Dust In My Coffee

Dust In My Coffee

Monday, February 22, 2016

Dust In My Coffee

     Several years ago I became aware of the public conversation about how food is grown and cared for.  The conversation I was reading about was not an accurate portrayal of our farm or of many other farms and ranches I know of.   At the same time a grassroots movement of farm women, CommonGround, was forming to have farmer to consumer conversations.  My opportunity to share our farm story through CommonGround expanded further into the creation of my blog "Dust In My Coffee".

This is a group photo of some of the women volunteering for
CommonGround.  There are around 165 women from all across the
United States having conversations with consumers about food.

     Walking in the shoes, or boots, of a farmer has opened my eyes and understanding of how we work with nature to grow food year after year.  Growing up around corn fields enabled me to see farming from the outside looking in.  Marrying a farmer gave me hands on learning to understand the day to day routine of caring for the land and animals.

Steve and I went on a buggy ride from the church to
the wedding reception.  Fortunately, we did not have to
rely on horses for field work like his grandparents did.
     Our early years of farm life were not as romantic as I pictured farming to be.  The hard work was not a problem as our parents had modeled that very well.  I was, however, used to getting a pay check and having time off.  Signing notes at the bank for money with the hope your crops and cattle would make money made me a bit uneasy.  Having to miss taking the kids to a circus because hay had to be put up was another wake up call to the timing of every activity on the farm.  In addition to those early shifts in my farm life paradigm, the farm crisis of the 1980's was hitting farms very hard.
      There were many fine people who left agriculture during that crisis to do something else.  I will never forget the list of farm sales, meetings, crisis hotline commercials and Willy Nelson concerts for farm aid.  We survived and kept working hard to care for our family and improve our farm.  You could say we figuratively plowed our way through it.    Our oldest children learned the value of a quarter at garage sales and went without the Happy Meal toys.  They also learned the value of hard work, perseverance and faith.

This is our family when our youngest daughter, Kim, was baptized.  These
are the five children that continue to bless us with much joy and love.
     The message we were receiving in the 80's was to treat the farm like a business, increase production at the lowest cost possible and keep food prices low for consumers.   Farmers are very good at figuring things out especially with the support of our land grant colleges.   Research and development continued full speed ahead in agriculture.  Machinery improved.  Seed development improved.  Soil conservation became a management priority.  Cattle health and nutrition improved as cattle utilized more sources of feed to convert to protein.  I witnessed first hand the explosion of technological advancements that enable farmers to continue to do a better job of caring for the land, water and animals while keeping production high so people around the world can benefit.

In 1992 the FLVR SAVR Tomato became the first G.E. food crop to be approved
by the U.S.D.A.  There are currently There are currently nine crops commercially
available from GMO seeds in the U.S; Alfalfa, Canola,Corn (field and sweet),
Cotton, Papaya, Potatoes, Soybeans, Squash, and Sugar Beets.

     As those developments occurred the conversation about production agriculture changed seemingly overnight.  As farms sizes grew and people grew away from direct experiences on the farm a change in the discussion was inevitable.  Farmers Markets began to pop up in more places with an increased emphasis on organic production and locally grown products.  Add a movie, books, social media and some people using fear to sell a message and you add to the confusion. Consumers are wondering what food is good for you, what farming methods are good and what should a mom buying food for her family do when confronted with such a variety of choices.

One activity I really enjoy is meeting consumers at the grocery
store.  They have a chance to ask me anything they want to
know about antibiotic use, hormones, GMO's and so on.

     The confusion about food production, the chance to share facts not fear and my desire to share our story led to the development of this blog.  The title "Dust In My Coffee" came about as I sat pondered dust particles landing in my cup of coffee.  Every question about food production, no matter how small, matters to me.  It is my intent to share my experiences, past, present and future to be a positive, credible, real and inclusive voice in the story of how food is raised.  I am very grateful to join the many other voices striving to connect our farms to consumers.



Sunday, February 7, 2016

Footballs and Fajitas

Football is one of my favorite sports to watch.  Did you know Super Bowl XLIX was watched by 114.4 million viewers, making it the most watched television program in U.S. history?  Do you know how many footballs are used during the Super Bowl?  What do footballs and fajitas have in common?

Our son, Jeff, had the opportunity to play and win the Class D-2
State Championship with his team from Dodge in 2007. 
Our son, Scott, after a junior high football game
Scott was a quarterback for Dodge High School and
holds the record for the longest completed pass. I
have to admit I did not enjoy seeing the hits he took.
 I have to admit I watch the Super Bowl as much for the commercials as the game.  During the Super Bowl there will be 72 footballs used.  Do you know how footballs are made?  There is an excellent video about how the Wilson football is made that you can watch here. 

Before the Wilson factory can make a football they need the material that comes from a farm like ours.  Thanks to cattle we can utilize not only the great protein they provide for our fajitas but also the cowhide to make items like footballs.  One bovine animal provides 20 footballs.  Did you know the cowhide is equal to about 8 layers of human skin?  

The cattle in our feedlot could produce around 100,000 footballs a year.

Besides watching the game and commercials many of us will be snacking away on recipes old and new.  Fajitas can be a great game day food with an estimated eight million pounds of guacamole eaten on game day!  Holy moly that's a lot of guacamole!

These steak fajitas with guacamole look delicious!

Steve and I will be joining our fire and rescue squad members to watch the game at the fire station.  There will be a variety of snacks to eat and the chance to be together in a non-emergent situation.  Last year we missed the party because of a blizzard now remembered as super snow Sunday for us.  One of the items I will bring is a very simple dip recipe that I would like to share with you.  Whatever you eat tonight we just ask you to include beef in your menu!

Taco Bean Dip
1 can refried beans
                                 1-2 pounds taco meat (I use hamburger)
      1 container sour cream
                   1-2 cups salsa or picante sauce
       2 cups shredded lettuce
                     2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
        1 can sliced black olives

Layer the ingredients as listed on a round serving plate. Adjust the ingredient amounts according to the size of your plate or servings needed.  I have a plate with curved edges that helps hold everything in place if I take it somewhere.  Enjoy the game!