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.

Mmmm...worms.

 
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.)

Thankful Thursday – North Dakota

What? I’m thankful for the state I live in? Really? You betcha!

Yesterday North Dakota (and to be fair, South Dakota) celebrated their “birthdays,” or the day that they were signed into the union. And although I complain about the 40 below temps, 100 inches plus of snow and other wonderful issues that come with winter, I truly love my state.

First of all, we have a budget surplus. For those that don’t understand what that means, it means that we take in more money than we spend. Shocking. I know.

Second, we have more jobs than we have people to work. No, this doesn’t mean we have NO unemployed people, but there are definitely employment opportunities that are open, for many, many people. The key would be work ethic, responsibility and eagerness to actually work. It’s part of the reason that while much of the country is slipping backwards, we’re actually looking to the future and planning ahead. Another shocker. I know.

Third, I feel safe where I live. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t dangerous areas in ND, but right now, we’ve got it pretty good. And if you come in my yard, let me warn you that my two black labs will lick you to death if you’re friendly, but harass us, and they’re on their guard. And I hunt…if you get what I mean.

Our new puppy, Maggie, and our old foster-dog, Junior.

 

 

Fourth, I know my neighbors. Sometimes that’s not such a good thing, but for the most part, I feel blessed to know that if my kids are doing something they shouldn’t be, someone will tell me. It used to drive me nuts as a child, now I dig it.

Speaking of digging. Did I mention snow?

Now THAT's a snow bank!

 

 

Once upon a time, I tried to escape ND. I thought it was a mind-suck and a place that people came to die. I despised it, and everything it stood for. Thanks be to God that those times came and went quickly! I love my rural life, I love my prairie-dwelling companions and I wouldn’t trade it for the world…well, except for maybe a week or two.

Love sundogs and sunsets on the prairie!

 

 

Harvest 2011 in the Books

Yep, we’re done. What a relief! And can I tell you, this is the earliest we’ve been done with harvest in YEARS! Yay!

Yesterday I shot a few pictures…but I didn’t get there in time to get some of the shots I was dreaming of in my head. But this is my favorite from the day:

Waiting his turn.

 

 

I love seeing the excitement and joy in EJ’s eyes as he watches his dad and grandpa work. Out of all the boys, he has the most intense desire and connection to the farm…and he’s 4. He can tell you who owns what equipment, what it is and what his crops are (by the way, the little bales are his, and the big bales are his dad’s, just the same, the calves are all his, and the cows are dad’s). He knows how to get to each field, where he can and cannot go on the farm, and can sit in a tractor for a 12-hour day and not complain. Yet, he has no desire to write his numbers (I know he knows them, because he can read the numbers on a tractor), repeat the alphabet and switches colors at will (but will correct you with tractor colors). Yes, he will truly be a handful.

I’m hoping his stubborn streak changes by this spring…or else his kindergarten teacher will have to be creative in convincing him to share!

 

How NOT to Share Your Views

I had an opportunity to talk to some “urban” folk while on our trip to Hutchinson, KS, to speak at the #140Conf Small Town. It’s trips like this that make you realize just how many misconceptions are out there.

It was an eye-opening experience for me…but it’s one that I intend to relive and learn from, as often as possible.

First of all, the people at the conference weren’t necessarily “rural,” even if they were connected to a small town. And remember, the term “small town” is definitely relative. I would consider small anything less than 1,000, but that’s my experience. Some consider less than 100,000 small…I consider that a big chunk of our state! 🙂

Anyway, the fact of the matter is that I was in amongst a group of people that didn’t necessarily have farm connections. And some of my conversations made that very obvious.

For example, I was speaking to a wonderful woman from New York, who loved her local farmers and local farmer’s market, considered herself a vegetarian and enjoyed getting fish and organic eggs from happy, free chickens there. (Now, she did clarify that she probably actually qualified as a “pescetarian,” or someone who eats fish.)

When I tell people about my trip, their first response tends to be, “Well, did you tell her she’s wrong?”

No. No, I did not.

First of all, we were having a wonderful conversation, and I was telling her about my farm and our cows and how we raise things here. We were listening to each other and connecting, not debating.

Second, her reasoning wasn’t scientific, it was emotional. She didn’t say that her eggs were healthier, or that cattle were evil, or that I was destroying the world. Nope, she simply said she liked her farmer’s market and she liked happy, free chickens. How could I argue with that?

I guess I could have told her that chickens that are free, are rarely happy, unless they happen to be one of the leaders of the group. I could have explained how most birds, left to their own devices, will peck and claw and scratch at the weaker, smaller birds, until the bird dies. (You realize it’s called the “pecking order” for a reason, right?) I could have explained how some farms need to put little blinders on their birds when they’re all in one pen, so that they leave each other alone and don’t kill each other. I could have, but I didn’t.

Why?

Sometimes the soapbox isn’t the place to stand. Sometimes you make better connections, better relationships and better impressions by simply listening, learning and using the knowledge gained in the future. And it’s easier to hear down in the crowd, not up on a soapbox.

And maybe, just maybe, the next time she thinks about beef and farms and happy, free chickens, she’ll remember our conversation and remember another mother, just like her, that’s doing the best to raise her children the same as her. And maybe she’ll contact me through social media and ask the questions that she has about her food.

And that’s enough for me.

Why I Do It

Just moments ago, I finished speaking at the #140conf Small Town in Hutchinson, KS. I was terrified, but so grateful that I did it!

Here’s the gist of what I said…

There is a story to be told, but it’s YOUR story. If you don’t know it, no one else can share it. So many times, we look at our lives and say, “I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time for that.”

Are you kidding me?

No one HAS time for anything. We must MAKE time. A minute here, a few minutes there…it’ll happen.

I just have to thank my good friend, Katie, for encouraging me to be here. I would like to thank all my rural friends and those that encourage my story…and I would ESPECIALLY like to thank all those that have made it possible for me to be here, by taking care of my family.

I’ll post more later, but I just had to make a shout out and thank some peeps!

Why Social Media?

A few weeks ago, I was reading a newspaper when I read a letter to the editor about the downfall of society occurring at the hands of social media. At first I dismissed it as a lash-out from someone who kept getting rejected from Facebook friends, but then I realized that even I have family members that question the importance of social media. They wonder, “Why?”

Let me explain why it’s important to ME.

1) As a stay-at-home mom, I find myself needing adult interaction. Yet, living on the farm and spending a lot of time at doctor’s appointments and what-not makes it difficult to have actual playdates, coffee breaks and other get-togethers. Through my blog, Facebook and/or Twitter, I can chat with a friend for a minute or two, and feel caught-up in the world.

2) I have met some AMAZING people through social media…and some of them I’ve never seen in person! In fact, one of my dearest friends I met through Twitter, and only met her in person a year ago (she only lives an hour away!). She’s one of my Prairie Mama companions and a true friend, a sounding board, a ball of energy and an amazing mother. She has taught me that quality can mean so much more than quantity…and when we get together with our other Prairie Mama Sarah, we can spend 30 minutes and cover every topic from labor and delivery, to breastfeeding in awkward places, to the role that social media can play in connecting agriculture to the consumer. We may not see each other often enough, but I’m grateful every day that I met her through social media!

Rural mothers...fast friends.

3) I can connect through social media. It’s amazing to see the connections in action. For example…imagine a busy mom in the city, hearing all this garbage about “industrial” ag and how our food isn’t produced in ways that will be sustainable for years to come and how it’s HER fault for not making wiser choices at the market. Since she’s only hearing the story from someone behind a desk a few hundred miles away, what else will she believe? But now, thanks to other means of communication, she can locate a farmer’s market, contact a local grower, or talk to someone who may be hundreds of miles away, but is actually INVOLVED in agriculture, and ask the questions that she has.

She can find out from farms, like ours, that our cattle spend the summer in their pastures, but winter where there’s better protection from the elements; she can talk to farmers that raise pigs, and find out how their barns can be climate-controlled; she can speak with a farmer that raises chickens, and find out how their facilities keep the birds healthy and safe. All of that, without ever having to leave her home. But better yet, she can leave her home knowing a farmer, and can put a face to the product…and she can find a local farm to visit.

She can research the different farming practices, talk to different types of farms, and decide for herself what types of products she wants to provide for her family. She can be an educated consumer…and a connected one.

4) I’m connecting to family members that I had lost touch with…and classmates as well. And in my opinion, anytime you connect with an old friend, it’s a good thing.

5) There is strength in numbers. When I type something, and I know that someone else agrees, or feels strongly enough to disagree, at least I’m able to have those conversations with as many people as I like. And sometimes it’s comforting to know that when you’re going through a tough situation, that others have your back.

I could go on and on about how thankful I am to have these opportunities today…how has social media made a difference in your life?

Thankful Thursday: One Year and Counting!

That’s right…I’ve been blogging for a whole year. I started this, after some encouragement from a dear friend, thinking that it would be a good way to let off steam, show my farm and talk about my boys. Ha! That didn’t quite work the way I planned, but oh well.

Future Farmer

EJ already knows he has big shoes to fill!

Boy, what a year it’s been! Last year, I talked about harvest, I talked about deer, I talked about school. I was frustrated that we didn’t know what was wrong with George, we traveled a LOT for his medical issues and we spent quite a bit of time in the hospital. And now, here we are…

We finally have a name, our days in the hospital will hopefully be fewer, but at least we now know what we’re dealing with and where to go from here. Our farm is still here, even when Mother Nature threw us some curveballs, and we have not be regulated out of existence…yet.

Life, as I know it, is pretty good. Even with as crazy as it gets. Plus, teaming up with my friends at The Real Farmwives of America and Friends has also been an AMAZING experience!

I never dreamed in a year’s time, that my blog would end up with almost 20,000 hits. That’s amazing to me. And I thank each and every one of you, for coming along for the ride.

I don’t know where the next year will take us, but we’re on our way!

And to celebrate the past year…I have a bit of a quiz and a giveaway for you! So here it goes:

Answer this question in the comment section below to enter: What is your favorite post on my blog? (Hint: There is no right answer!) Or why do you come back?

Want more entries? “Like” Wag’n Tales on Facebook. All Wag’n Tales friends on Facebook will be automatically entered!

Wondering what you’re winning? Well, it’ll be a really cool prize pack! Including a Fullerton Cookbook, an Ag Book of the Day or three, a Farmers Feed Families button down shirt and more! Winner will be drawn on September 9…so be sure to enter right away! (And pass it on to your friends!)