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.

image1 (4)

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.

 

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.

 

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:

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.

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!

Is our farm “green”?

Recently I’ve had an influx of new followers on Twitter. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, and my smart phone, I was able to be notified right away.

At first, I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed that one had added me to a list. The list was titled “green bloggers.”

Come again?

My first response was, “Boy, are they going to be disappointed.” But then, with encouragement from some social media friends, I realized it was an amazing opportunity. How could I pass it up?

You see, “green” is another one of those terms that has been hijacked. It is defined so differently by so many, and yet, those that it means the most to (farmers), use it the least.

In fact, I was first offended to be called “green.” To me, it meant that I was more concerned about how my food got to my plate, instead of just being grateful that I could put anything there to begin with.

To me, it meant that I thought more about how creation began, and less about how it would continue to exist.

To me, it meant that I was willing to believe that God could use science to create cures for diseases and ailments, but He couldn’t possibly use science to prevent starvation and hunger for so many of His people.

But none of that is true.

Being green is an awareness, not an action. It can be, but doesn’t have to be. Being green is making decisions knowing that you’re doing what’s best for the next generation, based on what you know and your experiences. Being green is as personal as religion. Yet, being green is NOT a religion.

A lot of times farmers shout from the rooftops, that they are the original environmentalists. And although that is true, it doesn’t do us much good to keep reminding people…instead, let’s show them.

Actions speak louder than words. So let our actions speak for us.

Is our equipment larger than decades ago? Yes, but that means fewer trips down the field, less fuel and greater time savings. Do our fields have company signs on them? Sure, but it’s more for our information than anything else. That way, farmers know which brand, which variety worked best for the conditions that year. Kind of like labeling your garden rows.

ultrasound technology in calving

Technology can be very useful in farming, including ultrasounding for calving!

The biggest question? Is technology worth it? My simple answer is yes. Unequivocally. Technology allows us the opportunity to use state-of-the-art tools and equipment to use less fuel, less chemicals and be more aware of our impact on future generations.

But the best part of it all? The ability to choose. You can choose what does/does not work for your farm, your family, your table, your health. And that’s the most important advancement of all.

I no longer will fear the label of being “green.” Instead, I will embrace it. And perhaps, before long, my grass will be, too.

Proposed school snack guidelines – make your voice heard

As many of you are aware, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has been met with resistance, by not only parents and students, but by elected officials as well.

Recently, Congressional delegates from many states (including North Dakota and South Dakota) have introduced legislation that would eliminate the caps on grains and lean-meat protein sources that are currently limited in the new guidelines.

Although these are great steps in making the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act a better tool to tackle issues with school lunch, I personally feel that focusing on just those two limitations is not enough to make a change in the program. Calorie caps cannot be mandated on a national level. There are too many variables that can be better addressed locally.

These boys come in all shapes and sizes, and there appetites and nutritional requirements do, too!

These boys come in all shapes and sizes, and there appetites and nutritional requirements do, too!

And isn’t that what we strive for? Local control over local issues?

So, if the federal mandates on school lunch are not satisfactory, what do they tackle next? School snacks. That’s right, we now have proposed guidelines that address items that are sold in school, including fundraisers and items sold during the school day (including seconds, or ala carte items).

Here are some of the changes that are proposed:

–  Limiting the amount and use of accompaniments used with food, such as cream cheese, salad dressing and butter. They also propose that accompaniments be pre-portioned and included in the “nutrient profile” when served. For example, if a bagel were served they would possibly include a pre-determined amount of cream cheese, and those calories would be included in the calorie limit, whether or not the student would want to use cream cheese.

– Limiting the calories allowed for snacks. The proposed limits are 200 calories for snack items, 350 calories for entrée items. Remember when the solution to hungry athletes was to allow them to purchase seconds if they needed more food to get through the day? Well, now those seconds will be limited as well.

– School fundraisers would be encouraged to not involve food items. Those items that do not fall into the proposed guidelines would be limited. Although, there is some confusion in this section of the proposal, since the guidelines would not apply to non-school hours.

– All schools could sell plain water, plain low-fat milk, plain or flavored fat-free milk and milk alternatives and 100% fruit or vegetable juice, but elementary school could only sell up to 8-ounce portions, while middle schools and high schools could sell up to 12 ounce portions. Ironically, you could not sell a regular cola, but a diet cola would be OK.

The list continues on, and gets even more complicated. But the beauty of it all, is that this is just a proposal. It is open for public comment until April 9, so let’s be sure that our voices are heard, loud and clear, before the final recommendations are set.

Our kids are depending on us to make the right decisions, and we cannot rely on anyone else to make them for us.

Need more information? There will be a public webinar on Thursday, March 28 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. EST.