Tuesday, August 29, 2017

How to Help Texas Hurricane Harvey Victims

Ironically, today I had a post scheduled highlighting some of the awesome people I met in Texas on the Why I Farm Roadtrip, and how small of a world the ag community can be. Late last night, I realized a different post would be more appropriate. Funny enough, this post covers some of the same topics, the people of Texas, and our close knit ag community. But, this post is much more sobering, and urgent.

If you've been watching the news, you've likely heard about the devastation Hurricane Harvey left in Texas. Lives lost, homes destroyed, crops flooded. Sitting in Iowa, it's frustrating to see the heart wrenching images, feeling like I can't do much to help.

Local authorities in the impacted areas are urging non-residents to keep out. Power and clean water must be restored before major clean up or rebuilding efforts can begin. But, there are still plenty of options for those of us at home looking to make a difference.

1. New Day Crisis Fund
For those of you who've had your lives changed by FFA, or are passionate about ag education, here's your chance to pay it forward. This fund, affiliated with the Texas FFA Foundation, will be used to help Texas FFA chapters and agricultural education programs rebuild.

2. Miller Family GoFundMe
Hannah Miller is an ag communicator I've looked up to for a long time. She's active in the community and generous in giving advice to the next generation of ag professionals. While her family survived when the hurricane hit her hometown of Rockport, their home, farm, and possessions did not. Friends have organized this fund to help the Miller family rebuild.

3. Feeding Texas
This network of Texas food banks is working together to make the greatest impact in the disaster area. While donations of food are accepted, financial contributions allow the food bank to purchase food that best fits the needs of the people they are serving. (And doesn't take money or manpower to pack, move, distribute from wherever you live.)

4. Eight Days of Hope
I've volunteered with this organization a couple of times and know of this team's great work personally. Right now they're collecting donations of tools and equipment like generators, box fans, extension cords and batteries at hubs across the country. Check out their Facebook page to see if there is a location near you. Or tax deductible, financial contributions can be made at their website. Note, they are not accepting donations of water or clothing at this time.

5. Your Local Animal Shelter
Check with your local animal shelter to see if there is an opportunity to foster pets displaced by Hurricane Harvey. This article is one example.

Finally, and most importantly, hold the people impacted by the storm up in prayer. The victims, the rescue crews, law enforcement, journalists, volunteers, and utility crews have been through so much, and have a long road ahead.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I'm Back!

Hey there, friends! After a (way too long) break, I'm back on the blog. I keep telling myself I'll recap everything once life slows down. But at this rate, that will never happen. So, instead, I'm here to say, "Welcome to the chaos!"

I've been back in Iowa just shy of three months. Instead of settling down after the Why I Farm Roadtrip, of course, I decided it was a good time to mix in a few more changes. I bought a new car, moved from Ames to Des Moines, and chopped off my hair.

In the last 90 days, catching up with friends and family has been wonderful. Continuing my adventure as a freelance communicator has been stretching and humbling.

I've had the opportunity to share about my experiences on the road a couple times so far, thanks to the Sharkfarmer Podcast and the Iowa Women in Ag Conference. Right now, it looks like I'll be speaking to groups around the country about once a month. Speaker wasn't something I thought I'd ever be adding to my resume, but I'm excited to see where this shove out of my comfort zone leads. 

As I get used to having a home again, it's been a blast playing the tour guide instead of tourist. (Although I haven't lost my love of traveling.) To kick off August, a farmer, who's family I featured in Connecticut, was in town. I had a great time introducing her to Culver's and Iowan cuisine at the Iowa Tap Room. Having her around was a great excuse to check out the Beaverdale Farmer's Market in my new neighborhood.

Just last week, a family of California farmers I met through Twitter, was in town for a few days. It was great to introduce them to some of my favorite people at Iowa State University. We had a great time taking in the Iowa State Fair parade and relaxing over our Zombie Burgers. Once the fair began we didn't get much time together, but we were able to meet up one more time at the swine show.

At the moment I'm taking in Day 7 of #IowaStateFairThrills. I'm excited to share some of the stories I've found here through Growing America and others. It's time to get back out there with my camera, but I promise I'll be back soon. Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Motivation: Why I Farm Roadtrip Week 42

It's week 42 of the Why I  Farm Roadtrip! There's still a lot to accomplish between now and the end of May, so I'm going to keep this week's Monday Motivation blog short and sweet. Check out these three Midwest farmers' stories to get your week started with plenty of inspiration.

South Dakota farmer: Chris Breen
"I grew up one of six kids here. We’d help feed cows in the morning and wash out bull racks and drove trucks, helped combine, do the whole thing. You work your way up through everything, it's just like any other business. We've always been pretty self-sufficient and you don't take things for granted. We work a lot here, but we still enjoy the time we're working. I bring the kids a long to have fun here and let them see everything. Kinze, I'll have her out there when we're working cattle, she'll come out and help chase them in or she'll run a broom and learn to pick up things and listen. We get to have a little fun there and they also learn their boundaries." -Chris Breen of Breen Farms in Seneca, South Dakota

Illinois farmer: John Kennay
"Having the grandkids with me, it's a gift to them that they can actually experience and be in the machinery versus just seeing it on TV or alongside the road. My grandkids are used to it, but it's a treasure to me to let them experience it and drive. They don't need to drive straight, I don't care. I've spent a lot of time with grandkids in the cab. One in particular, we spent hundreds of hours together. He would not want to get out. Even at nine months old, he was with me nine hours. You change the diapers, clean the peanut butter off the windows, and then they fall asleep. I love having the kids out there, because that's what I did. I slept in the combine. I slept in the tractor. Now, to have them do it is awesome." -John Kennay, grain farmer of Ashton, Illinois

North Dakota farmer: Laura Rutherford
“I love this picture of my grandparents. Grandpa served in the Army during World War II, and was close to my age when this picture was taken. He came back and started farming with very little, but by the time he and Grandma passed away, they had built up the farm. It's amazing to think about where they started, what they accomplished and how they passed it on to their family. I look at the land, and I just think about the cost and the years of labor; the blood, the sweat, the tears, the time, and the personal investment. I think about what it took and how much it cost to be able to pass it on. My motivation is to be able to do the same thing for my kids that Grandpa did for his family. I want to be able to pass it on to them. I think that's what keeps all farmers going through the good years, the bad years, and the really bad years. The ups and downs of the markets, the politics, and the weather. I want to honor the memory of my grandpa. When my time as a farmer is over, I want to be able to say I followed in his footsteps, that I was a good steward too. That I worked hard, that I knew what it cost, and I that knew what it meant.” -Laura Rutherford, sugarbeet farmer near Grafton, North Dakota

Even though I'm only 23, this week's stories have me thinking about the legacy I'm building, and will some day leave for my future children. It makes me thankful for the generations before me that took the time to include me in their work. That they taught me lessons of responsibility and commitment, and paid the price of sweat and sleepless nights so I can be where I am today. Someday I want to say I built on that for the next generation. Guess I better get to work! Happy Monday! Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Monday Motivation: Why I Farm Roadtrip Week 40

Wow, week 40! I can't believe I'm this far into the Why I Farm Roadtrip. Many days, I feel like I'm still learning how to live on the road and explain my experiences. As I cross the country from Georgia to California this week, these farmers are inspiring me to keep going. I hope their stories touch you as well.

North Dakota farmer: Scott Huso
"One day the phone rang and it was Fred, my distant cousin. I'll never forget, he said, 'Scott, Jane and I are thinking about exiting farming.' I said, 'Excuse me?' I couldn't really understand. He said, 'Jane and I are thinking about exiting farming and you're my first phone call.' I just about dropped the phone. I'm sure at some point in your life you’ve had situations when you're humbled beyond belief. That's what this was. He said, 'We're home right now, so if you want to come over and visit, come over as soon as you can.' I got over there and Jane said, ‘You have been our plan.’ Even thinking about it now, it's just mind blowing because that's the farm I grew up on. This year, I rented that land, the same land I learned how to do things on. I was working there when I was 12, 13, 14 years old." -Scott Huso, grain farmer of Aneta, North Dakota 

North Dakota farmer: Dana Dagman 
"I farm because it provides for our family, and it provides a future. It’s a bigger picture type of deal. You’re growing something that is either nourishing a person, an animal, or going into fuel. It’s one of those things where you can sit back at the end of the day and very much see what you’ve accomplished. I would have never expected to find myself here. I never would have expected to enjoy it the way I do, but I’m really glad we took the risk of coming back and doing it." -Dana Dagman of The Green Acres Report and Dagman Farms in Enderlin, North Dakota

North Dakota farmer: Tom Rohrich
"My heart has always been in farming. I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. When I was seven years old, I plowed with a three bottom and tractor. Now, you’ve got a 36 ft. drill and autosteer. The technology we’ve got today, if it wasn’t for Mark and Allan, I don’t think I could do it. The technology is really good, but it’s Mark and Allan, you know. Mark is in agronomy and kind of takes the role in that. Allan is into John Deere. He’s also real handy. He can about fix anything. I’m really proud of them." -Tom Rohrich on raising corn, sunflowers, soybeans and wheat with his sons Mark and Allan near Ashley, North Dakota

Whether the the big picture is clear, or you're still working to figure it out, I hope these farmers challenge you to keep it in mind. I'm sure this fast paced week on the road will come with it's fair share of frustrations and unexpected events. This morning, I'm challenging my self to take them in stride and remember the larger goal. Even when it's not the plan I've set out for myself, I'm determined to keep a positive attitude about the changes. I hope you'll do the same. Happy Monday! Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Motivation: Why I Farm Roadtrip Week 39

With all the negativity going around in my Facebook newsfeed, I'm extra motivated to share these positive Why I Farm stories. As I approach week 40 of living on the road, these farmers keep me inspired.

Kansas farmer: Greg Peterson
"I farm because I think it’s a noble occupation. It is a lot of fun to work with machinery, crops and animals and to be outdoors. There’s a lot of enjoyable aspects of it, but also there’s a cause behind what you’re doing. You’re providing people with food to eat. You’re taking care of living beings. You’re taking care of the earth. It’s not a dull job. It’s full of surprises, it’s different every single day, and you get to work with your family. I think the family side is probably one of my favorite things. It’s a 5th generation family farm started in the 1800s. You think about all the previous generations, your ancestors, your grandpa, your great-grandpa working on the same land as you, doing the same kind of things as you. That’s really cool and something a lot of people don’t realize. Right now it’s my dad and my brothers and I mainly that work on the farm, but my mom and sister help too, and we’ve got a few other people that contribute. I think for us, the brothers, we grew up playing with farm toys together and wanting to grow up to be like our dad. That was always the dream." -Greg Peterson of the Peterson Farm Bros near Assaria, Kansas

Virginia farmer: Lauren Arbogast

"I grew up in the city. Eleven years ago I jumped hook, line and sinker into agriculture when I married into a third-generation family farm. My overall perspective is that if this is where my journey was leading and this is really what I was called to do, then I’m going to embrace that and do everything I can to be fully present on that journey. I wouldn’t raise my family any other way. Sometimes I’m jealous when I see my kids in the tractor or running down the long lane to the bus in the mornings. I just think, 'How blessed are we that we get to raise our kids in this manner with responsibilities and chores? And teach them to steward the environment, the animals and the land we were blessed with and given charge of.' For me, that’s a lot of why I farm and why I do what I do." -Lauren Arbogast of a diversified crop and livestock farm near Rockingham, Virginia

Minnesota farmer: Wanda Patsche
"God has provided for us. He allows us to farm, and we just love it. We’re thankful that He put us in this position. It's very humbling, but at the same time we're very proud to be farmers. To me, there’s nothing more special than providing food for other families, and that’s what we do out here." -Wanda Patsche, of Minnesota Farm Living, raises row crops and pigs with her husband near Welcome, Minnesota

I hope you're challenged to be thankful for the opportunities you're given this week. Go out and make the most of it! Happy Monday! Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday Motivation: Why I Farm Roadtrip Week 38

I don't know about you, but after a weekend full of trudging through mud and a disappointing Packers game, I was in serious need of some motivation this morning. Fortunately, thanks to more than 30 weeks on the road, I knew the perfect solution. After revisiting these Why I Farm stories, I was ready to take on the week, rain or shine.

Indiana farmer: Scott Sands and family
 "I farm because God put the love for it into my heart. We’re just a small percent of the population so I feel like it’s an honor to farm, really. Not everybody does this, and it’s such a big job, and a lot of responsibility. I feel like I farm because I was given the love to do it." -Scott Sands and his family, of Claypool, Indiana

Indiana farmer: Brian Scott
“I love farming. I had to leave for about six years to know that. It’s hard to find the words, but it’s where I’m supposed to be, I know. I don’t think of it as a job. I hardly ever get stressed out. When I’m not working, I think about it and that’s okay. In my old job, when I was thinking about work when I wasn’t at work, that was stress. It’s a lifestyle as much as a career. It’s the freedom to take your own destiny in your hands and bring your family along with you.” -Brian Scott of The Farmer's Life in Delphi, Indiana

Minnesota farmers: Jonathan and Carolyn Olson
"I’ve been given the wonderful opportunity to farm. I love being out on the land. Sometimes as an organic farmer we do more passes because we’re doing more cultivation. We see the crops more, but I love every pass. It’s a great place to raise the kids and I love the lifestyle. Even though the hours are crazy sometimes, I truly enjoy it. I like being able to work together with my wife on the farm. Why do I farm? I guess it’s the love of it all." -Jonathan Olson and his wife Carolyn, crop and lifestock farmers near Cottonwood, Minnesota

This week was another great reminder to be thankful for the opportunities I've been given and do my work with passion. I hope these stories challenge you as well. Happy Monday! Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday Motivation: Why I Farm Roadtrip Week 37

Today is dreary, icy and cold. I'm still battling whatever bug has been going around this winter and I'm just plain tired. 

When today's Monday Motivation popped up on my blog calendar, I knew it this was something I needed to hit publish on for myself more than anyone else. But, if you happen to need an extra shot of inspiration today, I think you'll find plenty in these three Wisconsin farmers' stories.

Wisconsin farmer: Shellie Zweifel
 "My parents have always farmed. I’ve always farmed. Why do I farm? My passion is here, my heart is here. I went to college, I’ve tried to experience something different. I fed calves for a guy, working for somebody else just for something different. That’s just not for me. Working other places, you’re basically clocking in and clocking out. Yeah, you’ve got to have your heart for that to be a good employee, but at the same time, it's not yours. I’d rather have my own stuff. I can do whatever I want. And the biggest thing is, there’s a lot of guys out there that said I should go into public relations. Why go into buying cattle? Or farming in general? Well, I’m going to prove them wrong." - Shellie Zweifel of Shullsburg, Wisconsin 

Wisconsin farmer: Carrie Mess
"This right here. How do you give up on your girls, the cows? When you say, Why I Farm, for me it’s totally the cows. I just love working with them, being around them, getting to know them. I enjoy getting in the tractor and doing field work too, but I’m a cow person. That’s huge. I always loved horses. I did the rodeo and stuff, but there was always something that wasn’t quite a 100% right match for me. And then I found cows. It was like, ‘Oh! Okay, that’s what I’m supposed to do.’ That’s what gets me going every day and why I started agvocating." -Carrie Mess of Dairy Carrie in Milford, Wisconsin

Wisconsin farmer: Wayne Edgerton
"Farming brings me back. I grew up on a dairy farm not too far from here. I lived in the Twin Cities for over thirty years. We moved back, my wife also grew up here. We have walnuts, hickory nuts, chestnuts, and the hazelnuts. We got into this business, basically because we wanted to do something with the land other than conventional agriculture. I didn’t want to be plowing it, and planting it and disking it every year. I wanted to get into some kind of permanent agriculture. I also like the idea of locally grown food and having something that we can sell to local folks for their restaurants or for their own eating enjoyment. It gives us something to do in our retirement. Planting stuff, watching it grow, being excited every spring about something. It’s that excitement that in the winter time you’re planning, and then it’s go, go, go in the spring and then waiting for the harvest. Is it going to be good? Bad? You’re watching the weather. The whole appreciation of what’s going on in the world. It was the link to the land. That’s what I missed." -Wayne Edgerton of Nuts Edge in Tomah, Wisconsin

This week's post challenges me to do everything with passion and heart. I hope you've been motivated to do the same. Happy Monday! Thanks for reading!