My Farm My Story

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has a new video series called “My Farm My Story” and our family farm was chosen to be one of the featured farms.  I spent part of a day  a few months back being interviewed and explaining how our farm works.  It was a fun day for me because I love sharing our farm story with others.  The journalist was energetic and eager to help share the story of our family farm in a personal way that would interest viewers.   It was a great opportunity for me to help people know how modern hog farms work and the relationship we share with our veterinarian.

Antibiotic usage on farms today is a hot topic and I want people to understand we use antibiotics judiciously under the guidance of our herd veterinarian.  The most important job I will ever have is being a mom, and I take this responsibility seriously.  I want my kids to have healthy and safe food just like all moms do.  I love being a farmer but I love being a mom more; my kids motivate me to always go above and beyond to keep our animals safe and healthy.  I can’t speak for all farmers, but all the farmers I know feel the same way I do when it comes to animal care.  We want to protect our animals and keep them safe and healthy and antibiotics are one of the tools we have in our toolbox to help keep our animals healthy.

I hope you enjoy the video and learn a little along the way too!


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It’s Been a LONG Time!

Cattle 2015

2015 Cows and their new calves in the pasture as the day comes to an end.

It’s been over a year since I have blogged and I feel a little guilty.  A lot has happened on our farm over the last year.  Our beans didn’t get planted last year due to the extreme amounts of rain.   That was depressing!  We struggled all summer to put up hay.  We had a great fall for harvesting our corn but harvest was short since we had no beans to harvest.  We planted our cover crops and with that our fall field work was over as quick as it started.  

I always try to find the silver lining during a struggle and last year was definitely a trying year. For our family, the silver lining of not getting our beans planted was Kevin had more time to watch our kids play football and softball.  He still missed a lot of games but he made it to more games than he ever has.

Our daughter is in her last year of high school which also means her last year living at home.  Last February this reality hit me like a rock!  I was about to experience everything with my daughter for the last time; her last summer of traveling softball, her last school softball season, her last first day of school, her last homecoming, her last prom, her last track season and her last FFA Banquet.  A friend I met through the pork industry, Jesse, told me to savor every moment I had left with her.  He advised me to make time for her, more time than I normally would because in the blink of an eye, she would be on her own and spreading her wings to fly.

I took that advice to heart and started living in the moment with her.  I am so thankful to Jesse for reminding what I was about to miss out on.  I am like most moms, I don’t know how to say no and I love to multi-task.  Sometimes this can make my life a little hectic so  I decided to cut back on a few of the things I was involved in so I could make the most of her last year at home.  With that, I resigned from a few committees I served on and I let my blog sit idle so I could be with my family.  I have no regrets!

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Softball season was a blast for us.  Rachelle had a great season and it was so much fun to watch her team work hard and battle it out on the field.  They were the “Cinderella” team, they weren’t expected to go anywhere but they believed in each other and they never gave up on themselves. The team was a family, they supported each other and they brought home the first Softball District Championship for our school. It was such an exciting time for the girls, coaches and parents. As soon as our last game was over, we knew we would miss the game, coaches and girls. Rachelle has played softball since she was five years old; it will be weird not watching her play this summer. I might actually have time to mow my yard this year.

Conner played football last fall also. I am not as well versed in football but he did great for his first season. He made several tackles and he walked off the field after each game unhurt. That was a huge blessing for this mom; I was a nervous wreck during each game. It was difficult for me to watch, his dad enjoyed the games a lot more than I did. In between games and practices, Conner helped with the fall calving and the short harvest. He has grown a foot this year, literally!

This spring we have been busy getting our corn planted and weaning calves. This is (most likely) the last year Rachelle will be able to help wean the calves for a while. I think she is secretly happy about not having to wake up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning to wean! Her dad will miss teasing her about not being a morning person.

This week we are preparing for Rachelle’s senior prom. We have been trying to keep the yard mowed in between rains and weed out my flower beds so her pictures look nice. This is normally the only time my flower beds look great with no weeds! Sunday we finished planting our corn, what a relief! Our rye is getting close to cutting for hay and Kevin is busy getting the hay equipment ready to head to the fields.

Spring is definitely here, and it’s always a difficult time to get Conner motivated to go to school each morning! He’d rather be in a tractor helping his dad or feeding the hogs or cattle. Each morning there is a discussion where Conner tries to convince me he is needed on the farm more than he is needed in the classroom. Bless his heart, he finds some creative reasons to try and make me change my mind!

Both kids are running track this year so I have been spending a lot of evenings watching kids run! It’s been a bit chaotic but I’m trying to enjoy each minute of it. This will be the last time I have to worry about making it to two kids’ track meets on the same night in different towns. It’s bitter sweet! I can’t wait for school to be over so I can spend more time with the kids! Their teachers see them more than I do right now, I’m envious of that. (And I’m sure their teachers are envious of me because I’m not in school with kids eight hours a day!)

The coming month will be busy with graduation, putting up hay, and hopefully planting beans. I hope I can blog more than I have been but my first priority right now is to enjoy my kids and live in the moment! Thanks again Jesse for the great advice!

Pigs 2016

This little ham likes the camera!

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The Joy of Winter on the Farm

Rachelle prefers checking the hog water on cold winter mornings, it's a lot warmer inside the heated hog barns!

Rachelle prefers checking the hog water on cold winter mornings, it’s a lot warmer inside the heated hog barns!

I love living on our farm and I’m glad my kids get to experience farm life.  The older they get the more they realize winter isn’t as much fun as it used to be.  Winters are normally long on the farm, it seems like the cold weather lasts a little too long for my liking.  This winter is no different.

Our daughter is checking the cattle water tanks on the farm.  She's found a frozen one and is busting the ice.

Our daughter is checking the cattle water tanks on the farm. She’s found a frozen one and is busting the ice.

The cold temperature creates extra work for anyone who works outside, especially farms that raise livestock.  Cold weather makes watering our cattle a headache some days.  We use water tanks to water our cattle with, they have to be filled daily.  In the winter, when the weather is below freezing, we have to check the water tanks multiple times a day to make sure the ice is broken so the cattle can drink.  While this isn’t a difficult job normally, it is time consuming.  It delays our ability to get other jobs done in a timely manner which means the work day gets longer.

Another job that is complicated in the winter is our ability to feed our livestock.  If there is a lot of snow on the ground we have to move the snow off our driveways so the feed truck can get around.  This snow removal creates extra work for us that we wouldn’t normally have in nice weather.  The kids are always thrilled to see the white fluffy snow begin to fall but Kevin and I almost cry because we know how much extra labor it causes on the farm.  Once their initial excitement wears off, the kids quickly realize if there isn’t school they will be aiding in snow removal, feeding the hogs and thawing out livestock waters and their joy begins to fade too.

Washing our trailers during the winter is also a challenge.  We wash and disinfect all of our livestock trailers after each use; we do this to prevent disease being tracked into our hog barns.  It’s no fun to wash a trailer when the water freezes the instant it touches the aluminum trailer.  That’s one reason we use hot water to wash our trailers with.  It’s one of the most important jobs on our farm but in the winter it becomes one of the most difficult jobs.

On this snowy morning Rachelle is checking to see if the cattle need more mineral.

On this snowy morning Rachelle is checking to see if the cattle need more mineral.

Broken water lines, frozen water hoses, snow covered driveways, treacherous terrain to walk on, the list of winter challenges is long but the work still has to get done.  I am very proud of my family, especially my husband, who just keeps working until the job gets done.  He’s missed many of our kid’s ballgames because he was thawing out livestock waters, fixing broken fences or blading snow packed driveways.  And every day he walks out of the house to do it all over with a smile on his face.  Some days that smile is bigger than others, but he still manages to smile because he knows each new day is one day closer to SPRING!

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Missouri to Vote on Right to Farm Legislation

Missouri to Vote on Right to Farm LegislationSince I farm in Missouri and there is a proposed constitutional amendment to the state’s constitution, friends have asked me about resources on the proposition that appears on Tuesday’s ballot. I encourage everyone to look into the topic and I always encourage people to vote.

This is an important topic for our family farm and our neighbors throughout the state who have various choices to consider and should be able to choose freely without others trying to control us. If you’d like my stance on the amendment, I am voting yes to protect the right of all farmers in Missouri to farm and encourage others to do the same.  I am also voting yes to protect consumer choice when we go to the grocery stores.  I love walking into the grocery store and having many different options and I want to make sure my children grow up and have that same right.

The Proposed Constitutional Amendment

As I have looked around the internet, I have found a lot of buzzwords and some half-truths that really bother me. Some sites are using language that doesn’t reflect the actual ballot. I encourage you to go straight to the Missouri Secretary of State website on the ballot’s right to farm initiative to be certain you have the facts.

Section 35. That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri.

Here is the proposition:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?

The potential costs or savings to governmental entities are unknown, but likely limited unless the resolution leads to increased litigation costs and/or the loss of federal funding.

Resources to Use As You Consider Your Vote

I have been providing friends various links of information to read and wanted to put them here for you to access and to hopefully share with friends who live and vote in Missouri. We would love to get a show of support for farmers this Tuesday when we go to the polls.

A fellow Missouri farmer wrote this great post “Yes? No? What to do and who to believe? It’s voting time.

Two organizations I am active with are providing resources on their websites. I recommend you read these pages from Missouri Farmers Care (Background on Missouri Farming Rights Amendment and Farming Rights Frequently Asked Questions) and Missouri Farm Bureau (Keep Missouri FarmingAmendment #1 Q&A Sheet and Amendment #1 FAQ’S).

The campaign fighting this amendment is spending a lot of money to get their word out. Just this week, the HSUS (which I have written about before) provided $375,000 to campaign against this farmer-driven amendment. One thing that others are suggesting this new amendment would do, would be to open our farms up to foreign takeovers. The amendment will not change any legislation on the books and Missouri already limits foreign farm ownership to one percent. That will absolutely stay in effect.  Amendment 1 will not void federal, state or local laws.

I am so committed to the cause, I appear in a video alongside fellow Missouri farmer Blake Hurst and others talking about the proposition.

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The Wish of a Farmer

This is a photo taken on our farm early this spring, it captures the calmness on the farm as the day winds down.

This is a photo taken on our farm early this spring, it captures the calmness on the farm as the day winds down.

Many times I get asked what it’s like to live on a farm.  Sometimes it’s difficult to explain to others what it’s like, it’s hard to describe in words what is in my heart when it comes to farming.  I don’t feel like I can adequately describe what it’s like to watch my son follow his dad and grandpa to the shed to get the tractors and head to the fields.  My heart swells with pride in knowing the next generation will continue our legacy.

I love watching my kids work beside their grandparents, Kevin, and I.  I love watching my kids talk with excitement about the cow that just calved, or the sow that just had a litter of pigs.  I even enjoy hearing them discuss the not so exciting parts of being a farmer, like power washing equipment and barns, repairing broken equipment, scrubbing floors at the feed mill, or cleaning up the chicken house.

A new litter of pigs, one is nursing on the mother while the others discover the heat lamp and mat we use to keep them warm. This is one of my kids' favorite places to be on the farm. They love watching pigs be born!A new litter of pigs, one is nursing on the mother while the others discover the heat lamp and mat we use to keep them warm. This is one of my kids' favorite places to be on the farm. They love watching pigs be born!A new litter of pigs, one is nursing on the mother while the others discover the heat lamp and mat we use to keep them warm. This is one of my kids' favorite places to be on the farm. They love watching pigs be born!A new litter of pigs, one is nursing on the mother while the others discover the heat lamp and mat we use to keep them warm. This is one of my kids' favorite places to be on the farm. They love watching pigs be born!A new litter of pigs, one is nursing on the mother while the others discover the heat lamp and mat we use to keep them warm. This is one of my kids' favorite places to be on the farm. They love watching pigs be born!A new litter of pigs, one is nursing on the mother while the others discover the heat lamp and mat we use to keep them warm. This is one of my kids' favorite places to be on the farm. They love watching pigs be born!

A new litter of pigs, one is nursing on the mother while the others discover the heat lamp and mat we use to keep them warm. This is one of my kids’ favorite places to be on the farm. They love watching pigs be born!

Some days life on the farm is exciting, and other days are more challenging.  Like the day it stormed while we were loading sows on a trailer.  Kevin was sick and didn’t feel up to working but life on the farm doesn’t slow down when you are sick. Something scared a few sows as they were walking on the trailer (probably the thunder or lightning) and the sows ran over my 165 pound husband, penning him down on the trailer floor.  His ankle was penned under the trailer gate and the sows were running over him.  Luckily he was not alone and one of our employees helped get the gate off his ankle and kept the sows off his body.  It’s pretty scary to have a 500 pound sow running over you.  Luckily his ankle wasn’t broke and he only sustained cuts and bruises.  Days like this are not fun but they are teaching opportunities…..when you deal with livestock, you have to remember they are animals and they can hurt you.

Conner proudly checking his newborn calf that his heifer delivered an hour earlier.

Conner proudly checking his newborn calf that his heifer delivered an hour earlier.

Farming is in a farmer’s blood, it has to be in order to deal with the changing weather (it never rains enough or it rains too much, and don’t forget the hard winters or high winds and tornadoes), the volatile markets (remember, farmers do not set the price for the products they raise, they are price takers), the daily breakdowns on equipment, the increased fuel and feed costs, the list goes on and on. Farmers are eternal optimists, but they are also people who refuse to retire.

Farmers normally work until their bodies will no longer allow them to work.  I saw a video today that reminded me of this reality; it brought me to tears because it sums up what farming is about! It put into pictures what I can’t always describe to others when it comes to what life is like on a farm. I see it in my husband’s eyes every day, as well as in the eyes of my in-laws and children.

I hope you enjoy the short video as much as I did.  This video captures the wish of every farmer when they are no longer able to farm.  You can see the love for farming in the farmers’ eyes; you can hear it in his voice.  And you can see in the eyes of the farmer’s son how much the son loved working beside his dad.  Words cannot always describe what this video captures!  White County farmer gets his final wish.

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“Let It Go” Parody Tells the EPA “That’s Enough,” Ditch the Rule!

My friends Andy & Kacey Clay farm in Central Missouri and they have been working really hard this spring on a very important project that will impact anyone who likes to eat.   The Clay’s are also the proud parents of three little kids who have also been helping on this important project.

Kacey has an amazing gift of being able to sing, something I wish I could do but God didn’t bless me with that talent, just ask my kids!  Andy & Kacey have been keeping a close eye on the EPA’s new proposed regulations for the Waters of the US.  You can learn more about this issue in my earlier blog post.

Thanks Andy & Kacey for taking the time out of your busy spring work to make this great video!

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Time to Ditch the Water Rule

My husband, Kevin, and I farm with his parents and brother.  We are the 5th generation of farmers in our family and we raise hogs, cattle, corn, soybeans, and rye.  We are also raising our children on our farm and clean water is important to us.  Regardless of whether EPA requires it, protecting our water is one of our priorities.  We want to pass our farm onto the next generation so it only makes sense that we care for our natural resources in a responsible manner. 


EPA’s proposed Clean Water Act rule will have a significant impact on our family farm.  The proposed rule will expand the scope of “navigable waters” subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction by regulating ditches, small and remote “waters” and ephemeral drains where water moves only when it rains.


Most of these areas look more like land than like “waters” and they are dry most of the year.  This proposed rule means any ditch on your land will be regulated by the EPA, even if it only holds water one day a year.  This will prohibit farmers from using land that is in or near a ditch unless they have a Clean Water Act permit.     


Congress writes the laws of the land, not federal agencies.  When Congress created the Clean Water Act, it clearly limited federal regulatory power to “navigable” waters.  Congress did not intend to allow EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to regulate farmland just because water occasionally flows across it.  EPA should respect the limits set by Congress. 


Some people are saying farmers and ranchers should have no concerns because we are “exempted” from the rule but this is not the case.  The “normal farming and ranching” exemption only applies to a specific type of Clean Water Act permit for “dredge and fill” materials.  There is also no farm or ranch exemption from Clean Water Act permit requirements for what the EPA would call “pollutants,” but I would call plant nutrients and protection products. This means under the proposed rule, many common and important practices like weed control and fertilizer spreading will be prohibited in or near so-called “waters” unless you have a Clean Water Act permit.  This further complicates our situation due to the fact we frequently use recycled fertilizer from our hog barns.


Another startling fact is the EPA & the Corps of Engineers have interpreted the word “normal” to mean only long-standing operations in place since the 1970’s – not newer or expanded farming and ranching.  Does this mean when we pass our farm onto the next generation’s hands that they will no longer be able to farm that land? This rule would appear to me to be detrimental to new and beginning farmers – exactly the type of farmer that many of us in agriculture have been working hard to support. That just makes no sense.   


The proposed Waters of the U.S. ruling is a bad idea and it will cripple the ability of farmers and ranchers to continue to produce food.  If the proposed rule prevails, it will be illegal for a farmer to spray for weeds or apply fertilizer to their ground unless they have a permit.  Routine tasks like building fences will even require permits if they will be built in or near a ditch.   Many farming practices are time sensitive and farmers cannot afford to wait on a government agency to process a permit.


Common sense goes a long way and it is desperately needed when looking at this proposed ruling.  If dry farm fields and ordinary farm ditches and ponds are allowed to be regulated as “waters of the U.S.,” farming and ranching will suffer and so will those who depend on agriculture for food. 


We need to make our voices heard. It is time to ditch the water rule. 

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