Counting Our Blessings

Tonight, the air is soft and cool, the crickets chirp quietly outside in the creek, and the stars shine brightly over the eastern Colorado prairie.  As I gaze out across the land, I’m overwhelmed.  I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness for this beautiful place that myself and my family get to call home.  I’m overwhelmed with the awesomeness of God’s creation.  I’m overwhelmed with the smell of prairie sage gliding on the night air.  I’m overwhelmed that I am blessed enough to live in the greatest Country in the world, the United States of America.  With all of the negativity in the world as of late, I think its important that as an industry and as a country, we count our blessings and look at all of the good things surrounding us, the Agricultural industry being one of them.

Agriculture is an amazing industry that EVERYONE is involved in. I mean, if you eat, you’re involved in agriculture.  It’s a necessity, as a living, breathing being, we have to eat.  In order to eat, someone has to produce food; that’s where famers and ranchers come in.  What a lot of people don’t know about our industry is the sacrifice; the sacrifice that men and women in this industry make everyday to provide a safe, affordable, and reliable source of food and fiber to the American consumer.  Long, grueling hours are worked, tears are shed, and stresses pile up do to a declining market.  Despite all of this, we get to wake up everyday and steward God’s creation, there is not a  price you can put on that.  All of the everyday stresses aside, we get to share the happiness in all of it with other incredible people in our industry, and that is priceless.  Whether you know someone who is involved in agriculture or not, take a moment to reflect on your blessings and the ability to put food on your families’ table everyday.  In the same breath, remember that someone had to produce that food in order for you to provide it.

The Agricultural industry  is the most important industry in our world, in my opinion.  Without it, we wouldn’t have fuel to keep all of the incredibly important minds of the world functioning to do their own important jobs.  Food is fuel and without it, we can’t “run”.  The thing about it is, that Ag isn’t JUST about food production, it’s about animals, land, and people all working together for a greater purpose.  How amazing is that! I couldn’t be more blessed to be apart of this incredible industry.  Though the public perception of Agriculture can be skewed at times, I implore you to take a step back and be grateful and thankful that there are people out there who don’t want you to go hungry and feel responsible for feeding you and the people of this great Nation.  So, my point is, thank a farmer today.  Thank a rancher today.  Tell them “thank you” for providing you with the nourishment that your body needs.  Remember that without them, you wouldn’t have it.  So tonight count your blessing, the American farmer being one of them.

 

 

 

GMO’s: How we Feed the World

In the blazing summer sun, the rumbling combine furiously cuts across the wheat fields.  The crop this year is rich, one of the best we’ve cut in a long time.  The wheat we are cutting is called Hard Red Winter Wheat, which is considered a GMO crop.  Though “GMO” has been portrayed as a scary word within the last few years, I am here to assure you that the fear mongering on behalf of the Anti-GMO advocates is completely unwarranted.  GMO crops are plants that have been altered genetically to better suit conditions in the plants environment and life-span.  GMO’s are not dangerous or alarming ,they are beneficial to producers and consumers alike.  Just like we work vigorously to cut a bumper crop and harvest it in the best and most efficient way possible, we too try to provide the most nutritious yet effective source of food to the American consumer.

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Our Hard Red Winter Wheat, about a month before harvest.

Within the last decade, public awareness and concern for where their food comes from has dramatically risen.  One of the bigger issues the consumer has brought forth is the production and consumption of genetically modified organisms or GMO’s.  I believe one of the things that has caused public fear in regards to genetic modification is how it can affect our bodies and health.  Truth be told, no one has ever died from consuming genetically modified foods (shocker!).  Genetic modification is not unhealthy for people or animals alike.  The studies that have shown GMO’s having negative side-effects such as tumors in lab rats, have since been disproven (source).  There has been a significant amount of testing done on GMO’s and how they impact not only our food source, but our health as well, that have consistently proved there is nothing harmful about them.  Trust me, farmers and ranchers eat all of the food that they grow, too! We don’t want to put anything into our bodies that would be harmful to it as much as you don’t.  That being said, when you do the research, and look at the scientific evidence backing GMO foods, you’ll realize that not only are they nothing to worry about in regards to our health, but they are also the most efficient, eco-friendly, and reliable means of mass-producing crops to nourish the demands of our growing population.

Not only do conventional methods of crop production provide an equally delicious and nutritious source of food for the American consumer, conventional farming is far more sustainable and environmentally friendly than organic farming practices.  Agriculture already accounts for a large amount of deforestation in the world.  We use 1/3 of the Earth’s land for agricultural purposes (source).  With organic farms producing far less than a conventional farm and organic farming requiring more land to produce on,  trying to sustain a food source for a growing nation and world on organic farming is counterproductive.  It would lead to an increase in deforestation and cause a greater environmental impact than conventional farming (source).  As for the use of herbicides,  with genetically modified crops, farmers are able to use LESS herbicides!  The use of Roundup has been greatly critiqued by anti-GMO advocates.  In actuality, Roundup is far less toxic than the earlier used herbicide, atrazine (source).  Not only are we able to use less herbicides and safer herbicides thanks to GMO crops, we also increase our crop yields by doing so!  Along with the use of herbicides, there has also been concern about the use of fertilizers and how they leach into the ground water.  Conventional farming practices water and fertilize simultaneously through irrigation systems (source).  By doing this, the plants are given appropriate amounts of fertilizer according the the demands per growing season.  Unlike this conventional farming practice, organic farms use composted fertilizer which is not released according to the demand of the plant.  Being that the fertilizer is not released according to plant demand, there is a significant leaching of nitrate into the soil and groundwater (source).  I don’t know about you, but last time I checked, contamination of groundwater is not sustainable or environmentally-friendly.  At the end of the day, conventional farming is more equip to cater to the environment, creates larger yields, is more sustainable, is far more efficient, and uses less water than organic farming!

As not only a producer, but as a wife as well, I understand the importance of providing a safe, reliable, and nutritious source of food to the public and to my family.  Farmers are the most passionate about providing the highest quality produce to the consumer as possible.  Conventional farming practices are perfectly safe, healthy, and are far more economic than organic farming practices.  The truth is, we can’t feed the demand of a growing nation and world on organic farms.  The only way we can produce enough food in the most efficient way possible is through GMO crops.  GMO’s are a means of increasing yields and efficiency, they are not an added ingredient to be feared.  All genetic modification does is allow farmers to do their jobs better and provide enough nutrition for everyone in the cheapest way possible.  As we harvest our wheat in the heat of the July sun, we smile knowing our high-yields will better contribute to the ever-growing demand for food.  Without GMO’s, we would never be able to produce a high-quality crop in a dry climate.  Do the research, know the facts, and learn about the benefits of genetic modification and why it is so paramount to our farming practices. GMO’s are not frightening, they are how we feed the world.

The TRUTH about Ethics and Livestock

As June comes to a close, the afternoons fill with ominous storm clouds and the chance of hail and heavy rain lingers over the precious wheat fields.  Every time the darkness rolls over the blue skies of the eastern plains, a faint panic falls over the farmers in concern for their ever-so-close to harvest crop.  Don’t get me wrong, rain is ALWAYS more than welcomed in a high-desert climate, but the prospect of hail ruining a years worth of work in the field is always frightening.  Just as we try so desperately to save the wheat and reap a bountiful harvest from year to year, we also fight passionately to keep our way of life going from generation to generation.  With negative media attention on the rise and common misconceptions being spread about commercial livestock, I believe that these rumors need to be addressed from a first-hand perspective.  It is important that we know where our food comes from, but in a truthful way.  Without some sort of positive and truthful perspective from someone who actually works in production agriculture and works with livestock on a day to day basis, how do you know what you hear in the media is actually true?  The answer is, you don’t.  The only way you can truly know what goes on with commercial livestock and the treatment of them, is talking to someone who works with them.

In recent years, the negative media attention that agriculture has attracted has seemed to escalate rapidly.  I believe part of the problem is that many people that live in urban areas are so far removed from the farm that their views of farming and ranching practices are skewed.  The problem with media and agriculture is that the only media attention that agriculture gets is negative.  The fantastic, horrific stories of animal abuse and GMO’s are at the forefront of media attention in regards to our food supply.  I’m here to tell you the TRUTH about agriculture.  Yes, you cannot deny a video and you cannot deny that they have happened, but I can tell you that those instances of abuse are a blip in the agricultural universe (not to mention, most of these “conveyor belt chickens” and “pigs in cages” type videos you see, are not even  in the United States).  There is a saying in our industry, “if you take care of that cow, she’ll take care of you.”  Trust me, 99% of families in production agriculture take care of their livestock not just because it is ethical, but because we have to in order to make any sort of profit.  When livestock are not given proper nutrition, proper environmental conditions, or are not handled in the correct way, they will not be as healthy as they possibly can be.  Besides the fact that treating livestock in an ethical and safe way is the only way to be successful in production agriculture, we love and care for our animals above anything else in our lives; we put their needs before our own.  For example, during calving season two years ago, we had a string of very cold days and nights.  We ended up bringing upwards of 5 calves a day into our home in order to warm them up and ensure their well being.  I don’t know about you, but fighting off a mean mama cow and bringing basically “wild” animals (most production cattle,though not self-sufficient animals, are not domesticated pets) into your home to make absolute sure they are ok, is far from abuse and neglect.  What I’m getting at is, though these animals are used and bred as a food source, there is still a great need to care for them in the correct and ethical way; and rancher’s believe this above anyone else.

There is a deeply imbedded sense of responsibility farmers and ranchers feel to care for their land and livestock.  Without both of those things, we are unable to make a living and do what we do.  I do believe that it is ethical to use commercial livestock as a source of food, but it is our responsibility as producers to provide for them a healthy life while they are here.  Next time you see a video of abused livestock or read something that seems wrong in regards to treatment of livestock, ask someone in the industry.  It is hard to judge how livestock should be handled if you have never worked with livestock.  Handling a 1,500-2,000 pound animal is not as easy as it looks.  I can tell you one thing, criminalizing farmers and ranchers who do the right thing and provide a safe and reliable food source for the American consumer, is not the answer to awareness.  Just like any other industry, there are bad apples in the barrel, but just because there are one or two bad apples, do you trash the entire barrel?  No.  Next time you see a farmer or rancher, thank them for putting food on your table every day, instead of passing judgement based on false accusations.

As the summer storms roll in every afternoon and the lightening cracks across the skies, we hope and pray that our crop makes it to harvest.  Just as we hope to cut a bumper crop, we hope that through perseverance and talking about agriculture, we can preserve agricultures good name and show the consumer that we care deeply about our land and livestock.  I implore anyone who reads this, please educate yourself on where your food comes from, but do so from the CORRECT and TRUTHFUL sources without a political agenda.  Preserving agriculture for our generation is not just about preserving the land and breeding livestock, its about connecting to the consumer and educating the consumer about where our food comes from.

 

 

Summertime and Conservation

As summer has begun, the weather is hot, the grass is green, and a cool breeze is more than welcomed.  The work piles on in the heat of June, as does our growing need to conserve the way of life that we love.  The distant chirp of the Meadow Lark and the soft humming of toads in the creek, remind us of why we love what we do so much, and the land that allows it.  Everyday presents a new challenge for us and how to continue to preserve not only the land that allows us our living, but also our way of life.

With “town” slowly but steadily closing in on the eastern I-70 corridor, the open range, along with the animals that inhabit it, slowly migrate further to the east.  Unfortunately, no more land is being made, there is only so much of it to be had.  With that being said, lands that were previously used for production agriculture are now being developed.  With the growing population of Denver, there are only two ways in which development can move, upward and outward.  The front range is rapidly being developed and I would venture to say, is mostly full with an increasing demand for amenities and housing.  Due to these conditions, the city is moving east.  Where there once were open rangelands and wheat fields as far as the eye could see, there are now housing developments and shopping centers.  Though these developments allow for more people to live in this beautiful state that we call home, it threatens the way of life that we hold dear.

Production Agriculture has declined significantly in the last 50 years.  With the development of land, the all-consuming financial burdens that farmers face, and the constant distancing of the consumer from the producer, Agriculture faces constant adversity that makes it difficult to keep family farms operating generation after generation.  Less than 2% of the population consists of family farmers and ranchers.  We are a dying Breed!  Not only are these numbers disheartening because American Farmers produce the country’s (and some of the World’s)  source of food and fiber, but we are also preserving one of the oldest professions of Man.  I truly don’t belive there is a more humbling way of life.  To be responsible for feeding a nation is a daunting task, only to be made more burdening when media criminalizes the industry and development closes in around pasture and farmland.

This past week, our family attended the annual Colorado Cattlemen’s Association convention in Colorado Springs.  Our family was honored with the Leopold Conservation Award (way to go Keven and Sandi!)  and we were able to make connections with important people and conservationists in our industry.  The CCA and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust are wonderful advocates on behalf of Ranchers and conservation alike.  It’s nice to know that well-known organizations like these back the industry in a tremendous way and lighten burdens for farming and ranching families.  Through the CCALT, families can place conservation easement’s on their land so that they can forever remain in production agriculture and never be developed.  Through conservation easement’s, families can keep their ranches in the family, while also conserving the land and protecting it from future development.  These organizations, along with production Ag families and other supporters of Agriculture,  keep our industry and the lands that allow us our way of life going.  Here is the link to the CCA and the CCALT website’s: http://coloradocattle.org/ and https://ccalt.org/ .

When I look out over our summer pasture and see the silhouette of cows and calves quietly grazing beneath the blue, Colorado skies, my heart is filled with so much joy and admiration for all of the men and women who are able to share in our way of life and fulfill the needs of a growing nation.  In order to continue what we do, we must bridge the gap between consumer and producer and show that our love for the land, livestock, and the native species that encompass the ranch, bestow upon us the duty of conserving not only the environment, but Agriculture as well.  Farmers and Ranchers have always been the original conservationists and stewards and we will continue to advocate on behalf of production agriculture and the rangeland as long as we live.  Though we face great challenges in Agriculture, we are forever blessed and grateful to protect and conserve.

WEATHERING THE STORM

As calving season draws to an end, the weather starts to warm back up.  The trees begin to blossom, the flowers start to bloom, the grass begins to green back up, and the baby calves grow like weeds.  This time of the year is magical; a hard winter’s worth of work is displayed in the bucking and playing around of a healthy, ever-growing calf.

For those of you who are new to cattle, calving season is the time of the year when momma cows give birth to baby calves.  In cattle ranching,  breeding season covers all of the cows in your herd, this way, everything gives birth within the same three month period.  Sometimes, operations utilize artificial insemination to streamline genetics and to insure breeding efficiency.  This also ensures similar calving dates from cow to cow.  It is our most important time of the year in ranching.  It is our job, as stewards of the land and livestock, to ensure that each calf is born healthy and in the most humane way possible.  Our duties range all the way from feeding to helping a momma cow give birth.  The most satisfying and rewarding feeling in the world is knowing you took part in providing a safe environment and meeting the needs of each and every newborn baby calf on the ranch.  There is nothing more important to us than ensuring the safety of each and every pair (momma and baby) on our place.

This month, we were faced with the prospect of a late-spring storm.  Though the calves are growing and very healthy, storms can pose a risk to their health.  With blowing snow, cold temperatures, and high winds, we can see disease and sickness flair up as a result of the storm.  To prepare, we draw pairs into a well-protected area within one of our pastures that provides significant protection from the elements.  We do this by ringing the dinner bell (very similar to how i get my Husband’s attention)!  We continually feed heavy amounts to the cows in the area which we want them to weather the storm.  This helps the cows to maintain good body condition while also giving her calf the nutrition it needs to survive the cold conditions.  We know how to efficiently and effectively prepare for a large winter storm , but these storms don’t compare to the storms we face in negative media and bad publicity.

Agriculture, within the last twenty years, has come under fire for inhumane treatment of animals, antibiotic and hormone use, GMOs, and many other points of misinformation.  This has caused an influx of viral videos displaying acts of cruelty towards animals and extremely negative coverage from the media.  Unfortunately, shocking news stories with horrifying videos draw far more media attention than all of the sacrifices producers make for the well-being of their livestock.  What is so disheartening about this is that 99.9% of our industry is not this way.  Almost all farmers and ranchers take wonderful care of their livestock and do everything they can to ensure the well-being of the animal.  We have to take good care of our livestock, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the only way to maintain our way of life.  There is an old saying in our industry, “if you take care of that cow, she’ll take care of you.”  We live by these words.  How can you expect to be a successful steward if you don’t fulfill the most important duty of all: caring for your land and livestock.  Farmers and ranchers love what they do, or they wouldn’t be doing it.  It is such a fulfilling and honorable way of life; that is why it saddens me greatly to see people criminalize the industry.

Through creating this blog and writing weekly posts about our industry, I hope that I can raise awareness for Agriculture and bridge the gap between consumer and producer.  I want to show all of the readers that farmers and ranchers are wonderful, hard-working people with a deeply instilled responsibility and hunger to care for land and livestock.  The men, women, families, and  wonderful people who define this industry, deserve to be recognized for their can-do attitude and dedication to feeding this wonderful nation and the world.  It is important to know where your food comes from; and I intend to help you discover that.  Now that we have weathered the late-spring storm, we now are responsible for weathering the storm of bringing awareness to the consumer.  It is our responsibility and duty to do so.