New Year, New Stuff

Jan 20, 2015 by

Every year I like to look back at the past year through photos, blog posts, emails and etc. and get a good overview of how last year went.  It’s less a list of resolutions and more a guide on how not to F up/how to keep being awesome.

As I looked back over the last year’s worth of Facebook posts, photos, blogs, and more, I realized there were quite a few areas in which I could vastly improve.  Probably the most obvious of which was how (in)frequently I post here.  According to my records, I wrote 6 blogs last year.  SIX.  That’s one every 2 months (and in reality, more like 3 in one month and nothing for 3 months).  Not cool.

After some introspection on the matter, I made two decisions.

#1.  Things have to change.  See, I started writing this blog when we got married and I moved to Goofy Ridge.  Adam and I celebrated our 7th anniversary yesterday.  Suffice to say, my perspective has changed in the last seven years. 🙂  When I began this blog, I would talk to my suburban friends about my life and frequently hear them shocked and amazed at how things operate in a rural area.  Those of you who remember the Frank bumper story know what I mean.  But, like many things in life, the longer you’re exposed to them, the more normal they seem.  Maybe it’s because we have two kids now and we just don’t get out much but I’m finding myself exposed to fewer things that you might find on Dog the Bounty Hunter and more and more things likely found on a riveting episode of Guy’s Grocery Games.


(I know, Mom.  I watch too much tv.)


(No, I do not watch Dog the Bounty Hunter.)


(Or Guy’s Grocery Games.)


#2.  Those of you who have followed me this long deserve an explanation of what I WAS doing, when I should/could have been blogging.  🙂



But, you’ll have to wait on that until a later date.  Those fun-sucking kids I mentioned?  (Oh, did I not mention they’re fun-suckers?  They’re fun-suckers.  Luckily, they are also cute.  Most of the time.)  Anyway, the fun-suckers are boycotting nap time today.  More on my 2014 Blog Absence Explanation to come.

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Farm Life Opposites

Jul 31, 2014 by

Last week, Illinois Farm Families’ blog published a post I wrote.  I’m posting it here for those of you who missed it.


Recently, this blog shared a post about being under 30 and over $1 million in debt.  That really struck a chord with me (even though I’m 31).

It served as a good reminder that, in many ways, going from a “normal” life to a farm wife requires a complete shift in thinking. I often find that for all the “truths” that apply to suburban life, the exact opposite is true for farm families.

Non-farm jobs get paid on a regular basis, whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Farmers get paid sporadically throughout the year, whenever they sell grain or a contracted crop is harvested. Some years that amounts to three payments in a 12-month period, therefore you have to be REALLY on top of your finances.

Non-farmers are taught that loans are bad and to be avoided, if at all possible. Farmers not only need loans, we RELY on loans. We may only get paid three times a year, but our bills are due every month just like everyone else. In order for them to be paid on time, we get an operating loan. An operating loan can range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the size of the farmer’s operation. The operating loan is basically a one-year line of credit to fill in during the times we haven’t been paid for a few months. The loan is always paid back at the end of the year. Sure, paying interest irritates farmers just as it would any other person but, for farmers, it’s simply part of life.

The same goes for credit cards. Most people are taught not to use credit cards for things they cannot afford. Farmers use credit cards for things they really can afford but, due to the timing of our income being varied, may not have the cash for this very second. For example, a new combine costs around $200,000. Not too many people have that kind of cash on hand. And that’s just ONE of the pieces of machinery we require. Farming has a lot of overhead.

One last difference also has to do with our proximity (or lack thereof) to the rest of society. Because we live 35 miles from the nearest city, when we do drive there to shop, get groceries, run errands, etc. we tend to buy more, spend more and do more at one time. This leads to the difference in fuel efficiency as a priority. Most people are taught that they should buy the most fuel-efficient vehicles they can. Farmers still care about fuel efficiency but oftentimes the vehicles with better gas mileage are either too small or not made for the rough terrain. The average MPG of our two main vehicles is 15 MPG. My husband cannot haul grain in a Prius and I can’t fit two kids, a golden retriever and enough groceries to survive the apocalypse into a Camry. Not to mention, it’s pretty tough to take lunch out to the field without four-wheel drive.

One thing we have in common with non-farmers is that the majority of people want to live reasonably close to where we work. We don’t just live reasonably close; we live where we work. Literally. But we aren’t so different. Non-farmers might be checking their work email at 11 pm and farmers might be out checking their irrigators.

All in all, we aren’t so different; like everything else in life, it’s just a matter of perspective.

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Farm Census

May 23, 2014 by

The USDA recently released its latest Census of Agriculture.  This census is done every five years, unlike the population census.

For all of us ag nerds, it was chock full of interesting information.  Here are a few tidbits:


– The total number of farmers is down, with the decrease in female farmers being greater than the decrease in male farmers.

– 70% of farmers now have the internet (up from 57% in 2007!)

– The average age of farmers is 58.3 years old

– 57% of farmers sold less than $10,000 worth of crops/livestock (This is total sales, not net profit.)

– 70% of farmers report that less than 25% of their income comes from farming


What do all these numbers mean?


For our family, they illustrate that farming is a very risky business (and not in the Tom Cruise underwear and socks kind of way).  And although things can change in an instant, FOR NOW, we are among the lucky ones.  We are safe.  We have a roof over our heads.  We can pay our bills.  We are happy.  We are blessed.

My husband is a 7th generation farmer.  That means we were lucky enough to have a bit of a head start with land and knowledge of the business side of farming.  The sad truth is that it is extremely difficult to get into farming without being “born into” it.  Land prices are sky rocketing.  Equipment costs are in the six-figure range.  That is why nearly HALF of farmers aren’t turning a net profit.  Talk about terrifying.  These are the people producing your food and growing the crops that make your clothes, fuel your cars, and become your craft beer.

The census shows that we aren’t all the stereotypical 80-year-old white male in coveralls who sits at the gas station drinking coffee and arguing about the weather.  Ok, some of us are.  But most of us have young children in rural areas where there aren’t always a lot of family, friends or TARGET conveniences of modern life.

We may be somewhat isolated but we want you, the general public, to know about our farms (and not just from a census).  We want you to see what we are doing, to know that 97% of us are family businesses, to know that we are just like you (but with a lot more corn and cattle).  Please ask us questions, read our blogs, tour our farms…just call first so we can change out of our coveralls. 🙂

The #1 thing the ag census indicates to me is that our numbers may be declining but our passion for farming is at an all-time high.

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Farm D-Day, Take 2

May 6, 2014 by

One of the most common questions people ask is whether life on the farm is very different from life in the suburbs.  The answer is yes and no.  Obviously, there are a LOT of differences (most of which are based purely on lack of proximity to EVERYTHING), but there are some similarities.

One big difference, however, was illustrated this afternoon.  As my kids and I were playing outside, we received a phone call from my husband telling us to get the dog and go inside IMMEDIATELY.

You see, today was Farm D-Day.  Or, perhaps I should say 2, 4-D Day.  2,4-D is a herbicide (aka weed-killer) that we spray on our crops.  (For my word nerds out there, it’s pronounced two four D.)  It is not dangerous to humans, just broadleaf weeds. 🙂  Broadleaf weeds can be anything from dandelions and clover to morning glory and marestail.  But my favorite thing it kills is ragweed.  Allergy sufferers, say it with me, HALLELUJAH!  Ragweed is the devil!

2,4-D isn’t toxic but it can give you a nasty headache if you stand outside in it long enough.  I don’t think people in the suburbs have to worry about clouds of brown chemical fog invading their backyard very often…but I don’t have to worry about my neighbor’s dog leaving brown land mines in my yard, so I call that a win for farm life! 😉

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Single Mom Salute!

Aug 26, 2013 by

Recently, Michelle Obama caught some flack after she misspoke, calling herself a “busy single mother.”  She quickly realized her gaffe and said “when you have a husband who’s president, it can feel a little single – but he’s there.”


Though she took heat from critics, I think a lot of women out there completely related to the “single mom” feeling, especially us farmers’ wives!


I don’t mean to imply that there aren’t other groups of women who often feel or actually ARE “suddenly single” moms (military wives, I’m looking at you!), but since I’m a farm wife, it’s how I relate.


Harvest is right around the corner, so my tour of duty as a “single mom” is something I’m spending a lot of time thinking about and preparing for these days.  Although I am a stay-at-home-mom and, therefore, used to managing the household and childcare, harvest (and planting season) are a whole other ball game.


During not-so-busy seasons, my husband is home around dinner time and we can all sit down to a nice family meal (with perhaps some food flinging and screaming from our son).  During harvest, we have a lot of “daddy-less dinners.”  I don’t get a break at 5 because my husband typically isn’t home until 10.  Motherhood becomes a serious 24/7 job with little to no help.  I am responsible for every errand, every chore, cleaning up after and caring for my 2- and 4-legged children, and my husband for the 5 minutes a day I see him between one of us sleeping.  Seriously.  He leaves before we wake up and he often gets home as I am going to bed.  So I definitely understand the “single mom” feeling!  But at least he is home at night.  I can relax knowing that he is here, safe and sound, even if I don’t get to spend much time with him.


Because that’s the real problem isn’t it?  When you don’t see each other, it’s hard to communicate.  You get frustrated.  Things slip through the cracks.  One year, our schedules were so busy (during planting season) that I had to drive out into the corn field to remind him that it was his birthday and dinner was in town (an hour away), in two hours!


This year I have a head start on “single mom” duties since my husband is in Canada on a week-long fishing trip.  Let me go ahead and say it…full-time single moms…I don’t know how you do it!  PROPS TO YOU!  Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful little boy, but he is also two years old.  AKA he is very busy.  And I am very TIRED.  I think even the dog is counting down the days until my husband gets home!


It seems that women are always told that we can have it all, do it all, be it all, but the fact of the matter is we can’t have/do/be it all…all at the same time.  That’s why I hope that we, as women, and as wives, can take a lesson from Mrs. Obama and admit when we are carrying the brunt of the load.  Then maybe, just maybe, we can ask for help when we truly need it…even if that “help” is just a coffee date with a friend or 30 minutes to ourselves once in a while.  Harvest may only last a few months but it can feel like an eternity!


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Not So Fast, Panera

Jul 31, 2013 by

Here is the latest post I wrote for Illinois Farm Families:

As a former advertising professional, I try to stay informed on the current state of affairs in the ad world. It’s not uncommon for friends in the industry to send me updates and bounce ideas off of each other. Normally, that is a fun break for me from farm life and it helps me feel connected with the non-agriculture parts of the world. The other day a friend shared Panera Bread’s new ad campaign. When she said I should check it out, I was extra excited because I used to work for a Panera franchisee who owned several locations. When I worked for them, Panera made a concerted effort, as a company, to be kind, honest and inclusive both to their staff and their customers.  That’s one reason I signed on with them in the first place.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Panera Bread has begun marketing the chicken sold in their cafes as “antibiotic free.”  Talk about false advertising!  ALL chicken sold in the US has to go through a withdrawal period before it can be sold. This means that whether your chicken never had medication in its life or whether it got sick, needed care and was medicated before a withdrawal period, it doesn’t matter…both could be considered “antibiotic free.”

I believe everyone has the right to choose the type of foods they feel are right for their families, but if you are interested in eating organic/non-GMO/etc., please do not be duped by Panera’s misguiding advertising. It is possible that meat in your Panera sandwich came from a chicken that was once given an antibiotic. It is important to note, the USDA considers all claims that a product is “antibiotic-free” to be unprovable. So what does that tell you?  Probably a little stretching of the  facts involved with this campaign.

But what really shocked me were the images used in the campaign. The first is from their Twitter account for “EZ Chicken,” the cartoon mascot featured heavily in their ads.



The second is one of the actual ads.


Are they seriously creating an entire campaign based around the idea that farmers, are lazy?!  As a farmer, you can imagine I might take offense.

My husband’s family got out of the livestock business because livestock farming is 24/7/365. You don’t get a break. You don’t get a vacation. If it rains, the cows still need to be fed and milked; you don’t get an automatic “freebie” day off. So please explain to me, Panera, how exactly are farmers lazy?

If they are implying that by using antibiotics a farmer is lazy, that is simply absurd. Let’s look at this from the farmers’ perspective. Chickens are their livelihood. If the chicken gets sick and dies, the farmer hasn’t done a good job caring for the animal AND the farmer loses money. So the farmer doesn’t profit from being lazy. If your child were sick, wouldn’t they get antibiotics?  Of course they would. That doesn’t make you a lazy parent!  As parents, we are responsible for doing everything we can to keep our children healthy. Farmers are responsible for doing everything they can to keep their chickens healthy.

Even if you aren’t a livestock farmer, or even a farmer at all, your sense of fair play has to wonder about Panera’s approach. No matter what your opinions are on antibiotic use in animals, we can all agree that singling out an entire group of people for public name-calling is not right.

What happened to kind, honest, inclusive Panera?

After hundreds of complaints via their Facebook page, Panera says they will remove all EZ Chicken references from their Facebook page. That doesn’t solve the problem, but at least they’re attempting to listen to the consumers. We shall see, Panera. We shall see.

As a former employee, I am embarrassed. As a farm wife, I am outraged.



*I think it’s important to share something with you guys.  As you know, I have a laundry list of pet peeves. 🙂  But I don’t think calling this issue a “pet peeve” really does it justice.  It’s more than a pet peeve for me when a corporation starts messing with families, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.  Although I do not choose to purchase solely organic/non-GMO food for my family, I think every family has the right to make INFORMED choices for themselves.  It’s pretty hard to make an informed choice when you are constantly bombarded by media messages chock full of false information.  It hurts my heart that there very likely are families out there who think that, by spending extra at Panera, they are making a better choice for their families when, in all likelihood, it’s not a better choice but the EXACT SAME choice as everywhere else.  As I said in the post, no matter what your opinion is on antibiotic use in animals, please do not be duped by their false messages.

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