Last week I went to the dentist and was surprised with an unexpected root canal. Nice, right?
The dentist explained the entire process and said that root canals have come along way with modern technology and were safe, and fairly pain free.
I shocked him and said, “Doc, I appreciate the offer but would you mind doing the procedure the same way it was done in the 50’s?”
OK, I didn’t actually say that. (Everyone knows you can’t actually talk to the dentist because they only talk to you with their tools in your mouth.)
I just nodded and embraced the modern advancements that made the process nearly pain free.
As crazy as that request sounds- for a patient to request a dentist revert back to practices from decades ago - it’s the same request that is thrown at farm families all the time.
“Grow food the way we used to.”
“Farm the way Grandpa did.”
“Technology doesn’t belong in my food.”
I understand there’s much more nostalgia associated with our food than a root canal. It’s more personal and frankly, there’s more at risk if we get it wrong.
But can I share something with you?
We aren’t getting it wrong.
I’m not claiming the system - especially the system beyond the farm level - is perfect. But overwhelmingly, modern farming is moving in the right direction.
The list of technology and advancements available to farm families like us is long: modern plant and animal genetics, modern chemistry, precision farming, data collection and analysis, improved machinery, more advanced weather prediction. And on and on.
All of this technology allows us to meet growing demands of a modern world with less: Less impact on our environment, less released carbon, less land, less water.
In other words - we are raising a safer, more transparent and more traceable product than ever before all while moving in the direction of actively protecting our environment and resources.
I want you to keep holding farmers and our industry accountable for doing it right. But I also want you to pause and think about the importance of technology in hitting those goals.
A person would be crazy to request a root canal with 50 year old procedures.
Likewise, it would be crazy to ask us to farm that way too.
(Corn pictured is a GMO hybrid with traits for insect protection and herbicide resistance, key traits for minimizing our environmental impact on our farms. It was planted and will be sprayed and harvested with machinery equipped with computers and GPS to manage outputs down to the square inch. If you ever want to understand how that technology makes us better stewards of the environment just holler.)
Cancelled. All of them. Some of them. The most important one. The smallest one. The biggest one.
I don’t run any livestock shows anymore. And in the last weeks I’ve never been more grateful for that reality.
I get the stock show life - I literally met my husband in the show ring. We get the disappointment and the work and the emotion that come with all that is happening.
I respect your hurt.
But please be kind. Be careful of how you frame this for your children.
A show being cancelled is not the end of the world, the end of the summer, or even the end of the week. Don’t make it that way for your children.
Do not let your initial emotion frame this as a traumatic event or as something that was “stolen” from your children. It doesn’t have to be that way, if you don’t make it that way.
They are looking at you - at me and other adults - for how to respond.
Right now - there is no “right”’ decision. There is no easy, black and white, clear as mud decision. It’s complicated. It varies HUGELY depending on location. And personal experiences.
It’s easy to call the people making decisions fools or cowards. It’s easier yet when it’s people in government.
It’s much harder to set our emotions aside, consider the complexity of the situation, acknowledge that as individuals we likely do not have all of the facts, and respect the people making the hard decisions. They don’t like them either.
We don’t have to agree with the decisions, but we can still be respectful.
In the stock show industry we constantly claim this isn’t about winning banners. It’s about teaching our children life lessons of hard work, determination, respect, resiliency.
I know this stinks. But let’s step up to that challenge now and teach our children all of those things we claim we are after.
Livestock piling up. Meat counters emptying...
Have you ever had your washer breakdown? It’s a real pain, and can cause a real issue around the house.
Finding someone to fix it is tough - skilled labor is hard to come by.
While you’re waiting, the laundry doesn’t stop coming. Everyone in the house keeps sending more your way. But without the washer - you’re stuck. There’s literally no where for the clothes to go.
Meanwhile, with huge piles of clothes stacking up on one side, clean clothes are becoming pretty scarce. Everyone in the house is wearing their jeans multiple times and getting nervous as they watch their underwear drawer slowly empty out...
This is what’s happening in our meat industry right now. Instead of washers and laundry it’s packing plants and livestock.
Many packing plants have been forced to shut down or run at lowered capacity because of Covid outbreaks and sick employees. Enough that it has created a massive backup on one side.
But just because the washer is broke doesn’t mean the animals stop coming.
Producers are doing all sorts of things to try and slow down animals getting ready and hold animals over longer. But the entire system - a system built to bring the fresh meat the consumer expects - was made to keep moving. And right now there is a massive roadblock.
We could talk for days about IF the process should work this way. And we should definitely have that conversation soon.
But right now, THIS IS the system we have, and the system we have to work with to get through.
Animals are lining up on one side while processed meat is becoming scarce on the other. You can understand how this leads to a devaluing of live animals for farmers at the same time consumers see increased prices at the store for meat.
President Trump has ordered the plants open, but there are still major hurdles to work through to make that happen.
In the meantime, you might see and hear some scary things. You might see temporary shortages in the store. You might hear about animals being euthanized. You might even see proof of this on social media. (I’m sorry if you have to see that. It’s not easy for farmers either.)
Here’s what I have faith in:
1. Our livestock farmers are doing everything in their power to handle this situation as best they can. They are the very best at animal welfare and husbandry, and those values will guide them. There is no rule book for this.
2. The processors and the government have recognized the problem and are moving to get it corrected. Whether you agree with the current system or not, it’s the system we have right now and we need to work with it for the time being.
3. Food - safe, quality food - will get to the store.
In the meantime, panic and hoarding will not help.
Find a farmer to buy from. This isn’t possible for a vast majority of urban and suburban families, but if you can, take advantage of that now. This isn’t about fearing grocery story food (we are actually the farmers that raise some of that). It’s about alternative supply routes.
Pray. For our farmers who are hurting and struggling. Farmers raise animals to feed people - not to be discarded like waste. The emotional toll of this is real.
Pray for the people who have to work to keep the packing plants open. For the truck drivers, the grocery store employees. For our leaders, our government employees, and anyone making decisions. It takes thousands of people to keep our food supply accessible, safe and affordable. Pray for all those people working in uncharted territory to make that happen.
Finally, take a few minutes to respect the complexity of the situation and refrain from offering judgement that is unfounded.
Ready or not?
Ready! This field is actually ready to plant, once the time is right of course. It will be planted to soybeans this year.
If you think of tilled up soil, free of any debris when you picture farm fields waiting to be planted, you aren’t picturing our fields.
Our fields are strategically left just like this - crop residue on top, growing cover crop (that’s triticale you see growing) and never tilled.
This is one part of our conservation strategy that helps us, among many other things, reduce erosion (soil loss due to wind or rain).
Some farms could see over 500 pounds of soil loss per acre from a single rain event.*
500 pounds per acre. From one rain.
Practices like no-till and cover crops can shrink soil loss to closer to 50 pounds per acre on a similar rain event.*
Minimizing erosion doesn’t just help with the obvious (keeping dirt where we need it) but it helps with the less obvious like reducing runoff of our nutrients and improving water quality in the areas surrounding our farms.
This is modern crop farming. This is sustainability in action.
*Data sourced from Edge of Field Water Quality Monitoring Program, administered by Missouri Corn and Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, in partnership with Missouri Department of Natural Resources and USDA-NRCS.
Can I just say something? Something about “all this time.”
For some of us, a lot of us, there is no “all this time”.
My news feed. My email inbox. My well meaning relatives and friends keep reminding me of what I should be doing with “all this time”.
Finding things to be grateful for.
Making time more simplistic.
Learning a new language.
Learning a new skill.
Taking an online class.
Cleaning the house.
Teaching kids life skills and baking and arts and crafts and pottery.
This pandemic has changed nearly everything. But it has not, I repeat, HAS NOT, added minutes to the day or days to the weeks.
So many normal things still have to be done.
Working. Cooking. Cleaning.
So many new things have to be done.
Teaching. Entertaining. Counseling. Extra trips to the store because you can’t ever get what you need in a single trip.
Washing hands, washing door handles. Wiping down phones. Wiping down keyboards. Wiping down wipes.
Worrying. Telling others not to worry. Worrying about your kids seeing you worry.
Conference calls. So many conference calls.
For some of us, there is no “all this time”. So as much as I hear you telling me I should be grateful, and thankful and making memories and speaking French, I just can’t.
Not right now. (Not ever on the French thing.)
If you’re out there, just trying to keep your head above water and feeling guilty because at the end of the day it feels like no progress was made but your body is dog tired, I’m with you.
I get you. I am you.
And hear me - we will get through this. We may not come out the other side with cleaner houses, smarter kids or new skills, but we will get through this.
I am not minimizing the REAL battles many are fighting with losing income, being sick, having family members sick, or being on the front lines of fighting this thing. I always pray that by sharing my own struggles it helps other in the same situation feel less alone and that it never minimizes someone else’s, often much more challenging, situation.
(P.S. My kindergartener took the picture so that is some sort of life skill he can use at some point... )
Someone walking through a qualifying wrestling tournament the weekend before State, might assume the heartbreak happens in the finals, with kids battling for first and third place wins. I would argue they’re wrong.
On this week, heartbreak hour actually happens the round before. This is when you have kids who were almost there, almost safe, battling against kids who relentlessly fought their way through wrestle-backs to get a last shot, toeing the lines for a face off.
These kids, in this semi-final rounds, have the most on the line that day. One of them will win and move on to fight next weekend. One of them will not, and will go home until next season.
Today, we learned all about that heartbreak. Our oldest, who lost in overtime in the second round, fought his way all the way through wrestle-backs to get one more shot.
One more shot.
He stepped on the mat knowing a loss here meant the end of his season. And a win meant he was going to State.
He didn’t give it up easy. He fought on into five overtime periods, to come up just a little short with only seconds left on the clock.
The boy who won fought too. And he deserves his trip to State as much as anyone. But his win was our son’s loss.
And dang it - it sucks. We can’t fix it for him. We can’t take his hurt for him.
We can only walk with him, cry with him, and tell him how most people will never work hard enough to experience hard loss like this.
(He did go on to win his next match for a 5th place finish. Only the top four move on.)
A huge thanks to all of the amazing BPWC coaches, parents and wrestlers for another great season. We can’t wait to cheer on our club’s EIGHTEEN state qualifiers next weekend!
Well... we did it. We were in a hip little craft beer joint in Nashville, saw the Impossible burger on the menu, and ordered one.
Of course they wanted to send it out with a fresh baked bun, cheese and all the sauces.
But we passed on all of that so we could really get an idea what all the fuss was about. Here’s what we decided:
🌱 It is better with ranch. Matt jokes, “What vegetable isn’t?” (His jokes are getting worse the older he gets.)
🌱 It is fairly close, although not identical, in terms of appearance. The texture was a little off to me, but not as much as I assumed it would be.
🌱 It’s taste is OK, but we definitely didn’t fall into the category that is was the same as beef. It has a little bit of an odd after-taste but we also agreed a lot of that is probably disguised with buns, topping and sauce.
🌱 The smell is a little funky. Our waitress told us they really stink up the kitchen when they cook them. Again, that’s probably masked fairly well when it’s all dressed up.
🌱 It is not healthier. The Impossible burger is higher in fat, significantly higher in sodium, and short 7 grams of protein compared to lean ground beef. It does have some fiber (go plants!) that lean beef does not.
With all that in mind, we know a lot of the people that choose a plant-based burger do so because they’ve been told it’s a better choice for the environment. Unfortunately, that’s not true either.
Livestock are an important piece of a healthy, sustainable farming. Our cattle play a key role in maximizing our land efficiency, soil and water quality and cycling GHGs right here on our farm. (If you think they aren’t part of the natural ecosystem, don’t forget that millions of buffalo used to wander these lands.)
Agriculture as an entire industry only accounts for 8.4% of total US GHG emissions and we are well on our way to reducing that to less than 4% (USFRA, 2019). Livestock only make up a small portion of that.
Look, if you like this sort of thing - that’s awesome! We raise the grains that go into that plant patty too, so we are all about options. (We do however highly recommend you use ranch.)
But if you don’t like it - because of the taste, nutrition, price, or funky smell - that’s cool too. We get you. We are you.
Don’t let Hollywood, or Nancy next door, make you feel bad about that choice - because it’s actually a pretty solid one.
A lot of people write about young love or new love. Tonight, I had to write about our love - which isn’t young or new. But like a whiskey aging in a barrel, it’s only getting better.
“Are you two newlyweds?” She shouted at me, over the band.
“Newlyweds?” I must have raised an eyebrow.
“We’ve been watching you two. He doesn’t see anyone else in the room. We figured you were just married.”
I looked at him. He smiled - one of my favorite, whiskey-all-day smiles - and pulled me closer to finish our dance.
Oh no... when we were newlyweds I was a size 2. I was full of the confidence that comes from lack of living and certain we would never be more in love than we were right then, on our wedding night.
When we were newlyweds, that was well before he had seen me...
Seen me laughing so hard I spit coffee out all over my shirt. And crying so hard my whole body trembled with my tears.
Before he seen me transition from a careless, never-say-no to fun undergrad to someone that keeps a written planner and three calendars on her at all times.
It was before he seen me slim down to train for marathons and nearly double my body weight while growing his child (twice). It was definitely before he seen these stretch marks he swears he doesn’t notice.
It was before he’d seen me step up onto a stage to steal an audience, and watched me fall down onto the floor when it all has been too much.
He’s seen me sick. Fat. Thin. Ugly. Pretty. Strong. Weak. Happy. Angry. Sad. Scared.
Tired. Really tired. He probably sees me tired more than anything else...
But not this night. This night, hours away from home and the farm and real life we aren’t tired. We have rewound life for a single night, back to when our only care in the world was loving each other.
Back to when we were newlywed.
Only, now it’s better. Because we aren’t clueless, hopeful newlyweds praying this thing works.
The curtain is gone now.
Now, he definitely sees me. All of me. (Stretch marks included.)
And tonight, in this little bar crammed full of people, with a band playing all the right music, we aren’t kids, praying it works anymore.
Now, we know it does.
I answered her. “No, we’ve been married almost 11 years,” I said.
“To each other?” She laughed, shook her head and told us to have fun.
Here’s to love that ages like good spirits. 🥃
I spent the first few years of my adult life expecting my husband to manage all things financial. Even though I was working and bringing in a regular paycheck, those responsibilities seemed (in my mind) to naturally fall to him. It was a huge, and unfair burden I placed on him to carry alone.
Several years ago I became frustrated with not understanding where all of our money was going. I made the decision that I was going to step-up and get control of our household finances.
Looking back, I can easily say this is one of the greatest things I do for our family, farm and future. I now know exactly where our family spending goes and know that we are on track for our personal goals.
Below I am sharing a tool I've created to use for our budget. I do this twice a month, with each of my paychecks, and use this to manage our family living. (This is NOT a tool we use to manage farm income and expenses.)
This isn't a fancy tool. It's very basic. For me, it's perfect. For others, it may not work. But in the case it has some value to someone, I've decided to share.
I was pulling out to head north for Thanksgiving, leaving back my farmer, who has to stay behind to work, when a song was playing on the radio.
I’d do whatever she likes
Give her Christmas in July
She ain't gotta tell me twice
I would do, I would do anything...
I was signing along and then stopped.
Anything she wants?? What a load of crap.
It sounds romantic. It sounds like love - some guy willing to drop everything, spend everything, do everything because it’s what she wants.
And that might be fun. When you’re 17. But hear me - that ain’t going to cut it in real life.
There’s going to come a day when suddenly you find yourself smack dab in the middle of adulting. It’ll hit you out of nowhere. You’ll wake up one morning, exhausted, carrying an extra 5 pounds, and feeling hung over but you’re definitely not hung over because you don’t have time for a drink.
There will be bills to pay, college to save for, dinner to cook, and lists. Lists everywhere - lists for things to be done, things to be bought, things to be prayed for, things not to forget, things you already forgot, places you have to go, places they have to go...
You get the picture.
When you’re there. When you wake up in the middle of that chaos, not sure what happened or how you got there, you’re going to want a man by your side that knows how to say no.
No to staying in bed, even when you’d both rather, because there is work to be done.
No to dropping his responsibilities in the name of fun, because he knows his family counts on him.
No to spending money that isn’t there because corn prices are at rock bottom and bills still have to be paid.
No to complaining about leftovers three nights in a row because you’re just too beat to cook dinner yet again.
I know sometimes it sounds romantic to forget about life and just be in love. But trust me, when you find yourself in the thick of it all, you’ll no longer be intrigued by a man who indulges every whim and functions off what “feels good”.
Instead, you’ll treasure the steady, calm patience of a man disciplined enough to say no to what feels good and instead says yes to what needs to be done.
That’s love. Even if it means missing out on all the fun.
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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