30 August 2009

Me and Hank Snow Are Tight...

If you're not aware - Hank Snow sings that song "I've Been Everywhere". It is one of my favorites.. But I truly live that lifestyle. We travel a lot during the summer - locally for all the county fairs and festivals- but things really kick up this time of year and run through March/April of the following year. I'm currently sitting in my hotel room in Jacksonville, IL (hello)- not the most exotic of places - but definitely something to talk about.

Today we had the opportunity to hear about Liberty Link with Ignite from not only the folks at Bayer that work with the product but from other companies that are using the technologies. It is always interesting to hear from the growers as well as the companies that are going to be using and selling these products.

Tomorrow is slated to be a day full of educational things. We're starting our day at the plot in Athens and wrapping up at the Research Station in White Heath. This has been such an interesting and trying year for producers - I'm anxious to see what is in store tomorrow. That means you'll have to check back for more information.

After tomorrow we head to Decatur for Farm Progress City. I am really excited for Farm Progress Show this year... I think there are going to be some great things going on in Decatur and I urge you to make the trip down there! If you are - we'll be at the NuTech booth on Tuesday, Illinois Corn Growers on Wednesday and Illinois Soybean Association on Thursday. Make sure to look us up!

Until tomorrow night...

From a different hotel room..

In a different city...

25 August 2009

ENOUGH Already

I've had it.

I'm fed up.

I am sick and tired.

And if you don't like it - find something else to eat. What am I talking about? The recent attacks on production agriculture. From Food, Inc., The Omnivore's Dilemma, and most recently the Time Magazine Article about "the high price of cheap food". After hearing Anne Burkholder's (a feedlot manager/owner from Cozad, NE) story I've reached my limit. I'm so tired of agriculture telling their story and then the mass media failing to not relay that same story. But twisting what they have been told into their version of the truth.

I love the fact that Bryan Walsh of Time Magazine spent hours interviewing people involved in production agriculture to only use one quote. And a quote that was misrepresented at that. I'd love for Bryan Walsh to come out to our farm. Let's talk. Let me take you on a tour of our facilities as well as my listeners farms. Talk to them. Sit down at their dinner table and have a real conversation about the farmer's struggles, their love of an industry, how technologies are improving to produce more with less, etc. (Should I continue to list how farmers are continuing to better the world?) But why don't you tell their real story? The story they love to tell. How about the story of how two percent of the worlds population feeds the remaining ninety-eight percent. Not to mention they do it on less ground, fighting things they have no control over - like weather. No one is perfect - nor do we expect them to be. People make mistakes - there is the occasional "bad seed". But, farmers are a master of their trade. Let them do their job to the best of their ability.

My favorite part of Walsh's article? He refers to Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser as investigative journalist who are "awakening a sleeping public to the uncomfortable realities of how we eat". I wouldn't call that awakening - I'd call that instilling fear into a society that is becoming further and further removed from the farm and has no grasp nor desire to learn the realities that go along with farming and how their food gets from the field to the fork.

I'll admit - I didn't want to see Food, Inc. I knew I'd get all out of sorts not only watching the movie but from the comments that would undoubtedly come from the peanut gallery. That's why I refused to drive to Chicago to see it. I figured if it came to Peoria - I'd go see it. It did. I kept up my end of the bargain. To my surprise I wasn't as "upset" as I thought I would be. I was more in shock of what I saw. I spent the majority of my time shaking my head in disbelief. I had to pry my eyes from the back of my head from several parts. I actually laughed out loud at a few things. It wasn't a heartless laugh... It was a more "wtf" kind of chuckle. Well, except when the chicken farmer pulled up to the farm and says "smells like money" when he gets a whiff of the stench of the manure. That statement brought back memories of my childhood - when I'd complain that we lived downwind from the farm "Meghan, That's the Smell of Money" my dad would say. (If only that was the case today).

My point of all of this? I love seeing Agriculture standing up for themselves. There is no rolling with the punches anymore. We're moving into a time where we have to be heard. Thank you to people like Anne Burkholder, Blake Hurst who wrote The Omnivore's Delusion, The National Cattleman's Beef Association, The American Farm Bureau Federation, all of those involved in all aspects of agriculture using tools like social media to educate the consumers.

Say what you have to say loudly.

Say it proudly.

14 August 2009

Lessons in Life Often Forgotten

We're headed to the state fair. Actually, I am already here. I got here this morning to a wonderful surprise. Let's just say it was unexpected and I was ecstatic for such a wonderful morning.

Things are great down here.. Some of the things I have always loved are still here- the smell of the barns, the dust that makes breathing impossible and parking, oh parking how I love you - which as usual was a bitch... But it's the state fair... What else did I expect?

I just watched the Champion Crossbred Barrow drive and I was excited to see one of our local kids take Champion. It reminded me of my love of this time of year. But when I look back and relive the "glory days" in my mind I realize things have changed so much since my last year in 4-H... 10 years ago. The rings are different, the attire is different and most definitely the industry standard has changed. That's the amazing thing about life - so many things can change but so many things can remain the same. I've been removed from the show ring for a few years... As I've started attending more shows, as I watch the kids in the show ring and get acclimated with some of the new families I remember how much I loved it and how much 4-H was such an influential part of my life. The people, (from the new ones I am just meeting to the ones I have know most of my life) are just as nice as ever. They're friendly, competitive and no matter what - generally willing to lend a helping hand.

I preach (and sometimes yes it feels like preaching) how important the 4-H program is. The more I see it in action - the more fond I grow of its effects on the youth and the future leaders of the agriculture industry. I couldn't be more honest when I say this - and it is a little embarrassing to admit - I think my appreciation for the participants and the life lessons they learn has grown more so now than it did ten or even fifteen years ago when I was active in 4-H. I also have a special place in my heart for all the people that make this thing happen. It certainly isn't an easy task and it takes quite a lot for them to prepare as well.

Mike and I attend and broadcast from over 20 county fairs and town festivals every year and no matter where we are - I always get the same vibe.. 4-H is an important part of their life and their childhood. They're learning the lessons on their own that we often times forget to reinforce. Kids learn how to speak, they learn responsibility and most importantly they learn how to win and lose graciously. I am constantly impressed and amazed by these kids. They bring excitement to the future of agriculture.

So no matter how much things change... One thing will always remain the same.. 4-H does an amazing job shaping our youth into responsible and accountable young adults. I look forward to the hundreds of county fairs in my future and I am blessed to be able to tell their story. I think it is a story that should be told over and over and over again.

Remember the stories... Remember the lesson. I think sometimes we forget how important both are to our future.