Christian. BoyMom. Farmer's Wife. Marathon Runner. Ag Professional. Bourbon Lover.
Advocate for all things agriculture and rural.
Advocate for all things agriculture and rural.
Tunis Sheep Hampshires heed
7/26/2015 3 Comments
#UptownUploads Chicken Labels
I normally go out of my way to not purchase any products that I believe use misleading or unfair labels.
But like most families, I am on a budget and this little package of chicken breasts was on sale so I scooped it up.
But what about all those labels? What do they mean? Let's talk about a few of them!
This actually means no added hormones, as all food we consume has hormone. On that note - NO CHICKEN HAS ADDED HORMONE. It's illegal and has been since 1950.
"No antibiotic ever!"
Ok. So this bird was never sick, hopefully. Because if he was sick he wasn't treated. Good to note that no animals will have anitbiotic (not even traces) present at the time of butchering, so all your meat (label or not) is anitbiotic free.
This is a romantic ideal for animal agriculture. Cages are used by poultry farmers to protect birds from predators and other birds. If you want to pay extra for cage free you absolutely have that right. But please respect the fact that it's not possible to raise cage free birds in the numbers we need at an affordable price for all families.
If you don't have the luxury of paying those higher prices know that is ok too! All birds are treated humanely and live in clean, safe environments - cage or no cage.
I married into a farming family. And when you marry into a farming family you realize they take some things very seriously. And this family takes gardening, and sweet corn, very, very seriously!
A few years ago I had the privilege of spending the day with my husband’s grandparents and learning about how his Grandma freezes corn – she does dozens and dozens of quarts each year. A few years later my father in law added an office and small kitchen on to his shop – so the corn freezing moved there and now they freeze with assembly line efficiency!
So today that is what they did – they picked, cleaned, boiled, cut and froze corn. The whole family got in the action – from my baby boy who just turned one to great Grandma Mildred and Great Grandpa PD who have been married over sixty years!
The steps (and pictures) we took are below. Enjoy and let me know what your family does differently!
1. Pick or buy the corn. If you are buying to freeze, make sure and ask the folks you buy your corn from. Often they will have a discounted price on multiple dozen and sometimes they will have a special price for "freezer corn". This may be some of the smaller ears (that often taste better!) or some of the corn that had the tops stolen by birds or raccoons and you can just cut those spots off.
2. Shuck the corn. Grandpa and Grandson make a great team for this.
3. Desilk the corn. There is a silk for each kernel on the cob. The silk is what transfers the pollen down to the plant to make the kernel! But, they get stuck in your teeth so its best to get rid of them before you freeze.
The first time I froze corn with Grandma Mildred she showed me how to take a paper towel and rub it up and down the ear to remove most of the silks pretty quickly. It was still quite a process.
This year however we had a MAJOR upgrade in our project. Check out the below images of this electric corn desilker!
4. Check ears for bad spots and remove. Quickly look over the ears and using a sharp knife, remove any areas that have animal damage or undeveloped kernels that you won't want to cut off into your final corn.
5. Place ears into a large pot of boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Keeping the water hot through multiple batches gets tricky!
6. Remove the corn from the boiling water and place immediately into an ice bath. Leave corn in ice water just long enough to cool the ears down to where you can easily handle them.
7. Cut the corn off the cob. Grandpa Paul reminded me to be careful not to cut too deep into the cob or this winter when you go to eat it the corn will taste like cob instead! After you cut the kernels off, scrape up and down the ear to release some additional sugar from the ear.
8. Put the corn into freezer tubs or freezer bags. Make sure and leave some extra room in the containers because they will expand when they freeze.
9. Cover with salt water mixture. Grandma Mildred suggests a teaspoon of salt per quarter of water for the salt water mixture.
10. Put into your freezer and remove sometime this winter when the memory of 100 degree days has long since faded!
Quick Steps to Freezing Corn:
1. Pick or buy corn.
2. Shuck corn.
3. Desilk corn.
4. Check for bad spots and remove.
5. Boil corn for 3-4 minutes.
6. Place corn into ice bath.
7. Cut the corn off cob and scrape sides for extra sugars.
8. Put into containers.
9. Cover with salt water mixture (1 tsp salt/ quart water)
10. Freeze and enjoy!
7/24/2015 1 Comment
"No thanks" on a GMO label.
What's the problem with labeling GMOs? Let me try this.
Some crops are watered only by rain (we call this dry land). Others, have irrigation systems (we call this irrigated land). This is a decision a farmer makes, based on his location, costs, climate, risk and other factors. The end result of the crop is the same in terms of safety and nutrition. You cannot tell the difference between a kernel of corn from dry land or irrigated land.
If someone were allowed to create a label that said "Only naturally watered" in reference to dry land, that would be implying this is a better, or safer production method. (It's not.)
The result for consumers? People respond by either paying more for a label that means nothing, or they discount or avoid products without the label (which means nothing). People are not MORE informed. They are actually LESS informed. They have more information sure, but the information is not valuable information to making a good choice.
The result to farmers? They would potentially have to alter production practices in order to meet some marketing created demand from consumers. Families that live in areas that cannot produce a crop with irrigation? They go out of business. Overall yields go down, acres suitable for production goes down, the number of farmers goes down.
There is no difference on a GMO label. It gives you information sure, but it tells you NOTHING.
7/21/2015 4 Comments
He is not "just a farmer"
The boys and I made the trip back home to northern Illinois over the weekend, without my husband who was in the fields still, and someone asked, “Does your husband just farm?”.
I understood the question. The person asking was wondering if that was his full time job or if he had another job. And the person asking was certainly not meaning any offense by the question. But it had me thinking for many of the miles home.
My husband, like any farmer, is not “just” a farmer. He is a well-educated, smart man. And this is not unique to my husband. Most all the successful farmers I know are ridiculously smart. In no way are these people “just” farmers. So here is a list of just some of the roles farmers play every day.
·Laborers: Much of their day is spent doing physical labor. Before I sat down at my desk this morning my husband had physically hauled feed to several hundred animals and picked about 30 dozen ears of sweet corn. A few months ago we participated in a Fitbit challenge and I was blown away when my husband consistently out-stepped me (the runner!).
One day I had an EIGHTEEN mile run. I got up at 4am and purposely ran around town in circles for 18 miles. He out-stepped me that day (they were building fence) by 100 steps. I cried.
·Scientists: They are constantly gathering and analyzing data, testing soils and plants, analyzing those tests to make informed decisions about what the next move will be. This year for instance, my husband has had to monitor the rain fall on each of his fields to try and gage how the nutrient content, soil health and plants will be affected from the large amounts of moisture we have had and determine if there is anything they can do to help their plants.
If you doubt the intelligence of a farmer, check out this guide from North Carolina Department of Ag that is supposed to help a person read a soil test.
·Weathermen: The farmer does not rely on the local news channel for his forecast. Instead, he gets out his smart phone and looks at a dozen different websites, analyzes the radar maps, and makes his best determinations about when to plant, when to mow hay, and when to hold off. These decisions can be the difference between making a profit or not.
People married to farmers do not check the weather either – we simply call our farmer (who is probably more accurate)!
·Chemists: Many farmers have their chemical applicators licenses and are required to study and understand the chemicals they are using. Watching my husband prepare his sprayer is like watching a chemist at work in a lab. He is intimately familiar with the chemicals he is using, their purpose, risks and hazards, and the exact measurements and mixtures he needs to be safe and effective!
·Veterinarians: Livestock farmers simply cannot rely on their local veterinarian all the time. They have to know about medications, dosages, and wound care. It’s not uncommon during calving or lambing season for my husband to have to deliver babies, treat mamma for something and treat babies for something in the middle of the night when no one else is available.
·Buyers: The options available to farmers for seed, chemical, fertilizers, loan products, equipment and more are endless. They have to spend time sorting through all of the data and reviews to make the best decisions for their operations. Unlike popular internet myth, Monsanto does not make a single one of these decisions for the farmer and Monsanto is only one of many choices they have.
·Marketers: Farmers have to market their own grain, hopefully at the right times. They have to make the final determination about what to sell and when. Again, these decisions can mean the difference between being able to make the farm payment or not.
·Lobbyists: Farmers now make up less than 1% of the population. This means each year politicians care less and less about how their legislation affects farmers. Several times a year my husband puts on his suit and tie and heads to our state capital to meet with lawmakers and tell his side of the story.
·Heavy Equipment Operators: So this is probably a given. Most people think of farmers driving their HUGE tractors in the fields. But farmers also have to navigate those giant pieces of equipment down city streets and highways, safely! This is a huge challenge for them during planting and harvest and one of the most stressful things about their job. So always remember to SLOW DOWN when you see farm equipment on the road!
·Mechanics: Farm equipment breaks down. It breaks down in fields that are miles and miles from anywhere. And most farmers can fix most anything and have to, often times in a hurry.
·Men of God: They know there is only a portion of their job they can control and huge portion they cannot. They cannot control the weather, disease, pests, prices and more. So they look up and ask the Good Lord to give them the tools they need to make it another year doing what they love.
Whatever farmers do they always do it well!
7/11/2015 1 Comment
What Monsanto controls on farms
There seems to be a lot of confusion on the Internet about what exactly Monsanto runs and manages on modern farms. So I've made the following graphic to clear up any misconceptions.
This is what Monsanto runs on farms:
Similarly, I wanted to verify that anything you've read from Food Babe, Dr. Oz or Whole Foods is best desribed by the below image.
(No animals were hurt in the making of this public service announcement and yes, that bull is fed GMO corn.)
From the mouths of some of the top judges in the nation.....
1. Accept your place – getting mad and giving me the dirty look doesn’t do much for you.
2. Sour looks will only get you rolled sooner next time.
3. Acting like you didn’t see me pull you will not stop you from getting pulled. Just move into position please.
4. After you are pulled out don’t make a scene of looking back to make sure I got it right – don’t worry, I got it right.
5. Know how to show your animal BEFORE you get in there. The frantic look on your face when you can’t find your coach outside the ring is distracting.
6. If you are going to try being trendy with new fitting techniques – do it right. Otherwise you look like a fool and I feel like one if I have to use you.
7. If your animal is small, telling me his birth date or life history isn’t going to help your outcome. I am perfectly capable of recognizing young animals.
8. Little kids in the ring is good, but be reasonable.
9. Dress appropriately. My days of chasing high school girls with fat calves are long over and you only make it awkward for me and everyone outside the ring looking at you from behind.
10. It might be easy to judge from the sidelines but in the middle of the ring it gets intense. Be respectful – your kids will learn more from that.
11. If you are going to promote an animal that won under me, for the love of God please use a good picture. Don’t take a bad photo and make me look like an idiot.
12. Check your animals before the SHOW. You know, the basics. Make sure they have both testicles, both eyes, they aren’t prolapsing in the middle of the show.
13. Texting me before a show to tell me about your “great ones” makes me uncomfortable. So please, just don’t.
14. Suddenly adding me on Facebook two weeks before a show is annoying. Especially if I have no idea who you are.
15. STOP tagging me in your Facebook photos. Even if your animal should win, everyone on the internet now knows you have been advertising to me and it makes me nervous to even consider you.
16. If you are going to paint animals PLEASE make sure it’s dry when you come in the ring.
17. If you are going to come shake my hand at the end of the day, do it because you mean it. Don’t come up just because your parents made you and act like a jerk.
18. I don’t care what other fairs your animal won. On the same note, I don't care how much you paid for him or who said he was good.
19. I can hear you on the sidelines. Half the time I am accused of using a kid because of who she is, I don't even know her. If she'e been winning all day its probably because her animals are better than yours.
20. If you feel like smiling – smile. If you are concentrating and don’t smile that is OK too. Don’t plaster a fake smile on your face – it’s distracting and this isn’t a beauty contest (for you). And it’s OK to be serious about it – I am too.
It goes without saying that farmers don't often take breaks, and that includes weekends and holidays.
This is especially true for Independce Day this year, with planting already delayed for weeks because of continuous wet weather.
As the weekend approached the sun was bright and hot and the forecast looked promising- which meant long days and short nights for the farmers (here and across the country as rain has kept much of the country from planting, cutting hay and harvesting wheat.)
But in order for our farmers to plow through weekends and holidays, it often takes other people in the community also willing to do the same!
On Sunday the planter broke down. This could have been disastrous. The forecast is calling for rain on Monday evening, which means Matt needs to plant every minute he can. Before the weekend we did not have a single bean in the ground and it's already pushing too late.
When Matt went to fold up the planter to move to a new field, something snapped in two and he was stuck!
A phone call and less than 15 minutes later, local welder and boilermaker Luke Forbes was set up in the field and working hard to get Matt back rolling.
It took several hours, but Luke, who has returned to the area for the summer to start his own welding shop, had Matt good as new and allowed him to run the rest of the day and well into the evening without issue!
Luke's Sunday "house-call" gained Matt precious hours he would have lost if he would have had to wait until normal business hours!
In addition to planting this weekend, wheat harvest started for us. When grain is being harvested, it also has to be hauled and stored or sold somewhere!
This means that whenever farmers are running, and wherever they are running, local elevators are also running! These elevators take anywhere from one to a dozen employees to stay open! All of these people also give up their weekends and holidays.
But nothing sounds or looks like Freedom more to us than a much needed weekend of work and we are thankful for all those that also worked so our farmers could too!
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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