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Why I Farm|A Planting Prayer for Farmers

Farmers are truly some of the most dedicated, hardworking, and passionate people I’ve ever met. As they go out to plant their crops this spring, their families will be praying for them to return home safe and sound, just like this sweet little girl.

This video is the latest in the Why I Farm series to honor farmers. I hope you’ll join me in sharing this video as a way to honor farmers everywhere and thank them for working tirelessly to provide for all of us.

 

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Farmland: Meet America’s Next Generation of Farmers

Did you know that fewer than 1 percent of our population of 317 million are farmers? At one time, it was common for everyone to grow their own food. But with the immense amount of growth of our country has experienced, most Americans are now five generations removed from the farm. This means less people growing our food, and less land to grow it on, but that doesn’t mean there is any less care that goes into it.

Being five generations removed from the farm, a huge disconnect has developed between the farmer and the consumer. So much so, in some cases, that people couldn’t even tell you where their food comes from aside from in the grocery store. When in reality, about 90 percent of the food grown in America comes from a family farm.

It really saddens and frustrates me to see this happen, which is one of the reasons why I became an ag communicator. One of my greatest passions is helping to educate people where their food comes from and how it’s grown. But with anti-ag groups presenting misinformation, it’s sometimes hard to give people a firsthand look into what it is REALLY like on the farms across America. That is why I am so excited to share with you the new documentary, Farmland!

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Released in theaters today, Farmland lets you step inside the world of farming and take an intimate look at the lives of farmers and ranchers in their ‘20s, all of whom are now responsible for running their farm and producing the food we all depend on.

As the trailer said, “When people see farmers, they think GMOs, organic, certified organic, all natural, treading an animal humanely” and all of the other buzz words that the media reports on, but what they don’t think about is that the farmer growing their food is a regular person just like you and me. And farming isn’t just a job to them, it’s their livelihood. Their lives depend on ensuring that their crops and/or livestock are healthy or nutritious. Not only because they feed them to their own family, but because hundreds and thousands of people are depending on them. To the outside eye, making sure that happens might look easy.  But from firsthand experience, I can tell you that farming is anything but.

“We put so much time and so much effort into making something happen, when it finally does happen, we’re pretty proud of it.” – Farmland.

Thanks to the Indiana Soybean Alliance, the Indiana Farm Bureau, and BASF, I had the opportunity to attend an advanced screening of the movie and I absolutely loved it! I’m not sure if it was because it was such a great representation of the different areas of farming and what all it takes to be grow the food we all depend on, or because of how proud it made me feel to be a part of agriculture, but I truly hope that everyone takes the time to watch it! (Oh and maybe bring a tissue just in case, as I may have gotten a little tear-y eyed at the end.)

Farmland and meeting Leighton Cooley

We got to meet one of the farmers from the movie, Leighton Cooley! A fourth generation poultry farmer, Leighton operates four farms in georgia with his father. In addition to chickens, he also has a cow-calf operation and grows hay. Leighton and his wife have two sons.

Farmland will be released in select theaters across the country starting TODAY! Please check www.FarmlandFilm.com for screening dates and locations. In Indiana, it will be showing at the Landmark Keystone Theater in Indianapolis.

If you don’t see a theater near you, their Facebook page said to send them a message with your email address and they’ll add you to the list to receive updates about the digital download and DVD release of the film.

Please do me, and yourself, a favor and go see this film! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Chelsea

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!

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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!

Free Family Event: Earth Day Indiana Festival

In honor of Earth Day, there are several activities happening around Indianapolis! Events like these are great ways to get the whole family involved and explore new ways to make our planet a better place.

One exciting event is the Earth Day Indiana Festival on Saturday April 27 in downtown Indy. This is a free outdoor festival with over 130 environmental and conservation exhibits, special activities for the kids, great music and wonderful food.

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Here is a photo of some of the exhibitors and visitors at last year’s Earth Day Indiana. You can see the whole slideshow on their website.

The festival is being held at the White River State Park and goes from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

With over 130 exhibits there’s going to be a lot to see so I wanted to point out a few neat booths that you won’t want to miss.

Indiana’s Family of Farmers – a proud sponsor of Earth Day Indiana – will have two booths at the event. Now you might be wandering, what are a group of farmers doing at Earth Day? Well, a famer’s livelihood depends on the land so they also have to be good environmentalists to make sure their fields last from year to year. Indiana’s farm families work hard to be good stewards of our land and they want to help promote taking care of the soil.

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The first Indiana Family of Farmers booth will be in Exhibit Tent D – booth 93 with their popular “Wheel of Ag” encouraging visitors to learn more about being good stewards of the land. A variety of farm families from across the state will also be at the booth to answer questions about their farms.

Land conservation is becoming more and more important and farmers are doing a lot of great things to preserve their soil. Management practices like no-till farming, using cover crops, and preserving waterways and wildlife buffers. Be sure to stop by the Indiana Family of Farmers booth to learn more!

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The second Family Of Farmers booth will be in the Children’s Tent – booth 122 and will help kids plant popcorn seeds in biodegradable CowPots to celebrate the “Year of Popcorn” at the 2013 Indiana State Fair.

Indiana is the number two state in popcorn production in the U.S. and Indiana Family of Farmers wants to help share all of the cool facts about popcorn.

All of these activities sound so fun! So be sure to mark Earth Day Indiana Festival on your calendar and get the kids ready for a day full of fun and learning!

And if you’re up for an extra challenge, as you visit the Indiana Family of Farmers booths, share what you learn about conservation and agriculture on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by tagging @FamilyofFarmers and using the hashtag #FarmsMatter.

Hope to see you at the festival on Saturday!

~Chelsea

IFOF Ambassador

National Ag Day – My #AgProud Story

Today is National Ag Day!

National Ag Day was started by Agriculture Council of America (ACA) which is an organization uniquely composed of leaders in the agriculture, food and fiber communities dedicated to increasing the public awareness of agriculture’s vital role in our society. The Agriculture Council of America and the National Ag Day program was started in 1973.

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It’s a day of recognition – for the farmers, ranchers, families, distributers, businesses, and people that make agriculture in our country so great!

It’s a day of support – for all of those involved in the agricultural industry and for all of the laws and policies that affect how their farms and businesses operate.

It’s a day of education – to promote the facts about agriculture and the process of how products get from the farm to your fork.

And it’s a day of pride – for all those involved in agriculture to share their pride for what they do, and help promote agriculture by sharing their story.

And today – I want to share my #AgProud story!

I originally wanted to write this post for a fellow blogger friend Ryan Goodman over at I Am Agriculture Proud a long time ago, but since I never published it, now seemed like the perfect time to share it with everyone!

The story of BoilermakerAg starts in a small town in southern Indiana on my grandpa’s dairy farm.

This was where it all started. Where my roots are grounded and the homestead where my grandparents raised 12 children, milked their herd of cattle, and farmed since ____

This was where it all started. Where my roots are grounded and the homestead where my grandparents raised 12 children, dairy cows, and crops since 1949.

My parents didn’t directly farm but my aunt and uncle, along with my grandpa until he retired, ran the farm and babysat me during my very early years. From a very young age, I learned about the meaning of hard work, caring for animals, and the basics of farming.

Circa 1991 - Me with my Uncle Albert over at the farm. I was always right by his side and loved helping him with the cows!

Circa 1991 – Me with my Uncle Albert over at the farm. I was always right by his side and loved helping him with the cows!

Some of my favorite farm memories are helping deliver calves in the field with my uncle, helping bottle feed and care for calves, helping milk cows, and the smell of the milk house.

One specific memory was when I was helping my uncle on the farm and all of a sudden he said we had to jump in the truck and go up to the hill where a cow had started going into labor. The mom was having difficulty and if we didn’t get there fast, we could lose the calf, or the mom. We got there and he ended up having to “pull the calf” which is when the calf isn’t delivering in the right direction and you have to gently pull the calf out to help the mom with the process. Luckily, we got there just in time and both mom and calf were just fine. It was an incredible moment to witness and be a part of, and it was when I realized that I had a passion for animals and agriculture.

When the calves were a little older, they were moved into the barn into stalls where we could monitor them and bottle feed them. This was a favorite memory because as a little kid, it was fun to care for them and funny because they were all slobbery and it was like a little game with the calf sometimes to try to pull the bottle away from you.

The other best memory I have from that time is helping milk the cows and the smell of the milk house. Any time I ever visit a dairy farm, that smell is always so comforting and takes me back to my childhood days on the farm.

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In 2008 Warrick County Fair my Grandpa Nord was inducted into the Warrick County Agriculture Hall of Fame. This was a very proud moment as I got to watch him receive this award during our 4-H livestock show.

I had agriculture running through both sides of my family too, but I didn’t learn about that until more recently in my life. My dad sells agricultural insurance and sold seed earlier in his career and my mom’s family was involved in agriculture as well.

My mom’s dad and grandpa actually grew seed corn in the 1950s and had a hog farm for a while until they opened a campground and hand-turned pottery store in the late 1960s.

My great

My great grandpa Charles started the seed corn business and my grandpa Jim helped him growing up. These are some original seed bags from their seed corn company. What a cool piece of Ag history!

My grandpa still tells me stories about those times and its always so interesting to hear about that time period and how agriculture has changed since then.

From there my ag story continues with me being in 4-H and FFA and showing pigs at the county fair. I learned a lot about other species of livestock and this is where I got exposed to Purdue University – where I would later attend the College of Ag.

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Here’s another throwback picture from me during my first year in 4-H. I ended up being a 10 year member and gained several of the valuable skills and qualities that help me in my career today.

Growing up in rural Indiana also gained me exposure to all areas of agriculture through my friends (if their families farmed) or through the extension service or 4-H.

But it wasn’t until going to college and starting my career where I learned just how fortunate I was to have grown up around agriculture and how it has helped me become the person I am proud to be today.

I ended up majoring in Agricultural Communication with a minor in Animal Science and now work in marketing at a seed corn company in central Indiana.

I get to interact with farmers all across the Midwest, hearing their stories and sharing them in our newsletter. I always enjoy these interactions because it can take me anywhere from the farmer’s kitchen table, farm shop, or even driving with them through the fields.

I always take these opportunities to really listen to their stories and make mental note of any advice they can give me or facts about agriculture that they have to share.

I had to leave my rural setting to live in the city, but my rural roots in agriculture haven’t, and never will, leave me.

I am Agriculture Proud because my families have been a part of agriculture for several generations, I have been taught the meaning of hard work, getting your hands dirty, and respecting the land and Mother Nature…because as a farmer, your livelihood depends on it.

I am Agriculture Proud to continue the involvement in agriculture within my family by sharing my stories and experiences in the ag industry.

I am Agriculture Proud to be associated with some of the nicest, most honest, passionate people on this Earth.

My agriculture story could go on for pages, but I hope this gives just a peak into why I am, and always will be AGRICULTURE PROUD!

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Where would you be without Agriculture?

What’s your Ag Proud story?

ReBlog: Farming in The Winter by OregonGreen

I’m sorry about not being able to blog much lately, but I still want to share good information with you! I found this blog from fellow ag blogger Marie of OregonGreen about Farming in the Winter. She makes a good point that most people don’t know about all that goes on in the winter on farms all across America. It’s a lot busier than you think. Check out her blog to learn more about farming in the winter!

– BoilermakerAg

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I stopped by a local restaurant the other night to pickup dinner. While I was waiting the manager asked “Are you farming this winter?” I responded, “Yes of course.” Manager, “What is there to do this time of year?”

It may be a slower time of year but there is ALWAYS something to do, contrary to popular belief.

Maintenance & Projects

Each tractor, swather, combine, semi-truck, sprayer and fertilizer buggy is gone through in detail. Changing oil, replacing belts, repairing temporary fixes from harvest and any other thing that may arise. We do this each winter to make sure our equipment is taken care of. Things break on the farm but poor maintenance shouldn’t be the reason.

This year we have a big project in the shop. Our three-wheeled fertilizer spreader/buggy is getting tracks! Why? Because we get stuck. Working on wet ground during spring fertilizing makes getting…

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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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