Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Food Checkout Week

Events this past week have underscored just how important food is. The unrest in much of Africa stems from high food prices. Just this week a study came out indicating that we must increase our food production by 40 times. While oil seems to drive the world economy, food is far more critical. I promise that the men and women who have dedicated their lives to their farms and ranches will meet the challenge.

We, in the United States, are so blessed to have the agricultural infrastructure that provides the food and fiber that we all need to survive. Our farmers and ranchers utilize the technology advances available to them to feed themselves and 129 other people.

Not only do we provide the food and fiber needed by those 129 other people but we do it in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner. The advances in agronomy and animal science have allowed us to use fewer resources to produce more food. All the while protecting the soil we walk on, the water we drink and the air we breath.

That is why we celebrate Food Checkout Week. We have the safest, most wholesome, most affordable food in the world. I think we take this for granted. Only in the United States would we have groups that are critical of the family farmers and ranchers who grow their food. In most of the world they are grateful to those who produce their food.

Some of the blame falls on the shoulders of my fellow farmers and ranchers. We are very good at producing the food that fuels our nation, but we are not very good at sharing why we do what we do. That is why we make our way to grocery stores during this week. Chances are that Farm Bureau will be in your local grocery store.

We will be there handing out information about agriculture and more importantly talking to each of you. We will be sharing our love of agriculture, the world around us and our pride in feeding our fellow man. I would encourage you to take time to stop and visit, I promise you will come away feeling good about the food in your cart.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day for a Ranch Wife

Today is Valentine's Day, to many wives it is a day to sleep in and to be pampered. However, to many farm and ranch wives, like my wonderful wife, it is another day during calving and lambing season. To make matters worse this year, she and the kids are on their own yet, while I am still healing up.

So let's take a look at Jennifer's Valentines Day. The alarm went off at 5:30 just like any other morning. Just like every morning for the past three weeks Jennifer put on chore clothes, two pairs of sock, her trusty bib overalls, well-worn hoodies (2) and gloves and went out the door.

Soon she was back in the house with a very sick little lamb. One of the first lambs born this year had suddenly gotten very sick in the night. Jennifer desperately tried to feed it, we doctored it with the best medicine we had but unfortunately, we could not save the lamb. It was a very discouraging start to Valentine's Day.

Despite the bitter disappointment, the rest of the chores needed to be done. Our daughter had done the bulk of the chores (oh yeah, number 1 son had to be at school early this morning so he didn't help with chores either) but we had a calf at our place to work and Dad had two more down at his place.

So at 9:30 on Valentine's day (a day with no school for the elementary kids) Jennifer finally finished chores. The rest of the day was spent at work and a meeting, before returning home to do more chores. The day did get a little better with a new set of twins and a single. But that also meant that two ewes with lambs needed moved out and the lambing barn needed cleaned. Not exactly the relaxing, romantic Valentine's Day she deserved. Jennifer was left hoping she could get some rest in between the 8:00 and 10:00 lamb check.

I would guess this Valentine's Day scenerio could be echoed by many hard-working farm and ranch wives. I can't speak for any other operation, but on our ranch Jennifer is a full partner (and this winter probably more of a sole proprietor). I also cannot speak for other farm and ranch husbands but in my case I definitely married above my level, I owe her a debt that can never be repaid. The candy, roses and card are a weak attempt at showing my gratitude for all she does, especially this long winter.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oprah You Just Don't Get It

I just finished watching the Oprah show where Oprah and much of her staff went vegan for 7 days. While I find veganism puzzling I also acknowledge that it is a lifestyle choice, this is a free country and everyone should have the right to live as they chose. However, I do take exception to something Kathy Freston, self proclaimed veganist, said.

In this episode Cargil allowed a segment to be taped for the show from one of their plants. If you can find it I encourage you to watch it. Their employees did a wonderful job of explaining the harvest process and the measures they take. However, the veganist said she was troubled by the video because she was more evolved and had more compassion for the animals. That is where I really took offense.

You see this all happened during one of the worst winter storms in many, many years. Most of the hardworking farmers and ranchers who were taken to task by this lady could not watch the show. Why you ask? They were out in bitter cold conditions making sure their livestock was properly cared for. They were risking their own health and well-being to check on the welfare of those animals and to provide them with feed and water. Just exactly who is lacking compassion?

Meanwhile, Miss Freston was in a studio warm and comfortable taking shots at my friends and neighbors. Make no bones about it, what Miss Freston and Oprah did today is an insult to the very people who feed you. From the farmers and ranchers who raise the crops and livestock, to the hardworking men and women who work for Cargil, Tyson and others. They are the ones I count as friends not Freston or Oprah.

The show can be summed up the best by the reporter who visited the Cargil plant. Her comment was that she planned to continue to eat beef and now she knew better where it came from. That is all those of us in agriculture ask. Please become educated, not by false experts like Kelly Freston, but by those of us who live, breath and are agriculture producers. Then and only then you can make an educated choice about what you eat.