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.