To the woman riding in my husband's combine on a sales call,
I wouldn’t have thought much about you before last night. Chances are, if you had tried to call on my husband and ride along in his combine I wouldn’t have known about it. Most likely I would have been on a different farm, with a different farmer, trying to do my job in the same way you are doing yours.
I didn’t think of you before – but now I will. Last night I read a post from a woman who was upset that a young, presumably attractive female, made a sales call to the farm – and rode in the cab of the combine with the farmer (the poster's husband).
For anyone not in the industry, it may sound funny that you would get into a combine with a customer. This time of year, the combine often acts as an office. People who need to see the farmer go to the field and are often invited to ride along while they keep working. Roughly 70% of the time that farmer will be a man.
Women poured out of the woodwork to attack the sales rep, calling her unprofessional, unthoughtful, disrespectful and worse.
They attacked her clothes, suggested she not wear makeup when doing farm visits, even suggested the wife should call the company and complain.
They suggested the company send only men, they implied that a woman should not be doing this job at all. One person even commented that she was taught “a woman should never be alone with an unrelated male”.
As a Millennial, this is the first time I have encountered such a vigorous and outward attack on a woman for doing her job. To my shock it was all coming from other women. I felt like I was reading Facebook from the 1950’s.
Now, these women have a right to their feelings, I can even relate to some of them. And I understand many of these woman came about in a different generation. I hope these women stop and think about how they would feel if someone said all of those things about their daughters and granddaughters who are trying to be seen as equal in the industry.
I want you to know this. When you come to my farm, to call on my husband – you are welcome to climb right up into the cab of his combine. You are welcome to ride along, give him your sales pitch or gather your information.
If I get jealous, (and I might because I would rather be there than working) that is on ME. That is NOT on you.
If you do run into a man who cannot handle it that is on HIM, not on you. My husband will not be that man – his mother raised him fully capable of behaving like an adult.
I know when you get up in the morning you will stress over what to wear. Too dressy and you look clueless. Too casual and you look unprofessional.
I know when you set foot on the farm you’ll be nervous about the farmers taking you seriously. I know you’ll struggle with being able to connect on a personal level, while not getting too personal. You aren’t as free to joke and laugh with customers as the male competition is.
I know when you climb into the cab with my husband you are going to be nervous about getting your sales pitch right – about showing that you understand the farm and the industry.
I also know that you probably understand it better than the men in your role. I know you already had to prove yourself beyond them, to the men that you work for.
I know you are working your tail off, in an industry you love, that generally views you as less competent. I know you face challenges every single day and I want you to know – as a fellow woman I will not be another challenge for you.
I want to say thank you. Thank you for being audacious enough to get into the cab of a combine!
Thank you for paving the way for my sons’ wives, who may want to pursue a career of their own in this industry and hopefully will not have to think twice about climbing into the cab with a customer.
Thank you for reminding me that I need to embrace, support and encourage other women in this industry. And sometimes that may mean getting control of my own emotions.
Mostly, thank you for reminding us that being a farmer’s wife is no longer the only place for women in agriculture.
The Farmer’s Wife
1 Whole Chicken
2 Tbs oil
1 packet ranch dressing or dip mix
1 packet onion soup mix
1 tsp paprika
2-Tbs fresh garlic
1 large yellow onion
Directions for cooking (slow cooker or smoker):
1. Rinse whole chicken and pat dry. Rub oil on chicken.
2. Mix ranch, onion soup mix, paprika together and rub on chicken.
3. Quarter onion, mix with garlic and place inside of bird.
4. Refrigerate overnight (optional).
5. Place is slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low OR...
Place in a 250 degree smoker for 3-4 hours until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
6. Allow bird to rest 10-15 minutes before serving.
1. All chicken sold in the USA is antibiotic free! No chicken raised in the USA is raised with any added hormone! (No labels needed!)
2. Buy local if you'd like - you'll support your neighbor farmers and your chicken will be fresh!
Or... Buy one at the store! Your chicken will still be delicious and fresh, plus you're still supporting family farmers! Farmers often grow the crops and livestock that make the most economic sense for their area, soils, weather patterns and availability of resources! Many of your chickens will be produced by family farms in Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama!
Remember 93% of farms are family owned and just because they aren't local to you doesn't mean they aren't awesome at what they do and well worth supporting!
3. Conventional or organic onion? It's up to you! Just remember, organic and conventional are simply production methods.
The resulting onions are the same in terms of nutrition, safety and flavor! And you guessed it - you're supporting family farmers either way!
When someone wants to discount my information on modern agriculture, they state that we are just “for profit farmers”. People even protest farmers making a profit, with signs saying things like “people over profit”.
Some people seem to be of the a mindset that those who are trying to make a living farming are in some sort of conspiracy with “Big Ag” that results in nearly all the evils of the world from starvation and obesity to autism and cancer.
Last week, a visitor to my blog asked me to visit a website of a self proclaimed "sustainable farmer". He appeared to be taking full advantage of all the hot buzz words – he was verified organic, labor intense, small, local, natural, non-GMO, hormone free, antibiotic free, gluten free, Monsanto free – but he was not sustainable.
How do I know? On the side bar, of every page on his website, he was asking for donations to be able to continue his farm.
Farmers have to be profitable to be sustainable! And you WANT farmers to be profitable. Here is why.
1. Farming takes a lot of money. And if farmers are going to make long term investments, they must be profitable. The information, technology and equipment available is constantly changing and improving. When farmers can take advantage of these changes they can get better at managing the high demands of the industry with caring for their farms and caring for the environment.
For example, when my father in law made the management decision to switch to no-till farming in 1992, it took money to do that. He had to purchase a new drill and new attachments for his planter. He had to spend time and money learning about the process.
A person can farm on a small scale as a hobby. These types of farms are great for the people running them and the people that are close enough to buy from them! They are are often supplemented by other sources of income and only exist as long as those other sources (like website donations) are available. These small farms are NOT a sustainable model we can duplicate across the country to meet the high demands of modern agriculture.
"These small farms are NOT a sustainable model we can duplicate across the country to meet the high demands of modern agriculture."
2. Farming takes a lot of work with crazy hours. Right now, 93-96% of all farms in the USA are family owned. Farmers, and their families, give up a lot to live this lifestyle. I have never met a farmer who would change a thing, but if they cannot make a living at this they would never be able to justify the hours and sacrifices they make. Farmers have bills to pay and kids to send to summer camps just like you!
3. Farmers need to be experts. Farming is not easy and it requires expertise in a lot of areas. If you want your farmers to be experts in protecting the environment, food safety, technology, soil science, biology, the weather and the countless other areas they need to master – they have to be able to do this for a career. They have to be able to afford to devote the time and money into educating themselves and improving their farming practices.
Someone recently commented on my blog that farmers “just do whatever the experts tell them”. If you have ever met a farmer, you’ll know there probably is not one in existence that just does what someone tells them to do. Farmers take great pride in making management decisions and they need the ability to spend the time and money to make educated choices.
4. Profitable farms can focus on long term planning versus short term cash flow. It’s popular to claim that farmers make management decisions based solely on increasing a single year's yields or increasing a single year’s profits. The truth is some farms are forced to do that.
Farms that have not been profitable in the past and are feeling that pressure can often be forced to make decisions that may lower input costs or increase cash flow in the short run. This can result in some of the devastating stories we hear about mismanagement of animals or food on farms.
Farms that are profitable can make decisions based on what is best for the long term. A farmer’s long term is not his retirement – it’s his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, taking over the farm.
Financial stability allows farmers to make decisions that are best for soil health, animal health, the environments surrounding our farms and consumers. Contrary to what internet activists will tell you, it's not in the industry's best interest to poison consumers.
Sustainability on farms is a process with many steps. The first step, the foundation to any farm being sustainable, is to be profitable. It’s time to stop making profit an evil word and start embracing it for our farmers and the industry!
"It’s time to stop making profit an evil word and start embracing it for our farmers and the industry!"
"If you are in college or heading to college, but want to eventually head back home to a one stop light town, here are some career paths to look into."
In college, when it became obvious my now husband was going nowhere but back to the family farm, I became nervous about finding a career that I would love. His hometown was less than 5,000 people and not within commuting distance of any major city.
I loved him, and I loved the idea of farming. The thought of raising kids on a farm sounded perfect. But there were a few realities that bothered me.
First, I knew we couldn’t both stay on the farm. One of us was going to have to have reliable and steady income to cover our costs and start paying back student loans, not to mention the need for health insurance. .
Second, I knew I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t have a stimulating career that pushed me mentally and forced me to develop as a professional. So, when I landed a job with the largest agriculture lender in the state I thought I felt like I had struck gold (I was right by the way, my job is still a pretty sweet deal!).
The more time I spent in the industry, the more I noticed that the demand is strong in many careers that can take you back home to rural America!
If you are in college or heading to college, but want to eventually head back home to a one stop light town, here are some career paths to look into.
1. Farm Appraiser: This is first for the obvious reason it’s the best career! (Or at least, it’s my career). Actually, there is a great demand for Farm Appraisers in rural America. The average age of Certified General Appraisers (the highest license available and a requirement if you want to appraise farm land), is reflective of the age of farmers – somewhere in the upper 50’s.
As a farm appraiser I spend most my time in the field looking at farms. I visit with farmers and provide services help them manage risk on their operations better. The analytical side of me loves the number crunching and data analysis I do each day. It’s a rewarding and well-paying job, for more information on this career path; visit the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.
2. Farm Manager: Land ownership in our state is following trends seen in many states. We are getting more and more out of the area land owners (either through inheritance or purchase) and these land owners often know very little about agriculture. The demand for Farm Managers, someone to help guide owners in making sound management decisions for their farms, is growing in nearly every rural market.
Farm managers spend a great deal of time networking with farmers, land owners, buyers and sellers. They make arrangements for the operations of farms, they monitor progress and sometimes are even directly involved in farming properties! For information n this career path, also visit the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.
3. Crop Insurance Agent: With more volatile markets and rising input costs, most farmers have to take advantage of any risk management tools they can. A huge one in crop areas is crop insurance.
Insurance agents work with farmers to help guide them through insurance policies, finding which options are best for their farms. They assist them with making claims and other aspects of insurance. For information on this career path, visit National Crop Insurance Services.
4. Crop Insurance Adjuster: Of course with all the crop insurance policies come crop insurance claims. Adjusters work with the agents and farmers to measure any loss that farmers have.
Adjusters spend a lot of time in the field working directly with farmers, mostly on their farms. For information on becoming a crop adjuster, visit the websites of Crop Insurance companies such as Rain and Hail.
5. Land Surveyor: There is a huge need for land surveyors in rural America and that need is anticipated to keep growing! The average age, much like that of appraisers, is estimated at 57..
Land Surveyor’s work with farmers, government institutions, financial institutions, attorney’s and more. They are skilled professionals that spend time in the field and also get to utilize technology. For more information on this career path, please visit All About Surveying!
What other careers are available in your piece of rural America?
9/7/2015 116 Comments
Dear Concerned Consumer,
The marketing research tells me that I should focus on the positive when I address you. I shouldn’t talk about the environment, or the health of my soil – they say you do not care about those things.
They tell me not to discuss the challenge of feeding the world. I should not detail the challenges of feeding my own family on a farmer’s income, with ever rising input costs, unpredictable weather patterns and buyer preferences that change with the direction of the wind. They tell me this doesn’t register with you.
They tell me to only speak about things that directly impact you. They tell me not to talk about the science, because the emotional registers more. They tell me not to talk too long or write too much, you don’t have time.
They tell me not to get angry. But if I am honest, sometimes I do.
I get angry that you have time to read about the latest detox diets and “natural” foods, yet don’t have time to read how seed technology is increasing yields in developing nations, and helping us here at home to be better stewards of our land.
I get angry that you are willing to pay a premium, up to 60%, on a product with a label that doesn’t even mean what you think it does.
I get angry that you think “Big Agriculture” is waging some kind of war, but refuse to acknowledge the huge profits being made off those labels you are now demanding.
I get angry that you demand “chemical free” farming, or even think that “chemical free” is possible. I get angry so many of you do not seem to know what a chemical is.
I get angry that marketing hides that all types of farming – from organic to conventional – use chemicals. They do it SAFELY and minimally, but they use them.
I get angry that you do not understand that farmers only provide raw product and that once it leaves our farm we are not responsible for what the food processors do to it.
I get angry that you don’t celebrate the fact that you spend less than 10% of your disposable income on food, when people in other nations spend 40%.
I get angry that you try to compare the decisions you make about your garden, to the management decisions my family has to make for our farm. If your garden has a bad crop, you go to the store. If we have a bad crop, we stand to lose our farm, our house, our source of income. If entire areas have bad crops, thousands are affected by supply and price.
I get angry when you talk to a guy at the farmer’s market, who grows 40 organic tomato plants in his backyard where his 8 free range chickens live, and decide his opinion on agriculture policy is more trustworthy than mine.
I get angry that you expect us to change our farming practices as frequently as you change your diet fads, and to make such changes without using any technology.
I get angry that you demand “humane treatment” of livestock without having actually ever spent time with livestock. I get angry that you think my cattle herd needs the same treatment as your toy poodle.
I get angry that you think I need to be told how to treat my animals, like PETA is going to offer some insight that years of working with and caring for these animals hasn’t already taught me.
I get angry that you want the latest and greatest gadgets in every aspect of your life, and then expect me to put on overalls and grab a pitchfork, and farm the way someone told you that your great Grandfather did in the 1940’s.
I get angry that you think it’s fair to demand farming practices match some romanticized version of an early era and are perfectly accepting of the fact these changes will take my land and water, which I now use to feed hundreds, and use it to feed only dozens.
I get angry that you give more weight to Facebook memes than actual scientific studies. I get angry that you take Food Babe’s word, who has yet to actually set foot on a modern farm and literally has no qualifications to talk about the things she does, over nearly the entire scientific community.
I get angry that you cannot tell the difference between credible science and bad science. Like the “GMO Pig Feed” study from Australia. Or the “Glyphosate toxicity” study in rats. I get angry that the real scientists even have to address claims from these studies.
I get angry that you think there is some kind of war going on in rural America. That Monsanto has enslaved us all to fight their battle, and we are too “simple” to know any better. That conventional farmers are fighting with organic farmers. That big farmers are fighting with small farmers.
I get angry you don’t actually come out to rural America and see that we are all here, like we always have been, farming side by side and eating lunch together at noon.
The marketing research tells me you won’t have read this far down. If you have, I am actually trying to apologize for my anger.
I KNOW it’s not your fault. I KNOW that modern agriculture has failed to tell our story and companies took advantage of that.
I KNOW there is a ridiculous amount of information available that is often confusing and opposing.
I KNOW we are a generation that didn’t get the core education we need to understand science.
I KNOW that nothing sells in the media better than fear.
I KNOW that most of you don’t know a farmer and that most of you have never set foot on a farm.
I am apologizing for my anger. And I am going to continue to try and reach out, in a positive way. But I just want you to know, if my anger shows through and it feels like it’s at you, it’s not.
It’s more at myself, and my industry, for not doing a better job of explaining the truth to you sooner. And yes, you do have the RIGHT to know. I just wish you had time for the whole story.
An American Farm Wife
9/6/2015 0 Comments
Sustainability - the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
Some groups have decided to endorse an idealized (and often unrealistic) version of farming, claiming that conventional American farmers are not sustainable.
True sustainability in agriculture is a puzzle with hundreds of pieces. But it is a puzzle that farmers across the country are diligently working at every day!
Last Sunday, I briefly discussed the use of “no till” or limited tillage programs, which can be read here.
This week, I will discuss our use of cover crops.
So what is a cover crop?
Cover Crop: A crop grown for enrichment or protection of the soil.
Cover crops are not cash crops (we do not plant them to harvest for income like corn and soybeans). The primary purpose of the cover crops is to make sure the soils are never uncovered; essentially we are copying the way God designed things to work.
In nature, you never see an empty field! But instead of allowing weeds to cover our farms, we are making calculated decisions about what plants will bring the most benefit in the “off season”.
Matt’s preferred mixture of cover crops is a combination of alfalfa, crimson clover, turnips, tillage radishes and cereal rye. We most often use the drill to plant cover crops, but other methods such as broadcasting and even aerial application are used as well.
How are they used?
Years ago, it was common for fields to be left empty (and often plowed) in between the fall harvest and spring planting. New research is telling us this is not the ideal way to farm and we are looking to cover crops for better sustainability and overall soil health.
This year we are actually planting cover crops RIGHT NOW, even though harvest as not yet started. Several of our fields went without getting planted this year because of the wet spring and early summer we had. We are planting cover crops on them now because it’s finely dry enough and we have a break in between hay season and harvest.
What are the benefits of cover crops?
Although this is a lifestyle we love, farmers still have to be profitable (being profitable is a huge factor in being sustainable). There is a cost associated with cover crops – we have seed cost, equipment cost and labor cost. However, on our farm the benefits of these plantings far outweigh the cost! I have listed some of benefits below!
1. Fall/winter grazing: Cover crops allow us to graze additional areas and have fresh forages for our cattle and sheep later into the year than just what our pastures provide. Of course the livestock leave back nutrients wherever they graze as well.
2. Reduce soil compaction: If the soil is packed down to hard, water, oxygen and even the roots of plants may not be able to penetrate through. Our no till practices already help to reduce soil compaction because we are making fewer trips across the field plus avoiding plow pans. Cover crops, especially those with deep tap roots like tillage radishes, reach far down into the soil sending roots out in every direction to break up the compaction.
3. Build organic matter (OM): OM is a key component to healthy soil. When we harvest our cash crops, we remove nutrients and organic matter from our farms. Cover crops, which are left to decompose above the soil and within the soil, add back many of the key components to a healthy farm!
4. Minimize weed growth: God did not intend for fields to remain empty and you can witness this anytime a field is left by a farmer that way! Planting cover crops, as opposed to letting weeds grow up, allows us to select plants that are beneficial to our specific farms, have the ability to meet specific needs, and can more easily be controlled and terminated than weeds.
5. Add and hold nutrients: Some cover crops fix or add nutrients such as nitrogen. Some cover crops latch onto nutrients already in the soil, and hold them in place, allowing the cash crops to better access the nutrients that were already there.
6. Minimize erosion: Soil is often loss due to wind and water erosion. If the soil stays covered, much less soil is lost. For years it seemed the only direction to go with total tons of soil on a crop farm was down. With the use of cover crops we can not only stop erosion, we can actually BUILD our total soil volume!!
7. Increase water holding ability: The increased OM and decreased compation in our soils leads to a better ability to hold water for plants within our soils. This is important for farmers in Missouri and other areas subject to high heat and low rain fall later in growing seasons.
This is a short list of the many ways cover crops add to the sustainability of our farm. These plants have made testable differences in our farms – adding to organic matter and decreasing our chemical and fertilizer costs! For more information on no till practices and cover crops, please visit No Till Farmer!
Come back next Sunday for another highlight of #SustainabilitySundays!
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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