Saturday, May 21, 2016

Miss America, The Farm Girl

I loved watching the Miss America pageant as a little girl. All my friends did too. I think secretly we all thought, one day that will be me! The closest I ever got to being Miss America was being crowned Washington County Dairy Princess. Don't get me wrong, as that too was a huge honor, but I never got to be serenaded by host Bert Parks. 

Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell didn't get to be serenaded either, as Bert Parks retired before Betty was even born! Did you notice I called her Betty. Yep, we're on a first name basis. You see Betty is one of us, a farm girl.  

Here I am with Miss America. Who would have thought...
 I met Betty at her recent visit to  Wolf Creek Dairy a dairy farm in Dundas, Minnesota owned by the Liebebstein family. Betty's platform, "Healthy Children, Strong America" encourages children to make healthy choices and stay physically active. It is in partnership with the American Farm Bureau Foundation For Agriculture.

Miss America and Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Kyla Mauk, touring with Mary Liebenstein.
This partnership brought her to Minnesota to visit schools in the area that participated in the First Peas To The Table contest.  This national competition for schools encourages children in kindergarten through fifth grade to plant, raise and harvest peas this spring. What better way to learn, than to get your hands dirty!

This farm girl loves cows!
 So why not visit a few farms while you're here promoting agriculture?
Betty not only talks-the-talk for agriculture, Betty walks-the-walk. After our lunch at Wolf Creek Dairy, she shared about her life growing up on a 700 acre farm in Georgia, her journey to becoming Miss America, (she watched the contest only one year before competing!) and she sang for us (Jesus Take The Wheel). Finally, Betty shared her passion for "Healthy Children, Strong America".

Betty learned to drive a tractor at the age of 9.
  Princess Kay, Kyla Mauk, then had the opportunity to share about a similar program we dairy farmers are passionate about, Fuel Up To Play 60. This program, sponsored by The National Football League and dairy farmers across America, also encourages healthy eating and exercise. 

Miss America greets Dakota County Farm Bureau members.
Here's what Miss America, Betty Cantrell, said on Face Book about her recent visit to Minnesota, "Spending my day in my kinda territory, with our Minnesotan farmers thanks to my partner with my platform, the American Farm Bureau Federation. 🚜 I feel right at home!"

Thanks for visiting Betty! You're welcome back any time...any time at all!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Princess Kay Hopefuls Meet to Learn

I'm going on a road trip! 
May 13-15 is the Dairy Princess Promotion and Leadership Event in St. Cloud, MN. It is a weekend devoted to skill-building to share the message of dairy farmers commitment to providing safe, high-quality milk and dairy foods, including taking good care of our cows and the land. 

Kyla Mauk, 62nd Princess Kay of the Milky Way
But how are these young women chosen to attend this workshop?

Each of them are from a dairy farm family, or they, or their parents or guardian are employed by a dairy farm. They are selected as their county's dairy ambassadors, and then move on to the May Event in St. Cloud. This is also where the 12 finalists are selected for the Minnesota dairy community's goodwill ambassador, Princess Kay of the Milky Way.  

2015 Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalists
  Candidates are judged on a written application, a short speech, a professional interview, and a mock media interview. Live updates of the finalist announcements will be posted to Princess Kay’s Facebook page during the luncheon held on Sunday, May 15th. On Twitter, updates can be obtained by following the hashtag #MNPrincessKay.

2015 Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalists
After a busy summer of June Dairy Month promotions, appearances, and County Fairs, the 12 finalists come together again in August for more judging. Princess Kay is then crowned the night before the Minnesota State Fair opens and serves as the dairy community's goodwill ambassador for a year, helping people understand the dedication of dairy farmers to wholesome and nutritious food, and the way milk is produced. Dairy farmers sponsor the dairy princess program through Midwest Dairy Association.

Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Kyla Mauk
 I am so proud to be a part of this program. As a dairy farmer, the mom of a past finalist, and now the Minnesota Dairy Princess Coordinator, I have seen, first hand, the amazing young woman who represent the hard-working, proud dairy farmers of Minnesota!


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Rochester Rocks Dairy and FUTP60

Rochester, Minnesota is well known for some pretty great things; the Mayo Clinic,  the University of Minnesota Rochester, and some really wonderful students at Riverside Central Elementary! I recently visited with 130 of these super kids and their teachers about life on my farm.

 I shared my PowerPoint about my family, our animals, what we feed our animals,

what we do each day, how we grow their food, 

and how we milk our cows.

Then I spoke about the importance of dairy foods in our daily diet. Did you know that dairy is part of your recommended food intake, and we should have 3 servings every day of milk, cheese, or yogurt? The smart students of Riverside Central knew this. :)

I even taught them a little song to help them remember to have their Dairy 3 For Me every day. It goes like this- 

A special thank you goes out to Ann Winkels, Riverside Central's physical education teacher and Fuel Up To Play 60 coach. She not only realizes the importance of her students eating healthy and having a farmer share where the students food comes from, but she also encourages at least 60 minutes of activity each day. The day I visited, Ann planned a full day of healthy eating and fun activities for the kids, including Zumba, CrossFit, Hip Hop, and even a ping-pong exhibition by an Olympic hopeful! Great job Ann! Thanks for including this dairy farmer in your FUTP60 Day.

And to all of you, here's your chance to pledge to eat #Dairy 3 For Me.

From now through May 27, 2016, anyone taking the pledge through Midwest will be automatically entered to win one of three weekly prizes – an immersion blender to help get their three servings every day. All pledges are also eligible for the grand prize – a $250 retail gift card to help stock up on dairy essentials at the grocery store.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Spring Planting (and panting) Has Begun!

Here's the first step in filling our pantry, our cows pantry, that is! 
(Planting day April 16, 2016)
Since we grow all the food that is fed to our animals, Spring planting is a busy time. In our nearly 33 years of marriage I have never helped with planting. It has always been a task my father-in-law, Grandpa Roy, eagerly accepted. Since he was "forced" due to health reasons, to retire from his planting duties, it is now my turn.

There are a few things that need to be done before I head to the field to plant oats. Farmer John helps out by washing the windows on my tractor. Here's proof that men do long as the windows are on farm equipment!

The next task is to fill the grain drill (planter) with seed. John takes care of this. I know...he spoils me!
Alfalfa seed is also planted along with the oats. Since alfalfa (hay) seeds are so tiny and fragile, the oats are planted as a "cover crop". Cover crops protect the soil and may be used to reduce soil erosion, suppress weeds, and increase soil organic matter. 
 Then it's off to the field. 

I think fieldwork is really fun. Weird, huh?  I like that I can be outdoors, surrounded by beautiful scenery. I like that I'm helping to start a new crop that will eventually be fed to our cows, which will produce milk, that goes to your grocery aisles, and then appears on your dinner table! And just think, I helped get the whole process started by planting these little seeds!

After a quick morning of planting, it was time to refill the grain drill with seeds, and have lunch. While Farmer John refilled the seeds, I changed clothes in the clothes washer and made a gourmet lunch. Multitasking...

 Okay. Maybe it wasn't gourmet but all the food groups were represented, including milk, of course! Then it was back to planting. Twenty-eight acres were soon complete, and then I moved on to planting a peas and barley mix. 
While John added the peas and barley seeds, I ran to the house and did a bit more laundry. A woman's work is never done (tee-hee). Twelve acres of peas and barley are safely planted in the ground, and now it is time for Michael to take over.

Michael used a drag pulled behind his tractor to go over the fields that I just planted. This is done to smooth the fields. And now we wait. They will be popping their heads through the soil before we know it. We have been having several rainy days since planting, so it won't take long. When early July hits, we will reap the benefits of our planting. You can learn about that process in Pass the Peas, Please.
Today was a really productive day...oats planted, peas and barley planted, laundry done, and family fed. Whew! Now do you know why it's planting and panting? Life is good!
Next project- planting corn. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 8, 2016

You're the Cow Lady!

"You're the cow lady!" 
This was how I was greeted by a kindergartener at William Byrne Elementary when I recently paid a visit to their in-school breakfast. But this wasn't the only greeting I received that morning. 

I was also greeted by farm pictures the kids had colored welcoming me to their school. The cafeteria walls were coated in these colorful works of art which hung along side posters sharing the importance and freshness of milk. But that's not all...

Students also created their own smoothie flavors! There were many great flavor combinations, but I think this one was my favorite. Perhaps it was the name that won me over.

I was invited to William Byrne to visit with the students at their in-school breakfast.  William Byrne participates in the Fuel Up To Play 60 program. Fuel Up To Play 60 is a program funded by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League in collaboration with USDA, that empowers students to take charge in making small, everyday changes at school. Students are encouraged to change the way they look at food and nutrition, and change their attitudes about physical education.

As a dairy farmer, and a mom, it made me smile to see the healthy dairy filled breakfast the kids received. Milk, cheese sticks, yogurt, and fruit smoothies all gave these students a super start to their daily  Dairy 3 For Me. 

Thank you to the students of William Byrne for the invitation to visit your breakfast. Thanks also to Miss Tracy and the staff for getting your kiddos so enthused about  meeting a farmer and learning where their food comes from. Lastly, I would like to thank the kitchen staff for the great job they do of incorporating healthy dairy foods in all the meals served.

If you are a farmer, I encourage you to visit schools in your area. You will be amazed at the excitement you generate! Kids want to know you, and the story behind the dairy foods we produce.

If you are not a farmer, I encourage you to contact a farmer- invite a farmer to your school or event and ask questions. We LOVE to share our story!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Hay, It's A Date

Hay, It's a date!
Okay, before you go all "spelling police" on me, I know I spelled hay wrong. I know it should be hey, but there is a reason for my spelling error.

I love Farmer John, and I love spending time with him. We spend a lot of time together each day on the farm, but time together away from the farm is a lot less frequent. So when John invited me to ride along to pick up our seed order, I considered it a date and hopped in the pick-up!

Our first stop was the Stein Haus, a local bar/restaurant with delicious food and friendly servers. Our fish dinners were yummy. It's a perfect lunch spot for a farmer and his wife  who are dressed in their clean, but patched, barn clothes. 

Then it was off to Werner Farm Seed where we stood among rows and rows and stacks and stacks of  all kinds of seeds. There were two buildings full of seed bags packed nearly to the ceiling. We were literally standing in a gold mine, with thousands of dollars of seeds surrounding us.

We first loaded the peas and barley mix. We purchased 20, 50 pound  bags. The barley and peas are a fast growing crop and will be ready to feed to our cows in early June.  You can learn more by reading Pass The Peas Please.

 We next moved on to the alfalfa shed. Alfalfa (hay) can typically be harvested for 3-5 years, but each year we plant a few new fields so we constantly have new crops just beginning. Every animal on Bremer Farms gets hay every single day, so we use a lot!

So what does all this seed cost? 

Now we patiently wait for the weather to warm so we can begin preparing the soil for planting. I will be helping with much of the planting this year, so soon I'll be inviting you to go on a "ride-along." Perhaps in the mean time, Farmer John and I will fit in a few more dates...John?...Dear?

 This may not have been the kind of date you were expecting, but if you are the wife of a farmer, I'll bet your dates are similar. Am I right ladies?

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Wake Up Call

4:26AM- Farmer John wakes up. Something doesn't seem right. 

4:29 AM- Sheriff's Department receives a call. "I am the newspaper delivery person and something seems suspicious here. I think there is a theft in progress."

Soon after- Sheriff appears at my in-laws house (next door to us) asking if someone could come with him to check out our field irrigator. There is a wheel in the road and others are missing he says.

Shortly after- Farmer John gets a call from my mother-in-law. John is out the door in less than 30 seconds.

 Three of the tires were removed from our irrigator. Each tire and wheel weighing between 250-300 pounds. The first tire was found in the ditch along the road. Another was on the road, and a third was found across the road on the golf course. All this activity within a half mile of our front door.

Since the tires were all found, the investigation has turned from theft to vandalism. It is unlikely that the "culprits" will be found, but we are extremely grateful to the newspaper delivery person who had the foresight to report something that looked unusual. Had the call not been made, the tires would have surely been gone.

The irrigation company arrived mid-day to reattach the tires, tighten bolts that were loosened on the next tire the thieves attempted to remove, and gave a thorough look-see at everything else on the irrigator. We were told that each tire and wheel would have been about $800 to replace if they were not found. ($800 x 3 = a lot!)

We all agree that "It could have been worse," but it is frustrating to have to put time and money into something that should not have happened. 

But there is a bright side to our story...there are still good, honest people in the world. The newspaper delivery person proved that!

 Sadly, this is not the first "attack" on this irrigator.