The legend of local

As a farmer and rancher, I find the local movement to be a very interesting one. Perhaps it’s my location, or perhaps it’s the fact that I’m raising four kids…or maybe it’s just that my life, at this moment, doesn’t let me focus on being particular about where my food comes from – just that it’s there, and on time. (Or maybe that’s a demand my boys make.)

Does that mean I don’t care about quality? Or sustainability? Or affordability? Or any of those other -ity magical words that are thrown around today? Not in the least. It just means that I’m confident in the food that our country produces, and the food that is on the shelves in my grocery stores. It means that if I don’t have time to run to four different farmer’s markets to try to pick up whatever it is I feel like putting on my table, then I know I can get it somewhere else.

laughter, children

These four. They make my life. And they don’t really care where their food comes from – as long as it’s on the table.

Doesn’t make my meal better or worse – it just makes it different.

Maybe it’s time we stop criticizing those that shop out of convenience and ease. Maybe it’s time we quit worrying about what’s on our neighbor’s table and start being grateful for what we put on our own.

I’m a mom. I’m a farmer. I have tight schedules and limited time. Sometimes the best I can do is one trip to the grocery store, which means I grab whatever is available. Sometimes the tomatoes I’m growing die, which means I won’t be canning salsa. Sometimes my freezer runs out of the beef that we’ve raised, which means I stop at the meat counter and buy what’s on sale. And sometimes I find what I’m looking for at a farmer’s market, and I’m grateful to support someone raising food…just like me.

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I’m not going to win any “green thumb” awards this year.

I’ll buy my food from sources I know when I can…and I’ll go to the grocery store and buy food for my family without a second thought as well.

Sometimes we need to remember that food is food. It’s a privilege that many of us take for granted. And buying food from one place or another does not make you better than anyone else – it just makes you less hungry.

And that’s something that too many of us take for granted.

 

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For the Love of Bacon

* Correction made – it was brought to my attention that although permitted for 9,000 this pig farm will actually be home to up to 5,400 sows. They will farrow (have piglets) throughout the year. 

There are certain things that happen in my state, a state that I love dearly, that just makes me shake my head in awe and wonder. And recent events definitely qualify for shaking my head.

A family farm from Minnesota is moving forward with plans on starting a pig farm in North Dakota. They’ve located a site that follows all the state rules, guidelines, setbacks, etc. They’ve worked hard on dotting i’s and crossing t’s, and are in the final stages of getting set up. Oh, and did I mention that they run their farm like a business…like all of us that farm do, or at least should.

Except now we have people standing up in opposition, insisting that somehow this farm will destroy the dreams that they’ve had for peaceful living in a rural area. It’s truly a case of “not in my backyard.” Apparently many people forget that agriculture is still the backbone of our state. So let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we?

This pig farm will house up to 5,400 sows – with the average potential to almost double the number of pigs that our state raises to feed people. Remember that? Pigs are raised for food. Like bacon.

Local food is all the rage now. Many of the opponents to the pig farm are big proponents for local food. Right now the state of North Dakota has about 150,000 pigs that are used for food each year. The average pig brings 150 pounds of meat to the table…literally. According to statistics, the average person eats about 46 pounds of pork per year. This means that a pig generally provides a year’s worth of food for three people.

There are 739,000 people in the state of North Dakota. That means we would roughly need 34 million pounds of pork. We only produce 22 million pounds right now. So who doesn’t get bacon? Or pork chops? Or pork roast?

Oh, that’s right – local food is only important when it can be raised by “mom and pop” farms. “Family farms” quit being family farms once you consider it a business. And let me remind you, that this farm is a family farm. That term does not change regardless of size. And size does not determine the “friendliness” of a farm to its neighbors. They are good neighbors. Big does not mean bad.

Opponents claim that this is a direct result of changes made to our state’s anti-corporate farming law that relaxed restrictions in hog and dairy operations. But guess what? Rolling Family Farms ends with LLP, not LLC. That’s right, it’s a partnership, not a corporation. The changes to our law make no difference whatsoever.

But why should it matter? What happened to the ability to go into business when you’re following every rule and regulation already in place? What happened to the freedom of being able to develop a successful business model and moving forward? Apparently you can do so – but not with food.

Fair time, county fair, 4-H

A boy and his pigs. But not sustainable large-scale.

My farm raises pigs. This year we’re increasing our farm size to eight. I have four boys in 4-H and they will show pigs at the fair. But I can tell you that our business model for the pig-side of things is not sustainable.

I love bacon. I love agriculture. I love this state I call home. But we need to wake up and read the writing on the wall. We cannot continue to think that the old-fashioned way of doing things will sustain us long-term. We use new technologies in medicine, how can we not embrace the same changes for our dinner plate?

I support agriculture. I support food. I support choices. I don’t understand those that stand in the way.

Trust me, I have more to say…stay tuned.

 

Chickens on a plane

I just can’t get away from it. Really. Even in a plane.

I was fortunate enough today to have some things go wrong, and then right…and I ended up sitting in the front if a plane to Atlanta. Yes, the fortunate seats up in first class.
It’s a long story, but it involves a 1 a.m. bedtime, a 2 a.m. alarm and a 3 p.m. flight. No, I didn’t make any mistakes. Just trust me on this.

The irony in it is that I’m on my way to BlogHer Food, a conference for bloggers interested in food. And if farmers aren’t interested in food, then we’re in the wrong business!

But I digress.

I’m on a plane. In first class. They serve a meal. I choose a southwestern chicken salad. In my neck of the woods, the very word “salad” means lettuce. I was expecting spicy chicken on a bed of lettuce. I got avocados, beans and corn. Hmmm…not quite what I was thinking. I have tried to convince myself that I like avocados. I mean, they’re good for you, and everyone else seems to enjoy them. But it hasn’t worked.

So I enjoyed what I could. And saved the amazing-looking cookie for last. And I was eating one of the best cookies known to man-kind…(I was starving at this point), I noticed the ingredient list.

I just shook my head. Listed, towards the bottom of the list, were the words “cage free eggs.” Really? Is that necessary?

Let me just say that I completely respect those that raise chickens. I remember our flock when I was growing up. I would never…and I mean NEVER do that again. Methods have improved. Technology has improved. My heart is warming up to it. I still don’t want my own chickens…but I’m warming.

But whether or not my packaged cookie at 30,000 feet contains one cage-free egg? Not a concern of mine.
I personally know a few people that raise chickens…and eggs. I’d rather leave it to the experts.

When it comes to food, there are choices all around us. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

And I have to say that cookie was amazing, and the egg had little to do with it.

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I am attending BlogHer Food thanks to a sponsorship from Monsanto. But don’t worry, all thoughts, crazy travel incidents, snark and any other catastrophes are all mine. Unfortunately.

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.

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.

Glorifying God doesn’t require a diet

I’m going to ask for forgiveness from the get-go. I have a feeling this post may cause an eyebrow or two to rise, if not some full-out protests. But I have a confession to make…I have a problem with diets. Especially those that claim to have a higher calling.

Stick with me a minute. I have a pretty sound reason. But it takes a second to explain.

Let me start with this: my son is limited in his diet. Genetically he cannot handle much protein. In fact, when we first started his “diet,” he was limited to 9 grams of protein per day. To put that into perspective, a glass of milk is about 8 grams of protein. There is protein in almost everything we eat…bread, noodles, potatoes, some veggies, dairy, and meat. The only “freebies” are sweets and fruits.

Let's eat intentionally, instead of judging food choices that are different. Some do not have the freedom of choice...such as those that must eat what is given.

Let’s eat intentionally, instead of judging food choices that are different. Some do not have the freedom of choice…such as those that must eat what is given.

So where is my problem? I’ve had a few acquaintances come out flashing their new diets as a badge of honor. They are deciding to give up certain foods and habits, as a hardship in honor of God. Which I’m completely OK with…but I question the message it sends.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for eating healthy and being aware of what we’re putting in our mouths and our bodies, but I question what we’re telling those that have no choice.

For example, I recently read an article where a young woman claimed to give up meat as a way to be closer to God. She stated that the hardship was worth it, because she knew what Jesus had given up for her soul.

So what does this mean for my son? Since he has no choice in his diet, does that mean that he’s destined for a life of being unable to show his gratitude? If he finds himself really wishing he could enjoy “forbidden” foods, does that make him less worthy than the others?

"Diet" means something different to him than to most people.

“Diet” means something different to him than to most people.

And then there’s the ridiculousness of it all. What happened to common sense? And someone profits from this? Really? Is that a sign of righteousness? Someone being able to sell a book?

Sorry…I did get a little snarky there. But I just question a lot of the “diets” going around.

Here’s my take on it all: Imagine, if you will, someone deciding no o use he leer “T” in heir communicaion. No maer wha, hey don’ use he leer “T.” I’s no ha hey can’ use he leer, nohing is sopping hem from doing so, hey jus feel called o no use i. Now, ruh be old, i doesn’ change much abou heir life, i jus makes communicaion wih ohers a lile more difficul.

Now, for someone who may actually have a speech impediment that prohibits them from using the letter “T,” they may actually be offended, hearing someone not use the letter, just because they feel God is calling them not to…when that person has been dreaming of being able to speak with the letter “T” for their whole life.

Does that make sense?

This is how I imagine my son feeling, if he knew that someone was mimicking his diet without a medical reason to…and I am pretty sure I would feel the same way.

I have no problem with eating healthy, exercising more and becoming more intentional in our eating as a society, but I do not believe that we’ve been given dominion over all of the gifts of this land, only to judge and chastise those that enjoy the fruits of our labors.

For those that have dietary needs that severely restrict their choices, it isn’t a decision that they take lightly…and I know that many would wish nothing more than to be able to enjoy a day of not thinking about what they are craving and to enjoy those foods that are otherwise forbidden.

And what about those that can’t afford to make such decisions? Are they less worthy?

Instead of giving up desired foods as some sort of “gift,” why don’t we just eat more intentionally…and treat each item produced as food as the gift it was meant to be.

Genesis 9:3 – “Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”

30 Days of Thoughts

I’m going to do some thinking…sounds scary, eh?

It’s November, and I have lots to be thankful for, I have lots to share and I have lots to talk about…and I’m going to try to do it all – 30 days straight.

Some posts will be short, some will be longer, some may be a photo, some may be video. What I can guarantee is that it will be all me. Well, not ALL me, but you know what I mean.

Day One:

Today’s thought:

Image via Vital Awareness page via Ag Proud page. :)

Image via Vital Awareness page via Ag Proud page. 🙂

This image has brought a ton of thoughts to my head. But before you go off, telling me that there are serious allergies, and serious health issues, and some people really, truly cannot eat certain foods, please, rest assured that I realize that. Completely.

My thoughts on this image are not so much to do with the different needs that we have, it’s how we handle them.

We are quick to judge and determine that the food choices we make are superior to the choices that others make. And when I say “we,” I mean society in general.

Instead of focusing so much on what we choose, perhaps we should just focus on why we choose. If you make your decisions based on fads and peer pressure, and feel a sense of guilt of never doing “enough,” that’s not how your plate should make you feel. Food is not the enemy. If you make your decisions based on research and what you determine to be best for your family, then know that you are doing the best that you can.

My decisions are not the same as the family next door. And that’s OK.

For example, I spent the last six days (off and on) in the hospital with George. Trying to work with the dietary staff on what he could/could not have was a logistical nightmare. We finally got to the point where is dietary restrictions were just listed as, “Let Mom handle it.” No one knows better than a parent, especially a parent of a child with diet restrictions.

George, summer 2012 - all sass and attitude! Make the food choices you need to, no guilt required.

George, summer 2012 – all sass and attitude! Make the food choices you need to, no guilt required.

At the end of the day, we all have a common goal: providing for our family. How you get there is a personal journey, and one that I will not condemn. But I ask for the same respect in return.

And the world would be a better place. Right?

I’m joining a group of amazing people with our “30 Days” themed posts. I’ll include a link to each day on this post, as well as a link to all my blogging friends joining in. Here’s a start:

And here’s links to each of my 30 Days posts: