Wednesday, March 30, 2011

AgVocates are Everywhere!

I recently had the tremendous opportunity to address the California Young Farmers and Ranchers at their Annual Convention in Ventura, California.  First of all I would like to commend the fantastic group of young people on their energy and enthusiasum for our industry.  Makes me want to be young enough to be a member !  No such luck unfortunately !

As I spoke to the group I put emphasis on the given topic , “Strength in Numbers” and the power of joining forces with all agriculture organizations to better tell our ag story.  Because that is what we do , right? Tell our ag story! And the more we do it the better we get the more educated those are that are listening.

However during the question and answer session I had one young lady ask ~ “what if you did not grow up on a farm or ranch or are not affiliated with an agriculture occupation, then how do you share the real life experiences of telling the ag story.”  I was glad the young lady asked this question and for me the answer was quite simple. She is probably one of the best people to be telling the story to the general public because she supports agriculture!  She might not have grown up on a farm or ranch but she believed in what we were doing and she was attending the YFR Conference.  She is a voice for so many consumers out there who appreciate what we do , consume the safe and affordable products we provide and are willing to share that story to the masses. 

Bottom line – you don’t have to be a part of production agriculture to be the best ag advocate. Sometimes being a consumer and supporting the ag way of life is the best spokesperson we can have for our industry.  The “average joe” consumer can relate !  Never second guess the power of those who support us, we need them, they are an intricate piece of the big picture! For me its just that simple!

Friday, March 18, 2011

My First NY Times Experience~ real life opinions from down on the farm

Recently I had the opportunity to share my thoughts with the Opinionator, a column in the New York Times.  The column was written by Mark Bittman and titled-

As I read the column I became anxious, I immediately wanted to respond. What would I say? So many people had already chimed in , in favor of the article and Bittmans thoughts.  I then took a deep breath and decided that I have preached to the choir continuously about telling their stories and sharing their experiences so I decided that is exactly what I needed to do in this case. And so I did and this is what I wrote.

First of all I would like to start off by saying that I appreciate this is called the Opinionator – meaning it is the opinion or thoughts of someone contributing.  All of us have thoughts or opinions on different topics; the way we farm in America or produce a wholesome, safe and affordable food supply is yet another and that is the opinion platform from which I would like to share.

My opinion is this – I have lived life on a cattle ranch going on 43 years. I was raised to respect the land and care for our livestock before really even caring for myself.  At a young age I was taught that we would wake early and by 630 am all of our livestock would be fed and watered before we came in for breakfast and in the evenings that no matter what was on the agenda that day whether a trip to the park or a school function that we would be home by 4 pm because the livestock needed to be fed.  Once nightly chores were complete we could finish up our day by having supper as a family.  Years later that has still not changed, there is a family member on our ranch 365 days a year and that routine still holds true.

However often times than not you don’t get to hear real life stories from the farm so I felt the need to share some. You never know what might happen at night especially during calving season.  Many nights I would climb into my truck to travel to our calving pasture to check first calf heifers that were about to calf, making sure all was well -  many times it was a- ok but sometimes it wasn’t and a baby calf might need extra colostrum milk or some extra care so they would be put on the floor of my warm truck and taken to the barn and sometimes even to the back porch of my own home where I would then wake every three hours to give them a bottle of milk.  Yes we have big baby bottle for calves too and a freezer full of colostrum that can be defrosted and used within minutes.  Or what about the heifer that prolapses in the pouring rain and not only is a calf born and needing attention but now the mama does too as her uterus and everything but the kitchen sink is lying on the wet hillside.  That cow is now a huge priority, taken to the corral, the vet called and hours later as I sit in the mud and with the assistance of my father and our handy veterinarian push her uterus back in along with everything else – sew her up and hope that what we have just done will now save her life – in many instances it has.  Or what about finding a cow with her head stuck in a pipe fence looking for a bit of greener grass on the other side. (with cows the grass always seems to be greener ! )   No matter what we do we cant get her head out so we call friends up the road with a torch, my father takes off his shirt and sweat shirt and soaks them in a water trough nearby and places it over the cows head so that the sparks don’t get in her eyes and hurt her as the neighbor quickly cuts the metal piping to free the cow so that she can be on her merry way.    Or the baby calf born with a broken leg because somehow when the mama gave birth something in the process went wrong and so we go to the hobby shop and get some flat wood and gauze and all the supplies needed to set the little leg, in time they are running around with the rest of the herd.

I can write story after story of my life on a farm and the compassion that I and fellow cattlemen have for our cattle operations. I guess I do take offense to some questioning my compassion for our livestock because they have not experienced my experiences and my life on a family farm. Folks can continue to post their opinions on the way we raise our animals, they can continue to say we pump them full of unnecessary antibiotics and that we don’t care.  But on my family ranch we care and we do everything in our power to make sure our cattle are cared for 24 /7, 365 days a year.  It is my life, it is what I do and I am proud to say that I love it and would have it no other way as well as the majority of farmers and ranchers in America.  Do we get a lot of bad press?  Sure seems so as of late but I am encouraging my fellow farmers and ranchers to share our stories to give all of you who read this as a glimpse into the world we live in each day, a world filled with compassion and commitment to our industry.    I don’t like to think of it as bad press but an opportunity for us to share our stories to the rest of America that has not had the tremendous opportunities such as myself to live the life we do and experience it first hand. 
I appreciate those reading for taking the time to do so and share their thoughts – I felt like I needed to do the same and just share my thoughts too !

I reviewed it a time or two and posted it . The next morning I read it again and I started to second guess what I had written. Was it too long? Did I use words the average American would not understand? Could I have worded it differently so it sounded a bit better and maybe more appealing? Thoughts raced through my head and then I took another deep breath and said to myself “ Celeste you have lived this experience and this is what it is like for you , stop second guessing yourself’ and I moved on.

Many times I find myself doing this and I will be the first to admit it , I wonder if what I am responding is good enough or wondering if the average American will relate but what I and many of you need to realize is our stories are just that – OUR stories and no one can tell us that  our experiences are wrong or right, we just need to share them.  When you speak from the heart and share your thoughts how can we go wrong? Really we cant.

My point with all of this – as many Americans have their opinions on the way we raise and care for our livestock we too have not only opinions but real life experiences!!  No one can take that away from us, so share them, you will be surprised how many actually embrace the thoughts you share and that is only the beginning in getting the conversation going.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Do I Do It?

Recently I read a great article in Farm and Dairy – “Emotion Trumps Science Everytime~ Farmers need to start with Why” by Susan Crowell
I applaud Susan for such a tremendous message!  I too have always been one to think this.  I believe science is a great resource at our fingertips and we need science for facts and figures to support the things we believe in.  However I also think that when we are out AGvocating that the why we do it seems to always hit it out of the ball park.

Why do I do what I do ? Why do I ranch? Why do I AGvocate?
For me it is really quite simple~

  • I am steeped in the heritage of my family roots
  • I love waking up on the weekend and going with my dad to check cows about to calve
  • I love taking my niece- Baby Paige- with me on my four wheeler to feed at night
  • I love fixing fence and water troughs – well maybe not love but it gives me the opportunity to be out with the cows and that is what I love.
  • I love my ag family
  • I love the smell of sweet hay
  • I love the smell of cows – really I do !
  • I love watching my dad each spring prepare to plant his vegetable garden, order his seeds, start them in little trays and then take them out to grow his own little personal crop
  • I love seeing my mom prepare her menus each year as she takes food to us during branding time!
  • I love the industry I have grown up in and feel it is my obligation as a fellow farmer/rancher to share my story with all who I can engage in conversation.
  • I love caring for the animals, taking care of the little ones when maybe they cant get it done on their own
  • I love warm baby calves on the floor of my truck on cold nights
  • I love baby sheep bleating in a big box on the floor of my living room by the pot belly stove waiting for me to feed them
  • I love all the cows lined up on the “cow trail” walking to the water trough in a perfect line like they are on a mission
  • I love feeding hay on the back of the flatbed as my brother drives and taking time between fields to sit on the hay and admire the beauty of it all
  • I love to eat – too much at times – and because of farmers I am able too!
  • I love cowboy boots – I have all sorts!
  • I love carhart jackets and gloves and ball cap kinda days
  • I love YOU, my dear farming friends for helping me become my best self.

I love it because I do not know anything else this is who I am , who I have become and who I will continue to be.  I am dedicated to the industry I love and to each of my fellow farmers and ranchers.  For I owe it to them to share my story , I owe it to them to show them it can be done , hopefully empowering them to tell theirs and do the same.
Its all quite simple – when someone asks me why do you farm/ranch? Why do you do what you do ?
My answer – because I LOVE it and I cant imagine doing anything else.
That’s Why !