The anatomy of a farmer

I was told recently, point blank, that “agriculture is a man’s world.” And I will freely admit that my first reaction was not a very pleasant one. Yes, it made me angry. Very angry.

Are there certain situations that being a man is helpful? Sure. I must admit that there are many men stronger than I am, but then again, I’m also stronger than a lot of guys I know, too. It all boils down to the situation. But I also am quite certain that politics is not one of those situations. Your gender does not…and should not…EVER make an impact on your ability to be elected to serve in office.

Yet, it became painfully obvious last weekend that we have so much work to do on this front.

So let me start by explaining to you what a farmer looks like…from head to toe:

A farmer is required to be a person capable of wearing many hats – from accountant to nurse to scientist to engineer. A farmer’s head is full of so much information, and also full of contacts, for those questions that they can’t answer. A farmer knows how to make the best out of a sticky situation, and knows when to call in reinforcements. Facial hair has never been a requirement…although, I must admit, it would come in handy come winter.

Fashion has little to do with farming...warmth, on the other hand...

Fashion has little to do with farming…warmth, on the other hand…

A farmer has a mouth that can communicate the needs of the farm, to a variety of audiences. From legislators to neighbors to school kids to friends and family – a farmer knows that in order to preserve our work for future generations, we need to start engaging people more. It does not matter if those lips are covered in lip stick, lip gloss, chapstick or whiskers…the message is the same.

A farmer has broad shoulders – more in a figurative sense than anything. A farmer is able to carry the weight of the current growing season, worrying about changes in the weather, all while enjoying the miracle of each season. Whether it be watching a new calf learn to walk, watching a new crop erupt from the ground, watching baby chicks develop their first feathers, or watching a sick animal slowly recover – a farmer takes responsibility for what happens on the farm, good and bad.

A farmer has strong hands. They are able to be involved in almost every aspect of the farm. From gently handling an injured animal, to convincing a rusty bolt to budge, to writing out checks to pay for inputs to folding them in prayer at the end of the day…a farmer’s hands hold more strength than many would guess. Whether or not your nails are polished doesn’t matter.

teamwork, farmwork

Two different sets of hands working for a common goal…does it matter which were replaced with a woman’s hand?

A farmer has a caring heart. A farmer strives to do what is best for the land…and the job…that she loves. This includes protecting the land for the generations to come. A farmer also knows that they are not in this fight alone, and that there are so many involved in the process of being successful.

A farmer has a pair of feet that can walk miles in other’s shoes, and never skip a beat. A farmer can wear a pair of work boots all day, slip on a pair of dress shoes for church, a pair of tennis shoes for playing catch and a pair of flip flops for a day of fishing. The size of the heel doesn’t matter.

These feet work hard...

These feet work hard…

...and so do these.

…and so do these.

Whatever the role of the farm may be, each person has an integral part in the success of the farm. And the only thing that determines the extent of involvement is the willingness to work hard, the flexibility to adapt to unexpected events and the passion to see something through to the end…and gender does not determine any one of those things.

Agriculture a man’s world? I certainly hope not. Our industry would be missing a whole lot of talent if that were true.

What makes a farmer? It has a whole lot more to do with who is on the inside, not the outside.

The hope in technology

Technology. I used to hear that word and think of gadgets and gizmos and the latest and greatest in whatever field you’re looking at…including agriculture.

But not too terribly long after George joined our family, I started looking at technology in a different way.

My 9-pound-13-ounce George, this picture was taken at the hospital when he was born. Little did I know what the future would hold.

My 9-pound-13-ounce George, this picture was taken at the hospital when he was born. Little did I know what the future would hold.

It’s not just about finding easier ways to complete the same jobs. Nor is it about finding ways to play God. Sometimes technology is simply about saving lives and improving the quality of life for those that are here.

And that’s a hard lesson to learn.

But I have.

Trust me, I do realize that there is a difference between a new app or a device that’s used to steer a tractor and a plant that’s bred to improve its genetic makeup – but one of these causes activists to go crazy, and I’ve never seen a protest line outside of GameStop the night before a new game is released. (But then again, I don’t normally hang out there, so let me know if I’m wrong.)

An iPad in the tractor cab, connected to the planter. Yes, technology can bring great improvements to efficiency!

An iPad in the tractor cab, connected to the planter. Yes, technology can bring great improvements to efficiency!

Here’s where I get personal: Had my son been born a mere two decades ago, I am guessing that I would probably be a mother of three. Not four. That’s a sobering thought. Technology and advancements in medicine have allowed him to not only survive, but to thrive and far exceed any of the expectations that we were given. Even by Mayo’s standards, George is amazing.

George, summer 2010, before we had a plan in place. This picture sometimes makes me cringe...wishing I could go back and cheer myself on...pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

George, summer 2010, before we had a plan in place. This picture sometimes makes me cringe…wishing I could go back and cheer myself on…pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

When there are advancements in medicine that saves lives and improves the quality of life for hundreds, or thousands, or millions, we shout from the rooftops and celebrate! As we should.

Yet, those same scientists…those same doctors…those same hands…they can follow the same methods, the same protocols, the same regulations and red tape and years of hard work and trials…but if those advancements are made in our food – well, the reaction is quite different.

Are they not achieving the same goal? Does it not improve the quality of life for others if our food is more nutritionally sound? Does it not save lives if we are able to grow crops where crops always failed before? Does it not make a difference if the diseases in plants that used to destroy thousands of acres can be eliminated?

If we were to find a way to eliminate cancer, would we not celebrate? Yet if we find a way to eliminate a plant disease…we protest?

I’m not saying there isn’t a difference. And I’m not saying that we don’t need to look at technology with a cautious eye and we need to carefully and judiciously move forward. But do not tell me that using technology is not natural.

Let me tell you what is not natural…having to carefully watch what your 4-year-old eats is not natural. Explaining to the parents of his classmates about his condition is not natural. Relying on a powder to provide your basic nutritional needs is not natural.

But burying your child is also not natural.

This is the George that we know and love...he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it's  not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

This is the George that we know and love…he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it’s not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

I realize that my exposure to technology is vastly different from most people. And for that, I am grateful. I have traveled down a road that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But right now we’re on the other side, and it’s pretty sweet.

And I thank technology and science…and God…for that.

The new me

In the last year or so, I’ve tried to make some changes in my life. I’ve been working on a healthier, better-feeling me. I’ve been working on feeling more in control of my life. I’ve been working on finishing projects that I started long ago.

Here’s exhibit A, the photo I used for my article in local papers:

This is me...two years ago. Photo credits to my 4-year-old (at the time).

This is me…two years ago. Photo credits to my 4-year-old (at the time).

Well, just this week I posted a new profile pic, as well as submitted it for publication:

This is also me. A little lighter, a lot busier, and on the way to healthier.

This is also me. A little lighter, a lot busier, and on the way to healthier.

The response was a little daunting, and a lot unnerving. But it made me realize one important fact: how I feel about myself clearly reflects in how I carry myself. (Yeah, I know, not rocket science.)

And so earlier this week I started on another challenge (this all started with a challenge a year ago). I’m working on a healthier me by Mother’s Day. Seems appropriate, since most of what I do is pretty well driven by how my choices will affect those four amazing men in my life.

But here’s a few things I’ve quickly picked up on in the few short days I’ve kicked my exercise into gear again:

  1. I’m not sure who invented jump squats and burpees, but I’m pretty certain that they would have failed psychological evaluation.
  2. Never do an intense leg workout prior to checking cows. And if you do, make sure you have a back up plan to get back to the house. Like a motorized scooter, or someone willing to carry you. I’m not saying I had to resort to crawling, but let’s just say that if I did, it was only because the other option was sleeping in the barn.
  3. Doing above leg workout and then sitting at a desk the next day for several hours is not such a great idea. It’s a good thing I was alone in the office today. I may or may not have used my rolling office chair to get from area to area.
  4. You know it was a good workout when you drop a sugar snap pea on the floor and decide to leave it. And hey, if it sprouts, that’s just more veggies for me later. Right?
  5. Tonight was arms and abs. By Friday I will be comatose and unable to move on my own accord.
  6. Why do these videos have to show a 5’9″ 130-pound fitness expert who tells you how much they’re “feeling the burn?” All while looking cute and put together. Why can’t it be someone who looks like me, who tells you the truth? Like, “I know you think you might die, and I can’t promise that you won’t, but you just burned off two slices of bacon.”
  7. The pain is worth the gain…I know that. In my head, it all makes sense. I just have to convince my body to follow through. And not fall apart. :)
  8. You know it was a good workout when using the bathroom requires a walker, the use of safety bars and a call-button, in case you’re incapable of getting back up. Seriously. I considered getting a catheter. (Just kidding. Just kidding. Kinda.)
  9. The best part of all? I’m not on any diet. Just being sensible, letting my body dictate what I need and paying attention to needs/wants. Let’s see how this goes, shall we?
  10. SOFTBALL! The 2014 season should start in about two months. My goal is to be able to get one over the fence this year. I’ve been close. Let’s see if I can do it!

    I've been playing softball for about 20 years now. Yikes. That's a long time. But no plans to quit...until I can't.

    I’ve been playing softball for about 20 years now. Yikes. That’s a long time. But no plans to quit…until I can’t.

Don’t worry, it really hasn’t been THAT bad. Although, I really am really sore. It’ll get better, I know it. And it’ll be worth it, I know it.

And when it’s all said and done, I’ll post another picture. :)

 

Ag shouldn’t have ceilings

I’m probably about to get myself into some hot water…but it’s not the first time, and certainly not the last. So let me give my two cents:

If you haven’t heard, or if you’re not from the state of North Dakota, there’s a political race happening that seems to have piqued some interest. The Republican nomination for North Dakota Ag Commissioner has someone running against the incumbent. Namely, Judy Estenson has announced that she is running against incumbent Doug Goehring.

As any race, having a choice is a good thing. Having to defend your decisions and answer to someone every once in awhile is a good thing. That’s how real life works, and the same should be especially true in the political world.

So let’s make the race about what it should really be about…choices, visions and beliefs, not gender.

You see, agriculture shouldn’t have a ceiling, especially not a glass one. We make up less than 2 percent of the population. We value our property, our crops, our families and our standards. We need a strong spokesperson for our future…no matter the prefix to their name.

One of the first comments that I heard regarding the race announcement was, “Yes, but what does she know about farming?”

What does a woman know about farming? Ranching? I guess it would depend on the woman. I know that I don’t know nearly as much as I would like, but I’m always asking questions and would love to learn more. In fact, I do believe that I could drive Boss Man completely bonkers with my questions most days.

I may not spend every waking minute in a tractor, but I know my way around one.

I may not spend every waking minute in a tractor, but I know my way around one.

But let me tell you that my gender has little to do with my ability to know how to serve the public, how to delegate, how to serve as a spokesperson for other families, just like my own.

Last week I was in DC, going through some different training and using the opportunity to serve at a Ronald McDonald House. One of the ladies, during an icebreaker session, simply said to me, “Do you introduce yourself as a farmer?”

And the answer is a simple yes.

As I told Boss Man the other night, “If I’m not a farmer, then I’ll enjoy a few more hours of sleep, because I won’t need to worry about going out for calf checks.”

Just because I have blue Bogs and my Carhartts are purple doesn't mean that the crap on my boots smells any sweeter.

Just because I have blue Bogs and my Carhartts are purple doesn’t mean that the crap on my boots smells any sweeter.

Having the passion and the ability to make a difference in agriculture has nothing to do with how you dress, what you wear or what it takes to get ready in the morning. It has everything to do with how you speak, where your heart lies and whether or not you’re willing to stand up for what’s right for agriculture, not just what’s right for you.

The reason I love agriculture? All the fresh air…which means, there’s not a ceiling to be found…not even a glass one.

Why I put myself out there…

It was brought to my attention recently that perhaps I don’t spend nearly enough time explaining to people why it is that I’m involved so passionately about advocating for agriculture. It does seem to take a lot of time away from other things that I should be doing.

Yet, without someone willing to stand up and speak out about those issues that I hold nearest and dearest to my heart, where would we be? Could someone else do it? Sure. In fact, I know that there are people all over the area that could be doing what I’m doing. And I would love to see them become more active.

My question is: Will they? Will you?

And if not, then I need to keep moving forward, until those of us that are willing to show our operations, willing to answer those questions, willing to explain why we do what we do are much higher in numbers and much louder in volume.

It’s a simple case of mathematics. Those actively involved in agriculture are way lower in numbers than those that are not. Which means that laws that are passed, advertising that is created and articles that are written are disconnected from the one place that everyone should be connected to…our food.

It’s not easy to put yourself out there, to “open your barn doors,” so to speak. It’s not easy to let people in and open yourself to questions and observations. Yet it’s necessary. We are no longer in a society that is alright with the answer, “I know what I am doing.” They want to see, they want to understand, they want to know that what they are putting on the table is okay.

Let's celebrate food...and food choices. For the first step is being able to provide.

Let’s celebrate food…and food choices. For the first step is being able to provide.

 

And it is. No matter how you raise your crops, what type of operation you have. The United States has one of the safest and most abundant food supplies in the world. Yet those that are responsible for providing that staple are the ones quietest about what they are doing and how they are doing it.

We can’t sit back and watch as the world is shaped around us. We have to be actively involved. And it’s not for our benefit.

I have four young boys. And I have hopes and dreams that perhaps one day, if I am lucky, and if our world is lucky, one of them will want to be involved in agriculture. It’s up to me to make sure that their future is secure.

And I cannot do that by sitting quietly by while other people are out there trying to explain how I’m not doing my job right.

Farms are ever-changing operations. They are not the farms from yesterday, and we’re not yet a farm of tomorrow. But we’re doing the best that we can and we’re doing it, not for ourselves, but for the future.

I put myself out there for them.

The future of our farm...the future of your food...lies here.

The future of our farm…the future of your food…lies here.

 

But I’m here to answer questions from you.

Guess what time it is?

Let me see if I can give you a few clues:

These will keep me warm, especially at night.

These will keep me warm, especially at night.

These critters are now a little closer to home.

These critters are now a little closer to home.

This place is ready for some company. (And the moon was just a cool bonus.)

This place is ready for some company. (And the moon was just a cool bonus.)

I'm gearing up for a little less sleep and a lot more "fresh air."

I’m gearing up for a little less sleep and a lot more “fresh air.”

Have it figured out yet? Here’s the last piece of evidence you need:

The first calf of the 2014 calving season is enjoying a little bit of time under the heat lamp. The next few months will be busy on the farm!

The first calf of the 2014 calving season is enjoying a little bit of time under the heat lamp. The next few months will be busy on the farm!

 

 

Why I beat my kids…

Put down the phone. Seriously. It’s not what you think, I promise.

Let me explain…

Yesterday, while picking George up from daycare, I noticed someone watching our exit. As I thought about what they had seen, I figured they were picking me out as the worst mommy in the place, but I was actually trying hard not to be. Really hard.

Almost every day that George goes to daycare, we race to the door. And every night that I pick him up, we race to the suburban. And to tell you the truth, about half of the time…I beat him.

Terrible, right?

Except not.

At the tender age of 4, my son is learning that Mom doesn’t always have to protect him from everything. That he’s responsible for his own wins and losses. That he can lose gracefully and still love the person you lose to. Of course, he just thinks he’s having fun.

And the same is true at home. We win some games, we lose some games, fits are not allowed, but good sportsmanship is mandatory. Is it hard to lose? Certainly (especially to your mom), but it’s a lesson that we don’t teach often enough these days.

It’s time that we stop telling our children that there is nothing they can’t do…because, truly, there are things they can’t do…at least, not right away. And if you never have to strive towards a goal and work hard, then what’s the value of winning?

Being an adult is hard…but having to become an adult and never having to stand on your own would be harder yet. So let’s spend a little less time making sure everyone has a trophy, and a little more time making sure that everyone is learning something.

And to the lady who may have thought I was off my rocker yesterday…yes, I was racing a 4-year-old, and yes, I won. But Mom needed a little boost to her self-esteem, too. ;)

My prize? The biggest smile and a great big kiss from the cutest 4-year-old I know. I’d do it again in a second.

Teaching our children includes teaching them how to lose, not just win.

Teaching our children includes teaching them how to lose, not just win. And when the prize includes a smile like this, that can melt your heart, well, you better believe that I give it my all!