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Archive for October, 2011

Today, a child was born somewhere (one article I saw cited the Philipines) as the 7 billionth member of the world’s population. The largest group of people I have ever been around at one time is when I have attended Husker football games in Memorial Stadium – my husband would say that there are some 86,000 people in a space built for about 75,000. No, he is not a fan, but yes, he loves me so he has gone with me a couple of times (oh, don’t worry, I’m sure I earned the blessing of his company by helping him with some not-so-fun task for me).

So, with that Memorial Stadium picture in mind – 86,000 people, I am trying to envision 7 billion…that is one crazy big number, and with current trends, we are well on our way to 9 billion in just a few more decades!

Someone with much more time on their hands that I, figured out that if you start with 1 grain of rice and work towards one cup of rice, it takes 5 cups of rice to make 1 kilogram of rice. 7 billion grains of rice is equal to 200,000 kilograms or 1,000,000 cups of rice.  Someone else decided to calculate what walking 7 billion steps would look like. I am energetic, but to take 7 billion steps, you would travel around the earth 133 times and it would take 152 years to get it done!

What does all of this mean for me and my farm? Constant demand for product for one thing. The more mouths there are to feed, the more food we need to keep everyone fed. So now the big question – how does that get accomplished? Statistics out there show that we need to double our current production by the year 2050 in order to meet global food demand. In addition, we have to be careful to utilize methods of production that are sustainable both environmentally and economically. I see job security for many, many scientists and analysts for a good number of years!

All of this seems like an almost insurmountable task – it is extremely overwhelming to think of every bit of information and risk and opportunity that lies ahead of us. But, think about the generations who lived before us. My Grandma Emma was born in 1915 and spent every day of her entire life living on a farm.

Grandma Emma

Just think about what she saw in her lifetime. She went from farming with horses to farming with tractors. She and grandpa went from picking ear corn to harvesting with a combine and storing in modern grain bins. They went from driving cattle to hauling cattle in trucks that would only hold 10 head to using semi trucks that will carry 45 head of mature cattle. If we embrace technology, be considerate of the environment, and can be half as innovative as the generations before us, we will accomplish growing enough food to take care of everyone. What we have to accomplish in the next 30 years is a very, very complex situation, but I am extremely encouraged by what agriculturists have done so far – for example, we have created and eliminated the use of some very dangerous pesticides by breeding plants that are resistant to harmful pests & now we no longer have to use those pesticides. We have bred hybrids of grain to increase production while decreasing inputs of fertilizer and water. (Refer back to my blog about GMO’s; I really appreciated a comment that included this link.)  We have bred animals to consume less food while still growing and staying healthy. All of this demonstrates the willingness and desire of farmers to continue to do better.

Our entire time on earth as humans is spent learning and improving(or at least it should be!), regardless or our occupation. We have done well in agriculture & food production, and now we need to do more and better. There is a lot of job security in working toward achieving food security. While there are still some farmers participating in #occupycombine this fall, I will head home from work and #occupycattlepen and then #occupykitchen.

Tomorrow check back for the start of a several-part series I am writing on “the dash”.

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As promised yesterday, I am sharing my all time FAVORITE bread dough recipe. A little history about this recipe; it is in a cookbook called Let’s Cook with Guide Rock, 3rd edition. The book was put together and sold by my brother’s senior class in 1993. The recipe itself was submitted by a woman who’s family earned their living as custom harvesters, travelling south to north each year cutting wheat for other farmers. My dad was on their harvest crew before he and mom got married. I love that a wheat harvester submitted a yeast bread recipe & I’m sure she didn’t even think about the correlation of the wheat and the flour at the time, she was just sharing favorite recipes.

I started using this recipe when I was in 4-H, many moons ago. It has to be good, because I got a purple ribbon at State Fair on my cinnamon rolls! This must be the most versatile dough ever – it is perfect for so many different things; in fact, I like using this dough so much that I have never owned a bread machine. My Kitchen Aide mixer and a little time are all I need to accomplish batches & loaves & dozens of eating pleasure!

So, here you go…

SPEEDIE ROLLS

2 c. warm water                    6 1/2 c. flour (I just use plain old all-purpose store brand flour)
2 pkgs. yeast                          2 eggs
1/3 c. sugar                            1/3 c. shortening
1 T. salt

Combine water, yeast, and sugar; stir until dissolved. Add salt and 2 cups flour. Beat 2 minutes. Add eggs and shortening. Beat one minute. Blend in rest of flour. Knead, then cover and let rise 20 minutes. Shape as desired. Let rise until double. Bake at 3750 for 15 minutes or until just golden. Makes 2 to 3 dozen rolls, depending on size.

Here are just some of the things I have done with this dough:  loaves of bread, clover rolls, cinnamon rolls, pepperoni buns, calzones, pizza rolls, and bread sticks. To make the pepperoni buns I did yesterday, I just wrapped a pinch of bread dough around a piece of pepperoni. Pretty simple! Of course, I brush plenty of oleo on them as soon as they come out of the oven. I made just over 100 pepperoni buns yesterday and I think there are about 5 left this morning. They must have tasted good to everyone!

Thanks to wheat farmers all across the country and around the world, there is always a bag of flour at the grocery store when I need it. I am so lucky to live where we have plenty of food and food choices!

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When my brothers and I were in high school, our mom created these AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS treats! Each one is about 3 small bites of total yumminess! Tonight is Parent’s Night & our last regular season football game. So, as all good mom’s do, the mom’s for our “boys of fall” are bringing treats for after the game. My treat for them had to be nothing other than what Mom used to bake for us…pepperoni rolls.

A fresh batch of pepperoni rolls on the cooling rack.

 

My Mom - A Super Great Cook!

Tomorrow, I will share my special bread dough recipe that I use to make them – what more perfect tailgate food could there be? I have to leave shortly for our night at the football field, but first, I want to share today’s thought for Food Day…

Do you remember as a kid always being told, “You are what you eat”?  They(our well-meaning elders) were telling us that we don’t want to turn into candy or a french fry or a pickle or a strawberry or whatever was tasting especially good at the time, meaning that too much is not good for us. Though, I have to say, there are a few people out there who could use a little more sugar!

I have been thinking about what I eat as I go through this week and how it affects my body, energy, thoughts, and total “food happiness”.  Here’s what I came up with…leaves wilt, beans explode, bananas rot, and muscle…well, muscle just looks good on everyone!  I really do love fruits and vegetables of all kinds, but I think these ideas are just a good reminder that we need some of all types of food, but in moderation. Eating meat is good for my body, but I certainly need to enjoy plenty of fruits, veggie, and grains, as well as some dairy (we LOVE cheese at our house) to make my whole body chemistry work.

Fortunately for me, there are farmers growing everything that we don’t have on our farm so I can purchase everything I need to keep our kitchen stocked at our local grocery store. We are pretty good at growing wheat (which I do NOT take time to grind into our own flour), soybeans (again, they all go to the elevator), and beef (nearly all go to the feed yard), but I totally rely on others around the world for fruits, veggies, peanut butter, spices, coffee, bacon,and on and on. Just like many other businesses in the world have become specialized, so have farmers. Farmers have figured out what works best in their area and for their family and they grow crops or livestock accordingly. What a basic idea – do what you can do well and swap talents with others!

Alright – gotta go; it’s getting close to game time. I’ll be back tomorrow with that recipe!

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How about that title? I’m not going to make fun of any body shapes of farmers, I promise! However, before I write on, I have to say… a young man who spends his summer pounding posts and throwing square bales can be pretty easy on the eyes, girls! And how about us farm ladies out there? We can be in pretty good shape ourselves, can’t we? (I try, but gosh, the older I get, the more difficult it is – darn!)

Well – down to business – As I go through each day this week, I just keep having “Food Day” pop into my head! I am really excited to keep sharing the good, good things all types of farmers do to supply food. Did you notice there? – I said ALL TYPES of farmers. I applaud anyone who takes initiative to do the most they can with what they are blessed to have. Isn’t it fascinating that in agriculture, one family can earn a living on 5 or 10 acres, while another families may need 5000 or 10,000 acres (fun fact: there are some places such as parts of Wyoming where one cow requires 65 acres per grazing season just to survive)? Niche markets are perfect for the entrepreneurial folks, while commercial farming is much more suitable for the person who does not enjoy greeting the public or being a sales person; they can just haul their grain to town and call in to have it sold. Fortunately, our world offers plenty of demand for ALL of the products from all types of farms.

From our house, you can see farmground for as far as your eyes can reach.

The field in the picture above is soybeans during the summer. In Nebraska, 97% of all soybeans grown are fed to livestock. Soybean meal is very important in the diets of pigs, chickens, turkeys, and dairy cows. Our family does love to have eggs and bacon for breakfast &  the milk jug gets drained often – especially if it’s chocolate milk!

This is the Kansas City skyline view from a hotel room. I can't imagine there is much room to grow vast amounts of food for a number of miles.

Thankfully, there are families like mine willing to live 40 miles from the nearest Walmart-or stoplight-and 90 miles from the closest Target (that makes me kind of sad some days). Our small town provides all of the essentials in the grocery store so I can whip up some pretty good meals. One of my favorite things about living in a very sparsely populated area: I can go running on our gravel road & the likelihood of anyone seeing me is slim – thank goodness!

Obviously, cities are a huge attraction for many; there are more jobs, fancier stores, more activities. I understand. I LOVE visiting the city and all of the fun stores and restaurants that are there for my indulgence. I am glad other people want to live there, because as much as I love visiting the city; way, way more, I love living in a very rural area. Good thing we aren’t all the same!

So, as you have read through this particular blog, I hope I have encouraged you to recognize that food is o.k. whether it comes from your neighbors back yard or a dairy across the state (we only have about 140 dairies left in Nebraska, so I’m glad they each have lots of cows!) or a feed yard in Texas. Someones family is working to do what is best for them and they very much recognize that the end product must be safe while they are working to keep it affordable and make sure there is plenty of it around.

As for me right now – I’m off to get some supper. If I have to be in the city, I might as well eat at some amazing place that I can’t experience close to home! Happy eating, all.

Hey, by the way, you should visit findourcommonground.com or “like” CommonGound” on FaceBook to read blogs from other women from all around the country. They are amazing ladies w/ awesome stories & information!

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If you have checked out my blog at all through the months that I have been writing, you know that Kaydee & Emmet are significant contributors to the content. Often, they do things or say things and I don’t tell them that I’m going to share it (that’s my secret way of getting back at them for the gray hairs they cause me!). Today, I decided to ask them for specific comments. My question was simple, “What do you think of when I say Food Day?” Responses were short and sweet! Kaydee: “lunch”;  Emmet: “Prime Rib”. That’s all – just keep them fed and they are happy kids.

Obviously, I should have narrowed that down a bit! They are hungry all the time and often that appetite is earned from either working outside or participating in school and athletic activities. Food Day priority #6 discusses fair conditions for farm workers (which Kaydee & Emmet would correctly say they qualify as); their wages, working conditions, health care, and so on. One of the mentions in the written explanation of the priority was in regard to children working on family farms. Our kids have been helping with age appropriate jobs on the farm since they were big enough to know what was going on. Other than some grumbling on days they would rather hang out with their friends, they are proud to know that we trust them with a task like filling mineral feeders, checking cows, feeding, spraying thistles, or whatever is on the job list for the day. They do get a paycheck for the work they do & they know they don’t get paid for hours put in, but for work accomplished (another source of mild grumbling at times, but such great teaching moments!).

Farm kids are totally capable of tasks on their families farms & more importantly, they are respectful of what their family is doing – producing food for a rapidly growing population. When Kaydee was a freshman, she earned State Runner Up in FFA Creed Speaking. She could make anyone who lives and loves agriculture get goosebumps when she recited those words that mean so much to so many.

Kaydee at National FFA Convention 2010

Yesterday, Emmet had to recite The FFA Creed for ag class & he nailed it! For those of you who haven’t heard The FFA Creed, here it is; I don’t know of any other document more true to what farmers think, do, and feel:

The FFA Creed

I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.

I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.

I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others. I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.

I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so–for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.

I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.

The creed was written by E. M. Tiffany, and adopted at the 3rd National Convention of the FFA. It was revised at the 38th Convention and the 63rd Convention.

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There is a BIG day coming up! Have you heard? It certainly isn’t as well-known as the annual celebration of Halloween or Thanksgiving, or Christmas. But a group of well-meaning folks have declared October 24 as Food Day. Unfortunately, the 6 goals they have laid out for their day portray modern farming and food production as something awful and MUCH, MUCH different from what I know on our own farm, my neighbors’  farms, and any farms or ranches, either large or sm all, that I have visited (which is many). In addition, they have failed to include the voices of families from all across America who work hard every day to provide a safe, affordable and abundant food supply. So, I have invited myself to join in their conversation 🙂 Please read on…

Today I want to touch upon one specific goal of the Food Day organizers. That goal is number 4 on their list & is stated as:   Protect the environment and farm animals by reforming factory farms.

The major point I want to make through all of this is that NOTHING we do feels anything factory-like. Below you will see definitions found at dictionary.com for both factory and farm:

fac·to·ry

ˈfækri, -tri/ [fak-tuh-ree, -tree] noun, plural -ries.

1.a building or group of buildings with facilities for the manufacture of goods.
2.any place producing a uniform product, without concern for individuality: They call it a law school, but it’s just a degree factory.
3.(formerly) an establishment for factors and merchants carrying on business in a foreign country.

farm

fɑrm/[fahrm]

noun

1.a tract of land, usually with a house, barn, silo, etc., on which crops and often livestock are raised for livelihood.
2.land or water devoted to the raising of animals, fish, plants, etc.: a pig farm; an oyster farm; a tree farm.
3.a similar, usually commercial, site where a product is manufactured or cultivated: a cheese farm; a honey farm.
4.the system, method, or act of collecting revenue by leasing a territory in districts.
5.a country or district leased for the collection of revenue.
 
Let’s consider the #1 and #2 definitions of a factory:
1. We do have a building or set of buildings (the house, the shop, and the barns) which help us to store needed equipment and shelter a few animals under special circumstances (i.e. calving in a storm). Our primary “buildings” would be fence, as well as the sky for a roof and the earth as a floor.
2. Much to the dismay of restaurant chefs, we beef producers have not mastered anything close to a 100% uniform end product. Each animal is a creation of its own, yielding slightly different sizes of cuts of beef. We have breeds that help to promote similar product (meat quality, size, etc.) but every animal ends up being slightly different; they are living, breathing, individual creatures & are handled as such. Pork, poultry, and dairy producers face similar challenges.
 
As for the definitions of farm:  Well, we fit #’s 1 and 2. Not much else to say – that’s what we have and what we do in this world.
 
To say that you can combine the two terms, factory and farm….it just doesn’t work. If eggs came from a factory, we wouldn’t have different colors and sizes of them. If milk came from a factory, we wouldn’t have to bring the cows to the milking parlor 2 or 3 times per day. If meat came from a factory, every steak would be exactly the same size, tenderness, and juiciness. It just isn’t so. Besides the products, there are families who depend entirely on their farm for their livelihood. Some years are good and some years aren’t & you adjust and do the best you can. During those times of adjustment there are all kinds of emotions (very much un-factory-like) that come into play. Farm families, regardless of the size of their farm, are a special kind of people.
 
I am a member of the Nebraska Beef Council (NBC) board of directors. Recently, the NBC hosted some significant food influencers from across the U.S. These people reach 10’s of 1000’s of people via their restaurants,  t.v.,  as well as social media. None of them had extensive knowledge of a modern farm before, but all of them got to experience a day on a ranch and a day helping work at a feed yard. Each of those folks left with an entirely different perspective than they arrived with. It was really exciting for me to hear about how thoughts changed for them. Here are comments from a couple of the participants:
 
The experience was incredible and exceeded all my expectations. I had very, very little idea about how cattle are raised or all that goes into keeping them healthy and unstressed. Farmers and ranchers work very hard to make sure everything is safe and clean — not just for their animals and land but at the end of the day, for consumers, too.                                  — Bren Herrera, blogger, Flanboyanteats.com
 
I learned that farming and ranching is much more sustainable than people think. Manure is used to help fertilize corn, which becomes feedstock and the cycle goes on. Nothing is wasted. Our hosts were extremely knowledgeable about the environment.
 —   Jeffrey McClure, chef, Sodexo
 
Take a look at this blog from one of the other visitors: http://www.threedifferentdirections.com/blog/meanwhile-back-on-the-ranch.html
 
I know this post has really focussed on beef because that is what I know best. Many people have questions or concerns about pork, poultry, and dairy. I can tell you, just because a barn or housing area is large, it is NOT a factory. Again, we are dealing with living, breathing animals; we are not dealing with cold, steel machines that can be repaired when broken. Farmers do not want broken animals.  Regardless, if we have 10 or 10,000 animals, if we don’t treat them well, they won’t treat us well. It takes a special kind of person to own or work on a farm – there aren’t many of us left here in the U.S. We are a few proud folks doing our best to continually improve farming methods and products for a rapidly growing population.

Before you just jump on board with the Food Day goals, take time to visit a real farm, visit with the family that lives and works there, and form your own set of food priorities.

Happy eating!

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A thunderstorm on the horizon

 

Thanks to my parents, I have some nice pumpkins for a fall decoration!

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