Modern day muckraking

Pardon the pun. But really, I couldn’t resist.

For those that may not be aware of a little “episode” that occurred recently, it appears as if a group of employees from Muck boots may or may not have held a fundraiser for HSUS. The details are still up in the air, and it appears as if the story is changing regularly. But to tell you the truth, it’s not the details that I’m worried about.

What happened following the photo being spotted by an agvocate was what I would call a complete social media fall out for Muck. Some claim that the backlash was unfounded and unnecessary. Others are ready to throw out their Mucks for other brands. (I, personally, have already fallen in love with my Bogs, although my hubby owns a half-dozen Mucks.)

My Boggs keep me out of the deepest of doo-doo...Muck may need some of these.

My Bogs keep me out of the deepest of doo-doo…Muck may need some of these.

So why the mudslinging? (Seriously, this stuff just writes itself.)

For those not involved in agriculture, or those in ag that don’t understand, let me explain…HSUS has made this personal. There is no wiggle room when it comes to companies that choose to support this particular organization. (Which, by the way, recently lost favor as a charity.) And these types of social media blasts go a long way in limiting HSUS’s power and bottom line – no matter how you look at it.

Everyone I saw was pretty respectful and asked their audiences to do the same. But all of the sources that I saw requested that people reach out and ask the tough questions. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s what we need to keep doing.

If we don’t stand up, ourselves, against those that are willing to attack us on our home turf, then how can we expect others to do it for us? I can almost guarantee that Wayne Pacelle hasn’t slipped on a pair of chore boots in a long time…if ever.

Muckraking…a term used for anyone that employs investigative tactics to try to right a wrong, especially in the corporate world.

Perhaps if more companies are aware of the problems that are associated with HSUS, more will step away from this money-grabbing, farce of a charity. When donating to help animals, local is the way to go.

Sorry, Muck boots, for the puddle you found yourself in. But I’m guessing it’s a lesson learned – and a valuable one at that.

Because, trust me, HSUS isn’t going to come to your rescue. They don’t even rescue those they raise money for…and that’s a dirty shame.

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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.

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! 😉

There are no rules in farm ball

So tonight I switched up my workout a bit. The elliptical wasn’t going to cut it. It’s been one heck of a Monday, filled with unneeded drama, day-to-day stress and this issue I’m having with a recurring dream.

Have I mentioned taking a few college courses, the fact that rain has delayed harvest and that I missed my 11-year-old’s first ball game tonight?

The whole point? Not much, really. Just letting off steam, and since this is my blog, I certainly can do that. 😉 Who am I kidding, this blog has long since left the realm of a private rant! (Not complaining, not one bit.)

So instead of sitting on a machine in the warmth of my house, I braved the rain, ran out to the shop and played a little farm ball. Now that harvest is stalled because of the weather, and mostly because what farm shop isn’t stacked with machinery and what-not, playing ball in the shop isn’t like regular basketball.

Nope, you have to make up your own rules, call your own shots and award points and rewards accordingly…and you need to know when to call the game.

So, here’s my lesson for the night…let’s see if you can find the deeper meaning:

Sometimes you have to take an outside shot...sometimes from behind the Gehl cutter. Double points if you don't break out the glass in the tractor.

Sometimes you have to take an outside shot…sometimes from behind the Gehl cutter. Double points if you don’t break out the glass in the tractor.

Hitting a three is always a challenge in basketball. Now hit one from behind an air seeder. It's not just the distance you shoot from, but the obstacles in your way and whether or not you make the shot, no matter what you're facing.

Hitting a three is always a challenge in basketball. Now hit one from behind an air seeder. It’s not just the distance you shoot from, but the obstacles in your way and whether or not you make the shot, no matter what you’re facing.

The only triple in this shot was the tractor I was standing behind. Follow-through is a must in the game...basketball or otherwise.

The only triple in this shot was the tractor I was standing behind. Follow-through is a must in the game…basketball or otherwise.

Your obstacles don't have to be something new, and your answers don't have to reinvent the wheel...use what's in front of you. You won't be the first tackling that particular problem, and you most certainly are not the last. Even if your problem is the size of an old Massey Ferguson combine. Get the job done.

Your obstacles don’t have to be something new, and your answers don’t have to reinvent the wheel…use what’s in front of you. You won’t be the first tackling that particular problem, and you most certainly are not the last. Even if your problem is the size of an old Massey Ferguson combine. Get the job done. (Oh, and doesn’t everyone have an old fridge in their hay shed?)

Most importantly, know when to say when...and tonight it was losing the ball under the combine, and not wanting to go after it. Sometimes it's not worth getting dirty over...

Most importantly, know when to say when…and tonight it was losing the ball under the combine, and not wanting to go after it. Sometimes it’s not worth getting dirty over…

 

 

 

 

The definition of disaster

Earlier this week, I posted about the devastation that hit to the west of us. So many farmers and ranchers lost so much in the blink of an eye. People were quick to share photos and stories of heartbreak, but the questions started pouring in.

So I’m going to attempt to answer a few, from this farmer’s point of view. Please remember, these are my thoughts and reasons, but I’m hoping to give just a bit of insight.

1) It’s the Dakotas, why aren’t we ready for a blizzard?

Well, it’s pretty simple. Look at the calendar. It was the first week of October. And although snow is always a possibility, just about any month, the early snow falls are usually fast, wet and disappear. It was predicted to snow, but not even the most cynical of weatherman predicted it would hit that fast, that hard and bring with it the winds that were present.

There were 26 named winter storms across the country last year, according to The Weather Channel. There were many, many storms that hit our area throughout the winter. We don’t usually name them, and they don’t usually impact our lives too much. This was unexpected and beyond our realm of normal.

2) Why weren’t the cattle cared for?

This is plain not true. These cattle were being cared for…in just the way that many ranchers care for their cattle. A few weeks ago, I explained that our cattle spend a majority of their time at pasture. Which is just where most of these cattle were, out to pasture.

Our cattle spend the summer, and part of fall, on grass.

Our cattle spend the summer, and part of fall, on grass.

You see, in my case, our pasture is located about 15 miles from our farm. The land is hilly, rolling and wouldn’t be suited for farming. Yet it makes the perfect pasture. If a storm were to hit suddenly, and packing the punch that this one did, there is no way I could drive to the pasture, have them loaded up and brought home, and do so safely, in anything less than a day.

This is how we get our cattle to and from our pasture. It takes about a day to bring them all home, or take them all to pasture.

This is how we get our cattle to and from our pasture. It takes about a day to bring them all home, or take them all to pasture.

This is what our pasture looks like. Not quite as hilly as the area where the storm hit, but you can get an idea of what it would be like.

This is what our pasture looks like. Not quite as hilly as the area where the storm hit, but you can get an idea of what it would be like.

3) OK, I get it, it was a freak storm, the cattle were on grass…but why did they die?

Good question. And it’s simple science. The storm hit fast, the snow was heavy, many suffocated under the weight of the snow, or ended up disoriented and wandered into a more dangerous area. (Below you’ll find a video I did a few years ago, when I went out to check cows after a blizzard…you can see how they gather.)

Snow accumulates and builds in drifts, much like sand dunes. And when the wind is blowing like it did, it creates very dangerous drifts. If the cattle gathered in an area that was protected from the wind, they may have ended up buried.

You would think that a building would provide protection from snow, but it can actually collect more snow than an open area.

You would think that a building would provide protection from snow, but it can actually collect more snow than an open area.

Here’s the one thought I would like for you to take away from all of this: We deal with these types of storms every year. It had nothing to do with lack of care or not knowing how to handle the weather…it had everything to do with timing. The fact that we handle hundreds of winter storms without a loss every year speaks volumes to the care that we provide our animals.

The ranches and farms that were impacted by this storm need our support and resources to get them back on their feet. We can all help out and do our part.

As I sit at my computer, typing this post and considering the challenges that face those to the west of me…all while in a severe thunderstorm watch, I can’t help but shake my head at the irony of it all.

A blizzard last week? Potential for tornadoes this week? Perhaps this government shutdown is even getting to Mother Nature? (Sarcasm…that’s sarcasm.)

I can tell you that the farm and ranch community will rally around and do what they can to help each other out. But the fact is, we may lose a few farms and ranches…and when our numbers drop, the effect is felt throughout the country.

The storm may have hit a small area, but we will all feel it.

 

 

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.

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.