Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Farmer's Hats

     Hats, hats, hats. Lots of hats. That is what I have collected a lot of over the years when I have gone to trade shows, grower meetings, or the salesman has dropped off. Like any other farmer, I tend to collect plenty of hats and never seem to run short. A couple months ago I went through my closet cleaning out hats I had never worn and probably would never wear. Yet, I still seem to have plenty of hats. I almost feel like a hat collector and I think my closet feels the same!

     After cleaning out the hats I didn't want and putting away the ones I wanted to keep, it reminded me of the different kinds of "hats" a farmer wears everyday that are non-visible. These hats aren't made out of cotton or mesh but rather formed out of learning, knowledge, and wisdom. These hats are much more valuable than the hats any farmer could ever buy. These hats reflect the different titles a farmer holds, such as accountant, marketer, agronomist, manager, laborer, and so on. 

     A farmer is a unique individual. The role a farmer has one minute can change to a different role the next minute. One minute a farmer might be doing book work and in the next minute he is heading out to the field to put the next year's crop in the ground. Unfortunately, there are some people out there that think farming is easy and that farmers have it easy. However, what most people don't know is that the role of the farmer becomes more complicated each year. Commodity markets are volatile and seem to become more volatile each year due to weather impacts, foreign competition, economic issues, and so on. This requires more monitoring of the markets as well as studying what is happening in the markets. On top of that there is book work to be done, and as farms grow, so does the amount of book work that has to be done. Not only is there book work that has to be done, but there is also paper work and meetings that a farmer must attend to learn and stay in accordance with local, state and federal regulations. We can't forget that there is also the actual physical work that has to be done on the farm. This can go from running a piece of machinery to fixing something that is broke down. Many farmers now days find themselves taking on the educator role. Farmers are having to spend more time telling their story about how they raise a safe and affordable product for consumers. 

     Even though the role of the farmer might seem to be more complex in today's farming world, there are many things that have come along to help make the farmers job a little bit less strenuous and safer. Thanks to technology, farmers are able to be more mobile with the work they do both in the office and out in the field. Now farmers can carry their farm's information on a computer, tablet, or their phone and not have to worry about being in the office but instead can work away from the office from time to time. Farmers can do a better job with their marketing of commodities thanks to smart phones that allows farmers to get up-to-date information on the markets. GPS helps prevent fatigue for farmers and lets them work longer hours as well as work in situations where visibility can be an issue. Today's technology definitely benefits farmers and helps farmers work safer as well as be more efficient in everything they do from putting seed in the ground to keeping good records in the office.  

     It is a safe to say that a farmer's "hat" changes every minute. As far as I know, there isn't a farmer that wears just one type of "hat". For most farmers, that is why they enjoy the career in farming. The roles a farmer plays in his or her family farm changes every minute and every day. Some roles are newer than the roles previous generations may have had. I will bet that in the years ahead, farmers will take on new roles that they may have thought they would never have when running their family farm. No matter what the role is that the farmer holds today or tomorrow, one thing remains the same and that is their passion for their job. For me, no matter how bad or good the day may be in farming, I always look forward to the next day and challenge I may face. Farming is not easy but it is a good life that can give great rewards with hard work, dedication, and having a willingness to learn. So next time you meet a farmer wearing a hat, remember that they are already wearing more than just the one hat on their head!

     As planting season begins to start rolling for many family farms across the nation, I want to wish everyone a safe planting season and that everyone may have a blessed growing season! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tired Of It

     Tired of it. Yes, I am tired of it. I am tired of hearing about it. I am tired of seeing it. I am tired of watching it. Yes, I am tired of it. It is in blogs, in news articles, on websites, and pushed on social media. It has been brought up for the past several years. I am tired of hearing about industrial farming!

Never get tired of views like this! 
     This term seems to be common among those who disagree with the modern day practices of farming and ranching or simply those who just don't have the knowledge of what the 21st century farm looks like. It is guaranteed that if you google anything related to farming or food production that this term will pop up in an article, blog, or youtube video. Even some journalists will use this term in their articles about farming or food production. Heck, even some food companies and restaurants will use this term just to promote their products as a "better and safer" way of eating. This term is used by those who have little KNOWLEDGE or refuse to ACKNOWLEDGE the progress that has been made in the agriculture industry.

     So what is industrial farming? According to those that have "experience" in modern day agriculture, you know those pundits and bloggers, it is an evilness that lurks in our nation's farm and ranch country. It is the cause of creating frankenstein crops and animals, polluting the atmosphere and land, corporations controlling the farmer, and simply an industry that has no morals or values. They claim this is what makes up the majority of farm and ranch country. This is what they want people to believe is happening in today's agriculture industry. I will admit that they have done a pretty good job of painting this picture and creating this image of industrial farming. Some should consider writing a fictional book because they have done such a good job of painting a false image of today's farm and labeling it industrial farming. But the key word to all this is fictional. The things they create and spread is so far from the truth that it belongs in a comic book. Some of these people that consider themselves "experts" in agriculture and food production really need to become experts in authoring fictional books.

     I will admit that today's farming isn't what it was like 30 years ago. Agriculture today has made tremendous progress in science and technology that it can feed more people than ever before. Not only are we feeding more people and providing fuel and fiber at the same time, we are also doing all of this with fewer resources because of the science and technology used. The claim that modern day agriculture is creating frankenstein crops and animals is false. We aren't breeding cows so they can have the same qualities as a pig and corn plants that produce ears that look like fish (sorry had to put some sarcasm in there). What we are doing is using science and technology to raise animals and plants that can survive today's environment as well as be more efficient with the resources that we share with everyone, such as air, water, and land. Today's farms and ranches are more environmentally friendly than they have ever been before thanks to science and technology. Equipment doesn't emit the clouds of smoke like they did several years ago. Plants, due to genetic modification and breeding, are using less water, fertilizer, and pesticides compared to several years ago. The corporations that are "supposedly" controlling the farmer is false. Instead, these agribusinesses are giving farmers more tools and options for their individual family farm to be successful. Also, 97% of the farms and ranches in the country are family-owned. It is also safe to say that some of the best morals and values can be found in farm and ranch country. These folks are the nicest and most welcoming people you will ever meet. In times of tragedy, everyone comes together. In times of celebration, everyone comes together. These folks want to do things the right way for the good of their family, friends, neighbors, and everyone else. Yes, today's modern agriculture industry is different compared to how it was back when our granddads farmed, it is better, more efficient, more reliable, and continues to provide an abundant and safe food supply thanks to all the advancements that have been made.

The cows summer home! 
      So in my opinion, this "industrial farming" picture that has been painted by many is only fictional. Farming isn't the same as what it was 30 years ago, it is better. It is actually pretty amazing to see how the farmer has evolved from a person holding a pitchfork to now a person holding a smartphone to accomplish their work. The things a farmer and rancher can accomplish now days with fewer resources is pretty amazing. Like any business, the goal is to be profitable and to be profitable one must be efficient with what they have. In order for farms and ranches to survive today's economy and environment, they must be run like a business. If farmers and ranchers can't use the tools available to them to be more efficient in what they do, then it will be harder to maintain a family business. So agriculture must continue to make progress and continue to find ways to be more efficient with fewer resources that we share with all.

   So yes, I am tired of hearing about industrial farming and how bad modern day agriculture has become. I am tired of seeing all this fiction that gets spread about an industry that I love and am fortunate to be a part of. I am tired of seeing modern day agriculture get beaten up when all it is trying to do is provide for your family, my family, and your friends families. I look forward to the day I don't have to be tired of hearing the industrial farming term no more!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Life Is Change... Growth Is Optional

     "Life is change, growth is optional" is a quote from someone unknown, but one that I think has a lot of relevance in our lives. There is no doubt that life is change, whether we like it or not. Some changes we can control if we choose to while other changes are out of our hands, but we can handle how we encounter those changes and most importantly, grow from them. 

     I will be the first to admit that I am not always a fan of change. Sometimes change can be a good thing while other times change can make things more challenging or less appealing. I will admit there are times that I wish I could just freeze things and leave it how it is. Yet, I know that isn't how life works and eventually things will be different whether I like it or not. I constantly remind myself that change is all part of the journey of life and that life would be boring if there wasn't any change. Like William Feather said, "One way to get the most out of life is to look upon life as an adventure". Part of that adventure in life is change and learning how to overcome the challenges and difficulties that come with those changes. I can say that this is true in farming as there always seems to be some type of challenge that could end up changing what we do or what we planned. The same is true in life, we may plan on something happening but then life decides to change those plans and put us on a different path. If you are like me, you probably had your life planned out and then had your plans altered. 

     So life is full of change, so what? It happens, but the most important piece to this is how we handle and grow from those changes. Unlike change, growth doesn't have to happen if you choose to not let it. We are the ones that decide how to handle the outcomes of changes. When changes happen and we don't like them, we can either be bitter and negative or we can choose to take the change head on and grow from the experience. Sometimes we may look at change as being a bad thing when it could actually be beneficial to us and our lives. It can make us grow as individuals by pushing us outside of our comfort zones and making us do things we thought we could never do. When we choose to grow from the changes life deals us, we become better employees, friends, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, boyfriends and girlfriends, as well as husbands and wives. Growth from change doesn't necessarily change who we are, but can change our priorities in life and refocus our energy into more important things such as our faiths, families, and friends. 

   Yes, life is full of change and it is often out of our hands. Yet, we get to choose how we handle the changes that life deals us. The only one who can decide whether or not to grow is yourself. You're the one that holds the reins to that decision and the only one that can make it happen. So when life changes, be the one to decide to grow from that change. Be the one that decides to grow into the better person. You're the one that holds to the key to opening the door to growth, so choose to turn it! 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not evil, to give you a future and a hope. - Jeremiah 29:11   

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Don't Expect Perfect

     Have you ever caught yourself saying "this is perfect"? You probably have, and I know I have said it more than a few times before too. It is a common word that we use when it seems like we find the right job, item, relationship, home, or even life. The dictionary describes perfect as " having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be". However, I have to say I greatly dislike this word perfect because is there really anything in this life that is perfect?

     In my bible study this morning we talked about Exodus 3:14 as God tells Moses to go to the people of Israel in Egypt. As we continued our discussion, we ended up talking about the need for God in our lives and how God would fit into our lives if everything was perfect. I then really started to process the thought of "perfect" and having that perfect life. However, I realized that there is no perfect person, perfect job, perfect relationship, OR  perfect life. There are good people, good jobs, good relationships, and good lives but none of that equals perfect. If everything was perfect, what would there be to strive for? If everything was perfect, where would God fit into our lives? In today's world we strive to be perfect and to have the perfect life, job, relationship, and etc. When things don't seem "right" or "perfect", we end up doubting what we have and the things/people God has placed in our life. We start to think that what we have isn't good enough anymore and decide to give up because it isn't perfect. We tend to forget that great things take time and that nothing will ever be perfect 100% of the time. There will be great moments and there will also be challenging times. Now, some people have that luck of having things fall into place all at once, but out of the 7 billion people in this world there are very few that have that kind of luck. Even when it may seem like they have that kind of luck, sometimes we don't realize the other challenges they might be facing in their life.

     So what do we do when things aren't "perfect" in our life? Well, first stop expecting things to be perfect and start looking at the good things in your life. Stop looking at other people's lives and then comparing yours to theirs. Take a look at what God has blessed you with in your life. Embrace the people and the things that God has put in it. When things don't seem to be going right, don't give up! Identify the areas that need to be fixed, rebuilt, or completely overhauled. Self evaluate yourself and where you want your life to go, but also use God and his guidance. I always find it unfortunate to see people who have the potential to do great things but give up. They give up because it's not "perfect" or they let fear and doubts creep in. Sometimes the greatest things come when we throw out the idea of "perfect" and cross the bridge over our fears and doubts. Sometimes it just takes faith and God.

     So this word perfect..... yea it's just a word. It doesn't have any true meaning because nothing is actually perfect in this world. So don't expect perfect in your life unless your are striving to have a perfect relationship with God. That is the only thing that can be perfect in this world because God is the true definition of perfect!

"You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect" - Matthew 5:48


Monday, December 29, 2014

Goodbye 2014... Hello 2015

     Another year has come and gone just like that. As I get older I feel like the time only goes faster, which makes a person realize we have to cherish every moment we have in our lifetime. To be quite honest, it feels like it was just yesterday that we were talking about what could happen in 2014, but now we find ourselves talking about what did happen in 2014 and what is ahead in the new year. There is no doubt that 2014 had its fair share of ups and downs. I usually try to look at all the ups as blessings and the downs as growing opportunities!

     Looking back at the year, I think we can all agree that the agriculture industry also had its fair share of ups and downs as well. There were many news makers this last year that had an impact on our industry. Some of the most notable things that took place this last year was congress finally passing a new farm bill that some thought would never happen. This new piece of legislation, while not perfect but not terrible either, allows farmers and ranchers to have some peace of mind knowing that there is a safety-net program in place for the times of need. In March, the 2012 census was released and showed that more young people were entering the profession of farming and ranching, which was welcome news as the census also showed that the number of American farms was decreasing. In December, China approved Syngenta's Viptera corn that wasn't approved before and caused China to reject several cargos of corn and DDGs that were contaminated with the Viptera trait. Most recently the U.S. and Cuba have agreed to normalize trade relations that will hopefully be a boost for American agriculture exports.

     Although there were many good things that took place this last year, there was also a fair share of challenges as well. Probably one of the biggest challenges that corn, soybean, and wheat farmers faced was the decrease in commodity prices. Not long ago many were looking at corn above five dollars and soybeans above thirteen dollars. However, better growing conditions in 2014 caused prices to tumble to lows that haven't been seen for awhile. The EPA also gave the industry many frustrations. The agency first proposed to cut the Renewable Fuel Standard, which frustrated many in the industry, but then later delayed the proposal until 2015. Another frustration the agency gave the industry was the changing of the Clean Water Act (WOTUS) that would allow the agency to regulate waters that aren't typically called "navigable". The change could cause major head aches for farmers and ranchers as they would possibly have to apply for permits to perform everyday farming practices.

     Locally, we faced many ups and downs as well. I think the weather was the hot topic in the coffee shops as it seemed like the weather was brutal this past growing season. Starting in the spring, we dealt with cooler temperatures and then dealt with a late frost that caused damage to the corn and soybean crop. We were fortunate and didn't lose any of our crops but others were not so fortunate and ended up replanting. As we moved into summer Mother Nature dealt us some more brutal weather that included strong winds, hail, tornadoes, and heavy rains. In July, we got hit by a brutal hail storm that wiped out several thousand of acres of corn and soybeans. Many older farmers said they had never seen anything like it in their lifetime and I hope I don't see it again in my lifetime either. Thankfully the fields that didn't get hit by severe weather received a fair amount of precipitation, which helped on the yield side come fall. The last couple of years we got use to looking at brown fields in the middle of July but this year we were fortunate to see green fields of corn and soybeans. Many were expecting us to have a wet fall due to some weather models but thankfully we had a dry one with very little rain that allowed us to stay busy in the fields. The only challenge we ran into was finding fields where the corn moisture was dry enough. While we faced some devastating challenges in the growing season, we were blessed with good yields on the fields that didn't get hit by the severe storms.

    As we close out 2014, we can learn from the challenges we faced and appreciate all the good that took place. I am sure 2015 will have its fair share of ups and downs and challenge our way of thinking at times as well as test our patience. One thing always remains the same from year to year though, and that is the passion that the American farmer and rancher has for what they do. We take pride in growing and raising food that is safe and nutritious. We also take pride in making sure we leave the land better than it is now for future generations and also take pride in keeping rural America alive and well. Goodbye 2014 and hello 2015.... lets make this another year to remember!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fix My Eyes On You

Over the last couple of months I have been listening to a song called "Fix My Eyes" by a contemporary christian band called For King and Country. I must admit that I don't always pay attention to the lyrics in a song, which can be both good and bad at times. However, the lyrics to this song really stood out to me, especially the chorus. It made me take a step back and think about the things that were happening in my life, our country, and world..... and with that you are probably wondering what this chorus is, so I wrote it below.

"I'd Love like I'm not scared
Give when it's not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on you"

Now I challenge you to put yourself in these lyrics. Have you found yourself not loving because you were scared.... maybe scared of being vulnerable... or have found yourself not willing to give because you didn't think it was fair.... or maybe not living life for another because you were more worried about how people would look at you.... or not taking time out of your day just to say hi or smile at someone who could of been having a bad day.... or not standing up for the weak ones that maybe can't stand up for themselves because we were afraid of how society would view us. If your like me, we all have probably fallen short in one or more of those areas. 

But then the chorus goes on to say "Speak out for freedom, find faith in the battle, stand tall but above it all, fix my eyes on you". That speaks volumes to me and I hope to you as well. We must make sure we aren't just "mediocre" christians but instead standing above all the jealousness, pettiness, greediness, hatefulness that the world deals us and instead fix our eyes on him, our Lord and Savior. By fixing our eyes on our Lord, he will guide us through the challenges life gives us and will comfort us during the times of struggle. We need to make sure we aren't fixing our eyes on ourself and focusing on what we want, what we think, or how others will look at us. When we fix our eyes on ourself, we end up missing out on what God is guiding us to or what God has planned for us. So often we are given opportunities everyday but don't often see them because we focus our eyes on what we want or how we think it should be. Fixing our eyes on ourself will make us miss out on opportunities that could change our lives or the lives of others. 

Right now there are people all around the world who are dealing with some of the toughest challenges in life. They may be dealing with an illness, death, relationship breakup, loss of a friendship, financial troubles, addictions, divorce, or just feeling like they aren't valued. However, I hope and pray that they fix their eyes on the Lord and not themselves so that they don't miss out on what God has in store for them. 

So just remember to love like your not scared, give when it's not fair, live life for another, take time for a brother, fight for the weak ones, speak out for freedom, find faith in the battle, stand tall but above it all, and fix YOUR eyes on the Lord! 

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Phillipians 4:13

For those who want to listen to the song "Fix My Eyes", click here

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Future is Ahead and God's the Driver

Do you ever wonder where your life will be at in 20 years? Most likely you do, and I am sure you probably are wondering where your life will be at in one year or maybe even tomorrow! The future is something we have all thought about since we were little. We have wondered what career we would have, who we would marry, where we would be living, and so on. Thinking about the future can be both fun and frightening. The reason it can be fun is because we think about the things we want and the things we want to do while at the same time it can be frightening from the fact that we may not always succeed, or get what we want.

I have always found myself in this predicament when thinking about the future. I look at all the could be situations but then remind myself of the could not situations as well. Sometimes I get frustrated from the fact that I can't predict the future nor the outcome. Yet, then I remind myself that God has a plan for me. That plan may not necessarily be something that I thought of or wanted, but could end up being something greater than I ever thought.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." - Romans 8: 18-21

As Christians, we need to put our worries in God's hand and remind ourselves that the ultimate plan is for us to end up in his Kingdom. When I look at my future, it is full of different dreams and passions, but in the end I see myself spending eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven. God doesn't care what job I have or how much I get paid, but he does care about my journey through faith. He cares about the struggles I go through as well as the times of joy and excitement.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you." - Jeremiah 29:11-13

So the next time you worry about the future, whether that is tomorrow or ten years, remember that God is the driver of your future and to give up your worries to him through prayer. He cares about you and loves you and wants you to spend eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven!