A Typical Wisconsin Dairy Farmer

I’m going to introduce you to someone today. A typical Wisconsin Dairy Farmer; not to be confused with an “atypical” Wisconsin Dairy Farmer. This typical farmer is “Dairy Carrie”.

Dairy Carrie is a dairy farmer on a family owned farm in Wisconsin. She didn’t start out that way. Carrie started out just like the overwhelming majority of people start out. She started as a non-farmer. Then, she became the first young woman to take an Ag class at her High School! I think that is a great part of her story. Apparently, she had a great experience because she eventually married into a multi-generational farm family. I am not going to go on at length about family working together but I will say that it is great when it works. It doesn’t always work. That is a topic for another day.

Carrie blogs about her experience as a dairy farmer at “The Adventures of Dairy Carrie…I think I Need a Drink!“. She farms with her husband and his parents on a typical Wisconsin dairy of about 300 acres and about 100 cows. She has been posting a lot of new-born calf pictures lately because it is calving season. I was raised on a dairy so I personally think calves are very appealing.Image (I’d call them cute and adorable but that is not a very manly thing to say.) She covers a lot of different topics on her blog about life in Wisconsin but she became Nationally recognized through her Agvocacy. “Agvocacy” means that when Carrie sees an issue relating to Agriculture that needs to be addressed, she takes action!

Her first big action was in response to the historic drought conditions a few years ago. She started an on-line hay drive to donate hay from farmers in Wisconsin to farmers trying to feed their cattle in the extreme dry areas of Texas and Oklahoma. She originally intended to get one semi-trailer of hay. The drive achieved “viral” status on-line and she ended up sending 7 truck loads of hay! That is making a difference!

Carrie attended an AgChat conference a couple of years ago and that just spurred her interest in Agvocacy to a higher level.  Panera Bread Company put out an Ad campaign in-accurately portraying Poultry producers using antibiotics in a lazy attempt to raise un-healthy chicken a few years ago and Carrie spoke out. Her promotion of the truth about Poultry producers caught Panera’s attention and they ended up retracting their whole Ad campaign!

Carrie speaks genuinely and from the heart. She blogs. She uses Twitter. She has a Facebook page. She was picked up by the Huffington Post when she talked about being a Farmer and not a “Farm Wife”. She tells the story of her family and her farm and her life in Wisconsin and her Agvocacy in a transparent fashion that reaches people. All kinds of people are following Carrie. That is the way to tell the story of Agriculture. A thousand farmers may read her but that is “singing to the choir”. The “overwhelming majority of people” who are just like Carrie before she took that first Ag class in High School are hearing and experiencing parts of her life. They are becoming engaged in farming and experiencing the truth about farming as told by someone living the life, not a Restaurant chain bashing modern Agriculture practices to sell burritos. People are being inspired out there right now to start something like a hay drive because they now know it can be done and it has been done. I recommend taking a look at Dairy Carrie and trying some of her brand of inspiration on for size. It might change your life!



Today’s post is a hard one. That is actually a large part of what this post is about. I am going to be talking about loss; very personal loss. I’m talking worse than your alma mater losing a football game or losing your wallet. I want to talk about death loss. This is something EVERY farmer knows personally.

I just watched an episode of “The Blacklist” on NBC. There was a scene where the main character is talking to her father on the phone. She has just found out her father is in the hospital having some tests because he has a history of cancer and is concerned about relapse. She tells her father “I know you will be OK!”. That phrase is the point. Sometimes, your loved ones will NOT be ok.

Before you get upset with me, take a deep breath and read on. I fully understand that saying “I know you will be OK!” is what everyone does. That phrase is a statement of hope and love and faith. That phrase is often the best possible encouragement in times when people are desperately in need of just ANY kind of moral and emotional boost. It can be the prayer that brings emotional support right when and where it is needed. The problem is blind, un-reasoning, and un-ending belief in that statement in total denial of facts. That only leads to a train wreck where the express train of denial runs headlong into the road block of reality.

Farmers, all farmers, have personal knowledge of loss and death. I have mentioned the biological nature of Agriculture in other posts. “Biologic” literally means LIFE science. “Life” implies death in it’s very essence. What lives, eventually dies. Crops must be harvested before they die in whatever length of growth cycle they may have. The “harvesting” of live animals eventually requires death for the most part. Live animals can be productive without dying by laying eggs or giving milk among other things. Trees and some other plants can produce fruit and nuts for years without dying. Eventually those egg layers, milk givers, and perennial crops will die out. If they can be productive by supplying meat, or leather, or lumber, that death is also productive and a part of the production cycle. But sometimes crops die out of season. Sometimes livestock die from natural disaster or disease or lightning strikes or just plain stupidity.

THIS IS A FACT OF FARMING! Death happens! It happens all the time. We are generally pretty much isolated from the reality of death in our culture. Funeral homes take care of the messy part of the death of loved ones. It often, though certainly not always, occurs at a ripe old age in the antiseptic environment of a hospital or other type of care facility. We can often, but certainly not always, distance ourselves from some of the harsh reality of the ugliness of death. This can allow us to use phrases like “I know you will be OK!” without having to be slapped in the face with the reality that it will not be ok. Again, I want to be VERY clear here. I am NOT comparing the death of a loved one to the death of livestock. I am just saying that farmers have a more frequent and closer relationship to death and loss than many others in our culture.

Farmers see death and loss right up close and personal. ANY farmer that raises livestock of any type will have death loss. “You can only lose ’em if you have ’em.” is a phrase that farmers have to live with. I am going to spell out what that phrase means because it is a vital point. The only way to lose assets like livestock to death is if you have that asset in the first place. Owning livestock carries an implicit understanding that death loss is possible and very probable but the only way to make a living farming is to have that asset in the first place! Farmers CANNOT be in denial of this because IT IS A FACT. Farmers can and do utilize every management technique possible to minimize that loss but it will happen. Livestock get hit by lightning all the time. Stormy WeatherThere is NO AVOIDING THIS. Animals get sick and die whether or not they have received all of the appropriate anti-biotics. My dad had a steer wedge it’s head in a fork in a tree and strangle itself. My wife’s Uncles had a BEAUTIFUL field of river bottom corn that got flooded and totally ruined. That field was a total loss and there was nothing they could do about it. Crops get ruined somewhere every year due to drought or disease or insects. Some of this can be avoided but some of it cannot! Death loss of livestock and ruined crops is a huge financial, personal, and emotional loss that farmers face as a fact of daily life. Farmers are no less prone to trying to deny this fact than anyone else but they are directly faced by it.

“I know you will be ok” is a beautiful phrase. I believe personally in God and I believe that death is not neccessarily a terrible thing. I have worked in health care for over twenty years. Death can be a blessing. Death happens.  My prayers go out to anyone out there experiencing the pain of death and loss. Denying death and the pain and loss that goes with it is pointless. Sometimes you have to be a grown-up and just Farm on. It doesn’t make the pain less. But the only way through is forward.


Let’s talk some business. Agri-business.

Today’s topic is Agriculture business. I am an Ag Economist by way of College Education and Ag Business is near and dear to my heart. We are not, however, going to be talking about buying and selling (well not much), or prices, or modeling the economic forecast for the next beef cycle.The topic ‘du jour” is Pinterest! I know, Pinterest sounds about as far from a guy’s Ag Business topic as I could get. Just read on and maybe I will change your mind.

First, some discussion on the Economic environment pertaining to Ag businesses. I am talking about people with a differentiated product to sell. That cuts out Farmers who raise beef cattle just like the beef cattle down the road or Dairy Farmers or Corn/ Soybean Growers. Their products are GREAT products! But, they are homogeneous to everybody images-2else’s corn, beans, milk, or steers. I am talking about companies or individuals who profit from setting their products and/ or services above others of the same type by quality or uniqueness or location. “My Blueberry farm is closer and I stay connected to you during the year.” “My horseshoeing business is high quality and timely.” “The livestock I sell for show purposes are higher quality with better genetics.” These entities profit from differentiating their “product” as being more desirable than competing products. That is where Pinterest can come in.

Pinterest is a Social Medium. It has grown very quickly from it’s start in 2010 to become a worldwide platform enjoyed by millions of people as this Wikipedia site states. Pinterest is all about images only. The platform is based on storing images of things you like on your own “board/ boards”.  These images can be of anything relating to your product; what it is, how its used, and what your customer can do with it. You can add recipes, descriptions, prices, and any other information pertinent to your audience to enrich their experience. You can come back to these boards later and see these images and follow up on the ideas they represent. Other people can also “follow” you and see your boards (only if you allow this). This makes for fast, easy, and very efficient sharing of information. I see it as a “collective” kind of media where everyone is filing and sharing information in a very visual and interactive style. I benefit from other people who have identified information I like and have already filed that information where I can easily visualize and access it.

Anything you Pin maintains it’s link back to the website it has been Pinned from.  The Pinners I have talked to mostly Pin directly from the Pinterest site. HERE IS A HUGE FACT FOR BUSINESS PINTEREST SITES!  The people I have talked to are HUGELY turned off by self promotion and commercialism. Make your site interesting by pinning more than just your product itself. Think beyond selling your “stuff”. Add Value! Solve Problems! Be an Information Source, not a sales brochure! You can add a “Pin it button” to your website to make it extremely easy for site users to Pin your content. The more others Re-Pin your stuff, the more your stuff gets shared around the web! For businesses, there is a new and different kind of Pin called a “Rich Pin” that businesses can particularly use. Rich Pins update their contained information in real time. Article Pins include story information to entice people to become more engaged in your product. Product Pins include Real Time pricing and availability information that changes on their home board when you update it on your website. Recipe Pins include all the information to  prepare the beautiful food you showcase with your product. There are even more Rich Pins that may pertain to your business site depending on what you do. You can find out this information on the Pinterest site just like I did. These can do wonders for creating interest and engagement with your customers.

How does this relate to Ag Business? Pinterest has Business accounts.These are different from personal accounts. One way they are different is that business accounts have access to analytics. Your business can track how many people Pin from your website, see your own Pins, and click on your content. You can set a particular time frame and graph all of these numbers for easy visual interpretation. You can also find out which Pins people like the most, who else interacts with these Pinners and what these Pinners Pin alongside your images. All of this can be used to tailor your website to appeal more to what your users like on both your business website and your business Pinterest boards.

“Boards” are the basic way information is stored and organized on your Pinterest site. Evaluate what your customers want and who your customers are and create multiple boards that appeal to these categories. It is very easy to add boards. There is literally a panel that says “Create New Board”! My Pinterest site has Boards for Rural Beauty, images-3Home Gardening, Farm Equipment, and Farming. The more ways you can appeal directly to different tastes, the more ways you will attract and engage more customers. Be specific and direct to multiple people at the same time with multiple boards. This is the Great benefit of the internet. You can multi-task with one site that directly appeals to multiple people.

This multi-tasking is hugely increased by linking your Business Pinterest site to your OTHER Social Media and Internet sites. Link your website, your Pinterest site, your Facebook page, and your Twitter feed together! When you post to any one of these sites, make that become an item of interest on all of these other sites! Create more news! This gets all of your sites out there more often and gives that many more opportunities for your customers to see your information and get into your information stream! A huge bonus is that more traffic and more links makes your information appear higher on Search Engine results. The higher you show up on these search engines, the more likely customers are to find your product!

Business Pinterest sites have “Best Practices” just like any other business tool. 25 Mistakes businesses make on Pinterest is a great article about the right and wrong things your business should do on your website. Danielle Cormier has done a fantastic job of putting together basic things like including your business information (i.e. name and clear logo in your Profile) to following other businesses (a rising tide lifts all ships, shared links leads to shared customers) to advanced ideas (allowing collaborators to Pin to my boards again spreads the wealth). Anyone with a business Pinterest site should immediately check out this link and save it. This is priceless information gathered together in one place.

Some of the things great Pinners do is laid out here. Be picky about who you follow on your Pinterest site, “drill down” on the things you Pin to find out more about who you are Pinning and what they like, and add more information to your Pins. This will make your site more useful both to you and to your followers. Quality control is always a good thing. Make your business site the best it can be and keep it that way every day! Finding out more information by drilling down on your Pins and using the available Business Analytics will allow you to find out what your customers like best and how to change your website and Pinterest Boards to become more appealing.

The bottom line is that Pinterest can be a great tool to market your product. Your product has to be something that benefits from marketing by being differentiated and unique in some way. Create great content and customers will do the job of spreading the word for you. Make the Internet work for you and your business. Hey, even if you don’t have a business, Pinterest is great fun! It is not “just for girls” either! Anyone who has an interest or hobby can benefit from the collaboration and collective organization Pinterest offers. Get out there and give it a try. I think you’ll love it.

Cute Calves turn into hamburgers

Farming is an exercise in dualism. Farmers live in two worlds at the same time. They work in one of the oldest professions in the world using the most modern of high technology like GPS guided combines worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Growers utilize state of the art genetic modification to change plant characteristics while searching the far corners of the world for ancient “Heirloom” plants with valuable forgotten properties of taste or color. They take millions of dollars  in investment and literally bury it in the ground like “Jack and the Beanstalk” hoping it will “magically” turn into more millions of dollars. I fully understand that this “magic” involves more millions of dollars of experience/ expertise, years of genetic manipulation and/or modification, chemical/ fertilizer application, and mechanical investment.

Some of the more literal “magic ” is the dependence on the biological nature of Agriculture.   Biology is the basis on which all of Agriculture production rests. Plants and animals have to GROW. They have to survive disease. They have to withstand adverse weather. They have to take in food and water and, through the act of metabolism, turn that food into valuable end products like, meat, milk, eggs, plant growth, and plant production of fruit and seeds. The plan is that you start with something small and grow it into something more over the course of time. Grow the plants, grow the animals, grow the farm, grow the investment. This investment is NOT just money. The investment is also the Farmer’s land, labor, time, emotions, blood, sweat, tears, heart, and very Soul!

Baby farm animals are very cute. They are easy to love.  There is nothing like having a curly-headed little calf licking and sucking on your fingers when you are bucket feeding. (Their tongues are very rough and raspy.) I mean exactly what I said. Farmers actually “love” their livestock. We care about them. We care what happens to them. They are not just numbers in a ledger.The Horrendous  Atlas Blizzard in South Dakota two weeks ago imagesleft ranchers devastated over the financial and emotional loss of up to 100,000 head of livestock. News stories spoke of the pain of ranchers losing animals they had invested their lives in, not just their money.

The dualism comes in the fact that these animals were not destined to live out their lives on a pasture and die of old age surrounded by their “GrandCalves” like a Disney movie. Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney movies. Livestock are not pets. We love them and we care for them knowing the whole time that their purpose is to end up being consumed in some fashion. Most cute curly-headed little calves are destined to end up in someone’s hamburger or taco or on a plate in a steakhouse. Livestock are to be treated “humanely” NOT “humanly”. Calves, lambs, chicks, and piglets etc., etc. are not people. We treat them well and we care for them physically and often emotionally but they are produce.  Nor are they pets. Pets reward us with emotional benefits beyond what stock does. Pets are not human, either. I would not marry a pet. I would not bequeath my inheritance to a pet. I would not place the welfare of a pet above the welfare of a human.

A field full of 10 foot tall corn waving in the breeze is an awe-inspiring sight.  Six months later that same crop would be nothing but a field of tangled worthless stalks and weeds if not harvested. Apply that same thinking to a field full of livestock. That is wastage. This is a Judeo-Christian outlook but I also consider it to be the practical outlook. Mankind has the moral imperative to husband the resources of this world in such a way as to promote the welfare of humankind. That welfare comes above the welfare of livestock and crops. Our welfare is best served by the best possible care and nurturing of the resources placed within our purview. The better we treat them, within reason, the better we are rewarded.

I understand that other life philosophies feel that all life is sacred and should be treated the images-1same. Man has to eat to survive. Man has the capacity to alter his environment in such a way to better utilize the plants and animals placed on this Earth with us to increase our welfare. Curly-headed calves are beautiful in their way. They are also hamburger. Keep it in mind.



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.

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



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.



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.




Two years ago today my wife and I had the trip of a lifetime. Our trip to Israel, Jordan, and Egypt was amazing! That is me in the blue shirt. My wife took the picture. We saw amazing sites straight out of the Bible and straight out of history. That trip remains one of the highlights of my life and always will be. We landed in Tel Aviv, Israel on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. This post is not so much about the trip as it is about how blessed we are to live in America.

I grew up in the green and verdant countryside of Southwest Missouri. Yes, we have dry spells and our land is pretty rocky. You may have to use a pick axe and a pry bar to dig a post hole. There is one spot where my dad had to fill an old tire with cement to hold up a post! Compared to some of the land we saw in the Middle East, this land is literally the land of milk and honey.

The land we drove through in Jordan literally looked like Lunar Landscape.

Near Petra, Jordan

Near Petra, Jordan

I cannot imagine people being able to grow a crop or have a herd of cattle there. I was agog at the sight of such utter desolation compared to the lush pastures at home. I couldn’t help but compare this image to herds of holsteins grazing through waist high fields of fescue and clover.

There are people out there who hate America, this luscious land of plenty. They have their reasons. I am not here to debate politics, religion, or cultures. The farmers of America can do their own part to share the wealth of the land that God has so graciously granted us. He has given us the resources, the technology, and the will to feed the hungry masses. He has given us a beautiful and productive home. America can export more than just our weapons technology. “The Way to a Man’s Heart is through his belly.” I know a man who has been to Eastern Europe several times to share his Agricultural knowledge. We can lead the world in facing the challenges of food production and land management. The Ottoman Empire raped the land of Jordan of trees and fertility. Maybe some day we can all return that land to a state of productivity.

We did see some amazing Agriculture going on in Israel.Holy Land Trip 915 They are pioneering extreme low water usage techniques. This is a picture of a sun shaded commercial vegetable farm. Jordan has a fertile strip of land along the Jordan River where almost all of the food the country produces is grown. It is not all Moonscape. We had ice cream at one of the Israeli kibbutz on the way to Egypt that specializes in dairy production. This was an eye-opening experience in many different ways.Holy Land Trip 920