Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring Has Sprung

My family has been involved in farming and ranching for more generations then I can count. My dad’s side of the family were corn and soy bean farmers in Iowa while my mama’s family were cattle ranchers and cotton farmers out west. I love this about my family’s history. I love that farming and ranching traditions were passed though generation upon generation. I love that the love for the land, environment, and animals that I find in myself is the same love that my great, great, great, great grandparents had for the land they were farming, the resources they were caring for, the animals they were raising, and the water they were using.
Through each season on my family’s farm and ranch – though each day I work – though each responsibility I preform – though each magnificent sight I see I am reminded of this unique but wonderful tie to previous generations.



Spring is one of my favorite times. I love seeing the world wake up. Whether it be by seeing new born calves test out their legs for the very first time, driving past the farm late at night and seeing my dad hard at work in the tractor, hearing birds sing, seeing trees and flowers bloom, or seeing so much new growth and beauty - I love to see the all God's creations – all that we have here - in nature – out on the ranch and on the farm once again become evident.

I think this is why I love my job so much. I get to spend every day surrounded by these things that remind me so much of the love God has for us – I am encircled by brilliance. A brilliance that not only reminds me of Him but reminds me of all the blessing I have now and all those wonderful people that came before me.


When my dad was about 4 years old he began to learn how to drive a tractor. The first tractor he drove was my great-grandpa Leo’s B Tractor. I still have no idea how he could possibly have reached the peddles (I am all grown up and still barely can reach, haha). It was at this point in little Gary’s life that he needed to assist in farm responsibilities. One of his jobs was to drive the B Tractor with my Uncle Greg, Grandma Karen, and lots of hay on the trailer. He would drive the tractor right through the middle of their few head of cattle. While he drove Greg and Grandma would throw out hay. I can just see it now – little Gary barely reaching the peddles while driving though a herd of cattle. He was trusted and given so much responsibility at such a young age. It is what the farm and ranch life is. We all pitch in – we all have our duties – and we all positively impact the farm and ranch.



Spring about 10 years ago was one of the first times I can remember helping my dad plant the fields. The planter we had, at the time, didn’t drop the seeds into the holes that the planter was making for the seeds to go into. For this reason, my sibling and I had to sit on the planter and drop two seed every 3 seconds into our designated row. Right next to my station was a tire. This tire had a white line on the wheel. I soon realized that one spin of the tire equaled 3 seconds. Can you tell this was one of the longest springs of my life? I begged my dad to purchase a planter that actually did the entire job that it was supposed to do. Looking back now I’m sure he didn’t have this not so great planter to teach me anything or to show me anything but it definitely was a side effect. That spring, I learned dedication, hard work, and the importance of drinking lots and lots of water by being immersed in the operation – by being trusted and given responsibility.


Thankfully, since then my dad has upgraded his farming equipment. I no longer have to sit on the planter and drop two seeds every spin of the tire – every 3 seconds. I do have to say that 10 years ago when that spring planting emerged out of the warm and moist soil – that moment was wonderful! That moment I felt so much joy and satisfaction for a job that we accomplished – for a responsibility my family and I had that proved to be a success. That moment made the long, long, long spring of dropping a seed worth every spin of the tire.



Spring is a great time in my life and in my family’s lives. It is the time where I feel as if the work I am doing each and every day has meaning. It is the time of my year that I feel closest to those of my past that cultivated land with shovels and their hands. Those in my family’s history that dedicated their entire beings to something that was so hard. Generations ago, my family planted fields upon fields with just a shovel. What. Dedication. And. Passion! Today, I am beyond thankful for the farming and ranching tools that we have to enable us to do our jobs more efficiently, and better.

Marveling at hundreds of baby calves and fields and fields of green sprouts is my life at the moment! In fact, I drive home from U of A every weekend – 6-8 long hours (usually in lots of traffic) because I just adore this life – my life on the farm and the ranch so much! A life I would never give – a life I love so dearly – a life I hold very close to my heart! 



Friday, January 27, 2017

Did one single animal really change my entire life?

When I was about seven years old there was a cow that was shot on the ranch. She died leaving a brand new baby to fight for his life on his own. He was cold, he was hungry, he was dehydrated, he didn’t intake the adequate amount of colostrum to boost his immunity and give him needed proteins, and he was decreasing rapidly – he was fighting unsuccessfully. In fact, when my dad found him a few hours into his fight it looked as if we had lost him – as if he was dead. Thankfully, there is an inborn quality that comes with being a rancher. It is a quality that I see in my dad every single day. This quality is love - love for the land, love for the job, love for the environment, and love for animals - no matter the situation, no matter the odds, and no matter the possibility of a negative outcome. This love that he possess - this inborn quality that he has is what I contribute to that bull calf being brought home that day. My dad began to warm him up, give him an IV full of nutrients, proteins, and liquid, and he did began to do everything in his power to save that baby's life. A few hours in the bull calf showed a glimpse of light in his future. He showed that the efforts in his behalf might be enough to save his life.

I arrived home from school and absolute feel in love with him! I would have done anything to help that baby live. My dad and I spent all that day keeping him warm, rubbing him to keep his blood flowing, giving him doses of IV fluid, and doing everything in our power to save his life.

Throughout this day and the entire night as we fought for the calf, later known as Spot, I looked at my dad and I saw so much love and dedication - so much hope. I saw a man that would do anything to save this calf. I think this is why I wanted to save him so badly. I wanted to see our efforts and the all that my dad was doing for him work. I wanted to see him live.

Thankfully, after many days of looking past the unknown the grey area of Spot’s life disappeared. He was going to live all thanks to a man that didn’t look at the odds and didn’t look at Spot as a waste of time or as a burden.

That day Spot became my first cow. The first life that I was responsible for. That day began the start for many early mornings at the barn with a bottle, many visits with Spot to see my mom in the kitchen (her favorite visits I’m sure), many naps in the yard with the best pillow ever (Spot), many fun times in the barn with my siblings, and many, many memories I will never forget.



As spot grew older a bottle or two or three was not enough to satisfy his appetite. I began to feed him hay and then slowly I began to feed him grains and mineral (vitamins and nutrients in order to continue to help cattle stay healthy and grow). As time went on I decide he would be the perfect show steer. I entered him into 4-H because he had such long hair, crazy cool markings, and loved me too much to smash little me in the show ring. After more training (on both my ability and Spot’s) then I can even begin to put into numbers, after more feed than I could ever afford, after dedicating myself to Spot and his outcome, and after learning more about hardworking, dedication, perseverance, and love it was time for the show. I definitely think Spot was the best steer there, but I might be a little bias in that statement. Bottom line, no matter how good he was, no matter how big he had grown, no matter the obstacles we jumped over together Spot was my miracle calf. There is no logical reason or explainable for Spot living even just an hour into his life. There is not even a logical reason to why he grew to become a healthy 1500 pound delicious steer.

Calves that do not receive colostrum within 15 minutes of birth are weak, harder to breed, they have difficulty having calves, they gain weight much slower, and they get sick much easier. Spot surpassed all weight gaining goals, and health goals I ever had for him. He was strong and he was perfect.

I owe so much to him for all he taught me, all he gave me, and the great life I have been able to have because of him. He is the reason behind my immense love towards cattle and agriculture.

Spot was my baby. He won me belt buckles, and ribbons in 4-H. He taught me responsibility and dedication. He showed me that no matter what the odds miracles happen, hard work pays off, and one animal can change your life forever.   

I look back on my life – my childhood – and wish with all my being that I could go back. No, not because I want to change it or make it better. Quite the opposite. I want to go back so I can live it all again. Ever since I can remember I have been surrounded by agriculture – surround by tractors, and cattle, wide open spaces, and tons of adventures. Growing up on a cattle ranch was the best way I could ever imagine to grow up. The beautiful hikes down creeks looking for cattle, thousands and thousands of horseback rides, secretly trying to hatch pigeon eggs and bottle feed baby kittens with my cousin (shhhh, don't tell my mama), running through mud, helping my dad, swimming in stalk tanks and ponds, quad rides, all of it – these are the best stories I have to tell – the best memories I have to remember – the best laughs I have to think about. 




Friday, January 13, 2017

Food. Is. Personal.


I, one hundred percent, am obsessed with food! In fact, my phone's camera roll is composed mostly of cattle, my puppy Stella Daize, and food. Yes, you heard right - FOOD. Beautifully fabulous food. To me food is more than just a meal and more than just a means of survival. Food represents the great times in my life. Food shows love, time, and compassion in the kitchen. Food represents laughing around the dining room table with my family. Food reminds me of the times my brother, Hayden ate 42 pancakes and it seemed he could have gone on forever. Food reminds me of flour fights with my friends and food fights with my siblings. Food represents farmers and ranchers all over America working endlessly and passionately to provide food for families all over the world.  Food reminds me of my ancestors and all they did to allow me to be where I am. Food represents the end of a long day of work full of struggles and accomplishments. Food is the key of a celebration and the heart of any good party.




Food. Is. Personal.

There aren't many things in this world that we can't live without. Fortunately, and sometimes unfortunately, we must have food to survive. This fact makes what we eat and drink - what holds so many memories and representations all the more important.

Food. Is. Personal.

We live in a world where knowing about the production of our food matters. We live in a world where the production of our food is often under attack. We live in a world where we have to protect our food system and those growing our food more than ever before.


I take great comfort in knowing those growing and producing our world's food are families - people with children - humans with values, respect, compassion, fairness, faith, and character - individuals just like you and me trying their best to make their portion of the world a better place.



Farming practices, conservation, and sustainability aren't one size fits all - just how raising children, cleaning our home, or even getting ready in the morning isn't the same for any of us. How each farmer and rancher do their jobs depends greatly on what they are growing, the resources available, where they are located, what predators are present, how mineral rich the soil is, what the weather is like, and much, much more. There are so many variables that can impact the way food is grown and produced. However, it is great to know that farmers and ranchers - no matter where they are located or what challenges they face - are cautiously and effectively farming and ranching in the best possible way to produce the best quality ingredients for all our family's dinners.





When I open my fridge, freezer, and pantry it is personal.

I picture farmers and ranchers - families working long hours, caring for the land, caring for animals, and implementing growing practices that correspond to their wonderful character and values. I see great memories to be had with my family - laughing, dancing, singing, teasing, celebrating, and enjoying life. I see beautiful food and even better I see reminders of what that food stands for.

Food is personal to us all!

I am hear to tell you that food is personal to the grower and producer just as much as it is to me and you and all those eating it. Support American Agriculture because It. Is. Personal.







AG TERM -

"No-till farming is the practice of not plowing soil before and after harvests that keeps leftover stalks and leaves in the field. No-till helps farmers improve soil to retain water, prevent erosion, and benefit soil health." - MonsantoCo

AG FACT -

"Today, more than 22,000 public land ranchers maintain 250 million acres of U.S. public land. These ranchers are widely recognized for their work to protect the environment in which they live and operate, safeguarding open spaces, maintaining water sources and sustaining plant and wildlife populations." - American Sheep Industry Association



Monday, November 7, 2016

Here's to the calloused hands, the dirty boots, the cowboy hats...



My definition of a farmer - educated women and men who analyze data, test soil, monitor crop growth, adhere to regulations, calibrate farm equipment, write government policies, protect the environment, grow food and fiber in the most responsible and effective way, and continuously implement new and better practices in order to protect our natural resources and the environment. This definition of a farmer is drastically different from the definition a few decades ago. The famous "Pitchfork Farming Painting" is no longer an effective or accurate representation of farmers and farming. We have changed drastically and continue to change daily. Fact is, agriculturalists continue to improve, evolve, and advance. Our job title no longer just consists of just growing crops and cultivating land. Our job is so much more than a pitchfork or even a piece of straw in our mouths.



A farmer is a steward of the land, an caregiver, an learner, an educator, an inventor, an advocate, and an environmentalist.


 

Picture an apple - in this case the apple represents the earth. If we cut the apple into fourths three of the pieces represent ocean water - 96.5 percent of the earth's water. The remaining fourth represents land. Half of this land is deserts, swamps, and mountain ranges. Now we take the remaining eighth and cut it into four more pieces. Of these four pieces three of them are too rocky, wet, steep, or cold to grow crops. We are now down to only 1/32 of the apple. Of this 1/32 we are going to remove the skin. This skin represents earth's top soil - the land available for farming. Of the remaining 3.5 percent of water only 1 percent is available for drinking water, mining, recreational activities, human use, and agriculture. This tiny percent of land and water is all we have to grow and produce food - for this generation and for thousands of years to come. These resources are what agriculturalists live to protect. Farmers actively plan and manage the most effective and smart way to farm the land. Whether it be through planning the correct sequence of crops to plant in a specific field or analyzing what certain nutrients the crop will add and take out of the soil farmers are aware of the needs of the land and the resources.




Modern agriculture has spent years improving techniques and technology to protect and enhance soils. In Arizona logging is used to thin forests - controlling the undergrowth and reducing fire risk. Cattlemen and women work closely with the the land to ensure overgrazing does not occur. In turn - cattle, when rotated correctly, control overgrowth, weeds and reseed native grasses. Modern farming practices include minimal tillage, crop rotation, zone fertilization, buffer strips and watering techniques that have been very successful in reducing erosion and negative impacts on the environment. Precision agriculture methods allow crops to be grown with less water, on less land, and using less of our world's natural resources than ever before. These advances continue to build and continue to evolve. All in all, allowing my opinion of agriculture to stand strong - agriculture is fantastic and agriculturalists are great people caring and protecting the land while growing and producing healthy and affordable food!




Whether it be a cotton farm, a cactus farm, a vineyard, a corn farm, a pumpkin farm, a alfalfa farm, or my personal favorite a cattle ranch we all are passionate, caring, and aware. Farmers farm in such a way that the land, the resources, and the water will be available and usable for generation upon generation to come. Agriculturalists are aware and coherent when it comes to the land, environment, and resource issues that we are facing in the world. I trust these people. I trust them to accurately and effectively manage, analyze, and protect.


Here's to the calloused hands, the dirty boots, the cowboy hats, the note books, the families, the individuals involved in agriculture. I thank them all for caring for the land, the animals, the natural resources, the water, and providing food for us all!!

Monday, August 22, 2016

FAITH, FAMILY, and FARMING

I have those days that I would much rather have an 9 – 5 office job. Better yet, I have those days that laying on the beach almost looks too good to pass up. I have those days that are frustrating; the days that nothing seems to be going right. The days that I am not strong enough though the trials and the hardships that come with the lifestyle I decided to be a part of. I admit that without family and faith I would give up on the farming. For this simple reason I sum up agriculture in 3 words: FAMILY, FAITH and FARMING. In my mind, agriculturalists have to have more than just a work ethic or an idealist image of farming and ranching. Agriculturalists must have passion and they must have a great support team in order to be successful. For the days I fall short I thank my family, and my faith for taking the slack necessary and backing me up. These two huge things in my life enable me to do my job even during the times that I want to give up and be a beach bum.

My mama has taught me to lean on my faith and my family though those hard times. She is a very wise and strong women in agriculture. She is passionate, she is resilient, she is driven, and she fights for what she believes in. It doesn’t surprise me to see my mom working cattle, driving a tractor, staying up all night finishing the job, communicating with local, state, and national government representatives, hauling cattle, butchering poultry, spending hours upon hours with new baby chicks and turkeys, checking cattle, harvesting crops, planning our harvest festivals, teaching the community about what we do- I mean she does it all. Her life is filled with passion for safe and affordable food and a passion for the land and the animals that we are here to care for. I’m telling you, if anyone in agriculture could do it all by themselves it would be my mom- she is much stronger than I am. Through it all she still teaches me to unify with other farmers and ranchers. She said the following: “We are not competing against each other. We are working together to feed the world.” Oh how true that is. We all have the same goal- to provide food and fiber for the families of this world. We do this by standing together- unified and strong.




This unity is what I love most about agriculture. I love the people involved in our county’s food system. It makes my heart happy to know that those producing our food are families. Working each day to provide healthy and great products for their families as well as other families. Farming is all about families. It is a lifestyle every member of the family must be a part of. A lifestyle every member of the family can be a part of. The values and character that come with being a part of this industry is irreplaceable. In fact, when I think of genuinely good people I think of farmers and ranchers. I think of the millions of times I have had to call an agriculturalist to come save my day; to be my Super Man and rescue me. The times I drove down the wrong dirt road for 20 miles and got a flat tire. For the late night my truck broke down with a load of cattle in the trailer. For the times five thousand guests were coming to the farm and I wasn’t ready. For the all-nighters that were spent saving a calf’s life. Most recently - for the days and days I spent searching for my grandma’s dog with no luck - that is until a gang of super people came and saved me once again.For the times I didn’t know where else to turn. There was always a farmer or a rancher – a member of my family - there to save me. Kindness just comes with the job title. It is their way of life.  Farmers and ranchers are as good as they come. I am proud and honored to call farmers and ranchers my family. And I am even more thankful to my parents for raising me the way they did and giving me my huge agriculture family.



The next thing my mama taught me is to have faith, something I wouldn’t give up for the world. A factor of my life that keeps everything else going. In agriculture we do all we can to plan ahead, work hard, and prepare but at the end of the day the best thing to do is pray. Pray to the man that created it all for the simple fact that SO MUCH IS OUR OF OUR CONTROL. There is absolutely no other way to grow and produce food than to rely on God - agriculture could not continue without Him. Each and every organism has a purpose and a unique contribution to the function of the world. In agriculture we must depend on all of these parts and pieces to be in just the right place at just the right time. We depend on the rain on certain days and sunshine on others, the soil, the bees, the weather being just what we need it to be, the birds, the native grasses, the seasons, the WATER, the lack of weeds, and ants - we depend on it all. There are so many variables that come with the career of being a farmer and a rancher. Variables that are beyond our control. Because of this we must be willing and able to depend on someone, something greater than ourselves. We must have faith that the land we work will provide the needed nutrients for our cattle and our families. Faith that the rains will come and the range land will grow. Faith that our crops will sprout and our yields will meet our expectations. Faith that weeds, disease, or even bugs won’t destroy our crops. Farmers and ranchers must have faith. Our world is a testimony; it is amazing to see everything turn out just the right way and set a way for our jobs to be successful.



FAITH, FAMILY, and FARMING are my top three – they are what I thrive on. Without just one of the things on this list my life would not be complete. I am beyond thankful for the support the agriculture industry gives me and the life I am able to have through farming and ranching. Agriculture - It is just what I do. It is just what we do.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Arizona Grown, Iowa Sweet Corn

Growing and producing food is the hardest thing I’ve had to do. It is hot. It is dirty. It is hard work. It is long hours. But let me tell you it is worth every single second. The moment a whole field of corn emerges out of the warm soil is the moment it all becomes worth it. Sure, the hard work is far from over but a sense of relief rushes over me when I am able to see those tiny green sprouts in that big field. The most rewarding part of my job are these times. The times that I am able to see the results of my daily efforts. I would say it is because of these times that I love farming. I love to see all the hours and time I spend, turn into a usable and useful product.



It is an exciting sight to see all the stages of production happening on the farm. My life right now is 100% CORN- delicious sweet corn for my family’s table, and yours, field corn for the cattle’s dinner, and beautiful colorful Indian corn- CORN IS EVERYWHERE. We “sleep, eat, and breathe” corn. I mean everything, literally everything, revolves around corn this time of the year. We have sweet corn coming out of our ears, field corn over six feet high, and our corn maze is just a few inches tall. From the moment we planted in March I have been checking the progress of the fields every day. I dreamed of eating the first ready ear straight off the stalk for months. Oh my gosh, totally worth the wait.


My dad knows how to grow corn.  He grew up in Creston, Iowa where all you can see for miles and miles is corn and soy beans. Growing up in Rural America Dad experienced a true small town. The old timers gathering at the coffee shop to gossip about the daily farm news, corn prices, and the weather. Every street corner is filled with tractors and farm equipment for sale. Everyone waves as they pass each other on the old town roads. Creston Panthers football is on every radio station and local TV channel, and everyone gathers at the local church for Sunday night dinner. Small towns and small town people are the best. Everyone is a family.



Dad was born on the last day of October, right in the middle of combining season. My Grandpa Duane was in the middle of combining the corn field when he got the call that Dad was being born. He rushed to the hospital, was there for the birth, and before anyone could blink an eye my Grandpa, Uncle Greg, and Dad were back in the combine. Not even a day old and my Dad was in that tractor. From that day on he was always working on the farm and learning all the farming tricks. He learned that only one good ear of corn comes off each corn stalk. He learned how to tell if the soy beans were dry enough to combine before he could read- take a pod off, stick it between your teeth, and bite - if it crunches it is dry enough to harvest. He even once got lost in the middle of the corn field when he was 4 years old and his dog, Rover had to come save his life. He grew up spending day after day working for my Great-Grandpa Leo on his farm. He lived corn and he lived soy beans- and oh how glad we are that he grew up the way he did. Because of his childhood we are blessed to have Arizona grown, Iowa Sweet Corn- the sweet corn I dream about.