America IS Great

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made headlines for dozens of reasons but one aspect of his candidacy that has caught my attention is his ill-fitting, often awkward looking baseball cap that reads “Make America Great Again.”

The message, although not alarming at first glance, plays to Trump’s message of American failure, mediocrity and his guarantee to restore America to its previous position of super power and world leader. He has created a campaign of fear that plays to those unhappy with the status quo and seeking answers and an immediate solution.

Dr. Brene Brown, speaking recently on Morning Joe, discussed her research into the culture of fear and how it plays a huge part in today’s society, our election process and individual’s daily decision making.

“It’s created this culture of scarcity,” Brown said, with people walk around questioning ‘what am I supposed to be terrorized of and whose fault is it. She credits 9/11 as the catalyst for that sense of fear and blames businesses, organizations and politicians alike for stoking the flames.

“They are using all kinds of schemes to leave you fearful,” Brown said. These organizations, she notes, not only tell you what you should fear but then come in an offer an “overly simplistic” solution to the problem. Insert Trump’s campaign strategy.

Unfortunately, that fear mongering has hit the agriculture industry, leaving consumers questioning every purchase and food decision. Anti-agriculture organizations lean on unproven statements and “potential dangers” to invoke fear into our food system.

But food shouldn’t be a scary proposition. As a member of the agriculture community, I hate seeing people terrorized by the idea of modern farming practices, reading that a single fast food cheeseburger might immediately result in a trip to the emergency room or hearing that eating modified corn will lead to cancers and unknown illnesses. The idea that food is grown to harm people or that today’s practices and crops are harming our society goes against everything farmers and ranchers stand for.

I believe agriculture is great and so too are the people who make our food affordable, plentiful and delicious. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, agriculture and agriculture-related industries contributed just under $800 billion to the U.S. GDP in 2013, which accounts for almost 5 percent of all economic output. The contribution is actually larger when you take into account all of the industries that rely on raw commodities, i.e. food, textiles, leather products etc.

Here in Kansas, agriculture is the main economic driver, bringing more than $63 billion to the state economy and serving as the lifeblood of many rural towns across the state.

Farming and ranching is older than our state – and nation – and it has survived, and thrived, in part because of it’s continued ability to adapt to changing consumer needs and demands. The industry has utilized new technology to improve plant tolerance to adverse conditions, such as heat and drought, and to create more consumer-friendly products, such as seedless watermelon or vitamin-enriched rice for developing nations.

As a mother and wife, I am the primary food decision maker in my family and well aware of the daily attempts by anti-agriculture organizations to use fear mongering and distorted truths to create a culture of terror for myself and all grocery shoppers.

My husband and farmers and ranchers across this great country work hard to raise food to be enjoyed and embraced, not feared and misunderstood. The idea that farmers and ranchers work 365 days a year to produce food that is harmful or raise animals in conditions detrimental to their health and wellbeing is down right untrue and should be considered as off-base as the idea of Kayne West running for president.

Don’t let fear drive your food decisions. It’s all too delicious, too enjoyable and too wonderful not to savor and enjoy. Farmers and ranchers across the country are ready and willing to show you their farm, answer your questions and lift the veil of fear so that you can walk the grocery store aisles and navigate the restaurant menu without fear of the unknown.

I believe America is already great and so too is the agriculture industry, just must continue working to make both even better.

It’s Not All Local

When I tell people my husband farms I am rarely met with disdain or insults. Most people are supportive and appreciative of the long hours and hard work my hubby and others work to put food on their plates. But then they follow with what they assume to be a supportive comment, “Oh, I always try to buy local.”

Buying local is great! There are thousands of farmers who rely on the local farmers’ markets or food cooperatives to move their goods. But we aren’t one of them. You won’t find us at the town square on Saturday mornings and we aren’t marketing our beef at the local grocery store. Yes, we do occassionally sell beef to family and friends and donate beef to use for non-profit events. But all of our income is a result of national and international markets.

We make your $40 steaks and toasted rolls at your white tablecloth, date night restaurant possible. It’s our soybeans that go into hog feed for your Saturday morning family bacon and eggs breakfast tradition at McDonalds and the milo that has allowed for the expansion of gluten-free products. We are proud international farmers that grow crops used around the globe and beef that is coveted by beef lovers on all continents. We aren’t a big, corporate farmers. Just a fourth-generation farming family hoping to see the fifth generation return to the land and follow in our footsteps.

It takes farms and farmers of all shapes and sizes to meet the always changing desires, demands and dishes found around the globe. Some chose to keep their products local. Others, like us, ship our products across the globe. It doesn’t mean we put any less time, energy or effort into raising those crops. It simply means our customers live a little farther away. That’s ok, as long as someone is enjoying the fruits of our labor.

So the next time you meet a farmer, remember, it’s not all local. Simply enjoying your next meal and understanding the time and energy it takes to get it from the pasture to your plate is support enough for this farm family.

Remembering Grandpa

Four generations came together last Christmas. My grandpa, Home, my dad, Gregg, myself and my son, Evan.

Four generations came together last Christmas. My grandpa, Home, my dad, Gregg, myself and my son, Evan.

Today we say goodbye to my grandpa. A once strong, independent man, dementia and old age took its toll. He passed peacefully and is now reunited in heaven with his love, my grandma Mary.

My grandpa, John “Homer” Stockstill, was not a boastful or arrogant man. He never sought to be rich or famous, but to simply earn an honest living, raise a family and care for those around him. He never owned a computer, could make anything new again with a little time in his shop and kept the greenest lawn in Geneseo.

He was a WWII veteran and served in the Pacific Islands. At the same age most of us pack our bags for college, my grandpa was aboard a ship, headed to war. He earned the Purple Heart and several other honors for injuries sustained during fierce and deadly fighting. He returned home with stories and memories he rarely shared. When he did talk about his time overseas, it was enough to make you realize just how much he and others sacrificed for our great country. He never expected special treatment for his service and kept the mementos and artifacts quietly tucked away.

My father took after my grandpa is many ways. They shared physical characteristics and unique habits, noticeable only to those around them. They both had a passion for OU football that my dad continues to this day and a careful, tempered demeanor that isn’t quick to anger.

When my sister and I were young, we would visit our grandparents and enjoy dinner at the Geneseo café and time at the park. As we got older, my grandpa was a regular at our track meets, dance recitals and high school graduations. He took pride in his family and was always there to support us. He was not a man of many words, but he always expressed his love and support.

My grandpa was a quiet man, never one to share too much or pry too deep. But his love for all of his family was always evident and always appreciated. We will miss you greatly grandpa, but we know now you are in a better place.

Link to complete obituary:

Race Wrap Up: Working Moms On The Run

Long before I was a farmer’s wife, took my first selfie or logged onto Facebook, I was running. I am not a “natural” runner. It’s not in my family and I don’t look the part.

In seventh grade I decided I wanted to run track. My parents were speechless and I was simply hoping to stay in shape for swim season. But the “trial run” quickly became a habit I still cling to.

I ran through middle school, high school and into college. I am no longer part of a team but most mornings you can find me on the treadmill or dirt road, listening to my Sirius XM radio and logging the miles. It takes an early bedtime and rising before the sun but it keeps me sane and at a healthy weight. 

Racing has always been a part of my running habit. I’m not a marathoner – never have been and probably never will be. But I will glady hop into any 5K or 10K. Having a full-time job, a 2-year-old and a super busy hubby limits my ability to both train and compete but I manage to squeeze in a race every now and then.

The recent rains kept my farmer hubby from planting corn Saturday so I made a very last minute decision, less than two hours prior to the start of the race,  to complete in a women-only 5K just down the road about 20 minutes. I’ve ran in this race at least six times – maybe more – and I love it.

This is was my first time competing in this race post-baby and racing as a working mom has given me a whole new perspective on the women running along side me. Never before had I really paid attention to the mob of dads with kids strapped to their fronts or skipping down the sidewalk and the running strollers occupying the back of the starting pack.

I realized that the tiny, sleeping baby in the dad’s arms means there is a mom running only months after giving birth. And the crowds of children – mine among them – symbolize these women’s ability to juggle family, work and/or volunteering and running.

Those of us participating represented a wide range of ages, shapes and sizes. Few of us are probably the shape and size we want – or at one time – use to be. But we’re out there, giving it our all, juggling multiple demands – even while on the course – and knowing that as soon as we cross the finish line we’re back to being mom, wife and partner. But for the time we’re racing, we’re super woman, running toward our goal and working our butts off to cross that finish line.

More and more women – and moms – are discovering running and for each lady who makes the decisions to squeeze one more thing into their day, I tip my sneaker. We’re may not be Olympians – or even all that fast – but we’re giving it our all and loving every minute of it!

Milestones and Memories

Three generations of Sawyers found a little time to play in the sand.

Three generations of Sawyers found a little time to play in the sand.

Above my bed hangs a small black-and-white photo of the Sawyer family and the men who have shaped our farm and family. The photos is of a young Derek, standing on a feed bunk, supported by his grandpa with his father behind them, all three gazing at a pen of cattle. It’s a simple yet memorable photo that encompasses the family aspect of farm life that hasn’t changed over the decades.

With three generations of Sawyers on our farm, I am always looking for opportunities to capture my own generational snap shot. I often assume it’s the big events that will generate those moments but as I’ve learned, when it comes to toddlers, it’s usually the simple things that make the best memories.

It’s rare that all three generations of Sawer males are in the same place, at the same time, and all holding still. But I managed to get a few pics while all three worked together to build a sand box for Evan’s second birthday.

It wasn’t a big ordeal but it was a small slice of time that I hope we will forever remember.

We like to recycle on our farm so when we decided to build Evan a sand box for his birthday, an old tractor tire was the perfect option.

We like to recycle on our farm so when we decided to build Evan a sand box for his birthday, an old tractor tire was the perfect option.

The photos encompass what makes farming so unique and special: The ability for fathers, sons and grandsons to work and play alongside one another, all carrying the same passion and working toward the same goal.

Even as the technology, the markets and the crops we grow change, one thing will remain the same: The passion to work with the land, grow products to feed and power the world and raise a family on the same land as the generation before.