Light in the Darkness

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Right now, it’s so easy to write about what’s wrong with farming.

Never ever have I felt so much distress and dismay about my life I live.

Never ever have we been working so physically hard with no light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel gets longer and darker as the days go by. And, the tunnel is getting crowded.

Work hard and success will follow is what I’ve been taught. Well, if that’s the case then Farmer would be a multi-millionaire.

Just about every time I open face book to any of my farm pages there is one more dairy farmer selling out. Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017, and about 150 have quit milking cows so far this year according to USA Today.

Some will read this and think that’s too bad and never give it another thought. It’s not just losing a job. Losing your dairy farm that has been in the family for 100+ years is losing part of who you are. You feel like you are disappointing those who worked so hard to build it to this point and totally failing those coming after you who want nothing more than to continue the legacy.

When I first came to the farm I watched Farmer work alongside his father. Our sons have worked with Farmer and now a Grandson is working with his dad. There are times when we have three generations in the fields together.

4th and 5th generation

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When people glibly suggest just sell out and take all that money and start something else they don’t have a clue. First of all there won’t be all that money. Some will be lucky to break even. Secondly, you can’t change the DNA of your dreams that easily or quickly.

Others have suggested building a bottling plant so we can have more control over the finished product. Well, I’d like to suggest that if the money was available to build a plant then we wouldn’t be in this position.

Everything in dairy farming takes time. It takes at least 9 months for a cow to be able to give milk once she has reached the age of breeding. You can’t turn on and off your milk productions quickly. There is no quick fix.

Part of the problem is some farmers are increasing their herd size to have a better cash flow. That is doing nothing but making things worse for the whole. Yet, I can’t fault someone for doing what they think is best for themselves.

The hopelessness for farmers has become deadly. According to Kansas Wheat, from 2014 to 2015, farm income dropped 95% and farm debt levels have increased by 25%. The farmers’ rate of suicide is 84.5 suicide deaths out of 100,000.

In an article in Civil Eats - Over the past year, media reports in Newsweek, the New York Times, and an in-depth piece in The Guardian have called attention to alarming rates of suicide among farmers and farmworkers, from grain growers in the Midwest to dairy farmers in the Northeast.

Basically, right now doing what we feel we were created to do is exhausting, depressing and is wrapped in hopelessness. So, it is really easy to write about what is wrong with being a dairy farmer.

I am challenging myself to find some light in all the darkness and share what is good about farming.

Here we go:

            Every day we get to enjoy the fresh air. We aren’t cooped up inside a building in front of a computer screen or repetitively doing the same thing.

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            Animals! There is something special about walking through the barns with cattle on both sides. It’s a calming effect. And, to help bring a new calf into the world is nothing short of miraculous.

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            The smells are heavenly – for the most part. The smell of fresh earth turned over in the spring and of course newly mown alfalfa is God’s perfume. Even the smell of manure is comforting at times.

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            Working side by side with your husband, son, daughter-in-law and grandkids is wonderful – especially when everyone is in a good place.

            Having employees that work with you and being able to pass blessings back and forth between each other is rewarding.

            Bringing guests to the farm to show and tell how God works is gratifying.

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I have been told more times than I can count that “God is in control”. I believe that. It’s just hard at times to trust that. Oh my, did I actually admit that? Yep, at times my trust muscle isn’t as strong as I wish.

How long will this last? How long will we be able to continue? Only God knows. I just wish he’d let me know.

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Farm Life Preservation 101

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What part of farm life am I referring too?

Anyone who comes in contact with the farmer this time of year.

For us with late April snow and never-ending May showers started us off behind. Now, add a broken-down hay mower and the chopper which has been in the dealership shop since April and no delivery back to the farm date and you have created the perfect storm for needing to know about farm life protection. This is what we call the “Angry Bear” stage of farming.

Here are the 10 guidelines of Farm Life Preservation 101.

1.     When approaching the farmer during this stressful time give him wide berth. Stay at least 10 feet away. That way you’ll have a better chance to duck flying tools.

2.     When approaching the farmer, make no quick movements and avoid eye contact.

3.     When leaving the farmer, back away slowly.

4.     While in the presence of the farmer, only speak when spoken to and speak in soft hushed tones unless machinery is running and then you must be able to lip read and shout louder than a jet engine revving up. Always agree with what they are saying.

5.     Never ask any questions.

6.     When feeding time comes push the food under the equipment with a long stick.

7.     Unless bellowed to enter, only go into the shop if it is necessary and when doing so, be stealthy and quiet so as not to rile the farmer.

8.     If he asks you to help him for just a minute, quietly text your doctor and let him know you can’t make it in for your liver transplant scheduled for later in the day.

9.     Always be on guard and ready to jump. The expectancy level is high, and you never know what will trigger it.

10.  If for any reason the farmer has fallen asleep, NEVER EVER wake him up unless you have had training.

All nonsense aside, it is a very stressful time of the year and all prayers for all farmers would be welcomed.

But, hey, I can’t fix any of the problems so why not have a little fun. The good thing is Farmer is so busy he won’t read this for several weeks and by then hopefully the “Angry Bear” syndrome will have past.

We’re Better Than That

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When a fellow farmer has a problem whether it be sickness, accident, fire or other natural disaster we farmers jump in and fully invest ourselves to assist.

I’ve heard many times how wonderful the farming community is and that the rest of the population should take heed and learn to work together and help.

I’ve been watching some infighting with farmers because of Walmart’s choice to use milk from different producers than it previously had. Walmart’s choice has left some farmers without a market which is horrible.

But, there’s more to the story – there always is.

Some are saying Walmart is starting their own dairy and adding cows to the market – False.

They are using milk from different farmers than in the past. Walmart is using milk from three suppliers. One of the suppliers is Foremost Farms – our coop. Another thing I know about Walmart’s different milk producers is that the milk has to meet certain somatic cell count specifications.

I’m hearing that Walmart is using milk from large farms only. I’m not sure that is correct. They are purchasing milk from coops and I know our coop takes milk from all sizes of farms.

I’m hearing “boycott” Walmart and whatever you do, do not buy milk there. How hypocritical is this? If you’re a dairy farmer right now you are hurting – it doesn’t matter what size, you are. By boycotting Walmart you are boycotting fellow farmers.

When we farmers accuse and attack each other we are doing the job of anti-animal activists. They can sit back and watch as our community unravels.

There is a farmer behind every drop of milk.

I was called out about a year ago when I wrote a blog that involved almond juice. I’m pretty zealous about fooling or scaring our consumers about food choices. In the process of comparing nut juice with dairy, I became very judgmental which shed a bad light on the almond farmer. One of my followers commented that I was totally criticizing a fellow farmer. They were right. I felt physically sick and proceeded to blog about my mistake and apologize.

This is happening now in mass. Large farms are being blamed for pushing out the mom and pop farms. And CAFO – or the very misnamed factory farms are still painted as evil.

In the spirt of transparency – we are a CAFO farm. We increased our size back in 2003 – we haven’t had any large increases since then. But, we did so to support three sons coming into the farm. We are a family farm. Our farm is hurting. We are all in – don’t have time to go off the farm to bring in income from other places. We’re sweating it out and working our butts off to cut costs. It’s not a fun time and it’s a worrisome time.

The bottom line in all this low milk prices is capitalism. We just don’t want to connect a family farm with the business world – impossible to separate.

I'd prefer to be referred to as those farmers who come to the rescue of other farmers, who lend a helping hand, to fill in the needed gaps of each other.

I’m just asking that we farmers stop the back biting, in house fighting. Let’s circle the wagons and try to support all farmers.

We’re better than that.

A house divided cannot stand.

 

 

O Bill Schuette, Where Art Thou?

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Once, again, Bill Schuette is a no-show.

We were at the Michigan Ag Gubernatorial Forum with the other candidates that are running for governor.

There have been several forums where the gubernatorial candidates have come together to meet the public. Events to hear what we, the public, have to say and what we need.

Yet, time after time Bill is a no-show.

Makes me wonder - why?

Is he so sure of himself he doesn’t want to waste his time meeting with us?

Does he have better things to do than meet the people he wants to serve?

Does he not want contact with us because we will ask him why or why not on his decisions?

For me, it just doesn’t make sense that he, who is trying to obtain an office that is supposed to serve us, has been absent over and over again.

If you know me, you know I support Dr. Jim Hines – take a moment and check him out here: www.hines4michigan.com

My opinion – if Bill isn’t available and present now, what makes you think he will be if elected.

O Bill Schuette, Where Art Thou?

 

 

Stop Scare Tactic Shopping – no Food Fear Needed

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I am beyond sick and tired of the lies being spread about our food safety in the US – specifically the non-GMO rubbish that runs rampant throughout our grocery stores.

Dear Consumers –

There is a project out there and its goal is to confuse and dupe you into purchasing food products that are not GMO – for their profit.

According to an article in the Genetic Literacy Project concerning a non-GMO company - Executive Director Megan Westgate told the Wall Street Journal that it is focusing on shrinking the market for existing GMO ingredients and prevent new commercial biotech crops, which would grow the business of the organic and natural products industry. 

Now, if you want to eat non-GMO food, great. Have at it.

But, if you’re purchasing it because you think it’s safer or more healthy than GMO food then please read on.

What is GMO – Genetically Modified Organisms?  Genetic engineering, also referred to as biotechnology, allows plant breeders to take a desirable trait found in nature and transfer it from one plant or organism to the plant they want to improve, as well as make a change to an existing trait in a plant they are developing. – from gmoanswers.com.

Are GMOs bad?

If you are fearful that there is something wrong with GMOs there is no reason to purchase non-GMO products. There is no scientific proof that GMOs are harmful.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) issued a report confirming the safety of GMOs and also their compositional and nutritional equivalency with non-GMO foods – from gmoanswers.com

American Medical Association, World Health Organization, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization are other organizations that deem GMOs safe.

Recently, Genetic Literacy Project reports that GMOs provides substantial health benefits and yield increase in crops. With GMO corn there is a reduction in mycotoxins, which are toxic and carcinogenic for humans and animals.

The mycotoxins weaken the plant's "immune system" and leave it more susceptible to fungal development.  Mycotoxins remain a persistent health threat and studies have shown a correlation between mycotoxins and certain cancers.

I’ve created a cheat sheet for you if you still want non-GMO food.

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These are the only GMO foods available in the US.

The following are not even available as a non-GMO, yet the slick tricky label is plastered on many items.

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As a farmer we use GMO seed. We plant the seed. We walk through the fields with GMO plants. Our kids, dogs and grandkids run through the fields. Do you really think we would if we had any fear of a health issue?

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People are starving.

The world is growing.

Do we want to move forward with technology and feed our communities or do we want to scare people into spending money they work so hard for on unnecessary expenses?

Here are a few other sites that explain and report much more than covered here.

https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2018/02/19/gmo-corns-yield-human-health-benefits-vindicated-21-years-studies/

https://gmoanswers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons from the Farm

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1.     Get out of bed in the morning and get going. Getting started on chores early helped keep problems at bay. “Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it” –  Richard Whately

2.     Finish what you start. “It’s too hard, I’m too tired” fell on deaf ears here.There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure” – Colin Powell.

3.     Take good care of the critters. God entrusted them to us and our livelihood comes from it. Their needs come first. Feed for the cows came before the latest and greatest shoe style. “A righteous man regards the life of his animal, But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” -  Proverbs 12:10 (NKJV)

4.     Respect and help the employees. Once again, God brought us good people. They come first. We work WITH them. Their time off comes first. “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled” – Anne M. Mulcahy

5.     If you drop it – pick it up. If you open it – close it. If you use it – replenish it. “Accountability breeds response-ability” – Steven Covey

6.     If you didn’t drop it – pick it up. If you didn’t open it – close it. If you didn’t use it – replenish it anyway.If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders” - Abigail Van Buren

7.     If there is a challenge, ask for help and learn for the next time. “Be the kind of person who dares to face life's challenges and overcome them rather than dodging them” 
- Roy T. Bennett

8.     Two half-filled 5 gallon pails are easier to carry than one full one. “Being wise is better than being strong; yes, knowledge is more important than strength” – Proverbs 24:5

9.     Spending an hour to get a calf to drink not only keeps the calf alive but helps develop perseverance.Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did” – Newt Gingrich

10.  Physically struggling to the point of exhaustion can be rewarded by the miracle of life when you finally get the calf delivered. No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave” - Calvin Coolidge

11.  Working in the rain, eating dust and dirt is rewarded by seeing the new leaf of a corn plant break through the ground. “Farming is a profession of hope” – Brian Brett

To Whom It May Concern

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To Whom It Concerns,

There’s a crisis going on right under our noses and many people have no idea.

Farms are selling out; farmer’s dreams are being auctioned off and livelihoods are washing away with the tears of generational farmers.

I’m not sure who will be reading this or what I really expect to happen but I need to pour out my heart so I can see straight.

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We are dairy farmers. My husband is 3rd generation and one of our four sons is hoping to continue. Hoping is the key word here.

The price we receive for our milk has been cut drastically over the last few years. It has come back a bit but well under the amount we need to break even let alone make a profit. The experts are predicting at least one more year of these farm-breaking prices.

As dairy farmers, we are used to the roller coaster prices but this dip has been deeper and longer than ever before with no relief in sight.

While our income has been slashed our production, costs are the same or more. We’ve trimmed down and cut back on everything possible.

Some reading this think “oh, that’s too bad” and never give it another thought. Some think “sell out and find another job, no big deal”.

That is comparable to telling a pro-golfer he can never pick up a golf club again, or a race car driver that he will never sit in a car seat again or a mother that she isn’t allowed to care for her children ever again.

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I truly believe a farmer is created. There is a seed dropped into the heart of a farmer at the time of conception that God puts there. We were created to care for his critters and tend his land.

Who else will work from before sunup to well past sundown? How many would be willing to work in a cloud of dust and dirt all day? How many professions require being covered in manure, silage juice and cow slime?

Farmers put their animals and farm first. Vacations are what we read about and hear from others. A half day’s work is done before church on Sundays. Ball games, drives in the country, leisurely strolls in the park are foreign to farmers. Oh, there may be a rare event that just happens to fall in between making hay and harvesting corn that can be attended.

Get togethers are always worked around milking times, planting and harvest. And many a supper out has been canceled due to something breaking down at the farm.

Knuckles are bloodied from slipping wrenches, shins are bruised from a well-placed cow hoof, and stitches are the norm when working on that one dang piece of machinery that you are trying to hold together because there just isn’t enough money to replace it.

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Add freezing cold temperatures and blowing snow that clogs the road before you can even get one pass done to the mix to make taking care of the farm even harder.

Everything waits for chores – Christmas morning, birthday celebrations are a couple that are put on hold until the last cow is fed or milked.

I have seen three of my four sons eat dirt, clean pieces of hay out of their eyes, cough up dust, and have disks in their backs blown. I have jumped in tractors and choppers to help keep them awake so the field can be done before the rain hits.

Months and months of work and money can be put in the ground only to not receive enough rain or too much rain and lose the whole thing.

Why are prices so low and farming so tough? What’s causing it? Personally, I’m not sure. I’ve heard that the European nations lifting their quota system and too much milk on the market are a couple.

Then let’s add in the fear mongering companies that try to scare the consumer into purchasing their high-priced products. A certain company is slapping their non-GMO sticker on everything that is placed in the grocery store whether or not it could possibly be a GMO product. And there is absolutely no scientific or medical proof that there is anything wrong with GMO foods.

Here we farmers have learned to grow food on less ground, with a smaller footprint, with higher yields and we are getting punished because someone is creating a false premise just to forward their own agenda.

Milk alternatives are slickly packaged and placed side by side with dairy. Some consumers have no idea there is no dairy in these products. I have NO problem with using other food sources for another drink but please don’t piggy back on our dairy. Don’t market that the alternative to dairy is healthier. It’s different.

We are coming from a place of discouragement, exhaustion, and depression. There is a thought that if you are honest and work hard you will be rewarded for your efforts. This is not and has not been happening for farmers in a long time.

We’re tired, sore and quite frankly some of us are scared spit less because we have no answer to the problem. We aren’t even sure what caused the problem and have no idea how to fix it.

We are praying for wisdom and guidance and some feel their prayers are falling on deaf ears.

At a time in our lives when we should be pulling back and slowing down we are working as hard as ever to fill the void that unaffordable employees could fill.

Part of me wants to do everything possible for my son to succeed as the fourth generation. Part of me wants to tell him to run – as fast and as far as he can from the farm.

But then, I realize that seed that started in his great grandfather and before has sprouted and is growing inside him.

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Trusting God, seeking wisdom is our first and last hope.

If you eat, wear clothing, sit on furniture, take medicine then you have farmers to thank for that. Considering life without farmers would be non-existent, please take some time to pray for us.

If anyone reading this has any constructive, credible suggestions, please share.

While I have gotten this off my chest it is still in my heart.

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Corn? Sweet!

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Summer cannot possibly be summer without sweet corn.

This year Son #2 had a wonderful idea and planted sweet corn several places on our properties. He planted in a field near our milking parlor for our employees. He planted several small plots in the fields we rent. He then went door to door to the neighbors of these fields and explained where the fields were and that the corn was for them and their families to enjoy. His idea blessed many people.

He also planted some directly behind our house that our families and friends enjoyed. And this is the story of that.

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He emptied the corn bins of field corn from the 12-row corn planter and then filled it with the sweet corn. He planted the sweet corn at a ratio of 26,115 kernels per acre. In field corn, you plant around 33,000 to 34,000 kernels per acre.

Behind our house, he planted .3 acres which would produce 7,834.5 plants at the sweet corn ratio. He made two passes with the planter so we had 24 rows of corn. The rows are 30” apart. It was a lot of corn. Especially, this year. The weather was perfect and the corn was beautiful. God did an outstanding job of growing it this year.

So, doing a little deciphering – each stalk of corn averages 1 & 1/4 ears. We figured one out of every four had 2 ears. Just by sight, there were a lot of stalks with two good ears.

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Each ear of corn averages 16 rows on the cob. Also, each ear of corn has an even number of rows – God’s rule.

Each ear of corn averages 800 kernels of corn.

So, if each of those 7,835 stalks produced 1 ear that would be 6,268,000 kernels of corn = 800% increase.

If each stalk produced 2 ears that would be an increase of 1600% and 12,536,000 kernels of corn.

As close as we can figure he spent about $130.00 for seed for our .3 acres. Add in his time which did add up a little – moving from field to field with a 12-row corn planter and the planting just a small swath and then moving on to another field was time consuming. So, figure his time, seed cost and fuel and yes, there was an investment on his part.

We had sweet corn coming out of our ears. Way more than we could take care of as a family so we decided to give it away. I daily put it on face book for friends to come and pick. Most wanted to pay but we said no. Many were reluctant to take too much until I battered them down with “take more, please, take more”.

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We’ve had 58 families come and pick corn. At least 2 of those have passed it on to another 8 families. Once I convinced our guests to take more I can confidently say most took at least 100 ears of corn – some more. And we were excited to see it go!

Someone mentioned how much money we could have got if we would have sold it. Personally, our reward from giving it away is far greater. Also, knowing that our good deeds are being store in heaven we have even more reward waiting for us.

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A few fun facts about corn:

            Each ear has an even number of rows
            Each silk hair is associated with a separate kernel of corn – I tell people the silk hair is                           like an umbilical cord.
           The tassels on top of the corn plant pollenates the silk hairs which make the corn.

This is just another example of how cool God is. He created a seed that gets buried in the dirt. You drown it with water and then the seed dies, comes back to life, fights to get through the crusty ground. It grows a few months and then the one seed becomes 800 – 1600. How cool is that. And, to top it off – it’s delicious!!!!

 

 

 

Transparent and Vulnerable

Transparent.

That’s what I set out to be when I started blogging.

Being transparent is risky. It’s hard to be transparent without dragging someone else into the fray with you.

So, having said that, I’m wading into murky waters here.

The last few years have been hard. I’m not one to air dirty laundry, point fingers, call out people – especially family and friends.

Things are rough enough that I look at other people’s lives and wonder if they are really that happy. Do they have any problems? Other’s activities look picture perfect at times. I drive by cars and see people laughing, others outside playing in the yard, shopping together or whatever and I wonder what it would be like to be them.

Is my life horrible – by no means, it’s just been tough the last few years.

Am I more fortunate than others – absolutely. Compared to 99.9% of the rest of the world my life is a cake walk.

Am I writing this to garner sympathy – no way. I don’t want sympathy or words of “praying for you”, “sorry” or anything like that.

I am hoping to put into words something that will help someone else that feels the way I do. That no matter the degree of your sadness, disappointment, lack of joy – it’s not just you. You are not alone on your island of unhappiness.

Maybe it’s the stage of life I’m in. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe it’s just the devil screwing around with my emotions. Whatever the cause it’s real to me.

A few years ago, my youngest son decided to leave the farm to pursue a different job. While I supported and still support his decision 100% it was extremely hard. One of the joys I had was being able to walk across the road and see three of my sons daily. I could jump into a tractor or other vehicle, ride along and chat. At any time of the day they would stop in for leftovers, cookies or a quick “I gotta lay down a minute”. His kids would ride with him and sometimes be part of the drop-in crowd.

Basically, my “dream” life, my personal picture perfect life was starting to unravel.

Myself and my siblings spent close to a year taking care of our father. Three of us live 2 hours away which was a problem for us. Take time off work, travel – bad weather conditions, etc. My other brother who lived nearby had the burden of living close. I felt guilty that he had to handle the things that would come up – while the rest of us took turns helping. It was exhausting yet a privilege to care for him. We wouldn’t do it any different and he is doing great now. Never the less the exhaustion, unknown outcome, never ending frustrations and circumstances all took a toll we felt.

If anyone reads my blog or follows me on face book knows about Charlie. You can read about him in previous blogs. He was more than a special dog. There was something that can’t be described about Charlie and how much I loved that dog. He and I had a special connection – hard to describe. Holding his head in my hands, looking into his eyes for the last time, saying good-bye to him and then looking for him in his usual places for weeks after he was gone was physically painful. Yes, I know he was a dog, and yes, I know people lose other people – I’m not trying to lessen other’s pain or elevate mine – it just is.

In the middle of all this for a few years we’ve been trying to transition the farm to our son(s).  How do you take what you’ve worked the last 45 years (for me, longer for Farmer) and figure out how to divide things in a way that keeps the farm running while blessing other family members? The attorney would suggest this – and the accountants would say “tax consequences) and back and forth we went. It’s tricky business trying to leave an inheritance that still produces a livelihood and isn’t eaten up by the government.

And, will my kid(s) be able to continue in the future? Have we prepared them sufficiently? What more can we do? Can they handle the stress? How do you do all of this without making them feel like you don’t trust them or feel they are inadequate? Is there a better life with less problems for them? Sticky business.

Then, this year another son decided to leave the farm to pursue other interests. One less son to drop in, visit, run down the road to see. Once again, we all supported his decision and know he will do fine, it’s just another piece of my “dream” drifting away.

Oh, and why not add in horrible milk prices so it makes it next to impossible to survive financially. Lack of money causes more disagreements – where to spend the little we have, what do you live with, what can we change to make this work. No money = no cushion for wrong decisions. This could be a whole blog in itself.

Just differences between employees, father and son, son and mother, husband and wife can suck the life right out of you. Being the mother I constantly feel like I'm in the middle and make no one happy.

On the outside looking in I wanted to show the good, the fun, the pleasant part of farm life. I also wrote about the hardships of farming but kept the personal out. Not that I wanted to portray a lie, I just didn’t want to give credence to any of the hard stuff.

But there lies the rub for me. By keeping this hard stuff in the closet, how does that help anyone – other than me or perhaps Farmer who is extremely private about things.

I find I get more help or encouragement by hearing the hard stuff people get through. I want to know of struggles and rough stuff – not that I enjoy other people’s pain, just that it sort of helps me knowing someone else is in the crap too. It helps quiet the condemning voice that says, “you should have, you could have, why didn’t you” that comes straight from hell.

The physicality of farming is life altering. Three sons have ruptures, herniated or bulging disks in their backs. Some days are pretty good and other days can be crippling.

Many hours are taken away from family time in this profession. We fight the weather constantly. When we aren’t fighting it we are in a glorious spot working like crazy to use up every last drop of opportunity.

Then there’s the “fake news”. We farmers have been dealing with fake news way before Mr. Trump came on the scene. It sickens and angers me with the number of lies being spread about our profession. Specialty groups with their own hidden agenda (hidden to most who follow the piped piper), celebrities that want one more soapbox to get attention all spout lies that consumers believe. The picture painted is that farmers slide by using poisonous products that will line their pockets while killing those who eat their product. And for a couple of the groups that’s exactly their agenda – don’t eat animals.

Restaurants cave, food companies cave and advertise in any language the puppet public deems good. I can’t blame the public – they hear the loudest voices. We try but while the liars stand on podiums with mega phones we’re speaking out while our heads are down working the soil growing their food. So, the loudest voice is heard. Loudest isn’t always the best nor truthful.

So, everything smiley, shiny and pretty looking isn’t necessarily so. I have a core group of other farmers (women) who can totally relate to this. Some of their issues are greater than mine.

There’s one of my farm sisters who has suffered extreme family loss through death. Another who has major health issues, another who has hard issues with depression. Many of us are isolated in our profession and even logistically. More than one is over paying a non-farming family member for the farm that the parents wanted (but never put in writing) those who stayed on the farm with them to continue. Funny how after the dust settles siblings will want to invest in the farm – just enough to get a chunk of money, create hard ship for those who are left and then leave.

While we can or at least we could try to leave the farm behind and try another profession, we usually don’t. I really doubt some of us could. It would be like cutting off an arm or leg and expecting to run an obstacle course. This position in life is understood by a very slim number of people.

I’m not sure if any of this has resonated or helped anyone understand where they may be personally, or where a friend may be at this moment in their life or not. Once again, no sympathy comments -  my intent was to show that while there are blessings untold on the farm that everything that looks green and growing may actually be slowly dying inside hoping to be resurrected before it’s too late.

 

 

 

 

 

To Non-Farm Friends, Neighbors and Strangers

Just a few things that I thought I’d go over to make co-habitation easier for all of us. After all we’re in this, together right?

1.      Please don’t drop off your stray pets you no longer want or can keep. Just because we “professionally” have animals doesn’t mean we are a drop off location for unwanted critters. The local critters don’t take kindly to new arrivals and there can be a showdown at the corral that doesn’t end pretty for the newbies.

2.      Just because there is a field on a back road doesn’t mean it’s open for recreational use – whether it be driving, dirt biking, making whoopy, or sleeping off a drunken stupor. And while we’re at it – it isn’t a free garbage dump either. We don’t want your tree trimmings, old furniture, TVs or any other manner of junk.

3.    Those big open fields that you like to look at are food for our animals. Animals eat, then they poop and then the flies come. So, there will probably be more flies out here than in the city. We don’t like them either but it comes with the territory. Also, we have become pretty good at recycling and respecting the earth. We spread that poop as fertilizer so there will be times it smells pretty bad. We don’t like that either but once again, it comes with the territory. 

4.     We really want to get along and enjoy each other’s company so if you’re having a special picnic, birthday party or gathering please let us know ahead of time and if we possible can we will change our course of spreading, planting or harvesting – if we can. There will be times when we just can’t. But, we really want a good relationship and we will definitely try hard to make it work for all of us.

5.     We are not a temporary hiring business. So many will ask if their kid can help during the summer. And, there have been a few who did and stuck with us. At this farm, we don’t shovel out a few pens, ride on a wagon collecting some bales of hay, gather eggs, throw grain out to chickens or any other easily learned jobs. And, we have a few busy times of the year where we need help – but it usually involves heavy machinery or other abilities a 13-year-old can’t handle. At best, we can occasionally offer a random few weeks sporadically depending on the weather. We always feel bad saying no.

6.  No, we are not rich because we have all those silos, tractors, cows (insert your own item) land or whatever. All those things are tools for us to do our job. They are expensive and necessary. Many times, they breakdown causing more expense. And the weather is either our best friend or worst enemy when it comes to our crops. Our purchasing prices of materials is set for us – not by us. And then our selling price is set by others, not by us. So, things can be and right now are pretty dicey.

7.  Farming is not “what’s left” in the occupational bowl you draw from. New technologies and new advancements are helping us feed more people with less. And, we must continue to expand our knowledge and ability to do better. My son plants corn using 4 display screens connected to GPS. And there are many other advancements in the industry. Continuing education is part of farming like any other business.

8.  For the most part, we farmers prefer you would get your information from us instead of celebrities or non-farmers who have no clue. We would rather show and tell than correct and fix false information spread by specialty groups. If you want to know how, why or what for, ask us.

9.  Dairy specific – cows are not hooked to milking machines 24 hours a day and they do not die when they give milk. It takes about 2 years to raise a cow to have a calf. Once the calf is born the cow gives milk. The two years prior the cow is being cared for daily – inputting feed, water, nutrients and care. Once the cow has the calf she is milked. She is bred again after about two months and we will stop milking her the last two months of her pregnancy so all her energy goes into her well-being and the calf’s.

10. On a fun note we bathe or shower more often than Saturday night. We can even get the dirt out from under our fingernails – grease stains, not so much. But we know how to “pretty up” and smell good. And, there is no better person to receive help from than a farmer who isn’t afraid of hard things and knows how to stick with it until the job is done.

Dear John, um I Mean Cargill,

I’ve never written a “Dear John” letter before. Never needed to. Until now. To you.

I’m leaving.

You cheated on me.

I’ve found someone better.

I doubt this letter will cause any tears but I do hope it pricks your conscious.

For several years, we’ve purchased feed from your company. I must say the people we have dealt with have been superb. Great and knowledgeable.

Your product has fed many of our cows successfully.

While I could complain of high prices I imagine you’re comparable.

So, why am I leaving?

Many farmers had a working relationship with you. We grow for you, we buy from you and support each other. Until this past spring, you turned your back on us and joined an organization that is not farmer friendly. An anti-GMO organization that I will not give space to in this letter.

I totally understand that you need to accommodate all types of customers. You had a non-GMO process in place that seemed to be doing the job just fine.

Then, you messed up.

I agree with Julie Gunlock in her commentary – The Unholy Alliance Between Big Biz and Big Alarmism when she wrote: Cargill, one of America's biggest food and agriculture companies, recently announced its partnership with the _________, an organization focused on misinforming consumers about GMO safety, and, as the organization's name implies, ridding the American marketplace of GMOs.

First, there are many who have confirmed that GMOs are safe for humans and animals. Such as the National Academy of Sciences, American Medical Association, World Health Organization and many more.

There are groups of people who want you to believe GMOs are unsafe. Why? Business reasons. And a whole lot of band wagon jumpers – “Wow, did you hear GMOs will make you grow an extra leg? –We better jump on the anti-GMO band wagon then.”

The loudest voice is heard and right now the false, fake, fear promoting voice is prospering at our expense.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that on the board of this anti-GMO organization are people connected to Organic, Natural and Environmentalist businesses and groups?

Hmmmmm . . . if there are more and more people who are afraid of the safe GMO foods then there will be more to purchase their “super safe” food products. Funny how that works.

But, I digress – you know all of that. I added that in hopes everyone who reads this will hear the truth.

So, back to you Cargill.

“Helping farmers prosper” is part of founder’s W.W.Cargill’s vision statement. Somehow siding with fear propagating, false teaching businesses that encourage consumers to purchase a selected type of food doesn’t line up with helping farmers prosper.

As I said before, the loudest voice is heard. This anti-GMO organization is a huge voice – like a Goliath.

Farmers need a David to go against Goliath.

You could have been our David. You could have brought truth to the marketplace for consumers.

Now the Goliath has more strength to frighten others to pick the more expensive, yet no difference in food value, item.

So, having written all of that, I’m choosing to hire a David as our feed company. We chose Farmer’s Co-op Elevator Co. in Hudsonville, over you and your weak backbone to stand up for farmers.

My hope is that enough farmers look for a David and we join forces to shine a light on the truth in agriculture.

So, this is farewell and good-bye. I’d wish you luck and success but then that would be a lie. I wish you would stand up straight and partner with those of us who are growing safe, affordable food for our families and the world.

Sadly, Sincerely,

 

Help, My Cow Needs Glucose

Did you know a cow can suffer from low blood sugar?

I never thought about it but was sort of surprised when a couple of ours were being treated.

I asked our amazing herdsman how and why.

If a cow has an injured foot, mastitis, pneumonia or any other ailment that would slow her down and prevent her from eating – that would be a good set up for low blood sugar. If she isn’t eating enough of a proper diet it could cause low blood sugar.

In a herd of 700 how do you find these cows? Well, our cows are all monitored when they come in the parlor and their milk output drastically dropped so the computer sorted them out. When that happened they were brought into the hospital pen area to examine and determine why.

The cows that have low sugar are wobbly, ears down and not looking good.

The urine was tested to determine the diagnosis.

We administered an IV of glucose and drenched them with sugar water. The sugar water is slowly absorbed to help wake up the liver – “say there liver get with it!”

They were treated for two days and were fine – these were considered as clinical low blood sugar.

There is such a thing as chronic - where cows don’t respond to the treatment because their brain just can’t communicate with the liver and get things back in sync. When the liver shuts down, the cow is done.