Friday, November 4, 2011

Amtrak Trip To MN

This Amtrak train I'm on right now is going rather slowly for the time being and I'm listening to a 90s country station on Slacker radio, which is fabulous, en route to St. Cloud, Minnesota.  We're meandering through Minneapolis and I won't reach my destination for a couple hours. Last time I took Amtrak I was on my high school senior class trip to Washington D.C. This is a much shorter trip at about 7 hours.

It's my turn to visit the boyfriend so I'm headed back to MN to visit him on his family's dairy farm. Seeing him will of course be nice, but I'm also very excited to be back on a farm for the weekend. Madison is a great town and I'm getting more used to it. Once in a while though, I need to be in a rural area surrounded by fields and petting cows. I often miss the farm when I'm Madison partly because it's home but also because it's a rural farm.

While I am listening to music now, earlier I got to talking to the lady who sat next to me for a bit. Her daughter has been out of college a couple years and we talked about the economy,  job searching and, of course for two people from MN and WI,  football. Eventually I mentioned where I was going and why and she mentioned that her grandpa and 5 of her uncles farmed and how she loved to visit the farms. We even talked about robotic milkers, which spurned from discussion of how hard it is for dairy farmers to get off the farm.

Had I decided to drive the 7 1/2 hours instead of taking the train, I may have saved a little bit of money, though not much, but I wouldn't have gotten to have conversations with others or do a little reading. I'm excited to be back in Minnesota briefly. I'll probably be even more excited to go home over Thanksgiving as I haven't been home since July. My rabbits are still there and it will be nice to see them again in a few weeks.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Post-Grad Meals and Food Choices

Making meals post-grad is different. I mentioned on Twitter recently "I've been eating this hamburger, rice and veggie mix for my work lunch for a week and it's still not gone. Need to make smaller meals." For whatever reason, I call the noon meal dinner when I'm back in Minnesota and lunch here, and it's always supper unless I'm going out for dinner. When I lived in Kansas City and decided it was a good idea to make Hamburger Helper, I was eating the same meal for a week. Guess that's what happens when you live alone. In college when I cooked family sized meals, I'd cook for the boyfriend as well but when he's 10 hours away that clearly doesn't happen. 

Going out to eat for lunch at work doesn't tend to happen on a regular basis, because I'm cheap and I often don't mind cooking anyways, so I try to ensure that I have leftovers or something frozen to pop in the microwave at work. Most often it's leftovers, but I do usually keep something frozen on hand just in case I'm not able to have leftovers available. In college, I'd either go back to my apartment for lunch or I'd heat up something up in the microwave near the Crookston Student Association office. Lunch was never a set time.

Recent conversations have me thinking even more about why I eat what I do. I enjoy cooking and especially baking, and I cook a variety of things - including several meals I've found recently on Pinterest. Right now I'm looking for any and all meal suggestions including ground beef, as I have about 8 lbs of it sitting in my freezer from home. My breakfasts usually consist of something that goes in the toaster: bagels with cream cheese, english muffins with peanut butter and sometimes bananas, or homemade waffles that I make for supper and freeze for breakfasts. I'm trying to add fruit or yogurt to my breakfasts as well. Sweets are my absolute weakness and I love some good chocolate, particularly of the European variety like Milka. I try not to buy chocolate as often, but there's currently half a pan of amazing peanut butter bars that I made sitting in my fridge. Sweets are fine, but it would probably be better if I ate them in more moderation. 

As a recent college graduate, I still look for cheap food and I shop at the grocery store in the area known for being the cheapest. Though I like cheap food, I think farmer's markets are awesome and Madison has a particularly good one that I enjoy going to. I've been the farmer's market in every one of the major cities I've lived in; they're a lot of fun and a good way to pick up specialty items. I buy Organic Valley dairy products, which are decidedly not cheap at all, because it's the company my family's milk goes to. Coupons for Organic Valley help a lot to bring the cost to the level more reflective of the other groceries I buy.

If you're a recent college grad, or even just living on your own, how do shop for food? Was it an adjustment to go from the college cheap food lifestyle?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

World Dairy Expo: Where the Dairy Industry Meets

Last week was National 4-H Week, and I had been planning to write about last week about how much 4-H impacted me, but last week was also World Dairy Expo (WDE) which made for a very busy week and no time to write any posts.

This was only my second World Dairy Expo; the first being 5 years ago, as I wrote about earlier. My boyfriend's younger twin sisters attended the National Dairy Conference this year. When I moved to Madison, I told my Dad that he should use my move as an excuse to visit WDE for the first time so my parents made the trip to visit me and attend WDE.

World Dairy Expo is a huge event and it truly is "Where the dairy industry meets". It's where the best dairy show cattle are and where people learn of the newest innovations in the dairy industry. Though it's in Madison, dairy enthusiasts from over 80 countries attend the show.

I spend the majority of the show working in the BouMatic booth, but I also helped give milkhouse presentations to 4th grade school groups, attended industry meetings, and reconnected with many of my dairy industry friends. I learned a lot working in the booth as I got to know my coworkers better, including a few from Belgium and other countries, and met with many dairy farmers from across the world. It was particularly interesting to talk to the international visitors and learn about their operations.

The week served as a great reminder of how much I love and appreciate the dairy industry, and just how diverse and exciting the industry is. That diversity is clearly demonstrated by the vast number (810)  of exhibitors at WDE, with products ranging to organic cheese to water beds for cows and herd management software. Seeing the show cows walk across the colored shavings reminds me of the cows back at my family's farm that all have unique personalities and each Red and White Holstein reminds of my favorite cow of all time, Freckles.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Recognizing Positives

Friday night I attended a young adult gathering at a church I started going to nearby, part of a group called TnT - Twenties and Thirties. The last point during discussion was about figuring out what our gifts are, and there was agreement that  it's often a hard thing to do. It's often easier to recognize a positive in someone else than it is to recognize a positive in ourselves. One of the leaders of the group encouraged everyone to point out gifts in people when we see them.

I've had several instances where the group I was part of actively recognized positives. During a mission trip to the Crow Reservation in Montana, each participant had a bag taped along the wall of the church basement we stayed in for the week. Whenever someone did something good that we noticed, the person who noticed wrote down that positive and put it in the other person's bag. The positives ranged from something like mentioning how well the participant worked with kids that day to thanking them for helping with something with a positive attitude. At the end, everyone read the notes in their bags, which were sometimes anonymous and sometimes signed. Reading the notes I got on the mission trip made me happy and inspired me to keep doing whatever it was that others noticed.

Earlier I mentioned how yeah buddies were part of the community service trip I went on during spring break this year. At the end of the trip, everyone wrote a yeah buddy for each person on the bus. Some people wrote short notes, but others went in depth. I still have my bag with my yeah buddies from the end. At different 4-H events, we recognized positives by passing around paper with each person's name for others to write positives on, and by posting folded notes on a mirror.

Thinking back on these times reminded me of how important it is that we recognize the positives in our lives and in each other. Not only does it make the other person feel good, but it can inspire them to keep doing good. While constructive criticism is certainly necessary and helpful at times, it's important that we don't forget to point out positives as well.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Meeting People in Madtown

I moved to Madison, WI over a month ago now and have had some time to get settled in my new place. When I made the move, I knew nobody in the area. I do have a few relatives here, but had not really known them before the move. I was on my own. Last summer I had a similar experience when I lived in Kansas City, however that was a temporary situation for my internship.

Leaving college, where there is a network of friends in walking distance, and going to a place where my closest friends were at least 5 hours away was interesting. Luckily, I found a great Meetup group. I was looking for a young professionals group to join in Madison and came across, which led me to the "20 something" group. It's relaxed and full of young professionals looking to meet people, may new to the area and recent grads like myself.

Every time I've met someone new in Madison, the inevitable question is "So what do you do?" It still feels weird to say that I have a full time job rather than "I go to UMC". Most people I talk to aren't quite sure what the company I work for does and "dairy equipment manufacturing" gets some confused, but intrigued, looks. The briefest explanation I have that I think is easily understandable is "milkers and milk storage tanks", though it includes much, much more. One of the people at a Meetup event seemed surprised that cows aren't milked by hand anymore and my profession sometimes sparks discussions about agriculture and the dairy industry.

There are so many interesting people in the group with a wide range if professions. Just as I enjoy talking about what I do and the dairy industry, I am enjoying learning about other industries from the other group members.

Moving to Madison alone didn't exactly scare me, but it was certainly a bit out of my comfort zone. It has been a rewarding experience though to go out and be comfortable in a brand new area.

Have you ever moved to an unfamiliar area alone? How did you meet people? How did you make it feel like home?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

MN State Fair: Rabbits

As I mentioned earlier, I will be writing about my past experiences as a 4-Her at the Minnesota State Fair for the rest of the week, as the "Great Minnesota Get Together" is currently going on. I showed rabbits in 4-H for many years and showed them at the state fair for as many years as I could from 6th grade (when 4-hers in MN are state fair eligible) on. I recently sold most of my rabbit herd of Jersey Woolies, but intend to get back into the hobby once I can. I also showed dairy steer for a few years, but rabbits were my main livestock project.

As a kid just out of 6th grade, I was shy and quiet and did not know anyone else going to the state fair well. Luckily, I met three girls, one a year older than me and twins who were 2 years older, who also showed rabbits and showed me the ropes of the state fair. I attended the wedding of one of those girls just this January.

Besides caring for the rabbits and everything that entails, there are three mandatory things that every state fair 4-h rabbit exhibitor has to do: spend time at a rabbit educational booth, participate in a skill-a-thon and take a quiz, and participate in showmanship. I enjoyed all of these. At the educational booth, each county signed up for a two hour time slot for the exhibitors to sit with their rabbits at a table as people came up to pet the rabbits and often asked questions. One of the amazing things about the Minnesota State Fair is the educational aspect and each barn has an educational exhibit or booth. One of my younger brothers has Rex rabbits that he took to the state fair when he was old enough. People were always amazed when they got to pet his rabbits as they have fur that feels like velvet.

The skill-a-thon/quiz involved testing on the exhibitor's rabbit knowledge, and the degree of difficulty increased as the exhibitor moved up in age groups. The top 10% from the skill-a-thon/quiz in each age group are finalists and were called back to do personal interviews on their rabbit knowledge and what they have done with their rabbit project. Each 4-h species at the MN state fair has a similar system. For rabbits, the top two winners in each age group from the personal interviews received a chair. Getting a chair was always a big achievement and one our chaperones were excited to hear about.

One of my brothers and I with my mom in 2008 when we both were interview winners.

In 2009, all of my siblings were interview finalists. Another interview finalist from my county is also in the picture.

With my interview chair my last year of 4-H, 2009. This was my 3rd chair and it now sits in my apartment until I get a couch (tomorrow!).

Though I loved when my rabbits showed well, my real niche in the rabbit project was showmanship. I loved to read about rabbits and studied all the time for fun. I was always looking for new ways to gain knowledge. At the state fair, the best of the best come together and I knew it was tough competition as I competed against many of the same people in open shows, but I made it my goal to win showmanship at the state fair.

After winning Advanced Showmanship in 2008. The rabbit I took that year molted his "wool cap", or fur on his forehead, just before judging and got a blue.

In 2009, I was put into a "Select" showmanship class with just two exhibitors. It was for those who had won Advanced showmanship or who taken an ARBA registrar's test, both of which I had done. The rabbit in the picture, Bingo, won a purple ribbon.

Being among so many knowledgeable rabbit exhibitors at the state fair kept me striving to do my best and reach my goals. 

I started out showing rabbits at the state fair as a shy little 6th grader who hardly knew anyone and eventually became more outgoing and was the one showing the younger exhibitors the ropes around the state fair. I made many friends through showing rabbits at the state fair and it has been rewarding to see the younger kids that I remember showing around the fair do well themselves. The MN state fair is truly an amazing experience for 4-Hers. 

Finally, this is my youngest brother with his Reserve Champion Mini Lop at the state fair this year. I couldn't be there for the show this year, as I was last year, but it was good to hear that he did well.

Monday, August 29, 2011

MN State Fair: 4-H State Ambassadors

I mentioned a while back that I would eventually touch on my experience as a Minnesota State 4-H Ambassador. At the moment, the Minnesota State Fair is going on and I can't be there until this Saturday. I love the state fair and it was the always the highlight of my summer, so I miss it terribly right now though I've graduated from 4-H. When I was an ambassador, I wrote an essay titled "Living at the 4-H Hilton" about being a 4-h state ambassador at the state fair and I'm posting an abridged version of it here:

Since one of my former camp counselors became as Minnesota State 4-H Ambassador and loved it, I made it a personal goal to eventually become one, just like her. Within in a month of completing my interview for the prestigious role in May, I was notified that I was one of 23 youth selected from across the state to represent Minnesota 4-H at its best for one year. Upon completing a 4-day orientation in July, I was now considered an official state ambassador, or state ambie as many people like to call us. Attending the Minnesota State Fair was our first role as ambies and thus the 4-H Hilton became my home for 2 weeks prior to the start of my senior year of high school.

Over the many years that 4-Hers have spent in the 4-H Building since it was first built in 1939, it has somehow earned the nickname “The 4-H Hilton”. The first floor is the only part of the 4-H Building that the average fair-goer sees. Down there is where all the action is: the stage performances, karaoke, Lego robotics, conference judging, fashion review shows, demonstrations, and even a flight simulator. The second floor consists of a large cafeteria area where “Caf Staff” serves us 3 delicious meals a day. Separate stairways lead to the third floor boy’s and girl’s dorms. Each dorm houses roughly 500 people in row upon row of bunk beds.

One of my favorite parts of the state fair was a livestock exhibitor was the livestock dance. As state ambies, our job was to make sure that every kid there was having fun, causing us to have to mingle with everybody there. It was a general rule to only dance with one group of people for one song at the most, if that even. For slow dances, we were supposed to try to ask any random person to dance with us, or form a circle group of some of the wallflowers who didn’t want to slow dance. Besides the other “general rules”, we were supposed to try to avoid clumping, or having more than one ambie in a group at a time. Every encampment had its own dance with resulted in a dance every other day once the non-livestock encampments started.

Every day of the state fair, my schedule involved door greeting and working at the 4-H information booth for at least two hours. Door greeting involved a lot of being smiley and saying “Hi, Welcome to the 4-H Building” for an hour straight, then we switched and worked at the info booth for the next hour of our two-hour shift. We had a map of Minnesota behind the info booth for people to mark where they are or were in 4-H with a pin, they was even a national map for out of state members. It was so interesting to listen to some of the stories people told of when they used to be in 4-H. Several of our other jobs included watching the technology area, assisting with exhibitor orientation, working at Little Farm Hands, painting faces on the outdoor stage, and working as judge’s assistants.

One ambie tradition is to have a competition against the artsies, in past years it was a hockey game. This year however, we weren’t able to play hockey so we decided to play human foosball on the fairgrounds instead. They had the human foosball set up at a news station booth and we were allowed to use it for our competition. August 30th Staff Night Out for the ambies, artsies, exhibits staff, dorm staff, and special activities staff, was held in Blaine. I worked at the All You Can Drink Milk Stand that night and I ended up missing the bus over to Staff Night Out. One of the other ambies waited for me and we managed to get a ride there with one of the exhibits staff who was driving over there anyways.

Even just getting to know the other state ambassadors better was a great experience, although there was still drama at times. I learned a lot at the 4-H Hilton in Falcon Heights, MN, largely because of my state ambassador role. Simply door greeting showed me just how much diversity existed even in Minnesota, something I was only mildly aware of previously. One of my highlights of the state fair was hearing someone say that he and his wife met through 4-H because they showed cattle against each other. I love seeing how 4-H brings people together, especially since I’ve gotten to know so many people from it and the state fair is one of the things that strengthens those friendships. This year they were selling t-shirts with a picture of the 4-H Hilton and the saying, “I survived the 4-H Hilton”, that were selling fast. I managed to get a hold of one and I believe it just about sums up my state fair experience this year.

The essay was long, but I trimmed it down a bit. The MN State Fair was just part of my state ambassador experience, but it was a great part. I met many great friends while I was an ambassador, and my boyfriend was a state ambassador with me as well, though we had started dating before then. 

For the rest of the week, until I can go to the state fair myself this weekend, I will be posting about other aspects of my years at the state fair as time allows. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Technology in Dairy

My family's dairy farm is small - just 38 cows. To give some perspective, the average size of a dairy farm in Minnesota was 90 cows as of 2007. In California and other western states, that number is much larger. My family's cows are milked in a 38 stall tie-stall/stanchion barn, which is an older style that most people are more familiar with. Each cow has a stall that is assigned to them and they learn which stall is theirs. With such a small herd and the type of barn we have, my family does not utilize a lot of the more advanced technology, such as robotic milkers and herd management systems.

Today I started technical training through work for a line of dairy automation products and I have two more days of this training. This line includes software and hardware that can sort cows, track cow activity to help monitor which cows have high and low activity, monitor hoof care, and monitor milking. I've been in the dairy industry since I was born but I am continually amazed by the technology that is available. It often makes for less work for the farmer, but it also improves the cows lives as it helps catch things that the farmer might otherwise miss or not notice as quickly.

My boyfriend's family's dairy farm is not much larger than my family's at 100 cows, but it is very different. These cows are housed in a free stall barn, where there are stalls but is all open to the cows which no assigned stalls. Feeding is done as a group, rather than in individual rations. The cows are milked in a parallel parlor. This is where the cows are sent from the free stall barn to a holding area and then into milking stalls on either side of the parlor (thus parallel as there are parallel sides). In the "pit", below the parlor, are the people who milk the cows. Once a side of the parlor is done milking, they exit back into the barn and the next group enters. Sensors read the cow's ID tag as she enters the parlor so that my boyfriend's dad can tell how much milk came from each individual cow during each milking.

The level of technology is different on my family's farm and my boyfriend's family's farm, but they are both good farms doing what works best for them at the moment. Both are also looking into upgrading technology. I enjoy learning about the technology that is available to today's farmers and hearing how it can improve both the farmers and the cows lives. For instance, software and hardware that can detect lameness in cows and gives cows hoof bathes - now that's cool.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Big Move

I'm getting settled into my new apartment in Madison, WI and have been in town for 2 weeks now. The past two weeks have a whirlwind of busy as I had a hotel mix-up, started apartment searching, met some relatives that live near the area, started my new job at BouMatic, moved into my new apartment, and met lots of new people.

My journey to Madison started two weeks ago as I was heading to my home for the week - an extended stay hotel - but due to a mix-up had to find a different place to crash for a couple of nights. I knew I had relatives in the area but I had not known them before. I got in touch with my parents and my Dad called his cousin in Oregon, just outside Madison, and arranged for me to stay there. It was essentially "Nice to meet you! I'm your cousin's daughter and I'll be staying here for a couple of nights." Luckily, my Dad's cousin's family was very nice and friendly. On my first day at work I finally got into my extended hotel stay hotel, which I loved because it had free wireless, breakfast and supper.

Work has been interesting so far and I've met so many people and am learning a lot. Even though I grew up on a dairy farm, I am realizing that there is so much about the industry to learn yet, which is exciting. My boss is in Belgium and works out of the European headquarters in Remicourt, Belgium, but I work closely with a great Brand Management team in Madison. That team has been showing me the ropes and I'm learning everything that my role entails and getting started on some big projects.

Last week I signed the lease on my new apartment and I moved in on Monday. I'm still in the process of settling in, but it's getting there. I'll be bringing one of my rabbits to live here (in it's cage) sometime soon. The complex I live in is just 2 miles from where I work and, though it's still in Madison, I drive by a corn field on my way to work. There's a woods just outside my patio and I love it. Pictures of the place will likely come as I get more settled in.

So far I'm experiencing a huge mixture of loving the city and my new job and greatly missing home. The missing home portion is compounded by the fact that the Douglas County Fair is going on at this moment and this is the first year I've ever missed it completely. Last year was my first year not being in 4-H, but I was still able to make it to part of the fair in between coming home from Missouri and heading back to college.  Still, I'm grateful for this experience and it's definitely a change to be on my own in a new city and a new state.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Moving Away From Home and the Farm

It seems like I'm constantly realizing that I'm growing up, which is both an exciting and odd feeling. Though I've accepted my first "big-kid" job and am set to move to Madison in a week, it's just begun to sink in more and more and I'm sure it won't completely sink in for a while. Friday was one of those "you feel like an adult when" moments as I got kitchen items as an early 21st birthday present. I was even excited to get them as I like to cook and bake and I definitely needed a new pot and pan set.

Another one of those "you feel like an adult when" moments occurred last weekend as I went home and packed up a lot of my stuff for my move to Madison. None of my family was home  last weekend as they were attending my younger brother's graduation from Basic training for the North Dakota Air Guard, which I would've loved to have been there for. However, I did get to spend time with the boyfriend at the small town (population of 100) festival that weekend.

I've moved before - to and from college and to and from Kansas City - but this time was different. This time it's not a temporary arrangement with a set end date. Leaving my home is one thing, but leaving the farm is another. I miss the farm a lot while I'm away, but I imagine it'll be even harder when I'm 7 hours away in a more permanent location.

Since I'll be working in the dairy industry, I imagine that at least being able to talk about dairy on a daily basis and being involved in the industry will help me feel more connected to the farm even when I'm 7 hours away. Even if I won't be on the farm, I'm glad that I'll still be able to work in and support the industry.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Norwegian Connection

By now, most people have heard of the tragedy that occurred in and near Oslo, Norway (Norge in Norwegian). What happened there is absolutely horrific and I immediately felt for the people there. I wouldn't typically write about a major tragedy, as news outlets do that already, but in this case I have been to the city that was affected.

I visited Oslo for a few days, including during Syttennde Mai, the Norwegian Independence Day, on a study abroad trip. As a Minnesotan, I've certainly been exposed to Norwegian foods such as lefse and Norwegian heritage jokes like Ole and Lena. I'm not Norwegian myself though and was just one of 2 students who didn't have Norwegian heritage out of the 15 student on the trip. While I visited Norway for two weeks, I grew to appreciate the culture and enjoyed the beauty of both the countryside and the towns.

School children walking in the Syttennde Mai parade in Olso.
Our trip to Oslo was cut short by the Iceland volcano Eyjafjallajokull, but I enjoyed the time that I did get to spend in the city. The goal for Oslo was to be there for Syttennde Mai, a great experience that reminded me of the 4th of July and what it means to have a sense of national pride. On Syttennde Mai we even found hot dogs wrapped in the aforementioned lefse at a street vendor.

A year after my visit to Norway, my heart goes out to the Norwegians as they go through this national tragedy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Big News: Starting a New Chapter

My internship with Wilbur-Ellis ends August 5th and I've been applying and interviewing for full-time positions to start once my internship ends.  There's been many ups and downs, confusion, excitement, and hard decisions along the way, but I'm happy to say that today my job search is over.

I concentrated my job search on the agriculture industry and focused primarily on roles dealing with communications and/or marketing.  My Communication degree is broad and marketing can apply to a wide variety of roles and tasks, and I believe I found a position that I will be very satisfied with.

Starting August 8th, I'll be the North America Market Manager with BouMatic in Madison, Wisconsin.  BouMatic is a global dairy equipment manufacturing company and I'm excited to be able to work in the awesome dairy industry.  I'll be moving to Madison, about 7 hours away from home, which is both scary and exciting at the same time.  I'll also be apartment searching for the first time and doing many other firsts.  It's a big change that I'm very excited about.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Revisiting the National 4-H Dairy Conference

I drove into Madison, Wisconsin tonight and am currently at a hotel for my short visit to Madison.  The last time, and only other time, I was in this city was in 2006 for the National 4-H Dairy Conference. As I drove by ABS Global on my way into Madison tonight, I was reminded of that conference and how much it impacted me.

When I attended, I was a junior in high school and had just started dating my boyfriend who also attended the conferenc., We were two of over 20 Minnesota delegates to this large conference held on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.  The Gopher Dairy Club typically sponsors MN delegates.

The National 4-H Dairy Conference (NDC) was truly an amazing opportunity, and continues to be a great experience for high school 4-Hers involved in the dairy industry.  I'd recommend it anyone.  I remember most of my fellow Minnesota delegates and still keep in touch with many of them, and continue to see many active in the dairy industry. 3 (the boyfriend included) were even 4-H State Ambassadors with me, an experience I intend to write about later.
About half of the MN group at the National 4-H Dairy Conference next to a cow statue on State Street in Madison.  I'm on the far left in the first row.  

Today I'm thankful that NDC exposed me to how diverse the dairy industry is.  Before, I had learned about other types of dairies but hadn't visited any larger than 100 cows.  The conference brought me to large dairies with rotary parlors, dairies that produce their own cheese, organic dairies larger than my family's, custom heifer growers, farms with methane digesters, Hoard's Dairyman (the office and the Guernsey farm), and ABS Global, among others.  

I have always had an interest in agriculture and love cows, but it was during NDC that I became absolutely certain that I wanted to have a career in agriculture.  Attending a large-scale conference like NDC allowed me to get outside the box of my local county and state and really immerse myself in not just dairy, but agriculture as a whole as well.  After all, as diverse as dairy is, the agriculture industry as a whole is even more diverse.  The conference further developed my infinite desire to learn more, see more, and do more in regards to agriculture.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NoDak Adventures: Small Town U.S.A.

This weekend I attended the wedding of a college friend up in Grand Forks, North Dakota (NoDak).  I've always enjoyed weddings and the bf was a groomsman in this one.  It was great to see some of my college friends and the entire weekend was a lot of fun.

One of the closest Wilbur-Ellis branches is in Grand Forks, ND and I thought that going to the wedding in the area was a great chance to visit the branch in the same trip.  Plans were set for me to visit the Grand Forks branch and visit dealers with one employee who worked primarily with Nutrition and primarily with Seed.

During my visit with the Grand Forks branch we traveled all over northeastern NoDak, primarily visiting "alliances" or local ag stores that sell Wilbur-Ellis products.  Working in the Burnsville, MN office I typically see the "big picture", and visiting the branch and the stores that sell Wilbur-Ellis products allowed me to see beyond that.  It was a good experience to be able to see how the product bulletins and brochures that I put together in the office get used every day in the field to talk to growers.  Besides that aspect, it was so interesting to hear what the retail store workers were talking about and what issues are important to northeastern ND.  It's been a very wet spring and it had rained that day and the day before so the fields had standing water, but there was one test plot that was dry enough for us to walk in.

The places we visited in NoDak were small towns, with the biggest having a population of 604.  It's quite likely that most people haven't heard of Petersburg, Alsen, or Minto, ND, just as most haven't heard of Millerville, MN.  Millerville is the small town, population 100, just 5 miles from the dairy farm I grew up on.  As I was traveling through NoDak, all of the small towns I visited reminded me a bit of Millerville.  In Petersburg, we stopped at a gas station/ag service store that had a fridge full of pop.  If you wanted a pop, all you had to do was put some change in the box in the fridge - it was the "small town vending machine".

I've lived in Kansas City and I currently live in a Minneapolis suburb, so I don't have a problem with living in a city, but there's simply something different about small towns.  The small town vending machine in Peterburg reminded me of what I like about Millerville.  In Millerville, there's a gas station where the owner fills up your gas for you, puts the bill on your tab, and gives you a loaner car when you get an oil change.  I love having that available.

Small towns are made even more interesting because they're often farming communities.  In a place like North Dakota, where there aren't many big towns and the towns aren't real close together, farmers seem to come together in their communities.  I'm sure the same holds true in small towns across the U.S.  My family likes to say that farming is a spectator sport, and it's also a "sport" in which farmers like to feel a connection to other farmers.  With years like this where there are a lot of preventive planting acres and those that did get planted are behind schedule, it's even more important to have those communities.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Family Farming

I didn't get to see my dad for Father's Day and I felt bad because I saw my mom for Mother's Day, as it was the day after my college graduation, plus nobody was home with my dad for Father's Day this year.  The older of my two younger brothers is currently at Lackland Air Force Base for basic training and won't be home until November because he has skills training immediately after.  My youngest brother has been gone most of the month with different conferences and on Saturday he left for a boy scout camp.  I've been living in a Minneapolis suburb since the middle of May and my mom came to the Twin Cities area this weekend to attend a graduation party so she decided to spend time with me as well.

Despite not being with my dad for Father's Day, both of my parents have taught me the importance of family.  I believe farm families are especially aware of what it means to be a family and how important it is because they work together and play together.  My mom was a city girl who married a dairy farmer and they had very different backgrounds but both love the farm and have been incredibly supportive parents.

My dad grew up in a large family on the same farm that I grew up on and he always had to work on the farm. He went to tech school for Farm Business Management and joined his dad on the farm immediately.  Even though my dad had to work on the farm, my brothers and I were never forced to do chores, though he would ask for help when necessary.  I learned to drive tractor and feed cows because I wanted to and because I enjoyed it.

Working on the farm with my family brought me closer to them.  I did a lot of things with my brothers and my dad that most families don't do together: picking rocks, unloading hay and moving cattle.  (My mom cannot help much on the farm due to asthma and allergies but wishes she could more.)  Even though we would occasionally still fight while working, we often had good times too.  We got to have fun while working because we were interacting with family.

My brothers and I at YELLO, a state 4-H leadership conference, when I was a MN State 4-H Ambassador.

Besides working together, my brothers and I were all in 4-H, all showed rabbits at some point, and were all in drama in high school.  We're all different and those similar activities were good to have together.  My parents were always fully supportive of everything we were in despite being busy with my dad milking cows and my mom working off the farm most years.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Visiting Home

There's no place like home.  I feel this classic "Wizard of Oz" line is even more true for people, like me, who feel a strong connection to the farm they were raised on.  I've traveled and lived away from home, and currently live 2 1/2 hours away, but I do love home and that's partly because it's where the farm is.

This weekend instead of staying in the Twin Cities, I went home after work on Friday.  My uncle has been living at my home for the past week to help my Dad with fencing so he was there and will be staying for at least another week.  It's nice that my Dad has the extra help because my youngest brother is the only sibling still at home but he's gone for most of June at a 4-H conference, Boys State, and a boy scout camp.

I always enjoy being back on the farm.  When I'm in the city I miss the cows, I miss the fields, and I miss doing chores.  I like to go back home and feed the cows and clean the barn, simply because I think it's fun.  I like to talk to my dad about the crops and about what's happening on the farm.

Cows are nice and I've had some great favorites, but this weekend one of my favorite parts was playing with the young calves.  We have 4 heifers in the pen that houses the youngest calves and they are all very friendly.  this weekend I petted the 4 young heifers for at least 10 minutes.  It's fun to see how curious they are and how much they like to be petted.

Of course this year hasn't been a normal planting season and I was able to talk to my Dad more about that while I was home.  My Dad hasn't even finished planting his corn and he just started last week.  Our farm has clay soil and it's been a cold, wet spring so planting got started very late for us.  My Dad is hoping to get some barley in as well but we don't have enough tractors to do both corn and barley planting at the same time.

On a non-ag related note, I also got to attend a grad party for one of my friends and her younger brother (her from college and him from high school), go to a bonfire the same friend had, and see the boyfriend who is currently interning at a company in Bismarck and living 7 hours from me this summer.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Taking Sides

I love agriculture and I love all aspects of it that I am familiar with.  I love the cows, driving tractors, picking rocks in fields, and the people in the industry.  Sometimes though, I feel like I am being asked to take sides on what is often a controversial, and often discussed, topic in agriculture.

Being from an organic dairy farm has put me in a somewhat unique position, especially when it comes to applying for jobs in the agricultural industry where I might be representing conventional farmers.  It seems that there is often a great divide between organic and conventional farming, one that I don't think necessarily has to be there. I know there are plenty of people who will disagree with me and say that one system is inherently better than the other. 

My family's dairy farm became organic about 9 or 10 years ago.  We always pastured our cows, but have even more pasture since we became certified organic.  Before we became organic, my dad started getting really sick and none of the doctors had an answer until one told him that it was a chemical sensitivity so he had to stop using chemicals on the farm.  When that happened, he looked into becoming certified organic, since we couldn't use chemicals anyways, and began the process.  Organic is a necessity for my dad to keep farming, but it's not for everyone.

We have lots of neighbors who are conventional farmers and I have never heard my dad saying anything to indicate that they should switch to organic.  He will certainly talk to them about it if they ask, but I don't believe it is something that should have to be forced upon all farmers.  Our neighbors primarily own small farms, like us, and care for the land and their cows like we do.  They simply choose to do so in different ways.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Living in the cities

Even though there are lots of cities across the U.S., Minnesotans sometimes refer to the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) as "the cities".  Though I'm not currently living in either, I'm living in Robbinsdale, which is a small suburb right next to Minneapolis.  Last summer I lived in Kansas City so living in a city isn't totally foreign to me anymore, but it still takes some time to get used to.  At least being in the Twin Cities area I am close to drive home for a weekend if I just need to go to the farm.

I finally have my university laptop, which I now get to keep forever, back so I'll likely start to post a bit more regularly again.  Last Monday I started my summer internship with Wilbur-Ellis Company as the Agribusiness Marketing Intern.  I'm working half with the Nutrition Team and half with the Seed Technology Team.  It's been very interesting so far, especially learning a lot about plant nutrition, seed and agronomy in general.  For someone from a dairy farm with just enough acres to feed our cows, it's a lot to learn but I enjoy it.  This week I took a trip down to Ames, Iowa to visit the Seed Technology office there and learn more about the seed business.

Living in the Twin Cities does have its advantages, including being able to walk to Cub Foods and really being able to walk to anything I might need, having access to anything I might want fairly close by, and that I have a lot of relatives in this area.  I'm actually staying with one of my aunts so I have a 30-40 minute commute but I get to hang out with her.  Like when I was in Kansas City, I do sometimes miss the fields and the open land so I was glad when I got to go to Ames and drive on the interstate for 3 hours through fields.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pomp and Circumstance

I apologize for letting this blog go for a bit.  The last month of school was incredibly busy and, though I had plenty to write about, it seemed there were always more pressing things to get done such as class projects and applying for jobs.  I'll have to change to title of this blog soon as I am no longer a college student.  Last Saturday, May 7th, I graduated from the University of Minnesota, Crookston with a B.S. in Communication and Marketing.  I was also one of the first two graduates of the UMC honors program, which I loved being involved in.

My immediate family and I before the ceremony.

My boyfriend and I before the ceremony.  He graduates in December but we only have a spring ceremony so he walked with me.  He's also from a dairy farm and is majoring in Software Engineering.

I loved college so leaving it was bittersweet, especially since I only had 3 years of it.  Pomp and Circumstance is always, it seems, played at graduation ceremonies and it never fails to make me a bit sad as well as get stuck in my head for weeks.  I'll miss many things:  being surrounded by people, having roommates my age, the extra-curriculars, my part-time job, the learning environment, my research project, Crookston itself, but most of all the people.  I met many, many amazing friends, faculty and staff at UMC who I will never forget and I hope to keep in touch with.  

Despite the air of sadness surrounding graduation, I am also excited.  I'm starting an Agribusiness Marketing internship on Monday, May 16th, in Burnsville, MN.  This opportunity will allow me to explore some aspects of agriculture that I'd love to learn more about.  I'll be moving to Robbinsdale, MN this weekend for the summer.  Though I lived in Kansas City last summer for my internship, the Twin Cities are a bit bigger so this will be a slightly new experience for me as well.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Birthday Party

At my job on campus we frequently have birthday parties.  I think there must be a birthday party a month at least between the University Relations and Alumni Development departments and they're always fun because we get together, eat a dessert and talk in the Heritage Room.  On Wednesday we celebrated the birthday of the graphic designer on campus and I was one of two student workers there among the full time employees.

Somehow the topic of conversation at Wednesday's party got to be about farms and it appeared that everyone I was sitting near had grown up on a farm or at least had a close relative or friend who had.  An employee in printing mentioned that we used to drink raw milk and nobody thought twice about it, but said that now nobody does that.  As someone who drinks the milk from my family's dairy farm straight from the bulk tank, I mentioned that I still drink raw milk when I go home and actually prefer the taste.  I know raw milk is a controversial subject and everyone has their own opinions about it, which is completely fine, but it is interesting to see how opinion on it can change over the years.

Since everyone around me at the party was older than me, it also struck me how it used to be much more common for someone to be from a farm or at least know someone close who was.  With today's farm numbers continually declining, this just emphasizes the need for educating the public about farmers do everything and how their food is produced.  If people don't know anyone on a farm, they have nothing to base their knowledge on.

It was interesting to be able to talk about dairy and farms at a birthday party for work and it just goes to show that agriculture conversations can come up anywhere.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April Snow Showers Brings Cinco De Mayo

It's been a while since I've posted on here because April is always a busy month for me as a college student.  With a just a few weeks left until graduation, all of my big projects are due soon, there are tons of activities going on, and there's graduation to worry about.  Because of all this I've been a bit stressed lately.

UMC had its 3rd annual Fiesta in the Spirit of Cinco De Mayo last night - held now instead of May because May 5th is during finals week - and nearly 900 people came to campus for the event.  Crookston got 6 inches of snow yesterday which I wasn't a big fan of at first, but it wasn't too cold out and the snow was actually very pretty.  The turnout of 900 for the Cinco de Mayo celebration was great considering the fact that it was snowing all day, and in mid-April no less.  I was one of the many students who volunteered to help with the event, which included a marketplace, children's activities, a Mexican supper, a fiesta celebration, and a family dance.  I helped with the children's activities and helped kids color wooden maracas, which was great because I like working with kids.  Helping kids and going to the fiesta, which included dances from various parts of Mexico, really helped lift me mood and destress a bit.

One of the things that caught my attention during the Cinco de Mayo celebration was a video that was playing repeatedly about life in Mexico for a family during the children's activities.  At one point in the video, the narrator was talking about how their mother said that chemicals on their crops were ruining them.  As someone from an organic farm who also tries to support the conventional side of farming, it was interesting to hear that.  I'm not certain that there what the video was saying was actually happening, and it was just a brief comment, but it is still something that anyone who paid attention to the movie could have heard.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This is Country Music

As I started this, I was sitting in the student center listening to Joshua Stevens, a country artist out of Nashville.  He's a songwriter and I was really enjoying his music, especially his song about a town where "nothing happens" because well, nothing happens much happens in Crookston or my hometown of Brandon.

I've been busy lately, as always, but listening to country music always seems to help me relieve stress and is a great pick me up during the day or at night after I'm finally done with classes and work.  I like listening to many genres of music, with my second favorite probably being Christian rock, but country is what I grew up listening to and what I have always loved.  My dad always had country music on in the barn and even my mom, who went to Bruce Springsteen and Neil Diamond concerts when she was younger, loved to listen to and sing Shania Twain.  Speaking of Shania Twain, one of her CDs was the first CD I ever bought and I've had this song of hers in my head today.

County music is great for many reasons, but I think one reason I like it so much is that it seems to be the only, or one of the few, genres that really relate to farmers and what we do.  When I lived in Kansas City last summer during my internship the song that I think I listened to the most that summer was "Amarillo Sky" by Jason Aldean.  That song reminded me so much of being back home and working on the farm, which up until last summer was what I did every summer.  Since I was working for an agricultural nonprofit, it also reminded me of my job and why I am so passionate about agriculture.  The video for "Amarillo Sky" is very powerful, especially the introduction.  While pop songs are often about "the club", county songs are often about more serious matters, but there are still those country songs that show we county folk know how to have some fun too.

What's your favorite music and if you like country, how has it affected you?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Yeah Buddy!

Yeah buddies are well known in STLF.  It's something every bus that goes on the STLF Pay It Forward tour does and it's a warm fuzzy thing.  During our night activities on the tour, which are essentially bonding and trust activities, yeah buddies are the last thing we do before we go to bed.  If someone has something nice to say about something that happened or something that someone did they'll say a yeah buddy for that.  Once everyone has said what they wanted to, we do a group yeah buddy.  Here's one "Yeah buddy to my family for working hard on the dairy farm to produce good quality products".

I just got back from the STLF Pay It Foward Tour yesterday and had an amazing experience doing community service projects in 5 cities on our way to Denver, though it was supposed to be 6 but we never quite made it to Medora, ND.  On the way to Medora, we met a blizzard and it was so bad that our charter bus was stranded on the side of the interstate for 13 hours, even while the interstate closed down.  A family with two kids, including a 9 month old baby, came onto our bus at around 8 or 9 pm (we stopped at 2:30) because they were running out of gas.  We gave them food and they were able to get some sleep in our bed bunks as the bus seats folded up into bunk beds.  When we finally got moving towards Bismarck at 7:30 am, after moving off the interstate to a gas station at 3:30 am, we passed 75 cars and 7 semis in the ditch or stopped on the interstate.  The interstate didn't open in time for us to get to Medora to do our community service project so we headed straight to Rapid City, SD instead.  It was certainly an interesting experience but nobody was negative about it at all; we all realized you just can't help some things.

After Rapid City, we did projects in Thermopolis, WY; Green River, WY; and Grand Junction, CO; before finally reaching our destination city of Denver, CO and doing a large community service project with all 9 STLF buses that had a destination city of Denver.  We did our projects until noon, drove during the day, and stayed in our next city for the night.  We typically stayed at churches and community centers.  My favorite project was in Grand Junction, CO where we worked with Habitat for Humanity and I helped put pickets on a fence.  Another project involved walking 6 miles along a parks & recreation trail in Green River, WY to pick up trash.  We had a bit of free time too, which mostly involved visiting state and county parks.  I especially enjoyed visiting Red Rocks Park near Denver where we saw the Red Rocks Amphitheatre and hiked up a mountain.  With my fair skin, I even got sunburnt from being outside so much and the high altitude.

To any college students, I highly recommend going on the STLF Pay It Foward tour over spring break in the future.  I'd also recommend community service in general; it's highly rewarding and can be a lot of fun.  Being on a bus with a group for 8 days certainly helps form good bonds as well and it's an experience I'll never forget.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring break + community service

There haven't been any blog posts for a while because I've been incredibly busy lately.  I tend it think the next week will always be a bit slower than the last but it's rarely the case.  Spring break starts tomorrow and I'll be heading on the STLF Pay It Forward Tour to Denver.  The Pay It Forward Tour is a community service based alternative spring break trip and we are stopping in 6 cities besides Denver and doing service in each city.  There's a group of about 20 from UMC going, with a few from UND and MSUM, and we're all traveling on a charter bus for 9 days.  Because of this, I'll have minimal to no internet access for the next week but I'm looking forward to serving across the country.

Students Today Leaders Forever

Community service again reminds me of my farm background because of my involvement in 4-H.  It was through 4-H that I got so involved in community service and realized that I thoroughly enjoyed giving to others and making the community a better place.  I did many community service projects in 4-H, including one large one in which I, and 15 others in my county 4-H, sewed 500 pieces of adaptive clothing for injured soldiers and delivered them to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.  It's incredible to see the impact that community service can have and I look forward to seeing that this week over my spring break trip.  Doing community service isn't your typical collegiate spring break trip, but I know it's one I'll enjoy.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Rabbitry Sell Out

I bred, raised and showed Jersey Wooly rabbits for 9 years, starting out in 4-H and then doing a combination of 4-H and American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) shows.  The hobby was a huge part of me and I loved everything about it, despite the many challenges, disappointments and setbacks that came with it.  I attended several ARBA national conventions and was very active in the rabbit project in 4-H, as well as in the youth part of the Minnesota State Rabbit Breeders Association (MSRBA).  My rabbits were my pets but they were also in some ways livestock and I had to pick only the best to keep as I had limited space.

In October I sold my show herd of Jersey Woolies, with most of them leaving to various breeders across the country from the ARBA national convention in Minneapolis.  Selling my show herd was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make because they meant so much to me.  However, I was at college with no idea as to where I might end up once I graduate and my oldest brother, who had previously been taking care of most of my rabbits had gone off to college as well.  I knew my rabbits could no longer get the attention they deserved at home, at least not the show rabbits who require extra attention to be kept in show condition.  I still have about 14 rabbits at home; I kept some as pets and had a few that didn't immediately sell and then had one litter of 6 just after I decided to sell out.  Even though I have those at home and they are great, I miss the rabbits that I sold all of the time.

After I graduate I am hoping that I will have a more permanent location where I can rebuild my show herd because I know that I need to get back into the hobby someday.  I received my ARBA registrar's license a few months ago, which I must have for a few years before even beginning the process to apply to be a licensed ARBA rabbit judge.  Being a judge is my eventual goal and I know that I'll be showing rabbits again someday.

Midwest Regional Dairy Conference

I've finally gotten time to write another blog post.  Last weekend I attended the Midwest Regional American Dairy Science Association-Student Affiliate Division (ADSA-SAD) meeting in River Falls, Wisconsin.  Delegations from dairy clubs across the midwest, ranging from South Dakota State University and Kansas State to The Ohio State University, gather at a different host school each year to learn about various topics in the dairy industry and have fun in the process.  This was my third ADSA regional meeting and I served as the Officer at Large this year.  Every ADSA has been enjoyable because I've learned a lot, had fun, got to meet new people, and got to see old friends from other universities as well. UMC has always had the smallest delegation at Midwest ADSA, likely because it is the smallest school represented at the conference.  I drove to River Falls with two others from the UMC dairy club, while the U of M-Twin Cities had I believe around 40 students in attendance.

One of the many things I love about any ag-related conference is being able to get together with so many others that are passionate about the industry I love.  There at least 300 students at ADSA last weekend and it is always nice to see that there are many other college students out there who understand the dairy industry as well.  I loved going to rabbit shows because I enjoyed raising rabbits and rabbit shows were a chance to be around others who understood that; ADSA is similar in that regard.  It's refreshing to be able to go to a conference where talking about milking procedures is not unusual.  Liking cows is not considered odd to anyone at ADSA; it would actually be odd for anyone there not to like cows.

One of the points that came up a few times during ADSA was the media and animal welfare.  I attended Track One, which was business-oriented, whereas Tracks 2 and 3 were production oriented.  One of the sessions I attended was focused on the media and how to respond to consumers who have questions about dairy in a way that is not combative and is non-threatening so that they understand what dairy farmers do.  Another session addressed farm audits that looked at whether or not farms were doing the best job they could regarding animal care and milk safety.  We looked at issues such as housing and milking procedures and examined the best practices to ensure that cows are healthy and comfortable and that the milk is safe and milking is done effectively.  The keynote speaker addressed animal welfare from the meat packing standpoint and how that related to the dairy industry. He noted that it is the dairy farmer's responsibility to ensure that he/she knows that the transporter they use to transport cull cows is doing an adequate job.  The speaker also noted the importance of sending cows directly to the meat plant rather than to an auction, because when they go to an auction it could be days that they go without being milked and they end up with massive udders as a result, which is not good for the cow.

I certainly learned a lot from ADSA this year and am a bit sad that it will be my last year but it's been a great experience.  It's always nice to see fellow dairy enthusiasts, though at the same time it's exciting to be able to come back to college and have a chance to inform those who are not as familiar with the industry.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Graduating a year early

I'll be graduating from college before I can even legally drink, unlike most, and that's because I'm graduating in 3 years rather than the typical 4 or even 5 years.  Those who I met as a freshman are sometimes surprised that I'm graduating this year and those who I met later are sometimes surprised that I'm only 20.

My small town high school did not offer ag education classes like many and there were not a lot of classes offered for college-bound students.  To keep myself occupied with more challenging courses, as I liked to stay busy, I took 16 college credits each semester of my senior year of high school with a combination of online and ITV (interactive television) classes.  These classes were all administered through three different community and technical colleges and I was able to get most of my generals done while I was in high school.  I learned a lot from each of the classes and felt better prepared for college.  Looking back, I'm not really sure how I managed to maintain such a good GPA in those classes because I was still a senior in high school and involved in many extracurriculars, as well as being a MN State 4-H Ambassador that year.  While there are things that I have wished my high school had, such as FFA, I am glad that it gave me the opportunity to take college classes for dual-enrollment without ever leaving my high school.  Those college classes in high school are the reason I am graduating a year early from college.

I attribute part of the reason that I had the drive to take college courses in high school to my farm background.  I've seen my dad work hard every day on the farm so I have always wanted to work hard myself and have always kept myself busy, whether it be with school work, work, or extracurriculars.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Selling the cows...hopefully not

My dad is essentially the lone worker on our family farm.  My oldest, though still younger, brother and I are at college and my youngest brother has asthma and allergies worse than I do.  My asthma and allergies can make working in the barn hard sometimes, but I like it enough to keep going anyways.  My mom has the same unfortunate asthma and allergies as my brother and I so she works off the farm.

Since my dad does nearly all of the work by himself, he gets run down and tired; he's also had knee surgery  because milking in a tie-stall/stanchion barn took its toll on his knees.  To add to that list, he's had problems with pneumonia and has a chemical sensitivity.  Yet, he's kept going and has worked on the farm ever since he was old enough to help my grandpa with chores.

For a while, my dad was not feeling well at all and considered selling the dairy cows.  My immediate reaction was to scream "No!" inside my head, but I knew that was because of an emotional attachment to the cows and the farm, and wasn't necessarily thinking of what's best for my dad, so I didn't outright say that.  He's applied for off the farm jobs but couldn't really think of anything he'd definitely like to do as much as he likes farming.  Lately though, he's feeling better and the talks of selling the cows have significantly slowed.  I hope that things continue to get better, partly because I know my dad enjoys it and partly because I love the cows.

When the talk of selling the dairy cows started, I began to think even more about the future of the farm.  My brothers don't appear to have an interest in production agriculture; the oldest is majoring in Business Management and Finance at NDSU.  Part of me would love nothing more than to come back to the farm after I graduate, but there are a few things holding me back.  A major one is my asthma and allergies, but I'm also not certain that I'd love all parts of the operation enough to do it 24/7 and I don't know that I want to live near the same town for the rest of my life.  I love the agriculture industry, and dairy in particular, so I at least hope to work in the industry in some way.

Connecting Egyptian current events to agriculture

Yesterday I attended a current events session on campus about Egypt.  It was a discussion led by two professors, one who had lived in Egypt for 30 years and one who I believe was born there.  At first, much of the discussion focused on their thoughts of the Egyptian government and the protests, but it moved to talk of Egypt's economy and culture in general and agriculture was brought into the conversation.

One professor discussed how Egypt used to be known for its agriculture and now they are one of the largest importers of wheat in the world.  There were several agricultural professors and students in the room, but most in attendance were not directly involved with agriculture so it was interesting to hear their thoughts.  A student next to me mentioned how the U.S. used to have a much larger percentage of its population directly involved in agriculture and now we have a smaller percentage feeding more people.  Egypt has not kept up with the technological advances in agriculture to match their growing population so they have to import much of their food.

Youssef, one of the professors directing the session, emphasized the importance of investing in infrastructure and technology rather than military equipment.  One attendee mentioned that the U.S. gives a lot of aid to Egypt but that it is primarily in the form of military aid and Youssef did not think that was the way to help a country prosper.  Investing in technology in agriculture would help Egypt and they could grow more food on their own.

One of the points that really hit me during this session was when Youssef mentioned that fewer Egyptians are going into farming.  His grandparents farmed but nobody took it over and many farms are rented out or sold because so many farm kids choose to go into education instead.  I live on a dairy farm that will probably have no one to take it over, so I completely understood what he was talking about.  It was so interesting to see how our agricultural systems are so different and yet alike in some ways.