Friday, September 14, 2012

A New City: Milwaukee

Like I said earlier, August was a crazy month full of changes and adventures. One of the biggest changes was my move to Milwaukee. Last year at this time, I made the move to Madison. This year feels very similar: starting a new job, moving to a brand new city, knowing almost nobody in said new city, all of those tough but sometimes exciting transitions. This year is a bit different though in that I am no longer fresh out of college and I feel more prepared for this adventure that is trying to meet new people in an unfamiliar city. The city of Milwaukee itself has a very different feel from Madison, though this time I live in a suburb rather than in the city itself, which I prefer as MKE has a much more urban feel and I just need to see some corn fields sometimes.
Watching a Brewers game in Miller Park. It was my 3rd MLB  game and stadium.

One of my first introduction to Milwaukee was courtesy of my new job in marketing with an animal nutrition company. The ad agency we work with happened to have free tickets to a Brewers game and I figured "why not?". The new job has been just great and I love learning everything about it, from advertising in magazines such as Watt Poultry and market research to different bacteria strains that are efficient forage fermenters such as L. buchneri. In absolutely awesome news that I really must share, another division of my new employer makes the brewer's yeast for the White House Beer

The High Kings perform at Milwaukee Irish Fest

Luckily, I did know two people in Milwaukee before I moved here, a couple who I met in Madison and had moved to the MKE area. Mike and I got to go to the Milwaukee Irish Fest with them and I got to hear the band that really sparked my interest in Irish folk and pub rock music, The High Kings. The festival was especially interesting having just attended a family reunion in Iowa for the Irish side of the family and learning more about that heritage.

My new kitten, Kiara. She's very sweet when she's not completely bouncing off the walls.
I've always been a cat person and have said my favorite animals are cats, cows and rabbits. I can't pick. It's too hard. It started with barn cats of course, all of whom had names and my brothers and I picked "our cats" from each litter. We got a house cat when my cat Callie, a calico barn cat, got injured and I was allowed to bring her in the house to heal. I was 9 or 10 at the time and Callie stayed in the house until she died many years later. My parents currently have a house cat that I love, but I've been wanting my own cat since I graduated from college. With this new city comes a new cat and I got a calico kitten from a Twitter friend. She is highly entertaining, sometimes frustrating like any kitten, sweet and a lot of fun. My rabbit is not quite sure that she's a fan yet though.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Attending the AgChat Conference: An #Agnerd's Paradise

Last week I had the honor of attending the AgChat Foundation Agvocacy 2.0 Conference in Kansas City, MO. I started participating in the #agchat community, a weekly Twitter chat for those involved in or interested in agriculture, over 1 1/2 years ago and this conference gave me the opportunity to finally meet many of the people who I have talked to frequently through this community. I had wanted to attend the conference last year so you can imagine how excited I was to go this year.


The blue dots represent locations that conference participants are from
The first event was a tweep-up for both AgChat conference and NAMA (National Agri-Marketing Association) Bootcamp, which were both being held in Kansas City at similar times. According to Kelly Rivard, who organized it, we had over 100 people total attend. Several people at the tweet-up asked me if I knew anyone else there and my response was "Someone from my high school is coming and I've met a few others once or twice but that's it." The few I had met before were from the Midwest and this conference gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over, as well as others close to home. That first night I met Brandi Buzzard, who did a blog giveaway for Shyanne boots that I won. Brooke Clay ended up wearing those same Shyanne boots that I won the next week, as did I. 


My brand new Shyanne Daisy Mae boots. They need to be broken in yet, but I love them!
Brooke Clay and I both wearing our Shyanne Daisy Mae boots to see a Craig
Morgan concert  in the Power  & Light District of Kansas City.
I got so much from the conference that it's hard to put into one post. I keep thinking back on it and how much I got from it. There was meeting all these awesome people who are so incredibly passionate about agriculture, feeling excited about the future of agriculture, learning new social media tools, enjoying nights out on the town with new friends and gaining new perspectives by learning from each other.

The swap meet, while not an official event, was a great way to learn about other areas of agriculture as people traded items that are representative of agriculture in their home state. I brought New Glarus Spotted Cow and Capital Brewery Supper Club beer from Wisconsin, as I've now lived in cheeseland for over a year. I got some unique items from various states and learned some interesting things, such as how growing popcorn differs from growing your typical field corn. Before the swap meet, our dinner table had a great discussion about the differences between organic and conventional dairy. I sat next to a calf raiser on a conventional dairy who asked the Zwebers and I questions about our organic dairies. There's so much to learn from others in agriculture as it's such an incredibly diverse industry.

The Peterson Brothers performed their "I'm Farming and I Grow It" first  thing in the morning
Of all of the things that I learned at the AgChat conference, what has stuck out most to me is the people and the power of connections. The people at the conference were all simply great people. I got to catch up with someone who went to the same high school, celebrate the birthday of someone who's blog I've read for a while, watch new friends ride a mechanical bull and overall have meaningful but exciting conversations about agriculture. I enjoyed meeting with everyone and it really drilled home the importance of making connections with those not directly involved with agriculture and this is further emphasized every time I talk about my background with someone I meet in Milwaukee.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Crazy Month of August

August has always been a crazy month for me. When I was in 4-H, it was the rush to get all of my projects finished, make sure my cattle wouldn't drag me through the show ring, showing at the county fair and then the state fair immediately after, ending in going back to school whether it was college or high school. Even once I was out of 4-H, there were internships to transition from and back into school. Last year I ended an internship, moved to Madison and started a new job.

This August was no exception:

  • I started a new job at Lallemand Animal Nutrition working with their Sil-All brand of silage inoculants (essentially bacteria designed to aid in the fermentation process of forages to create a better silage for feeding catle)
  • Took a trip back to Minnesota for a wedding, visiting the bf's family's dairy and beef farm and my family's farm along the way
  • Moved to Milwaukee and had a great going away party with my Madison friends
  • Attended the #AgChat Foundation Agvocacy 2.0 Conference in Kansas City, MO. Amazing. 
Still to come in August:
  • A brief work trip
  • Heading back to Minnesota for the Minnesota State Fair aka The Great Minnesota Get Together or The Happiest Place on Earth. Though, I'll actually be at the fair in September. Close enough.
My apartment is still a bit disheveled from moving, with boxes that need to put away and pictures that need to be hung up. One of my top priorities with my move is getting a new library card. I'm getting more settled into my new job and of course there's still lots to learn. I've loved being so busy but it will be nice when things calm down a bit so I can actually decorate my apartment.

Posts of a few of the above activities from this crazy month coming shortly!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Moving Forward

The past couple weeks have full of activity in finding employment land. Last week I drove an hour to an interview, flew to Phoenix for an interview at a trade show and flew to Ohio for another interview. The last trip was fraught with flight delays and I was hardly home all week, but it ended up being worth it.

In early August I'll be starting a position in marketing with Lallemand Animal Nutrition. I'll be working primarily with the silage inoculant part of the business and will have a variety of roles ranging from developing product literature to coordinating trade shows. The interview process was rather long and extensive, which made me even more confident in the position and company. It just seems like a good fit and I'm excited to get to work and stay in the agriculture industry.

The position means I will be moving to Milwaukee, WI which is both exciting and a bit sad. I've been in Madison for almost a year now, have an absolutely fantastic group of friends and enjoy the Madison area. Milwaukee isn't too far from Madison though so I will still be able to come back to Madison to visit. I've started the process of finding an apartment in Milwaukee and I've decided that I will be getting a cat in the new apartment. I currently have a rabbit in my apartment and I've been wanting a cat for a while. To make things more interesting, the bf is starting graduate school at the University of Minnesota in August. We've done long distance before, but it's never ideal.

Here's to hoping this next position is a great fit, as it seems to be, and the move to Milwaukee goes well. It's definitely exciting!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Creating Dairyland

I have always loved to read and I finally got my Madison Library card, which made me really excited. One of the first books I got was "Creating Dairyland" by Ed Janus, a Madison man who was a dairy farmer for a couple years and writes a historical account of how Wisconsin became America's Dairyland. This was fascinating to me as someone not from Wisconsin, but from a dairy in Minnesota. It's really an interesting read for anyone, but especially for anyone in the dairy industry from Wisconsin or otherwise.

My dad was raised on a dairy farm as well and he has told me a lot about the history of our farm, but there was many parts of the book that I hadn't thought of. For instance, my family's farm has 3 silos that we use to store our silage and hayledge in for feeding after harvest. Creating Dairyland explained how the silo was a huge advancement in agriculture as it allowed dairying to be profitable as farmers could store feed for cows year-round so they could milk year-round. It makes sense, but I simply had never thought of it before. Silos had just always been on the farm for me. I know my dad didn't always milk with a pipeline and milking machine, but he had never discussed the history of silos before.

It was also interesting to learn more about the importance of Hoard's Dairyman to the dairy industry. Hoard's is one of my favorite magazines and I have visited their office and dairy farm. It's been around for so long that  we can really learn a lot about the history of the industry by reading their historical archives.

Creating Dairyland tells many stories of current and past dairy farmers, and some cheese maker stories, and their histories. Its full of rich detail of farm life and many parts of the book rang true for me. I was desperately missing the farm almost the entire time I was reading the book. One of the parts that struck me as this quote about dairy farmers and cows: "Cows require kindness, routine and predictability, and long-term investments for their well-being and our profit. Dairy farmers must be dedicated to caring well for other living beings and for the resources that feed them." - Creating Dairyland, p. 3

The historical aspects of learning how dairy farming came about in Wisconsin and how Wisconsin became the dairyland was fascinating, but the farmer stories really hit me. A wide range of farmers were portrayed from a pasturing homestead farm to the Crave Brothers Farm whose place I got the opportunity to visit in high school to a college student developing a niche on the genetics side while her farming focuses on milk in a tie-stall. There was even a story of an Organic Valley farmer who milks his cows seasonally to allow them to east only grass.

The Crave brothers history stuck with me. The oldest brother talked about how his dad quit milking cows. His dad milked 35-40 cows and was a one-man show and had to be there constantly and deal with huge milk price fluctuations, which was a frustrating way to farm. The story of his dad reminded me so much of my own father - milking 35-40 cows and a one-man show. The Crave brothers now run a 1,000 cow dairy with 4 brother managing the farm that makes its own cheese and has two anaerobic manure digesters.

Creating Dairyland's stories are truly a testament to the dynamic dairy industry and the passion that lies within dairy farmers. It's a testament to the fact that a love for cows is what drives dairy men and a testament to the perservance of today's dairy farmers. It's further proof to me that I love the dairy industry.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Changes

A lot has happened in the last couple months. The biggest thing: I was laid off from my first post-college job in May. The marketing department was going through restructuring and there just wasn't any entry level jobs for me, nor any open in the company to move into. It's been a long, frustrating, up and down 2 months since then of job searching. This is especially the case since I moved to Madison, WI solely for the job that I was laid off from after just 9 months. When I first moved here I knew nobody. Though I have made many amazing friends in my new city whom I'm so grateful for, it's never easy to lose a job in a city that's still relatively new to you and is 8 hours from your hometown.

When I was home, I got to help move these heifers into new pasture. They then proceeded to break down a fence to get into pasture they didn't belong in. 

In less depressing news, my youngest brother graduated from high school and my unemployment allowed me to go home for a week for his graduation and party. Graduation parties in my family are great because it's the one time so many friends and family get together. Almost all of my extended family lives in the Twin Cities area so they enjoy being able to visit the farm, and I spent much of the party showing my relatives and family friends the farm. It was interesting and fun to show them around and answer their questions about the cows. The party was the first time I'd seen many people from my hometown in over a year, and in such a small town everybody knows everybody. When I wasn't helping get ready for the party, I got to help my dad with chores and feed cows.

My 2nd cousin feeding the calves at my brother's grad party
In other big news, I got accepted to attend the AgChat Foundation Agvocacy 2.0 conference in Kansas City, MO at the end of August. I had been wanting to go to this conference since last year and was so thrilled when I got my acceptance email. It's the perfect opportunity to learn about the best ways to advocate for agriculture, and as a bonus meet lots of other great agvocates. I may not know where I'll be living in August, but I do know I'm going to the AgChat conference.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Community Development

Today I came across this video about the important difference between roads and towns. At first glance, it didn't sound particularly compelling but it had a lot of views and I thought I'd check it out. Turns out, it was all about roads and towns and what each means for community development. I hadn't thought it that way before but the difference betweens roads and streets in this presentation is a road connects two places and a street is in a place. So roads are like highways and streets are smaller and found in towns. The presenter talks of his hometown of Brainerd, MN, only a few hours from my hometown, and how the streets have become more like roads. This transformation caused the main street, which used to be busy and bustling with people, to look much more deserted. The idea is to get back to fostering community development, and the presenter founded the Strong Towns organization to reflect this idea.

Listening to this reminded me of a couple sessions I attended a few weeks ago at the Wisconsin Ag Women's Summit. Sabrina Matteson, the Farm Bureau Director of Rural Affairs, presented sessions on community development focused on rural communities and I was able to attended a couple of those sessions. Community development isn't something I necessarily think of on a day to day basis, but it's helpful to have a good reminder of it once in a while and make conscious decisions to make our communities better. Of course, there was talk about youth leaving rural communities and I happen to be one of those youth that left a rural community. However, I hope to someday return to a rural area.

My hometown is small at a population of almost 500, but I can think of many ways that it invests in community development. They have your usual community organizations like the Lions, there's a nice town park, and the K-12 school is still thriving.. Certain businesses - like the hardware store - have closed while others like the cafe and grocery store have changed hands and closed and reopened a few times but are currently doing well. There's a few historic buildings, but there's also new businesses coming in, staying and creating jobs. These businesses have put their corporate headquarters in a tiny town and it allows for more opportunities for people to get good jobs in town rather than having to move away.

Quality of life relates a lot to community development and it's something I'll certainly think about more as I get more and more used to Madison and as I go back to my hometown.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Family Farm Day at the Museum

This time last week I was volunteering with the Dane County Farm Bureau at Family Farm Day at the Madison Children's Museum. We had baby animals (a dairy heifer calf, 2 piglets, and 2 lambs)  and activity stations set up on the rooftop of the museum in downtown Madison. Activities included making butter, identifying beef breeds, learning about Wisconsin crops, and having milk after exercise.

I had helped at similar events in the past, such as Lunch on the Farm when I was a Douglas County Dairy Princess, but never in such an urban area. There was a good turnout of families and everyone instantly wanted to see the animals. My favorite parts were hearing people's reactions when they were told that the calf was just born the night before and when one man said we had a Geico commercial when a piglet started squealing.

The rooftop was a great setting to hold the event in a city on a gorgeous day, as it has a pond and gardens and overlooks the capital and Lake Monona. Every kid we saw come through seemed to really enjoy every activity and I enjoyed seeing kids, and perhaps their parents as well, learn about agriculture.




Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Learning From a Century Farm

While I was back in Minnesota for Easter, I visited the bf's family farm. His family has a 80 cow dairy and plans to put in 2 robots to do the milking in the near future, as his younger brother is taking over the farm and has a 78 head herd of Angus cattle as well. It's a Century Farm - a feat recognized each year by the Minnesota Farm Bureau at the Minnesota State Fair for families farming for 100 years or more. My own grandpa farmed my family's farm before my dad, but it is far from a Century Farm as he bought it and moved from a different farm when my dad was young, so it's interesting for me to see and hear the history behind a Century Farm. My grandpa passed away years ago, but he helped on the farm until he longer physically could. The bf's grandpa similarly helped out until he no longer could, and still talks about farming frequently.

After Easter dinner, the bf's grandpa started talking about when he was younger and farmed the same land the family farms today. He got to talking about how they used horses to do all the field work, how the mares were strong and well-built, and how it was 3 1/2 miles to one of their far fields. With horses, 3 1/2 miles was a pretty long trek. His grandpa is over 90 years old, and it still struck me to hear how different farming was back then and how much progress we've made since then,  even though I'd read about it previously. Somehow hearing it firsthand was just different. It's so interesting to think back to a time before tractors were common, before artificial insemination was used, before many things common on today's operations were even thought of.

His grandpa doesn't often talk about when he worked on the farm, but is fascinating and I hope to be able to hear him talk more about it. As the bf's younger brother starts his own beef herd and prepares to eventually take over the dairy operation as well, the farm has a bright future ahead and it appears to have had a great history as well.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Out of the Office

A few days ago I got to get out of the office for a bit to visit two dairies nearby. A group of us from work went to learn more about either dairy farms in general, for those with no dairy experience, or about the specific operations, for those of us with industry experience. The vast majority of us had a least been to a dairy before, but I was only 1 of 3 who had been raised on a dairy and thus was asked plenty of great questions from those who weren't.


The first dairy we visited was Larson Acres. Larson's is a family operation with about 3,000 cows total separated into two milking parlors. The barn pictured above is the free stall barn for the newer milking parlor. This barn is 1/4 mile long and houses a little over half their herd. Larson's expanded within the last few years to built the new parlor and this barn.


This is Larson's newer milking parlor, a double 20 parallel milking parlor. The parlor holds 40 cows at a time and milks just about 24/7, as the cows milk 3 times a day rather than the more typical twice a day. It's outfitted with the SmartDairy herd management system to monitor milk flow and yield, ID each cow as she comes in, and more. 

I didn't take any pictures at the second dairy we visited, Brown's Dairy. Brown's is a family operation as well, but with 140 cows. The owner hires one full-time and one part-time milker, but otherwise does the vast  majority of the farm work, with both the dairy cattle and the fieldwork, by himself. His 4 kids occasionally help, though one is a college graduate with an off the farm job and another is a senior in college. Milking is done in a double 8 parallel parlor that was retrofitted from an old tie-stall barn and the office has a picture window overlooking the parlor, and is done at 3 am and 3 pm. After leaving Brown's, one of my coworkers in engineering commented that dairy farming is a hard life. I couldn't agree more, but it's one that dairy farmers love.

Getting out of the office to visit farms was refreshing and fun, as I always enjoy visiting different operations and seeing how other farms run. What's especially interesting to me is seeing how the larger farms, like Larson Acres, run because I am much more used to my family's 38 cow dairy and the bf's family's 80 cow dairy. 



Monday, March 19, 2012

Unwinter Adventures of March

Wisconsin's winter this year has been so unwinterlike, and this March has felt like summer. While it worries me a tad as far as agriculture goes, it's been absolutely glorious to be outside. Case in point: the past two weekends.

Two weekends ago I spent Saturday zip lining across Chimney Rock Park near the Wisconsin Dells through Vertical Illusions. What was originally supposed to be a snowshoe zip line tour turned into a hiking zip line tour, which actually made it more difficult to get up the hill but I didn't care. The weather. was. awesome. Minus a bit of wind - as in the trees we zip lined to were swaying, and so were we - and it would've been perfect. Can't say I wasn't a bit nervous at some points, but I survived and had a blast.


Zip lining! Yeah, this was awesome. 

The next day a group of friends and I played football outside in a park. In early March! Seriously, I am not used to this nice of weather in March. It's been so nice to get outside and enjoy it.

The Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick's Day.

In other adventures, I decided to take advantage of living close enough to Chicago to make a day trip of it and went to the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago. This resulted in my first sunburn of the year, which actually has come in March for the past 3 years. Everyone's saying "Oh, you got some sun". Why, yes, I did. I stood outside watching the parade for 3 hours and then walked around Chicago the rest of the day. The bf and I drove to Harvard, IL and took a commuter train into downtown Chicago and began making our way to the parade route. I love Irish music, so naturally I loved the parade but my feet were thankful to be walking again and not standing once it was done. We took the time to visit the Riverwalk, Navy Pier, do a Skyline Tour, visit Millennium Park, and eat out before heading back to Madtown.

At "The Bean" or Cloud Gate in Chicago and decked out in green.


There were even more outside adventures yesterday as we visited the UW Arboretum. The weather made it seem like there should be flowers blooming everywhere, but they were only just starting to come up. Still, it's a nice place and reminded me of home where I used to play in the woods for fun and pick cattails because I thought they were cool.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Penny Saved...

Coming from a dairy farm family, I earned my money by working on the farm and later by raising rabbits and was taught to be conservative with that money. I saw my dad working extremely hard on my farm, my mom working off the farm once we were all in school, and my mom trying to save money where she could. She couponed, bought things on sale as much as possible, and frequently went "garage saling". Her and my dad both visited auctions - farm auctions for my dad and the more typical auctions for my mom. Farm auctions tended to have kittens for free. If I went along to one with my dad, I begged to take one home and sometimes we brought home a new barn kitten. :) As much as I love to spend money on certain things occasionally, I like to think I learned a thing or two from my parents about saving it.

One of my friends particularly loves what has been dubbed "thrifting" - aka scoping out thrift stores - so a group of us have been thrifting on weekends fairly regularly now. Thrift stores are fun to check out on your own, but they're especially fun with friends. When we go to Dig N Save, a "last chance" type thrift store where you literally dig through boxes of clothes, we mostly grab at ugly Christmas sweaters, play with Tickle Me Elmo, and laugh at Mrs. Cosby style sweaters. 

My mom liked to go to thrift stores when she got time in a city that actually had one, but she usually went on her own. I started checking out thrift stores when I lived in Kansas City for my internship, which was my first job that required business casual on a daily basis. Of course, we had casual Friday to break out the cowboy boots in that small agricultural non-profit office. Being in college, I had just a few nice professional outfits and needed more. I soon discovered that while The Plaza made it fun to shop outside and had great business clothes with stores like Ann Taylor and Express, it got spendy for a college student. Thrift stores became my new friend as I found the same brands that were at The Plaza for just a few dollars. That summer involved reading for fun whenever I got the chance as I was so excited to have time to do so, and most of those books came from thrift stores. 

This weekend a couple of friends, the bf and I went to the Johnson Creek Outlet Mall. It was absolutely beautiful outside, like a real-life Narnia, because it had just snowed the day before and it was still clinging to the trees. The landscape made the interstate drive, which I would've loved anyways because hey! I got to see farms! and open spaces!, even more enjoyable. A kitchen store in the outlet mall had a cow keychain that lights up and goes Moo!, which I had to get, and a cow spoon holder, which I also had to get. The bf got a pot strainer - he's a bit more practical. Ann Taylor Factory Store was there, so naturally I found a cute top there on clearance far cheaper than any clearance at a regular Ann Taylor. I love Ann Taylor for business clothing, but my wallet is much happier with Factory Store clearance pricing. 

Let me know: How do you manage to shop on a budget? Where's your favorite place to find business clothing at a good price? 

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Different Kind of Grocery Store

This weekend I discovered that Metcalfe's Sentry grocery store's Madison Hilldale location is right next to Target, which I love. I also discovered that Metcalfe's gives away the Wisconsin State Journal Sunday paper free with a $5 purchase and I've been meaning to start buying the Sunday paper, both for the coupons and because I like to read newspapers. I'd heard from friends that Metcalfe's was a good grocery store, and I've tried out plenty of grocery stores in Madison. Which one I go to depends on what I want at the time. Aldi is great for European chocolate and cheap basics, Woodman's has the largest selection and is the cheapest, and HyVee has a large selection like Woodman's and takes credit cards but Aldi and Woodman's don't.

Metcalfe's seems to do a great job of taking sustainability and local foods into consideration, but they sold your standard brands. Their large specialty cheese selection included many, many varieties of cheese from many cheesemakers including Babcock Hall, Carr Valley, Hook's, Crave Brothers, Boar's Head, Nordic Creamery, and others. There were samples of the one of the cheeses on gourmet crackers made by a Madison cracker company. The meat section included cuts from local farms, both organic and non-organic. The bakery included items from many local companies, and there was a section with local chocolate company selections. I ended up with Christine's sea salt caramels. The beer selection also included many local craft breweries, including several I'd never heard of before. I've talked about how I buy my food a bit earlier, and it's often primarily based on price with some location and quality depending on what it is and if I feel like indulging in fancy cheese.

One of the best features of Metcalfe's (besides the free Sunday paper, because who doesn't like free and coupons?!) was the "Food Miles" signs throughout the store below foods that were local. These signs said the company the food came from, the city it came from, and how many miles it traveled to get to Metcalfe's. Local foods were often slightly more expensive, but not always, and it's a great way for those who truly care about local to easily find the local foods they seek. Not all foods had a local option but, even though I still often purchase on the basis of price, it was great to see figuring out where a food came from made easy.

I'd like to know: Would you purchase more local foods if your grocery featured "Food Miles" signs? How do you make your food purchases? Let me know in the comments below. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Valuable Internships

Ever since I started studying for the GRE last year, I've been getting the New York Times email digest daily and reading whatever interests me. Today, there were articles on whether or not unpaid internships exploit college students in the NYT's Room for Debate. When I first read the introduction to this series of articles, my thought was a resounding "Yes". Whether or not unpaid internships should be allowed, are valuable, etc. has been debated over and over. Despite many arguments I've heard that unpaid internships are beneficial to students, it seems unlikely that the vast majority of them adhere to the Department of Labor's law outlined in this article. The law is further detailed in this document by the Department of Labor. Provided that an unpaid internship does follow the Department of Labor laws, it seems unlikely, to me at least, that the intern would be doing much meaningful work and thus would not derive much benefit from the internship. Others have already gone into why unpaid internships primarily benefit those who can afford to work for free, so I won't go into that here.

I'm sure there are plenty of stories of unpaid internships working out quite well, and that's great. I believe my view on unpaid internships stems partially from the fact that I had 3 internships and they were all paid, as well as several part-time paid jobs in college that could have been considered internships. While one internship didn't pay much above minimum wage, the other two were pretty competitive for my industry and one even provided a scholarship, housing assistance and paid for me to attend a conference as well. Having these helped me pay for college and allowed me to do internships in the first place, as I grew up in a rural area and lived away from home in cities for my last 2 internships. 

A tiny, amazing cafe I visited during a trip to Ames, Iowa for my internship with Wilbur-Ellis. 

Luckily my industry of choice is one that believes in paying its interns and I know of many great internship programs in the agriculture industry. For example, here's an internship job description for Dow AgroSciences. While I certainly realize that an internship that provides this much to the student requires a large commitment for the company, creating an excellent internship program will benefit the student with the experience they gain and the company in being able to cultivate the next generation of workers and find the best internships to hire on full-time after graduation. While none of my internships resulted directly in full-time jobs at the company because they were all either small companies or small departments within large companies, they still gave me valuable experience. When a company invests in paying their interns and ensuring that they provide a valuable experience to the interns, they are investing in the long term. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chocolate And Other Amazing Food

Earlier I wrote about my adventures last weekend, and besides what I already wrote about, I also ventured with a few friends to Gail Ambrosius. Gail Ambrosius is a truly delightful chocolate shop in the Atwood neighborhood of Madison. You can watch the chocolates being hand made through a window into the back room and they have a wide variety of chocolates. Everything ranging from rose to classic vanilla and lemongrass ginger. I loved the chocolates so much that I had to visit her website. There I discovered that Gail Ambrosius is the chocolatier's name and she was raised on a Wisconsin dairy farm. On the website, she talks about how being raised on a dairy farm shaped her and how that never leaves you, includes how it taught her to care for the land. She visits many of the cacao farms that her chocolate comes from and ensures that they meet her standards. It's always nice to see how growing up on a farm influences others.

Though I do most of my shopping at regular grocery stores, I love small, specialty shops like the one I was at last weekend. When I was in Kansas City, Glace Artisan became my favorite ice cream as soon as I tried it. It's a small shop owned by a chocolatier in the area who ventured into ice cream. The flavors are pretty unique but intense, rich and amazing.

This weekend I attended the Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest, which featured many small breweries and cheesemakers. While I had tried some of the beer & cheese at the festival before, most were completely new to me and I wouldn't be able to find in a typical grocery store. One of my favorite cheeses was a smoked butterkase cheese, similar to smoke gouda, but I enjoyed every single beer and cheese that I tried there. I'll always be a Minnesotan, but that festival was so classic Wisconsin.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Video Killed the Radio Star

I was at an 80s "New Wave Rave" this weekend, and "Video Killed The Radio Star" played. 80s night was surprisingly awesome for someone who wasn't even alive in the 80s. All my coworkers think I'm crazy young since I was born in the 90s. At least I can appreciate how great 80s music was despite being young.

In other events from this weekend, I toured Capital Brewery and the National Mustard Museum. Yes, the National Mustard Museum exists and it's in Middleton, a Madison suburb. One guy decided to collect all kinds of mustard and there's now a museum dedicated to it. The place has mustard from every state and many countries. They have cheddar ale mustard, pumpkin mustard, cranberry mustard, banana mustard, etc. My favorite though wasn't even mustard - it was the cow shaped cookie cutter that I found at the museum store.

Capital Brewery provided a great tour and, naturally, free samples. Their Supper Club beer is brewed with corn, which was actually pretty good. I was with a group of almost 50, but was still able to hear and see everything well. Capital Brewery only fills the kegs at the location that we visited and a different brewery fills the bottles for them. They're a German style brewery that abides by the German Purity Laws as much as possible.

The cow I gave as a 1st birthday present in on the right. 
We got to see their raw ingredient storage, which included malt from Belgium in a bag that said Cargill. I'm known for liking cows and knowing about ag in my group of friends in Madison, which of course came up again when I saw the Cargill bags of malt. Just to be even more predicable, I attended a 1st birthday party for the daughter of one of my friends and gave her a stuffed cow in a cow gift bag.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

It's Been a While

Ah, old county music. The 90s were probably my favorite decade for country music, though I admit I was only born in 1990. Pandora will always be great, but right now I'm loving Spotify for it's ability to play "The Bluest Eyes in Texas" from my carefully crafted playlist when that song is stuck in my head at work, as it definitely was today. These are the lyrics to the song I'm listening to now from the same playlist:

It's good to see your face again 
It's been a while 
How am I doing? 
Well I get by somehow


It's Tracy Lawrency's "I See It Now", and well it's been a while since I've posted so it's rather fitting. There's just not much more comforting and calming than this playlist of "90's & Older Country". It's fun to find older songs that I know and love, but don't get to hear often on the radio, and add them to the playlist. I even get to listen to entire albums so I find songs I hadn't even thought of adding or didn't remember the name of.

This playlist reminds me of home because my dad always has the radio set to country in the barn. His favorite band is Alabama and when I was little we saw them in concert at the Minnesota State Fair when they came every four years. Alabama is now one of my favorite's, and one of my younger brother's as well. I mean, this is just such a great song and it is so fitting. 

I've always loved different kinds of music, and was in band and choir in high school and briefly in college. Since I live alone, I'm listening to music quite often as I generally don't like a quiet apartment. I don't know how people can even study when it's dead silent sometimes. Just don't get it. Music keeps me going.