Tag Archives: advocate

As a mom, I’m thankful for 4-H

I pledge my head to greater thinking…
My heart to greater loyalty…
My hands to larger service…
My health to a better living….

I’ve said the 4-H pledge thousands of times as a youngster growing up, but somehow the words have more meaning now for me as a mom. I strive every day to help my three children believe in themselves, to understand the importance of volunteering to build a strong community, and instill in them the values of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. 4-H is helping me do just that.

There is no thrill greater for me as a mom than watching my kids succeed. I’m not talking about when they win an award or place first in a competition. I’m talking about when you see them start a project from the beginning and dedicate themselves to its successful completion. But one area has helped then more than any other and that’s raising lambs for their 4-H sheep project.

Their work starts when a baby lamb is born. It’s their responsibility to provide the animal with love, food, and training so it’s ready for show day. It’s a big responsibility and one they don’t take lightly.

But, it’s easier to understand if you see them first hand. They love living on a farm, being in 4-H, and caring for the animals. The following video shows my family hard at work preparing for show day, together:

I think the pledge and the 4-H program mean more to me as a mother because its helping me shape my children in to wonderful, productive people. Thanks to this program and living on a farm, I’m seeing my kids gain skills and abilities that will benefit them forever.

Life After PAL?

How many of you have been to a conference or training that was amazing and impactful and then you get home and you put the binder of information on the shelf to gather dust? You may utilize a few strategies or ideas, but for the most part you don’t utilize many of your new discoveries. That’s where my friends and I sit today. Three modules, four days each, lots of homework and now we are nearing the end of a chapter in our lives! PAL Class 6 has completed the PAL modules and we have a bit of homework to complete before Graduation, then we will each have a chance to reevaluate our own destiny.

First, PAL (Partners in Agricultural Leadership) is a program offered by some great sponsors including American Farm Bureau, Monsanto, and Farm Credit that is an intense two-year leadership training and development experience. The class is made up of 10 young farmers from very different farm backgrounds across the country who were selected to grow in their leadership ability for agriculture.
The next piece of the puzzle is that not only did we focus on leadership development; we also spent time on engagement and the political process. Some of the greatest learning came from fellow class members and learning about agriculture in their world.

We are filled with excitement and ideas, but what do we do with it? What is the right choice for us as individuals and does this match what is best for our ag and food industry? Opportunities to be engaged and active in agriculture exist, so what activity do we jump into next? The members of this class are ready to hit the ground running with new ideas and abilities. Life decisions abound!

I am blessed to have five amazing kids and a few responsibilities so it adds another level of thinking before making decisions. Many of us have spouses that have stayed home with the farm chores and the kids to make it possible for us to be involved in activities like PAL. Do we take the risk to move on with exciting leadership opportunities? As a working Mom, how do we make the call to move on to the next opportunity in work and life? In a perfect world, I would help on the farm and volunteer for any and all ag advocacy opportunities. Life isn’t perfect and I do enjoy my job, but is working full-time best for my kids? Would it be worth the risk to not have health insurance and be able to have time to start a farm fresh/direct farm business on top of what we are already doing with some of the knowledge I have gained? There are always conflicts in life to work through, but when you have a conflict between commitment to family and commitment to a passion for the future of your industry, what is one to do? I wish I had some great ideas on how to answer these questions, but I do believe there are some consistent ideas that would work for all of us and other decisions that are very individual. The best ideas so far: pray and communicate with those closest to you to measure the pros and cons. No matter what path life leads you on, make sure to make a difference and share your passion!

Congrats PAL Class 6, we survived, but now we have to survive in the rest of our real life and make an impact beyond a safe learning environment of role plays! Look for us at the AFBF National Leadership Conference and Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference in Phoenix this February and ask us about our experience or share your ideas on how to better make these risky life decisions.

Country Girls Hit Big Apple for Conversation with Consumers

Last week, this small town Minnesota gal hit the streets of New York City to talk to consumers. My trip was part of the American Farm Bureau’s Partners for Agricultural Leadership (PALs) program. I, along with nine other farmers from across the country, ventured to the Big Apple to chat with the folks that call it home.

My copilot, Hilary Maricle from Nebraska, and I set off one afternoon to better understand how New Yorkers make their food buying decisions. We chatted with four people over the course of our journey. The first conversation was with two locals at a restaurant as they waited for their food. We asked this couple how they selected the food they buy. They responded similar to what most research says, “I buy based on cost and health.” Jeff Simmons of Elanco reported in, Technology’s Role in the 21st Century: making safe, affordable and abundant food a reality that, “95 percent of consumers choose foods based on taste, cost and nutrition (in that order).”

At a small corner grocery store a retired woman confirmed these findings. She is a vegetarian that theoretically supports organic, but financially cannot afford the products. As a result, she has continued to purchase items without the organic label.

Our final conversation took us to a park near the Empire State building. We spoke with a young woman who buys from a variety of sources, including a nearby farmer’s market. Even though she can buy from many places, she doesn’t buy much. She prefers to eat most of her meals at restaurants. She feels that prices are already high enough for food that it validates her “eating out.” So, that begged the question of how she selects her eateries. She usually frequents those that buy local or those that tell customers where they buy products from. In other words, she wants to be connected to her food and the farm in which it was raised.

In his report, Simmons said, “About four percent are lifestyle buyers who purchase food based largely on lifestyle factors: ethnicity and vegetarianism, or support for organic, local and Fair Trade food suppliers, etc. For this group, money isn’t a factor in their decision.”

The New Yorkers that we spoke with were incredibly interested in their food, in where their food comes from, and in us as farmers. One had spent time reading about farming, both conventional and organic. Another had traveled the country visiting friends, many of which lived on a farm. They were actively learning about what they eat and how it’s being grown.

Every person we chatted with spoke highly of farmers and the work we do. Our last question for each person: “What comes to mind when you think of a farmer?” The replies ranged from “Dirt under the nails,” to “Getting up early and lots of hard work.”

We turned the tables and asked if they had any questions for us. Hilary and I were asked each time if we were family farmers. We used this as an opportunity to share that nearly every farm across the United States – more than 98 percent – are family farms. We spoke about how both of us work hard each day to bring them top quality food, while raising the next generation on our farms.

All in all, our afternoon of walking the streets of Manhattan was nothing short of fascinating. I took a number of good lessons from the street of New York back to the gravel roads of Minnesota. As a sheep farmer selling lamb direct to consumers, I will now work harder to share our story and engage consumers in the work we do. I will continue to raise top quality animals as efficiently as I can. I will continually ask my consumers what they want.

New Yorkers care about their food. They care about what we’re doing on our farms. They care about us as farmers. It’s up to us to engage them in a conversation. It’s a conversation that they want. And it’s now a conversation that I want too.