Archive for the ‘Intro – Who Am I?’ Category

One Year Ago….

I posted my first post to this blog!

Read it by clicking here: http://iafarmwife.com/2010/03/31/and-in-the-beginning/

It’s hard to believe I’ve been at it for a year.  But, then again, it feels like I’ve been doing it forever, too!

To celebrate this milestone, I’m going to do my very first giveaway!

Up for grabs is a $50 gift certificate to go towards a custom metal gift of your choosing and design from Schares Metal Works! Schares Metal Works is owned and operated by my close friends, Corinne and Jake Schares.

Corinne has been my bestest friend since before either one of us can remember.  We went to school together.  I even followed her when she moved away in 1st grade, I moved away to the same town  a year later, just a mile down the road from her.  We rode our ponies and horses all over the countryside, and have countless stories about our adventures. (One of the the most memorable being when we were in 5th grade and raced our horses around the school’s track and thought we got away with it….until we were called to the principal’s office the next day.  But that’s a story for another day!)  My friendship with Corinne could provide subject matter for many many blog postings, let’s just say that.  🙂

Anyhow…back to the giveaway.  Corinne and Jake can custom cut just about whatever you can imagine out of metal.  Here are a few examples:

3D Name

3D Football Helmet

3D Farm Sign

Lighted Signs!

 

Outdoor, custom welcome signs! Seriously, your imagination is the limit!

Look at the detail! Corinne and Jake made this sign for me and my siblings to give to my Dad & his friend, Deb, for Christmas. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out!

Cool, inspirational words...would make great gifts.

Love these, wouldn't they be a great wedding gift?

Honestly, go check out their website at www.scharesmetalworks.com!

You will be fascinated by their creations, I promise!  Make sure you pay a visit to the gallery, where they show how they can turn any picture into a custom metal display!

So, in order to enter the giveaway, please comment on this post and answer me this question:

“What agricultural topic/rumor/question would you like to see me address?”

I will use a random number generator to pick the winner.  Please, share my blog and Corinne & Jake’s website with your friends!!

Thanks so much for reading!

Liz

Factory Farmed Animals Live in Horrible Conditions and GMOs Will Kill You!

These poor cattle will spend the rest of their lives lounging around, being served food, and having their bedding fluffed. Such a rough life they will live in confinement.

I often find myself in a predicament.  This usually happens when I go looking for trouble.  Somewhere out there in cyberspace, someone will post an article about “Big Bad GMOs,” or the horror of “Factory Farming.”  Inevitably, the comments on these sorts of things are filled with hatred and inaccuracy.  There is always mention of “greedy industrial farmers who only care about making money while ruining the environment and confining animals.”  As a farmer who raises livestock and crops with so-called “industrial” methods, these things always get me going, and they always put me in a difficult situation.

I will reply (yeah, I know, glutton for punishment) by posting a comment to the tune of, “As a farmer who uses modern methods of livestock production, I get tired of people telling me that I treat my animals poorly and my crops are poisoning people.”

And the response almost ALWAYS is something like this:  “Well, I’m sure YOU don’t treat YOUR animals badly.  But INDUSTRIAL agriculture does, they cram their animals into CAFOs and they rob GOOD farmers like YOU from making a living.”

And that, right there, is where the gigantic disconnect between the consumer and the farmer comes in.  I’m still not sure how to bridge this gap.  I often envision myself taking said cyber-person by the shoulders and shaking them.

Here’s the deal.  I AM “INDUSTRIAL” AGRICULTURE!!  Along with thousands of other farm families working hard to feed the population.  When you say “CAFOS ARE EVIL!” You are telling me, my family, and the people that we work with that we are evil.  The animals we raise get sold to “BIG BAD CORPORATIONS” such as Tyson and Hormel.  We buy our GMO seed from Monsanto.  Our livestock is raised in confinement.

These resting pigs have it pretty rough too. When it's below zero outside, they have to relax in a temperature controlled barn. Their feeders have sensors on them that ensure they have access to unlimited feed. The floor allows their manure to drop into a pit below them, keeping their pens clean.

So, if I do decide to push the issue with these people who feel that all farming should look like it did in 1950, they will then proceed to tell me that they pity me.  That the EVIL CORPORATIONS have FORCED me to accept their ways and raise an INFERIOR, INHUMANE, and TOXIC product.  Clearly, I, as an individual, must be STUPID to not see it.  If I was smart, I’d choose to raise my crops and livestock without chemicals or confinement.

And here is my disclaimer, as I have stated before, I do not mean any disrespect to farmers who choose to raise their produce differently from me.  There is no one perfect way to farm, and I know that the vast majority of farmers, and food industry workers, are good people working hard to provide a quality, abundant food supply.

See, when it comes to a debate, many humans have a really hard time telling each other one-on-one that we have a problem with each other’s individual actions.  Especially, when we’re not 100% confident about what we’re debating.  It’s so much easier to throw up a scapegoat, like a faceless corporation, than to tackle an issue on a individual level.

Can you believe it? I let my son touch our GMO corn! But for some reason, he's still healthy and growing.

So, If I am really feeling feisty, I go on to say “I make the choices I make because I am confident that they are the best choices for me, my farm, my family, and the consumer. I educate myself about the applications and consequences of everything we do on the farm, and I am comfortable that the product I provide is safe, environmentally sound, and nutritious.”

And then, I’m told I am a fake.  I can’t possibly be real.  The “BIG CORPORATIONS” have brainwashed me and I am a paid fake.  And if I am real, then I have destroyed their faith in humanity.  Because it just can’t be possible that there’s more to agriculture than what Michael Pollan (the director of the horribly biased Food, Inc and author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma) told them.

Agriculture is my family's livlihood....and our way of life. So, yes, I do feel threatened when it comes under attack.

Here is the truth.

The animals my family cares for are raised in CAFOs and FEEDLOTS.  They are comfortable and they do not suffer, and we work our tails off every day to ensure that.  The animals’ comfort always comes before ours. The hormones and antibiotics that they receive are given in a prescribed manner, under the direction of our veterinarian and feed specialist, according to USDA rules and guidelines.  I fully understand how these products work, and do not hesitate to feed my family the beef we raise.

My son rides in the tractor with his dad. He is adamant that he is going to be a farmer when he grows up.

Our crops are GMO and we use chemicals.  We live right in the middle of the farms where we grow our crops.  My kids play in the yard right next to our crops, they help with the planting and harvest of them.  We follow several guidelines and rules set forth by the USDA to ensure that the crops we grow are safe.  Using GMO technology has allowed us to produce more crop with less fuel, chemical, and water.

Now, if you choose to buy organic, local, or pasture-raised produce, (or whatever the latest food buzzword is) that is completely your choice.  Please, just don’t do it while saying that our “FACTORY FARM”  is inferior, because, I ensure you, we are not.

I feed my kids the beef we raise using antibiotics and hormones because I know that it is safe.

I do not hesitate to feed my family our beef (which is also sold to Tyson) and I do not care if the food I buy in the store contains GMOs.  I am confident that the US food system is reliable, safe, and continually improving.

I don’t deny that there are issues, there always will be.  I’ll admit, there are some things that I see happening in agriculture and food production today that concern me.  I am glad there are skeptics out there, because nothing should ever progress unchecked. I have faith that we will work through these issues and come out better because of it.

I do know that I am glad to be living in today’s day and age, where food-borne illness is so rare that it makes the news, as opposed to years past where it was a common cause of death.

So, back to the difficult situation I put myself in.  Reacting to bad information about farming puts me on the defensive, by default.  And for some reason, people are particularly skeptical of defensive people. At least, I know I can be.

I’m pretty defensive, aren’t I?  I’ll admit it.  Agriculture has been under attack lately, and it seems like every day there is some new piece of misinformation out there.

So….

How can I not defend the way of life, the “BIG BAD INDUSTRY”, that I love?  How can I not reach out to consumers and show them that what my family is doing is not going to harm them, the environment, or the animals?  How can I not begin to take a proactive approach to this problem of misinformation?

Every day is Earth day

Every day is Earth day for a farmer.  While all humans depend on the earth, farmers have been entrusted with the responsibility of caring for it as well.  A job we don’t take lightly.  Every decision we make not only affects ourselves, but others as well.

Freshly planted no-till corn, notice the debris on top of the soil has barely been disturbed

One thing we do on our farm is no-till farming.  A pretty self explanatory term.  We do not till the ground we plant our crops on.  Ever.  This conserves the soil from being washed or blown away, by leaving plant reside on top of the soil.  It also conserves fuel, as we do not need to make as many trips over the field.

A hilly farm with hay buffer strips and crop rows on contour

We farm hilly ground in a contour.  This means that we plant the rows on the hills in a way that prevents rain water from washing away soil.  Instead of planting the rows up and down the hill, where the water could easily run between the rows and create ruts,  we plant them across the hill to slow the water (and soil). Along with the contour we also  plant hay buffer strips on sloped ground to prevent water run-off and soil erosion.

Terraces used to make a steep hillside more level

We also use terraces on hilly ground.  Terraces are earthen sort of “dams” built into a hillside to level the ground that is farmed, as well as slow down rain water run-off.

Cattle graze pasture along a small creek

We pasture ground that is too hilly to farm, or too close to a delicate waterway.

Monitors control chemical application rates and relay other data in the sprayer

We use GPS and other technology to apply seed, chemicals, and fertilizers to the ground at specific rate, so as not to use any more than is absolutely necessary.

Livestock manure is stored in sealed pits until it can be applied to the ground as fertilizer.  This greatly reduces our need for synthetic fertilizers, and prevents the manure from becoming a pollutant.

I could go on and on about all the things we do right here on our farm that conserve resources.  This list is just a start to it all.  I can’t say it enough.  Every thing we do is focused on conservation of resources.  Every day is Earth Day for a farmer!!

Consumers a.k.a. Customers a.k.a. YOU!

If you eat, then you are a customer of mine.  And you know what they say… “The Customer is Always Right!”

My own family eats the beef we raise and the grain we sell.  We are consumers too.  I am always keeping my ear to the ground when it comes to consumer issues, especially safety, health, and welfare concerns.  It is my goal to address some of these specific issues in future blog postings.

We have a lot of options when it comes to who we sell our livestock and grain to, but primarily:

Our beef cattle go to Tyson. http://www.tyson.com/Consumer/Products/Beef/Default.aspx

Our hogs go to Hormel. (and yes, I know this is a picture of chicken….but I had a heck of a time being able to get a Hormel image!!)

http://www.hormel.com/protein/MeatMadeGreat/Pork.aspx

Our corn goes to ADM and local ethanol plants.

http://www.adm.com/en-US/products/Pages/default.aspx

And our beans are raised specifically for Cargill’s Vistive low-lin soybean oil.

http://www.vistive.com/

We also often sell some of our feedlot cattle to local families who are looking to buy beef.  When we do this, we deliver the cattle to the local meat lockers for them.  We love to be able to sell our beef directly to local people, and are always looking for new customers!

Please feel free to ask me anything about our farm.  If there is something you’d like to see me address, I’ll do my best to put some info out there, and tell you how we handle it in our operation.  I won’t be satisfied until you are, I care deeply about the people who consume the product I produce, my livelihood depends on it!   In fact, please feel free to visit us!  Although I am purposely leaving details out of this public blog, I am completely open to showing my farm to anyone with an honest interest in learning about what we do!!  Just contact me.

The Neighbors

One of the best things about living in rural Iowa is the people….hands down.  Our neighbors and community consists of the type of people who pull over when you’re stopped on the side of the road.  The sort of people who know just what to do when tragedy (of any sort) strikes.  People who go to church on Sunday overflowing with generosity and tolerance.

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We have 10 families who live within a mile of our home, and many more who live near our farms.  In fact, much of our land shares a border with the nearby town (population 500).  We grant permission to pretty much any responsible individual who asks to hunt or trap on our land.  FFA students have conducted experiments in our crop fields, and we have proudly supported these local young leaders in many ways.

The local school is the center of activity, and the youth’s accomplishments are celebrated by all.  There is a women’s club, a Lion’s club, athletic boosters, and a scholarship committee… just to name a few of the community organizations.  They are all very active and dedicated.

We have an excellent hospital in the next city about 10 miles away, with caring doctors, nurses, and surgeons who often know you on a first name basis.

So even though Iowa may seem small and desolate, the people here have huge hearts and truly care about each other.

The Farm

Our farm has cows, pigs, corn, soybeans, and hay.

First, we have a herd of cows.  Every spring the cows give birth to calves.  Then in the winter we wean the calves from the cows and put them in a feedlot for 10 months before they are sold for meat.   Justin and I own approximately 50 cows.

In addition to the calves we raise, we own approximately 400 more cattle, called feeder cattle.  They vary in age and gender, and are grouped and fed according to their age and sex.  We buy them shortly after they are weaned and feed them in a feedlot until they are about 1 1/2 years old, when they are sold for meat.

We also own half of a modern hog farm site, where 2400 hogs reside.  The other half is owned by Justin’s brother and his wife.  We take care of the hogs on a twice daily basis.  The pigs come to us when they are about 2 weeks old and weigh only about 10 lbs each  They stay in the barn and are ready for slaughter in about 6 months.

Justin and I farm about 700 acres of crops.  We grow corn, beans, hay, oats, and rye.  Almost 95% of our crops are planted in ground that is never tilled (called no-till) to conserve the soil.

Although we own and manage our crop ground seperately, we do share labor and equipment with Justin’s dad and brother.  We are a modern family farm.  We do almost all of the work and management ourselves, with only occasional part-time help.

This lifestyle is the absolute best one for us.  I cannot imagine raising my family anywhere else.  We are always busy, and sometimes the work isn’t fun, but the rewards of farming far exceed the drawbacks.  Our kids have a strong work-ethic, and we get to make an honest living from the land, we get to be our own boss,  and that is just to name a few of the benefits of being farmers!

And in the beginning…

Well, here we go… a new venture.  One who’s goal is to educate and inform those of you curious about what’s going on out here in the rural Iowa farming scene.  Boring, you think?  Sometimes, yes.  But more often than not there’s some interesting stuff going on out here where much of your food is grown.

It it my hope to write about things that I see that concern me, or things that I am passionate about.  Things such as my family, my farm, my faith, my neighbors, and the consumers of my produce.

Let’s start with my family:

My husband, Justin, and I have three children.  I’d post a picture of the two of us, but have discovered that the only ones that exist are our wedding pictures!  Sad, I know.  Guess I better take care of that.

Russell is 4 years old, and if you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, he’ll tell you he wants to be a farmer.

Lucy is a two year old tornado, who loves to ride in the tractor and is quick to point out cows when riding in the car.

Then there’s Hazel, she’s already spent more hours in the combine harvester than most people 90 times her age.  She’s almost 8 months old and just beginning to figure out how to crawl.

We live on a farm near a small town in Iowa.  The closest shopping mall is 30 miles away.  Our entire livelihood comes from the crops and livestock we care for, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.  In coming entries I will talk more about how we grow what we grow and why we love what we’re doing!

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