Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Gamble of Farming

Yesterday on my Facebook Page I shared a post from Dairy farmer, Dairy Carrie.  She wrote a wonderfully written post about the hard times facing the Dairy industry right now.  I had several followers comment on the post about how they had no idea, and to one I responded that "farming can be a gamble".

The Gamble of Farming

Why is farming such a gamble?

We work hard to make our farm is sustainable by investing in conservation and technology to ensure we are using the best practices.  But even if we are doing everything right, we are still at the mercy of things we can't control like the weather and the markets.  We try to harness those risks through investing in certain seed traits for our crops, by spraying during times of insect and disease pressure, and doing different market strategies to hopefully create a safety net.

But sometimes, like right now, no matter how you play your hand the cards aren't going to win you money and you're just hoping you leave the table (or each year) at a break-even.  Not too long ago we had strong commodity prices and were on a hot streak.  On our farm we used that time to build up assets, pay off long-term debts and build a buffer to help us ride out the low times till the odds were more in our favor.

Some farmers are starting to reach their limit of being able to stay at the table and unfortunately are going bust.  It is so sad to see all the hard-work and dedication of these individuals through the years, if not decades, and even generations have put forth to stay in the game that they love.  This is one reason why I've had such a high interest in mental health in the farming community lately.  In fact, I read the other day with things so hard in the dairy industry right now, that some dairy cooperatives were sending suicide hotline information out with their bills.

So why would you farm?

It may sound silly, but my husband and I farm because we love it.  We love that everyday is "bring your child to work" day and that our four children are learning life skills of hard work, dedication, respect and empathy.  I love that I am carrying on my family's tradition of farming as a 5th generation farmer.  I love that our children get to see multi-generations working together daily.  I love the community of agriculture and that everyone is willing to help one another.

Farming is special and there is no other place I'd rather be than right here on our farm, building on both my husband's and my family's legacies for the future generation, our children.

The Gamble of Farming - why would you farm?

I hope you all have a great National Ag Day and I would love to hear any of your questions you have about farming.  As always, be sure to Comment for a Cause.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Get Ready for Easter with #Celebrate365

Easter is just two weeks away, so to help you get ready, I have partnered 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 an Easter Recipes Blog Party!

Easter Recipes Blog Party - Link up your favorite brunch, dinner, appetizer and dessert recipes to celebrate Easter with #Celebrate365

I'm looking forward to celebrating Easter this year with my Mom, sisters and their families, my in-laws, my sister-in-law and her family, and a couple close family friends.  I feel lucky that we all get along so well and that we are able to celebrate together.  We enjoy sharing food and fellowship together, and we have a lot of fun doing our annual Easter Egg hunts (both children and adult versions).

On this year's menu we're having both ham and pork loin.  (Would you expect anything other than all pork from my family and I 😉)  I'm going to smoke the pork loin with my All-Purpose Pork Rub.  The rub is spicy with a little sweetness and is perfect on the outside of pork loin.

All-Purpose Pork Rub - perfect for smoking and grilling pork loin or roasts

As for a side dish, I love making my Overnight Salad for gatherings of family and friends.  This recipe makes a huge salad and one of the best parts is that you make it the night before!  All you have to do the day of, is mix the layers around five minutes before serving.  And another great part of this lettuce salad is that it has bacon in it!

Overnight Salad - easy and delicious dish to make for family and friend gatherings that you can make ahead of time

For dessert, I can't wait to share my Easy Lemon Pie with everyone.  The bright flavors of this pie will make everyone excited for spring.  I love the layers of lemon and cream cheese, which make each bite sweet and zesty!

Easy Lemon Pie - sweet and zesty, simple to make, and perfect for spring and Easter

So how about you?  I want to see what you're planning on making for Easter this year.  Bloggers are welcome to link-up all of their favorite spring foods perfect for Easter.  I'm looking forward to seeing everyone share their appetizer, salad, main dish, dessert, and brunch recipes.

What are your favorite Easter recipes?  Remember to Comment for a Cause and link up your best recipes!

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.