Posts Tagged With: children

Farmer Perspectives: Food for Thought

By Katie Stockstill-Sawyer, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Katie Sawyer farms with her husband and two boys near McPherson, KS

Katie married into the farming world in 2010. She is no longer brand new to the farm but still finds herself asking questions about agriculture as she and her husband raise two sons on a farm and ranch in central Kansas. Katie is also the district director for her Kansas congressman.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I did what most modern moms-to-be do — I went online. As it turns out, many expecting moms are fearful about their food.

I didn’t feel the same way, but I may have an unfair advantage. I was able to simply step away from my computer and ask my husband, Derek. He’s a fourth-generation farmer and has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture to boot. Derek is my first and primary resource. I’ve seen him make decisions based on scientific research to ensure our practices are both safe and effective. He can answer questions as both a businessman, farmer and father.

I never hesitate to ask him what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Today, I’m going to share some of my questions and our farm’s answers with you.

 

  1. Why do we use GMOs?

This was a practice put into place by my husband’s father and grandfather. We continue to plant GMO corn and soybean seeds. Today’s GMO seeds help make our plants more drought tolerant, resistant to extreme weather and less susceptible to devastating pests.

This technology helps our business — yes, farms are businesses too — produce more crops with less water, herbicides and pesticides. It helps us carefully manage the resources we use to produce a consistent crop from year-to-year, and positively contribute to a stable global food supply.

That’s doesn’t mean we take the safety of GMOs for granted. We’ve read the research and firmly believe they are safe for humans. In fact, GMO crops surround our family’s home and our children regularly play in the fields.

 

  1. Why do we use antibiotics in our cattle?

Raising cattle is an emotional part of our farm. We watch a mother cow’s movements, appetite and interaction with other animals in the herd. We can see when she isn’t feeling well. It’s our responsibility to alleviate that cow’s suffering and treat her illness. It’s an animal welfare decision for us. While our cattle are under our watchful eye, they are going to be cared for.

We don’t give antibiotics without reason and track their use diligently. We work closely with our veterinarians to oversee the health of our herd and administer antibiotics, and other treatments, when necessary. Animals treated with antibiotics are never sent off our farm when they are still being treated. We don’t sell sick cattle.

 

  1. Is farming a lifestyle or career?

It’s both, and a whole lot more. Farming and ranching can be fun and inspiring. It’s our job, but it’s also a heritage. In fact, we hope that one (or both) of our sons will want to continue our work. That’s the main reason I believe farmers, like us, are inherently responsible stewards of our resources. Every decision is made with the idea that our farm will see a fifth or sixth generation one day.

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Farmer Perspectives: Ladies Who Grow Your Lunch

By Frances Graves, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Frances and Kris Graves and their daughters represent the fifth and sixth generations on their Bartlett, KS, ranch.

Frances and her husband, Kris, raise beef cattle — and their three daughters — in Bartlett, Kansas.

I never dreamed I’d be a “farm wife.” Growing up in the city, I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but I wasn’t interested. My women’s studies courses earned at a liberal arts university ended up preparing me to raise three little women on a cattle ranch.

It was a trial-by-fire education when my husband and I made the decision to join his family’s farm in southeastern Kansas. At our farm, the words “husband” and “wife” mean partner. As a partner in a growing business, you simply do whatever needs to be done.

Now, I see that’s how other farm families operate as well. We all contribute to the farm in our own way. Our children’s grandparents also are our business partners. My father-in-law is an amazing engineer, and can fix most anything on the farm. It’s a fantastic skill that keeps us reusing equipment better than many recycling centers. My mother-in-law is an excellent bookkeeper and helps make sure our business is sustainable.

We chip in to get the job done for our farm, for our business and for each other.

 

Seasonal solo parenting

My main job right now is to raise our 8-year-old, 6-year-old and 3-year-old girls. My city friends often talk about “solo parenting” for a night or two while their spouse is away on business. In farm life, we can go seasons of late nights and early mornings. For young moms, it can leave you feeling isolated.

Now that our kids are a little older, the best solution is for our girls to ride along with their dad in the feed truck or tractor. We leave our summer mealtimes and bedtimes flexible so the whole troop can bring a meal to the field. These little doses of family time help us make it through the wide swaths of time alone.

 

Continuing education

Growing up in the city, I’ve had to start from the basics to learn about our farm, and I’ve also made a point to learn about the way other people farm as well.

I’ve attended our state’s Women Managing the Farm Conference and listened to women who raised children, created their own side businesses and worked as farmers alongside (or without) their spouse — and sometimes all of the above! I’ve become more active in our Farm Bureau organization and recently completed the Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership (KARL) program dedicated to growing rural leaders.

In these groups, I’ve met women from 20 to 70 years old who are immediately unified by the common goal of keeping our wits about us while we carry on the business and contribute to a safe and plentiful food supply.

Living in rural America, I can tell you that we do not expect less of women in farming: We expect more. There is a long history and tradition of sisterhood in agriculture. I’m proud have my girls be a part of it.

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Kids’ Reading List: Levi’s Lost Calf

Saddle up and hit the trail!

Levi's Lost Calf on Amazon

Young readers will find little Levi as curious and eager to prove his independence as they are while searching the ranch with him to find Little Red, Levi’s Lost Calf.

A fifth generation ranch, author Amanda Radke, tells the story of Levi who, after the morning head count, realizes one calf, Little Red, is missing from the herd.  Readers are introduced to a variety of barnyard animals as Levi searches the ranch for the calf.  Radke uses her past and present, first-hand ranching experience to accurately tell this engaging story.  Young readers will not only enjoy the tale, but also the beautiful illustrations by Michelle Weber.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list:

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Kids’ Reading List: The Super Soybean

From feed to food to fuel and more, soybeans are used for a variety of things that we come into contact with each day.  In addition to its edibility, the super plant is used to make plastics, medicines, inks, fuels, soaps and many other products.

The Super Soybean The Super Soybean, by Raymond Bial, celebrates the humble soybean as a major U.S. export and renewable natural resources.  Find out how big of an impact soybeans have on your family’s daily life through cultivation descriptions and references to the many uses of the plant.

This is more than the average picture book for kids ages 8-11 years.  They will enjoy this book filled with both colorful photos and informational text about soybean growth, harvest and consumption.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list:

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Kids’ Reading List: Little Joe

Fairs are some of my favorite events during the summertime.  Blue ribbons, funnel cakes, rodeos and show animals looking their very best.  It takes hard work, perseverance and a love for animals from the whole family to get the cattle, pigs, goats and more ready for the show.

Little Joe by Sandra Neil WallaceThe eighth book in our Kids’ Reading List series, Little Joe by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Mark Elliott, describes how Eli raises his bull calf, Little Joe, for the next year’s county fair.  The heartwarming tale details the joys and discomforts of taking care of another living thing.  Read along as Eli, and Little Joe, learn life lessons about growing up and taking on responsibilities. 

Readers in fourth grade and up will be immersed in the natural world of the farm.  This book appeals to readers who can have similar experiences to Eli and many more who share a love for animals.  The theme of family love is apparent through the story, making it identifiable for most readers.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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Kid’s Reading List: Hungry Planet

Each evening at our dinner table, my family sits down for a meal and conversation that inevitably involves picking playfully at one another. I rarely thought about how my family’s evening meal experience differed from Hungry Planetother families around the world.

This changed when I read the seventh book in our Kids’ Reading List series, Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio.  The book profiles 600 meals of 30 families in 24 countries by detailing weekly food purchases. Each portrait includes the family surrounded by a week’s worth of groceries. Photo-essays also give readers a look at international street food, meat markets, fast food, and cookery.

This book is best suited to give older children a glimpse into the forces that impact the dinner tables of families around the world. Readers begin to understand the influence poverty, conflict and affluence have on the nutrition of the family diet.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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Kids’ Reading List: Seed, Soil, Sun: Earth’s Recipe for Food

What’s your favorite recipe?  Maybe it’s your mother’s apple
pie or your neighbor’s banana bread that gets your mImageouth watering.  There is one ultimate recipe that makes all these dishes possible.

The sixth book in our Kids’ Reading List series is Seed, Soil, Sun: Earth’s Recipe for Food by Chris Peterson.  This American Farm Bureau Foundation’s Agriculture Book of the Year celebrates the yearly planting, growth, and harvest of our plant food.  The simple ingredients to Earth’s recipe, seeds, soil, and sun, all combine to create much of the food we each and some food for animals. Read on in the book to discover more about the wonder that is Earth’s recipe.

Young readers, from four to seven years old, will enjoy the colorful photographs by photographer David R. Lundquist. They will learn from Peterson how seeds use soil and sun to grow into the fruits and vegetables they enjoy at the dinner table.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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Kids’ Reading List: Pig 05049

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Our fifth book in our Kids’ Reading List series is Pig 05049 by Christien Meindertsma. The book uses photographs to follow a single pig through its life cycle and how every part of the animal is used to produce products from the expected meat products, like ham and bacon, to the more unexpected, like paintbrushes and marshmallows. This book is best suited to give older children an artistic and educational look at how a single animal influences many facets of our everyday lives.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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Why Santa (and You) Shouldn’t Fear Milk and Cookies This Christmas

Note: This post comes to us from CommonGround volunteer Beth Chittenden, a dairy farmer in Schodack Landing, NY. 

Beth Chittenden is a dairy farmer in New York.

Beth Chittenden is a dairy farmer in New York.

While it seems like the holidays come earlier and earlier every year, one time-honored tradition always waits until Christmas Eve. Each December 24, just before heading off to bed, millions of children participate in the ritual of leaving cookies and milk for Santa to snack on. As a dairy farmer, my family and I are proud to serve not only Mr. Claus, but millions of American families, with safe and healthy milk. We work hard each and every day to make sure ALL of our consumers, not just the jolly ones, can enjoy milk without any need to worry about safety.

As a farmer and a mom, I know that between Christmas lists and grocery lists, December can be especially tricky to coordinate. And with all of the added labeling and information found on milk products, the dairy aisle can be particularly confusing. This Christmas, I want to give all moms the gift of peace of mind, because they have absolutely nothing to fear at the dairy case. Here are the facts:

  • Hormones occur naturally in farm animals like dairy cows and even some produce, like cabbage. They are present in our food even when animals haven’t been given supplemental hormones – it’s a natural part of life. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there is no need to worry about hormones in milk.
  • According to the World Health Organization and the FDA, pasteurization destroys 90 percent of hormones in milk and the rest are broken down during digestion. Pasteurization also destroys harmful bacteria that may be present, including salmonella and E. coli.
  • All milk, whether organic or conventional, is strictly tested for antibiotics on the farm and at the processing plant. Any milk that tests positive cannot be sold to the public.
  • No research shows that milk or other dairy products play a role in early puberty. In fact, girls today drink less milk than their mothers did. Some scientists believe that childhood obesity may lead to earlier onset of puberty, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Happy Holidays!

Beth Chittenden, Dairy Farmer
Schodack Landing, N.Y.

To learn more about hormones as they relate to milk products, please visit the Food Facts page at findourcommonground.com. As always, please send your questions our way. We’ll be happy to share how we operate our farms.

 

About Beth

Beth Chittenden is highly qualified to teach folks about farming and their food – especially dairy. She grew up on a dairy farm, studied animal husbandry at Cornell University, worked as an animal nutritionist, obtained a Master’s degree in Education, and now helps operate a 600-cow dairy and 2,000-acre farm in Schodack Landing, New York. Beth’s goal is to open a full-time education center at Dutch Hollow Farm to teach students and the public about modern agriculture. Her extensive knowledge of agriculture and education give her the skills to explain modern farming in terms urban neighbors can understand.

Beth knows how important it is to answer tough questions about food because her farm is situated near the cities of New York and Boston. “Many topics such as animal care, biotechnology, and antibiotics are sometimes misunderstood by my city neighbors. But, once I explain how we do our best to raise great food and show them around the farm, my urban friends walk away confident in our abilities and commitment as farmers.”

 

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Life on a Kansas Farm

Ever wondered what it’s like to live and work on a farm?

The America’s Heartland TV program recently featured the Brunkow family from Westmoreland, KS. The show shares the story of daily life on their family farm, from providing constant care for their cattle and sheep herds to salvaging what’s left of their crops in the drought-stricken Great Plains. The show recently aired on RFD-TV.

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