Growing Up on a Farm: 25 Facts About Being a Farm Kid!

This post is dedicated to all you past, present and future farm kids out there. There may not be very many of us, but we truly are  one-of-a-kind. In all honesty, I don’t know of a better way to grow up. Yes, we worked hard. Yes, we can tell stories all day long about our experiences both good and bad. Most importantly, yes we are proud to be farmers’ sons and farmers’ daughters. We are proud to be born and raised farm kids.  We are proud to be future farmers.

There is no doubt….WE REALLY ARE LUCKY!

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There have been several blog posts containing lists being shared on Facebook and Twitter right now. These lists, which deal with topics from growing up in a small town to reasons why you should date a teacher, inspired me to write about the farm kid life. For all you farm kids out there, you know we had a very special upbringing that many do not understand. With this in mind, I decided to come up with 25 truths that most farm kids could relate to in some way.

To me (and I think many will agree), being raised on a farm is a gift and something we should definitely treasure. We learn things that will be with us the rest of our lives. I could literally go on and on about how lucky farm kids really are. Whether you were raised on a farm or are just simply curious about the farm kid life, I hope you enjoy this list I have come up with. Don’t be afraid to smile, laugh and take a trip down memory lane! I know I did 🙂

20131122-121759.jpg25 Farm Kid Truths….here we go!

1. When you were first asked what you want to be when you grow up, you could not think of anything other than a farmer. Duh! 

2. Yeah, those Hot Wheels, Barbie Dolls, Nintendo’s were all oh so cool. BUT nothing compared to your farm toys and figurines. Those John Deere tractors, plastic hay bales, plastic cows, horses, trucks, etc. They were your favorites that you played with ALL the time.

3. No Christmas list was complete without those farming toys. Ertl farm sets, more toy tractors, more farm animals…you needed to make your “farm” bigger.

4. No matter how hard your mom tried for you to have “good clothes” and “chore clothes,” and/or “good shoes” and “chore shoes,” everything you had turned into clothes you got dirty outside. Your excuse? “Sorry mom, I forgot…”

5. You learned some of the most random things…most of the time, the hard way. Examples?? You learned that if you got stuck in the mud while wearing your muck boots, you better just stay put and wait for help. You learned that your parents weren’t kidding when they said the fence was “hot.” You learned to avoid crawling through or over barbed wire fences. You learned that no matter how “cute” little mice looked or how tempting it was to pick one up to tease your sibling(s) with, those suckers would bite if you messed with them. You learned where not to hold a bottle when bottle feeding a baby calf. This list could go on and on. 20131122-121739.jpg

6. Here are some of the rules you were given when you went and played outside. Don’t go to the road, don’t go near the bull, if you open a gate then you better shut it, do not turn on/operate any piece of equipment, DON”T GO TOO FAR,, don’t hurt your brother/sister, blah blah blah. We all heard it.

7. You learned at a very young age that you needed to pray every day. Granted, yes we need to do that every single day. However, you prayed for things most kids would not even think about. You prayed for rain during a drought. You prayed for a good harvest. You prayed for sunshine when hay needed to be made. You prayed for your animals. You understood just how important faith in farming is.

8. The worse forms of punishments in fact were not getting spanked. The worse forms of punishment included picking rocks out of dirt lots and walking through fields with a feed sack and scissors cutting thistles. Even worse than that? Being told to stay in the house. Ughhhh!!!!!

9. You have been chased by a chicken, bucked off a horse, cut by a barb-wire fence, kicked by a cow, fallen face first in mud, fell out of a tree and/or have fallen off a tractor/truck/trailer (just to name a few) on a few occasions. Funny thing is, it did not slow you down one bit. 1016244_10201392292111296_1643819930_n

10. You did not open your Christmas gifts on Christmas morning or go trick-or-treating on Halloween until all the chores were done. And you did not complain about it.

11.  The best bonding time with your daddy came from sitting on his lap in the tractor. You seriously felt like the luckiest kid alive. What made you feel even luckier? Riding with your daddy in the combine! Also, let’s face it. Whatever your daddy’s favorite kind of tractor was, well it was yours too.

12. Your momma cooked the best home-cooked meals. She was the best at making those daily bumps, scrapes and bruises that we would always get all better. She could get manure and oil stains out of anything. She could then go outside run a tractor, haul cattle to town, tend to a sick calf, haul hay and back a trailer just as good (or sometimes even better) than your daddy and the other farm hands could.

untitled13. Hay season, planting, chopping, etc. were like mini Christmases to you. You could ride in the tractor all day long, your meals were brought out to you, you could even stay up past your bedtime sometimes…

14. Yes, we had our swing sets, trampolines, sand boxes, etc. However, those were not the coolest things to play with. The coolest things were round bales, livestock trailers, piles of seed, skipping rocks at the pond  and stuff like that. Now that was fun!

15. You could operate equipment, drive a tractor, drive the farm truck and run the 4-wheeler at a very young age. (I won’t exactly specify what age this is, but let’s just say it is way before the age of 15.)

16. You could tell if a cow was calving by the age of eight. You got to see more live animal births of any kids in your class. Once again, cool kid status reached! While we are on the subject, you could tell if an animal was sick. You could determine how crops were doing. You could count hay bales during hay season. You knew a great deal about medicines, fertilizers and other farming practices. You were that smart.

17. You have had the opportunity to see more sunrises and more sunsets than most kids your age did. That is pretty cool.sunset

18. You had manners and learned to respect your elders. You learned the importance of listening and following instructions. You quickly learned the value of a dollar. You just learned lesson after lesson day after day.

19. You strongly disliked going to school sometimes because you could not stand to be locked up inside. You’d much rather be outside working on the farm, no matter how it was like outside. It would literally drive you insane. (Sidenote, all of your projects/assignments somehow incorporated farming into them.)

20. You had that one animal: One dog, one cat, one cow, one horse, one something that was your buddy and at the time, your best friend. That special animal is one you will never forget.

21. Your senior pictures, prom pictures, graduation pictures, etc. have a tractor, truck, FFA jacket and/or livestock in them more than once.200592_1002209537548_6788_n

22. You were proud to be a member of 4-H and/or FFA.

23. The older you got, the more responsibilities and chores you were given. No we were not slaves of our parents. No we were not “overworked.” Our parents were teaching us one of the most valuable lessons a person could learn – that is RESPONSIBILITY!

24. You understand the value of hard work, commitment, good character, good business and dedication. Farming is no easy task, and you fully comprehend the fact that these values will benefit you the rest of your life. These values will lead to success and you know it.

25. You realize just how lucky you are to have grown up on a farm. You realize that you want your future kids to grow up on a farm too because there really is not an upbringing that can compare. ❤

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I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. One thing I know for sure is  that I am so proud to be considered one of these kids. If you are, share this! Show the world you’re proud of it too. Better yet, thank your parents for giving you the rare opportunity to grow up as a farm kid.  

Thanks so much for reading this post. As always, God Bless You All!

Until next time…

~Ali~20131122-121833.jpg20131122-121808.jpg20131122-121818.jpg

Agricultural Communications….Working for Farmers, Educating the Public, Sharing Agriculture’s Story

There are two types of questions that I am asked pretty much on a daily basis. 1) The typical hows the family, how old are you now, are you married kinds and 2) where do you go to school, what year are you and what are you studying kinds of questions. So you are probably wondering, “Alison where exactly are you going with this?” Just sit back, read on.

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It is nothing new for people to ask me what I plan on doing with my agricultural communication degrees. My common answer is hopefully something in promotion of agricultural products, marketing, advocating, public relations, writing, public agricultural education, etc. However, one of the most crazy questions I’d been asked after telling someone what I’m studying is this. (I’m NOT making this up either!) “So agricultural communications, huh? So that means you’ll like talk to animals and actually communicate with them?”

After proceeding to pick my jaw up of the floor and bite my cheek hard enough so I wouldn’t laugh or make a sarcastic comment back (for everyone that knows me, I can be super sarcastic sometimes…). Honestly, the first time this happened, I did not really know what to say for a second. I mean I really wanted to be funny – and yes I know as an agvocate I should never do that, but just go with it – and say something like- “Why yes, just call me the next animal whisperer!” “Yes because I am the female version of Dr. Doolittle” Haha 🙂

While on the topic of some of the “crazy” things I have heard people say, here are some other common questions/statements I have heard/seen. Feel free to laugh (I really hope you do!); however keep in mind that this represents lack of agriculture education.

  • My family and I show Brown Swiss dairy cattle. I have heard this at almost every fair I have shown at. “Oh look at those brown cows. That’s where chocolate milk comes from!!!!!” True story.
  • While talking about the milking process at the Missouri State Fair, I was asked this. “Do those sucky things (referring to milkers) hurt the cows? I cannot believe you put those on the poor cows!” This seriously happened.
  • “Why do we need farmers when I can just go to the grocery store and get all my food?” I can’t make this up.
  • A 60+ year old woman from a large city approached me and my cow at a Branson, Missouri resort where I was talking about dairy. “This is the first time I have ever touched or seen a farm animal.” So crazy!

Do you see why agricultural communications is important now?

In all seriousness, I do explain what I am planning to do with my degrees. I explain why agriculture is so important and I truly hope that I do make them realize this concept! However, as ignorant as this sounds to some of us that people actually think agricultural communications deals with talking to animals, this is actually something quite alarming. It is proof of just how uneducated the public is about the agriculture industry. This also gives me a sense of purpose, as well as a mission to tell agriculture’s story.

These encounters gets the wheels in my head turning and reminds me that I really am where I need to be. Why do I need to tell agriculture’s story? Why do I need to work to promote agriculture products? Why do I need to support farmers?

Here’s a few facts about agriculture that will be better than any explanation I could give.

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  • Twenty two million American workers produce, process, sell and trade the nation’s food and fiber. But only 4.6 million of those people live on the farms– slightly less than 2 percent of the total U.S. Population
  • Consumers spend $547 billion for food originating on U.S. farms and ranches. Of each dollar spent on food, the farmer’s share is approximately 23 cents. The rest are for costs beyond the farm gate: wages and materials for production, processing, marketing, transportation and distribution.
  • Nearly two million people farm or ranch in the United States. Almost 90 percent of U.S. farms are operated by individuals or family corporations. And American agriculture provides jobs—including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing, along with retail and wholesale sales–for 15 percent of the U.S. population.
  • According to the 2002 Census of Agriculture, 50 percent of the farmers are 55 years of age or older, up only three percent from 1997. Average age of the principal operator is 55.3.
  • A recent survey of America’s young farmers and ranchers revealed that 97.2 percent planned to farm and ranch for life. And 90 percent said they would like their children to follow in their footsteps. This provides strong incentive for today’s farmers and ranchers to protect and preserve he natural resources on their property. Not only is the land and its resources farmer’s lifeblood today, it represents the future for his family and its business.
  • Forty-one percent of U.S. total land area is farmland (938.28 million acres). In 1900, the average farm size was 147 acres, compared to 441 acres today.
  • Experts still project that our population will add more than 2 billion within the next 40 years.
  • The efficiency of U.S. farmers benefits the United States consumer in the pocketbook. Americans spend less on food than any other developed nation in the world. On average in 2004, Americans spent only 2% of their disposable income on meat and poultry, compared to 4.1 percent in 1970.
  • Farmers and ranchers are independent business people who provide for their families by growing and producing food and fiber. They use modern production techniques to increase the quality and quantity of the food they produce. In the 1960s one farmer supplied food for 25.8 persons in the U.S. and abroad. Today, one farmer supplies food for 144 people in the U.S. and abroad.

More facts can be found here: http://www.fb.org/index.php?action=newsroom.fastfacts

How do you feel about agriculture now?

F481501_10200455320567593_712146636_nor you farmers and fellow agriculturists feel INSPIRED! feel PRIDE! You are responsible for feeding the nation and the world. You are responsible for life as we know it here in the United States! I know you do not get the credit you so deserve. (That “So God Made a Farmer” video…just think about that!) That is why I am in agriculture communications. I want to change that so you can keep on doing what you’re doing and so that you can get some appreciation. I have your backs!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMpZ0TGjbWE

For those who have never considered agriculture to be such a major part of your life- feel EDUCATED! feel THANKFUL! Considering only less than 2% of the population is responsible for providing you with food and fiber on 41% of the land here in the U.S; you spend less on food compared to any other country in the world; the population grows everyday meaning more mouths to feed on the same amount of land used for production practices today; many farmers are older than 50 meaning fewer young people are entering the production agriculture sector; and agriculture is a huge part of our economy and our daily lives! I want to be a reason that the public becomes more educated about agriculture.

For those who are disrespectful to farmers and criticize them for production practices feel the need to CHANGE your views. feel GRATEFUL instead of hateful. After reading the facts above, seriously reconsider your accusations and the perceptions you have of what agriculture should be. Here’s the deal. If all producers went to non-confinement farming, did not use vaccines, did not use pesticides, etc.? ask yourself these questions. How would we have enough land? How would we control disease to ensure enough of a safe product for consumption? How could we produce enough product to meet growing demand of food products? Our current methods of productions are efficient. Yes, there are ways which to improve so let’s focus on improvements instead of working to enforce more strict regulations, shutting farms down, etc. I want to be the reason you change your mind about agriculture!

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As you can see, agriculture is important. Sometimes, farmers forget just how important they are. Sometimes, the general public forgets just how lucky we all are to have a strong agriculture industry. Sometimes people forget about reality and focus just on how they want farms to be like. (You know, rolling green pastures, big red barns, happy animals, etc.) As an agricultural communicator, these are some of the challenges I know I will face. It is an almost impossible task of educating every single person about agriculture. I truly believe that through efforts such as advocating agriculture at community events, direct contact with the public talking about agriculture, working for farmers, using social media, writing newspaper articles, designing material to tell agriculture’s story, making videos, developing agricultural advocacy websites, etc., I can be a big part of this difficult task.

To wrap this post up, I just want to say this. There is no doubt in my mind that agriculture is in my blood. I was born a dairy farmers daughter, so it is safe to say I have been involved in the industry since the day I was born. My dad’s parents were dairy farmers. My mom’s parents are still dairy farmers. Two of my aunts are still dairy farmers. My dad is an agriculture education teacher. My cousin is an agriculture education teacher. Another of my cousins works in 20131020-204752.jpgagriculture engineering. My little sister is majoring in agriculture at Missouri State. I have a Bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and have a semester to go before I get a Master’s degree in agricultural communications. Agriculture is a huge influence in my entire family’s lives and is something I have been around my entire life. To be able to work in a field where I can work to help my family is a blessing in itself. 🙂

I truly hope that you now have a better knowledge of agricultural communications. It is a diverse field with so much opportunity that I am blessed to be a part of! Remember farmers, pat yourselves on the back. Everyone else, thank a farmer because without them, you would not be here.

God Bless You All!!!!! Until next time,

~Ali

P.S.- GO ST. LOUIS CARDINALS!!!!!! LETS GET THAT 12 IN ’13!!!! 🙂

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A Cinderella Story Featuring a Cow Named Bambi

Miss Bambi

Fulp Wonderment Bambi

Its the month of August so all of us “show people” know what that means. Show season is in full swing!!! Showing is what this post is mostly about; however it also demonstrates how a dose of bad luck can be quickly turned around by a simple gesture of love and generosity. So sit back and enjoy as I share with you a Brown Swiss Cow Cinderella Story.

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Timberline Jetway Toni

Angela

Timberline Denmark Angela

Like with most of my blog posts, I will begin with a background. When I was growing up, my parents owned a dairy farm where we milked about 60 registered Brown Swiss cows. The cows my parents had developed and/or purchased were simply good and some of the best in Missouri and even the United States. We had grand champion several consecutive years at Ozark Empire Fair in Springfield, as well as several grand champion titles at the Missouri State Fair. We even won Supreme Champion (which is HUGE) at the state fair and Reserve Grand at World Dairy Expo with a cow back in 1999—Timberline Jetway Toni—who has been named one of the greats.  Among winning state shows, our cows had earned All-American and Reserve All-American titles, stood in the top of their class at the World Dairy Expo, won the first ever 3-year old futurity at WDE and even won at other national shows across the country. Needless to say, we had a very strong reputation in the Brown Swiss industry for having top of the line cows and I’ll admit it, huge targets on our backs. We sadly had to sell out in 2004 which I will say was one of the most difficult days of my life. (However, I am proud to say that even today- approximately 9 years later- our cows are still having a huge influence on the Brown Swiss breed through their offspring and continued success in the show ring.) A few years after selling our cows, my parents decided to buy some heifers for my younger sister and I to use as FFA projects and just to give us the chance to show again. Long story short, this turned out to be not as good as plan as we hoped for.

Our first year back, we had a very good show string winning both junior and grand champion at the state fair with two of our animals. We felt really good about our decision to be back; however our luck quickly headed the other way. My parents purchased a really good cow out of Wisconsin named Starbright for my little sister because she never had the chance to own and lead a milk cow. Well after her successful show season the first few months we had her, her health went downhill. It took us a year to get her pregnant and when she finally calved in, her health took a major turn for the worst. She was battling respiratory problems so severe that the vet at the University of Missouri said she could not survive on an actual dairy farm. So my parents being as awesome as they are, decided to set up a portable milker at our house and milk her here. We milked her for 3 months, twice a day at our place. She was happy, healthy and as you can imagine, very spoiled!!!! We all got very attached to her because of her gentle personality and having to spend so much time with her. When show season came around, we felt like she was healthy and strong enough to get back on the tanbark. She was milking over 70 pounds of milk per day, gained all of her weight back and was not showing any signs of having breathing problems. We hauled her to the state fair with hopes of her doing well, as well as the chance of my little sister being able to show a milk cow for the first time. Starbright settled right in at the fair the first two days she was there. The day before she was to show, I noticed her being off her feed and appearing to not feel well. We immediately called a vet to be sure she was okay. Long story short, late Friday night, Starbright breathed her last there in Sedalia, Mo. It was a traumatic life event for my entire family; however my little sister was hurting the worst. She loved her Starbright and it was obvious that Starbright loved her. I will never, ever forget my mom coming into our hotel room sobbing and having to listen to my little sister sob too when she heard the news. (I’m crying right now as I write this.) I will never forget this as long as I live. No person should have to go through losing a cow at a state fair like we did. The next few days, I remember not being able to walk through the barn without having tears streaming down my face. My little sister was a wreck. In the FFA show, I cried as I led my cow for the grand champion drive knowing that it should have been Starbright and my sister out there instead of me. The really bad thing about all of this is the fact that there were people there who began spreading rumors that we killed our cow by “drowning her” to get her looking good for the show when we were actually following the university vet’s orders of giving her BlueLite to get her rumen working. So not only did we have to deal with losing the cow, we also had to go around telling people that we did not kill our own cow by showing them necropsy reports that her lungs were bad and full of infection. (Mizzou’s necropsy on her showed that only 10% of her lungs were functioning and that is was only a matter of time before she couldn’t survive any longer.) Anyways, as you can imagine, we were completely devastated. My sister would cry every single day for the next several weeks. Not seeing Starbright in her paddock was so, so hard.

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Stephanie with our grandparents, Gary and Sue Fulp

About a few weeks later, my grandma- Sue Fulp- called us. She said that she and my grandpa wanted to give my little sister a calf to help heal the hurt she was feeling from losing Starbright. As much as we told grandma she didn’t have to do that, she insisted. Needless to say, a little Brown Swiss calf ended up over here. The calf’s name was Bambi and let me be the first to tell you, it fit her perfectly! She was about the size of a large dog and didn’t weigh 75 pounds. (Most swiss calves her age would have weighed about 120 pounds or more). Even though she was small, she was cute, cute, cute!!! We raised her up and my sister even showed her the next year. She was just an average heifer and always stood in the middle of her class. We sold the rest of our small herd that year, but kept Bambi because she was a gift. (We even tried giving her back, but she said absolutely not.) So we just turned Bambi out and let her grow. Of course with her being the only cow on the place, she also became extremely spoiled and was just like a big pet. When she was old enough, we bred her to one of the best bulls in the breed and she was confirmed pregnant due to calve in May. Throughout the winter, we noticed Bambi was no longer living up to her name. For whatever reason, she went through a major growth spurt. The heifer got HUGE! She was one of the biggest springer heifers any of us had seen. When May came around, Bambi calved in with a really good heifer calf. We sent Bambi back to my aunts and grandparents’ dairy where she would be milked thinking she probably would not turn out to be a show cow and focused most of our attention on that little heifer calf she had. My sister ended up calling the calf Bazinga. (We’re Big Bang Theory fans, can’t you tell?) Bazinga waBazingas a nice calf there was no question. She also had genomic numbers that were out of this world. She never got sick and always had a good appetite. When she was close to being weaned, she began this really bad habit of chewing her rope in half. We were sick of chasing her and worried she was going to get hit on the road, so we decided to go ahead an put her in the weaning pen. She was in there a good 5 days and did not have any problems. Long story short by day 6, we found her down almost dead. We ended up losing her and to this day do not know what caused it. Bazinga even made the profile picture of New Generation Genetics on Facebook and I even had inquiries about her from Europe. It’s always the good ones! Once again, my little sister was devastated. How much bad luck can one kid have?
Fulp Wonderment Bambi Supreme Champion FFA Show 2013 Ozark Empire FairIn the meantime before we lost Bazinga, we realized just how good of a cow Bambi truly was. Back in June, my cousin had called us and said we should highly consider showing Bambi because she had turned out to be a really nice cow. We entered her in the Ozark Empire Fair not expecting much. Granted there was only two head of Swiss there and she was the only cow. HOWEVER, seeing her all clipped and full of milk gave us a good indication that she really was good. Both judges told us she was one of the best 2-year olds they’d seen and that she needed to be shown at the state fair and other national shows. Bambi ended up winning Supreme Champion of the FFA Show beating all other breeds. There was about 80 head of dairy cattle there and many exhibitors stopped by to tell us we had a good one. Unfortunately, there were those who talked saying it wasn’t a big show and that winning supreme was not a big deal there. Well it definitely was to us knowing the full story and knowing she was a gift from my amazing grandparents. Also, being able to see the excitement on my sister’s face after seeing it completely devastated when she lost Starbright was simply amazing. My grandma and grandpa were soooo excited when they heard how well Bambi did! So, we ended up paying late fees and entered her in the state fair.

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Me and Bambi or as we also call her “Bam-Bam”

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So thankful for this cow allowing my sister to experience this!

Bambi made the trip to Sedalia with my cousins and their cows. She did well in the open show placing 2nd in her class and winning reserve intermediate champion. In the FFA show, she won her class, was intermediate champion and reserve grand champion. Bambi will also be making a journey to Stillwater, Oklahoma for the Southwestern National Show and possibly even to Louisville, Kentucky for the Eastern National Show.

Throughout all of this success, we make it known that people know Bambi’s story and be sure to give all the credit to our grandparents. We want their story to be heard!

This has been a lengthy post, but given the story, I did not want to leave any details out. For some, it is hard to understand how attached we get to our cows. For others who do understand, they will get teary eyed as they read this post. I do look at life differently than a lot of people, but to me this story serves as a life lesson. My grandparents saw my sister hurting and did what nobody else did. They acted and gave my sister a calf to help heal the hurt. My grandma obviously had no idea Bambi would turn out the way she did…nobody did! (Honestly, I almost laughed when I first saw her because she was such a runt.) They acted out of love, kindness and generosity. To me, that is what makes this story so special. Of all the calves she had, for whatever reason she chose Bambi. I truly believe that the reason Bambi turned out so well is because of my grandmas act of nothing but pure kindness and love. Some may be jealous, some may be pessimistic, some may even just shake their heads. I don’t care.

I think it is fate, and I believe it is God’s way of showing us that no matter how bad life gets, there are always better days ahead. He really does reward us for living like Christians should

Look at my sister for example. She lost Starbright and Bazinga. If it was not for Bambi, I do not know how she would be right now. The really cool thing about this is that Bambi was not a result of going out and spending thousands of dollars. She was not a result of greed. I am so thankful for my grandma and grandpa. They set a good example like always and this story just proves that. It also proves that everything really does happen for a reason. Next time you see them, give them a hug. Congratulate them on breeding a phenomenal cow. We are the ones who show her; however they are the ones who created her. They are the ones who gave my sister this opportunity. They are truly an inspiration! I love them so very much. Words truly cannot express how appreciative, honored, blessed, and the list goes on and on, myself as well as the rest of my sisters and cousins are to have them as grandparents.

This truly is your typical Cinderella Story. Granted, there are probably not many of these featuring a cow; however when you’re a girl who has been involved in dairy for so long and who has grown up loving basketball, I couldn’t resist using the term to describe this story. I hope this influences you like it has influenced me. Thank you for reading this all the way through. Until next time, God Bless!

~Ali

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Way to hang in there Steph. This is only the beginning for what is in store for the two of you!

Agriculture… “It has led me here to this”

These past few weeks, I have had several moments where I have thought about how I have gotten to the point I am at today. How has my decisions affected the person I am, the person I want to be and the person I will be in the future? How exactly have I ended up where I am? Besides the fact that God has blessed me beyond measure and the support I have received from my family, I can only think of one other answer to this question. The answer is agriculture.

To back this story up some, I should begin by discussing my upbringing and background. I grew up on a dairy farm. I was put on a horse (and even Brown Swiss cows) before I could walk, I started helping in the milk barn before I even started kindergarten and can remember getting into some trouble doing things that typical farm kids do. So yes, agriculture has been with me from day one. I was always active in 4-H and FFA by showing cows and horses and participating in contests. However, looking back to my senior year in high school, pursuing a career in agriculture did not even cross my mind.

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Many people can’t believe this because they’ve always known me to be the ag kid of my class and even of all my sisters. I actually thought I wanted to become a physical therapist (all I saw were dollar signs) and eventually work at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis. In my head this sounded like the perfect plan, but when it came right down to it, my heart was leading me in a completely opposite direction. When I attended freshman orientation at Missouri State University, the realization hit that physical therapy was not my fit. I had a small meltdown when I got home from the first day of orientation because I felt like my future was blurred. What was I going to do with my life? How would I figure out what I wanted to do? Luckily, my dad agreed to go to the second day of orientation with me so I would not have a complete anxiety attack. I am so glad he did!!! He was the one who took me to see the head of the William H. Darr School of Agriculture which ended up being one of the most influential days of my life.

Within 30 seconds of being in the school of agriculture, I knew I had found my “home.” There was no doubt that agriculture was my future and that it was where I belonged. The four years I spent working on my undergraduate degree were some of the most memorable times of my life. I surpassed the expectations I had of myself—I went from a shy, unconfident girl to a woman who has utmost belief in herself to make a difference in this crazy world we live in and to keep agriculture a strong industry. Everything I learned from growing up on a farm- including hard work ethic, determination, teamwork and leadership- pushed me to be a strong student and leader. I also overcame the fear of stepping up out of my comfort zone and experiencing as much as possible. Internships, joining the Missouri State Equestrian Team, becoming an officer in student organizations on campus and becoming more involved in my community were just a few that happened because of this. I quickly learned that hard work and taking risks really does pay off, and also that I should always have faith. When I reflect on my entire undergraduate experience, it does not seem real. (I also do not know how I was able to do so many things in four short years!) These years developed me into the person I am today and have made me fully understand how important it is to stand up, protect and fight for our agriculture industry.

As many know, I am now in graduate school at Missouri State working on my master’s degree in agricultural communications. Has it been stressful? Most definitely, but I know it is going to be well worth it. I feel like I am just being primed to be an influential “agvocate” and promoter of the agricultural industry. Whether it be public relaitons, promotion, marketing, writing, broadcasting or whatever else, I believe that I will be well prepared for whatever my future career has in store. I do know that I want to do whatever I can to help our farmers because it is them who keeps us all alive. I want to do my part in educating the public about where their foods comes from so that they will not be influenced by extreme animal/environmental activists and so that they will learn to have a greater respect for farmers/ranchers. I also want to do my part in ensuring that future generations will not go hungry. And above all, I want to do all I can to keep agriculture thriving in the United States.

So when asked how or what has been a major impact of my life, I can safely say this. God, my family and agriculture has! My journey has been a pretty crazy one; however I feel so humbled and blessed. I am so fortunate to have be part of a great agriculture school and also to have a strong agriculture background.

Next time you find yourself pondering about how you have gotten where you are in your life, tell us about it. Share your story!

As I wrap up this extremely long post, I want to say this-

The world of agriculture has led me here to this!

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“So God Made a Farmer…”

481501_10200455320567593_712146636_nThis is a post dedicated to everyone out there who is a farmer. You do not get the credit you deserve. Before I begin this post, I want to say thank you!

I know I have not posted a blog in a very long time. Why the sudden urge to begin blogging again? As crazy as it sounds, a commercial inspired me to do so. For those of you who follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, you probably already know what commercial I am referring to.

Last night, a large portion of my mom’s side of the family decided to get together to watch the Super Bowl. I personally am not a huge fan of football; however I am always wanting to see good commercials, as well as spend time with my family. We were watching the game, talking about what commercials we were looking forward to seeing (the Clydesdale one was at the top of most of our lists), talking, eating unhealthy snack foods and just having a good time. Then the house went silent…

A commercial began to play and the name Paul Harvey appeared on the screen. An agriculturelike scene began to unfold which quickly grabbed all of our attention. The talking stopped, the kids stopped playing and all eyes were glued to the screen. These were the words that were shared on the commercial:

And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the field, milk… cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the township board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to wrestle a calf and yet gentle enough to cradle his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait for lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies, then tell the ladies to be sure to come back real soon and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year,’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from an ash tree, shoe a horse, who can fix a harness with hay wire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. Who, during planting time and harvest season will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, up in another 72 hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to help a newborn calf begin to suckle and tend the pink-comb pullets, who will stop his mower in an instant to avoid the nest of meadowlarks.”

It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, brake, disk, plow, plant, strain the milk, replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with an eight mile drive to church. Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh, and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when his family says that they are proud of what Dad does. “So God made a farmer.”See More

As these words were spoken, scenes of different agricultural/farming sectors flashed on the screen. Fields being plowed, farmers of all generations, horses, farming equipment, just to name a few. Of course, a really, really nice Dodge truck appeared at the end of the commercial to support the commercials founder Dodge Ram. After the commercial was over, I took a second to look around the room. Everyone sitting there had some sort of farming background. All of us were involved in the dairy industry in some way; most of everyone there is current dairy farmers. They all had the same reaction I did – a feeling of pride, reassurance, thankfulness and awe that the American farmer finally got some recognition on national television during one of the biggest TV events of the year. It was a very emotional moment, and I want to give a HUGE thank you to Dodge for airing such a great commercial.

This commercial got me to thinking….a lot. First of all, it is possible for our (farmers/agriculturists) voices to be heard. We can spread the word to the general public about agriculture’s importance and impact on our lives. We can show how hard farmers work and what they have to endure to provide food for people. It is a possibility and it is up to us to continue pushing forward to spread the word about agriculture.

Even though the commercial has created a lot of positive feedback from many, there are still some out there who view it as something completely different. I was researching reviews this morning and found people who had commented or posted on social media sites what they believe is meant by “so God made a farmer…” There were several references to tobacco chewers, factory farmers, tobacco farmers, hillbillies, etc. (You can find these reviews after searching the commercial on Google. Several sites come up that show them.) If that is what people truly think farmers are, then we need to work harder to change that image. Present these questions to those people:

  • Where does your food come from?
  • What did you eat for breakfast this morning? Do you know where that came from?
  • Who provides food to your grocery store?
  • How are you able to go to the store any time of the week and always have a large variety of food to choose from at a reasonable price?
  • Tell me what you know about agriculture. Do you truly believe that?
  • How would we survive if it wasn’t for our farmers?
  • How long will you survive if there were no farmers?

Once again, it just proves how uneducated the public is about what agriculture is all about. Obviously, we cannot survive without a strong agriculture industry. Our farmers are this nation’s backbone and always will be no matter who is leading this country, the technologies we have, etc.

After this commercial, I asked myself this question. How many people watched the commercial last night and did not understand it? There were probably several. Needless to say, Dodge’s “So God Made a Farmer” commercial has inspired me to make a difference. It has inspired me to keep pushing to educate the general public about American agriculture.

I apologize for the wordiness of this post. It has been so long since I have shared my thoughts, and the commercial from last night just got me thinking. I also want to make a special shout out to Budweiser for airing, in my opinion, one of their best Clydesdale commercials. The Doritos’ goat was good too. What were your favorites?

In conclusion, I hope that “So God Made a Farmer” has inspired you to agvocate even more. I hope it has inspired you to learn more about agriculture and comprehend its importance. Most of all, I hope it has instilled an utmost respect for our American farmers. They do not get the credit they so deserve for their hard work and dedication to providing safe and quality food on all of our tables. They endure every hardship – intense weather, working 24/7, working straight through holidays, sickness, the list goes on and on. Farmers deserve so much more than what most Americans give them credit for. Without them, we would not survive. Without them, we would have nothing. That is why, “God made a farmer.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMpZ0TGjbWE

Until next time, be sure to thank a farmer. If you are a farmer, then I want to say a special THANK YOU!!!!

Let’s all strive to make 2013 the year of the farmer!!!!

Alison

Graduation: It’s Getting Closer!

It is completely hard to believe that in just two weeks, I, along with hundreds of other graduates, will be walking on the floor of JQH Arena at Missouri State University for graduation. It seems like just yesterday when I was graduating from Billings High School, wide-eyed and scared about what the future held. However as I prepare to graduate from college, I can actually say that I am ready. Yes, there are times when I am wide-eyed and scared, but now I have developed a strong feeling of confidence about what my future holds.

There is so much to get done before graduation. Papers, finals, graduation parties, you name it. All of this has to get done in approximately 17 days. 17 days! Yes, I am a little stressed, but surprisingly not as stressed as I would have thought. Call it “senioritis” or just to the point of having so much going on that I don’t care anymore, I just feel like I am fully ready for the next step. These past four years at Missouri State have been absolutely incredible, and I could not feel more blessed to have gone to school here. Yes there are things I am going to miss about being an undergraduate – the equestrian team, my friends, some of my teachers, etc. However, I know it is time to move on to the next chapter of my life. With this being said, I am so anxious about what the next two years at this university holds.

After graduation, I plan on going back to school at Missouri State to obtain my master’s degree. Once a MSU Bear, always a MSU Bear I guess!  I will be in graduate school for another two years, which I know will be so worth the time and effort. God has placed this opportunity before me, and I know He will see me through. The work is going to be strenuous, the classes are going to be tough and my schedule is going to be crazy; however after thinking about that, I realize that is pretty much what I am used to. Like the famous quote goes “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” This is my saying for the next two years.

I know this post is a little different from the rest. There was no calf pulling, twin talking, horse showing or anything like that. I just wanted to share what my plans are after graduating May 18th where an entire new chapter of My “AG” ventures begins.

What Do the Neighbors Think?

So, this week has been a very eventful week adding to the never-ending story of my “AG”ventures. While I was driving home last night thinking about this past week’s events, a sudden thought hit me. “I wonder what my neighbors think of some of the things we do on our farm?” All of the events that I am getting ready to tell you about occurred where my neighbors could easily see me. You see, a few years ago when we sold all of our dairy cows, we sold some land to a developer. Now, land that our Brown Swiss and Holstein cattle grazed on and our green tractors mowed is now providing people with homes. (That’s a fancy way of saying it is now a subdivision.) Even though we don’t milk anymore, we still have a few cows left and have horses. Technically we are not an actual full-functioning farm, but our neighbors tend to think otherwise. So, this leads me to my original question. “I wonder what my neighbors think?” As I get ready to write this, I just want to let you know that it is okay to laugh. I really won’t be offended. 😛

I had to do an equine demonstration for a local 4-H club, so my mom (who’s birthday is today…Happy Birthday!)  and I loaded up our horses and headed to the saddle club. We’ve got an old Brown Swiss cow that we could not sell last year because of her bad legs. She was due to calve that day and appeared she could pop at any time, but showed no signs of calving before we left. We were only gone 3 hours and guess what?  As my mom was parking our trailer and unloading horses, I went to check on her and seen her behind the barn (which is in plain sight of every single one of our neighbors) obviously in labor.

"Kokomo" is now doing great!

From a distance, I couldn’t tell if everything was normal. Like luck always runs, the calf was coming backwards which is a major, major uh-oh. My mom went and grabbed two baling strings and tied it to the calf’s legs. (The cow had gotten up at this point so you can only imagine what the scene looked like.) We began to pull, my mom pulling the strings and I had a hold of the calf’s legs. We were able to deliver the calf, and it was barely alive. We sprang into action. I was on my hands and knees by the calf’s face trying to clear the fluids out of her nose and mouth. My mom was doing whatever she could to help the calf breathe. It was apparent that we would need to lift the calf from its back legs to let gravity pull the fluids from her mouth, nose and lungs. Mind you, this calf is pretty good size. I’m 6′ foot and pretty stout (and somewhat injured from getting bucked off a horse earlier that week. Different story for another time) My mom is only about 5’7″ but for those of you who know her, she is a strong lady! We were able to lift the calf from her back legs to allow fluid to drain. She than began breathing normally, and we knew she was going to be all right. My mom and I at this point were completely tuckered out. Not only did we pull the calf by ourselves, we also were able to hold her in the air from her back legs. Yeah, you can call us awesome. (I just viewed it as good mother-daughter bonding time!)

It took me a few days to realize that some of our neighbors may have seen that entire event unfold. Two women pulling a calf, shoving their hands in its mouth, sticking their fingers in its nose, hanging it from its hind legs. Are they crazy?!?! I could only imagine what the scene would look like to those who are unfamiliar with delivering calves. This was definitely an extreme calving case; however that still doesn’t mask the fact that our neighbors still could have saw it. Lucky for us, the sheriff wasn’t called or PETA wasn’t notified. Hopefully our neighbors understood that we were only doing the best for the cow and calf.

On a more serious note, the morale of this story is this. A lot of times, people see us farmers do things that they think are absolutely cruel and inhumane. It is up to us to educate them about why we do the things we do. You never know who is watching. It all boils down to this main fact. It is up to us farmers to educate the public about agriuclture and farming!

In case you were wondering, the calf, now named “Kokomo” and her momma are doing great. They are alive because we helped them. We cared, just like farmers do.

Twins?

As many of you know (and for those who don’t), I am the middle child in my family. I have two sisters, one who is 24 and the other who is 17. You are probably wondering why the title of this post is “Twins?,” but that is what I am going to talk about in this post. You see, my sisters and I all resemble each other. Everybody who sees us together always tell my parents, “Well the apple did not fall too far from the tree.” That is true; however when it comes to my older sister and I, many think we are identical twins. We are both 6-feet tall, blonde-headed and tan. We sound just alike and from a distance, look just alike. Even though we are 2 1/2 years apart, we are constantly asked, “Are you twins?” I am often mistaken for my oldest sister; called by her name, or asked how I am enjoying the married life.

Since we look so much alike, there are several stories that could be told. We played high school basketball together for two years. Her number was 24 and my number was 42. We majorly confused our opponents as well as those who kept stats. My sister was a very good basketball player. She broke several records at our high school (scoring over 2,000 points and representing Billings in tournaments and teams all across the state). She went on to play 3 years at Drury University in Springfield on a full-ride scholarship. When it comes to my basketball playing abilities, well let’s just say I was average. 😛 I focused more on showing dairy cows and horses growing up, and basketball was not really my thing.

As you can see from our pictures, it is obvious that we resemble each other. A LOT. The only major difference in our physical appearance is that her eyes are blue and mine are green. Yes, we do look alike and sound alike, but I can assure you we are not twins. We are the complete opposite when it comes to interests and activities. She is in college studying physical education and is inspiring to become a coach. I am studying agriculture and am inspiring to become an influential person in the agriculture industry. She loves to spend more time indoors and likes to shop, while I am an outdoor type of girl through and through. She does not really like riding horses or being around cattle, whereas horses and cattle is where my heart is. She is more outspoken, while I am more reserved and independent. When people ask me about us, I always call her the city version, and tell them I am the country version. We share a lot of differences which is something a lot of people are surprised about. We look so much alike, yet live completely different lifestyles.

So this week, my “AG” ventures have led me to share with you the story that people often are interested in. Even though we are opposites in many things, we are still very close. We share a sister-to-sister relationship that a lot of people are jealous of. Don’t think I am forgetting about my little sister. The older she gets, the mroe she looks like us and the closer we get. Soon, I am going to be writing a post that is titled “Triplets?” I am very blessed to have 2 wonderful sisters. Yes, there are some days that we cannot be put in the same room, but we would not be normal if that was not the case.

So take a moment to think about your siblings and the special bonds you share. Siblings are a truly a gift. Plus in my life, they are a way to strike up conversations in all places when people ask the same question. “Are you girls twins?”

“I’ve Never Been to a Farm Before”

 

You never know when you are going to be presented with the opportunity to allow someone to interact with animals for the first time. This opportunity found me this past weekend, which has led me to write this post. Friday morning, I get a phone call from my oldest sister who was babysitting for one of her friends. She was babysitting a 6-year old boy named Landon who has not had much experience with farm animals. My immediate response was, “Well bring him on over!”

Landon was really wanting to ride a horse. He had only been on a horse a few other times when he was younger, and had never had the opportunity to ride by himself. He was so excited when we told him that he could ride one of our horses…all by himself. Since this was such a big deal for this little boy, I let him do everything. He went into our tack room and chose a halter (he chose the green one because it was his favorite color). He then walked into the pasture with me to catch “his horse.” He was going to ride Hollywood, our 20-year old Paint gelding that my family holds very dear to our hearts. I would trust this horse with any

body, which made him the perfect mount for Landon.

I went back to the barn and got Hollywood all saddled up. During this time, Landon was asking me several questions about horses and the tack. He was so excited to ride a horse that he could barely stand it. I took him to our arena and got him on ole’ Hollywood. The look on that boy’s face was absolutely priceless. He rode for about 20 minutes, smiling and laughing the whole time. This would be something he would never forget…

Landon and Hollywood

After Landon had left, I got to thinking about kids and people who never had the opportunity to ride a horse, touch a cow or even step foot onto a farm. This led me to think about how important it is for us (agvocates, farm owners, livestock owners, etc.) to educate those who are not familiar with “farm life.” Allow them to pet/touch our animals. Allow them to ask questions. This is the most efficient way of spreading the word about agriculture, so don’t waste opportunities to do so! If you are exhibiting animals at a show or parade, allow people to interact with them and you! It is up to us to educate them about agriculture, livestock and farming in general.

If you are like me, you often forget how many are out there who are so uneducated when it comes to agriculture and our animals. It makes me be even more thankful to be a farmer’s daughter and an agvocate!!

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and allow people like Landon interact with animals on your farm!

Until next time…

Journey to Delaware

While many spent their spring breaks at the beach or with their families, I spent mine in the tiny state of Delaware. (The nations first official state!) You are probably thinking two things right now. 1) What in the world were you doing there? and 2) What is there to do in that state?

I made the trip to Harrington, Delaware (home of the Delaware State Fairgrounds) to show horses in the IHSA Western Semi-Finals, I had qualified for this event by being the Reserve Regional Champion a few weekends ago. Granted, there was not much to do in the small town of Harrington; however this trip was one I will never forget. I have highlighted my experiences and have put them in a list below. Enjoy!!!!

  • I got to fly on an airplane for the 3rd time in my entire life. We flew out of St. Louis into Philadelphia the first trip. On the trip back home, we flew from Philadelphia, Cincinnati then to St. Louis. It was amazing because a trip that would have taken 16 hours driving only took 2 hours in an airplane. Thank goodness for that!
  • It was amazing to see how many people did not know what a hat can was. I got so many strange looks from people as I carried it through security and on the plan. Once I explained it to them, you would have thought it was the coolest thing they had ever saw.
  • I got to experience firsthand the craziness of Philadelphia drivers. We had to ride in a bus from the airport to the car rental place. The driver’s name was Al and he told us that he was “an express driver.” He wasn’t kidding. That man was flat-out CRAZY!!! We made it there in one piece…suprisingly.
  • The state of Delaware is tiny; however a very interesting state. It has a lot of agriculture, which I thought was very interesting. There were several acres of flat cropland, along with several wooded areas. Even though there was a lot of crops, I did not see a single cow. There were several horses, however.
  • Harrington, Delaware is home of the Delaware State Fairgrounds, where the horse show was held. It is also home of Chick’s Saddlery, which is a famous discount tack store. There were few restaurants and hotels; however it did have a very large casino, which appeared to be the town’s hotspot.
  • We were only an hour away from the ocean. Since I had never been to the ocean before, we spent all of Friday morning at the Rehoboth Beach. Seeing the ocean for the first time was a feeling I will never forget! Even though the Atlantic was freezing cold, I still had to put my feet in the water to say I had been in an ocean. It was definitely worth it.
  • Saturday and Sunday were spent showing horses. I had made it out of the preliminary round on Saturday, which allowed me to show in the final round on Sunday. The final round did not go as I would have liked. I ended up placing 7th out of 16. (I needed 4th to make it to nationals.) Even though I would have liked to have made it to nationals, I still felt very accomplished for even placing. The competition was really tough!

As you can see, I had a very eventful Spring Break. Delaware ended up being quite an interesting little state. It was a very fun experience being able to participate in the 2012 IHSA Semi-Final competition. If it was not for this horse show, I would not have been able to visit a beach or visit Delaware itself. It is crazy to think that myAGventures have made it to this state; however I am so grateful that it did.

What did you do over Spring Break? Hopefully you have a story to tell, along with memories that will last a lifetime!!

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