Anxiety on the Farm & Jury Duty

When a livestock farmer is called for jury duty, anxiety sets in. This happened to my husband last night. Kevin came in from working at 9:30 p.m. and he found the letter requesting his presence at the county court house next Monday for jury duty at 8 a.m. Panic set in, actually chest pains set in and his head began to throb. Why? Kevin has no one to help him on our farming operation but me, my dad, and our kids, who are both back in school. My dad is scheduled to be at the hospital next Monday for surgery to remove cancer from his body. (I HATE CANCER!) We found out very recently and we are still trying to cope with the news and determine what the future may hold for him. Not only do we have the added concern for my dad’s health, but Kevin and I are losing a valuable member of our farm for an indefinite amount of time.

truck and trailer

This is one of the trailers we use on our farm to haul weaned pigs and cattle with. We wash and disinfect it after each use.

We are losing our most dependable coworker. This means Kevin has no one to help transport pigs, no one to help him check cows as they give birth, no one to help him move cattle to the new pasture, no one to help wash and sanitize the trailers, no one to help fix fences and no one to help during harvest.

When a farmer gets called to jury duty, it’s more than just a civic duty. It’s a big challenge for us. Why is jury duty such a big deal to farmers?  Well for starters, we rarely know when we might be called to serve. Yes, you are given a week’s notice, but on a livestock farm, that’s not enough time to prepare to be gone for one or more days, especially in the spring or fall of the year, or in the dead of winter when snow is on the ground. These are the times of the year when our work load increases immensely. For Kevin to take off more than one day at a time, it takes multiple months’ worth of planning to organize. We have to coordinate feed deliveries and livestock movements, we have to change breeding days and weaning days, we have to make sure my dad can be around to do Kevin’s normal chores and we have to make sure dad can still get his work done too. These are just a few of the daily tasks that have to be changed in order for Kevin to have a day off. Our animals care always comes first!

Many farmers have no one to fill in for them when they can’t be at work on the farm. We have no extra help ready to step in and take over our responsibilities. That’s why you see farmers working when they are sick. This is why you see farmers working with a limp from the cow that kicked them yesterday. This why you see farmers working while their daughter is playing an important softball game or their son is playing their last football game of the season. Our job has no set hours; we work as long as we have daylight, and most days long after the sun goes down. If we don’t work, we have no one to feed the livestock for us, no one to drive the livestock trailer, no one to move the animals from one field to another, no one to move pigs from one barn to the other, no one to assist in a birth, no one to fix that broken fence or wash out the trailer and disinfect it.

You might ask, “Why don’t you hire someone?” I would LOVE to hire someone to help us. The problem is, not everyone wants to work at a job that takes more than 40 hours a week. Not everyone wants to work at a job where they will be dirty most days. Not everyone wants to work at a job that requires working on Saturday and/or Sunday. Very few people want the responsibility that comes with caring for livestock. More importantly, we can’t just hire anyone to work on a farm. To transport pigs, you need a TQA (Transport Quality Assurance) certification and a CDL license. To care for our pigs, you need a PQA+ (Pork Quality Assurance Plus) certification and our veterinarian has to also approve of your animal husbandry skills. Knowledge of how to operate farm equipment is necessary as well, including computers. And most importantly, you have to show up every day because our animal’s health depends on it. We can’t choose what day we want to feed our livestock; we have to do it daily!

cows 2016

Cows that will be calving in the days to come on our farm.

After many discussions, Kevin decided to call the Judge’s office and ask if they would grant a release for Kevin from jury duty on Monday. Request denied! More chest pains ensued, only this time it was my chest, not Kevin’s. My dad felt horribly responsible, this isn’t his fault though. Dad wanted to cancel his surgery that he has been waiting for 3 weeks to have. We vetoed that idea very quickly. I want my dad to put his health first, not me or the farm! We’ve had three weeks of anxiety waiting for this surgery; I don’t think I can endure another three weeks. I turned to an attorney for advice because I had no idea what we would do on Monday. Dad needed the surgery, Kevin needed to haul pigs, we have cows calving, a trailer to be washed after the pigs are hauled, cows that need to be moved after calving and beans that need hauled to market. The attorney immediately understood how heavy of a load we already had on our shoulders. I told him I would be happy to sit in for Kevin on jury duty; I just couldn’t do all of Kevin’s jobs on the farm, plus mine and my dad’s. (I can do many things but backing up a trailer is not a skill I possess and the thought of having to do this alone sent me into a panic attack because trailers and trucks are not cheap!)

After many prayers were said, this afternoon we received word that the Judge would release Kevin this one time due to our special circumstance. He didn’t understand why we didn’t hire someone else to help us but the attorney explained to him the situation. The take away of this is to never assume people understand what your responsibility as a livestock farmer entails because you live in a rural community. This Judge was kind enough to ask more questions and learn the depth of our responsibilities on the farm and I will be forever grateful to him, and the attorney who helped us share our story.

Posted in agchat, agriculture, family, food, government, livestock care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The “Bump” in the Road

It’s been two years since we were able to plant soybeans on our farm.  Last year it rained too much and we were never able to get in the fields to plant our beans.  We were fortunate to get our corn planted but the rains started in late April and continued through May, June and July and that was the end of our planting season.  Our hay season wasn’t much better; we lost our rye hay because it was too wet to mow.  This last month we feel like we have been experiencing déjà vu; we have been patiently waiting for the rains to slow down once again so we can get back in the fields to plant our soybeans.

track 2

Rachelle running the final stretch of her 800 Meter run during the State Track Meet.

Two weeks ago the weather turned off nice and the rains stopped…..just in time for our daughter’s state track meet.  This two day competition would be the last time she competed in high school track and her daddy couldn’t stand the thought of missing it.  He made the tough decision that he was going to have to miss the competition if the sun was shining that Friday morning.  (We will have college to pay for now in the fall!)  As luck would have it, we woke up and it was raining.  Kevin was able to watch Rachelle run for the first time this year; she placed 6th in the 800 meter run, coming within one second of beating our school record and beating her personal record.  The following day her 4 x 400 team placed 8th and Kevin was once again able to witness Rachelle beat her personal record for running a 400 meter.  She left it all on the track and her daddy was beaming with pride!  (So was I, of course!)

 

The following morning was her graduation from high school and the sun was shining and our fields were dry enough to work in but once again, the timing wasn’t right.  There was no way Kevin could miss Rachelle’s high school graduation!  We left the tractor and planter in the shed while we watched our “little girl” walk across the stage to receive her diploma.

.facebook_1464902646339

Rachelle receiving her diploma!  She graduated in the top 10% of her class!

She delivered one of the speeches at her graduation ceremony; her speech was about the future.  She talked about how the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step and how each of her classmates would face bumps in the road.  She went on to talk about how each bump would make each of them stronger and better on their journey.  Kevin and I chuckled when we heard her practicing the speech that morning because our farming journey has been made up of many bumps in the road!  Whether she realized it or not, she was speaking from experience because she has been with us for many of our bumps on the road and she has seen how tough those bumps can make you!

 

Once the graduation festivities concluded, Kevin’s plan was to head to the fields after Rachelle’s reception was over.  That well laid out plan didn’t work out so well.  We ended up having company until after dark that night, we enjoyed visiting with old friends and neighbors so it wasn’t all bad!  Kevin headed to the field the next morning to start working ground.  Tuesday was going to be the day we started planting….until it rained…yet again.  Another bump in the road!

20160601_204201

Filling the planter with SOYBEANS!!!  A welcome sight on our farm!

And yesterday, the day we have been anxiously waiting for, finally arrived.  We were able to get back in the field and we actually got to plant soybeans!  I was excited to once again take meals to the fields last night.  Yes, it is a hassle to load up drinks and food and deliver to multiple fields but for me it was a feeling of normalcy.  And just as I arrived at the field with Kevin’s meal, he let me know the planter needed refilled and I was just in time to help!  The good ole days are back!  What started out as a quick trip to the field turned into a two hour trip but I am not complaining!  I am so thankful to have beans in the ground this year!  We finished that field up last night and parked the tractor in the shed about midnight!  It was a short night but I am thrilled to say they are back in the field today planting another field!  With a little luck, we might finish before the next round of rain on Saturday.  (I’m not holding my breath!)

 

Posted in agriculture, education, family, food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

 

Posted in agriculture, education, family, food, livestock care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

Posted in agriculture, family, livestock care, Uncategorized, weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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!

Posted in agchat, agriculture, family, livestock care, weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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.

Posted in Farm Bureau, government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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.

Posted in agchat, agriculture, family, food, livestock care, weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments