Raising a Farmer

Alot of work but always room for laughter

Farmers need to be part of the conversation on local foods

This column was originally published in Agweek July 21, 2019

 

I recently was invited to a meeting in town. A meeting that was focused on how to use local foods to better a downtown. How to use local foods to better a community. How to use local foods to create a better food experience. Questions were asked about how to use local foods to address food insecurities and food deserts.

As the meeting began, it was the normal run of the mill go around the room, introduce yourself, why you are there and what local foods mean to you. There were about 50 people in the room.

As attendees went around the room, I listened. I listened to the words they used to describe food, but I listened more to how they introduced themselves. Only about 3, including myself introduce themselves as a farmer or employee of a farm.

Only three. Three.

As I sat there wondering why is that? I looked around the room and paid attention to what organizations were represented. Who in my community are talking about food? I paid attention to what organizations are wanting to take action surrounding food. I kept asking myself, “Why are only 3 farmers here talking about food? Why are only three people introducing themselves first as a farmer? Why?”

The people who are growing, raising and producing the food we eat were not there to listen to what their OWN communities are needing and wanting. Why is that?

In agriculture, we talk about bridging the gap between urban and rural. But I wonder how well of a job are we doing that. As attendees went around the room, I listened very closely to the words they used to describe what local meant to them. Some of the words they used were; healthier, better for us, taste better, fresh, good. I was the only one who mentioned the farmer first.

As a farmer of course my main focus is farmers, but I also listened to the other side. I listened to how foods are viewed in my community. I listened to how urban residents thought foods can be used to better our communities. I believe farmers need to listen more to the other side instead of being defensive or having the mentality “I’m the farmer so you need to listen to me.”

We need to listen more but how are we listening when we are not at the table. We need to listen more to the conversations that are surrounding food in our own communities.

Food is a personal thing. Food is personal to me and my family not just because I am a farmer but because food brings us together. In my household we use the same words urban residents use when we talk about food; better for us, taste good, fresh, healthy.

We may think rural and urban are very different when it comes to talking about food, but we are very similar, we each know what we like and need. They only difference between the two is I am a farmer.

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Gardening stirs thoughts about the food web

This column was originally published in Agweek June 8, 2019

 

The kids and I spent a day planting the garden with two dear friends of ours.

Throughout the day, Vivian played “green house lady” going in and out of the green house telling us all about the plants. Everett found toads, worms and everything in between.

As we planted and worked together, our conversations went from where to plant, to how well the plants looked, to looking forward to fresh cucumbers out of the garden.

As we planted throughout the day, my thoughts went to food and how we are all connected around food. What does that look like? Thoughts to canning and freezing later in the summer. When will the strawberry patches be open? I thought of how spending time in a garden teaches my children about food. The simple act of placing a plant and seed in the ground will have a significant impact on their lives around food.

I thought about last summer when Everett and I were on a food panel at the Minnesota State Fair talking about food and farming. One of the questions that has crossed my mind so many times since then was when a lady asked me what I thought about Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. A simple question. I think CSA’s are important and play a vital role in our food. I have talked with my kids about in-season foods. My kids understand tomatoes do not grow year round in Minnesota.

CSA food boxes, I think, bring the conversation and the realizations of what foods are in season. They also make a person use foods that they might not normally purchase. They make people look up different recipes of how to prepare. They make people cook. CSA’s have a very important role.

I also added how a tomato out of my garden or at the local farmers market tastes so good compared to the one in the store. With that being said, when I want a tomato in January I need the grocery store to bring in tomatoes from where they are grown out of state. That is the reason why in Minnesota we are a high meat and potatoes cuisine because that is what we had all winter 50 years ago. The “privilege” of having every kind of food at our fingertips wasn’t always there.

As the sun began to set on the garden, I went to take a picture of one of the newly planted pepper plants. As I snapped the picture, a tractor and wagon drove past. A tractor on a mission to fill with haylage to take back to their farm for food for their dairy cows. Those dairy cows produce milk. Milk for all of us to enjoy. Milk to provide for their families.

In the distance we could hear the hum of the chopper and the rumble of the haylage wagons coming up the gravel road. The song of a dairy farmer echoed through the air as we placed some of our seeds of lettuce, radishes, peas and beans in the ground.

We are all connected by food.

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Pesole Soup~ I liked it but everyone else didn’t

Fall is a time for soup. Great soups and maybe some mediocre soups. Dumpling soups. Noodle soups. Bean soups. And everything in the pot soups. Here is my take on Pesole. Everett didn’t like the white things. Nate didn’t like the jalapeño in the soup. Vivian just didn’t like it.

But I did. I liked it. I had two bowls for supper.

Things you will start with:

1-onion Diced (or in my case I had tiny onions from the garden, so it was about 4 mini onions)

1-green pepper cored and diced (also I used about 3 small to make one big pepper)

1-small jalapeño seeds removed and diced (this is what I used one small jalapeño)

2- average sized carrots diced

 

In a large pot add 2 tablespoons of butter and about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add Vegetables and Seasoning

Seasoning:

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon Garlic

1 teaspoon of coriander

1 teaspoon of Tajn Classico (you could use chili powder more or less depending on you heat level of likeness)

Simmer till vegetables are tender

Add 2-3 quarts of chicken broth (I make broth with chicken bones when I make a chicken and freeze for a later date. This was a later date and I made soup. Store bought is just fine. Sometimes I will add water to my chicken broth depending on our brothy I would like my soup. If you add to much water just simmer longer.)

Add cooked chicken. (It could be from a can, left over from the night before, cooked just for this. Add how much you would like depending how much chicken to vegetable ratio you would like. When you make homemade chicken broth there is still a lot of meat still on the bones. This is what I used.)

Add can of Hominy-drain about half of the liquid out of can and add to pot)- (You can find this is the Mexican aisle at the grocery store it almost looks like popcorn in a can) This was the stuff Everett didn’t like.

Simmer till all the goodness in the pot melds their flavors together.

Serve topped with fresh cilantro and/or Queso Fresco and lime juice.

Enjoy!

Pesole

 

 

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Graduation dreams aren’t always what they seem to be

This column was originally published in Agweek May 25, 2019

 

The number question I am always asked is, “Did you grow up on a farm?” No, I did not grow up on a farm, but I did work on my uncle’s farm when I was in high school and my first year in college.

Growing up on a farm and working on a farm are two completely different things. I grew up on a lake. My main goal for summer during my formative years was to see how dark my tan could get. A farmer’s tan was considered a sin to me.

The second question I get asked often is, “Did you always want to be in agriculture?” The short answer is “No.”

When spring comes and I have a lot of tractor time during spring planting, my mind wanders to my own high school graduation and what my hopes, dreams and goals were at that time for me. I silently laugh to myself when high school grads are always asked, “So what are your plans for your future?”

Married to a dairy farmer, working alongside him every day with two kids in tow was not my 18-year-old self dream. Not even close. It is a life I didn’t dream of but is truly a gift.

When I graduated high school, my dream was to become an actress. Yes, that was my dream. I kept it to myself and joked out loud about it.

I loved everything and all of theater. At my high school graduation party, I needed to say something when I was asked “So what are your plans?” I replied I’m going to be a nurse.

At the time, it made sense. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer the winter of my senior year. It made sense socially for me to say I was going to be a nurse.

It was not socially acceptable to say I was going to become an actress. I could not have said that in rural central Minnesota.

Life happened. I didn’t finish college, but I always made sure my electives were in theater. I loved those classes. For final exams, I was the second one in the auditorium class because I loved it. I wanted to learn everything I could possibly want about it.

A couple weekends ago, I was discussing with one of my cousins how and where I am in life. I met Nate, fell in love and we began planning our life together and what that would look like. Moving was not an option and by that time my dream was just that a dream. I truly wanted to stay in central Minnesota.

My cousin and I discussed how in the late ’90s, there was no way I could have said to the world, “I want to become an actress!” Even in my family’s eyes I am a bit overdramatic, eccentric, talk too much and it would have been ridiculous to dream that.

Instead of looking at how my high school self dream that didn’t come true, I look at how my life has come full circle and continues to grow. I look at how I can enjoy both rural and urban. I am a high school speech judge, a high school costume director, I create content on Raising a Farmer, I create videos, I write. I am able to be creative in rural Minnesota. I am able to collaborate outside of agriculture.

All of that is possible because I listen to my inner self dream.

 

 

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To turn the Furnace on or not to the furnace on

The question every Minnesotan asks themselves in the fall, To turn the furnae on or not to turn the furnace on.  “When do we turn on the furnace?” Our house is always on the cooler side not because we have an older farm house but I like things cooler. Nathan does not like things cooler, one of the many “discussions” we have in our household. Its too cold. Its too hot. I would rather wear socks and a sweatshirt then turn the furnace on. Usually in the fall it becomes cool at night but warm enough during the day to warm the house up again. There is a saying in Minnesota about how you can just turn the oven on or start baking. Doing this will warm up the house enough to just take the chill out. Yes, “Just take the chill out.” is a real thing and everyone in Minnesota knows what that means. It does work. I have been baking a lot of squash and eggplant the last couple of days. As a child I remember in the fall my mom would turn the oven on and open the oven door a crack while we ate breakfast and waited for the bus. Yes, I did that this morning, I turned the oven on to take the chill out of the kitchen.

 

This last week it has been rainy, wet and cold and chilly. I keep thinking it will warm up again so we won’t have to turn the furnace on. I have this irrational theory of when we turn the furnace on we will have the furnace on until spring. We will never turn it off. I call this theory irrational because I have no problem turning the air conditioner on in the late spring months to take the stuffiness out of the air. Waiting out the cold I do the same thing with winter clothes and bibs. I refuse to put them on until I absolutely can’t take the cold anymore. Because again I know they will always be put on until spring once you put them on.

 

This evening I decided it was time to turn the furnace on. I had made soup all day, baked squash and eggplant in the oven. The chill never left the house. I even had wool socks on. I finally caved. It was time to turn the furnace on. When I mentioned to Nate that I think I was ready to turn the furnace on. He blankly looked at me. I again said if he could go and check on it to turn it on. He replied, “It’s on. I have been turning the furnace on when you are not here and turning it off when you are here.”

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Vivan helping bake Squash

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Agri/Culture~ Ep 2 Burnout

Heidi Jeub and I share how August had us in burnout mode or complete purpose meltdown.

We share how burnout can have many different meanings and how we each approach them differently but also very similar.

And we have agreed we need to self-preserve ourselves or just eat the burnt tomato sauce and we don’t want to sell vacuum cleaners.

Let us know what you think burnout is?

 

http://raisingafarmer.libsyn.com/agricultureburn-out-what-is-that-ep2

 

You can also find Heidi at

http://www.heidijeub.com

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Blank words: Stream of consciousness overcomes writer’s block

This column was originally published in Agweek September 21, 2019

I am struggling to put words on my blank computer screen. I have about three different documents open with random thoughts put down. I am starting and then deleting and starting again and then again. There are so many words in my heart. I am struggling to put them in sentences to make sense or have a direction.

I am looking through pictures on my phone and then on my computer to find a glimpse of inspiration for words to form. Pictures of Everett and Vivian, Hans, sunrises and sunsets. Pictures of Everett with his chickens. Pictures from our county fair. Pictures of art and agriculture together, a project my artist friend Heidi and I worked on together and will continue to work on for our county.

The picture of the kids and me with my birthday cake right before I blew out my candles making a wish. I pause at this picture. I smile as I look at my phone screen because Nate and the kids made the cake two weeks after my actual birthday. Everett and Vivian greeted me at the door after I came home from a religious ed meeting excited they had finally made a cake for me.

The background noise of me sitting at my kitchen counter now is Vivian singing songs as she plays with her Barbies and some of Everett’s Battle Bots. My mind goes from “Where did she learn that song, it is kinda catchy, to you need to write, to thoughts about the conversation Nate and I had earlier this morning and so many times before — What are we going to do, will this ever turn around, what are we going to do?” The consolation of knowing we are not alone in struggling with agriculture is no longer helpful.

I have stood up, closed my eyes, hoping to clear my head. I have reached for the ceiling with my hands. I bend over to touch my toes. At this moment Vivian sees me from the spot where she is playing on the dining room floor, jumps up and explains happily “Let’s do yoga!” She reaches for the ceiling like I am, and she asks, “Like this?”

I sit back down at my computer. My eyes wander around my kitchen from where I sit. I wonder if I should put away the water bath canner that has called the stove home since the end of July. I feel like I am done canning tomatoes, but I know there will be more to can. I have jars of tomato soup and spaghetti sauce on the counter because they do not fit in the pantry. I need to find a place for them off my counter.

Vivian is now sitting next to me. She sings, hums and talks to herself. She has wrapped a small toy in a wet wipe. She asks herself, “What is this?” as she unwraps her self-made package. She continues to say “I see something colorful…” She explains happily “It’s Flips!”

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Many layers to Everett’s first big investment

This column was originally published in Agweek May 11, 2019

When I was 10 years old, I was saving for a 10 speed bike. A pink and black Huffy bike with pink curved handle bars.

I can still remember the excitement I felt when I finally had enough to buy my bike. Why I thought that would be a good purchase on a gravel road I still do not understand. I can’t tell you how many times I almost wiped out on the loose gravel on the road because of the skinny tires.

I loved my bike. It was my very first big purchase on my own. I still remember how excited I was when it was time to go and get my brand new bike.

Everett will be turning 10 this May. For about three years, Everett has been asking for chickens. This past fall, Everett began saving for his “chicken money.” Every time we visit our neighbor who has chickens, he needs to check in on them. Everett has had his heart set on Bantams from the beginning of wanting chickens.

Bantams lay tiny eggs, so I told him he can’t get all Bantams because I don’t want to have to use about 12 eggs for one egg sandwich. Everett didn’t care about the size of the eggs, he just likes the way they look.

One Sunday afternoon as I made lunch, Nate, Everett and Vivian sat on the other side of the kitchen counter talking chickens. They compared the list available to what the chicks would look like full grown. They compared how many eggs they would lay to egg size and what color the eggs would be. In the end, it was decided to get about 15 chicks. Nathan and I thought that would be a good starting point for Everett. Everett had a list and he was ready. I was happy because there were big egg layers included on the list.

On our way to pick up the chicks Everett kept saying how nervous and excited he was. He tracked the route on my phone making sure I wouldn’t miss any turns. I am not really sure what happened or even how it happened but we have a total of 32 chicks in my dining room. He has a mixture of Leghorns, Asians, Bantams, Easter Eggers, Susex, Polish, Barred Rock and Cochins. Everett is in heaven.

Every morning before school, Everett checks on them, feeds them, waters them and reminds me to check in on them throughout the day.

Everett will sit next to the box watching them. Telling me each and every one of their personalities. He will place one on his forearms treating it like a hawk. Every afternoon, he watches them and tells me how they are changing and growing. Vivian will sit next to the box singing songs and reading stories to them.

At night, Everett makes one last look at them while Vivian tells them “Nighty night baby chicks.” I am patiently waiting for the weather to warm up a little bit more so I can evict the birds from my house. I hope that will happen by the end of the week.

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You don’t rush chickens. Or Everett.

This column was originally published in Agweek September 11, 2019

 

For about three years, Everett had been asking to get chickens.

He began saving for chickens over the past year. This spring, he got baby chicks in a variety of different breeds. He spends endless time in the chicken coop.

When I help carry water, he tells me about each and every one. I try my hardest to show I am interested in what he has to say. I look at the chickens and think, “when are you going to start laying eggs?”

I know he cares about them, so I care with him. When he lost two chicks at the beginning, he was devastated. Yes, we had a funeral for two chicks.

The morning of the fair to show the chickens, I was stressed out. I knew nothing about showing chickens. I had no idea how to help Everett prepare for the fair.

We went into it as a “learning year and do better next year” kind of attitude. We didn’t know the culture of the poultry barn or how any of it works. We were going into it blind.

The morning of the fair, while getting the birds in their cages at home, I lost my patience with Everett. I thought he was being putzy, taking his time. I kept looking at the time; I finally lost my cool and said, “Everett, whatever birds are in these cages in 10 minutes is what we are taking and nothing more!”

That moment would come back to haunt me.

Before the poultry show, Everett took his time with each and every chicken. He took in all the nuggets and tips from people around him. From older kids wanting him to do well, to parents giving him tips. I could see Everett getting nervous, but he would not let his nerves get the better of him before his class.

I told Everett, “You watch Christopher, and no one else, how to stand and face the judge.” Christopher received 5th place in poultry showmanship at the Minnesota State Fair last year.

When Everett’s class for showmanship came, Nathan and I watched Everett come into his own, and I thought of all the people who helped Everett along the way.

Our neighbor, who gave Everett the love of chickens. Every time we would go to her house, he would ask if he could go to the chicken coop. Another neighbor, who dropped off pop cans for Everett to turn in for chicken feed. A third neighbor, who gave Everett a chicken carrier he found at a second hand store.

The poultry barn manager at the Morrison County Fair, who was so patient and kind with Everett by answering all of his questions. The other poultry moms, who helped Everett by sharing encouraging words before his first time showing chickens. So many people helped Everett with this project.

When Everett was awarded Junior Showmanship Champion, all the emotions of the people who helped Everett along the way came flooding in.

When the judge explained why, the main reason was: “This young man takes his time, it isn’t a race. He makes sure they are set up just right before he takes them out of the cage.”

Remember how I was rushing Everett the morning of the fair? Yes, Everett reminded me of this, “see Mom, you don’t rush chickens.”

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There are untold stories behind every Easter family picture

This column was originally published in Agweek April 27, 2019

I wish family pictures could tell the stories leading up to the picture. Every Easter, I make a family proclamation as we head to the home of my aunt and uncle, “To remind everyone we will be taking a family picture as soon as we get there. We will take what we need into the house. No one takes their shoes off. We are taking a family picture.”

As soon as we get there, my husband and children are shocked when we enter my aunt and uncle’s house and I remind them, “Don’t take your shoes off! We ARE taking a picture! Go outside.” We head to the back yard and apparently this is play time. A time to see how close we can get to the pond in the backyard. They run around the fire pit back up to the house and are surprised when I say “Let’s take the picture!”

 

My husband stands stoic and replies “Let’s get this over with! Come on!” All I want is a picture with my family with them all smiling and joyful to take a picture. Yes, I can hear the birds chirping and the woodland animals coming out to drape us in satin ribbons placing a flower crown on my head. The children gentle place their hands out for song birds to land on their precious little fingers.

No instead I am repeating myself over and over again, “Put the stick DOWN!” “Stand still! Stop Moving! Get your fingers out of your face! Come on, smile NICE!” Every single time we take a family picture there is tension, irritation and frustration and more important things to do than take a family picture of us four.

No woodland creators singing to us.

Mostly with all our family pictures there is a story, and not a joyful one. The story of when I am sweetly and calmly telling my children to get over here but my teeth are clenched together. Or the time when Nathan and I are walking up the driveway holding hands, I am calmly reminding him and possibly holding his hand a little to tight, “I warned you we were taking family pictures today.”

My favorite picture of all time doesn’t tell you about 20 minutes before the photographer arrived at the farm I freaked out on my husband and two children.

The Easter picture this year doesn’t tell you while I was curling my hair I had told Vivian several times to get her Easter dress on while she was dancing running around the house with only her white tights and dress shoes on. It doesn’t tell you how Everett exclaimed “Easter is the best! Candy for breakfast!”

The Easter vigil picture doesn’t tell you how Vivian ran around the front yard tripping and falling three times. Each time I caught my breathe and each time she yelled, “I’m OK!” It doesn’t tell you I mumbled under my breathe, “I’m not worried about you but I am worried about your white tights and new dress.”

 

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