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.

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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!

A game of “I Spy”

Let’s see if you can spy what I am thankful for today:

Come Halloween, I'll be happy that these guys grew!

Come Halloween, I’ll be happy that these guys grew!

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A little treat for late-summer dessert.

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These guys are just hanging around, waiting to be supper!

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Sometimes life needs a little spice.

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A perfect snack, any time!

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Just starting to turn red.

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Coming soon to a pickle jar near me!

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A new addition to our garden…and a scrumptious one as well!

What makes a constitutional amendment?

As I’ve made perfectly clear in the past, I am in favor of Measure 3, the North Dakota Constitutional amendment that would protect farming and ranching and modern practices employed by farmers and ranchers.

I want to address one of the concerns that is being brought up by the only vocal agricultural group in opposition to this measure…the North Dakota Farmer’s Union.

First of all, as a member of Farmer’s Union (I’m a member of Farm Bureau as well), let me tell you that I’m extremely disappointed and concerned regarding the stance they have on this measure. It’s becoming more of a school-ground bullying match than fact-sharing, and it’s not what being in agriculture is all about.

Enough about that, let’s get to the issue. Opponents of the measure keep declaring that the constitutional amendment is too vague. Practices aren’t specified and there are no restrictions for negligence.

Why did I highlight constitutional amendment? Because that’s what this is…a change to our state constitution, that would protect the heritage that makes North Dakota the great state that it is, that provides food, fiber and fuel for the world.

The amendment needs to be broad enough to stand the test of time, allowing society to advance and our state constitution to stay current, even when we can’t imagine what the next century may bring.

Let’s take a look at another constitutional amendment:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

 

Wait a minute…how could that amendment have been passed? It doesn’t state that you can’t use weapons negligently. It doesn’t state that you are limited to muskets and cannons only. So, surely, it must have been voted down and didn’t stand the test of time, right?

How about another one:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

Geez, that one didn’t pass either, did it? I mean, it doesn’t specifically state that I can’t call someone a few choice words in a newspaper ad that runs across the country. Oh, wait…but I can’t, can I? Not without the other person having legal recourse.

No, constitutional amendments are NOT about specifying exactly what it is you can or cannot do, it’s about upholding the wishes of the people of the state, for generations to come. It allows flexibility for growth and changes that are made by society, yet it protects the basic rights that we should be entitled to…and that includes our agricultural heritage.

With these rights come expectations, regulations and limitations, it does not, nor will it ever, trample on the rights and freedoms of others. It allows for the legal protection of our way of life and direction for those that are making the laws that will govern our future societies.

Please, do not tell me that Measure 3 is too vague in its wording, and needs to have specifics put in place.

Although, all I can do is ask, because there’s already an amendment that allows you that right.

Yes on North Dakota Measure 3

Did you know that America’s farmers and ranchers produce 16 percent of the total world food production on just 10 percent of the world’s land?

Agriculture and related industries provide jobs for more than 21 million Americans. That’s 15 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

In 1940, each U.S. farmer annually fed approximately 19 people in the U.S. and abroad. In 1960, each farmer feed about 46 people. In 1980, 115. In 2000, 139. Today, each U.S. farmer feeds approximately 154 people here and abroad. And they are doing it with fewer inputs, and on fewer acres.

Farming and agriculture is the backbone of our country, but more importantly, it’s the number one industry in North Dakota. Long after the oil boom has come and gone, farming will still be growing our economy and providing for our state and our country.

 

Waiting his turn…his dad is in the tractor, his grandpa is in the combine. Is his future in jeopardy?

 

Measure 3 is a constitutional amendment that will ensure that out-of-state interests and activist groups will not be able to pass ballot initiatives that would jeopardize our heritage of agriculture. This measure would protect the way of life that has made North Dakota a great state and a great place to raise a family.

But there are misconceptions about what this measure is about, and we’d like to clear those up. This measure is NOT about farming systems, it doesn’t pit organic versus conventional or large versus small. This measure would ensure that if you wanted to use GPS and auto steer in your tractor, that would be allowed. You would be allowed to raise livestock of your choosing without worrying that some out-of-state feel-good group is going to tell you that your buildings or fences are abusive to the animal. You would also be allowed to make your own individual seed and chemincal choices on your farm, including heirlooms, biotechnology, organic or conventional. A law could not be passed determining what is right for all farms in North Dakota, those decisions would be left to each farm to make.

The measure is NOT about removing local control. It would not limit local zoning ordinances, nor would it remove the power from local and state governments for regulations.

Measure 3 IS about allowing farmer’s markets and other niche consumer activities to continue to grow and prosper, it’s about giving people choices and protecting our past, present and future. The constitutional amendment is intentionally broad enough to stand the test of time, yet focused enough to protect what North Dakota holds dear.

For those that would question whether regulations would still be allowed, we give you an example of another constitutional right. We have the right to bear arms, but with that right also comes limitations, responsibilities and regulations. The same is true for agriculture.

We just want the right to farm, without risk of having someone else from out of state taking that right away.

A 10-year-old’s Letter About School Lunch

After weeks of discussion and attempting to ask questions, my 10-year-old finally had enough last night. He asked why all of the stuff he liked about lunch seems to be bad for you now. I couldn’t answer his questions any more, so I asked if he wanted to write a letter to one of the people in charge. He agreed.

Big Bro…in a self-portrait last summer.

These are his words, not mine. I admit that I did help him with spelling a few times, and I did help him write down an outline of what he wanted to say before he wrote the letter. I am immensely proud that he wanted to take this step…and I encourage other parents to help their children do the same. We are talking about their lunch and their future – and we need to keep them involved.

I’m including the documents, so you can see what he wrote, but I will also type out his message, so that you can read it plainly.

In the next few weeks, I will also be featuring other students who have questions and concerns. Perhaps we can help get their voices heard, so that we can answer those questions and keep working for positive changes. We have this great opportunity to discuss healthy choices and healthy habits, let’s keep the conversation going!

Lunch letter page 1

Lunch_letter_page2

Dear Mr. Vilsack,

I am writing about the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 and school lunch.

I think that we shouldn’t pay for the extra food that we can get. Why did you think of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010? Why can’t we get pudding or melted cheese on burritos? I thought cheese was healthy?

I am 10 and sometimes I’m hungry when I get home from school. My Mom sometimes sends snack with me on the bus to school. My younger brother eats more than me. He is hungry all the time.

I would like to have a good school lunch. I think meat, cheese and bread are an important part of my meal.

Although I like fruits and vegetables, I would like to see changes made to the school lunch.

Thank You,

Ian Wagner

 

If a 10-year-old can take the time to write a letter, so can you. Here are the addresses, but don’t be afraid to include your local and state officials as well:

Undersecretary of Food & Nutrition Services
Kevin Concannon
1400 Independence Ave, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250

Secretary of Agriculture
Tom Vilsack
1400 Independence Ave, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250

School Lunch and Obesity: Part 2

Over the weekend I shared my thoughts on the school lunch issue. For those that may not know what I’m referring to, the USDA has put into place guidelines that school must follow in order to qualify for funding through the free and reduced-price meals program. Those guidelines include:

So, where is my problem? My first response was an emotional one. I don’t believe some of the guidelines are fair and they definitely don’t take into consideration the different needs and requirements for different students. We don’t expect our children to all learn the same, so why do we expect them to eat the same?

First of all, let’s look at the meat/meat alternative issue. I have yet to meet anyone that has ever dealt with nutrition/weight loss issues that has not learned the importance of protein in your diet. According to dietary guidelines and a discussion with a dietician, my 105-pound, 5′ 1″ 8-year-old needs about 58 grams of protein per day. To clarify, “From the ages of 4 to 6, he needs 0.5 g per lb., decreasing to 0.45 g per pound between 7 and 14 years of age. Depending on his weight and daily calorie intake during these years, he may need to consume between 7 and 15 percent of his total calories as protein.” Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/519852-what-percentage-of-protein-do-children-need-each-day/#ixzz26vHPnKoF

He will receive roughly 14 grams through the school. (There are approximately 7 grams of protein per ounce of meat, and the school lunch will serve 1.5-2 oz.) That’s a lot to make up in the course of his meals at home.

And that’s not the only catch with protein. Animal protein and plant-based protein are two different things. For the essential amino acids, animal protein is a “complete” protein, meaning that it provides all that you need. Plant-based protein is “incomplete”, needing two to make one complete protein. It’s not a difference in how the body breaks it down, just how it’s used. If you aren’t using animal proteins, you just need more to get your essential amino acids. (Sound complicated? It is. Which is why I can’t even begin to understand why we would try to make this a one-size-fits-all type of diet. Our bodies don’t work that way.)

Let’s look at the calorie requirements. According to Mayo Clinic (and we work closely with a team of dietitians from Mayo through George’s disorder), children Scooter’s age require 1,200 to 2,000 calories per day, depending on growth and activity level. I would guess that would be plenty sufficient for EJ, since he’s 5 and on the smaller side of the scale. But it won’t touch Scooter’s needs. Not even close.

The requirements for increased vegetable choices, lower sodium intake, etc. Yay! I’m all for those types of changes. Let’s offer our children more, expand their palates, show them how great a well-balanced meal can be! Yes, yes and yes! I will be one of the biggest supporters of these types of changes…but the rest, well, the rest leaves me hungry for more information. And leaves my children just plain hungry.

There are a few comments that were left that I would like to respond to here. The first is the remark that I have the option to pack a lunch for my child, if I feel that the school lunch is inadequate in any way. And although that is true, I shouldn’t have to resort to those types of measures daily, just so that my child is fed enough to make it through the day.

But let’s say that I DID pack my son’s lunch each day. How does that make things better for the child that doesn’t have a parent at home to pack a lunch, or the funds to purchase an extra serving. Shouldn’t we be protecting those that cannot protect themselves? Isn’t that the purpose of living in this country that we call home? Should I just sit back and let things take its course because I’m fortunate enough to be able to provide whatever meal my children request at school? Is that the right attitude?

Second of all, a comment was made about children needing to pick up the proper eating habits at a young age, so those habits can continue on into adulthood. And I agree 100%. Expand our children’s minds, give them more options, require that fruits/vegetables and other foods are consumed before offering seconds. I’m all for any/all of those types of changes. Serve my child beets, different types of greens, oranges, etc. Please!

I grew up in a house where food was not always plentiful. There wasn’t an open-cupboard policy and we sometimes relied on other means to put food on the table, whether it be hunting and butchering our own, garden staples, foodstamps or commodities. My mother canned all sorts of things, including sausage and chicken. We would butcher as many as 500 chickens in the fall, partly to fill our pantry and partly to sell to others. (It’s part of the reason that I still, to this day, cannot handle raw chicken. Seriously.)

My children do not know what it’s like to not have the option of more food. And I think that it helps in the long run. They do not stuff themselves because they don’t know when the next good meal will be. They know that when they are hungry they can eat, and so they eat a reasonable amount and they eat sensibly. But I know they are the exception, not the rule.

Are there improvements I can make when it comes to meals and choices for my children? Certainly. And I’m working on them regularly. Yet having my children come home hungry enough that they are willing to grab whatever is nearest and stuff themselves with it? Well, that doesn’t seem like the right lesson to teach. I’m just grateful that I’m here to intervene.

But what about those that aren’t so fortunate?

If you check out my first blog post in this series, the bottom has links from people that have weighed in on this issue. It’s important, not just for our children, but for their futures as well. Any other comments/questions? I will continue to write about/address these issues as we work through these changes as a family. I’d love to hear your take.