Sometimes I Forget

It was 8 p.m. last night and I was rocking my newborn back to sleep having reminding my older son, once again, to stay in bed. I had spent close to an hour getting the baby ready for bed and asleep and it was all undone when the toddler made his appearance, causing me to have to get up and walk him back to his room and tuck him back into bed. It was at that moment that I wanted life to be like it was, where bedtimes were non-events and by 7:30 p.m. the evenings were mine and free of children, dirty diapers and nursing. I wanted my husband home so he could help me keep it all together and keep our older son in bed and I wanted company as I rocked and rocked and rocked. But he wasn’t home and I wasn’t happy.

My husband wasn’t home because he was returning from a trip to south-central Kansas where he unloaded 80 cows to spend the winter on new pasture. He was late getting on the road and got caught in his tractor-trailer in icy, hazardous driving conditions. He was supposed to be back to the farm around 6:30 p.m. He walked in the door two hours later.

I didn’t grow up on a farm. I was raised in town by parents with eight-to-five jobs that allowed them to be home on evenings and away from work on the weekends. That’s what I envisioned for myself but it’s not what I married into. Farming doesn’t have closing times and doesn’t know the difference between Tuesday and Saturday. During the winter months the hours are even more unpredictable as my husband and his father help more than 300 mother cows deliver and care for new calves. And the animals, inevitably, pick the coldest nights and wettest weekends to deliver their off spring. It’s out of my husband’s control but all his responsibility.

I always talk and write about understanding and appreciating the hard work and long hours my husband puts into his job. I’m proud of the work he does and the hours upon hours he commits to the farm, but sometimes I forget that his obligations to his job and his animals must supersede his time at home. Last night, I forgot . . . I just wanted him home.

My husband is a successful business owner who is living his dream to carry on the family farm. He grew up watching a father and grandfather who both worked tirelessly to enable their sons to return to the farm and carry on the family business. Now my husband is working toward that same goal. He’s putting food on our table and provide healthy and nutritional products for people near and far. His work is invaluable and his passion undeniable.

But his dream often runs counter to my vision of a happy family of four enjoying a meal together or visiting the zoo on a Saturday morning. And when I forget why my husband isn’t home, I get angry and frustrated and become a person I’m not proud of. Part of marrying into farming is accepting the unknown, unpredictable and uncontrollable hours that come with raising crops and caring for animals.

Understanding all of this is easier said than done and even more so when a newborn is crying, yet again, needing to be nursed and rocked back to sleep while your toddler refuses to stay in bed and go to sleep.

I know my husband wants to be home as much as I want him home. I’m not the only farm wife, or mother who must find a way to juggle it all. As I learn to navigate life with two little boys, a full-time job, graduate school classes and other community obligations, I must remember that when my husband isn’t home, it’s because he is away making all of that possible. I tip my hat to all wives and mothers who must go it alone and while I know that my husband and farmers across the country want nothing more than to spend time with their families, work calls and they must answer. I usually understand, but sometimes, I forget.

The Only Option is to Help

Antibiotic use in animals has again made headlines as another national restaurant chain announces plans to move to serving only antibiotic-free animal products.

The change was the result of pressure from outside lobbyist organizations with a mission to discontinue the use of all antibiotics in animals. What’s disappointing is the restaurant chain’s lack of attention to facts, science and the people who actually raise the animals. Fear and misinformation again won, leaving farm animals as the ultimate victims.

My husband and I raise Angus cattle on our fourth-generation family farm in Central Kansas. We believe in the humane treatment of all of our animals and therefore use antibiotics in our animals on an as-needed basis to cure an illness and help the animal return to full health.

Antibiotics are not our first line of defense against sickness in our animals but they do allow us a resource to help the animal overcome illness, fatigue and stress. Without the ability to use antibiotics, we would be forced to watch innocent animals die from basic, treatable conditions.

We keep records of all uses of antibiotics to ensure the withdraw period has passed before the animal enters the food system. However, most of our animals remain on our farm long after the antibiotics are administered.

What most consumers don’t realize is that all beef sold in grocery stores and used in restaurants is antibiotic free and tested, by the USDA, for antibiotic residue before leaving the processing plant. The standards are strict and farmers and ranchers do everything they can to ensure the beef enjoyed by consumers is healthy and safe.

Everything we do is to protect and support the health and welfare of our animals. We don’t want to have to doctor sick animals so we do everything we can to ensure their health and wellbeing. But when we do find one of our animals is not feeling well, it is our duty to return them to health. That’s part of being good stewards of our animals and your food.

Shame On You Subway

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With all of the recent bad publicity, it seems the company was looking for a quick and easy PR move to regain customers and positive press (Click HERE for a look inside the rise and fall of Subway) when it announced Wednesday that it would begin serving products only from animals never treated with antibiotics. The publicity stunt is a slap in the face to the hardworking farmers and ranchers who produce safe, affordable and antibiotic-free products everyday and the reason I will now be saying no to Subway. Continue reading

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.