Why the fuss about lunch?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions, some support and a little flak about my position on the changes to the school foods rule. And I thought maybe I should explain where I’m coming from, so that those that are reading my opinions can understand my point of view a little better.

Let me start off by saying that I was not raised to stand my ground. In fact, if anything, it was the opposite. My mother is a “pleaser.” She will do anything/everything to not make waves, go with the flow, whatever phrase you want to use. (My oldest is just like her.) My dad has his opinions, and you would never change his mind…but you’d never hear him talk about it either.

If there were changes made to my school lunch plans when I was in school, I would have had to live with it…and live with whatever was being served. Even if it wasn’t enough. Not because my parents didn’t care, but more because they were from an era where you never questioned authority and never stood up to what was “law.”

Times have changed.

There are many, many things that I like about the new rules. I love the addition of fresh fruits/vegetables. I love the ideas of expanding food choices, introducing them to new foods. Love that.

I understand the thoughts behind the calorie limits, and appreciate the work that went into figuring where to draw the line. I get the reason behind limiting sodium intake. Really. I do.

But my inner “mother bear” comes out when you start messing with my children…even more so when it comes to something I’m very sensitive about, such as their diets. With George’s diagnosis of OTC, we work closely with a dietician at Mayo. Through the last few years, we’ve been made VERY aware of the importance of proper nutrition for growing bodies.

Now, I know that the changes made to the school lunch program must have followed a dietician’s suggestion…perhaps even a team of dieticians. But it still doesn’t hit all the marks that I’m looking for in a good, well-balanced meal. And not necessarily for every child, but for mine…which is who I am fighting for (and I know I’m not alone).

I’m not complaining to my school administration. I’m not complaining to my school board. I know they are doing the best they can with what they have been given. I am writing those that have the power to make a change, and I’m using the tools that are available to me (social media, for one) to encourage others to do the same.

This isn’t a witch hunt, I’m not looking for someone to blame. I don’t care who signed the law, I don’t care which party they are from. I want to know who I can talk to that will work with me to make changes…that’s all I need.

We have passed the eras where laws are made and citizens no longer question them and just follow along blindly, assuming that everything was made in good-faith effort to do the best for those involved. (Did that time ever truly exist?) We are in an age where we are expected to stand up for what’s right and ask to make changes when things aren’t working…and this isn’t working for me and my family.

Scooter may be bigger than most 8-year-olds, but he’s still a little boy who needs his mama to stand up for him…and his future. (Oh, and this is an OLD pic of the two of them. About 2 years or so.)

Scooter and his older/younger brothers. He’s the one in the football gear.

I won’t spread rumors, I will try not to state anything without doing my research. I won’t place blame. I will just work towards a change. But I have to be vocal about what I find, or questions I may have…I have to use the tools that are at my disposal to get my message out to those who need to hear, and to those that can join in the movement.

I won’t stand by and watch an injustice when there’s something I can do…I’d say I wasn’t raised that way, but that’s not completely true. Let’s just say that I’m not raising my children that way.

Want to contact someone who can make a change? Here’s a good place to start:

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

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are

I basically took the month of June off on my blog. It wasn’t intentional, but it ended up being that I simply didn’t have time. We had swimming lessons, baseball practices and games, I play softball, parades, celebrations, a birthday party or two, fair preparations to make and life to live. It was wonderful.

But now it’s the day after the Fourth of July, and life is a little more subdued and relaxed. We can start truly enjoying our summer…and I intend to make every minute count.

I promise to blog more often (more for myself than anything), and I promise to continue to reach out and do what I can to share this great way of life that we are living.

It what I can do, without leaving my farm, and using the skills that I have.

It wasn’t until the 457th person told me (during this break of mine) that they enjoy my writing, they love to share what I share and realize how important farming and rural life is to the backbone of America. What more can I ask for?

And it’s something so simple, that I know you can do it, too. All it takes is a minute of time, an ounce of creativity and courage…a fair amount of courage.

Thank you for sticking with me…and as a reward, here’s a few photos of what we’ve been up to:

We watched storm clouds roll through, but never received much for rain.

We watched 70+ tractors roll past our farm on a Tractor Trek to celebrate a local town’s 125th celebration.

Boss Man joined the tractors!

We played some baseball.

We watched some amazing sunsets.

And we danced like no one was watching.

I may have become a little discouraged last month, questioning if I am doing the right thing, or if I have the right intentions. But those doubts are gone, my spirit is renewed and I have new goals in sight. And I can do it all from the comforts of my home.

Yes, summer, I am finally ready for you.

TT – Honored by Sigma Alpha

Last Saturday, I received one of the greatest honors of my whole “career” in agriculture. The Sigma Alpha Sorority at North Dakota State University honored me as their 2012 Agricultural Woman of the Year. And I hope I can live up to it.

A month or so before, a young woman and friend of ours asked if she could nominate me. I told her that, of course, she could…and I filled out the necessary forms and did what was needed. And then I put it on the back burner.

I didn’t think that my influence in agriculture was that great, nor was it anything out of the ordinary…or at least, it shouldn’t be.

But apparently they thought differently. And I was honored to be asked to join them for their 19th annual Founder’s Day Banquet, and to speak to them about the opportunities they have as a voice in agriculture, and the roles they can play.

That was the best part of all!

No, the plaque is beautiful, and the supper was absolutely delicious, and the time spent with my husband during calving season, well, that’s not easy to come by. But the chance to speak to the energy and backbone of our industry? I couldn’t imagine a more important place to be at that moment.

So, thank you, Sigma Alpha. Thank you for giving me the opportunity, thank you for making my night such a memorable one, and thank you for letting me see a glimmer of where our industry is headed.

Those young women are no longer just the future of agriculture…they are agriculture.

The blessings of social media

I regularly hear people talking about the amount of time that is wasted on social media. When people ask what I do, and I tell them that I blog about our farm and our family, it’s almost as if I just told them I’m a stay-at-home mom…oh, wait…

"George" and I...towards the beginning of this journey. It's amazing the changes that have been made, to both of us.

My point is, that neither my chosen profession nor my hobby gets much respect in the real world. (You can decided which is which.) That doesn’t bother me, and for the most part, I ignore it…but last night it became very clear to me that all of my work and time “wasted” has not been in vain.

For those that have been following along a little while, you know that our youngest son, “George” on the blog, has been diagnosed with OTC. (You can read more about it on the OTC tab above.) It’s been a very crazy ride, but we’re feeling our way through, and have seen some amazing results in the last year.

But that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had problems, or that there were times when I wasn’t really sure who to turn to for answers, venting, etc.

And then I received an email. And not just any email, an email from the Executive Director of the National Urea Cycle Disorder Foundation, which just so happens to be the link I use in my blog posts describing OTC. Yeah, that’s big.

I think back to that meeting in August, almost two years ago, where I finally met JP in person. There was a round-table session where you could just sit and ask different people questions relating to social media. I sat at her table and asked if she thought that my story was worth telling (we had been “connected” through Twitter). I thought that my connections through Twitter and facebook were probably enough, maybe a blog would be too much, and maybe I didn’t have anything to really share.

With her encouragement, I started Wag’n Tales in September of 2010…and the rest, as they say, is history.

And I’m not the only one that Janice has positively influenced through social media. Just check out her latest blog post and see.

Yes, social media can take away time. It can be used for evil and wrong-doing. But when it’s used in a positive way, it can truly be life-changing…

In fact, it can be life saving.

Organic Romance

To buy or not to buy organic? That is the question.

But why does it have to be?

I thought about this question alot, while preparing this post. In fact, most of my posts are written in a very short amount of time, usually 10 minutes or less. Sometimes it’s as if the words were already there, I just needed to type them out. But not today.

As a farmer, I am proud of almost every aspect of agriculture. I truly value the organic movement, because anything we can do to continue to provide food is important. We NEED every farmer, every type, every size, to continue providing food for our world.

Over the weekend, a slideshow by WebMD was brought to my attention. At first, I was kind of excited about it…hoping it was going to put to rest some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding conventional and organic foods. But it didn’t. In fact, it went a step or two further than most articles. And I feel the need to set some “facts” straight.

1) It was stated in the slide show, that fruit and vegetables such as apples and peaches should be bought organic whenever possible, to reduce the exposure risks of pesticides.  The site said, “If you can’t afford to buy organic apples, scrubbing their skins under running water can help reduce pesticide residues, too.”

Well, to tell you the truth people, no matter where you get your apples, you should ALWAYS wash them. Period. The same is true for organic, just as it is conventionally grown fruit and veggies.

2) Directly quoted from WebMD, “According to the Organic Trade Association, livestock on an organic farm cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones unnecessarily — a common practice in conventional agriculture. Some experts think using antibiotics this way may contribute to the rise of superbugs. And although the risk to humans isn’t clear, added hormones do show up in supermarket beef.”

Let me shed some light on what happens on our farm (since I can’t speak for everyone, but know that most follow the same type of protocol). We give antibiotics only when necessary, such as when an animal is showing sign of being sick. We would never consider giving all of our animals antibiotics on a set schedule for many reasons, including: a) cost, b) time and feasibility and c) we need those antibiotics to work when we truly need them. To say that most conventional ranchers use antibiotics unneccessarily is simply not true.

And on the hormone subject…let me break down the actual facts for you:

4 oz. beef from steer given hormones: 1.6 nanograms of estrogen

4 oz. beef from untreated steer: 1.2 nanograms of estrogen

4 oz. beef from non-pregnant heifer: 1.5 nanograms of estrogen

4 oz. raw cabbage: 2700 ng estrogen

4 oz. raw peas: 454 ng estrogen.

3 oz. soy oil: 168,000 nanograms of estrogen

3.5 oz. of soy protein concentrate: 102,000 nanograms of estrogen.

3 oz. of milk from cow given rBST: 11 nanograms of estrogen

3 oz. of milk from untreated (non-BST) cow: 11 nanograms of estrogen

Data from Foodstuffs Foodlink

Hmmm…so those extra hormones are a problem, but raw peas have 400% more estrogen in them. Perhaps we need to lay off the peas? I’m kidding, of course. That would be obsurd. Right?

3) This one I found funny. Broccoli. Yep, you should grow your own organic broccoli. Have any of you grown broccoli? I have no problem with growing your own food, even broccoli. I just appreciate the ability to choose not to. I don’t like the extra protein.


Well, those are just a few of the examples in the slide show…there are 29 slides to go through, all with varying degrees of ridiculousness. What’s funny to me is that it wraps it all up with this advice, “One thing the experts agree on: Regardless of whether you choose locally grown, organic, or conventional foods, the important thing is to eat plenty of produce. The health benefits of such a diet far outweigh any potential risks from pesticide exposure.” Oh, so the first 28 slides are supposed to make you terrified of all food not organic, and the last one says, “Eh, the risks aren’t that great, just eat.” Whew. I was worried for a minute.
Let’s cut to the chase. When it comes down to it: eat. Eat what you want, eat sensibly and get it from whatever source you have available. Supermarket, farmer’s market, online…just eat. If you have the desire and time to grow your own, do it. If you have the desire and time to shop farmer’s markets, do it. If you are a busy person with limited time and whatever is at the one-stop-shop is what you can grab, do it.
It’s time we stop making parents feel guilty for what we eat and just relish in the fact that we can feed our children. And by that, I mean HEALTHY foods, not just fast food.
That all being said, I respect organic farmers and see a true need for their products. There isn’t a single method of agriculture that isn’t needed for our future. I have not one problem with their product. Not one.
Organic farmers: thank you for all you do and the food you provide. Conventional farmers: thank you for all you do and the food you provide. WebMD: quit making me scared of the people that feed me, they’re nice.
I know, because I am one.

It only takes a spark…

Today has been a banner day, but not always in a good way. I’ve been happy, I’ve been sad, I’ve been frustrated and I’ve been downright ticked…and that was all before noon! Actually, today’s emotions had a lot to do with social media and perceptions.

To begin with, McD’s has launched a campaign called #MeetTheFarmers. It’s all about improving their image, after some pretty damaging stuff has been spread like wildfire throughout the internet world. Now, I don’t blame them one bit…I do have to agree that it’s about time we take responsibility for our own actions, including what we put in our mouths.

But what I don’t like is the impression that McD’s is doing something cutting edge by introducing farmers to their consumers. It’s something that’s been going on for years, and it doesn’t take a marketing genius or billion dollar budget to accomplish.

I’m all for the interaction, and welcome the conversations that are starting because of it…and I’m hoping and praying that the trend continues. But remember, these conversations have been going for quite some time now, and many have started without the big-name push.

For example:

  • A dairy farmer in Alabama…a true salt-of-the-earth type of guy, with a great family and an uncanny ability to make a song about cow poop sound catchy.
  • A Prairie Mama in North Dakota, who I had the pleasure of meeting through social media, and shudder to think of what my life would now be without her. Who tells the story of ag from a first-hand view, yet has spent enough time in the corporate world that she makes it seem so polished and effortless. She has connected Rockin’ Rural Women from across the country. Not only is she an inspiration, but her mother is as well, blogging from the farm and bringing the outside world a little closer to the field…truly connecting the farm to the plate.
  • A busy mom, with 3 Kids and Lots of Pigs, who took an idea and ran with it, and turned it into a GREAT way to connect women and introduce others to life on the farm.
  • A dairy mom, who recently had baby #3, writes a great blog and is willing to step out of the box and do unheard of things…like sell a pig on Twitter.

I could go on…the list would probably be in the hundreds. People, farmers, that I’ve met and make it a priority to share their story, and the story of agriculture, with others through social media.

And they do it without an endorsement deal, they do it without promised reimbursement and they do it out of passion and love for an industry that provides them a great way of life and a lifestyle that many could only dream about.

No, it may not be the golden arches, but I’m confident that although #MeetTheFarmer may be a trending topic on Twitter, the connections that are made will continue to grow and be built through the hard work of dedicated producers.

I’d bet a Big Mac on it.

The power of one

Yikes. Here is is, January 16, and I’m submitting my first post for 2012. Apparently the craziness of the season got ahead of me, and life snowballed. Hard to imagine, right?

I received a wake-up call today. It was kind of like God tapping me on the shoulder and reminding me why I write. It was a reminder of the power of one.

In case you haven’t heard about it, a mother of a child with developmental delays was “supposedly” told that her daughter would not qualify for a life-saving kidney transplant due to her “mental retardation.” (I’m using quotes, because the hospital has stayed mum on the issue, and although I don’t for one minute doubt the mother’s account of what happened, my journalistic instincts are to leave the guilty/not-guilty part up to the parties involved.)

And that’s where the power of one comes in.

To tell you the truth, I’m pretty sure if that was my situation, I would be facing criminal charges for pummeling a physician. But that’s just me. And then I would have done exactly what this mother did…I would have wrote about it.

She wasn’t expecting it to go viral. She wasn’t expecting the public outcry to almost shut down the hospital’s facebook page. She wasn’t expecting the attention. She was just getting the thoughts and information presented to them off her chest, wrote down somewhere where she could analyze them, and share with others going through similar situations. She wasn’t expecting any of this…but I would have.

You see, I understand completely the power of one. All it takes is one word, one sentence, one blog…and you can make a difference in the world.

And by doing so, this mother may have very well saved her child’s life. And children for generations to come.

All it took was one.

(If you’re interested in the original blog post, follow this link…but warning, it’s likely to tick you off.)