Thankful Thursday – Technology

Technology. Some treat it as the downfall of our civilization, some treat it as the answer to everything. Me? I see it for what it is…a gift that can be used in many wonderful ways.

We recently planted a plot of sweet corn. What does that have to do with technology? Well, this isn’t just your run-of-the-mill Grandpa’s sweet corn. This is Bt sweet corn developed by Monsanto.

Our sweet corn seed bag from Monsanto…and I can’t wait to harvest this crop!

Now, I say “developed” because the seed itself is just a simple corn seed, it’s the traits of the corn that makes it special. This corn is more resistant to bugs, which makes it less likely that we’ll need to use pesticides on it. The corn is also hardy to herbicides, meaning that we can use the same chemical that millions of homes use everyday when needed to kill the weeds in the field, limiting the competition to the plant and improving the corn yields. That means more corn with less cost, less trips up and down the field, and less soil disturbance. The fewer times we have to disturb the soil, the better our soil health is, and the less we lose to erosion. A win-win.

This sweet corn is a great new product, but the technology is nothing new. Modifying traits in seeds has been going on for decades. Need examples? How about burpless cucumbers? (Burpless cucumbers are seedless…but without seeds, how are there more?) Oils made from seeds that are healthier? Seedless grapes, navel oranges…the list could go on. Biotechnology is a mainstay of food production throughout the world. With it, we can develop plants that can grow in less favorable conditions, produce better tasting crops and can be developed for certain health-care concerns. And that’s where my hope comes in…

It’s not just the sweet corn that has me thankful today. It’s the possibilities that this corn presents.

Our son, George, has a metabolic disorder that limits his ability to break down proteins. To sum it up in a very short statement, he can’t have meat, dairy, pastas, etc. His diet is limited to 12-13 grams of protein per day. The rest of his essential amino acids comes from here:

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.

Yes, George is still on formula. And he’ll be on this special formula for the rest of his life. I’m thankful for this can, because without it, I’m not sure what we would have done, or what would have happened. But I don’t need to worry about that.

So what does this can of formula and a cob of corn have in common?

Imagine: if we can make a cob of corn that is resistant to bugs and herbicides, maybe we could eventually make a version of meat that has limited protein in it. Maybe we could make a dairy product that George could drink (and I’m not talking coconut beverage or soy substitute). Maybe we could make a pizza, complete with cheese and toppings, that would be easy and tasty for him to enjoy.

No, this cob of corn is not just a simple treat for my family to enjoy in a few months. It’s not just a soil-saving, resource-saving, farm-friendly crop…it’s a sign of what we can do when we take the time to investigate and do some research.

George, enjoying some yummy sweet corn!

I know what research did for us in the past. I see him every morning, waking up with an amazing smile and a great zest for life. It’s where the research leads us in the future that has me excited…and I hope, for George’s sake, that nothing stands in the way.

I am thankful that Monsanto provided us with the sweet corn seed, but please remember that the thoughts, ideas and opinions are my own…as well as those cute photos of my boys. Thank you!

Protecting their future

I never used to be a political person…well, at least not much. I had general ideas about where I thought our country stood, and felt that there were so many better-educated, passionate folks that could speak for me better than I could.

I was wrong.

I’m learning rather quickly that if I don’t speak up for what my family needs, then no one else will. And I will do everything I can to make sure that my children’s future is not jeopardized by an organization that attacks our livelihood, without taking the time to understand it.

Right now, EJ plays in the dirt...but I hope that someday he'll be able to farm with his dad. I'm doing my part to guarantee that. Will you?


What am I talking about? There is a group of individuals that have started a petition drive to collect signatures in support of a constitutional amendment that will safeguard farming and ranching in North Dakota. This amendment will guarantee that groups such as PETA and HSUS will not be able to manipulate the ballot initiative system in North Dakota and pass laws that will jeopardize our economy, our way of life and the future of our state.

The amendment simply states, “The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.

It’s straight, to-the-point and flexible enough to stand the test of time.

When asked about what this amendment would do, perhaps it would be easier to tell you what it isn’t…this isn’t about size of farm, types of farming, or allowing animal abuses to take place. It won’t supersede federal laws, criminal complaints or compromise zoning-type issues. It has nothing to do with farming systems, and everything to do with farming practices.

But North Dakota is an agricultural state. We would never do anything to harm our biggest industry. Right?

Did you know that ballot initiatives are already planned for our state by HSUS? We’re not talking about a far-distant, hard-to-imagine future. We’re talking about here and now.

Do you have questions? Ask and I’ll answer them or check out this link and see if your questions have already been answered. If I can’t answer, I have a whole slug of people who can (and I’m not afraid to use them!). Do you want to know how to find a petition to sign? Email me at and I’ll connect you to someone near you that has a petition. (You need to have been a North Dakota resident for 30 days, at least 18 years old and have a residential address…oh, and a US citizen.)

Instead of playing catch up, it’s time to take a stand and support those that make North Dakota the great state that it is.

Thank you to North Dakota Farm Bureau, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and all other organizations in the state of North Dakota that support this effort. My boys thank you, too.

Industrial-sized love

Yesterday, I overheard…hmmmm…over-read?…What would you call it if you caught a tweet that wasn’t directed TO you, but was about you? Well, anyway, that happened.

Someone claimed that a majority of farmers/ranchers involved in social media are “industrial ag.” (Particularly those that have ever participated in a Tuesday-night Twitter chat called #agchat.) I took offense to that. I’ve participated in several of these “chats,” where questions are asked and answered. No one claims to be an expert, no one claims to have all the answers, it’s just a discussion. The point is to connect the consumer to the producer. Sounds great, right?

Well, apparently someone off in cyber-world doesn’t want this conversation to take place. Perhaps it’s someone who enjoys causing trouble, or someone who profits from discontent. But when you accuse me and my friends of being something we’re not, you better back up your accusations with specific definitions, numbers, acres, parameters, etc.

I asked this particular person what “industrial ag” meant. And of course, received no response. Apparently throwing out terms and accusations is enough. Planting seeds of doubt seems to be the game, while we’re all busy planting real seeds…you know, the kind that feed the people who question our motives.

So, I’ve decided to delve into the definition of industrial ag, and see if I can come up with my own answers. I know quite a few people who have participated in the #agchat conversation on Twitter, and they have operations very similar to mine. So let’s get started:

Industrial – definition –


  1. having the nature of or characterized by industries
  2. of, connected with, or resulting from industries
  3. working in industries
  4. of or concerned with people working in industries
  5. for use by industries: said of products


  1. a stock, bond, etc. of an industrial corporation or enterprise: usually used in pl.
  2. Rare a person working in industry
  3. a form of dance music characterized by pulsating rhythms, fragmented vocal lines, and distorted electronic sounds including urban sound effects

OK, so the definition doesn’t tell me much. I mean, according to the definition, anyone involved in agriculture is industrial…because we’re involved in the industry. But I don’t think that’s the connotation that was shot for when the comment was made. So let’s look at the operation:

They're oldies, but goodies.

Perhaps our state-of-the-art, vintage methods of combining our crops make us industrial?

This is the house I grew up in.

My house

Or maybe it was the silver-spoon I was raised with?

Future Farmer

EJ already knows he has big shoes to fill!

Or maybe it’s our hired men…there are four of them, you know. They don’t get paid much, but their benefits are extraordinary!

It takes all types...of equipment, that is.

Maybe it’s our specialized equipment we use?

Great us of advertising!

I took this ad out of the middle pages of a farm magazine, because EJ wanted to farm it.

Or the land we farm?

Little brother (George), looking up to his big brother, wanting to farm, just like him.

But I’m guessing it’s none of these things. I’m guessing that the reason people are casting doubts on our industry, and those of us doing what we can to protect and promote this way of life that we love, is that we’re cutting into their bottom line. Casting doubt on agriculture and spreading fear and lies about food, fuel and fiber is big business. And if we’re putting some of those questions and fears to rest, then we’re putting some people out of business.

I guess I might get a little cranky about that too.

If YOU have any questions about your food, fuel or fiber, feel free to ask! I’ll do what I can to answer, show you how we do it, explain why, whatever it may be. And if I can’t answer, I have friends across the world, involved in every aspect of agriculture, that are more than willing to do the same.

We have an industrial-sized love for agriculture…and we LOVE to share!

End of an era

Sorry about the down time. I’ve been dealing with some family things and didn’t want my thoughts to taint my blog. Long story, but I’m done with it now.

Anyway, last week Mark and I were fortunate to be able to attend the fall meeting of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher committee. Those that we serve on the committee with are some pretty amazing people. It was a GREAT few days!

When we got back home from St. Louis, we were blessed with a few days of absolutely amazing weather here at home. We reached 70 degrees on Monday…that’s right, I said 70! Woohoo!

To take advantage of the beautiful weather, my husband and father-in-law decided to do some maintenance work around the farm. One of their chores was to take down the TV antenna that stood at the top of the house, like a sentry watching guard.

Boss man and his dad work on removing the TV antenna that has been on the roof of our house for decades.

It was kind of sad to see the antenna come down. Just one more instance of where old is replaced with new, the changing of the times. I’m sure my children will never even remember it was there, let alone what it was for.

So, do you have any things that YOU remember that the future generations will never have an inkling as to what it was all about?

Land of the free?

I love my country. I love everything about it. I would not want to live anywhere else…ever. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance chokes me up. Hearing the National Anthem brings tears to my eyes. Yeah, I’m a sap, but I’m a patriotic sap!

One of the greatest freedoms we take for granted in our country is the freedom of choice. We have choices every day. You choose to go to work, you choose how you get to work, you choose what you eat, you choose where you get your food from…our choices are abundant and overwhelming if you think about it.

And yet there are people out there wanting to take those choices away. There’s a movement trying to dictate where your food comes from…taking the choice away from the one person who should make it…YOU! There are groups and organizations trying to pass legislation and regulations that would determine where your food would come from, or whether or not you should have to raise the majority of your own food. And that should disturb you…actually, that should shake you to the core.

Agriculture is under attack, and in the end, what is being demanded is a lack of choice for the consumer…creating an even larger problem then the one we are currently facing.

My example for today is a call for people to be raising their own food…namely chickens. There has been a great uproar over the egg recall and people are being pushed into thinking that the only safe egg is one they pick out of their backyard. And although I understand the thought process, the follow through is a tad ridiculous.

For me, my eggs will come from someone who knows what they’re doing, and who enjoys doing it. My chicken will come from the same types of places. I have no desire to raise chickens…in fact, the thought sends chills down my spine. (And for those of you that know me personally, I’m sure you’ve heard me say it time and time again!)

But, you know what? That’s MY decision, and since I live in this country, I get to make it…so far.

Until there is not one single person in this country that goes to bed hungry, there is room for all types of agriculture. Small, large, in-between, organic, “natural,” conventional, etc., etc. Whatever buzz word you want to use, we need all the food we can get. And somewhere, there’s someone who went without a meal today who will agree with me completely.

Entering a new era

Guess what??? I’m laying in my bed right now.

Now, before you go going all sicko on me, I’m not trying to be one of those 900-number blogs (do such a thing exist?)…I’m just excited to share the news that I have finally entered the 21st century. I have a laptop!

Now for most people, that wouldn’t mean much, but to me, this is monumental. Not only can I blog from the comfort of my room, while rocking a stubborn 3-year-old to sleep, but I can also stay connected while on the road.

The opportunities are endless, and I plan on taking advantage of them!

So be prepared world…Val Wagner is now unplugged…