Thursday Happenings

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Obviously Squash understands the idea of bedding… she isn’t so great at the execution!

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Food with Integrity?

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We have all heard of the chain restaurant Chipotle. A company that boasts about its “Food with Integrity” a commitment to changing how people view fast food. Their goal is to create food with quality ingredients, which may include but are not limited to anti-biotic free meat, organic vegetables, and locally sourced food supplies. Which was all fine and dandy with me in the beginning. There are many different types of agricultural operations and I stand behind the idea that agriculture should be diverse. Giving our consumers options and allowing them to make their own decisions about their health and wellbeing is something that agriculturists should always stand behind. That being said I must say that I completely disagree with Chipotle on their ad campaign, Farmed and Dangerous. Which I understand is meant to be a satire but, it actually comes off as an oxymoron in my eyes. Now I’m not stupid I know that satire is designed to make people feel strongly about something. It does, it strongly makes me feel like Chipotle is run by a bunch of morons that have little to no idea about American Agriculture.

I am an agriculturalist and a strong advocate for agriculture. I don’t know everything about agriculture (that would be nearly impossible) I do, however know enough to take a stance and form a knowledgeable argument on most topics having to do with agriculture. So here is my argument and evidence against Chipotle:

1) Integrity as we all know is a noun, its definition is: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Now how can Chipotle believe that they are running their company in a manner that fits into the definition of integrity when they are running an ad campaign attacking the very agriculture that is producing the food that they serve? Now I know that many Chipotle fans are up in arms over this statement so let me explain: Chipotle only uses SOME antibiotic free meat, SOME organic produce, and SOME locally sourced food which means that all the other food that they use in their restaurants does not fall under those categories. Wow… right? That doesn’t seem very honest or morally upright to me…  I wouldn’t call it false advertising but, its not exactly telling the whole truth either. Where does this other unaccounted for part of their product come from? Other forms of agriculture of course!  It’s my understanding that Chipotle is striving to one day exclusively serve these products, that is not however a excuse to bash all other agricultural production methods. Other methods should not be seen as “bad” or “inhumane” but should be seen as different. I must really emphasize the DIFFERENT part of that statement. (on a side note the USDA has strict rules about animal and plant agriculture)

2) In Chipotle’s first episode of their new mini-series they aim to paint agriculture as a large, cold, inhuman industry which is completely false. Are there large farming operations out there? Yes, I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t. Are these businesses run by cruel, unfeeling, hateful people like the man in the video? For the most part no, I would be wrong to say that there are not those out there that are this way, but for the most part farmers/ranchers care very much for their animals and land. Look at it this way animals produce higher quality products and remain more productive for longer periods of time if we take care of them the way that should be taken care of. The same thing goes for the land we cultivate. If we take care of our land and animals they will take care of us. You also have to add in the family factor of farming; 97% of all farming operations are run by families, individuals, family partnerships, or family corporations. That means that large industrial corporations only make up 2% of  American Agricultural operations. So Chipotle’s painting of crude, wall street, business men running large laboratory operations simply isn’t true. It would be more accurate to say that there are families that operate large ranch or crop facilities. For example my friend Katharine is a third generation dairy farmer. Her family owns and operates a dairy in central Utah with 3,000 cows. Their dairy is a family operation her mother, father, two brothers, sister in law, and grandfather are highly involved in the day to day operations. They all care very much for the cows used in their operation and work very hard to maintain their herd at a very high standard, sometimes higher than the standards set forth by the USDA. Why do they do this? Because they know that healthy happy cows are more profitable!

3) In addition to the family aspect of agriculture there are only 2.1 million full time U.S. farms that produce 80% of our food and fiber. Think about how many people there are in the US, a little over 300 million, now think about how many farmers there are… One American farmer feeds 155 people. This means that as more people choose to live in cities we will need to have more large scale production agriculture. By 2050 we (farmers/ranchers) will have to feed 9 billion people… let that sink in for a minute. That means our food production will need to double! Which also means that farmers and ranchers will have to come up with more innovative and efficient ways to produce food and fiber. We are working to meet this challenge. Now this isn’t the image of farming that Chipotle would have you see.

4) Another idea that Chipotle plants into your head is that agriculturists are preforming weird science fair type projects on their animals in order to make more money. Well I can clear that one up real fast if you want to be rich farming isn’t for you. Seriously. Agriculture is not for the faint of heart. If you want to be a millionaire, that gets to sleep a steady eight hours a night, and has time to go on vacation for two weeks a year, and holds a 8-5 job agriculture is not for you. On average farmers get 584 hours less sleep than the average american gets in a year. Yeah thats right agriculturalists sleep less so that you can eat!

As far as the weird sci-fi science that they show in that episode well I’ve never seen it on your average farming operation… ever. We would never, ever, under any circumstances consider blowing up our cows to produce petroleum… that is beyond ridiculous. Now if you want to talk about all the cool new high tech farming and ranching methods yes we do have those. Like tractors with GPS, conservation tillage methods, and diary cows that wear tracking bands. When it comes to antibiotics, hormones, and feed additives that are used on livestock and poultry the USDA tests the products before they are allowed on the market, most of which have to be prescribed by a licensed Veterinarian. Chipotle would like you to believe that not only are we cruel but we are uneducated about the decisions that we are making, which is not true. Farmers and ranchers are highly educated about their operation and the decisions that they and their Veterinarian are making.

5) The weird science, cruelty, greed, whoring out of ones daughter, among many other things portrayed in Farmed and Dangerous personally offend me. ( I won’t even touch the whoring out ones daughter subject… because I was livid when I saw that) But above all the way that farming is portrayed as a top secret operation offends me the most. I don’t keep anything about my job in agriculture a secret. If you have questions about what its like to raise sheep ask me, I am more than willing to answer them. I know that the average person is three to four generations removed from agriculture but that is no excuse for being uneducated about where your food comes from. There are plenty of farmers/ranchers, agricultural education teachers, and 4-H extension agents that are more than willing to answer your questions, so please ask!

Chipotle, I am a farmer. I am proud to say that I am nothing like the “farmer” you portray in your mini series. I don’t know any farmers like the one you have dreamed up, props on the creativity though I never would have imagined blowing up Holsteins to produce petroleum. Maybe I’m just a kind, intelligent, average farm girl.

Note * all of my facts are from one of the following,

the American Farm Bureau web cite- http://www.fb.org

Farm Policy Facts web cite- http://www.farmpolicyfacts.org

Americas Farmers web cite- http://www.americasfarmers.com

FFA Week!!! :)

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In case no one has mentioned it yet it’s National FFA Week!!!! Which is in-fact my favorite week of the year.  Being a member of the FFA Organization was by far one of the greatest experiences of my short life (I’m only 21). For those of you that may not know that much about the National FFA Organization let me give you a quick crash course.

The FFA was established in 1928 in Virginia. Its purpose was to educate young men about agriculture and leadership, while giving them the tools that they need to become successful in their future careers. The FFA now allows girls to join, obviously I’m not a boy! Each Agriculture program at most schools in the U.S. has an FFA chapter, which is part of a state association, which in turn is a part of the national organization. Agricultural education in the classroom is an important component of FFA but there are also two other components that cannot be overlooked. The SAE is a members Supervised Agricultural Experience, which is essentially like a science fair project, show lamb, or agriculture work experience. My SAE while I was in FFA was raising and showing club lambs as well as raising Red Angus cattle. In addition to learning in the classroom and having an SAE FFA members can compete in CDE’s. CDE’s are Career Development Events that are designed to let students learn about an aspect of agriculture then compete in a contest to test their knowledge. There are twenty-five CDE’s that students can participate in on the chapter, state, and national level. As a student I competed in Parliamentary Procedure, Livestock, Poultry, Dairy Foods, and a couple of other events. I also ran for chapter and state officer positions which is where many students get leadership experience. I also traveled to leadership conferences where I learned a lot about myself and how to work with other people. This is a super brief overview of the FFA if you have more questions please contact me (questions page) or visit the National FFA web page http://ffa.org

We were supposed to be holding an officer meeting…. whoops…

Anyways I love FFA, like really love it. This is me,well the brunette is me, the other foxy lady is my friend Joslyn (she’s pretty great).  I spent much of my time in high school doing things just like this. What is this you ask? Well its swing dancing in the hallway of the school of course! Actually I did a whole ton of other really important things. Like traveling to National Convention to go to workshops and watch sessions. ( I went as an alternate on a team once but it doesn’t really count) For any of you that may one day have the opportunity to travel to and participate in Convention, go, like drop everything and run. Its beyond amazing, I can’t even put into words how it feels to see 55000+ members all in one place wearing those blue corduroy jackets!

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Josslynn, me, Jadon, Joslyn at the 83d National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Convention is a life changing experience for almost all FFA members. It gives students the chance to join together and share their passion for agriculture. It was where I learned that map quest is a joke, that I really hate eating at Bob Evans, and that Agriculture is as diverse as the FFA members I met along the way.  I watched others live out their dreams of winning National CDE’s and still others receive their SAE awards. It was where I first felt the need to work towards my American FFA Degree, which is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a member. There is also a huge career show, a college recruitment area, and shopping mall for FFA members. I truly wish that more members had the opportunity to go, to see, to learn, to feel what convention is all about.

My main passion with FFA was raising and showing sheep. I had 20 ewes and about 30 lambs at any given time and thoroughly enjoyed working with them on a daily basis. The best thing about agriculture and FFA is that you children will learn more about the value of life and their own morals when they are involved in some form of agriculture. When I step back and look at all the schooling I have had in my short life the most important part of my education was gained while working on the farm. You can’t just walk away from 25 ewes when you are tired, cold, and hungry because chances are they are in the same boat as you but they can’t do anything about it. I knew that I could take the short, quick, easy way of doing things and deal with the problems that arose because of it (sick animals, wild lambs come show time, and broken fencing) or I could do things right the first time and not have to worry so much about the repercussions of bad choices. Your animals depend on you to take care of them, make sure their needs are met, and to look out for their health. Its your responsibility as a producer to make sure that you do right by them. Being in an Ag. class gave me the the knowledge but working with the animals ignited my passion.

I always love having babies!

When I sold my last show lamb I decided to donate the check to my friends family, her father had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

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This was me when I won a state proficiency award for sheep production.

The hardest part of being a member was it ending, knowing that when I took off my blue jacket that I would never put it on again. FFA had been (and continues to be) such a large part of my life but, after I took it off for the last time I knew that it would all change. I had done or tried nearly everything that I could in my blue jacket…

  • I traveled across the country to Washington D.C. where I made new friends and was shoved outside of my comfort zone on a hourly basis. (the metro in D.C. is pretty stressful)
  • I learned so much about myself and the person that I wanted to become
  • I showed countless animals
  • I lost at least a thousand hours of sleep in my jacket (running through the airport, riding a bus, or running contests)
  • I competed against other members
  • I built my identity around my FFA Jacket
  • I learned how to work with people that I didn’t always like to be around
  • I helped others “find themselves”
  • I was a leader
  • I ran for state office (twice)
  • I met one of my best friends
  • I received my American FFA Degree

The last thing on the list, my American Degree, was one of my favorite FFA experiences. I had worked for years to meet the requirements needed to receive the degree. Then spend a day or so figuring out and filling out the application. Finally traveled to Indianapolis with my chapter and mother to walk across the stage and get my degree. Convention which usually seemed like a couple of days seemed to fly by in a blur. (its actually about five days long) I felt bittersweet when the day came, as I sat in my seat at the session it hit me… hard, I would never wear my FFA jacket again after that day. My perspective shifted, I can’t really explain it I was different but not different at the same time. I knew that my role had changed I would no longer be a member in the way I had been in the past I would now become an Alumni. My new role would be to help encourage others to join FFA, to reach for their goals, to teach people how to lead. I thought about that and a hundred other things the whole time the session was going on and when it came time for the ceremony to start I had to snap out of it. We ( I use the term loosely it was me and about 1000 other members) had to get up line up in order and prepare to walk across the stage and shake the national officers hand and receive our degree. In the line I chatted with other members, told the students running the ceremony back stage how to say my name, and took a photo. Finally I walked up the stairs onto the stage and it happened they said my name right!!! Only people with unique names can understand how awesome it is when someone says your name right. I was handed my degree, shook hands, grinned from ear to ear and walked off stage onto cloud nine. The next hour of celebrating with my friends that had also received their degrees completely distracted me from the fact that my last day with my jacket was moving way fast.

Getting my American FFA Degree

All to soon it was time to go back to the hotel, change, and head to the airport… Im going to warn you I had a seriously childish moment where I cried, mind you I had been crying all day already. I reluctantly took my official dress off and packed everything into my suitcase, well almost, my jacket rode home with me.

My Blue Jacket

It’s strange how an article of clothing can mean so much… how just the sight of one brings on a flood of memories. Some bad, some good, but all are precious. I am eternally grateful for the time that I spent wearing my jacket and being a FFA member. Thank you to my Advisor, for taking a weird/silly/stubborn girl and pushing her to be a better person. Thank you to the countless others that make FFA the great organization that it is today. Happy FFA Week my friends!

Why should farmers and ranchers advocate for agriculture? (Video)

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Why should farmers and ranchers advocate for agriculture? (Video)

This is a great post/video on Agriculture Advocacy, check it out! and Agvocate on 🙂

Beef Runner

I think it goes without question if you’ve followed my material for very long, that I am passionate about advocating for the voice of farmers and encouraging others involved in agriculture to join the conversations. While speaking at various agriculture meetings or organization events, I sometimes get blank stares from those farmer and rancher types not already involved in agriculture advocacy. I get the normal “Why should I care to worry about what those folks think of me?” or “Social media is a young person’s game.

Why should we care to advocate for agriculture and the rural way of life?

I know this video is a promotion for Colorado Farm Bureau, but the folks with the Young Farmers and Ranchers group have a pretty good statement to make.

“Agriculture, politics, and the future of rural America is not your grandpa’s game. It is your’s and…

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Never a Dull day…

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For those of you that don’t know I work for Utah State University, at the Sheep and Goat Research Facility (I don’t always like the goat part). I love it because my daily classes feel like the same subject different day (chemistry, math, english, math) but, the sheep barn is almost always something different. It was actually my inspiration for the blog. Which started as a joke… Shay my friend/co-worker and I spend our time trying to make work as interesting, funny, and overall outrageous as possible. One day this past fall we were joking about all the crazy things that happen at South Farm (like when all of the goats get out) when shay said we could write a book about it and I replied that we could just start a blog… a few months later here I am becoming a blogger.

This week we have had two Merino lambs born, sold two St. Croix rams, and we are preparing the barn for shearing. A few weeks ago we had to clean out a freezer full of 20+ year old blood samples. The variety that agriculture provides is half of the reason why I love it, there is always a problem that has to be solved. The 100 year old freezer for example (that’s an exaggeration itsIMG_1140 not 100 years old). We had to find a way to safely extract the samples. So we turned to the tool cabinet and tried just about everything from a hammer to fencing pliers. In the end the fencing pliers and a syringe of warm water won out. After a couple of hours of digging, squirting water, and picking though the ice shards we had extracted all the samples and moved them to their new home. I don’t recommend letting your sample freezer get to the point of ice block because it takes forever to get them out; on the plus side its a good sign that you need to convince your boss to buy a new freezer! (yay for new freezers)

As to what the samples are used for, well I’m not sure on the specifics but, I know that they are part of a genetic study. Utah State University is a Land-grant University which means it was founded for one- a place for students to come and learn about agriculture and two- to be a place for research on agriculture. The findings of the research are used to improve farming practices making them more profitable, efficient, and sustainable. The College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences is obviously not the only college at Utah State University but, its the only one I care about! (joke the others are kinda cool)

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Back to my Ag. life (I went on a tangent sorry) working for Dave at the sheep barn is great, it keeps me on my toes and defiantly makes for some interesting stories. I enjoy educating people through my stories about where their food comes from and how we as agriculturists provide a safe, healthy, and bountiful food supply.

In addition to having interesting things to tell my friends I get the chance at having some hands on education myself. One of my favorite veterinarians and role models always tells me that I should never let my schooling get in the way of my education. (my mother almost never agrees with this statement) I know that many college students pay thousands of dollars each year for classes that they hardly get anything out of I don’t want to be that student. I have always felt that I have learned more about something through a hands on experience than I have by sitting in a lecture hall or lab. A professor can preach all day about dystocia and ways to remedy a birthing problem but, when it comes to actually putting the sleeve on, scrubbing up, and fixing the problem many students don’t have a clue of what they are doing. I never have to worry about that because I have had plenty of practice with palpating ewes and cows which led to learning how to correct the problem and assist with the birth. Most of my parturition (birthing) experience came before I started working for USU but, while working here I have had much more practice and learned a few new tricks (thanks Dr. Stott).

Essentially what I’m getting at here is that if you are given the chance to go do something awesome, even if your definition of awesome is different than anybody else’s, you should get off the couch or out of the lecture and go do it. (I’m not saying never go to work or class again) Maybe you like being boring and safe (thats a lie your just scared) but it will be good for you. I love not having a dull day, even when I complain in the moment, when I look back or have a chance to sit down and relax I realize just how interesting and fun college experience has been.

Lambing Season

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Lambing Season

Well ladies and gentlemen it has begun, Lambing season, my most loved/hated part of the year. One of the Universities newly purchased Merino ewes gave birth yesterday morning (I know I’m a day late and a dollar short) outside in our balmy 17 degree weather. The lambs weren’t outside long enough to dry off and quickly adjusted to life with a heat lamp.Being born at Utah State University Sheep and Goat Unit has its perks, like the Aggie Blue coats that keep them warm!

Farm Girl Perk #1 I can lift that

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How many girls do you know that can pack two 50 lb bags of grain? Well I can 🙂 I’m quite proud of the fact that I can lift and or drag just about anything within reason. Ive been told quite frequently that women don’t belong working in agriculture, especially in jobs that require hard manual labor. This notion is completely absurd to me… its what I grew up doing and its what makes me happy. Working with animals and knowing that I can do just about anything that the guys can do makes me feel empowered.

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Stomping wool, the old fashion way. In a gunny sack at the 4-L Packas Farm. (AKA my grandparents house) May 2013

To much pressure is put on young women these days to be dainty, super feminine, and look like the girl on the cover of vogue. For example the “thigh gap”. What the hell is up with all this “thigh gap” garbage? I don’t want a thigh gap… ladies lets quit killing ourselves to get a thigh gap… go have yourself a hamburger its good for you, it will also support our nations beef industry.  Who decided that thigh gaps where the thing? Now I’m not saying that if you have a thigh gap your an emaciated person that doesn’t know what real food is, I’m just saying that we as women shouldn’t feel like we have to fit into a mold that someone else has made for us. I won’t ever have a thigh gap… I don’t really have the body type for one, nor the desire to work that hard to get something so insignificant. Seriously though I have big hips, big boobs, and I’m no size two. I would rather work towards my goals of being healthy, getting into Vet. school, and traveling the world.

Why not give up the absurd goal of looking like a french model and work towards a meaningful life? Is this really the picture that we want to send to our friends, sisters, daughters? I would hate for my sweet little sister to think for even one minute that she is inadequate, that she has to look and dress a certain way to be loved and accepted. I want to be the role model that my sister deserves to look up to. Thats why I fight to be in agriculture doing what I love, its why others should fight be who they are. Quit letting some stranger decide the standards for how you look, how you act, and what should be important to you.

So yes I lift heavy things, I work with dirty stinky sheep, and I like it. I’m a boss at driving a skid-steer and I don’t particularly care what anyone thinks about it. Working in agriculture isn’t for everyone, it has its problems and its perks. Ladies in agriculture lifting heavy things is defiantly a perk! So go out and lug around some hay bales, let your daughter try it out, she may just fall in love with a wonderful lifestyle.