Author Archives: Susan Wilkins

About Susan Wilkins

Susan lives on a cattle farm in the mountains of West Virginia. She is currently Chair of the West Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee and is a past member of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. Susan has a passion for sharing her story and feels called to encourage others in the agriculture industry to be advocates for this way of life.

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!

Life Lessons from Maple Syrup

I tried something new this winter. Late last spring, my dad and I were bitten by the maple syrup bug. Someone we knew had made a couple gallons of syrup from trees in his backyard and he made it sound relatively simple: tap the tree, collect the sap and boil it. My dad and I talked about it all summer and fall, and then one evening this winter, we tapped our first maple tree.

Life-Lessons-from-Maple-SyrupThat first little drop of sugar water to hit the bottom of the bucket made me so happy I squealed. I felt like a little girl as I clapped my hands excitedly and pointed. I think it made my dad happy too, but of course, he didn’t squeal. For weeks, I made a daily trek with my empty water jugs up to the mountain to check my trees. On weekends, I boiled the water down in a process that took much longer than I expected.

However, I can now proudly say I have made a gallon of maple syrup that my family will thoroughly enjoy eating over our pancakes and waffles. My little gallon of syrup has made me realize that even in the deadness of winter there is hope for spring ahead. While it might seem that the grass magically turns green overnight after a warm rain, the land actually spends weeks preparing itself for a new season of growth.

As dreary as winter can be sometimes, it makes you appreciate God’s creation so much more when spring finally arrives. Happy Springtime, my friends! May this season be as sweet as maple syrup!

Share Your Story with a Child

As a member of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee, I recently spent six days in San Antonio for the AFBF Annual Convention. I always look forward to this event and the chance to catch up with folks I haven’t seen since the last convention.

Each year before the convention kicks off; the national committee reads to students at a local school and presents an agriculture lesson. This year, we visited a school in New Braunfels where we paired off in groups of two so we could visit 12 different classrooms and more than 200 children. Many of these kids had never met or even seen a farmer before, so it was a pretty neat experience to tell them that we were the people who grew their hamburgers and milk.Barn

Although many farmers and ranchers encourage ag literacy among adults, it is just as important to take our message to children. One way my state’s Young Farmer and Rancher Committee does this is with our Book Barn project. For the last five years, we have donated red painted bookshelves in the shape of a barn filled with “accurate ag” books to schools and libraries. The Book Barn project has been a huge hit and many county Farm Bureaus have begun buying the barns so every school in their district can have one.

Reading to school children is, perhaps, one of the easiest ways to share our stories as farmers and ranchers. It takes only a few minutes and most teachers are eager to let guest readers come into their classrooms. I encourage you to think about reading to a class (or two or three!) in your own community. If you need help selecting an “accurate ag” book, the American Farm Bureau Foundation has a wonderful searchable database and list of recommended books available online at

Happy reading!!

Members of the national YF&R Committee read to children at a school in San Antonio.

Members of the national YF&R Committee read to children at a school in San Antonio.