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.

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.

Flashback to the future

A what?

No, I haven’t fallen and hit my head. I actually have a funny little hypothetical situation to share with all of you. (And greetings to all the new readers! Welcome, pull up a pillow and make yourself at home!)

We all know that when I say “hypothetical” I actually mean something that has happened, but I’m protecting the guilty…right? 😉

Anyway, let’s say something happened kinda like this:

Imagine, if you would, a young lady in high school. She’s full of energy, a head full of ideas and can’t imagine anything stopping her from reaching her goals. She has decided to become a lawyer. Politics are in her future and when asked during a government class, she quickly raises her hand and lets the class know that she has every intention of being the first female President of the United States.

"Hypothetically," the gal on the right (at her junior prom) may have had some lofty goals. The goals are still lofty, it's just the focus is better!

“Hypothetically,” the gal on the right (at her junior prom) may have had some lofty goals. The goals are still lofty, it’s just the focus is better! (And nice gloves, by the way…nice gloves.)

And then life throws a few curveballs: family illnesses, career distractions, four children, a roadtrip through Mayo.

But fast-forward a few decades, and this young lady has found her energy again. But she’s discovered that the real power isn’t found at an address in Washington, D.C. The real power can be found right at your doorstep. Grassroots at its finest.

Rumor has it that someone's photo graces Morrill Hall at NDSU. The honor of being named Sigma Alpha's Agricultural Woman of the Year in 2012 for NDSU. I still am in shock and  absolutely blown away.

Rumor has it that someone’s photo graces Morrill Hall at NDSU. The honor of being named Sigma Alpha’s Agricultural Woman of the Year in 2012 for NDSU. I still am in shock and absolutely blown away.

Idealistic? Perhaps. Realistic? Most definitely.

It’s all about making a difference, and you MUST start locally. Where you go from there is up to you!

Oh, and just to clarify…the young lady in our story isn’t eligible to run for President until the next election…just FYI, Mr. H! 😉

Mother Nature didn’t shut down

According to my calendar, we’re entering another week of government shutdowns…and it doesn’t appear as if there is an end in sight. After this weekend’s early blizzard in the upper Midwest, I have a few things that are on my mind.

Apparently Mother Nature didn’t get the memo that there was a government shutdown. In fact, Mother Nature decided to show many just who is in charge…and it was a hard lesson learned. They estimate that as many as 100,000 cattle have died from the results of the massive blizzard that took many by surprise.

Yes, snow in October is expected. But this was more than snow.

And where is the assistance? The websites of information that could be used to help? Oh, sorry, didn’t you hear about the furlough?

But don’t worry, while the government is shutdown, hosting its own two-year-old tantrum, claiming that no one wants to play fair, workers that aren’t guaranteed pay are pitching in to help, organizations are offering services to connect those that have lost cattle and those that have found cattle, setting up sites for information and tips on how to make sure your losses are reported.

At a time when assistance from elected officials could be felt the most, there is no one there to answer the phone.

#DearCongress: Mother Nature is not on furlough. Farmers and ranchers are not on furlough. Emergency workers are not on furlough. It’s time to do what you were elected to do…grow up and represent our country, lead us to a better future, not down a path of destruction.

On the plus side, perhaps this shutdown will lead many to decide that it is time to step out of the shadows and start becoming actively involved in our government. Remember, this is our government…not just the government.

Run for office, whether it be township, county commission, school board, state or local offices. Let your voice be heard. Write letters. Make phone calls. It is well past the time to start charting our course back on track.

We cannot go back and change the actions of the past, but we certainly can make sure that our future is a different story.

A government shutdown will not have an impact on Mother Nature. But it can unite us in a drive to finally do what we should have been doing all along…be involved.

Shutdown solutions…from the farm

So, here we are…at the beginning of the much-anticipated government shutdown. Aside from the angst and anger aimed at the powers that be, I have found a few solutions to some of the problems we may be having. Let’s look at them, shall we?

First of all, the fact that we are at this point is sad and telling of the state our country is truly in…there is nothing like having to explain to our children that the government is “shut down” because two sides can’t communicate effectively. Perhaps it’s time to implement that t-shirt you see on Facebook so often – you know, the one where two kids are stuck in the same shirt, until they agree to get along? I’d pay good money to see a few delegates in those!

Second of all, why is it that the people who refuse to work together are those least-affected by the shut-down? Shouldn’t their jobs be the first on the chopping block? Perhaps that would be a little more effective in getting some rational discussions taking place.

But it seems to me that if our government is laying-off workers, we should easily be taking care of a few shortages around the country. And although I completely realize that the workers laid-off are highly skilled and needed, I wish that the lay-offs would hit the lawmakers first. If they did, here are a few of my suggestions:

1) Apparently the shut-down is affecting farm laborers – but if we have laid-off park rangers, etc., then shouldn’t the problem solve itself? I know that sometimes on the farm, our greatest requirement for a skill set is the ability to shovel manure…and I do believe that qualification is easily met.

2) There is a daycare shortage around the country. I’m guessing that many workers could find a part-time gig helping out by watching children. Of course, that may require a little juggling of skills. But really, if you deal with the whining on the Hill successfully, children may be even easier to handle.

3) Government websites are shut-down, as well as Twitter feeds. It’s not as if someone is hired full-time, just to hit refresh on a page…or are they? But really, if we have some web-savvy folks looking for something to do, I have a page or two they could work on.

4) Perhaps some of the USDA folks looking for good, cheap meals to stretch their waning dollars could go eat lunch at a near-by school. It’s supposedly cheap, and although it’s not filling, it definitely won’t make you fat. Just don’t expect to get much out of it, perhaps pack a snack…since those available through the school are now regulated as well.

5) Substitute teachers are needed as well. I’m sure that those workers that are looking for some temporary employment could easily find a subject that would fit.

I’m thinking that next week I may propose a farm shutdown. But unfortunately, the first one affected would be me!

Why I don’t care about Chipotle ads…kinda

My world has been abuzz lately regarding the latest ploy by Chipotle to make people afraid of their plates…and frankly, it’s getting old.

Perhaps I should clarify a bit. 1) Yes, I do care that Chipotle is blatantly misleading and borderline immoral in their advertising schemes. 2) Yes, I would love to see their businesses eerily empty and their storage rooms filled with happy, warm, fuzzy, free-range, antibiotic-free chickies slowly rotting away. 3) I know they do not care, nor will they ever care, about what I think.

Now that I have that out of the way, let’s talk business.

It’s Chipotle’s job to gain business. All I ask is that they use truth and perhaps a few morals. Since they appear to be incapable of that, then it is our job as agriculturalists and agvocates to make sure that our friends and family know the truth, and are aware of the businesses lack of morals.

That’s all we can hope for, and if we accomplish that much, then we can call it a good day.

Yet so many more strive to change the world with a mighty swipe of their writing swords…or is it a blogging bludgeon…alright, now I’m digressing.

My point? We aim so high to fix the problem, that we miss out on communicating with those that we can really educate and influence. And although we can be successful occasionally doing just that, I prefer the easy victories.

The neighbors that aren’t on Facebook, the lady in the pew next to me on Sundays that talks about her weekly trips to town, the teacher at school who shares educational articles or the long-distance friend that has questions about something she’s read.

No, our efforts do not always have to be grand. But our responses must be true and heart-felt. And if you work on your inner circles, you’ll find your circles naturally growing…and before you know it, people will ask you to respond to a national ad campaign that has little to do with food and a lot to do with expensive marketing.

Congratulations, Chipotle, you’ve put together an amazing package. It’s wrapped up in lies, deceit and fear, and you’ve made one mistake. You’ve given myself, and a whole army of people like me, ammunition and a platform.

So while Chipotle is off spending millions on an ad campaign that insists people be afraid of their plates, I’ll keep working to show people just where their plates are filled. And since I will not change their policies, I will continue to use it as the opportunity that has been presented.

Funny enough, when I shoot a video on my farm, I don’t have to resort to animation and scary music to explain how we grow our crops or raise our animals….maybe Chipotle should spend more time talking about how they make their food, instead of how I raise it. But if they would like to bring out a crew, I can show them our cattle in the pastures. Or the alfalfa and corn that we’ve been growing and caring for all summer, just so that the cattle have food this winter.

Truth in advertising? I don’t think so.

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!