Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Farmland: The Movie

Today is Earth Day, a day to reflect on our impact on the environment around us. Farmers are caretakers of many acres of land in this country, so its appropriate to focus on farmers during Earth Day. Are you interested in learning more about how farmers care for their land and animals? If so, watch Farmland: The Movie.

I recently had the opportunity to watch Farmland: The Movie. This documentary follows six young farmers and their families exposing the joys and challenges of production agriculture. It was good to see the diversity of the farmers featured; small, large, conventional and organic and from all corners of the U.S.
  
As I watched, I found myself relating to these farm families when they spoke about the risks farmers face, how dependent we are on the weather, that it’s necessary to work long hours to get crops into the ground, and the commitment we have to animal care. It displayed how generations of family members are involved in the farm. And how we in production agriculture are at the mercy of factors beyond our control; the weather, the price paid for our finished product, input costs and government policy/regulations.

One scene that particularly moved me was during Christmas when a little boy opened his present, a toy combine. He was thrilled to have a piece of equipment like Dad uses. This young man dreams of becoming a farmer. The father of this boy shared his hopes and reservations about his son entering production agriculture. This experienced farmer has seen good times and bad. He’s seen some years of profitability and times when he almost lost everything. That’s the reality of farming.

As a dairy farmer’s daughter with children who may become dairy farmers someday, I can relate to the mixed emotions parents feel when thinking about their children following in their footsteps. On one hand, there are rewards and satisfaction with this occupation and lifestyle. On the other hand, there is a lot of risk, long hours, and many challenges. 

This film accurately portrays farm families. If you’re looking for true stories about food production, I encourage you to watch this movie. It will be in select theaters May 1st. Soon after that, on DVD and Netflix.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Selecting 4-H Animals

We recently selected the calves and heifers that will go to the Geauga County Fair this August. Lad, the boys and I walked through the pens to pick eye-catching animals that are the right age. It was a fun activity on a sunny, spring day.

Jack showing some love to a sweet calf
Lad, Garrett and Jack with a friendly calf
Our barn cat, Henry, loves being in the calf pen
Henry receives "cow licks" daily!
Garrett and Jack with Lucy, the heifer Garrett showed at the 2013 County Fair

Lucy likes Jack!
Jack pushes feed up for the heifers
Garrett in the barn
Boys being boys

We selected seven animals for members of the Geauga Dairymen 4-H club to show at the Fair. The members will care for and work with their animals to prepare for them for the Fair. Being in 4-H is a great experience for young people and our family is glad to be part of it!




Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Great American Milk Drive - Getting Milk to Families in Need

Milk is in short supply at America’s food banks. While milk is one of the top nutritious items requested by food bank clients, it’s rarely donated due to its perishable nature. To fill this void, dairy farmers and dairy processors launched The Great American Milk Drive in partnership with Feeding America


The mission is simple; donate as little as $5 to buy a gallon of milk for your local food bank. Donations stay local. When you donate, you enter your zip code so your donation will go to a food bank in your community.

One in 6 Americans face hunger. Many rely on food banks for nutrition assistance, including more than 12 million families. Families in your community need access to healthy food. These families are missing out on the important nutrients found in milk.

It’s easy to donate by clicking on http://milklife.com/give or text “Milk” to 27722.






Donations can be tracked by state using the Donation Tracker to see how many gallons of milk have been donated in each state.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cow’s Milk vs Non-Dairy Imitation Milk

The dairy case is very crowded. Today, cow’s milk is competing for shelf space with imitation milk alternatives. Cow’s milk is naturally superior. It has about twice the protein of other so-called milks and contains the most absorbable source of calcium.   


Cow’s milk is a key ingredient to overall health. It strengthens bones, improves muscle function, increases energy levels and promotes good vision.

Regardless of variety in fat content, a cup of cow’s milk is packed with eight grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrates, and 300 milligrams of calcium (that’s almost one-third of our daily recommended value). Milk is also naturally high in many other minerals and vitamins such as potassium, phosphorous, and B vitamins. 



The ingredient in whole milk is milk. Period. Low-fat and non-fat milk are fortified with vitamins A and D. Simple and natural, milk contains nine essential nutrients; calcium, potassium, protein, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin and niacin.




Imitation plant-based milks, like soy, almond, rice, coconut and hemp, are highly processed containing many added ingredients. These milk alternatives use fortification to mimic the nutrient profile of cow’s milk.

Cow’s milk is naturally superior to non-dairy imitations. It’s also an excellent choice when compared with other beverages. If you have difficulty digesting lactose, try delicious lactose-free cows’ milk. 


 Looking for a healthy, natural, nutrient-dense beverage? Cow’s milk is the best choice!
 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's National Agriculture Day!

It’s National Agriculture Day! I’m celebrating because dairy farming has been a way of life for me and my family for generations. My husband and I are glad to be raising our boys on a farm. But agriculture doesn’t only impact farm families, it’s far reaching touching everyone’s life.

Today is a great opportunity to reflect on how agriculture makes a positive impact in our lives; 
Food quality & choice – there is a larger variety of quality food in the store today than ever before

Fiber - plants, like cotton, and animals, like sheep, goats, and alpacas, produce wonderful fibers

By-products - many household items, medicine and other goods contain plant and animal products

Open space - large flat fields, small rolling fields, barns and tractors create beautiful landscapes 

Economic impact - farmers purchase lots of products and services which support local businesses

Strong community - farms are the backbone of viable rural communities 

This is one of my favorite photos of my sons, Garrett and Jack, and my husband, Lad

As dairy farmers, we are interested in making improvements that benefit the animals we care for and the land we grow crops on. Part of working smart is utilizing technology and other tools available to do a better job producing food using fewer resources.

My 2013 National Ag Day blog post shared the Evolution of Dairy Farming featuring improvements dairy farmers have made over the years. It includes thoughts from my father, Tony Souza, and my father-in-law, Duane Hastings, both dairy farmers who have experienced many changes in dairy farming over the years.

Dairy farming is a unique and challenging business. In order to sustain farming and the food choices people enjoy today, it’s necessary to embrace farmers of all types and sizes. Successful farms producing quality food can be large, small, organic, or conventional. Healthy animals can be fed a variety of feed stuffs and be housed inside or outside. It’s ok if we adopt different practices. The goal for all farmers is caring for land and animals to produce quality products people want to consume. After all, we live on our farms and eat the food produced here!

National Ag Day is the perfect time to celebrate the food quality and choices we enjoy in this country. Thanks to farmers who work hard every day and to consumers who support what we do!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fewer Dairy Farms in the U.S.

The number of U.S. dairy farms dropped again in 2013. Today, there are 2,321 fewer dairy farms than there were a year ago. The number of dairy cows has remained just above 9 million over last 12 years, which means dairy herds are growing in size. The average herd is now 196 milk cows, up from 123 milk cows/herd in 2002.


Almost 80% of the nation's dairy farms are located in these 10 states:


These 11 states produce 77% of the nation's milk:


Improvements in animal care, health, housing, feeding and genetics enable cows to be more productive today. Modern dairy farmers use fewer resources, land, and water to produce the same amount of milk. These efficiencies are a positive for cattle, the environment and people who enjoy dairy products!


U.S. dairy products are known for high quality. That's why people in other countries trust and purchase our products. In 2013, 15.5% of U.S. dairy products were exported. The top five countries buying U.S. dairy products are; 1) Mexico, 2) China, 3) Canada, 4) Philippines, and 5) Indonesia. The top three products leaving the U.S. are 1) milk powder - used as an ingredient in food products, 2) cheese, and 3) whey.

Click here for more 2013 U.S. dairy statistics. 

Check out my posts summarizing annual dairy statistics in previous years:
Does Dairy Size Matter (2012 Stats)
Dairy Herd Size Increases while the Number of Farms Decreases (2011 Stats) 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Living a Milk Life

Milk’s image is getting a makeover. Families have been drinking milk for generations because it’s nutritious. I grew up drinking milk and it remains my top choice for breakfast today. With the increased number of beverage options today, it’s important to remind people of milk’s health benefits. 

Milk Life is a movement created to show how starting mornings with milk can help power the potential of every day. With 8 grams of high-quality protein in each 8 oz. glass, including milk at breakfast can help you make the most of your day.






I like these images because they display how the power of milk's natural nutrients contribute to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Making the most of your morning with milk. . .

 
Join me in living a Milk Life!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Living in Pancake Town

We live in the community of Burton, also known as Pancake Town USA. The town square is home to the Burton Log Cabin and several maple trees. Every March, these trees are tapped to collect sap which is delivered to the log cabin sugar house where it is boiled into pure maple syrup. Our community is known for its delicious maple syrup!

The Burton Log Cabin
Me by one of the maple trees and sap buckets in the Burton Town Square
Downtown Burton
This is celebrated every March when the sap is running. Burton is host to several pancake breakfast every Sunday in March.

The Burton Middlefield Rotary hosts a pancake breakfast at Berkshire High School
This is the spread at the Burton Middlefield Rotary pancake breakfast
The polar vortex doesn't want to leave us this winter. The extremely cold weather we continue to experience isn't good for maple syrup production. 

Driving down a snowy road in Burton
Maple syrup season marks the beginning of spring. But mother nature isn't cooperating! I hope to see warmer days in the near future.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The manure is deep in Farmed and Dangerous

BOOM! What was that? BOOM! I can hardly concentrate with all the cow explosions at our farm. I guess we shouldn’t have feed them fuel pellets!

I’m only kidding. Our cows are comfortably chewing their cud and relaxing in the barn as we speak. Why am I talking about exploding cows? Because that’s the basis of Chipotle’s fiction comedy Farmed and Dangerous.

The most recent attempt in this billion-dollar burrito chain’s long mission to bash farm families in an effort to make them seem superior and charge more for their products.

Several farmers shared their thoughts on this silly satire. I pulled a sample from each post, but encourage you to visit their blogs to read what they have to say.


The Bully Holding a Burrito by Emily, Confessions of a Farm Wife
My charge to you, Chipotle executives, is: put down your camera. Put down your dang burrito and come to my farm. Have a steak dinner with us and then head out to do chores. Real chores. Not a farm tour. Wear your grubbiest clothes and help pull a calf. Help unfreeze waterers one day and then wade through muck and flooded roads the next. But stop tearing us down to bring your cause up. Because you just look like a bully to me. A bully holding a burrito.

Kristin Reese

Who doesn’t want healthy safe and humanly cared for foods? I think on this we can all agree. Let’s stop slinging inaccurate information and farmers and Chipotle get down to what we both do best, raise food and make burritos. Whether you choose to eat their burrito or not, let’s not have a food fight! Instead, we should all come together at the table and have a great conversation about food and farming without all of the profit driven “Big Chipotle” smoke and mirrors about the food system. This seems a whole lot more logical and actually productive. Maybe we can even discuss it over an exploding burrito.

  

Although our fourth generation dairy farm has changed in the technology used and the number of cows being milked has increased, the practices we use are ethically grounded, scientifically verified and economically viable. Like our parents before us, we live and farm with integrity for today and the next generation.

Ryan Goodman

Chipotle continues to win over fans with information and portrayals that are much less than accurate of our modern food growers. If Chipotle is so adamant about getting us to learn more about where our food comes from, why spend millions on animations and comedies? Why not talk to actual farmers and ranchers who are on the ground and know more about growing food that marketing executives?



Lisa
Part of me feels defensive, but I also try not to take things too seriously. I’m sure some of you may eventually see this show, enjoy it, and laugh. It’s comedy after all. If you do, I hope you’ll read my post too. I’m not thrilled that a food company, while trying to seem ethically minded and concerned about farming practices, is actually making fun of farmers as they pass judgment on modern agriculture. But it got me thinking. I thought about our food system of today, the outcry against it, and began to wonder…  What is it we want to go back to?


The Peterson Farm Bros’ Beef with Chipotle (Part 1) by Greg Peterson
"To be clear, I do agree with the general ideals Chipotle claims they are supporting:
1) The consumer does deserve healthy meat from humanely raised animals. 
2) The family farmer is who should be raising their food. 
3) Ethical behavior should be of greater concern than profit. 
What I don’t agree with is Chipotle’s definitions of family farmers, humanely raised animals, and ethical behavior."
 
Chipotle Unnecessarily Tears Down Agriculture to Build a Brand by Ted Sheely, Farmer, Truth about Trade & Technology
Ted Sheely
“Farmed and Dangerous” is an expensive scheme to suggest that the act of buying burritos and tacos at Chipotle is morally superior to the act of buying them elsewhere. As a business decision, it may make sense. But let’s not forget what this really is: propaganda. And it is intended to mock and discredit the honest work of farmers like me. That’s rich, coming from a corporation that owns more than 1,500 restaurants and boasts a stock-market value of more than $15 billion. Its shares currently trade at about $550 apiece.

Official Response to Chipotle regarding the "Farmed and Dangerous" series and joint fundraiser on February 20, 2014 by Center for Land-Based Learning  
We are canceling a scheduled fundraising event with Chipotle. The Board unanimously feels that Chipotle's current "Farmed and Dangerous" mini-series crosses the line by fostering animosity toward production agriculture. We disagree with the tone and approach of this new series, which appears designed to divide the agriculture community into big production (inherently malevolent) and small production (inherently virtuous). This is a false choice. Rather than educate the community about where its food comes from, we view the series as pitting some farms against other farms and inaccurately portraying the overwhelming majority of responsible food production operations. The reality is that production agriculture is large and small, organic and conventional, and everything in between.


Farmers Explain Whey They Are Not Farmed and Dangerous 
"Farmed and Dangerous’ is intended to be a comedy, but I think the show is anything but funny,” says Schmidt. “As farmers, we want to open doors to open minds. And CommonGround volunteers like me want to invite consumers to take a peek behind our barn doors and see what really happens on our farms.”   
“‘Farmed and Dangerous’ is intended to be a comedy, but I think the show is anything but funny,” says Schmidt. “As farmers, we want to open doors to open minds. And CommonGround volunteers like me want to invite consumers to take a peek behind our barn doors and see what really happens on our farms.” - See more at: http://findourcommonground.com/2014/02/farmers-explain-why-they-are-not-farmed-and-dangerous/#sthash.n6QHT9wi.dpufThese farmers, and many others, believe in transparency. They open their barn doors to show you what's happening on their farms. They are eager to answer questions and share information.  

I believe we all share many of the same values;
- The expectation that food is grown and delivered safely and responsibly. 
- Animals deserve humane care in a safe and comfortable environment. 
- Everyone should have food choices that fit their lifestyle.

My family might make different food choices than yours. My farm might choose to use different management practices than the farm down the road. That's OK. Join me in celebrating and protecting consumer choice and farmers of all types who make those choices possible. 

Before believing Chipotle's rhetoric, check out these non-fiction posts:
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