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.

The Dangers of Advocacy Journalism

*Editor’s Note: Please allow me a moment from my farm talk and cow pics to speak on another subject- one that is dear to my heart and part of my education and career path – journalism. 

The Background: In late 2014, Rolling Stone magazine made headlines for its article “A Rape On Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which told the story of a University of Virginia co-ed, named Jackie for the article, who was sexually abused by a group of men during a fraternity party. The article was salacious, damaging and all anyone could talk about. There were few facts and even fewer names but enough believable content for the author and its main subject received praise for the work and attention drawn to such a divisive topic.

Fast forward a few weeks and questions began to surface and cracks began to show. Move ahead to present day and a report from the Columbia Journalism School released earlier this week highlights the multiple failures by reporters, editors and fact-checkers at Rolling Stone to question the validity and truth behind the article. The story was officially retracted and a real conversation about journalism was ignited.

Today: During the publicity tour for her article, Erdely made it known that her was goal to write an article exposing sexual abuse and violence on a college campus. After several individuals turned down her offer to make them the subject, she found Jackie, who was willing to dish out the dirt she needed. From there a scandal-plagued and largely unproven article was written, edited and published.

The Lesson: Journalism has always been tainted with emotion and a point-of-view. Journalists are human and therefore unable to completely seal off their thoughts, feelings and attitudes toward a subject, person or issue. But the really great journalists are those who take an unbiased and unfiltered stance and report the facts, in raw, unaltered form.

Sadly, those journalists are going the way of the dodo bird and dinosaurs, replaced by writers with a mission, a drum to beat and a point to prove. The sources are not the ones driving the story but merely there to support their theory and humanize a talking point. Writing to prove a point or move a message has been labeled advocacy journalism and it has taken over our news feeds.

The First Amendment is vital to the health of our democracy, the vehicle to spreading passion and the channel to new worlds and issues. But taken too far, journalism, especially advocacy journalism, can be damaging not only for the news industry but for the people, places and businesses caught in the tangled webs of lies and half-truths.

Don’t get me wrong, I engage in advocacy journalism each time I update my blog. I write to prove my point and illustrate an issue. These are not news articles suitable for front page publication. They are merely opinion articles with a few facts wrapped into a tantalizing story line.

The burden then lies with the reader to sort between fact and fiction. With headlines hitting us on every screen we own, it’s often hard to distinguish between unbiased reporting and advocacy journalism. And it’s not uncommon for a piece of advocacy to become a rallying cry for an issue as readers forget to find the other side of the story.

Reporters also have a role to play in restoring validity and trust to the journalism industry. Journalists at all levels covering all topics, must get back to reporting the news, not creating the news. All journalists want to unearth and tell great stories but the stories need to be true and complete or else the reporter is doing more than telling stories, he/she is filling in holes with plaster that will eventually crumble.

Advocacy journalism can help change our world and further great causes but in the case of a mission gone awry, it can bring down an entire publication and ruin the readers’ trust in an already damaged news industry.

Ghost Towns and Cow Tales

A recent ‪KansasAgLand article by Amy Bickel showcases Evansville, a little known ‪‎Kansas ghost town, but a ranch and family near and dear to our farm. For years, my husband has purchased cattle from the Merrill Ranch, which sits on the site of Evansville.

Dee Scherick talks about a building that remains on the Merrill Ranch. The building at one time housed the post office and mercantile shop of short-lived Evansville.

Dee Scherick talks about a building that remains on the Merrill Ranch. The building at one time housed the post office and mercantile shop of short-lived Evansville.

I’ve been fortunate enough to make a few trips to the ranch and get to know Dee and Phyllis Scherich, who manage the Merrill Ranch. As technology becomes a larger part of the agriculture industry, articles like this are a nice reminder that the true backbone of farming and ranching is good land, hard working people and a passion for producing high quality food. Follow the link below for the full article.

http://www.kansasagland.com/news/stateagnews/a-fast-carcass-on-the-kansas-canvas/article_960fa463-9b22-5f18-ae5b-91c41bb6283a.html

Beware The Comment Section

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When did it become acceptable for adults to name call and belittle people with opposing views? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I follow politics and sports. But I never realized the level of hatred, immaturity and loathsome behavior some people are willing to stoop to over a simple disagreement in dietary choices. Continue reading

Antibiotics In Our Animals

These calves are not feeling so well. Given their young age, only a few days of sickness can lead to death. We pay close attention to all our animals and when a calf is showing signs of illness- like lowered ears (bottom picture) or scours (diarrhea in calves, top picture) – we give them a place in the barn and do everything we can to nurse them back to health. That includes administering antibiotics. It’s not the only took in our toolkit but sometimes its the most powerful and key to health.

Some consumers want to deprive ranchers the ability to use antibiotics in their animals. That would basically mean we would have to watch our sick calves die from regular and treatable conditions. We practice the responsible use of antibiotics in our animals and record all uses so that sick animals never enter the food supply.

This little girl is not feeling well. She has scours - which is basically diarrhea - and has been under close watch and care for about a day now.

This little girl is not feeling well. She has scours – which is basically diarrhea – and has been under close watch and care for about a day now.

Sick calf2

Made To Be Mothers

I have a love-hate relationship with winter. It’s my favorite season on our farm because it brings a new crop of baby calves and proud mother cows. But it also creates long, sleepless nights for my farmer hubby and the occasional sad news of a calf that just didn’t make it.

But as I soak up the joy that is new calves playing in our backyard, anti-animal-agriculture groups continue to criticize animals owners like my husband and I for breeding our cows each year. They consider it abuse for our animals to be continually pregnant and instead advocate for cattle to spend their days mindless munching on green grass and carrying a calf every few year.

But I disagree. Our cows are born to be mothers. Not just in the literal sense of reproductive organs and hormones, but in their behaviors and temperaments. It’s their genetic make up and natural calling to carry a calf.

Our cows deliver a calf each winter and nurse it through the spring and summer months. In late April and early June they are usually impregnated again. All the while receiving the proper feed and nutrition – which varies according to their stage of pregnancy. We work to ensure all of our cows get pregnant around the time same so that we know when to expect calves.

The mothers provide all of their calf’s nutritional needs. She protects it from wildlife and the weather and watch over it as it runs, plays, grows and explores. Mothers lick their newborns warm and dry and clean a dirty behind with a quick pass of the tongue. Mother cows and calves communicate with moo’s and bellows and pair up each night and throughout the day for food and protection. It’s a relationship not unlike that of my son and I’s and as I hear for the mothers call to their calves at the end of each day I know that motherhood is in their DNA.

We treat our cows with respect and a gentle hand and they, in return, allow us to participate in raising their calves. A cow’s job is to raise calves. That is her mission and purpose in life. Cows allow us to grow our herd and continue our dream of handing this farm and way of life on to our children. Motherhood is not abuse, it’s a continuing of the life cycle we all depend on for food and fuel and it’s what our cows love to do.

New Years Resolutions

January is nearly half over and I’m just now getting around to seriously thinking about my New Years resolutions. (I hope this isn’t a sign of my success with said resolution).

This year I wanted to do something different, something that would benefit those around me – not just me – and something that would hopefully make my life better. So, I have decided to become a more productive farm wife.

What does that mean? Well, as it stands right now, I am a far cry from a real farm wife. I don’t cook all that often, I don’t do a lot of meal prep for the guys and I’ve been a little lazy on little things like making the bed, doing laundry in a timely fashion and keeping an organized house. But I’m aiming to change all of that.

I can blame my tornado of a toddler son, my full-time, off-the-farm job and my various volunteer commitments and the fact my husband just isn’t around all that often, but the fact it, if I think I can, then I know I can.

So my first step has been small – making the bed each morning. It makes my bedroom feel more organized and put together and takes about two seconds total – who knew! My second step has been in the kitchen, where I have been making an effort to cook at least five meals a week. That’s a far cry from a week of meals but for me, that’s big. (Although I must admit, I do consider mac and cheese and hot dogs a legitimate family dinner!)

I’ve embraced meal planning, Pinterest and new cooking tools – like my cast iron skillet. My husband’s enjoyed coming home to home cooked meal – except for the onions – he doesn’t like onions! So onion-free it is!

My next step is a cleaning routine that I can spread out over the course of a week so my Saturday isn’t filled is vacuums and toilet bowl cleaner.

I’m starting to realize this whole farm wife thing has its challenges but I have all of 2015 to figure it out! Here’s to 365 – ok more like 340-some days of cleaning, organizing and scheduling. Any and all tips, tricks and advice is much appreciate!

One of my new years resolutions is to cook more. This christmas I added several new cookies tools to my kitchen, including this 10" cast iron skillet. My first attempt at cast iron cooking was The Pioneer Woman's chocolate chip cookies.

One of my new years resolutions is to cook more. This christmas I added several new cookies tools to my kitchen, including this 10″ cast iron skillet. My first attempt at cast iron cooking was The Pioneer Woman’s chocolate chip cookies.