Thursday, October 31, 2013

30 Days Of Randomness With A Pig Nutrition Grad Student

When I read this post talking about taking a 30 day challenge in November that requires blogging each day with an agricultural theme, I was intrigued. And curious to see if I could actually do it. 

Now I just started blogging a couple of weeks ago. But as I was ruminating over what my 30 day theme would be I found myself wondering how on Earth I thought I was qualified to join the ranks of the amazing community of Ag bloggers out there. 

I don’t have a farm of my own right now. I don’t even have a very exciting life because it is completely ruled by my unpredictable grad school experience. 

But it was exactly those thoughts that made me realize that every story is different and that is why I started blogging. Am I an expert on anything? Definitely not. Do I love Ag and am I striving to ensure a bright future? Definitely yes. 

I may not have any of the things that make a traditional Ag blogger but I do have passion and a genuine desire to learn as much as possible about as much as possible. And I cannot even describe the number of things I have already learned in the short time I have been blogging. So if my blog never reaches beyond my long-suffering family and friends, it won’t matter. Because I, alone, am learning so much that it makes the experience worthwhile. 

Once I overcame my concerns, finding a topic was an interesting journey. It’s no secret that November is my favorite month of the year. I will admit it is largely because it’s my birthday month, but November is also just a beautiful crisp, sometimes snowy month that manages to showcase the best of Fall and Winter all rolled together. Plus the end of the month has always held Thanksgiving…and my birthday :) So of course what else makes for a better month? My topic was going to have to be something I would be challenged to do, something that was familiar enough to make me sound like less of an idiot but not so familiar as to be boring for me and my audience. 

The entire month of November I will be running 2 separate studies to round out my Master’s research. It’s gonna be a crazy time, that’s for sure. So the theme for my 30 days of blogging is simply going to be “30 Days of Randomness With A Pig Nutrition Grad Student”. This may seem no different than the usual but I will be sure and throw some information in on what’s going on with my projects, random Ag Facts (including piggies of course), and whatever else comes my way. 

So join me tomorrow, on the first day of November, and we will see what kind of trouble we can get into ;)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Nod to Peanut Butter

Yesterday I was enjoying my daily snack of Wheat Thins and Peanut Butter. Comment all you want to on my snacking choices but I do love Wheat Thins and Peanut Butter.

Beware, the following train of thought might scare you.

As I was enjoying my delicious peanut butter the following thought popped up in my head: As much peanut butter as I eat a year (and it’s a lot trust me!) I wonder if I support at least one peanut farmer.

That thought led me to wonder how many peanuts are in a jar of peanut butter.

And you guessed it…I looked it up!

As if they could hear my thoughts before they happened, the National Peanut Board was so kind as to put up a Fun Fact page! I will list some of their fun facts below:

  • It takes 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • There are enough peanuts in one acre to make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches.

Of course my resulting question was well how many peanuts are there per acre? According to this article, yield per acre ranges from 2,900-4,200 pounds per acre. Not sure how many peanuts that actually is, but that’s a lot of peanuts considering a bushel of peanuts is about 22 pounds.

That doesn’t exactly answer my question but my conclusion is that that is a lot of peanuts. And I definitely don’t employ a peanut farmer on my own especially if you consider another that the average peanut farm is 100 acres (according to the Peanut Board). That’s 3 million peanut butter sandwiches. Yikes!

  • The average American consumes more than 6 pounds of peanuts and peanut butter products each year. (I think you could probably at least double that in my case especially considering the amount of Reese’s I eat…seriously, I would die if I was allergic to peanuts.)
  • Americans spend almost $800 million a year on peanut butter. And make more than 10 billion PB&J sandwiches a year. Wooooeeee that is a lot of PB&Js! YUM!
  • Peanuts are high in protein, niacin and folate and are cholesterol-free. Eating peanuts can keep you heart-healthy and trim! Check out these articles if you don’t believe me: Harvard Health, The Peanut Institute, Purdue News
Of course we can’t forget that peanuts/peanut butter/peanut paste/peanut oil are in a number of foods, especially snacks and protein bars, as well.

I work in agriculture and I didn’t know all of these amazing things about peanuts (and peanut butter)! It just goes to show that we all have our specialties. Not to mention I have never lived in a place where peanuts are grown.

Someone told me I had too much time on my hands if I was looking up how many peanuts are in a jar of peanut butter. I don’t think I have too much time on my hands…I just want to know as much as I can once I come up with a question! And look at all the awesome things we have learned!

Moral of this story: I already loved peanut butter. But now I have some cool peanut facts to share. And if my Korean counterparts in the office hadn’t already commented to me on America’s obsession with peanut butter…well I can now safely say Americans really do love our peanut butter! And now I know to add more peanuts to my diet to increase heart-healthiness!

Too bad peanut butter pie doesn’t fall on the list as heart-healthy…but I think I’m going to go enjoy some anyway!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thank My Lucky Stars I Am NOT In High School Anymore

High school students are a tough crowd.

I gave the same presentation 5 times today. In a row.

By the end of the presentations I was sick of hearing myself speak.

OK, by the end of the FIRST one I was sick of hearing myself speak.

But it was for a good cause-spreading the news about what the Pork Industry is doing and about our yummy (lean) products! It’s really difficult to hold the attention of a bunch of students that didn’t know, don’t care and probably will never care about where their food comes from though.

Especially since cell phones are now allowed. Snap-chatting, twitter, texting, and everything else I spend a lot of time doing as well, will always be more interesting than a short white girl telling you sometimes crazy facts about pork production and then telling you how pork can easily replace chicken in any recipe.

And what’s up with these backpacks? Apparently they are all the rage. I think they would just get all my binders wet. Am I too old? Can you consider yourself old at 23 almost 24? Eh I’m going to.

And asking questions to engage the audience? Uh uh. No No.

If I wasn’t a poor grad student I would have given the kids who answered my questions some sort of fantastic prize. A life in the day of a grad student? Never mind that would be a terrible prize. A trip to Disney World? Free Krispy Kreme donuts for a year? How about some bacon band-aids? (I could actually afford to give those out!) Or maybe bacon anything.

It’s important to remember that the way high school students act is not a reflection on your skills as a human being. They are high school students, most haven’t been exposed to how terribly harsh the real world is yet. Poor dears.

After being largely ignored for the day, I decided it would probably be the best idea to just simply go in and cook with these kids. Show them first-hand what you can make with pork and the importance of pork as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Turns out there are OMS speakers who actually do this, but there are a lot of factors involved like does the school have a teaching kitchen, timing, and most of all who is going to pay for the meat and meals? Mostly I was just happy to see that other people were unsatisfied with their impact on the Nutrition and Culinary High School students and thought cooking and eating were a great alternative.

Cooking and eating are always a great alternative to anything right?

So the conclusion I have come to today is that I may have gotten through to some students. And others will only remember me as the girl that wore ugly shoes. Or a weird shirt. Or the girl who liked pigs (and cattle and crops…don’t worry I mentioned a lot of things besides pigs) way too much. But at least I tried. And will continue to try and be a good representative for the Pork Board’s Operation Main Street program.

After a day of talking about pork production and the cuts of pork, I was starving. So what did I come home and eat? You guessed it…A PORK CHOP!

You’re jealous now aren’t you? Here’s the recipe for the pork chop…it was absolutely delicious. The taters were a given side since I could live on meat and taters. Forever. Literally. The beans (with bacon…yummm) were added because Mom said I needed a vegetable and that was literally all I had in my house. I don’t eat green vegetables. Unless I absolutely have to. And usually when they are covered in butter. And cheese. I know, I know, they are good for me. I just have a hard time with them.

So this post goes out to all the high school teachers out there. Thank heavens I do not do what you do. I will stick to my pigs. Because even though my pigs might happily chew on my feet (or any other part they could get ahold of), I know it’s not out of a malicious desire to hurt me. They are just curious. And hungry. Always hungry.

Here’s to another Hump Day! It’s been real. Laters.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Young Vs Old: Lack of Opportunity vs Commitment in Young People in Agriculture

I hear frequently that there is a lack of youth in agriculture and that the industry doesn't know what to do to increase the interest in the youth.

My response has always been that the interest on the youth side is there, but what do we have to work with?

If you are on a multi-generational farm then the problems are usually different than if you are starting from scratch. Mostly what I see is a lack on the part of the aging farmer to let the younger farmer get more of a leg up. I don’t want anything to be handed to us, I just want to see some hope at the end of the tunnel.

So when this article came through in a BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly email, I couldn't wait to read it. “Opinion: Is A Lack of Opportunity Or Commitment Keeping Young People Out of Ag?”

I totally agree that people romanticize farming and ranching and when it comes down to it, they don’t always want to put the effort forth that is required. But for those of us who live and breathe Agriculture and can see ourselves someday running our own spread, it can be difficult to read the following words:

“Why are so few of these would-be farm and ranch owners willing to settle for the next best thing: gainful employment or a professional, for-profit farm or ranch like mine? If they want real responsibility and real control over real assets, they can have that here.”

Now, I've only been a hired hand in a few places, but I can tell you that many times my opinion was not wanted, needed, or even remotely heard. So is it really fair to say that hired hands have any sort of responsibility? At the end of the day, no matter how fantastic they are, they will still have to have your permission to make many important decisions.

Level of Commitment is What Is Lacking

He charges the youth with not wanting to improve themselves once they get out of college, for not going to Extension meetings, trade shows, etc. Correct me if maybe I’m not the norm but isn’t that a load of bull?

I get at least 5 emails (many times more) a day from the major Ag outlets like BEEF, PorkNetwork, National Hog Farmer, AgWeb, Progessive Cattlemen,, and the list goes on. Seriously. In the span of 4 months I hit the NCBA meetings, World Pork Expo, and a regional farm show in Wisconsin. I am immersed in Ag news and happenings day in and day out.

But all of that immersion has still not magically opened up the gate of buying my own farm. Yes I am still in grad school and I would like to gain more experience by seeing how other operations are run before I embark on my own journey, but I haven’t found the rainbow that leads to my farm yet.

But let’s face it, I am dead broke. I barely get by each month. I want to pay off my current debt before I fall headfirst into debt trying to start my own farming operation.

Does that mean I lack commitment? Does the fact that I don’t want to work for somebody else for the rest of my life make me a horrible person?

I’m going to put it this way. Farming and ranching can be really tough to get into. It’s expensive, it’s a huge initial capital drain, and sometimes it takes a lot of time at an off-farm job to pay for that dream. But the biggest obstacle I see is the condescension from some of the older generation. They complain about the youth being lazy and having no ambition…but ya know what? I bet the generation before them said the exact same thing about them!

Just because we don’t do things the same way they have been done forever does not make us less ambitious or less willing to sacrifice. It just shows that times have changed and we are trying to change with them.

What really frustrates me is that a lot of the old farmers are just not willing to step down and let the younger generations have a go at it. There is one old farmer near Cody who is so crippled and in such bad shape he should have let the youth take over a couple of years ago, but he just refuses to let go.

I can’t say I won’t be any different in my old age. But you can’t complain about the youth not wanting to do anything and then turn around and make sure they don’t have an opportunity because you are knowingly and bull-headedly blocking the way.

When I worked for Dave I was lucky because he let me throw my two cents in all the time and we would discuss decisions. But even then my two cents weren’t always appreciated and were frequently shot down. And at the end of the day I saw limited growth opportunities so I set out to experience other situations.

I really just have a hard time believing a lack of commitment is the problem. It is just not that simple.

I read a recent article in National Hog Farmer (I will update this tomorrow once I have the issue in hand to give you more details) about a hog farm that was owned by employees and they shared equipment, could buy manure from the farm for their crops and then turn around and sell the crops back to the corporation. After a couple of years of working for the farm, there was always the option to buy into being an owner of the farm. As far as I can see, this is the best option for all of us young people who are willing to work for others but eventually want to be more than just the hired hand (no matter how important or how cherished).

Sure, maybe in some cases it is a lack of commitment. But I don’t think it is fair to downplay all of the obstacles that stand in the way. The resources available for new farmers and ranchers are increasing (grants and programs through USDA, local Farm Bureaus, state Departments of Ag, etc) but it still won’t be easy.

I guess all we young hopefuls can do is keep dreaming, keep learning, and keep working hard. Someday it will pay off, right?

Friday, October 18, 2013

We Are Murderers.

“Tens of thousands of cattle killed in Friday’s blizzard, say ranchers. Murdered one way or another. If you’re a cow in the hands of animal agriculture-You’re gonna die.”

I was looking for good Ag infographics on Pinterest the other day and came across this comment on a pin. This isn’t the first comment like this I have seen nor will it be the last, but it always feels like I have been punched in the gut. Why are people spending time attacking an industry that is doing everything it can to be responsible and humane in all its working? Shouldn't we be spending more time helping children without families? Or ending human-to-human violence? Personally I'd rather be put down by a vet than shot by a gang member!

I hate to tell you but everything DIES. I’m going to throw some Temple Grandin quotes at you now. In case you don’t know who Temple Grandin is, she is THE queen of livestock handling-read here  if you want to know more!

“We raise them for us; that means we owe them some respect. Nature is cruel but we don’t have to be. I wouldn’t want to have my guts ripped out by a lion. I'd much rather die in a slaughter house if it were done right.” 

“Unfortunately, most people never observe the natural cycle of birth and death. They do not realize that for one living thing to survive, another living thing must die.” 

“I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.”  

To read that we “murder” our animals really upset me. Our whole lives revolve around the health and productivity of our animals. Watching them suffer is extremely painful. What makes it even worse is we have to guess what exactly is wrong because they can’t speak to us. They can tell us with body language, their eyes, and many other cues that we have to learn to look for, but there is always the worry that maybe we missed something or diagnosed incorrectly.  

Last Friday I lost a sow unexpectedly. She was fine one day, gone the next. Sometimes animals die unexpectedly. It is a fact of life that farmers and ranchers live with day in and day out. 

Does it still hurt? For sure. 

Do I want to know what happened to the poor old girl? Of course. That’s why she is at the Vet Lab for a necropsy. 

I looked at this person’s board and it became clear they were vegan. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to be vegan, that is entirely your choice. But true veganism doesn’t really exist in our current world. You may choose not to eat animal products, but what about wearing them? Or using pretty much any product we use in our daily lives? Chances are you aren’t looking for every single product that contains animal by-products. 

The vegan queen Carrie Underwood is largely despised by those in agriculture. Mainly because she’s a big fat liar. She claims to be a down home farm girl from Oklahoma but supports HSUS and PETA and is basically trying to destroy Oklahoma’s major industry (agriculture). Read this post I found-it’s pretty darn humorous.

But now to the educational portion of this post. Let’s see if you know just how many things animal by-products are in that we use every day…

This is an older infographic summarizing cattle by-products.
I really like how this one is laid out so I added it as well!

Check out AnimalSmart for more information

Many important medicines, such as insulin, are derived from pigs. Shampoo, adhesives, gum, toothpaste, vitamins, photo paper, leather goods, woolen clothes, down pillows, some hairbrushes, paintbrushes…the list is endless. The list would be even longer if I was including agricultural products in general but I will stick with animals for today.

There are still many cultures that use internal organs as bags and water containers. That may seem irrelevant to us here in the US but it just shows that those people appreciate the cycle of life and understand their place in nature. You can be against eating meat all you want to be, but would you really deny somebody a pig heart? Or insulin? Aren't we respecting animals more by not wasting the gifts they give us? 

The cycle of life includes birth. And death. Farmers and ranchers understand both. It doesn’t make us heartless. Or evil. It simply makes us human. And truly connected to Nature. 

If you truly question the emotion involved in animal agriculture, then read the following posts (this is only a small sample but I don't want to overwhelm you). And come join me the next time I, or any farmer or rancher, work with our animals. You might be surprised how attached to them we actually are. 

                               Just A Ranch Wife-Character

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Do You Do When Your Ability Is Questioned?

I have quite a few blog posts I want to get done and sent out into the world, everything from touching on the South Dakota tragedy, a book review, information about pesticides from the perspective of a research scientist, to soybean harvest pictures, but as usual, that’s not what today’s post is about.

I’ve had an interesting couple of days. I won’t tell the story in its entirety, just sort of skim over the facts.

To make a long story short, I am currently taking care of sows and piglets. Once we wean the piglets they are going to go on a metabolism and preference trial for 2012 corn that has been infected with mycotoxins to see how well the pigs actually handle growth on feed such as this. Mycotoxins in feed are a huge concern for livestock producers because the feed often makes the animals sick, causes abortions, or simply slows their growth. Mycotoxins are products of fungi and most commonly infect crops in times of stress (drought, too much water, etc etc), as well as through storage practices that increase moldy feed (it’s a topic that will require a whole other post, let’s just leave it at this stuff can be a very serious issue!)This is one of several similar studies that we have performed recently. Surprisingly a recent wean to market trial showed the pigs adapting and growing well even when on the contaminated feed, so we are trying to see if that appears again in these nursery pigs.

But anyway, back to my story! Let’s suffice it to say that this little adventure so far has been full of downs. And the most recent down involved me handling a situation in the way I thought best, but has since turned out to be the exact opposite of what I was expected to do.

I wholeheartedly believe I handled the situation correctly…but you know what they say, the correct decisions aren’t always the easiest.

And I think I will be paying for this one until I graduate.

Especially since I just found out my competency in caring for pigs has been questioned. Not by people who have actually worked with me while working with animals, but by someone else whom I thought would have more faith in me.  (Keep in mind Dave let me run UW's Pig Barn for years so I can't be too awful...!)

I have prided myself on common sense and initiative. Over the years I have learned to get jobs done in unique ways…especially since, let’s face it, I don’t have the physical mass to use brute strength most of the time.

This is an 850 pound boar...he's a sweetheart but brute strength doesn't exactly work!

But this common sense and initiative has recently put me opposite where I am “supposed to be” or how I am “supposed to do things”.

The way I have learned many things was what a friend likes to call taking the test first AND then learning the lesson. It’s a common learning expectation when working with older farmers. They expect you to perform a task and if it doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to, then you find out how it was supposed to work OR you try a different method.

In farming (and life) being able to think on your feet is a useful skill to have. Knowing when to ask for help is another.

I know I have what it takes to survive this world.

Now I just have to survive until graduation.

I guess I will simply continue to be thankful that my current life situation is a lot better than it could be. Now I just have to keep my head down. And my chin up. Although that might be a little awkward ;) 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

When Things Go Wrong, Bake. Then They Might Go Wrong Again...

I've been in a bit of a slump for awhile. I mean it gets old doing things alone, especially when it comes to making food for yourself.

But the industrious bug hit me this much so I felt like myself again!

I did not have a good Friday. It was every farmer's nightmare...I had a sow unexpectedly die. While in the farrowing crate. 4 days before I was going to wean her pigs. And she was fine the night before she died.

So after having a difficult day Friday, I did what every normal human does and baked and cooked.

I've never made bread by hand before. I've tried easy bread recipes that didn't require rising, like this Amish Cinnamon Bread, but never ones that needed to rise.

I decided I wanted sloppy joes for dinner, so I thought I would try a hamburger bun recipe I had found on Pinterest. Let's just say it didn't turn out quite as well as it was supposed to...

I definitely did something wrong...hahaha. Consistency is a problem.
 While I was waiting for the hamburger buns to rise one of the billion times it needed to, I decided to make some bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwiches to stick in the freezer for the days I am in a hurry (which is every morning) and want something other than cereal.

The recipe called for 12 of everything: 12 eggs, 12 muffins, 12 slices of cheese, 12 slices of bacon. Well when I was counting the muffins at the store somehow I equated 6 muffins in a package to 12 muffins total...I know, what is wrong with me right? Then of course when I got home I stuck the muffins on the cookie sheet to toast in the oven while I made bacon and eggs. And once again I counted 12 muffins...I think my math skills are a little rusty?! So of course I went ahead and made 12 slices of bacon and 12 eggs...then FINALLY realized I had too many eggs and not enough sandwiches...but NEVER FEAR! I simply made 6 double decker sandwiches :) Those are going to be great mornings full of double bacon, double eggs, and double cheese...that may be my one meal for the day but oh it will be delicious!

 By about 3:30 in the afternoon, my buns were finally done. They don't look very good but they tasted alright so I figured I would go ahead and make sloppy joes for an early dinner.

When I tried to open the Manwich can with my can opener I couldn't get the lid to come off. I decided it would be OK anyway and simply poured as much of it out of the can as I could.

Then I made a fatal mistake.

I started pushing on the can lid...and I bet you can imagine what happened next.

Yep. The lid came loose and the sauce went EVERYWHERE.

Down my shirt. Down the stove. And of course ALL OVER the floor.

Not my finest moment in life. It required me to clean up the floor. And wash my clothes sooner than I had anticipated. 

Unfortunately I could not give up on my day at this point because I had more bread dough rising. That's right, I was trying something else. But this time it was a recipe that was on the back of my Whole Wheat Flour bag. This one required another billion risings but it turned out better than the hamburger buns did. 

Maybe not perfect, but not too bad for a first time!

OK, so they were a little deformed from where I rolled them up but it didn't affect the taste!

After spending my Saturday with this adventure I gave up on the baking for the day. But I had one more trick up my sleeve for the weekend...chocolate chip and chocolate chip M&M cookies. I figured I better make something for the guys who helped me get my poor sow out of the crates on Friday. And what better way to thank them than these delicious cookies?? 

Everybody has their favorite recipes for baked goods. Most of mine come from my mom. I'm sure everyone elses do as well! But we have always made the cookies off the back of the Nestle chocolate chip bags and they are still my favorite chocolate chip cookies. 

Doesn't this look like heaven on tin foil?
Now that I have overwhelmed you with my weekend baking adventures...I think I will go do something else productive. Like watch Disney movies and sew on my quilt ;)

Happy Sunday!

*To find the first 2 recipes, click on the links above or right here: hamburger bun recipe & breakfast sandwiches*

**Wheat Bread**
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
2 eggs
2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup honey
5-1/4 to 5-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup shortening (I used butter)

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. To the dissolved yeast, add the warm milk, honey, eggs, and 3 cups flour. Beat 3 minutes on medium speed. Cover and allow to rest 30 minutes. 

Stir in salt and enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. To avoid adding extra flour in the kneading process, gradually knead in shortening (or butter) by hand. If using dough hooks add shortening, knead dough by hand or with hooks for 12-13 minutes or until smooth and elastic. 

Place dough in lightly oiled bowl; turn the dough to coat the top. Cover and place in an 80F environment until the dough has doubled in size. Punch down. 

Cover; let rise again until doubled. 

Punch down, remove from bowl and divide dough in half. 

Cover; let rise for 10 minutes. 

Roll each half into a 14x7 inch rectangle. Starting at the shorter side, roll up tightly. Pinch edges and ends to seal. Place into a 9x5 loaf pan. Cover and let rise until doubled in size. 

Bake for 10 minutes at 400F. Then continue to bake for 25-30 minutes at 375F. Remove and cool.

**Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies**
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12 oz pkg) of Semi-Sweet chocolate chips (I used one package of semi-sweet and 1 milk chocolate)
Nuts or M&Ms as you choose

1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl. 
3. Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in bowl until creamy. 
4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Gradually beat in flour mixture. 
6. Stir in chocolate. 
7. Drop onto baking sheets (in whatever size you feel like)
8. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Cool on pan on stove top (allows them to get extra crispy sometimes...just the way we like them!) 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dreaming Too Big

The closer I get to the end of my Master's Program, the more I wonder what I will do once I am done.

What adventure will I go on then?

How can I do everything I want to do? What will I have to sacrifice? Should I have to sacrifice all my big dreams?

I have many dreams...and they are nothing spectacular or world changing, but dreams none the less. Seeing this video the other day brought me to tears (nothing new there!) because it sums up some of my hopes and dreams.

I can see the future in my head, just not the pathway to it. Maybe I will never be able to fulfill all of my dreams, perhaps it is not in God's plans for me, but I want to start now.

Getting into farming and ranching today can be a difficult task. It's an unfortunate fact that farmers are aging and the young people are leaving rural communities, which means the opportunity for the younger generations to farm is there...but it can be very expensive to start an operation. There are many programs and foundations (like the foundation that made the video above: FarmOn) available and becoming available to help support young farmers and ranchers in their endeavors. But it is still terrifying. But I guess all the important things are terrifying aren't they? It means they matter.

Patience is a virtue. At least that's what we are told. Patience in farmers and ranchers is essential. But how do you develop patience when you are impatient to start something?

I do not feel fulfilled in my life. OK, so I am only 23, but I want to begin working for my dreams now.

I won't share all of my dreams because the list may be overwhelming but I want and need to be part of a community again. I want to foster kids (and animals) and help families in need, give people a place to have events and weddings, farm, and most of all share my love of agriculture with those who are not fortunate enough to be involved.

Is it possible to dream too big?

I don't think so.

But it will be an interesting adventure...and I guess what will be, will be.

So what are some of your dreams?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Online Comments Can Be Dangerous For Your Health

I was reading about the FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) today, which is basically proposing to put more regulations on  farming. For some reason, the implications to raw milk producers caught my eye and sent me into research mode.

When something catches my eye, I have to research it instantly and extensively. Good for me, not always so good for those closest to me who must learn everything I learn.

I should go on Jeopardy. Then again...maybe not!

I had never really thought about raw milk consumption. I mean, yea, Cody tells me all the time that nothing tastes better than milk right out of the bulk tank, but I didn't grow up milking dairy cows. I will make this disclaimer now, I am not a dairy farmer. In fact, I think dairy cows were mentioned in passing a total of 5 times throughout my Animal Science program. But that's because I went to the University of Wyoming...which caters to beef cattle and sheep producers.

I wanted to see why people were so desperate to consume raw milk. Then I made the mistake choice to read the comments on a pro-raw milk page. I really don't know why I read comment sections. I inevitably end up shaking my head. Often I end up fuming mad.

"Properly handled milk from healthy, grass-fed animals is not full of stuff that shouldn't be there..."

Well what should be in milk? What shouldn't be in milk? What constitutes properly handled? Why is grass-fed always touted as the save-all, cure-all for making everything healthier? And since when are cows not grass-fed? Especially dairy cows? Have you ever seen how filthy nasty cows get? Do you know what lives in the soil??

OK, I will stop the questions there. I think you get my point. And where I am headed. After this comment I HAD to find out more.

There seems to be a big split between Pro-Raw Milk folks and Anti-Raw Milk folks. I'm not telling you to choose either way, just wanted to lay out some facts. And if you really wanna know how things are done, talk to any of the many dairy farmers who are on social media (Dairy Carrie, Gilmer Dairy, and so many more that are either listed on my blog page or easily found on Facebook).

The first thing to understand is Pasteurization. This is the process of heating milk up to destroy potentially dangerous microorganisms (similar to cooking meat properly). There are different types of pasteurization, the two most common for milk being heating milk up to 161F for 15 seconds or 145F for 30 minutes. Campylobacter, E.coli, Salmonella, and Listeria are the main pathogens that are tested for in milk (along with a host of other organisms).

It turns out that Pro-Raw Milkers believe in real milk (pasteurized milk doesn't come from real animals?), that comes from cows that eat cow food (does that include nails? cuz cows eat those all the time if they find them), creates greater disease resistance in consumers, cures asthma and allergies, automatically fights pathogens introduced into milk, is more nutritious and easier to digest than pasteurized milk.

According to the FDA, CDC, and Real Raw Milk Facts (put together by veterinarians, foodborne illness experts, nutritionists, industry/government/academics) pasteurization kills dangerous bacteria, doesn't reduce nutritional value of milk and doesn't make milk harder to digest.

All milk contains lactose, no matter whether it is heated or not heated. Realistically most adult animals are lactose intolerance, so lactose intolerance in humans shouldn't come as a surprise. It's been shown that heating the milk does destroy some enzymes but that these aren't essential to human diets. It should also be noted that raw milk doesn't magically get rid of bacteria (the best way to do this is by pasteurization). There has also been no proof that drinking raw milk cures allergies and asthma.

Milk is regularly tested for bacteria and antibiotics. Read these posts (1, 2) by Dairy Carrie, she talks about  the milk tank being tested when it is picked up by the milk truck, and then tested again when it reaches the plant (not meeting standards results in milk being dumped and profit lost).

All responsible dairy farmers keep a close eye on the quality of their milk. Personally I like having that extra measure available to kill bacteria I could be drinking (I think I come into contact with enough bacteria simply by existing and working with animals).

My point is you are free to choose raw milk or pasteurized milk! Just know the facts before you try and tell me that milk from healthy, grass-fed animals is not full of things that shouldn't be there...because animals always have bacteria and those bacteria can be dangerous. And animals have a nasty habit of eating whatever they can...even if it includes hardware or grass that a possum pooped on.

On a final note, I found it kind of humorous that people are bootlegging raw milk. Or drinking "Pet Food"...which is what raw milk has to be labeled as in some states.

This was by no means a comprehensive post...and I'm not a dairy farmer. But I have complete faith in our dairy farmers :) so make whatever choice is best for you and your family! Just remember to research before making food choices!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

If Only Reading My Life Away Was An Option

If I had a choice, I would read all day, every day, for the REST of my life. Seriously.

I think I should have been a book editor instead of a future farmer.

Then again, I would probably never go outside. Or cook. Or bake. Or really do anything.

And I hear being a book editor really isn't all that much fun.

So I'm probably where I am supposed to be.

ANYWAY, the school year ends up being a big dry spell for me when it comes to reading because I always seem to be worried about schoolwork and can't afford to get distracted by reading.

This is why when I go home for Christmas I end up reading about 30+ books in a couple weeks time...or really anytime I go home.

Over the years I have voraciously devoured any book that has been bought or any book that looks even remotely interesting from the library.

Then...I got a Kindle Fire for my birthday. I wasn't expecting this at all. I've always been that person that looooooves holding books in her hand. Looooooves rereading them so many times the bindings are permanently broken. So what on Earth was I supposed to do with this Kindle?

It didn't take long for me to fall completely head over heels for my new friend. Not that I don't still devour tangible books, but I devour even more books on my Kindle.

This age of constant motion has one issue. I will literally only buy books that are 3.99 or under. Every month the Kindle store pops up with a list of monthly deals under 3.99.

I think most of this stems from the fact that I'm a poor graduate student...and reading cheap books lets me read a million more books than if I bought those best name sellers. Plus (and I know this is awful), I feel like if I am going to pay full price for a book, I want to hold it in my hand...and I don't mean in my hand, on my Kindle.

You would be surprised at the awesome books you can find in these monthly deals.

I read one this morning about a family whose youngest daughter had disappeared and then was found 2 years later living right down the road. It was a touching, emotional tale of rebuilding a life and a family in the wake of such a haunting journey. I choked up and cried throughout the novel, but especially at the end. I feel like the ends are always the kickers. I'm never sure if it's because of the way the stories ended or because of the way I was impacted by what I read. Probably a bit of both.

If you are looking for a good read, check out Emma's Secret by Steena Holmes. There are actually 3 other books that go along with this one (which I found out AFTER reading this one), but you don't need to read the other 3 to delve into Emma's Secret.

I started another book right away called A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. The title pretty much explains the book. The author, Rachel, spends a year doing all of the things and following all of the standards that women in the Bible are responsible for and held up to. I have a feeling it will definitely be a memorable journey, for her, and for me. So look for an upcoming book review that you probably won't want to miss!!

Happy Sunday!