Seasonality

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

A Time to Dance

A Time to Dance

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Evening light

Evening light

All you have to do is look out the window in the evening and you can tell that this season’s change is coming faster every day. The sun is setting much earlier than it was a month ago. The work is no less hard and, with harvest upon us, it may be harder for a while. Farm life is very affected by seasonality. Cows and sheep calve in the spring (generally, this is not a given), crops are planted in the spring, hay is cut in the summer, harvesting can occur at various time based on the type of crop in mind, and winter is the time to catch up on other things.

The biological nature of Farming leads to great seasonality. I work in a hospital. I see a little bit of seasonality in my work because people are more active in the summer and allergies are more active in spring and fall but for the most part illness is  an “equal opportunity employer”.  My work varies day to day but I do the same type of things regardless of the time of year. Farmers don’t cut the ice on the pond for the cattle to drink in the summer because the water isn’t frozen! (Captain Obvious.) They don’t plant corn in the fall but they may plant cover crops like winter wheat or rye. Livestock have to be milked year round but they generally get fed a lot more and a lot differently in the winter due to no available pasture. I could go on and on.

I know these things are very obvious to people who grew up with them. Not everybody has. Most people these days get up and go to work Monday through Friday exactly the same way all year long. A lot of people get in the car in the garage and get out of it in a parking garage and never get out in the rain, sleet, or snow. They don’t even necessarily put on a coat or hat. Try feeding the cows for an hour and a half in a minus 20 degree wind chill without a coat. Farmers are much more tied to these biological life factors then most people.

Fall is a great time for cookie baking and football games, feeding wildlife and enjoying the last rose of summer. Fall trips to check out the foliage and visit the relatives are a great idea. Enjoy it while you can. Winter is coming. Spring will be on the way in a few months after that.IMG_0433IMG_0276IMG_0108IMG_0485IMG_0416IMG_0808

A “Common Perception”

The historic perception of a farmer is someone who lives an insular life segregated from the world at large. I must admit that there are a few ways that this is true. Farmers are separated from the outside world in a sense geographically. A large proportion of their job is spent working on their farm which is, by definition, separate from “not the farm”. A lot of this time is usually spent working alone or with only a few others who also usually spend  a lot of their time on the farm. There is not a lot of outside exposure here.

There is one huge way that rural folks are not insular. Farmers depend on the news and weather. The biological nature of farming in general is very affected by weather. Farmers like to know whether it is going to stay wet or dry, hotter or colder. The weather affects both livestock and crops. They need to adjust feeding, watering, fertilizing, chemical application, planting, harvesting, and innumerable other work according to the forecast.

There are many other types of information that are basic to the everyday operation and the long term operation of farming and ranching. Farmers live in a world of GPS enabled, computer aided, machinery. and depend on satellite imagery for their weather predictions. This is a world that is becoming more and more information dependent and there is no faster or more efficient way to get that information than being on-line. One way to get this vital information is through directed Agricultural publications like Ozarks Farm & Neighbor.

Ozarks Farm & Neighbor is a farming and ranching targeted paper that is direct mailed every three weeks. It is a paper publication but it also has an on-line presence. This was not an easy decision to make. Companies have to make money to stay in business and all businesses have to show some type of return on investment on every aspect of what they do to stay competitive. The Editor of their online aspect had to prove the value of that aspect. Their 1400 Facebook followers are getting more exposure to OF&N’s Advertisers, News Presence, and articles. Their advertisers are getting more out of their on-line presence through the inter-connected and searchable essence of the internet. This is a presence that will only grow over time due to the increasing availability of high speed rural internet and cellular smart phone access.

This also changes the demographics of their audience. Their 58,000 subscribers are generally age 35 -64 living in Southwest Missouri, Northwest Arkansas, and Eastern Oklahoma. Being online allows OF&N to reach anyone on the net anywhere in the world at any time. This is a huge difference from a paper lying folded up on the end table next to the couch underneath  the Bass Pro catalog.

Ozarks Farm & Neighbor has a presence on Facebook and Twitter. Their goal is to be story driven and informational. Their on-line aspect allows them to update  and react to the news cycle in a much more timely fashion than once every three weeks. Their Facebook page has a “Breaking news” segment, “Links” to other online sites (This is priceless interconnectedness. Now their readers are one click away from being OF&N readers), a “Subscription” link to get the paper, and a link to “Extended Stories” and “National and Regional News”. OF&N becomes a “one-stop-shop” for vital decision making information.

The classic version of the American farmer is someone wearing overalls standing in a field surrounded by cows and/ or corn.1931570-ia2_grantwood_american_gothic_1930

The new version may have that same farmer holding a smart phone or tablet instead of a pitchfork. I urge you to check out Ozarks Farm and Neighbor and see what is going on in rural America.

See – N – Say

One of my previous posts referred to the sounds that you can hear out in the country when you are a little farther from the hubbub of modern cities. Today, I am going to go more in-depth on that topic. Listen up.

The last information I have states that the “Farm sector” of the economy is responsible for 16% of American GDP (Gross Domestic Product). That means that Ag is responsible for 16% of the market value of all goods produced in the US in one year. Here is a link to more than you ever wanted to know about the US GDP. Agriculture is important to our economy. It is MORE important to our collective Psyche. What is Thanksgiving all about? THINK about that question!

“Play” is vastly important to the mental and physical growth of children. Playtime helps children to develop their imagination and learn about the world around them. Most of us grew up playing with toys of some type. We made them out of our imagination if we didn’t have actual toys. A number of my toys were farm animals, farm models like barns, fences, and equipment.  I made fences and corrals out of blocks and Lincoln Logs (a great toy). I am sure that kids who did not grow up on farms probably did not have as

Lincoln Logs!

Lincoln Logs!

many of these types of toys as I did but I am also sure that they either had a few of them or they had access to them at other places like daycare or Grandparents houses. They have been basic to childplay  since kids have had toys. Some electronic toys and games are also farm related. You can find farm related games all over the “APP Store”. There are 2,566 farm games on the Apple App Store this morning.

“Farm Play” has been essential to the American ethos. Children learn at an early age about farm animals. They learn that basic livestock are cows, pigs, and chickens. They learn about dogs and cats and horses, too. They learn that these animals are on farms. They probably DON”T all learn the difference between meat animals and pets. This is a huge difference!

The first Christmas toy I bought for my beautiful granddaughter last year was a See-N-Say by Fisher-Price. She loves it according to her Mom and Dad. My Granddaughter is starting to talk and the process of that is imitation. She is also learning to imitate farm animals.

See n Say

See n Say!

“What does a cow say?” is a question little kids get early in my family. (Christmas Spoiler for my family, here. My second granddaughter is getting the same thing for her first Christmas.) I will, eventually, make sure they learn the REAL sounds that cows and pigs and chickens make.

I want my family to learn at an early age about the importance of farm animals. I want them to learn about the difference between production animals and pets. There is an ENORMOUS difference! I want them to know where their milk and their meat and their vegetables come from. I want my grandkids to mentally connect farm life and the animals they find there to positive feelings and FUN! I want them to connect farm Work and Production with positive thoughts and feelings.  “MOOOOOOOOOO!”

Waiter, I have a fly in my soup!

The old joke responds ” Please, not so loud! Everyone will want one!” I started to make a pot of the “Elixir of Life”, a.k.a. “coffee”, this morning when what to my wondering eyes should appear but A FLY floating around in my coffee pot! I was not amused. How in the world could a fly get into my empty coffee pot in the first place? The pot has a lid on it with only two TINY little openings And it was sitting in the drip coffee maker where you could BARELY slide a piece of paper between the pot lid and the bay of the coffee maker. FLIES! AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!! (Coffee is another post subject we’ll get to in time)

I grew up on a farm and flies are just a fact of life on a farm. I will never forget when some cousins of mine were visiting from Philadelphia, PA and went with me to bucket feed the

Disgusting!

Disgusting!

calves.  They had never SEEN a farm, much less visited one. They were amazed and appalled at the number of flies in the shed where we fed the calves. The flies were all over the calves and trying to get into the milk buckets. My cousins were constantly waving their arms and swatting at the flies like me fighting cobwebs while I just fed the calves. It was just flies, after all.

Flies are a fact of life in nature. They serve a purpose, just not a purpose we tend to appreciate very much. Here is an article that tells you more than you ever wanted to know about various types of flies. ‘Mother nature”( a euphemism for the forces of nature in my book) fills every niche of life possible and there is a niche for flies. Fly larvae, maggots, eat refuse. (“Refuse” is a nice word for manure and other things that come out of animals and vegetables isn’t it?) They can serve a very useful purpose in Healthcare wound management of all things! The thought of having maggots on your flesh is counter-intuitive to almost everybody, but it does work and has for millennia! One of the reasons we don’t like flies is they tend to do their thing on the refuse and then come straight to us and sit on our food.

Just so you know, I hate flies. I hate it when they fly around the house. I hate it when they sit on my beverage of choice.I REALLY hate it when they land on my hot dog, hamburger, steak, and on and on. I do not want to find another fly in my coffee pot. I REALLY do not want to find one in my coffee.

Chew on this.

Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater

I took a trip with my wife and son a few years ago to the Grand Canyon. We went in March when the temperature was very nice and we had a great time. The Grand Canyon is beyond description. We saw some other local attractions like the San Francisco volcanic field and Meteor Crater. I had no idea there were so many actual volcanoes in the Southwest!

I had heard of Meteor Crater. My son was taking a College class on either Solar System Science or Interstellar Material at the University of Missouri at the time and we decided to tour the Crater since it was so topical to the class. Fascinating place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. It was very hot and dry most of the year.

One of the men at Meteor Crater got to talking about the surrounding ranch.The ranch runs cattle in the area and has for many years. The land doesn’t seem to have very much grass

Arizona Grazing land!

Arizona Grazing land!

on it compared to good old Southwest Missouri pasture. If I remember correctly, he told us that the gazing supported about one cow for every thirty acres! That would be 1800 acres of “grassland” for the roughly 60 head of cattle we averaged on the farm where I grew up! This was quite a change in perspective from what I was used to.

 

This article from the University of Arizona gives a great in-depth description of of calculating the number of acres it takes to support a cow. Then you have to multiply the number of cows by that many acres to see how much grazing land you need to support a herd. Compare that to this article from the University of Missouri Extension office that says one beef cow and calf needs three acres per year in Southwest Missouri.

It just goes to show that Agriculture practices in America are extremely widely varied. I mentioned “waist high fescue and clover” in one of my previous posts about my trip to the Middle East. That kind of pasture can support completely different Ag practices than the Middle East or the dry range of Arizona. Cattle are still raised in Arizona: you just have to do it in a different fashion. All farmers face different conditions in different parts of their land. Even neighbors can experience quite different conditions relative e to pasture, water, and shelter. These just exemplify some of the variables every farmer faces.

 

 

Still bangin’ the Drum

An important topic  deserves a fair bit of coverage. The Chipotle ‘Scarecrow’ video is important. Agriculture needs to stay on point and on top of articles in the Media that are so negative towards Agriculture in general. People are going to eat regardless of how this “Crow” video portrays the way that food gets on the table. They will make their choices on what they eat and where they eat depending on their own personal tastes and preferences. American farmers need to make sure that we have a hand in shaping those tastes and preferences instead of letting negative images of our practices dominate the conversation.

My classmates and I at Missouri State University made videos to put on our blogs as a class project. My teammates and I came up with this one.

This was our first try at home grown video. I found the contrast between what Chipotle portrays and what McDonalds shows a remarkable one. The story told by each is compelling. Chipotle could have chosen to market positively and chose to go the other direction. Do you find attack video or positive coverage more appealing? Here is a link to the full McDonald”s video. Watch it and see which one appeals to you.

I was raised on a dairy farm. Our cows did not sleep on water beds! We did try our best to make sure they were cared for in the best way we could. That is good practice if you want a profitable farm. Let me know whether your choices are influenced by these videos. Do you feel better about Ag or worse? Are you more or less likely to eat at Chipotle? I hope I have made my choice clear. Pass the word. This topic deserves our thought and time.

 

The Perception is the Reality!

OK. I am going to be talking some very basic and fundamental philosophy today. Rational people act on the basis of how they perceive the world to be. I make decisions based on my understanding of how the world works compared to how I think the world is now and how I want to change or not change what is going on about me. The important phrase is “how I perceive”.

Perception of reality on the supply side (Farmer’s side) is usually fairly cut and dried. What we perceive is pretty much what is actually going on. The pond that the cattle drink from is dry, therefore, the cattle need a new water source. The grass in the pasture is waist high and green, therefore, the cattle are getting good nutrition from their grazing and I may only need to supplement a little or not at all. The ears are set on the corn and we have had good soil moisture, therefore, the corn is doing well.

My perception may not always reflect reality. I may think the corn is looking dry, but when I actually check the soil moisture, it is fine. I do not need to start irrigating today which saves me one more day of irrigating work and expense. I have checked my perception against reality and modified my behavior as a result.

The other side of the coin, the demand side (consumer’s side,) is where the perception of reality becomes a lot trickier. Consumers are bombarded by all kinds of information on different choices they can make as to how they consume or purchase the things they need. Farmers are constantly deluged with ads about which feed, fertilizer, equipment brand, and every other option we have to sort through. We also eat food just like everyone else. We get the same food ads, i.e.”The Scarecrow” by Chipotle, that everyone else does.

This is where the whole Perception/ Reality thing kicks in. Poultry producers know that hormone use in growing chickens is illegal. Pork Producers know that hormone use in raising hogs is illegal. Farmers know that the best way to increase productivity is to treat your livestock as well as possible. Animals need the best food, water, air, and living conditions we can afford to provide.

Mr. Average Consumer (The A.C.) has more than likely lived her/his whole life without ever seeing a sow or a cow except in pictures. The A.C.’s perception of Reality is based on what they,and everyone they know, get in Media, NOT REAL LIFE! The Chipotle video is just as Real to them as my perception that my corn is dry by just looking at it is Real to me. I checked my perception by checking the soil moisture. How does the A.C. check his perception? Why should the A.C. check his perception unless someone tells him that perception may not be correct. Why should someone not believe that “Conventional Wisdom”, otherwise known as “what everybody else around me Believes” isn’t the rock solid Gospel truth?

The Perception is the Reality. Everybody makes their life decisions based on how they think life is. I am not judging the correctness of those decisions. People come to different decisions based on the same information all the time. That is why there are 50,000 different  restaurants to go to in the first place. I am talking about influencing the A.C.’s  perceived Reality and decision making. I am talking about getting the message into public perception that American Agriculture practices are healthy, safe, and humane.

The bottom line is that consumers make decisions everyday based on the best available information. Chipotle would like their very well produced video, and associated game apps, to be the only information their prospective audience sees. The “Behind the Scenes” video of “The Scarecrow” states that their target audience is one who does not pay much attention to these types of issues! American Agriculture producers and suppliers have to make sure our version of Reality gets to our target audience, all Americans. Please, spread our word.

Feeding the world or exacerbating the problem?

I listen to National Public Radio all the time. I missed this article when it aired but you can catch it here.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/09/17/221376803/american-farmers-say-they-feed-the-world-but-do-they .

This NPR article raises a huge philosophical issue that is vital to the future of American Agriculture in the long run. Do we, American Ag, feed the world? Are we feeding the world but making nutritional problems worse worldwide by providing cheaper but less nutritional food for the poor? Do American Agricultural production practices cause more environmental damage through pesticide and fertilizer use and create a larger carbon footprint from ethanol fuel usage than we can justify by our chosen types of food production?

These are questions American Agriculture, and indeed, Worldwide Agriculture, must answer for the future of mankind. I know, these phrases cause knee-jerk reactions on both sides of the issues here. “Future of Mankind” sounds ludicrously overstated. Is it? We all have to eat. We all have to live in a world where the environment is sustainable in the long run. We don’t have time for knee-jerks. Knee-jerks are, by definition, reflexive non-rationalized reactions. We need real, reasoned, factual, measurable responses balanced for all of the issues involved.

That is one of the problems I have with the NPR article. The Agriculture side answers production questions with facts about the quantities of food we produce and how many people we feed. The other side answers with surveys of thoughts and opinions on “What we think we should be doing”. The “knee-jerk” reaction on both sides is to de-value the other sides facts ( and, yes, surveys are facts when correctly done) saying that “You don’t tell the whole story”. Opinions are factual but are they based on feelings and perceptions or are they opinions based on statistical data of actual outcomes?

I do not have the answers. I Do know that Ag colleges across this nation are working on these problems. I do know that worldwide environmental issues are becoming more and more important whether you believe in Climate change or not. I do know that my Grandchildren are going to be facing different issues than my parents generation faced trying to raise a family on the farm.

Should American Ag be proud of what we accomplish? Pardon my French but “HELL YES”! We are feeding the world. We have raised our levels of food production to levels undreamt of 100 years ago. We do need to find a way to balance ALL of the factors involved in feeding a growing and changing world. American Ag Will lead the way.

Where do you want to eat tonight?

Aside

The trendy Tex/Mex burrito restaurant, Chipotle, has a controversial marketing strategy. This strategy is not actually new, they did the same thing with a previous ad campaign maligning Big Food and Corporate Farming. This new advertisement is on You Tube. You will notice, if you watch it, that the Chipotle name is only in one spot at the end of the video.

I am NOT a fan of this portrayal of Agriculture. Here is the link to an article about the video followed by my comment. ( My comment is being moderated and may not show up on the link. I also corrected some errors when I re-published it here.) Be Warned that many of the comments are VERY profane if you decide to read them. (What are people thinking?)

http://gawker.com/theres-no-getting-around-it-the-new-chipotle-ad-is-am-1308234473/1309523091@jesusdiaz

“Chipotle has high hopes that The Scarecrow will officially cement its status as a fast food chain with a brain.”

Chipotle wants everyone to think that the only people with brains are the people who buy into their worldview. “Organically” raised food is fine but the output is insufficient  for any significant segment of the population. The achievable scale of production is miniscule compared to the overall demand.

The decision to never utilize “Genetically Modified” food is not a decision made solely because of mythical “Food Safety” claims. The reason to not use these foods is a marketing ploy based on scaring people who don’t research the safety of such foods. If we all believed such myths, we would still think tomatoes are poisonous.

Here is a link to a balanced discussion of the issue. Believe who you decide to believe. Don’t believe scare tactics.  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/harvest/v… Yesterday 6:04pm

Who am I?

Who am I to Seek to wrest the Bounty of the Soil from out the Ground in which it rests by virtue of my Toil?

Who am I seek to guide the Herds, the Flocks, the Fold; To Breed and Feed and Water them and Shelter them from Cold?

Who am I to seek to Farm the Ground on which I Stand? What Vanity to think I’ll find my Life’s work in my Land!

Who am I to Breathe the air and Drink of water Pure; to Labor Hard in sun and shade and be so Down Right Sure….

That Winter, Summer, Spring, and Fall, the Harvest of this Earth will cleanse my Soul and fill my Heart in Plenty or in Dearth.

I’m a Farmer, Rancher, Harvester, Grower; American through and through. I find Vocation in this life. I was born for what I do!

My Blood is in this land of mine. And too, my Sweat and Tears. So when I’m old I Pray that I can think back on the years…

and know the World is better off, that I helped to stem the Tides of Hunger, Need, and Anger; to know the Land Provides.