Thursday, December 15, 2011

My hero in agriculture

One super hot July day...2 people fell in love
My role model in agriculture and in life are the exact same person. My mom wasn't born on a farm - she was born into a family that was passionate about the showing and rodeo with their horses. The closest she ever came to having farm animals was having roping calves and tying goats. It wasn't until I was 8 that she met and married my step-dad, a dairy farmer that also had about 50 head of beef cattle. 
3 generations on the way to George Strait! 
Now we have 1100 head of ewes and about 150 cows. The dairy cattle have long since gone. In the last 12 years, mom has learned everything about the sheep industry, and spends long hours working in the lambing barns when she gets home from her 'real' job. She even wants to learn to drive tractor. My mom is my role model in agriculture because she was willing to learn, willing to change and willing to love the land and life her husband led. She now helps make management decisions, can run the lambing barns on her own, helps work cows and sheep while still getting dinner for 5 or more on the table. My mom is my best friend and my role model, and always will be. 

in her element...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey Thoughts!

I was born and raised involved in agriculture. The picture that comes to my mind when the word farm is said is one of cows and crops, but recently I have been thinking about other types of farming there are in here in the US. My family was sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner last week, and my little sister said the prayer. The words that stick with me are “Bless this food, and the hands that raised it.” My brother asked who shot the turkey, and I corrected him -  Our turkey came from the grocery store, but before that, it was raised on a farm, one that raises turkeys in its barns. Minnesota is number one in the US for turkey production, with approximately 250 farm families raising 45 million turkeys annually. There are other types of farmers that your family might support during the holidays – potato farmers, fruit farmers, vegetable farmers, and vineyards just to name a few.

Another type of farm I rarely think about is one that is currently decorating and perfuming the Union – that’s right, Christmas Tree farms. According to University of Illinois, there are more than 21,000 Christmas Tree Growers here in the US. These trees take approximately 7-10 years to mature, and are grown in all 50 states, including Hawaii and Alaska. 98% of Christmas trees are grown on farms and 73 million trees will be planted in the next year. This is a ‘green’ farming practice – one acre of trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people a year!  

Next time you hear the word farm, go ahead and think about cows and corn fields. But remember there’s other types of agriculture out there that aren’t as common! 

~*~ Remember to thank a farmer for all they do to feed the world! ~*~

Friday, November 18, 2011

Things to be thankful for

This week, I participated in my first ever Rockin Rural Women Chat on Twitter. The topic? #FoodThanks. I think this is an important topic, especially because this time of year, many people don't take the time to stop and think about where that beautiful, tender, juicy, delicious piece of (insert favorite meat cut here) came from, or the people it went through to get to the table.

So I give #FoodThanks now and every day. When I wake up and when I go to bed at night, I thank God that I am involved in American Agriculture, and for the opportunities I have recieved in this industry. I encourage everyone to be thankful for farmers - be they vegans or meat eaters because everyone MUST eat to survive.

So to give thanks for food every day, I eat. I support American Farmers by buying and eating American products like American Lamb, and I enjoy a glass of South Dakota wine with my mom. I celebrate by helping my family raise over 1300 head of lambs that become someone else's delisious entree, or by working calves that move onto a feedlot to feed someone else a nice juicy steak or yummy piece of prime rib. I spend some hours driving grain cart, knowing that our corn goes into ethanol and that some comes back to a farm as DDGS to be fed to our sheep and cattle. I celebrate Food Day when I fill by car with ethanol, grab a bag of sunflower seeds and bottle of Coke to drive home to the farm, headed back to my favorite place in the world, thankful that I am part of American Agriculture.

I am thankful that I can get up every day and do the things I love to do in this great country of ours, like riding my horses, attending college and spending time with the people I choose to do so with. I am thankful that my family can grow the crops and livestock we want to, that we live where we do and that I get to say I am a farmer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Your Piece. Your Place. Our Future

Rebecca and I prior to the Leader in Agriculture Award Dinner
Your Piece. Your Place. Our Future. Everyone has a place in this world, and contribute their own piece of the puzzle that forms life as we know it - the puzzle pieces determine our future. Many ag-majoring college students struggle to find their place in the puzzle that makes up American agriculture, but last week at the Ag Future of America confrence, over 500 of these students learned more about how to find their piece in this puzzle. AFA programming centers around the principles of being personally aware and the ability to self-assess, communicate, manage change and be a lifelong learner.

While in Kansas City at AFA, I participated in Track 3 and met other college kids from across the country. Our days were spent listening to speakers talk about how to use our leadership skills,  life in the 'work world', participating in discussions about issues facing modern agriculture, and meeting potential employers through mocktails and the career fair. We were motivated and inspired by Captain Charlie Plumb, and greeted by my favorite voice on the air, Orion Samulson.  There were so many amazing presenters that took the time to talk to and motivate us that it was hard to not feel inspired and positive every day.

The SDSU Delegates
 Now don't get me wrong, I enjoyed each and every part of the confrence, but my favorite would have to be the discussions about issues facing agriculture. These were issues that affected almost everyone in attendence, from family dynamics in farming to how most of American's are 2 generations removed from the farm, and therefore are uneducated about why we do what we do. We all talked about the importantance of using social media to tell the story of agriculture, and I made sure to challenge my group to follow through - with videos, blogs and getting on things like agchat via twitter.

At the end of the weekend, I think everyone was sad to return to their respective schools. The enviroment at AFA is one that I have rarely experienced before - there are 500 people all passionate about the same thing in one place, all positive thinking and willing to make as many new friends as possible. I came home from AFA motivated, postive and optimistic about my future - and about the future of agriculture. I think I am closer to knowing where my piece is in the puzzle of agriculture.

For more information about AFA and to apply for next year's confrence visit the AFA Website .

Monday, October 3, 2011

At the FAIR!!

Fair time is one of my favorite times of the year - friends, family, fair food and of course, showing livestock. This summer, I spent over 20 DAYS at fairs in South Dakota. Most of them were spent sitting at the Ag United informational booth, talking to people about ag.

My favorite part of all the days of the fair came at the South Dakota State Fair this week. Our sheep were stalled right by where people walked by. When I was fitting my ewes, several people would stop to pet them and ask about them - me and moms's favorite part of fair! We both love promoting the sheep and lamb industry, and the fair is a great opportunity to do so. Later, we walked the ewes to a different barn, and were stopped by several families that just wanted to pet the pretty sheep. It was so awesome to see the little kids faces when they realized how soft her wool is and how much she likes people.

Fair time always reminds me about how we can take advantage of everyday opportunities like showing our livestock to promote agriculture to consumers. It also serves as a wake up call to remind me about how many are removed from agriculture.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Cattlemens Story

Recently at Mom's Day Out on the Farm, I took some video at the cattle stop, which was Doug VanDuyn's feedlot. He doesn't usually speak to groups of people, but he had me fooled - Doug is awesome at speaking about the beef industry!  I hope you enjoy - I know all the participants of Moms Day Out on the Farm did!

To learn more about Mom's Day Out on the Farm and other Ag United Events visit South Dakota Farm Families on Facebook, find us at @agunited4sd on Twitter or visit our website at

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Almost the end....

It was with some sadness and some excitment that I realized next week, I move back to school. (ok more excitement than sadness!!)

Look out Brookings - I'm coming back!!
I was lucky enough to intern for a awesome place this summer, and got to live with my Grandparents, so I am sad that the summer is coming to a close.
As usual, I didn't accomplish half the things I wanted to - projects that are getting put on the snowy day list!

He's my baby. And he knows it.
  I did get to spend lots of time with the man in my life - the Sparkster himself.
Run Bunny Run!!
And I got to go barrel racing on Bunny! After a summer off, I realized how much I really do love can chasin.
Belt for the bestie!
I beaded like crazy when I wasn't doing homework. 2 belts, 2 hatbands, and some bracelets later - I have sore fingers. Now just to get the belts to the lady sewing them in and they will be alll done!! And pictures will be posted as soon as I get the belts back! I am taking orders, so if you want one, let me know!

I got to go to Jerrod Neiman with my best friend. We had a great time - much needed stress relief.

So now what? I have under a week of summer left, and have plans for everysingleday of it. At some point in time, I have to pack everything up into my car and haul it up to Brookings! And to put busy into perspective - I get to Brookings for work training Thrusday and Friday, move into the apartment Friday, have event for Ag United on Saturday, Mom brings my furniture and Gpa brings Sparky on Saturday and Sunday, start classes Monday and then its off to work State Fair for a week starting Wednesday!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Writing on the Wall

 As the Ag United Intern, I get exposed to lots of opportunities to educate people about agriculture at different events. At last month’s Moms Day on the Farm events, 60 Sioux Falls area moms toured  beef, hog and dairy farms to learn more about where their food comes from. While all the farmers, industry representatives and speakers did a fantastic job of talking to the moms, one thing said at lunch the last tour really stuck in my mind as something to blog about. We were eating at the Tri-Valley School, and Dr. Stacy Scramlin, meat scientist from SDSU, looked up at the wall in the lunch area where the words PRIDE, PURPOSE and PASSION were painted underneath the school’s mascot. She said to the crowd “If you only take one thing away from today, look up at those three words and remember that farmers take pride in what they do, they have the purpose of feeding the world, and as you have seen today, are passionate about their animals and way of life. "

Brian Alderson
 We all know the farmer’s Purpose – feed the world. And with the world growing at 222,239 people PER DAY, farmers strive to produce more food with less land. On average, one farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people!
Karen Hofer shows moms a piglet


America’s farmers certainly have something to have Pride in. Producing the world’s cheapest, safest, most abundant food supply is a pretty big deal. Farmers love sitting down and talking to each other about their crops and cattle – and when one compliments another, their face lights up.

Laura Nielson
The final word on the wall is Passion. To every mom on the tours, it was pretty obvious that every farmer visited had passion about their operation. Brian Alderson held their attention for twenty minutes when talking about his hoop barns. Ferlyn Hofer and his family talked about their pigs and sheep, and even brought out some brand new baby piglets to meet the moms. Doug VanDuyn spoke to the women about his feedlot and beef industry – and all the women commented later that he really really loved his cows. After visiting the Nielson Dairy, moms commented that they could really see the passion in Laura’s eyes when she talked about her cows.
Doug VanDuyn
Telling the story of farming is so important, and through Moms Day on the Farm Events, moms saw the Purpose Pride and Passion in the farms they visited, and realized that every farm in America has those same qualities. Moms on the tours commented that “I have a face to put with where my food comes from, and I really like that”. As for me, I learned more about how to talk to consumers from all of our awesome farmers and presenters - and found three more words to talk about when people ask me about farming.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


This is my first Baa-log. Thanks to my dad for the title ( sheep people like corny sheep jokes, don't ewe?) My goal is to do a sheep blog once a week, so to start out here is a little of my sheep background.

Wool drying at Mt. Vernon last summer
For the past eleven years, my family has had sheep. Currently, we have about a thousand head of ewes and their lambs on our commercial lamb to finish operation. Commercial means that we are primarily raising lambs to sell at market. We lamb our ewes in three groups, 450 head the end of January and beginning of February, 400 in March and the rest in April and May.
Lamb 100 this spring.

 Our ewe flock consists mostly of ewes we raised – only about 200 in the flock were purchased, and we raise our own replacement ewe lambs (ewe lambs that are not sold to market). About 700 head of ewes are bred to black face (black face means black sheep) rams. These are the lambs that we sell to market as they are fastest growing. The others are bred to white face rams, and hopefully have lots of white ewe lambs that we can keep for replacements! I love my sheep and really do miss working on the farm year round when I am at school. I try to go home and help whenever I can, and my parents like to plan working sheep, shearing and barn cleaning around when I am going to be around to help.
Little I ewe
I am a major sheep nerd - not only have a I shown sheep in FFA, 4-H and Little I.....
Reserve Round Robin and Grand Champion Sheep Showman at Little I
But I have also sewn with wool and competed in several different contests like Ladies Lead and Make it with wool. And knitted lots of wool things like bags and scarves.

Wool Peacoat

And I was on the wool judging team last year at SDSU. :)
Our Judging family at awards in Houston!
Moral of the blog: I love my sheep - look forward to more sheep blogs to come!! In the meantime feel free to ask me about sheep, wool or anything else!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

I forgot how much I LOVE taking pictures. Until my little froggy friend showed up and inspired me to borrow grandma's cool camera to snap some new shots.

So after catching Mr. Toad on the hop, I spent a evening wandering the place, snapping some new shots.

Mini Roses

Am thinking this one may get framed for the apartment
A perfectly clear SD night

Am calling this one Perseverance

My creativity came back: I ended up taking pictures IN the silo. Like as in hanging upside down in the silo.

Did I mention that grandpa has a gorgeous pony? This is Jerry. Jerry likes his picture taken.

Another part of my creative burst - my refinding my good friend, picnik! I did this picture right before the 4th - it was taken last year when I was in DC, but I kinda forgot about editting it. Until now! All in all? Bring it on open class photography!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Prince Charming?

Prince Charming?
 As I was walking past the fish tank the other night, I noticed this little guy hanging out with the goldfish. After checking to make sure he wasn't feasting on the fish I grabbed my camera and caught him on his way out. Should have grabbed him - could be prince charming!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Storm Season

Its storm season out there, and I want to take a mintue to remind everyone to be smart and to be SAFE, because scary storms can happen anywhere, as my family learned a year ago.

It was a warm July day, and there were tornado warnings and sigthings in our area. I was working at the DQ in town, and we had almost 40 people packed into our food coolers because the tornado sirens were going off.  We were sent home when the sirens quit, and Mom called as I was driving. "The hoop barns are gone." Gone?  
South Barn
We had just finished this barn about 4 months before the storm. There were 600 lambs housed in our two hoop barns. Fortunately, we only lost one lamb!  You can see overturned feeders in this picture - They had been filled with corn just that morning. 

The north barn

Twisted beams!

We were so lucky to have not lost our house, or more animals! This experience made me very thankful for our neighbors. That night, we had several visit and offer to help clean up the wreckage, even though it was almost a month later when we finally started ripping things apart and attempting to salvage posts and hoop sections.

A year later, two new hoop barns stand in the same spots - It's almost as if the storm never happened. I keep a bolt that is bent to a L on my dresser to remind me to never underestimate mother nature - and now I really really don't like storms!!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Independence Day

It’s almost Independence Day, and my favorite time of the year. It’s hot out, the sun is up till 10 o’clock, with lots of 4-H events and barrel races to go to. It’s also my favorite time of year at the farm – the baby calves and lambs are getting big and at pasture – they are so pretty! Days are spent in the hay field and getting lambs ready for market. And since it’s almost the 4th of July, American pride is showing everywhere. Almost every house has a flag out in front, patriotic music blares on radios, and every citizen is declaring that we are proud to be Americans.

Photo by: Sarah Sample, 2010
As proud as I am of our great country, I want to recognize and industry I am so proud to be a part of. It’s our nation’s most vital industry. It’s American Agriculture. American farmers work every single day to feed 100% of the population.

Photo From: Ag United

However, many criticize American farmers. There are groups that would like to see the way we feed the world end. But American Farmers farm on.
Photo From: Ag United

There are never ending winters, bone chilling cold, wind, snow and ice that make their jobs that much harder. While others take snow days and shelter inside from the snow, American farmers brave the storm to farm on.

Feeding Horses, Spring 2011 Blizzard

In times of drought and flood, insects and disease, markets good and bad, and when nature unleashes its rath, American farmers don’t quit. They farm on.

Photo From: Kott Farms, Tornado, Summer 2010

When they reach retirement age, face illness, injury and crisis, their fellow farmers and friends offer help. Increasing their workload for a friend, they farm on.

Neighbor helping with hoop barn reconstruction

American pride runs deep in the rural communities. Serving their country, both at home and overseas, they offer their hard work to others. When they return as heroes, they return to the farm. American family farmers teach their children passion for farming and to work hard and to play hard - and hope that someday, they will keep on farming on. 

My siblings sledding after working in the lambing barn

American farmers are passionate and kind to animals. From the tinest duckling, to the biggest bull, they strive to give their animals the best care possible.
Ducklings rescued when momma duck got caught in hydroswing

American family farmers work 24/7 365, through heat and humidity, wind and rain, snow and ice to provide the 21 million jobs in American Agriculture and the cheapest, safest, most abundant food supply in the world.

Photo from: Ag United for South Dakota

I am proud to be a part of this amazing industry that is constantly working to feed, clothe and fuel the world. Happy 4th of July!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why my job is SO important

Last week I took 17 day care goers on a field trip. Their big green van followed me to two farms.  Our first stop was near Hartford at Dennis Steinke’s farm.  I knew it was likely that these kids had never visited a farm.  Having grown up on a farm, it was an eye opening experience for me as well to see how these kids reacted to things on the farm, I just assume it is common for everyone to experience.  The first thing the kids fixated on?  Mud. They were all a leery of it, even the boys, to my surprise and the teacher’s relief!  Next, the Steinke family’s dogs caught their attention, as did the 4 wheeler.  These little things that I never thought would be new to them were – the dogs racing the 4 wheeler is a common sight at my house as is the mud, but both were new things to these kids!  We saw pigs, cattle and fed a bottle calf at the Steinke farm. They wanted to pet every critter they saw from the pigs to the feeder steers. The highlight of that stop, however, was feeding the bottle calf.

Our next adventure took us to Lynn Boadwine’s dairy near Baltic.  Lynn talked to the kids about different dairy products they may have in their own home and how those products get to their home from the dairy.  I had to laugh when one of the kids told him that cows weigh only 100 lbs!  We showed them the parlor and the feed lane of the dairy, plus the baby calves. They were so eager to pet the cows and even wanted to try their hand at milking. After a half hour at each place, we headed home. I bet their parents get a good education on the ins and outs of farming that evening!

Events on a farm always remind me of why we do what we do here at Ag United. Connecting consumer to field and farmer so that they know where their food comes from is essential in our world. People want to know they are getting the healthiest best food for their family, and that it is produced in the best way possible. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My first post!

Long have I been amused, entertained, educated, and distracted by other peoples blogs. After my boss's urging, I have decided to start my own! So here it goes:

I am many things.

I am a Farmgirl - from south central South Dakota. We have 1000 sheep, 100 cattle, 20 goats and many acres of farmland. Living on and working on the farm has giving me passion for agriculture and what I want to do with my life.

I am a Cowgirl - We also have 12 horses. My favorite thing to do is ride them, work with them, and just be with them. I love barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying and rodeo

I am big sister to 2 little munchkins - J and J are my best friends, worst enemies, and favorite people to play with. Even though I am 11 years older than them.

I am a sheep and goat person. (Yes I even admit it :) I love working with our sheep on the farm, talking to others about sheep and working at the SDSU sheep research unit.

I am the intern at Ag United: I work in Sioux Falls, helping plan events and do outreach to consumers so that they can learn more about agriculture.

Thats about all I have for now, hopefully I will update this about once a week, so stay tuned!!