Thursday, March 15, 2018

Building the Best Team on the Farm

Brackets have been filled out and March Madness starts today.  Now I have to admit, that even though I filled out a bracket for my local radio station's contest, I don't really have that much of a vested interest in this year's NCAA Basketball Tournament.  My beloved Cyclones didn't make it this year as the team suffered several injuries and the team in general was young.  But just as Coach Prohm is building his team for next year so they can reach their goal of making it to next year's conference, on the farm we are constantly building our team so we can be successful.

Building the Best Team on the Farm

Now, while you probably think of farming as a pretty independent job, we actually work with a team of others to make everything possible.  On our farm, my husband and I take care of daily tasks and make all of the decisions, but we rely on our team for insight, expertise and resources to make sure we're using the best practices on our farm.  Meet our team:


We have a few agronomists on our team.  They come from the seed companies we work with, extension and our local farmer cooperatives. We turn to them to keep us up to date on corn and soybean genetics, they help us analyze our soils, and they assist us with scouting during the plant season so we can identify weed and insect problems, as well as find solutions for those issues.


One of my husband's tasks on our farm is daily animal care for our pigs.  He works hard to keep them healthy by keeping them in a comfortable environment and giving them proper nutrition.  And even though animal care is one of his top priorities, the pigs still sometimes get sick.  When this happens, we work closely with our local veterinarian.  We talk with our vet over the phone and they will come and walk through the barns if necessary to make a diagnosis and suggest treatment as needed.

Building the Best Team on the Farm - Veterinarians and Nutritionists


To ensure a proper diet, we work with nutritionists at one of our local farmer cooperatives to make sure our pigs are getting balanced feed rations for their specific stage of growth and age.  They combine corn, soybean meal, DDGS (dried distiller's grains - a byproduct from ethanol), vitamins and minerals to make a specific feed best suited for our pigs.

Financial Professionals

Our banker, accountant, and market adviser would be the point guards on our team.  We count on all of these individuals for advice, insight and protection for the financial and marketing decisions we make.  Farming takes a lot of capital, so we have entrusted relationships with these individuals to help us make farming a reality.

Other Farmers

The farming community is very close-knit and My Farmer and I love and value networking with other farmers.  Last month we met farmers from all across the United States through the Outstanding Farmers of America organization.  We were able to learn from each other and benefit from each other's experiences and practices.  Even though all of our farms looked different, we could relate with each other and provide help and understanding.

Building the Best Team on the Farm - Networking with other Farmers, Outstanding Farmers of America
My Farmer and I with the other members of the
Outstanding Young Farmers of America Class of 2018
Farming takes a team and we're fortunate to have such great players on ours.  No matter if you're a farmer, a Mom, a teacher, etc. building relationships with others can be a benefit for you and help you succeed.  Who is on your team?   Remember to Comment for a Cause.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Easy Lemon Pie #PiDay

Spring is in the air and this Lemon Pie is so easy, you have no excuse other than to make it and enjoy a slice of this flavorful and delectable pie.

Easy Lemon Pie - perfect and simple pie to bring to any spring or summer event #PiDay

It's 3/14 and National Pi Day!  Now Pi Day isn't only a special holiday celebrated by math enthusiasts, it's also a great excuse to eat one of my favorite desserts - pie!

I just love making and eating pie!  I don't know what it is about pie.  Maybe it's because pies always look so pretty, or maybe it's because they always make me feel special, or maybe it's because they simply taste good.  Whatever the case maybe, you can't go wrong having a slice!

When thinking about what pie to create for Pi Day this year I was inspired by the sunshine we've been having lately, Easter around the corner, and my Mother-in-Law.  My Mother-in-Law is a delicious cook and baker, and while many know her for her perfect scotcheroos, another one of her desserts she loves to share in the spring is her lemon dessert.  The lemon dessert is made in a 9 x 13 pan and is layered with a simple crust, cream cheese layer, lemon layer and then whipped topping on top.  The flavors are delicious and you can't help but smile when you eat it, so I wanted to transform her dessert into a pie!

Easy Lemon Pie - perfect and simple pie to bring to any spring or summer event #PiDay

I decided to start the pie with a graham cracker crust.  I felt like the slightly sweet crust was a great foundation to top with the sweet and zesty layers.  After the crust is baked let it cool and add the cream cheese layer.  I think this is the key layer of the pie that just takes it over the top.  This layer is a great compliment to the lemon and is sweet and rich.  The final lemon layer is what makes you feel like it's spring or summer.  The pudding top has the tartness your looking for from the lemon, yet is mellow, so all ages can and will enjoy it!

Easy Lemon Pie - perfect and simple pie to bring to any spring or summer event #PiDay

Easy Lemon Pie

1/2 cup Butter
2 cups Graham Cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp Sugar
8 oz Cream Cheese
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1 cup Whipped Topping, plus extra for topping
2 - 3.4 oz box Instant Lemon Pudding
2 1/2 cups Milk

Mix melted butter, graham cracker crumbs and sugar together and press into a 9" pie plate.  Bake the crust at 375° F for 7 minutes and then cool.

After the crust has cooled, cream together the cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Then stir in the whipped topping.  Spread the layer on the bottom of the pie crust.

Beat together the lemon pudding and milk with a whisk and pour over the cream cheese layer.  Chill the pie thoroughly in the refrigerator before serving.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top of each slice!

Easy Lemon Pie - perfect and simple pie to bring to any spring or summer event #PiDay

This pie is delicious and so easy, and is the perfect way to celebrate Pi(e) Day and would be a great addition at your Easter dessert table!  What's your favorite pie?  Remember to Comment for a Cause and be sure to check out all of these other great pies posted today to celebrate Pi Day!  Thanks to the Coleen, The Redhead Baker for hosting all of us:

A collection of pie recipes celebrating #PiDay
Easy Lemon Pie - perfect and simple pie to bring to any spring or summer event #PiDay

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Understanding Stress in Farming

Farmers are hard workers, resilient and independent.  While all of these traits are great characteristics for running a small business, they can also become barriers for speaking up and seeking help when it comes to their own or other's mental health.  Mental health in the farming industry has been something I've been interested in learning more about and that is why I am going to continue to support The Do More Agriculture Foundation this month through my Comments for a Cause program. 

Understanding Stress in Farming - Mental Health in Agriculture

I don't know if it is because I'm getting older and more aware, or if it is because people are becoming more open, but I feel like mental health is a growing concern with farmers all across the nation and world.  It is becoming such a growing issue that I had the opportunity to go to a workshop last week called, "Down on the Farm: Supporting Farmers in Stressful Times" put on by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Sheriffs' Association, USDA Farm Service Agency, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Minnesota Extension, and several more organizations.  I was impressed by the number of people attending the workshop and by the number of groups that supported it.

The workshop talked about how to take care of yourself, warning signs and symptoms, how to be an engaged and effective listener, and how to have empathy.  I found it really interesting that 1 in 5 adults are affected by mental illness.  The group that lead the workshop did a survey this past fall to a large group of individuals working in several aspects of agriculture and the top five stressors for farmers, that all saw an increase of concern from the year before were financial worries, anxiety, farm transfer, burnout and depression.

How do you know something's not right?  Some of the main clues that someone may be needing some mental help are:

  • Physical appearance (weight, grooming)
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Mood change
  • Sleep changes - insomnia or sleeping all the time
  • Change in farmstead appearance
  • Field/livestock conditions
  • Distraction
  • Illness

Any of these look familiar?  The two that really popped out at me was the inability to make decisions and feelings of worthlessness.  These two things might seem minor, but can really take a toll on a person.  One of the nurses in attendance at the workshop (which by the way, I loved that there were people in healthcare in attendance) pointed out illness.  She said over 80% of disease is caused by stress!  The big take-home from this part of the workshop for me was, if you see something, say something.  

How to say something?  (This is where I loved that the Minnesota Sheriffs were involved in the workshop.  They really gave great insight from their trainings and real-life situations.)   If you see one of those warning signs above, the first thing you need to do is to be an active listener.  Ask the person open ended questions to find out how they are doing and feeling.  To help you understand them better, ask for clarification by paraphrasing what you did hear by using sayings like "What I'm hearing is..." or "Sounds like you are saying..." or "What do you mean when you say..".  When you reflect the speaker's feelings, they perceive you as empathetic.

Here are some tools you can use to be an engaged and effective listener:
  • Emotional labeling (respond to the emotions you hear in the person's voice rather than the content)
  • Paraphraising
  • Reflecting/mirroring (repeat the last word or phrase the person said and put a question mark after it)
  • Effective pauses (most people are not comfortable with silence, let them fill it in and talk)
  • Minimal encouragers (Oh?, When?, Really?)
  • "I" messages
  • Open-ended questions (begin with: how, when, what or where; don't use why questions and they sound judgmental)

Being empathetic with the other person is important for building understanding and trust.  Remember that feelings are universal, experiences are not.  Don't make assumptions about a person's feelings. Instead listen for their values.  Find out what they think is important.  And always remember to treat everyone with respect.  Listen without judgement and do not inject your own values into the situation.  This is about THEM, not about YOU!

Now what?  If you feel like someone is going through one of these situations, check in with them and listen.  Also, be sure to check back in with the person after a couple days or even a week later.  At the workshop they had some great resources from the National Alliance on Mental Health, the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  But I think the biggest thing I got from the workshop is just making sure you or the other person know that it is okay to talk about it and to get help.  One thing that one of the presenters said that really stuck with me was "somethings you can't get better by working harder"What an eye opening thing to hear!  As a farmer we are driven by hard work but sometimes we need to stop, reflect, and realize that we can't do it all on our own.  We're busy taking care of our livestock, land, family, etc. but we need to realize we can't do any of that if we don't take care of ourselves.

I encourage all of you to open up about mental health.  Be sure to share any tips or resources you have and remember to Comment for a Cause all month to help the Do More Ag Foundation spread awareness about mental health needs, concerns and resources.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

34 Ways to Pay It Forward

Today is National Random Acts of Kindness Day and since my birthday in late October I have been on a mission to complete 33 Random Acts of Kindness in honor of my 33rd Birthday, and I am proud to say that I have completed 34 as of today!

34 Ways to Pay It Forward for National Random Acts of Kindness Day

Having the Pay it Forward mindset over the last few months has opened up my eyes of simple ways to show kindness, generosity and giving.  Doing these acts hasn't only been a benefit for others, but every time I complete an act I feel blessed.  In fact, I've enjoyed this so much that I didn't stop when I reached 33 and plan on continuing past the 34 I've completed.  Here is a list of what I have done so far:

  1. Tipped generously at restaurant.
  2. Brought donuts to co-workers (I brought a couple boxes to the shop for all of our employees on the farm).
  3. Brought donuts to church staff and volunteers (I guess I love spreading smiles through donuts...).
  4. Donated to a friend's Facebook non-profit support campaign.
  5. Donated books to local Little Free Library.
  6. Sent gas card to family traveling for cancer treatments with a thinking of you card.
  7. Participated in a birthday card shower for a friend's mother.
  8. Brought flowers to great-aunt just because.
  9. Donated board games to nursing home.
  10. Brought donuts to nurses and staff taking care of loved one in the hospital (there I go again with the donuts...).
  11. Wrote a note to the hospital sharing about individuals who gave outstanding care to loved one while in the hospital.
  12. Dropped off food to a family with a new baby.
  13. Gave my Fleet Farm Black Friday stuffed animal to woman who wanted one but didn't arrive early enough to get one herself.
  14. Donated to every Red Kettle I walked by during the holidays.
  15. Sent Advent devotions to a couple of friends.
  16. Donated toys to Operation Santa drive.
  17. Supported friends who had Giving Tuesday Facebook campaigns.
  18. Set out drinks and snacks for delivery drivers at house during holiday season.
  19. Participated in my children's school's food drive.
  20. Paid overdrawn school lunch account for a family at my children's school.
  21. Sponsored a local family in need over the holidays.
  22. Donated items to the Ronald McDonald House through local McDonald's giving tree.
  23. Donated hams to a couple local families in need through La Luz Hispana and Hams Across America.
  24. Reconnected with old friend.
  25. Sent thinking of you card to friend.
  26. Left positive reviews for three businesses online.
  27. Ordered champagne for two people I saw get engaged.
  28. Helped a friend's cousin with getting settled in new home after going through some hard times by donating some house supplies.
  29. Left positive review for resort that we visited on our anniversary trip.
  30. Participated in National Wear Red Day to bring awareness to women's heart disease.
  31. Supported friend's Cookies for Kids Cancer campaign.
  32. Donated to local grocery store's MDA campaign.
  33. Left Valentines in public restrooms wishing everyone who saw the hearts a great day.
  34. Donated to a family's medical/health issues Go Fund Me account.

So I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and celebrate National Random Acts of Kindness Day.  Be sure to comment and let me know what you did to celebrate, or share ideas so we all can pay it forward.  And remember to Comment for a Cause.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Slice of Iowa Pizza

It's National Pizza Day and why not celebrate with my Slice of Iowa Pizza, with two of Iowa's top agricultural products and "the sauce America loves to eat."

Slice of Iowa Pizza - full of Iowa flavors and perfect for a fun family night

When I found out that today was National Pizza Day I couldn't pass up the chance to:
  • #1 eat pizza
  • #2 share my love of Iowa
  • #3 talk about my farm 😊

Who doesn't love pizza?  My family and I have a weekly tradition of having pizza every Friday night.  We make a couple pizzas (because one doesn't cut it anymore for my growing kids), pop a bag of popcorn and throw it in our "official" popcorn bowl with some M&Ms, and have a picnic in the living room and watch a movie.  Pizza always hits the spot for people of all ages and I love how you can top your pizza with anything.

When we make homemade pizza at home the kids usually ask for one of our go-to favorites - pepperoni or sausage and mushroom for one of the pizzas and the second is deemed "the parents" pizza, so we usually do a little more with it.  So I decided it would be fun to make an "Iowa" pizza topped with some of our favorite Iowa foods.

The first thing I thought of was shredded pork.  I love making shredded pork with and for everything.  Plus it is a great make once, eat twice freezer staple of our house.  We raise pigs on our farm so we always have a lot of pork on hand.  And did you know that Iowa has more pigs than any other state in the nation.  In fact, Iowa raises nearly one-third of all pigs in the United States.

The second ingredient that I added was sweet corn.  Now, Minnesota is actually the top producer of sweet corn, but Iowa raises the most corn total (field, sweet and pop) in the nation.  A large majority of that corn Iowa raises is field corn, which primarily goes towards livestock feed and ethanol.  But I figured I couldn't claim to have an Iowa pizza with out sweet corn on it!

And the last ingredient that completes the Slice of Iowa Pizza is Cookies BBQ Sauce.  Cookies is made in Wall Lake, Iowa and they make several flavors of BBQ Sauce, other sauces, seasonings and salsas.  I use their Flavor Enhancer on everything and love their Sweet & Spicy BBQ Sauce and Wings-N-Things Hot Sauce.  Using one of the BBQ Sauces as the pizza sauce was the perfect way of pulling the Iowa pizza all together.

Slice of Iowa Pizza - full of Iowa flavors and perfect for a fun family night

Slice of Iowa Pizza

1 prepared Pizza Crust (in true Iowa fashion I used Fareway's Crispy Pizza Crust mix)
1/2 cup Cookies Sweet & Spicy BBQ Sauce
1 heaping cup Shredded Pork
1/2 cup Sweet Corn kernels, drained
2 cups Pizza blend shredded cheese

Prepare pizza crust as directed by package, or use your favorite homemade recipe, and bake at 425°F for 3 minutes.  Then top the crust with the BBQ Sauce, Pork, Corn and Cheese.  Bake 10 to 12 additional minutes until the top is brown and bubbly.

Slice of Iowa Pizza - full of Iowa flavors and perfect for a fun family night

Are you hungry now?  I love the flavor combination of BBQ Sauce with the shredded Corn, and the sweet corn gives a nice little sweet pop in each bite!  I hope you gather with your family and enjoy a Slice of Iowa Pizza soon!  What is your favorite flavor of pizza?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Slice of Iowa Pizza - full of Iowa flavors and perfect for a fun family night

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Comments for a Cause - The Do More Agriculture Foundation

Comments for a Cause - The Do More Agriculture Foundation
It's the 1st of February and time to introduce my new Comments for a Cause recipient.  But before I share about February's organization, I need to recap January's cause, Quilts of Honor.  In the month of January I had a total of 45 comments, creating a donation of $22.50 to help provide "quilted hugs of gratitude" to veterans and warriors across the nation.  As a member of a military family, I want to especially thank everyone for their comments and interest in January's Comments for a Cause program.

I'm excited to highlight a new organization that is aiming to help farmers called The Do More Agriculture Foundation in February.  I am donating $0.50 for every comment made on my blog to help their efforts.

Comments for a Cause - The Do More Agriculture Foundation, championing mental well-being for all Canadian producers

The Do More Agriculture Foundation is a non-profit organization focusing on mental health in agriculture across Canada and was started on January 30, 2018.  The four founders, Kim Keller, Lesley Kelly, Himanshu Singh and Kirk Muyres saw a need to build awareness about mental health in agriculture and provide support and resources to those impacted.

Mental health is a huge issue for all communities, including those in agriculture.  Farmers are known to be hard workers, resilient, independent and private.  While all those traits can be good, they also can become barriers for speaking up and seeking help.

Farming can be a stressful job.  It is physically and emotionally demanding as farmers usually live where they work and have a hard time ever "leaving the office".  Farmers work from sunrise to sunset (and sometimes longer) and have jobs that require they are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  Farmers take pride in their land, animals, families and communities, and can feel the weight of providing for all them, during good and bad times in the farm economy.

Do More Ag is focusing on "creating awareness about mental health in agriculture and breaking the stigma that currently exists while building a community of support and resources for those impacted and affected."  Farmers don't have to feel alone or that they are letting anyone down.  Instead, they have an entire industry behind them, supporting them.

Help me give best wishes to this new foundation as they work hard to make changes in mental health for farmers.  I hope that they get so much support they expand to helping farmers in the United States too.  Remember to Comment for a Cause all month long to "do more" and help spread awareness of mental health in agriculture.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Get ready for the Super Bowl with #Celebrate365

The game has been set and there will be an Eagles and Patriots showdown in two weeks for Super Bow LII.  To help you get ready, I have partnered up with my Celebrate 365 co-hosts (Carlee from Cooking with Carlee, Jan of The Tip Garden and Nicole of Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom) to host a Football Party Food Blog Party!

Get ready for the Super Bowl with #Celebrate365

No matter if you're going to a Super Bowl Party to cheer for your favorite team (or root against your least favorite), the commercials, or the half-time show, we've got you covered for delicious food for the entire game.

Bloggers are welcome to link-up all of their best football party foods from snacks and dips, to sandwiches and drinks, all are welcome as long as they are party friendly.

What looks good for your Super Bowl party?  Remember to Comment for a Cause and link up your best recipes!