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Farmers Share Their Stories With #WhyIFarm

Happy Friday Everyone!

Ok, so…I have to admit. Lately I have been a failure at blogging.  With moving into a new house, traveling with work, and planning this whole wedding thing, blogging had to take a back burner for a little bit. I feel like I’ve said this before, but a girl needs some rest every now and then. So thank you for sticking with me!

IMG_0368   ring

Things still are busy, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to share this with you!   A couple weeks ago I posted about the Why I Farm Movement to honor farmers. If you haven’t heard of it yet, be sure to read my last post and check it out!

But my reason for writing today is because they just posted their new video! Why I Farm has been highlighting Midwest farmers and sharing their stories about why they love to farm. As an advocate for agriculture, (Agvocate as we like to say) I absolutely LOVE this! I have seen so many people take for granted how cheap and accessible our food system is that they don’t always appreciate how much hard work goes into producing it.

The videos from Why I Farm do an incredible job of showing just how much passion and emotion these farmers have for what they do. Get your Kleenex ready.. because if your from a farm family, or grew up around farming… some of these may bring tears to your eyes (At least they did for me).

The new video highlights a young farmer from Warrensburg, IL named Nathan Wentworth. He shares his family’s farming history and what it means to him to be able to carry on that tradition. But this video is so much more than that.

My favorite part is that he also shares that there’s more to farming than just driving a tractor. It’s knowing about how to care for the crops, the land and … wait, why am I explaining this? I’ll just let Nathan tell you for himself…

“To put it simply, I love farming. I love figuring out problems. I love watching life grow, transform and develop. I love being a biologist, a botanist, a chemist, an engineer, a marketer and all the professions involved with farming. I love all of it, but nothing can hold a candle to farming with my family. To carry on the traditions, and values that the generations before me developed…and then pass those on to the generation’s to come. That is something God has blessed our family with and it is something we will not take for granted. That’s why I farm.” – Nathan Wentworth

What did you think? Powerful stuff, right? I may be the only one, but it sure makes me proud to be from a farming background and to be working in agriculture! Thank you Nathan, and all farmers, for all that you do!  

Also, with harvest season in full swing and farmers out on the roads, please use this video as a remember to respect them on the roads and slow down! I know we’re all busy (myself included) but this graphic from Kelly at the Old Blue Silo is perfect to put it in to perspective.

Courtesy of Kelly at http://www.oldbluesilo.com/.

Courtesy of Kelly at http://www.oldbluesilo.com/.

Well said, Kelly. Well said!

So now that it’s the weekend, join me in unplugging from the digital world for a while and have some relaxation time! But before I go I wanted to share that I have joined the movement to honor farmers, and I hope that’ll you’ll join me too! Visit whyifarm.com to learn how you can help honor farmers.

nathan

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Ag Facts Are Lost In Google! Help Bring Them Back!

I haven’t written an Ag blog in a while but two separate things have come out in the news recently that I just can’t avoid addressing. I see several things every day about agriculture, especially things on social media. And honestly- about 85% of it is incorrect. I’ve figured out why it happens and two specific examples come to mind.

An article came out saying that Dunkin Donuts has decided to start using cage free eggs and gestation crate free pork. Ok, that’s their decision. But the part that frustrates me as an advocate for the agricultural industry is that consumers are so misinformed and the people who publish these stories go to sources that aren’t fact based.

For instance – the source for the Dunkin donuts article was none other than the director of corporate policy of HSUS (If you aren’t familiar with them, HSUS stands for The Humane Society of the United States – an extremist animal rights organization… Not to be confused with your local humane society.) They have an agenda and hire employees to push those agendas and publicize it everywhere.

The Associated Press wrote this article and I’m pretty disappointed in them as a fellow journalist for having such a slanted story. They didn’t even try to talk to any university ag scientists or farmers about the topic, they just put the “tug at the heartstrings” opinion in the spotlight.

This is where the agriculture industry (me included – that’s why I’m writing this post) needs to work harder to get the scientific information out to the public so that when someone (HSUS) explains gestation cratesas breeding crates where the pigs can’t move for four years (not true), the public will be educated with the facts and knowledge to know the difference.

NOTE: Gestation crates are individual housing for sows during the time of pregnancy which are used so that individual sows can be fed relative to their individual needs and to reduce the impact of aggressive behaviors seen in group housing. One important fact that is left out is that the pigs are moved to farrowing crates once they give birth to better care for their litter and reduce the risk of the moms accidentally stepping on the piglets. They don’t stay in gestation crates their entire lives.

Piglets in farrowing crates have more room and are protected from various elements.

Second example: Another article was published about a man who was eaten by his hogs. Right away people are freaked out, but there are questions we need to ask: what breed of hog were they? Were they castrated or boars? Did the man fall and start bleeding? People don’t think to ask these questions but they’re important. These are some of the reasons we castrate pigs and dock their tails. They live in social groups which creates dominance (just like in our society) so the more dominant they are, the more aggressive they become. The reason we dock their tails is because if they get in a fight, the aggressive pig will bite the other pig’s tail off and cause injury.

The news makes this out to be that all pigs are dangerous and that “no one is safe around them” kind of story. Again, not true. The questions above need to be answered and there have to be other explanations than his pigs just “attacked” him. They don’t do that for fun.

Farmers and veterinarians know how to properly care for their animals and practices put in place such as tail docking, castrating, and teeth clipping are there to protect the pigs and the caretakers. (Think about this as declawing your cat so they can’t scratch you or the fellow dog.)

But the main point of my blog today is to highlight the fact that the information put out by these groups is so easy to find that no wonder people believe the extremists. Just the other day, I Googled “average life expectancy of a sow” and not one of the top ten results was from a trusted (educational) source! No universities, no farmers, no vets. Just animal activist groups, pro-vegetarianism websites, people who don’t provide the right information. How can we expect the public to find out the truth if it’s hidden in the Bermuda triangle of Google?

One thing I think those types of organizations get right (when it comes to publicizing their information) is their Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is the process of using good key words and search words when publishing your information. Important parts of this include good, descriptive titles, tags (especially for blogs) and getting it out on social media sites to spread awareness and raise viewing numbers for that information. To learn more about how to improve your SEO, click here.

SO HERE’S MY CALL TO ACTION:

Consumer Challenge:  go out at learn something new today about some part of agriculture! Just make sure it’s from a reliable source like universities, or farmers!

Agvocate  Bloggers – keep posting your factual, educational information and work on your blog’s SEO to help bring it to the front of the search page.

Universities and Veterinarians- when you publish educational agricultural information put it on Google and make it easily accessible to the public! You can’t admit that the first place you go to look something up isn’t google? Help others learn the things we’ve been trying to tell them!

Also, share it on social media! This is the fastest way to get your information to the public!

Have any of you taken steps to increase your SEO? I’d love for you to share them!

Here are some links:

https://ag.purdue.edu/Pages/default.aspx

http://extension.osu.edu/

http://casnr.unl.edu/

http://www2.ca.uky.edu/

Photo courtesy of Purdue University.

Fellow Agvocate Ryan Goodman Featured on CNN’s Food Blog Eatocracy!!

American cattleman and Agvocate Ryan Goodman is making noise on CNN’s food blog! He writes a great blog about growing up in agriculture, learning about ag in different parts of the country, and how we all need to work together to create a better understanding between the ag industry and consumers.
Great job, Ryan! I Am Agriculture Proud!

Eatocracy

Ryan Goodman is a generational rancher from Arkansas with a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University in Animal Science, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, studying beef cattle management. He is one of many farmers utilizing social media to bridge the gap between farmers and urban customers. Follow his story daily at www.AgricultureProud.com or follow on Twitter (@AR_ranchhand) and Facebook.

How does our beef travel from pasture to plate? Can you describe this process from the time a calf is born to the moment your knife slices a steak?

In this country, we are blessed with a great group of farmers who care for their animals and a food safety system to ensure things work properly. There are farmers who do things various ways for good reasons for both their customers and their farms. A good balance of science…

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Better Late Than Never – Domino’s Ag Pizza Party

So I was a little late on this but I finally had my Domino’s Ag Pizza Party the other night!

In case you didn’t hear about this, the HSUS recently proposed that Domino’s stop using meat from pigs that are raised in gestation crates as some of the other restaurants have done, but Domino’s rejected their proposal because they want to rely on animal experts to determine the best way to raise an animal, not extremist animal rights groups.

According to Domino’s, “The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians have published statements indicating there are advantages and disadvantages to both cage-free and caged pork production methods. We rely on animal experts to determine what is the best way to raise an animal that’s being used for food.”

“It’s important to show our consumers that we care about animal welfare,” said Mike Davelaar, salesman for Quality Liquid Feeds, Brandon, SD. “Domino’s is taking the time to check with industry experts to make sure that what they are being asked to do is in the best interests of the livestock that we care for. I hope this campaign shows other companies and consumers that doing the right thing is just that – doing the right thing. They deserve to be recognized for making actual animal welfare the priority.”

So in order to support Domino’s and show our appreciation to them for standing up to HSUS and trusting the agricultural industry, the industry got together to throw them an Ag Pizza Party!

On the weekend of May 19th members of the agricultural industry and community bought Domino’s pizzas and brought them a thank you note to show their appreciation.

The event was on Facebook and they had over 2,000 people attend! They also posted this note on the event wall to explain the purpose of the event.

Note: This event is to advocate to allow experts in animal behavior and care to do proper research to ensure any changes made to the way animals are cared for are to help the animals’ well-being and not decrease the level of care they receive. We thank Domino’s for standing up for these experts. Any posts that are off topic, attacking individuals and companies or show gruesome visuals of animal abuse (crush videos) will be deleted and the user posting will be banned. If you would like to post or discuss other information please feel free to at our page The Truth About Agriculture.

So on Tuesday I enjoyed MY Domino’s Ag Pizza Party to support this cause as well.

And it was delicious! 🙂

Did any of you have or attend an Ag Pizza Party for Domino’s? I’d love to hear about them!

Happy Friday! Thanks to everyone who supports farmers and ranchers!!

Guest Blog: My experience with packing plant employees

Happy Friday Everyone!

Today I wanted to share a blog from a fellow agvocate Travis Arp. He’s a Ph.D. student at Colorado State University studying in Meat Science. He grew up on a family farm in south-central Wisconsin where they raised purebred Gelbvieh and commercial cattle. His passion is cattle, but has developed a love for meat science and all things production agriculture related. His hope is to share his experiences and knowledge with industry friends and consumers alike.

The other day he had a great article where he shared his experience visiting a meat packing plant. With all of the misconceptions and negative stereotypes this industry has been getting lately, I thought it would be good to share his first-hand experience with all of you and I encourage you to share it with your friends and neighbors.

For the next three weeks, my life is going to be spent in either a Holiday Inn Express or a beef packing plant…and likely in the plant more than the hotel.  Throughout my experiences in the meat industry, I have been fortunate to have been able to conduct research in many industrial-type beef packing plants that range from 500-600 to upwards of 5000 head of cattle harvested per day.  I’ve also toured several packing plants for poultry, pork and lamb.  Its a fascinating experience and even last night while collecting kill-floor data for my project, a fellow graduate student remarked to me that no matter how many times she has been in a plant, watching the wheels in motion is still something incredible to witness. (Aside: its often commented by anti-industrialized ag people that they want to tour plants, but don’t have access.  The reality is, is that these are HIGHLY secure facilities.  When I enter a plant, I have to have a contact in the plant to get me in, go through a very rigorous security procedure, and then have those people escort me in.  You can’t expect to have walk-in tours and waltz through the door.  These companies have to be concerned about food safety and security issues; like folks from HSUS taking “undercover videos,” publishing them to the internet and taking practices out of context.   Packing plants do not have an open door policy…not because they don’t want people to see what happens, but in the interest of company, and more importantly, food security)

One of the defacto arguments against large packing plants is that plant workers have terrible working conditions, and that these are oppressed employees that generally do not enjoy the work they have to do.  But again, this is from people that have little to no in-plant experience.  Through my many hours spent in a multitude of packing plants, I can honestly say that this is not the case.

Working in a packing plant is similar to any assembly line-type job.  These workers work an 8 hour shift, they are members of a union, and they have multiple 15 minutes breaks during each shift and a 30 minute lunch.  Each employee has an assigned job which they do all shift.  Workers stand on the production line, and cut the same piece of meat or remove the same part of the carcass for an entire shift.  Most of these jobs, through improvements in technology, have been made easier for workers over the years…whether that be improvements from hand-held knives to pneumatic air knives, or from cutting the hide off the carcass to automated hide pullers in which they simply have to push a button.  When an individual is hired at a plant, they are often given the least-skilled positions, but have opportunity for advancements to more-skilled positions on the line.  This could be starting as a carcass trimmer and eventually moving up to the fabrication line where they are required to be skilled meat cutters (and are payed better).  Furthermore, all of the training for these positions are offered by the company to improve their skill set and offer them advancements in position and pay.

For years, carpel tunnel syndrome was an issue for meat cutters due to the strenuous, fast paced working conditions.  This has been combated by packing plants by increasing the number of cutters to reduce stress on workers, educating on ways to prevent carpel tunnel, and designing more ergonomic designed tools.  Also, one of the most interesting things I’ve witnessed at a plant is lines of workers stopping in the middle of production for them to do specialized stretches to keep this from being an issue.  I’ve even heard of plants playing “The Chicken Dance” over a PA system at a plant to loosen up workers and let them stretch!

Meat cutting is an inherently dangerous job.  You are working with carcasses that weigh upwards of 700 pounds, and are using razor sharp knives to dis-assemble carcass components.  However, every plant has an EXTREMELY strenuous safety protocol that minimizes worker accidents.  Cutters have to wear cut-proof equipment on basically ever exposed area of the body.  Workers that handle live cattle have to wear Kevlar vests and helmets with a face mask.  To even walk into a cooler, you have to wear steel-toe boots, ear plugs, a hard hat, and safety glasses.  Safety is the number one priority for anyone that enters the plant.

To conduct research in a packing plant, it requires me to have a considerable amount of interaction with line employees, not just supervisors and corporate representatives.  It’s required to collect product off the line or get research carcasses segregated for data collection.  I have made many friends in the plant, and even learned the secret handshakes shared between workers on a fabrication lines.  They know me by name, and likewise, and enjoy having people come into the plant and see what they are doing.  They take as much pride in the product being produced as anyone in the company, and it’s a requirement for them to keep their job and put themselves in a position to advance.  It is not a job that requires a college or even a high school degree, but offers an opportunity for these workers to make a good wage and have a steady paying job.  I’m sure many of these people don’t grow up thinking “I want to work on the chuck fabrication line at a packing plant,” but production of any good requires a labor force willing to work, and do so in a quality manner.  The same goes for any industry that produces their product in a similar manner to packing plants.

As industrialization has improved the efficiency of nearly every industry in the United States, along with it comes the need for a labor force which is willing to work in those settings.  The current way we harvest livestock in large quantities requires an assembly line work structure that differs very little from industries like the auto industry, electronics, or even that which is required for produce and processed foods.  The process of killing an animal and the associated dis-assembly of a carcass into subprimal cuts is considered a gruesome process by consumers.  However, whether you are killing five steers at a local locker or 5000 at a large packing plant, the harvesting process is the same.  Therefore, I think people assume worker conditions are poor just because we are killing animals and not assembling a car.

Before we jump to conclusions on what these people do or how they are treated, talk to someone who has experience working with these people and they will tell you about the environment they work in.  These companies place worker safety before everything else during production, and compensate these workers fairly for the hard work the conduct every day.  And believe it or not, most of these people genuinely enjoy doing the work they do.  The job isn’t pretty, but is necessary to put safe, wholesome meat on your plate.  And that is something everyone, from the top executives to the workers on the line, are concerned with.

Thanks for sharing this Travis! It was a great perspective and gives a great inside look in to the industry and some of the current things they are doing to give their employees the best environment possible. To read more from Travis, follow his blog : The Meat of The Issues

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