The start of a new school diet…I mean year

School kicked off yesterday. I couldn’t wait until I could get home and ask my children how their day went. Did they like their new teachers? Did they have any new classmates? Meet any new friends? As a typical mother, I was starved for details!

And also at the top of my mind? Were my children starved as well?

boys on first day of school

Do the these boys look like they would all eat the same amount of food?

For those new to my blog, not only am I a farm wife, a mother of four boys and a lover of all things agriculture, I’m also passionate about a few causes. One of those just so happens to be the new school lunch guidelines. Perhaps it’s because those mandates not only hit me in the pocketbook, they hit my children in the stomach…and it’s something that I cannot stand to see.

So I sat down with my two oldest children, and asked how the day went, I asked about recess, I asked about teachers, I asked about lunch. And what I heard made my heart sink.

My oldest (in sixth grade) told me a story about his lunch. He explained that he was served three chicken strips, about the size of his pinky. And they were good, but you had to pay for seconds to get three more. A friend of his also wanted seconds, but he said he didn’t have school lunch money. (Which in the sixth-grade world, I would take to mean that either he’s on the free-or-reduced-lunch program, but isn’t allowed seconds because even the free-lunch program students need to pay the full price for seconds OR his parents have requested that he not be allowed to go back for seconds.) So he asked another friend to go back for seconds and share his food, which his friend more than happily obliged.

Here are the two things you can take away from this: 1) There is an amazing group of boys in that class that watch out for each other, and 2) The new school lunch guidelines are causing an even larger hurdle for parents to overcome.

My questions that I would love to have answered:

  • Why are schools required to charge a minimum price for lunch?
  • Why are schools mandated to charge for seconds?
  • What is the purpose of calorie limits, unless it is to put our whole public school system on a diet?
  • What else will be at risk if a school were to turn away from the nutrition program?
  • Why are educational funding dollars connected directly to the nutrition program, for example, Title One?
  • Why? Why? Why?

I’ve asked these questions multiple times, including directly to the USDA during a Twitter chat regarding school lunch. All I received was the typical song and dance, no real answers and no real hope of anything being done.

But I’m not done yet.

Can I pack my children’s lunch? Certainly. In fact, I could cater them a meal to the school and not have a worry in the world about their tummy’s rumbling come the bus ride home. But that’s hardly the point.

The system is broken. The “Band-Aid” to fix it is doing little to address the problem, and creating more in its wake.

The media is touting the new guidelines, claiming that our obesity rates are dropping. But I have news for you. They were dropping prior to all of the new mandates. And they can continue to drop with education, and a large variety of offerings at our schools, not calorie limits and federally mandated diets.

No, I will not sit quietly by and listen to my son tell stories about how a couple of elementary students have found a way to beat the system. I will step in and work to change the system. It’s not the children that are broken…it’s the one-size-fits-all regulations that are in place.

I have no doubt that this will be an uphill battle, and there’s a good chance that I won’t get all of the changes that I am hoping for, but I know I’m not alone. In fact, there’s even a whole Facebook page dedicated to seeing Sensible changes. And I’m hoping that one day, before too long, children won’t have to be ashamed that they are hungry, and they won’t have to rely on close friends to smuggle them food.

Not when there is plenty in front of them.

So how do we work together for change? Contact your local school districts and state officials. We CAN make a difference! Is your school doing something different? Do you have stories of children helping each other to get a full meal? Use the contact me above to share your story, and together we’ll make a difference! (I will keep all information confidential, unless instructed otherwise.)

The price tag of healthy eating

Last night was a very busy night for me…I was trying to get caught up on all things in the home front (have I mentioned that I’m now employed as a paralegal?), getting ready for a meeting today AND trying to catch a Twitter chat on #GMODairy.

My candle was truly burning at both ends, and it kind of felt like I may have lit it in the middle as well.

I was mostly reading in on the Twitter chat, because I was trying to make supper and get a few other things done. But one statement stopped me dead in my tracks. A lady commented that, “More and more Americans are going organic because they have become savvy shoppers. Health has no price tag.”

Wait a minute…

Come again?

I beg to differ.

Health certainly DOES have a price tag. If it didn’t, why would so many people be up in arms over health insurance? Why would “Obamacare” be treated like the apocalypse? Why would premiums be skyrocketing, insurance companies folding and people going bankrupt, all because of medical bills?

Yes, health has a price tag. And the beauty of the country we live in, is that we get to decide what it is…Each. One. Of. Us.

Yes, even with “Obamacare.” You don’t want insurance? Don’t buy it. Pay the fine. A choice you may not like, but a choice all the same. (And no, this isn’t about arguing the faults/promises of that law…just a point to make.)

So here’s my problem with the #GMODairy Twitter chat. It was a session in bullying. Yes, I said bullying. Not school-yard bullying, but adult, if-you-value-your-family-you’ll-spend-the-money type of bullying.

And here’s what it boils down to: if you want to buy organic, go ahead and do it. If you want to buy conventional, go ahead and do it. If you want to buy GMO, go ahead and do it. Just don’t feel guilty about the decisions you make, and don’t make me feel guilty about the decisions I make. Those are the only “rules” I want you to follow.

My grocery budget is pretty large. I have a large family, and my four boys can put away a LOT of food in a week’s time. I grow a large garden, but I admit that it’s mostly for therapy, not just food production. I enjoy giving away the food that I raise, and we eat as much as we can. In the store, my decisions revolve around my youngest son’s diet, what’s on sale, what I feel like making and what the produce in the store looks like…and not necessarily in that order.

When I get home, I rest easily at night, knowing that I’ve done my job to the best of my ability. I know that my children are well fed and that we have gone one more day without being hungry. And I am thankful for that.

The price tag of healthy eating? It’s up to you to decide.

And that’s all that should matter.

Standing out in your field

Some have asked why we would want our sweet corn to be able to be grown with our field corn, and I thought it would be easiest to just show you the answer:

2013-08-07 16.10.54

Our sweet corn is a little shorter, mainly because it likes warmer weather than what we’ve been having.

2013-08-07 16.14.33

But it’s growing well, and we’ve been able to keep it weed-free! Look at those cobs!

2013-08-07 16.14.57

Jackpot!

If you want to catch up on just what our corn is, and why we’re growing it…check out my post from last year!

And just wait ’til you see what we were able to do with it! Check that out here!

UPDATE: Check out this new video released today!

Afraid of answers – the truth behind bio-terrorists

It’s headlines like these that make me shudder and breaks my heart:

“Golden Rice” trial vandalized

I don’t understand it…and I don’t think I ever will.

I’ve been working on a post that delves a little deeper into my thoughts, but let me just say that this is the highest act of cowardice I have seen in quite some time.

Why would someone destroy research that was in the process of going through a safety check? My only conclusion is that they are afraid of the answers…or more importantly, afraid that the answer isn’t what they want to hear.

Here’s what else I’ve concluded about the terrorists cowards…I’m guessing they’ve never experienced hunger…true hunger. Not “I-don’t-feel-like-going-to-the-kitchen” hunger, but the “I-haven’t-ate-in-days-and-don’t-know-where-I-will-get-food” hunger. Once you’ve reached that point, you generally don’t go around destroying food sources. Period.

And for those that will throw around the idea that it’s OK to destroy research, because genetically modified food isn’t the way it was meant to be…well, that’s kind of where the post I’ve been working on is heading. But until I get it worded right, and until I feel a little better about putting my thoughts out there, all I have to say is this: I’m pretty certain that in the Good Book there isn’t a chapter in Genesis about how Adam and Eve gave Abel powdered formula from a can when nothing else would keep him alive, but somehow we’ve moved from the apple in Eden to where we are today. Because of that, I have a little boy that is defying the odds and showing science a thing or two about statistics.

And that, my friends, is neither about strictly God or strictly science, it’s an interwoven tale of how the two can exist…and why I believe completely in both.

No, we cannot blindly follow science and not tread lightly when it comes to advances and technology. But destroying research before the answers can be recorded? Yes, it truly makes my heart break.

Imagine, if you will, the public outrage if someone were to destroy a cancer research lab? Hunger and malnourishment are just as real and just as deadly as cancer…and the answers are there, we just need to be willing to look for them.

And we can’t be afraid of what we will find.

I fully expect that there will be people the vehemently disagree with me and my points of view…that’s your right, and I respect that, but I also expect all comments to be polite, clean and non-derogatory. If you are unable to follow those guidelines, please refrain from commenting. I reserve the right to edit/delete as needed. Thank you!

Embracing the science behind cropping technology

As I mentioned previously, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to St. Louis last week to meet a few people that I admire greatly. Today, I’m going to tell you about Mark Lynas, a former anti-GMO activist, and the information that he shared at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. (Check out the whole presentation here!)

I was lucky enough to be in the audience to hear Mark Lynas give a presentation in St. Louis last week. The opportunity was an amazing one indeed!

I was lucky enough to be in the audience to hear Mark Lynas give a presentation in St. Louis last week. The opportunity was an amazing one indeed!

Mr. Lynas started out with a humble statement that it was hard for him to believe that an apology could make someone skyrocket to fame. Yet, he sincerely was sorry for the destruction and set-backs he may have caused by standing in the way of authentic scientific research by destroying biotech-research sites.

He wasn’t proud of what he had done…but what troubled him the most was the fact that he was so willing to buy into what the other activist groups were selling. It was concerning to realize that he would ignore the science behind biotechnology.

Science. The facts are there, but how long will it take until we believe them?

Science. The facts are there, but how long will it take until we believe them?

Lynas grew up determined to see a more equal world. Poverty is a terrible thing to witness, an even more terrible thing to stare in the face. Trust me, once you’ve lived with hunger…true hunger…you’ll never forget that feeling. Ever. And I do have to agree with him that we have seen great progress in our time in the reduction of poverty across the globe. Yet, I do believe we can all agree that we have a lot more work to do.

As Lynas said during his presentation, “I knew how everyone else should live their lives.”

Isn’t that the truth? Isn’t it so much easier to determine what everyone else should be doing? And how difficult is it to admit that our preconceived notions may be incorrect? That what we’ve determined to be our “truth,” may be anything but?

Lynas now works mainly behind the scenes, to help in the battle for food security. He knows that scientists need to start standing up and speaking for themselves. We cannot continue to dismiss science or destroy tests before the research is completed.

Does that mean that we should jump into biotechnology and genetically modified crops without hesitation or questions? Definitely not. Caution is always prudent, and surely mistakes will be made along the way, but we cannot keep looking back, we need to move forward to provide for our growing population.

Using technology can help ease hunger around the world.

Using technology can help ease hunger around the world.

“Being anti-science is being anti-humanitarianism.”

 

So where does this leave us? Do people have the right to know what’s in their food?

Of course. Questions will always be present, and people who make purchases have the right to determine what they want to buy. But as Lynas remarked, “On the other hand, we can’t stamp a skull and crossbones on every label.” And those at the market shelves should be well-aware that places such as Whole Foods are making a great living by thriving on the fear surrounding GMO foods. In fact, it’s one of the most successful marketing ploys today.

Overall, the few hours that I was able to meet Mark Lynas and take in his presentation will go down as one of the most memorable mornings of my life (right after the birth’s of my four boys!).

How do I sum up my whole experience? Well, I believe that I can quote Lynas directly on this one:

“You don’t stop learning when you leave school.”

Amen.

I know that not all of my readers agree with me on the biotechnology issue, and that’s quite all right by me. But please, if you choose to leave a comment, keep it positive and offer solutions, not just blame the establishment for your lot in life and threaten my farm or family. In the near future, I will tackle the religious side to the biotechnology argument. And it may or may not surprise you! Thanks for reading, and come back soon!

What size of brush are you painting with?

I was watching George paint the other day. It was entertaining, to say the least. He would take his paint brush, and dip it into all the colors, then get mad when the picture didn’t turn out like he had imagined.

And he expected me to fix it.

This little artist gets frustrated when his "masterpieces" don't turn out as he had planned. Sometimes instead of being a beautiful piece of work, it's just a mess.

This little artist gets frustrated when his “masterpieces” don’t turn out as he had planned. Sometimes instead of being a beautiful piece of work, it’s just a mess.

He couldn’t understand that the problem had nothing to do with the paper, or the colors, or me, but with the brush he was using and how he was using it. And it reminded me of a conversation that occurred online just a few days ago.

Someone had asked for anyone that calves this time of year to explain why they were doing it, or what benefit they perceived that they received from calving during winter months. I simply replied that with our operation and our location, calving now was what made sense for us. It’s easier for us to deal with snow and ice, rather than mud and muck.

It's not always fun making sure the cattle stay protected in the winter, but the snow and ice are easier to deal with than...

It’s not always fun making sure the cattle stay protected in the winter, but the snow and ice are easier to deal with than…

...the mud and muck of spring.

…the mud and muck of spring.

The responses that were received from people who also raise cattle was surprising, to say the least. One claimed that “winter calvers” are not profitable. Another claimed that some people were too willing to work too hard to make less money.

At first I was somewhat offended. And then I found a little humor in the situation. But it wasn’t until watching my son getting frustrated with his paintbrush, that I realized the lesson that could be learned from it all.

The humor? Well, if winter calving operations aren’t profitable…then there’s a check or two that I’d like to cancel. Mainly to the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, Boss Man will be relieved to hear that our days of paying taxes are over, now that we’re a non-profit livestock operation. Whew! What a relief that is! (Yes, my dear reader, that is sarcasm. At its finest.)

The lesson? When you’re working to make a better picture, using a broad brush will get you nowhere. Neither will dipping your brush in all the colors, expecting for everything to work out.

The same is true in agriculture…or any industry, actually. What makes our way of life great is the reds, the blues, the greens and yellows. All the different colors, all the different sizes, shapes and methods of operating. Together, agriculture makes a wonderful picture. But if you try to shoehorn us all into what you perceive to be the “only way” to farm or ranch? Well, you end up with a big old ugly mess.

We all have the same end result in mind. A great, abundant, affordable food supply for anyone looking for it. And the beauty is, in the great country we live in, the choices are there for you to make. You can decide the types of food you want, the way you want it raised and the price you want to pay for it…there’s always a decision, even if it’s take it or leave it.

Making sure that our calves are healthy and happy...that's our main objective, same as most anyone raising livestock.

Making sure that our calves are healthy and happy…that’s our main objective, same as most anyone raising livestock.

And we have choices, too. We decide our methods and what works for our operation – whether it’s calving now or in the fall, using no-till or conventional methods, growing organic crops or using biotechnology. It’s one of the main principles our country is built on.

I was upset by the insinuation that our operation was sub-par because of the decisions we made, but after the lesson my son taught me, I’ve taken something valuable away from what could have been a disappointing situation.

And that was my choice, too.

Eating meat – a personal choice

Today a little blurb came across my Facebook feed that struck a nerve and made me respond. It was a notification from a major company that there was an active recall for certain ground beef. What had me replying was the insinuation of some that such recalls could be avoided if we don’t eat meat, or if we only eat locally raised meat, or if we eliminate “factory farmed” meat.

None of these are true.

Let me first explain that not everyone in my family eats meat. In fact, our youngest son is limited to 19 grams of protein per day…total, including proteins received from breads, pasta, cheese, milk, etc. Essentially, he is unable to eat meat, drink milk, etc. (You can read more about it on the OTC tab above.)

George, summer 2010, before we started his low-protein diet. With his skinny little chicken arms, tiny legs and minus any fat. This picture makes me cringe sometimes, but it also makes me thank God for miracles.

George, summer 2010, before we started his low-protein diet. With his skinny little chicken arms, tiny legs and minus any fat. This picture makes me cringe sometimes, but it also makes me thank God for miracles.

When we were struggling to find out what was wrong with him, I was trying to cut out different items from my diet, we tried different formulas, nothing seemed to work. He was labeled with Failure to Thrive, and then we kept looking for answers from there.

I never imagined that it would be something we would deal with long-term, but here we are, three years later, looking at a lifetime of diet changes.

George, summer 2012 - all sass and attitude! Full of life, love and a true blessing through and through!

George, summer 2012 – all sass and attitude! Full of life, love and a true blessing through and through!

So why don’t the rest of us go with a vegan-like diet? Wouldn’t it be easier?

You would think so, and at the start, I thought that would be the way to go…but after a long discussion with our dietician, I quickly realized that wouldn’t be the easy answer I was looking for. Did you know that it takes two plant-based proteins to make up the same benefit as an animal protein?

To me, just to ensure that everyone received the needed nutrients and vitamins that they needed, it’s much easier to make George a special, separate meal, as opposed to making a low-protein meal for the whole family.

So I get creative. George has the same meal that we have (usually), it’s just adapted. For example, instead of a regular hamburger, George will have a low-protein bun filled with pickles and ketchup, just minus the meat and cheese. Instead of a dish of ice cream for a treat, George has a dish of sherbet.

I see all the “extra’s” that George has to have in order to make up for those missing proteins: daily “medical food,” extra iron, vitamins, etc. And that’s definitely not a regimen that I want to put our whole family on.

This is George's formula...it stinks to high heaven and I have to hide it in different foods and stuff, but it's what he needs. And that's all that matters.

This is George’s formula…it stinks to high heaven and I have to hide it in different foods and stuff, but it’s what he needs. And that’s all that matters.

That’s the beauty of living in the country that we live in. We have a freedom of choice, and I just so happen to choose to feed my family meat….or at least those that can.

I support anyone making those choices for their own families, whether it’s to enjoy a healthy meal involving a simple animal protein or not. The only time my ire is raised is when I’m attacked for not making the same choice.

And then I become a mama bear…and bears are omnivores.