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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!

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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!

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!

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!

Agriculture Education and the Department of Labor – an epic battle?

I recently took a poll of my public speaking class to get a feel for what my audience would know about my upcoming persuasive speech topic. Out of 18 students polled, all from the Honors College at MSU, only 2 had heard of the proposed changes to child labor regulations that could severely limit family farms and educational opportunities for agriculture students.

 

 

Today, my Agriculture Leaders class heard from the Missouri Farm Bureau National Legislative Programs Director Garrett Hawkins, a graduate of Missouri State. During his visit, Garrett answered some of our questions about the changes and Farm Bureau’s stance and actions regarding the measure. He shared with us that Farm Bureau, like every agriculture entity he has heard from, is strongly opposed to the changes as they are currently written. While no one would argue that safety wouldn’t come first when it comes to high school students working with animals, farm equipment, and so on, the changes would take away valuable education tools for teaching safety.

In case you’re still wondering what changes have been made, I strongly suggest researching this topic so that you can make your own call. However, here’s a quick overview. Before occupying her current position, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis backed an initiative in California that called for strict regulations for the children of migrant workers who worked with their parents in the fields. This, of course, crossed not only labor issues, but also differences in culture – and did not pass. When she became labor secretary in 2009, she continued to fight the same fight on a grander scale.

The changes are a combination of the issues Solis wanted addressed, as well as a number of sweeping rules and changes that would apply to all US teens – including removal of student learner exemptions, as well as the ban of certain kinds of work for students age 13-16, which includes work with animals, in hog & poultry barns, and machinery (defined as anything powered by an engine, meaning mowing the lawn is out), unless they were volunteering or working directly for a parent or guardian whose operation had not been incorporated.

I say all that to say this: the proposed changes are a major deal. If you caught what I did in that list, you’d notice that the Department of Labor is trying to kill the traditional FFA SAE Project, as well as other activities for students in FFA and 4-H programs. The changes also threaten multi-generational farms where children and grandchildren learn safety and agriculture through work. Doing away with these opportunities for children to learn safety in a supervised environment is not protecting children – it’s exposing them to undue risk of harm.

Right now, these changes are being proposed yet again (they’ve been proposed before, causing passionate backlash from the agriculture community). The goal as I understand it is to push the changes into law by the end of the summer. Why? If our current president is not re-elected this November, the new president will have the right to go back through all laws passed during a certain time period before the office changed hands. The people (and activist groups) backing the labor law changes want the proposed changes signed into law before the window for review opens.

This means the agriculture community has a lot of work to do. Maybe you can help me spread the news about the changes. Maybe you’ll see fit to call or write your congressman and let them know what these changes really mean, and why they should oppose them.

Farm Out Loud!

Winter Projects

When it’s very cold outside, or generally wintertime, there are a lot of seeds in the fields around home. Mostly winter wheat, which does best with hard freezes and such, hence the name. There are lots of seeds, but not lots of farmers in the fields. It’s not surprising that weather determines what farmers do on a daily basis. But a whole winter? That’s a lot of time.

I used to have a sneaking suspicion that my dad went to “work” on winter days just to stoke the fire and farm out loud at the shop. I was right about him spending time in the shop, and I’ve been there enough times to know that a whole lot of farming out loud goes on there. But, there’s actually a lot of work to be done in the winter. There’s paperwork to fill out (and tax forms, oh joy), and there is machinery to clean up, fix up, and generally get ready for the hectic work of spring (and all the other seasons).

This winter, my dad has been working in the shop on the John Deere 4960. It needed new interior. So what did it get? The works, of course. Not only does it have a freshly installed interior, it also has a very detailed, not to mention good looking, paint job. This is one of those little stories that wouldn’t necessarily get told to the world. But this is where a whole host of nerd farming comes in. My dad is a perfectionist when it comes to, well, everything, and that includes his winter project. So he was a little proud of himself, unsurprisingly. (I mean, check out that paint job in the slide show!) First, Dad told his friends on Facebook about his good-as-new tractor. Then, he took his story to the nerd farmers who care the most. He clicked over to a forum on AgTalk about machinery and proceeded to let other farmers check out his hard work. Some of them want to give him directions to their shop so he can spruce up some other local machinery in John Deere green.

http://talk.newagtalk.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=286605&mid=2223317#M2223317

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This is a great example of somebody with a pretty cool story taking it directly to the readers who want to hear about it. Props to Dad for totally getting this stuff I’m learning about in school. It’s proof to me that it’s worth my time to learn. Telling your story directly, to the people who want to hear it, when they want to hear it – that’s farming out loud at its best.

Have you found your opportunity to

Farm Out Loud?

Farming out loud

I’m the product of a rural school district in a small Missouri town, a farming community where I learned the value of hard work and the importance of faith. In high school, I got the chance to venture into uncharted territory and found that I can be comfortable even outside my bubble – on stage, behind a mic, in costume, on a four-wheeler, in the city, in the middle of nowhere, and in a blue corduroy jacket.  I am now a junior in college, settling into my area of interest, studying Agricultural Communications and Agricultural Education at Missouri State University. I am a proud resident of the honors dorm, which we affectionately call the Nerd Box. I have a passion for learning, and the more I get into agriculture, the more I realize there is to learn. I love representing my state and my school at conferences and events, and I’ve recently discovered a new love – covering events as a reporter for Missouri FFA Today and Cattlemen’s News, a publication of the Joplin Regional Stockyards. I’ve had the privilege of working as an intern at the Missouri Department of Agriculture, and I’m looking forward to this summer and the opportunities for great experience I’m certain it holds. It is my hope that I can contribute to the revolution of the agriculture industry by helping farmers to tell the story we’ve been in the middle of for as long as we can remember. I’m proud to say I’m a part of the minority – an American who isn’t even one generation removed from the family farm.

Since this is my first blog post, I think an explanation of this blog’s title and tagline are in order. Farm Out Loud is a combination of a couple of things – an old FFA slogan “Lead Out Loud,” and especially my favorite characterization of my father, the original “nerd farmer” in my life.

Dad finds people to visit with everywhere he goes, and he’s always talking about farming. Mom and I are supportive, but we know that it’s more likely than not that when we’re ready to head out for lunch after church, dad is behind the last row of pews “farming” with his friends. We smile and roll our eyes and Mom says, “Your father is farming out loud again.”  She even tells people sometimes that she teaches to support her husband’s farming habit.

All kidding aside, growing up with parents who are both passionate and excited about their careers made me the person I am today. I don’t know anything about choosing a major or a career for money – it’s all about passion. Having a job that takes up a lot more time than a typical 9 to 5 but doesn’t exactly pay that way is all I’ve ever seen, and I’m glad for it. Mom is a farmer’s daughter herself, Dad is a full-time row crop farmer, and agriculture has been ingrained in the whole family for as long as I can remember.

I can’t wait to enter the field as a liaison between farmers and companies, or even between farmers and customers. It’s unfortunate that many people seem to distrust their food sources. Regulation proposals based on misinformation are also a growing problem. There are exciting developments happening in agriculture too, like new technology, smarter equipment and stronger plant strains. My passion is to learn from any “nerd farmers” out there about how they would tell the story behind America’s agriculture industry. I believe that it’s time for farmers to join the conversation already in progress about food production and reliability everywhere it’s happening, including on social media. The good news about that? A lot of us are already here!

If my description of a “nerd farmer” sounds like you, I’d really love to hear from you! Leave a comment and/or a blog link if you want to help me out on this journey of discovery. If you have questions you want me to ask a nerd farmer, let me know!

’til we meet again, don’t forget to
Farm Out Loud!