Ice Cream and Agriculture

I always enjoy the State Fair of West Virginia, but probably not for any of the reasons one would think.  Last year, for instance, I didn’t see a single concert, ride any rides, buy a cinnamon bun, or even spend much time in the barns.  No, my State Fair enjoyment centers solely on ice cream.  You see, for the last several years, I have helped a local Ruritan Club sell ice cream in their stand beside the dairy barn.

I like selling ice cream for three main reasons.  First of all, rarely do mean or rude people eat ice cream.  (Perhaps I should include a disclaimer here that this statement is not scientifically proven!)  And, in my experience, if a customer starts out mean or rude when they order, by the time they get an oversized, hand dipped cone of Rocky Road or Moosetracks or Butter Pecan, their rudeness melts away.  My favorite customers are the kids whose eyes light up like its Christmas morning when I hand them a cone.  The second reason I like selling ice cream is the sampling.  After all, a shift lasts between 6 and 7 hours.  A person has to eat something during that time and plus, when a customer asks for a recommendation on ice cream flavors, I need to be able to honestly tell them!

And the third reason is the questions I get to answer.  Being located so near the cattle barns, I’ve answered questions like “What cow in the barn did this ice cream come from?”  “Does the chocolate ice cream come from a brown cow?”  “Is this ice cream made from milk?”  Sometimes the questions can be a little crazy, but it is one more way I can help promote agriculture.  People are often intimidated when they think about being an advocate for this industry, but if you can incorporate it into something you’re already doing, it makes it a lot easier!  Good luck!

You gotta make hay while the sun shines!

Summer is truly my favorite time of the entire year.  The cows are contentedly grazing in the mountain pastures, calves are growing, the corn is stretching higher and higher towards the sun, and life is taking a somewhat slower pace than it does in the winter months.

Scenic hay field. Photo by Susan Wilkins.

Scenic hay field. Photo by Susan Wilkins.

But even while baling hay on a gorgeous sunny day, farmers are inevitably thinking about and planning for the winter season.  As we make hay, I know my dad and brother are mentally calculating how many bales it will take to winter our cows and how many more they will need to make before summer’s end.

For now though, we’ll enjoy the sunshine and warmth and pray for the rain that ensures our crops will continue to grow.

From my farm to yours – happy Summertime!

Water, Rest, Shade

Water, rest, shade. Three simple, yet important, words that headline the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s heat stress awareness campaign.

Hot weather means the human body must work harder to keep cool, especially in high humidity. Outdoor workers are the most susceptible to heat illness, which can “range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” according to OSHA. In the most extreme cases, heat stroke can lead to death.

It is important for outdoor workers to build up a tolerance for working in these conditions. Those who are new to outdoor summer labor or those who are return from a vacation that has kept them out of the heat should gradually increase their workload until they are acclimated to the temperature and humidity.

Summer sun and humidity increase the risk of heat illness for outdoor workers. OSHA recommends drinking water every 15 minutes, even if you aren’t thirsty. Photo credit: Liz Foster, Arizona Farm Bureau

Summer sun and humidity increase the risk of heat illness for outdoor workers. OSHA recommends drinking water every 15 minutes, even if you aren’t thirsty. Photo credit: Liz Foster, Arizona Farm Bureau

There are many ways for farmers and ranchers to beat the heat this summer. OSHA suggests the following:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Rest in the shade to cool down.
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
  • Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
  • Keep an eye on fellow workers.
  • “Easy does it” on your first days of work in the heat. You need to get used to it.

Employers of outdoor workers are also encouraged to establish a heat illness prevention program, which includes adding rest breaks into the work day and training workers to look for signs of heat illness.

Special thanks for the Arizona Farm Bureau for recommending this important health and safety tip. For more information on OSHA’s recommendation for heat exposure, visit