A Variation on Goldilocks and the 3 Bears

I’m beginning to feel like an actual college student – a high school graduate with a career path and a good deal of knowledge about her university and such. It only took nearly two years.

This week (on Spring Break), I had the privilege of representing the William H. Darr School of Agriculture at a couple of events near my home town. Overall, it’s been quite the learning experience.

Event 1 – Eldon Career Center

I found out the day that break began for me that I would be heading north that evening so that I could be in Eldon by 10 Friday morning (which sounds like nothing if you’re used to getting up early, but I’m a college student – 9 is early, and 6 would have been way too early).

Together with one of my classmates and fellow Ag Ed majors, I gathered a bunch of recruitment materials (which turned out to be not nearly enough), and prepared for the day.

We arrived in our very official ag nerd garb (school of ag button-downs and khakis), and were very soon flooded with high schoolers. It was interesting, because we saw everyone – from freshmen to seniors. Much like me in high school, almost no one knew the right questions to ask (and unfortunately for me, I didn’t always have the answers to the questions they did ask). It was a lot of fun describing my school though, and it reminded me how incredibly proud I am to be a student there. More than that, it showed me how indescribably lucky I am to be at Missouri State University.

In high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, let alone where I wanted to do so. I always thought I would be at Mizzou, but the more contests I attended there, the more I realized it wasn’t really for me. The campus and classes were too big, and I didn’t want to be lost in a crowd. I loved the University of Central Missouri when it came to their music program, but the ag program there was way too small. Both universities were too close to home for me too – I love my family, but I didn’t want an excuse to drive home every weekend.

So basically, it was a lot like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. MSU was just right. And it is more so each day I spend there. I’ve learned so much, come to respect my professors as community leaders and people as well as academics, and found an awesome family of students who can line dance in the Student Activities room and still dominate an agricultural quiz bowl competition.

I was proud this week to wear my MSU Bears maroon and share my school spirit with high school students – I can only hope that they will find somewhere just as fun and challenging as I have to learn and grow.

Well, it looks like I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to write about my second event – it’s technically already tomorrow and I have plans that require sleep tonight.

Until then, don’t forget to be awesome and Farm Out Loud!

Working with the Best People in the World

Lord, we thank You for the opportunity to work with the best people in the world, America’s farmers and ranchers, and for the chance to help them to do Your work in feeding Your world.

Al Gustin of KFYR in North Dakota, this year’s Farm Broadcaster of the Year, presented by the National Association of Farm Broadcasters and sponsored by Syngenta.

This week, I’ve had the honor of participating in the 69th annual NAFB convention as a student member. Janet Adkison, an MSU alumna and successful farm broadcaster at KMZU radio in Carrollton, Missouri, invited communications students from across the nation to experience the event. Janet served as this year’s NAFB Vice-President and is the NAFB president-elect for the upcoming year. Her goal on the NAFB Board of Directors has been to increase participation of young members and future professionals in the griculture industry, many of whom will soon have ties to farm broadcasting. Her mission has been a success. When she began work with the board, student membership was at a total of 7 students. Thanks to her diligent work, student membership is predicted to reach 40 before the end of this year. Nine students attended the conference – six from Missouri State, and one student each from Western Illinois University, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State University through Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow.

Today, I sat in on professional development sessions and attended an awards luncheon in the presence of farm broadcasting legends the likes of Orion Samuelson, Max Armstrong, representatives from Brownfield Ag News and RFD TV, an that’s not even touching the tip of the iceberg.

My time here has been full of unique opportunities, and it means the world to me that I was chosen to participate in the inaugural year of the NAFB college experience.

Farm Out Loud!

Summer Rain

Rain in the Heartland

Photo courtesy of KOMU 8 and Michele Ridenour from Montgomery City, Mo.

Thank God for rain in the Heartland yesterday morning! After about three weeks of hot, dry and thirsty fields, Monday morning brought heavy storm clouds to our Mid-Missouri farm and the surrounding area. The rain had perfect timing as far as we were concerned, though we would have taken it gladly had it arrived a bit earlier. Sunday, as my family and I got my little brother registered and settled in at UCM Music Camp, my uncle finished harvesting the last of our 500+ acres of wheat. Harvest took just five days – but hundreds of gallons of fuel. 

Have you ever thought about how much fuel (& driving time) it takes to bring in a harvest? Well, obviously there’s the combine operator, but there’s also the grain truck driver, the taxi driver (this is my job when I’m home), not to mention the tractor, sprayer, water truck, and all the errands that have to be run just to get a good crop ready to harvest. As the taxi driver, I get to drive a normal truck around to the different farms to help my dad get all of the equipment he needs from point A to point B before he gets started.

It’s like those awful riddles from elementary school:

“Once upon a time a farmer went to market and purchased a fox, a goose, and a bag of beans. On his way home, the farmer came to the bank of a river and rented a boat. But in crossing the river by boat, the farmer could carry only himself and a single one of his purchases – the fox, the goose, or the bag of the beans.

If left alone, the fox would eat the goose, and the goose would eat the beans.

The farmer’s challenge was to carry himself and his purchases to the far bank of the river, leaving each purchase intact.

How did he do it?

This is part of everyday life for farmers. In fact, Sunday afternoon I ran the taxi for my dad to prepare for the rain that we sincerely hoped was coming. We made several trips back and forth between the different fields where he had been working and the storage facility that would protect the equipment and product (grain in trucks) from the rain. Dad had to figure out what to take first and how to park the different machines to make sure it all fit. I had to figure out how to drive his long bed four door pickup truck, which is far too new for me to be allowed to drive (my car is a 99, and I’m not even sure about it all the time because it’s big and low to the ground).

Problem solving skills are sometimes a mystery to me – I like to think that I’m good at that kind of thing, but really I’m good at the intellectual and informational side. Putting the same skills to practical use is a different story. When I got Dad’s truck sort of stuck in a hole driving across a waterway (which he told me to cross), all I could do was throw up my hands and radio Dad behind me for help. He’s sort of a pro at fixing problems for other people, too. He’s come to my rescue for dents, flat tires, and other motor vehicle mishaps – even when I was over an hour away from home.

Do you have a favorite farmer to call when everything goes wrong? Or are you the one who gets all the phone calls from common sense challenged people like me?

Maybe schools need a class in common sense. I’d enroll. 🙂

Farm Out Loud!

Cruelty-Free Eating?

Today on my college campus, just like every day it seems, there were some random people passing out random pieces of paper that will soon end up in a trash can.

Veganism Booklet

Many of the people who spend their days giving information to people who are less than interested possess radical beliefs about controversial issues. The paper they distribute is usually an advertisement (these are the more “normal” people), or propaganda supporting their cause. Today, I got the latter – a booklet about veganism and factory farms. I would love to just brush this off, laugh at it, maybe even publish a parody version about the mistreatment of plants. However, the spread of misinformation is an ever-present problem for agriculture, and this example is no different.

I don’t doubt that some people who operate animal harvesting facilities do so inhumanely. I don’t doubt that some animals live their lives in dismal conditions – food animals or not.

However, the challenge is how reliable and timely this information is. I don’t know anything about when this booklet was published or what methods were used to acquire the photos, but I do know that other similar materials have been known to use and reuse photos and video from one example – as in, you’re seeing the same video of the same cow from 1998(ish) nearly every time a news source comes up with a scare about mad cow disease.

The booklet raises other questions, as well. Obviously, the funding for the handout came from vegan sources, and not from animal farms. A photo has been floating around Facebook in the past couple of weeks, which makes an interesting point (check out the photo to the right). I agree with one of my Facebook acquaintances who made this comment, “[This photo is] aimed at those people (most of whom have never even visited a farm/have no animal science education/consider all animals to be pets) who tend to “tell” ranchers and farmers that the way that they do things is wrong and inhumane when said ranchers and farmers have spent years and generations working with their animals and caring for them 24/7 (many even studying for years in college on animal behavior and psychology).”


This quote (left) from the booklet caught my attention as well. Although I certainly don’t agree with the manner in which this idea was presented, I must admit that I’ve wondered some of the same things. Is it possible that people in the agriculture industry are too often on the defensive, trying to prove that no one should be telling them what to do, when consumers are demanding something completely different? Perhaps we should be thinking about how to be transparent and welcoming instead of defensive and proud. I’m not sure what an ideal balance between transparency and the right of citizens to operate businesses with limited oversight – I just know that something needs to be done.

One of the last things included in the booklet, after a long description of how veganism works, was this phrase: Cruelty-Free Eating. I think that people have varying definitions of cruelty, but in general would be alright with “cruelty-free” just about anything. In fact, many farm families choose to buy their meat and other products from local sources because they know more about how the products are made, cared for, harvested, etc.

This booklet offers veganism as the only alternative to buying from “factory farms.” While much progress has been made regarding conditions in large farms (which, coincidentally, are just as likely to be family-0wned as many other farms), it is possible to reduce your support of practices that you are uncomfortable with, without giving up meat and animal byproducts altogether. You can research the companies you are giving your grocery-store purchase dollars to, and decide how you feel about them. If any of them give you a bad impression, you can choose to buy from a local meat processing business, ranch, or other farm with whose practices you are comfortable.

Maybe our best bet is to open our doors, take some photos, and produce a booklet much like this one – only with factual content and unedited photos. Perhaps if we let our voices be heard, someone will listen.

Farm Out Loud!

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Have you ever noticed how incredibly hard it is to keep up your motivation once you’ve gotten past the tough part of something?

I started moving home at Easter, and I’m so ready for my summer. I only really get a week before I’m working full time, but I plan to make the most of it, and of my weekends all summer long. Our pontoon boat and pull-behind camper are my family’s favorite place to get away to relax. We explained to someone yesterday who complained about his parents who don’t do anything that we do that too – we just prefer to go elsewhere to do nothing. It’s kind of the best – the boat anchored in a cove, a floating deck with food, drinks, music, and a little patch of shade right in the middle of our favorite swimming hole.I have just three weeks left of my first year of college, and even though I have a lot left to do – finals, projects, tests, etc – I really just want to sit down in the sun and read a good book at the campground, or possibly on the boat.

These are old photos, but they’re a pretty good representation of the five-star restaurant with rotating head chefs that exists on my grandparents’ deck at camping. Below, you see the kids table. Right, my brother and cousin chowing down dramatically, my grandpa grilling, etc.

 

 

Even once I’m working full time, though, it’s going to be a great summer. I’ll be in Jefferson City working for the Missouri Department of Agriculture as an intern, and I am so excited to find out what I’ll get to do there! I know it will be a great experience and I’ll meet some awesome people while I’m there. A bonus for my parents is that I’m working close to home – they’ll get the joy and the occasional headache that comes from me living at home this summer. I’ll also get to work some on the farm, which will begin with a crash course (hopefully not literally) in running some of the machinery so that I can actually be helpful. I’ll keep you posted on that adventure!

I’ve been listening more and more to songs with beaches and water and sunlight, so I figured I’d start putting together a playlist for boating and camping this summer.

Check it out by following the link or browsing the rdio playlist below!

What songs should I add to it to make the most epic summer playlist?

Farm Out Loud!

Farmer’s Hands 2012 Missouri Farm Bureau Video Contest Winner

Check out one of the winners of Missouri Farm Bureau’s state video contest. The winners were announced at the 84th Missouri FFA Convention in Columbia, Mo. this week. This video was created by the Walnut Grove FFA Chapter.

I love all of the awesome facts they incorporated into the video, some of which I had heard before, and others that were new to me.

I spent the convention working in a basement room behind the Missouri FFA Convention stage. The people in that room worked incredibly hard, volunteering their time and effort to get the news out to the public. Each story that passed my desk as one of the editors (and there were over 400 press releases written and edited in that room) represented at least one big and exciting success of an FFA member, advisor, or supporter. My big and exciting success was practically running across the stage, one of over 700 people in blue jackets who were raised to the highest award/degree a state association can bestow on an FFA member – the state degree. I am the proud owner of a brand-new, shiny gold, emblem-shaped nerd medal!

Plant Goals, Harvest Success!

Oh State FFA Convention…. This coming week, hundreds (probably more like thousands) of high school students in blue corduroy jackets will converge on the Mizzou campus for an event they’ve been preparing for all year. Many will compete as state-qualifying teams and speakers in career development events (like Entomology, Dairy Foods, Meats, Soils, Floriculture, and other judging contests), and leadership events (speaking, Parliamentary Procedure, Knowledge, Sales, etc). Some will grace the stage as winners – of contests, awards, and degrees. Others will perform as talent entries or chorus members. This year’s leadership sessions will focus on this theme: Plant Goals, Harvest Success.

These two days of intense competition, inspiring speakers, leadership developments, and memories made are a celebration of agriculture in Missouri. These students are members of an organization that values and promotes our nation’s most vital industry – food and fiber production. Will all of them grow up to be farmers? Far from it. Many will go on to careers that are a far cry from a wheat field or a ranch – but even if their futures don’t become intimately linked with agriculture, they learn enough about the industry to speak up, vote smart, and spread the word – agriculture has a bright future, and we’re growing strong leaders for the winding road ahead.

This week, I’ll be spending most of my State FFA Convention in a room filled with computers and busy college students, typing away. It’s our job to record all of the awesome and exciting things that happen during convention to send to home chapters, newspapers and other media. The press room at convention will be hectic – but I think it’ll be a lot of fun. After all, this is part of what I can see myself doing with my life – telling the stories of the people of agriculture (or buying tan pants and a blue blazer – if girls even do that – and taking my own group of high schoolers to state contest). Talk about exciting!

Farm Out Loud!

An Agricultural Perspective on the Child Labor Law Changes

It was speech time again this week! We’ve been working for a while (too long in my opinion) on our persuasive speeches. My class covered everything from Study Away to the existence (or lack thereof) of time and space as we perceive and measure it. I chose a topic that I’ve written about on Farm Out Loud before – the Department of Labor‘s proposed changes to Ag H.O.s.

I gave the speech today, and while I haven’t taken the time yet to analyze the video that was taken during its presentation, I decided it wouldn’t hurt anything to share it – maybe someone who doesn’t like to read will listen to it (and that is what I would suggest – listen, I don’t know what you’ll see if you watch.) 🙂 I hope you enjoy it – mistakes and all!

For those of you who do like to read, the transcript of my speech is below the video.

A New Mindset for Child Labor

When we hear the phrase “child labor,” almost all of us get the same mental image

We see photos from history books of immigrant children in the United States or sweatshops abroad working among dangerous machines for little pay.

I’m Laura Wolf, an agriculture student at Missouri State University, and my topic today is child labor, but it isn’t what you think.

When I say “child labor,” high school vocational classes probably aren’t what come to mind.

Today, I’d like to show you my mindset about child labor by explaining proposed changes, their effects on vocational education, and its effects on me as a representative of the effected group.

First, let’s look at changes proposed September 2011.

The U.S. Department of Labor issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the child labor in agriculture regulations in 2011. Their goal was to make the rules for agriculture more like those for non-agriculture industries. According to Garrett Hawkins, an expert on the subject and legislative liason for Missouri Farm Bureau in 2012, the U.S. Secretary of Labor is using this proposal to take care of a problem prevalent in her home state of California – the children of migrant workers becoming a liability in orchards.

The changes don’t just apply to migrant workers, though – they are for all workers in the U.S. under the age of 16.

Here are a few examples from a handout written by Nurse Mary E. Miller for a rural and agricultural health center in Washington in 2011 outlining the differences between the existing and proposed rules. It sounds a bit – well, a lot – like legal jargon, so I’ll keep it short.
1. “Reduces maximum height at which youth under age 16 can work at elevation from 20 feet to 6 feet, including work on ladders.”
2. “Expand prohibitions from lists of specific machines to all power-driven equipment.”
3. “Prohibit engaging or assisting in…practices that inflict pain upon the animal…such as vaccinating and treating sick or injured animals.”

Imagine that you’re a legislator and one of your people has briefed you on these changes – what do you say?
It sounds good, and it’s needed… right? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 40,000 agricultural workers were injured on the job in 2011, out of a total of 967,800.  Given this information, my guess is that you’d think, “Yep, check, let’s move on to the real issues,” which could be exactly where many actual legislators are right now.

Now that we know the basics of the proposal, let’s take a look at how schools could be affected by it.

When vocational and agricultural educators came across the same legal jargon I read to you earlier, they heard something different – a threat. The maximum height rule means that students working for area farmers can stand in a hayloft, but would be legally unable to assist in retrieving hay from the loft until they were 16. The power-driven equipment rule means that landscaping classes couldn’t use certain tools to landscape, and construction classes couldn’t use many necessary tools to construct. The rule I read about animals would keep students from exploring and gaining valuable experience in the field of veterinary science until their junior year when the career crunch is on.

When Heath Wright, the agriculture teacher at Ozark High School, heard about the proposal, he could feel his students’ opportunities shrinking instead of stretching. According to a Springfield News-Leader article March 6, 2012, the high school is in the process of building a school farm to add to other hands-on experience with local farmers and in greenhouse and welding shop classes. Hands-on work experience is important – in a survey I conducted March 9, over half of you mentioned work ethic or responsibility as benefits of holding a job as a student. If the opportunities are more restricted for work in high school, it follows that fewer students will choose to hold a job and develop those traits.

Do you remember the statistic I told you earlier? Imagine what might happen if fewer of those workers had been trained for more than a few weeks because of the new rules. It could be that accidents and injuries would increase instead of decrease. Another increase we wouldn’t want is in the strain on our pocketbooks – food prices may rise because of an even more limited number of willing and able agricultural workers, resulting in produce scarcity.

We’ve heard a little about the changes and how educators feel about them. Now I’d like to tell you a short story about my reactions.

As a farmer’s daughter, future teacher and advocate, and vocational agriculture student, the proposal would have a significant effect on me. I decided in 7th grade Ag Expo that I’d be in FFA – an agricultural organization – in high school. Our class project was building flower boxes using circular saws, drills, and other tools under the supervision of our teacher. First, we had to pass a safety test with a 100% as part of the Ag. H.O. student learner exemption. No one got hurt, and we learned a lot about basic safety precautions for a shop setting.

For FFA, I was required to hold a job and keep records for a supervised agricultural experience project. I chose to mow lawns and crop scout for my dad. Under the proposed rules, those two jobs would have been illegal until I was a junior. The rules prohibit the operation of power-driven equipment, which includes lawn mowers. They also eliminate the usual exemptions for students working for parents if the company is incorporated – my dad partially owns Brauer Farms, L.L.C.

Now that you’re more aware of the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed changes and their potential harmful effects, I have a challenge for you. Keep those history book pictures of child labor from clouding your vision and help others to do the same. Spend a few minutes on Google learning more about new developments. When you find an article that makes a great argument, share it on Facebook. Then take a step further – contact your congressmen to explain what you’ve learned and where you stand.

Instead of doing something wrong that sounds right, show your government that you expect the right thing to be done, even when it sounds wrong.

Farm Out Loud!

Life Lessons From A Farmer – Sid Dubbert

It seems to be the exception to the rule when someone has such a passion for their career that they simply cannot imagine life apart from it. These rare people must be the best in their field – unable to separate themselves from their work, idle time is spent solving problems in their area of expertise, they are constantly pursuing greater knowledge, and their speech can’t help but spill over with their enthusiasm. I’m in an Intro to Teaching class this block (half a semester), and the most important thing to consider about teaching according to our professor, especially if secondary education is your goal, is passion for your subject matter. As in, even if you don’t become a teacher, you would spend a great deal of your time working with and learning about your subject (math, science, history…). He meant it as a warning – don’t settle for teaching because you just kinda want to and haven’t considered other options. I took it as encouragement. As a double ag major, farmer’s daughter, FFA member, etc. I can’t imagine my life apart from agriculture.

Today though, I’d like to tell you an inspiring story about a man named Sidney. He grew up on a farm not far from my hometown, where he plowed fields with mules, among other farm tasks, until he left for a tour of duty in the Air Force. Sidney meant to make the service his career, but unfortunate circumstances brought him home to another type of duty entirely. In the 1960’s, he found himself back on the family farm, following the same old routine, and before long became the farm’s primary caretaker. He loved the farm work even more this time around, and he lived happily ever after. Right?

Far from it. Sidney did – and still does – love the farm, and the life it provides. But some 30 years down the road, his story took a hard left turn.

Problem-solving is part of everyday farm life, maybe more so than many other careers. When the cows are loose in the front yard, the fence rows are falling down, and the tractor met some power lines head-on… Usually you’re the only one around who can fix the problem, and that’s exactly what you do.

It was definitely one of those days for Sid. The tractor wouldn’t start – dead battery. Easy fix, go get the truck and jumpstart it. Sid got everything hooked up, and disaster struck. As soon as he touched the starter, the John Deere 4440 jumped into gear – backing up over Sidney with its full weight, about 18000 pounds of metal and water with a corn planter behind it. After over an hour of lying there unable to move, a man hauling rock nearby came upon the accident and went for help. A broken pelvis and spinal cord damage meant that Sidney, with little control of his lower limbs, spent 6 months in the hospital before rehab therapy even began, with little hope of recovering to the point of walking again.

The next 6 months of his year’s hospital stay consisted of Sidney’s battle to walk again. With setbacks minor and major, he persisted with a positive attitude through it all.

Meanwhile at the farm, area farmers pitched in to help get Sid’s crops in and the community poured out its characteristic love and support during the struggles of one of its own.

Sid has been living at home since 2008. It hasn’t been easy, and there is a walker and a wheelchair that have taken up permanent residence in his house.

Are you ready for my favorite part?

November 6th, 2009. It’s harvest season, and the corn is ready to be picked. Sid’s son Steve is out on the combine hard at work.

Sid’s family gathers around him, helping him get out to where Steve is working. Steve asks Sid to do something he thought he may never get to do again – does he want to help harvest corn?

Now, picture that big green combine. I’m sure you can imagine a few obstacles that might get in the way of a man with a walker. The ladder, for instance.

This is where problem-solving on a farm shines brightest – Steve and Sid’s grandson Randy had this one all figured out. A backhoe awaited him, to lift Sidney (as Randy held him steady) to the cab door. Sid admits that it took him a minute to figure out the controls – it had been 15 years since he sat behind the wheel of a combine. But the joy in his heart spilled over onto his face, and he wasn’t through combining for another 5 hours once he got started, harvesting 25 acres of corn. His wife Emma Rose and daughter Juanita took turns riding in the passenger seat, delighting in that smile they knew was so well deserved.

Sid said, “God still has something he needs me to do and I plan on doing it.”

Check out the photo album – the story is told so well through pictures that I’ll leave you with them.

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Farm Out Loud!

Farming – Hypothetically, Literally, and Spiritually

farming- hypothetically, literally, and spiritually

I got back to Springfield this evening after a week at home in central Missouri for Spring Break. The day I drove home, I realized that practically overnight (which could mean anything from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks for this tunnel-visioned college kid) everything had turned green. I mean, our neighbor mowed our small lawn twice in the span of a little over a week.

It’s officially spring, which means that my house is regularly haunted by a presence who sleeps in a bed in our house, but rarely if ever darkens our doorstep in daylight hours. He lives on Mountain Dew and honey buns, and spends most of his days taking care of baby plants. My dad spent this past week (until it started raining incessantly) driving his new toy – a huge sprayer. It looks like a giant bug-slash-fourwheeler that runs across fields (wheat this week) using its long arms to spritz a mixture of water and chemicals to protect the plants from bugs, fungus, weeds, etc. Only one thing can be applied at a time, so these plants will get sprayed several more times this season to keep them healthy.

In other news this past week, my small Baptist church at home led a revival with a guest preacher. I really enjoyed the services, and Icouldn’t resist sharing one of the stories Brother David told one evening when he shared with us his passion for missions.

Prayer is the backbone of missions. If you’re not called to go far away, and you’re not called to go close to home right now, you’re called to pray. Because here’s the thing – farmers don’t just drive their combines into a random field and hope there will be something to harvest there. They know better. They know that they have to cultivate the ground, plant the seeds, water them, keep the weeds and bugs out, and check on them regularly to make sure they mature – they also have to make sure their tractor, sprayer, and combine are in good working order.

God tells us that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Yet He called all of us in the great commission to go therefore and make disciples. But just like a farmer, we are equipped for the call. Until we receive a call, we need to keep our equipment in working order. Is your pray-er rusty? Are your blades dull? It’s God’s parts store, the body of believers, that can help us with those things.

When God gives us a mission, He doesn’t waste words – have you noticed that? We’re supposed to listen the first time. When you hear it, jump to action – farm out loud, pray out loud, live out loud!

Farm Out Loud!