A Swarm of Appreciation

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Each day I am thankful for farmers. Not just because I married one, was raised by them, or because I am one, but because they are the 2% of the population growing, cultivating, and producing the foods and products our world needs to survive.

One of the things that most people enjoy about farming is the fresh start and cuteness that comes with each new calf, foal, poult, chick, piglet, or seedling. Everything starts sweet, small, and innocent.

This morning I started off with caring for 10,000 poults. (Poults are baby turkeys.) I checked their food, waters, building temperature, and double checked that all safety precautions were in place; doors secured tightly, thermostat set appropriately, and no water or food messes. They chirped, squeaked, and followed me around the building as if they were all on invisible leashes. (Their flocking is really sweet until you have to walk through them without stepping on one of the little darlings.) 

As I watched my fluffy flock swarm, circle, and trip over themselves to get to me, their food and water, or just because one of their brothers happened to be napping where there the stampede shifted, a wave of appreciation rolled over me. There I was with the opportunity to provide care and attention to these baby birds, who will someday provide sustenance to others. Continue reading “A Swarm of Appreciation”

That Bucket’s Not Going to Carry Itself

That Bucket's Not Going to Carry Itself

The farm has taught me many lessons. One lesson that will forever stick with me is the idea that a bucket can’t carry itself.

Why, you might ask, would a bucket’s inability to carry itself be a lesson of any value to anyone?

Well, it all started in a calf barn.

When I was 4 years old, the farmer my father worked for gave me a feed scoop. It was orange, plastic, and had a Purina logo embossed in the handle. The purpose of the scoop was to fill the stainless steel bowls that were mounted on the front of each calf’s stall. My purpose for having that scoop was so I could be the filler of those bowls.

I was elated. Those calves were the best part of the farm in my 4-year-old mind. I loved how they smelled like sour milk and straw. I giggled non-stop at the way they sucked on my fingers. I cried when they were sick or when it was time to move them out to pasture with the larger calves. I was proud to be their caregiver.

There was just one problem.

The bucket my father filled with feed weighted more than I did. The task of feeding those sweet, spotted calves was a tough one because I often spilled feed going from bucket to stall and back again. Spilled feed is almost worse than spilled milk, but I wasn’t supposed to cry about either.

I soon became discouraged when my father would lose patience over my slow progress and pick up that burdensome bucket to deftly pour just the right amount of feed into the remaining bowls without so much as spilling one kernel of corn.

Why couldn’t I carry that bucket that way?

Nothing frustrated me more than not being big enough to do a job. My father knew this.

One day I noticed the bucket wasn’t quite full. After a scoop or two, I tested my luck. With some effort I was able to pull it closer to my sweet calves and didn’t have to truck those precious scoops of feed quite so far. I was doing it! I was carrying the bucket! Continue reading “That Bucket’s Not Going to Carry Itself”

Whatever Field You’re In – Thoughts from “Farm, Family, and ME!” Summit for Women

As I waited for the opening session of the 2019 Farm, Family, and ME! Summit for Women, I enjoyed being a fly on the wall. I knew no one there. The room filled; the noise level rose, and various conversations began to flow. As with most conferences, the individual participants had their own motivations for being there, but each was there for one reason. They were there to grow in the field of agriculture.

With each introduction, I was pleased to learn my new acquaintance’s name and what branch of farming they represented. Many were there with backgrounds in cattle, hogs, and row cropping. Others represented agri-tourism, sustainable, organic farming, and accounting and farm investment firms. (I was the only turkey farmer.)

The pride each woman showed for her role in the world of agriculture added to my own joy in having grown up and now seeing my own family raised on a farm. The hard work, dirty jobs, and relentless demands of livestock and crops all seemed to be fodder for the flames that grew with each presentation and sharing of information.

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Me enjoying some Missouri-made wine

While this conference was intended to create networking and educational opportunities, it had a feel of an agricultural retreat. The breakout sessions, locally sourced meals,  Missouri-made wines, and positive ideas and options for female farmers were highly therapeutic and invigorating. I definitely left there with a renewed sense of purpose and a brighter view of what I wanted my role in our family farm to be.

Having Marji Guyler-Alaniz, host of FarmHer television, as the opening speaker elevated us to rural rock star status. But before Marji even took the stage, Missouri’s first lady Teresa Parson made a cameo appearance and took the opportunity to meet many of us, asking where we were from and about our farms, and then spoke on the importance of agriculture for our state. She was positive, professional, and approachable. A perfect tone-setter for the summit.

summit-3.jpgThe motivation and story about how FarmHer came to be was one that resonated because of its non-traditional roots and the earnest desire to give the female farmer a voice in our nation’s most necessary industry. With her statistics and experiences, it was impossible to ignore the message being shared by Marji. (I was already a fan of the show, but now my DVR is set to record every episode.) Continue reading “Whatever Field You’re In – Thoughts from “Farm, Family, and ME!” Summit for Women”

Pig Play: Driven by Emotion, Inspired by Tears

Pig PlayPig Play: Driven by Emotion, Inspired by Tears
Guest Post by Wade Orscheln

In the last few days I have been inspired not by a paid motivational speaker, not by my boss, not by a famous person or athlete, not even by an adult, but by the great youth we have in agriculture.  The last few days I have found myself running back and forth from home to Sedalia trying to watch my FFA students exhibit their livestock at the Missouri State Fair. Which reminds me that I must thank my principal for letting me out of those beginning of the year teacher meetings so I could attend these shows.  These kids give me hope in our future.  They showed me a passion and drive I thought that had been lost in our American youth.

Maybe I’m becoming soft with age, but several times during the youth swine show I found myself drying my eyes.  I got to witness a blind young man with the help of a friend who served as his eyes exhibit the 4-H reserve champion barrow.  I watched as his friend embraced him with a big hug.  The smile on his face and the tears in the eyes of the crowd was priceless.  I just wish for a moment he could visually see how great his duroc barrow really was.  I wish he knew how motivational he was.  He didn’t just show the 4-H reserve champion barrow but showed the world that a disability doesn’t have to disable.

I got the opportunity to listen to a judge speak before selecting the youth show overall champion barrow. He spoke about, that what was going on in the swine barn that day wasn’t about the livestock at all, that it was about the kids in the show ring.  After his speech I witnessed a young man get the slap that every livestock exhibitor dreams of.  That slap that the judge gives your animal when choosing the grand champion. Instantly the young man wrapped his arms around the judge and broke into tears. These tears were tears of joy and passion. Continue reading “Pig Play: Driven by Emotion, Inspired by Tears”

4-H – Showing Us the Future

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Ravyn showing in the ring.

It’s county fair season and the 4-H kiddos are showing us the future leaders and providers for our communities. My husband grew up showing hogs and cattle in the 4-H livestock shows and selling them at the auction to raise money for his future farming endeavors. It has clearly worked out, as we now have over 200 head of cattle and raise thousands of turkeys every year.

We are proud  and excited to support the 4-H tradition. Our county fair is held the weekend after 4th of July each year. It is always HOT and it always rains at least once. The 4-H Livestock show and other competitions are held on the first day of the fair. Starting at 7:00 a.m. members put a year’s worth of hard work on display.

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Kila showing her hog.

4-H members show steers, hogs, sheep, and poultry. Some show their workmanship in competitions for sewing, arts and crafts, photography, painting, pottery, woodworking, metal working, gardening, and other trades. Ribbons are awarded based on the successfulness of their projects and showmanship. Blue ribbons continue to be the coveted prize of choice. In the livestock show, presenters hope to be crowned Grand Champion. The Grand Champion is the choicest animal in the competition and usually brings the highest price.

Those that earn blue ribbons in the non-livestock competitions have the opportunity to move on to competition at the State fair. It is quite an honor.

Showing a fair animal starts a year in advance. The animals are selected when they are young so that the presenter has plenty of time to feed, care, and train the animal for showing. These fair animals become a part of the 4-H member’s family (almost), as they are a daily part of the presenter’s life. This is a powerful practice for developing future farmers and a strong understanding of dedication and hard work. After feeding, grooming, and practicing showing, the presenters often send out or deliver invitations to people in the community inviting them to bid on their animal. It is a terrific lesson in marketing and confidence for these young people. As the animals are judged, the livestock judges explain to the exhibitors and audience the qualities of a champion animal. (It’s a livestock learning experience for everyone.) Continue reading “4-H – Showing Us the Future”