We're already two weeks past the 2016 Farm Progress Show. I've recovered from the glorious chaos. If you're in agriculture, you know of this show...it draws people from across the globe to learn about current happenings in agriculture.
I have fond memories of the Farm Progress Show, some from my childhood involving questionable haircuts, Teva sandals, and grossing out my dad with strange 1990's candy.
The show came up a lot in conversation this summer, and I realized something. Many of my female agriculture colleagues skip it. Why? Is it because there are other things that need to get done? (Always.) No interest in watching your guy drool over the latest in combine innovation? (Yeah... that happens too.) Or, heaven forbid, do you think there's nothing interesting for you?
I understand the stereotype, but you know what? The show has a lot to offer women! To be candid, I really enjoy seeing the latest and greatest in equipment advances, but there are plenty women in ag that have no interest in all that. Here are a few of my favorite things from the show that every woman will appreciate.
#1- The Food
There is tasty goodness hiding all over the Farm Progress Show. A few foods that shine:
Biscuits and Gravy for breakfast from the Ogden Bulldog Builders. It sells out, so go early!
For lunch/snack/dessert (I have no boundaries regarding what I eat or when at the Farm Progress Show), check out Boone County Cattleman's tent for steak sandwiches. Throw some locally made Cookie's BBQ sauce on there and you're fueled up. Until you find the ice cream stand, at least.
Another favorite is the sweet corn and watermelon available in the Monsanto tent. Perfect food for the end of summer weather!
#2- International Visitors
Maybe it was because I was at the Farm Progress Show every day this year, or maybe it was because I tend to ask strangers questions a lot? But I was wonderfully surprised by the conversations I had with people from around the world. A Japanese farmer bought an Iowa Agri-Women shirt to take home with her. I spoke with farmers from Mexico. A couple of women from the Czech Republic took pictures of a lot of the equipment; they are amazed by how big the equipment is here. I was so thankful for their willingness to search for the right English words when I asked them questions (it's true, I know no Czech) to hear about their experiences in the Midwest.
The Argentinian farmers were a blast. They were spending a full week in the country, seeing some of the big cities and also local farms here. They were perplexed by certain aspects of our culture (they do not understand this "handshake" thing that we do!), and I asked them questions about the crops they grow and the relationship between farmers and consumers in Argentina.
#3- Women in Ag initiatives
WOOO HOOOO!! Women are a big deal in ag! You know it; I know it. Women make up 30% of farm operators! There were some great organizations at the Farm Progress Show this year with the sole purpose of recognizing, encouraging, and empowering women in agriculture:
-Iowa State University Extension's Women in Ag program
April Hemmes was one of 8 women recognized at the Farm Progress Show for her exceptional work in agriculture by Iowa State Extension's Women in Ag Program. Photo credit: Lori Lorenzen
The FarmHer trailer was at the show all week (CUTE gear for sale!), and also the founder, Marji Guyler-Alaniz.
Women from American Agri-Women and its Iowa Agri-Women affiliate were at the show every day in the Caterpillar tent. (Yes that's me on the left, with Iowa Agri-Women members Lori Lorenzen, Taylor Olson, and President Annette Sweeney in blue.)
#4- The Big Names in Ag
Many faces that are well-known in agriculture circles were at the show this year. Do you follow advances in plant genetics? Dr. Robb Fraley (CTO of Monsanto, responsible for many advances in agricultural biotechnology) was there. Dr. Adrian Percy (Bayer's head of Research and Development) was there. Like the FarmHer movement? Marji Guyler-Alaniz, (the President and Founder of FarmHer) was there. Follow farm auctions? Machinery Pete was there. Keep up with consumer education about farming on social media? Farm Babe was there. Interested in politics and hot topics in ag? Iowa's Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey was there. Curious about initiatives around the state of Iowa? Iowa State's Vice President of Extension and Outreach, Cathann Kress, was there. The beauty of the show is that these people are taking in the surroundings just like you, so they are in an approachable environment and there is a good chance they can spend time talking to you. It's an incredible opportunity to connect!
Left to right: Michelle Miller (aka Farm Babe), Eric (my farmer), Phil Pitzenberger (Iowa farmer and agricultural drone operator), and Annette Sweeney...all chatting about who knows what!
#5- Issues in Ag
There were many great panels on current sustainability goals in agriculture, with discussions involving people that are setting great examples across Iowa and beyond. Soil quality, water quality (as well as water quantity) were a few of the issues covered.
Iowa Corn held panels daily on soil health and water quality issues. Pictures left to right: Moderator WHO-TV Agribusiness Report Host David Geiger, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, Iowa Corn Growers Association Director Dean Meyer, and Iowa Corn Animal Agriculture and the Environment Committee Member Annette Sweeney.
#6- Beekman's Ice Cream
I completely understand why there is a line to get Beekman's every day. It's amazing! Their homemade ice cream is made by five small motors that churn out five-gallon batches. Those suckers run all day long, too! I was there at 8:45 one morning and there was already a short line! (Yes, I did have a root beer float for breakfast.) Their ice cream is perfectly creamy and rich; it's pure goodness and I will be stalking their trailer from now on at local events. Beekman's lifer right here.
So, next time the Farm Progress Show comes around, go, my women friends! It will be well worth your time, and I'm confident you will leave feeling thankful that you went. The agriculture industry is realizing more than ever the important roles women play in farming, and I expect events like this will continue to increase their offerings for women.
Did I miss something awesome from this year's show? Tell me about it!
Of all the seasons in Iowa, late summer has a few perks on the others. Have you ever noticed how many creatures sing their songs in August? I love going out to our old windbreak north of the house. I head straight for the hammock; I like to close my eyes and smell the evergreens and just listen to it all. Today on our farm, I've heard a variety of animals singing their songs. The accidental free-range chickens (they would never let us not hear them, for even 3 minutes, I suspect), the dog snoring, a male Cardinal, a Blue Jay, crickets, a Ruby-Throated hummingbird that flew into the garage (no joke), frogs in the waterway up the road, and of course the locusts. The guys that always let us know fall is coming.
For so many of us in Iowa and in agriculture, we say "fall" but our minds think "harvest time". The busiest season of all.
I'm looking forward to harvest this year with a new kind of deliberateness.
There is an increasing clamor around our food these days. I know, this isn't a surprise. Most of the clamor stems from people and organizations profiting by spreading fear (read: lies) about farming. Groups that I won't mention here are all spinning tales about conventional agriculture... and they are making billions of dollars from it. It's sad, and we don't really like to talk about it personally, but it's true.
So what do we in agriculture do? Really, the answer is easy.
We tell the truth to those that will listen. That's our song to sing. Your story is quite possibly your greatest asset in 2016 America.
The truth always makes its way out, think of how many times you've seen it proven in your life. Those of us in conventional agriculture have this, the very best armor, on our side...the truth about how much we care and how safe our practices are, the fact that we make decisions for our farm after considering how it will impact our grandchildren's lives.
But listen closely for a moment. There is no way for this message to get out if you don't deliberately share it. This means you, and me, and your neighbor, and your cousin, and your buddies in your local Farm Bureau chapter and and your friends on social media that keep posting really cute selfies with their cows (I'm wildly jealous of you people and your cow selfies. I NEED A COW IN MY LIFE).
So keep talking to your non-farming friends, ask them what their concerns are about their food. Invite them over to your farm. Ask them what they think about the labels on foods.
Share your life on social media and explain what you're doing. Harvest is an opportune time for this. Yes you're busy, excessively busy, no matter what your role in farming is.... but a couple times a day, you have 5 minutes to jump on your phone or computer. Post a thought or a picture of the combine, or your dad helping your daughter into the tractor, or whatever strikes you. Share that picture of your hunk 'o farmer that he didn't expect you to take, because he was actually just taking a few minutes out of his day to help you get equipment images!
Above: Quick snapshot of Eric. Oh I do love this picture.
Below: Brooklyn is the sunflower queen of the farm right now. Headbands. Bouquets. Necklaces...I'm expecting more creations this afternoon from her!
You might not think this a big deal. You might think, "This is just what we do, why would anybody want to see my kids riding in the tractor with me?" I'll tell you who wants to see it; the guy that works 9-5 in an office building and wishes he could set his own schedule like you. The mom in Indiana that was just diagnosed with serious health problems and all of a sudden feels overwhelmed by the food choices in front of her. These people need your voice.
If you're already doing these things, take it a step further, and seek out opportunities to talk to critics through respectful dialogue. Focus on giving your thoughts a bigger place to rest through a website or a blog for your farm.
Our culture is changing. People don't trust the "experts", in the conventional sense of the word, like they did in the past. People today trust people they can relate to, and they will trust you because they can trust your reasons for farming. They can relate to your life struggles, they can relate to your triumphs, they can trust your heart. They will trust you because people long to be connected to the earth again, to breathe in fresh air in the wide-open spaces, and to live a slower-paced life...the life you are leading.
They want a part of what you have, so show them how much you are still worth trusting.
Now, go. Think about all of that peace and trust that you have to offer this noisy world, and give the world a quiet, safe place to land for a bit. The locusts are calling, harvest is coming, what's your game plan?
If you have a perfectly manicured, weed-free garden, just stop right now. Close the browser window...this isn't going to be your cup o' tea.
It's early May, and our garden adventures have begun for 2016. We planted a few things a couple of weeks ago, and the kids and I have enjoyed checking the garden for new, emerging tasties every day.
I've been weeding the garden, too. Pulling weeds out of wet, clumpy soil is so therapeutic in the spring, isn't it? We have months to go until weed fatigue sets in! Everything's exciting and fresh! The warm sunshine literally feels like the best thing on Earth.
Somehow, my garden is still a weedy mess. After weeding, and then weed burning, and tilling, and more weeding, it's like the Switzerland of Hamilton County for weeds. "Hey everybody! Head over to the Doolittle's garden, Krystal hasn't weeded in 38 days, and T-Ball hasn't even started yet!" Trying to keep up with a garden and feed young humans and do my stuff and actually get kids to events like swimming lessons and ball games during the summer.... it's a bit of a difficult thing. I did not know that was going to be a thing.
Here is what I'm working with today. Crab grass haven.
But the crab grass is going down. I have a new ally.
Look at this slick little weed burner! Technically it's a de-icer, but shhh. No one needs to know. (I'm just now noticing a cup is in this picture on the left. That's what one year old Bernese Mountain dogs will do for you....relocate your entire kitchen to the lawn, cup by cup.)
I'm still in the trial phase with this weed burner. I've been burning a variety of things like crab grass, blue grass, mulberry trees (yep it's that bad) and other stray weeds in the garden. I think it's going to have a long-term spot in my weed arsenal, because I can get nice and close to plants without worrying about chemical crop protectors drifting into areas I don't want.
It was not the wisest decision I've made to use it with rubber boots on, but that's another story.
I got pretty close to these little loves and didn't bother them a bit.
These are my lavender plants that survived the winter!
I didn't think they would, I didn't know they could, but here they are, my pride and joy of the garden. I started them from seed in February of 2015, so heck yes I'm giving them TLC.
Lots of TLC. Until the middle of June, when we're in full swing of summer fun and festivities. We will:
be tired of weeding.
crash the local library/park.
harass our dear, tolerant neighbors.
The garden will morph into a plant war zone. I'll need a machete just to get past the tomatoes, because every year I plant them too close, and every year I tell myself the year before was an exception; they will grow like normal, well-mannered tomatoes this year. HELLO, we live in Iowa and have incredible soil, how do I not learn? There we will be, bushwhacking through the thickets of the Congo basin to find the green peppers. The mini-watermelon plants, where did they go? Did the stray sunflowers that I never pulled crowd them out? Nobody knows for sure, but my money is on the neighborhood woodchuck.
I'm literally headed out to the garden right now to finish putting up the fence and weed with my child work force. (I kid, the wild ones will also be planting potatoes and onions with me and they love it. Yes, I know it's late to plant these things but THIS IS HOW I GARDEN PEOPLE. It makes little sense.)
Until next time,
Hello from the heartland! I'm Krystal... a farming wife and mom. I believe in living life and living it well. My Christmas tree is up year-round, usually half decorated. I'm a lover of logic and laughter, full-fat dairy products, photography, and starting off my days with God's hand-crafted Iowa sunrises.