washington D.C. for American Agri-Women Fly In. We were both pretty busy with events on The Hill, but we snuck away for a quick lunch from the food trucks on The Mall one day! After lots of debating, we both ended up getting phillys. So delicious!

While I was in D.C. I had the chance to meet amazing women in agriculture from several states. One of the ladies from North Carolina, Amy Harris Robinette, shared this beef jerky from her own farm with me. It was the perfect travel snack!

I have cheat days more often than I would like to admit. When I was in Maryland visiting Robert Black of Catochin Orchard, I couldn't resist this Mint Chocolate Chip fudge. Perfect, melt in your mouth deliciousness!

When I visited my cousin, Neva, I tried all kinds of new foods. The first night I spent with her, I tried a crab roll. It was so good, but very rich and filling. Quite a treat!

This crab covered pretzel is another sea food tread I enjoyed while visiting my cousin Neva in Pennsylvania. She says it's a big hit with her kids too. 

Neva and her husband, Keith, spoiled me. I cracked crabs for the first time in my life with them one afternoon in Baltimore. It was such a unique experience! I had no idea this is how crab is normally served. They bring out a big tray, you select how many of what size you want, and they come back with this! No plates, just a paper covered table, a little hammer, and a bucket for all the pieces you're done with. I don't think I've ever worked this hard for my food before, but it was totally worth it. 

I couldn't drive through Hershey, Pennsylvania without a stop at the Hershey factory. The free little tour was great, even by myself, and there were so many souvenirs to choose from. I'm on a really tight budget, so I didn't buy any knickknacks or t-shirts, but I did get this free mini chocolate bar after the tour. I'm always up for a sweet treat!

One particularly lonely and frustrating day in Pennsylvania, I decided to treat myself to a BLT from Soda Jerk Diner & Dairy Bar in Hummelstown. The sandwich and corn nuggets were exactly what I needed to turn my day around. (That and a phone call that led to visit Haldeman Farms.)

I rarely pass up an opportunity to have ice cream, so I got a scoop while I was at the diner in Pennsylvania. I think it was black raspberry or something. It was good, but not great and by the time it came, I was excited to hit the road for my next Why I Farm interview.

On hot summer days, it's really hard for me to pass a Sonic without ordering a Cherry Limeade. They're just so delicious! Pro tip: Order light ice to get more bang for your buck.

Like I said last month, when I started this adventure I decided I needed to sample a Strawberry Shake in each state. This one was from my visit with Tad Kuntz at Masonic Villages Farm Market in Pennsylvania. One of the more expensive milkshakes I've had, but so delicious!

A few weeks before the Why I Farm Roadtrip began, I learned about dehydrated fruit. Unlike dried fruit, which I'd had before, these fruit slices are crispy. It's a great snack, and helps me eat a little healthier while on the go. Since I'm in a different place every night, it's hard to buy and keep fresh produce. So far I've had pears, peaches, strawberries and apples. I've liked them all!

When I was in Delaware McCafe Frappes were on sale for a dollar. Since it was cheaper than my usual order, I figured I'd give it a try. Too sweet for my liking. I'll stick to my vanilla iced coffee.

If you follow me on Snapchat or Twitter, you probably saw I stopped at Dogfish Head in Milton, Delaware while I was out east. I had a great tour of the brewery and it was inspiring to hear Sam's entrepreneurial story. Of course, after I learned all about their beer, a taste test was necessary! Festina Peshe was my favorite. 

After some fantastic beer samples and a great walking tour, it was lunch time at Dogfish Head. I opted for this pulled pork from the food truck on site. Pretty yummy!

Also in Delaware, I visited the Georgetown Farmers Market. I was able to visit with two vendors (Little Wagon Produce and Smiths) about why they farm and enjoyed a black cherry soda from one of the food trucks. It was a great little stop.

The Georgetown Farmers Market is held in a green space right next to 16 Mile Brewery. I was feeling adventurous so I stopped in to taste a beer. When I saw a watermelon beer on the menu, I had to give it a try. I was surprised how much it actually smelled and tasted like watermelon!

My Virginia strawberry milkshake came from Richlands Dairy Farm. After a hot, but wonderful farm tour and Why I Farm interview this was just what I needed! 

That's it for June's Foodie Friday! Check back next week to see some of the yummy things I had in July. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Why I Farm Roadtrip in Vermont

Each day I'm getting closer to the half way mark (state wise) of the Why I Farm Roadtrip. I've been seen so many breath taking sights. There's no way I could choose a favorite place, but I know Vermont is near the top. During my visit, the weather was gorgeous and I had great hosts. Check out a glimpse of my time in the Green Mountain State in this week's Wordless Wednesday!

Photo credit: Lisa Campion

A return visit to Vermont is definitely on my post road trip bucket list. To meet Vermont farmers and see their Why I Farm stories, head over to the Why I Farm Roadtrip blog. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

7 Little Things To Make Long Distance Suck Less

My experiences on the Why I Farm Roadtrip have impacted every part of my life. I'm thankful this trip has challenged me and grown me in so many ways. That being said, the growing process isn't always fun. After seeing my boyfriend, Ryan, nearly every day for two years at Iowa State, a long distance relationship has certainly been an adjustment. I don't think it will ever become easy to be apart, but here are a few things that have made long distance suck a little less.

1. Skype and screen share - My favorite way to end a day on the road is Skyping Ryan. Whether it's touring his new apartment, showing him some cool photos I took, or just seeing his face as we catch up, video calling has made traveling lots easier. I've spent several evenings in a McDonald's parking lot cuddled with a blanket in the back of my rental van watching movies with Ryan and it's the highlight of my day. It's the little things in life, right?

Here's a quick Skype screen share 101: Unless you have unlimited data, be sure to find somewhere with wifi. If you get a spot close enough to the building, you can still get a strong connection in most McDonald's or Starbucks parking lots, even after they close. Pull up whatever you're wanting to share on your laptop. It can be anything - Netflix, photos, or a DVD. Start the Skype call. Once you're connected, click 'Call' on the menu bar and then 'Share Screens...' in the drop down that appears. Confirm you want to start sharing screens and ta-da! 

2. Learn each other's schedules - When Ryan and I were both at Iowa State, we naturally learned each other's schedules. I don't ever remember making a point to memorize his routine, but it happened. At the beginning of my travels I would call randomly, without much thought to what he might be doing. It seemed I always called at a bad time. Honestly, I took it personally at first. It felt like he didn't want to talk to me. I had to realize, just like I couldn't drop what I was doing every time he called me, life was still happening for him. Once we intentionally shared our schedules with one another, things got a lot easier. He knows I do #AgChat every Tuesday night and I know if I want to call him to say good morning, I better do it before his 8 AM class.

3. Share the little things - I didn't realize how big the little things were until I left. Things that we never talked about when we were in the same place like the weather, slow buses, or free food on campus actually matter. It took me a while to figure out that if I called and Ryan seemed 'mehhhh' it might just be a cloudy, gloomy day back in Iowa. He wasn't upset with me. In the same way, when I call and life at home is perfect without me, that doesn't mean he doesn't miss me. Chances are he just scored some free pizza. When you take two seconds to share the details that were obvious before, it's easier for both of you to see the big picture.

4. Don't forget about snail mail - A few months ago I had to mail Ryan a key for my house. I was really missing him so tucked in a little note with knock knock jokes and silly doodles. He loved it! No one gets fun mail anymore. For less than 50 cents, a postcard or note is a pretty cheap way to brighten someone's day.

5. Remember texts are just text - I took so much for granted when we could talk face to face. So much of what you say is communicated through your facial expressions and tone of voice. When you don't have those clues, it's easy to take 'Why' as 'Why the heck would you do that?' instead of 'Why? (I'm curious, tell me more.)' Don't read into more than what is on the screen. If you're talking about something important, make time for a phone call.

6. Collect (meaningful) souvenirs for them - I love it when I visit a place and find something that reminds me of Ryan. I try to pick up affordable little souvenirs as I travel so he can experience some of what I'm seeing. Don't guilt yourself into buying trinkets like key chains and shot glasses everywhere you go. Hold out for something that's personal and they'll actually use. So far, I've picked up dips and sauces from some of the farms I've visited and couple t-shirts I knew he'd love.

7. Make time to hang out - One of the things I miss the most is just sitting and hanging out. When we were both in Ames, we spent a lot of time doing our own projects in the same room, not even talking. I'd work on my blog, he'd do homework. When we still have our own things to do, I can FaceTime him, prop my phone up on the corner of my laptop and blog away. He can play video games, I can be productive. When I can't figure out how to word a sentence I can run it past him and when he makes an awesome kill, he can tell me all about it. Bonus: He calls me out when I have work to do, but get distracted or sidetracked.

Our relationship is far from perfect and we've still got at least nine months of long distance to go. I'm excited to keep learning about myself and others, even if the lessons aren't always fun. In the mean time, I hope this list helps your long distance relationship suck a little less. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Foodie Friday: Why I Farm Roadtrip, May

I confess, I'm that girl that takes a photo of just about every meal and snack I've had so far on the Why I Farm Roadtrip. I love trying the local flavors and I don't want to forget all the unique experiences I've had in each state. Starting from the beginning, here's a look at the tastes of May.

One of the Why I Farm Roadtrip visits I had was with blueberry farmers from Michigan. The Bowerman family has a beautiful farm market full of doughnuts, pies and preserves. They sent this jar with me as a souvenir. I enjoyed it while I was staying with Jennifer Osterholt in Ohio. It was delicious!

Barbara Siemen of The Chick Wire still holds the record as one of the best cooks I've visited so far. When I arrived, she had fresh pastries, banana bread and cookies to share. My stomach is growling just looking at the pictures again! 

I tried to make Barbara's cookies last, but I'm afraid to admit how many I ate before I even left her county. They were the perfect balance of softness and chewiness.

When I visited Fort Wayne, Indiana, the lovely folks at the tourism bureau gave me tickets to "Summer Nights at the Embassy." There was a great band, and unique food and drinks for sale. This Mac & Cheese with pulled pork had a little kick to it and hit the spot after a long day of traveling.

Summer Nights at the Embassy was just the start of great food I had in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The next day, I went to Tolon, a newer restaurant in the area. My burger and homemade chips were fantastic. Advice: If you see something on the menu with bacon jam, order it. You won't be disappointed.

To wrap up a great visit to Fort Wayne, I was able to visit the Joseph Decuis farm and restaurant. This is by far the nicest restaurant I've been to while on the road. It was so fascinating to learn about the veggies, pork, and Wagyu beef that were part of my meal. To top it off, our fantastic waitress let me sample a few beers from a popular local brewery, Sun King. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo, but the Mangalista Cracklins' were great. Treat yourself to an order of those!

Early in the road trip I decided I needed to try a strawberry shake in every state. When I can't find a local place, Chick-fil-A is my go to. You can see the real strawberries and it doesn't taste syrupy. Mmm!

That's it for May's Foodie Friday! Check back next week to see a few of the yummy things I had in June. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Why I Farm Roadtrip in Maine

I recently visited Maine for the first time as part of the Why I Farm Roadtrip! On top of several great farm visits, there was so much scenery to take in. Here's a glimpse of my time in The Pine Tree State.

Photo credit: Jenni Tilton-Flood, The Deere Milkmaid

To keep up with the Maine farmers I met and to read their Why I Farm stories, head over to the Why I Farm Roadtrip blog. Thanks for reading!