Tag Archives: education

My Hog Scholarship: The First One

It’s true what they say, ‘it takes a village to raise a child”. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who helped me build my knowledge and skill set. However, I did not realize it at the time. When my Grandpa Brown gave me my first bucket calf, I had no idea that would be the start of my ranching legacy. When my Grandpa Halsey would take me out to his garden and spend time with me, I had no idea it would foster a lifelong passion for growing plants. When my Mom chauffeured me to endless 4-H community and project meetings, I had no idea I would end up as the AgHag.

Papa and me spending time in his garden. One of my fondest memories.

Papa and me spending time in his garden. One of my fondest memories.

While I was busy as a child learning from my elders and putting that knowledge to use in 4-H and on the ranch, my Mom was busy investing my 4-H and bucket calf checks in a savings account. By the time I was 18, due to family and friends supporting me, I not only had a good foundation to the education I was going to receive in college, I could pay for it without struggling.
The ability to not worry about finances while attending university was a massive gift. I was able to focus on learning, I was able to join clubs that furthered my education and network, I was able to make friends and have the blissful experience of being a college kid. This molded me into who and what I am now. My world and my point of view was altered for the better and greater good.

This hog helped me pay for college.

This hog helped me pay for college.

When I think about my youth and young adulthood, I realize how lucky and privileged I was to grow up in this world surrounded by the people I did. Sadly, most of the “old timers” have died. But they left a legacy. In me. It’s now my turn to offer that same support to the children in my world. It’s what they showed me to do.
That’s why I am excited to have a couple little “programs” here on the ranch that help me corrupt the next generation, just like I was. I’ve worked hard to expand and improve my hog operation since Adult 4-H days, and I am now at the point where I can afford to give a few piglets away to kids to raise, donate finished pork to local non-profits and generally do Good Things. This makes me about 100 kinds of happy and makes me feel like my hard work is paying off.

Very new Ian meeting his piglet!

Very new Ian meeting his piglet! He was totally helping me out this day!

I have just completed my first round of the “scholarship program” with my hogs and Baby Ian. Ian and this litter of pigs were born on the same day, his Parents have also supported my meat business for years, so it was totally meant to be that Ian was the first of my friend’s kids to do this.
When Ian was born I gave him a piglet to “raise”. The deal was, he’d pay for his pig’s feed and when it was time for the hog to be slaughtered his Parents would “buy” the pig from him to eat. That money is to be put into an account for college or trade school. I figure I’m killing two birds with one stone, I expose kids to agriculture very young and they get a little seed money for their future. It’s a win/win.

Ian enjoying a first taste of his pork. Kid, I'm pretty sure I make that same face.

Ian enjoying a first taste of his pork. Kid, I’m pretty sure I make that same face.

This situation worked out perfectly. Ian got his meat back just as he started solid foods! So he is able to eat his own pork he helped raise. This program was so fun to do I cannot wait for my next litter! As of right now I have scholarship recipients for the next couple of litters. If I have anything to do with it, in about 18 years we are going to have several new ag majors joining our ranks!

This brings me so much joy right here.

This brings me so much joy right here.

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ONE Alltech Ideas Conference: Part II

This is part two of my blog about Alltech’s Idea Conference. Please see the first installment here.

I got to meet fellow bloggers that I have been friends with for years, but never met IRL. These women are amazing and I am so honored to call them friends!

I got to meet fellow bloggers that I have been friends with for years, but never met IRL. These women are amazing and I am so honored to call them friends! This was our pre-conference felfie. Mom at the Meat CounterDairy Carrie, Tales of a Kanas Farm Mom, High Heels & Shotgun Shells, Dirt Road Charm, AgInfo.net, The Magic Farm House.

It was then time. Time to see Captain Lovell, Mr. Naam and THE Woz. Interesting side note, earlier in the week I was on the same elevator as Steve Wozniak. He was super nice and I couldn’t make words come out of my mouth in an order that made sense. I’m sure I scared him a whisper. I did almost the same thing with Ramez Naam when I met him. He asked my name and instead of saying it, I told him I was a blogger. This is why you can’t take me anywhere.

Having seen the movie Apollo 13, I knew who Captain Jim Lovell was and was very much looking forward to hearing him speak. It was almost a surreal experience to have him tell you his story. “Always expect the unexpected” is a mantra I use here on the ranch and hearing him say that live gave me chills. Captain Lovell received a standing ovation after giving a charming, inspiring and funny speech ended with ‘we are all astronauts. We’re all flying through space with limited resources”.

My favorite felfie from the week. @AMagicMama @ramez and myself! Mr. Naam was so kind and personable, thank you Sir!

My favorite felfie from the week. @AMagicMama @ramez and myself! Mr. Naam was so kind and personable, thank you Sir!

Ideas never get chipped, or dented, or worn down, or broken. Ideas only accelerate.Ramez Naam was our next speaker. He is somewhat of a renaissance man, his ideas and points of view have intrigued me for sometime and it was a stunning opportunity to see speak. His talk started out serious, scary at times, “March 2016 was the warmest month on earth ever”. But contained so much information, given in such a hopeful and positive manner, my expectancy for our future skyrocketed. “You can innovate your way out of a problem” and “learn to learn” were quotes that stayed with me. Look him up if you get the chance, read his book, follow him on twitter.

Mr. Wozniak and Dr. Lyons, thank you for such a wonderful chat.

Mr. Wozniak and Dr. Lyons, thank you for such a wonderful chat.

To someone in my generation, who uses Apple products almost constantly, Steve Wozniak is a myth, a legend, an enigma. He helped change how I live my life or as my Dad says “put that phone down!”. He was honored with the Alltech Humanitarian Award because he is so much more than the ‘guy that started Apple’. He was a teacher, a student, Rocky Raccoon, a scientist, a dancer, well the list goes on. Listening to him and Dr. Lyons banter on stage was a highlight of my trip. Learning about all the different endeavors he has had his hands in was fascinating. The Woz knew his audience well threw out such gems as “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad”. Mr. Wozniak is a great speaker and tied this convention all together for me.

Prof McLoughlin was the sleeper speaker for me. I wasn't familiar with his work before this point, but now I'm a raving fan. Probably because he said "the best students in his classes are females" (it's funny because it's true!).

Prof McLoughlin was the sleeper speaker for me. I wasn’t familiar with his work before this point, but now I’m a raving fan. Probably because he said “the best students in his classes are females” (it’s funny because it’s true!).

The final speaker was Prof Damien McLoughlin, again someone that was new to me. He spoke about a book called Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make The Competition Irrelevant. Professor McLoughlin asked the question, “do you dare to be different?” which is music to someone like me ear’s. He again reminded me Mary Shelman’s points, where the successful brands are the ones that break free of “rules”.

Dr. Lyons giving Ms. Alonna Wright the Young Scientist Award. Ms. Wright congratulations! I know you are going to do amazing things.

Dr. Lyons giving Ms. Alonna Wright the Young Scientist Award. Ms. Wright congratulations! I know you are going to do amazing things.

Dr. Aoife Lyons then brought out and presented awards to Alltech’s Young Scientist Finalists. The undergraduate winner is offered a fully funded PhD at an University of their choice and the graduate winner will be offered a two year fully funded post doctoral at Alltech in US or Ireland. Alonna Wright was the undergrad winner and Richard Lally was the graduate student winner. What better way for Alltech to show their support in the future of agriculture than give a gift like this?

I have a crush on Riverdance.

I have a crush on Riverdance.

Finally to cap it all off Padraic Moyles the Associate Director of Riverdance took the stage. He spoke about the history behind Riverdance and told us, we do the same thing every night in order to do better, none of us have perfected what we do. Which after you’ve seen it, I find hard to believe, they are breathtaking. He also said that after 5,500 performances they still treat everyone like opening night. Then they put on an epic show that made me cry a little. I know I must have had a really let’s say, jaw on the floor interesting, look on my face because at one point he looked down at me and laughed. But this show was an awe-inspiring show. 

Riverdance.

Riverdance.

Usually after three days of conference, you hit your conference wall, and you want to go home, you’ve had enough. Not with Alltech. I was ready to go three more days. This is by far the most inspiring, engaging and positive conferences I’ve ever attended. I loved that Alltech exposed agriculturalists to ideas, experiences and cultures, outside our normal comfort zones. That is something I am critical of agriculture over, we tend to stay in our same molds. Dr. Pearse Lyons was a stellar master of ceremonies, he kept things entertaining while imparting wisdom.

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I appreciated how Alltech went out of their way to include social media creators. They provided a stipend for me to attend. By giving me the opportunity to attend, I was able to share this new information with thousands of people that normally would never have access to it; they learned with me, they shared my excitement and passion in real time. It helps producers like myself reach “beyond the industry choir” as we say.

Hey Alltech may I please come back and learn more about this please?

Hey Alltech may I please come back and learn more about this please?

To sum up my ONE experience agriculture needs to start pushing the envelope and searching for ways to innovate and change our industry. This is something we should be placing more emphasis on. Alltech is doing a great job of being a leader in that aspect. The other key issue I took away is we need to be ONE. If we want our future to be bright there needs to be an ONE degree of separation between us all. We need to work hard together for the greater good like Mr. Mulally and Coach Cal and Mr. Moyles advised, we need to plan for the unexpected innovatively, and differently, like Mr. Naam, The Woz and Prof. McLoughlin told us. Simply put, because we are ONE. One people, and one planet and we need to realize and remember that.

 

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Monsanto: Evil Empire or Sustainable Ag Company?

In certain circles it’s still trendy to attack or insinuate Monsanto is this giant, faceless, company hell bent on world destruction and/or take-over (take your pick).  This stance always puzzles me. My personal experience with them has been the complete opposite. (Also for the record, Monsanto is not that giant, Whole Foods and Monsanto are pretty close in size)

For the third time in so many years, I have been able to tour their facility in Woodland, California. Each time has been different, and quite frankly, eye opening. I have walked away from these tours with a whole new appreciation for what the company does and what it stands for.

I got to take peppers home. This pleased me to no end.

I got to take peppers home. This pleased me to no end.

Most people are under the misconception that all Monsanto produces are GMO crops. But in actuality they breed over 20 (non GMO) crops. There is much misunderstanding and fear when it comes to our food supply these days. More often than not, it seems like companies will use fear and our ignorance to sell us a product. I can’t stand that. I appreciate Monsanto opening their doors to me, multiple times. Despite the negative press and online movements that urges me to boycott them and sign petitions against them, they have been continually transparent and welcoming to me.

Monsanto has made it a point to urge bloggers, journalists, farmers, and even average consumers to engage with them! In fact the company’s chief technology officer, Dr. Robert T. Fraley has invited celebrity activists like Susan Sarandon to St. Louis! Since I love to stand on my soapbox and preach about transparency, this is something I appreciate!

My tour group learning about tomatoes.

My tour group learning about tomatoes.

This trip was my favorite. A small group that included bloggers, teachers, and scientists were all invited to spend the day learning about and touring the Woodland Monsanto Farm. We spent about half the day out in the field speaking with their growers and seeing beautiful produce! The next part was learning about how to set up a food tasting and participating in a melon tasting.

Janice Person was our host. I’ve known Janice for years now. We met on twitter and eventually met in real life -she has even been out to the ranch!

I loved this trip because, I love interacting with the plant growers and breeders. These experts were literally outstanding in their fields, ready to share their knowledge with us and answer our questions. My inner gardener was deeply pleased and I’m going to highlight my favorite things for you below!

 

The Field

So much fame in this picture! Terry the Pepper man! I was a whisper star-stuck!

So much fame in this picture! Terry the Pepper man! I was a whisper star-stuck!

We started with peppers. Terry Berke was our pepper expert. He also is the man that breed the Nacho Jalapeno plant, which is currently in my garden and my favorite. I had a huge fan girl moment. Terry taught me that peppers need lots of Nitrogen, something I have been neglecting. He also mentioned that peppers use the Scoville Scale to measure their heat. Peppers are my current garden obsession, I’ve been growing, canning, pickling and fermenting them all summer. I loved the pepper portion of our tour and was sad to move on. Since I was gifted with so many peppers, I had to can some! So look forward to that recipe being posted soon!

Monsanto had super efficient drip watering systems. Again, this made me so very happy.

Monsanto had super efficient drip watering systems. Again, this made me so very happy.

We moved on to Bill Johnson, the squash breeder. Bill changed my squash growing game. I learned that “if you don’t harvest, you don’t get to harvest” squash, meaning if you let your squash plants grow into baseball bat sized squash, it is going to affect the rest of your harvest. This is why my zucchini plants are all screwed up now! I wasn’t home and didn’t harvest!

Bill in his squash - he taught me my new favorite word, puduncle!

Bill in his squash – he taught me my new favorite word, peduncle!

Squash farmers have a short window for everything (remember this is coming from a cattle rancher), the female flowers only bloom once for four hours! That’s such a small window to be fertilized! They must be harvested quickly too (as we learned above).

We got lovely infusion water bottles, which we all promptly put watermelon in!

We got lovely infusion water bottles, which we all promptly put watermelon in!

Watermelons were next. Samples were given, my favorite, by far, was called Summer Breeze. We spoke at length about watermelon pollination, how they breed seedless melons, and how to pick a good one (look for a yellow spot or “belly”).

I loved learning about watermelon breeding! It was soooo very different from cattle breeding!

I loved learning about watermelon breeding! It was soooo very different from cattle breeding!

The one common theme that was constantly mentioned by all of the plant breeders was how different regions (or countries) demand different varieties of produce (check out this watermelon infographic for an excellent overview). Monsanto works very, very hard fulfilling consumer demand. For example, what American’s look for in a jalapeno is not the same as what Mexican’s look for and they breed accordingly. This totally makes so much sense to me, as food is such a major part of cultures, and every culture has it’s own tastes and preferences.

Just look at those beautiful peduncles! (The peduncle is a stem that connects the fruit to the plant)

Just look at those beautiful peduncles! (The peduncle is a stem that connects the fruit to the plant)

Allan Krivanek and fresh market tomatoes were next on our tour. Fresh market tomatoes are the kind you buy in a store. Processing tomatoes (we also have a lot of those in my area), are used to make ketchup and sauce. It was fascinating to learn how and taste the differences in tomatoes!

My friend Shannon (she lived on the ranch during college!) and I got to take melons home too!

My friend Shannon (she lived on the ranch during college!) and I got to take melons home too!

The Tasting

After we spent time in the field we headed back inside for lunch and Dr. Chow-Ming Lee. We got to have lunch with all of the employees of this location. Yes, that’s right, they turned me loose on everyone. This is when I got to visit with some of the other guests. I met Maria from Fitness Reloaded, Danyelle from The Cubicle Chick and Sarah from The House that Ag Built . I love these opportunities because I get exposed to blogs and writers that normally would not be on my radar.

A proper melon tasting!

A proper melon tasting!

After our lunch we got to meet Dr. Lee. Let me tell you, if he ever decides he doesn’t want to be a sensory and tasting expert, he could easily be a comedian. I have never been so entertained  during a powerpoint in my life.

Dr. Lee administered a taste test for us. We got to sample different types of melon and compare our results with the rest of our group. I’m pretty sure I could do that for a living, it was super fun. After that we learned how to perform a proper taste test. This is relevant to me because I am a big fan of taste tests and do them often with my pork and beef. Now I can perform tastes tests with better accuracy!

 

The End

In addition to all the amazing produce I got to take home, Monsanto did provide paid travel for this tour. And the most badass watermelon knife you've ever seen!

In addition to all the amazing produce I got to take home, Monsanto did provide paid travel for this tour. And the most badass watermelon knife you’ve ever seen!

Our day was almost complete after our melon experience. We had one more questions and answer session before we went home. We did cover more topics, and hopefully I will write a blog post about those too. Every time I have been able to tour this facility I leave in shock and awe. I learn so much, I get so excited about the future of my industry! Monsanto gets a bad rap from its critics, and that is unfortunate. If they could put the hearsay and fallacies aside and take the time to explore and learn for themselves, I know their world would be far less terrifying, mine has been.

After interacting with the employees of Monsanto all day, talking to them about their families (some have single sons!!!), and seeing their passion about their jobs and the plants they are breeding, I wanted to apply for a job! I enjoyed my time there immensely, my garden will certainly benefit from it and so will my readers. Again, if you are on the fence about this company, let’s chat about it. I feel like there are so many “unfacts” out there, it can be hard to cut through all the bullshit sometimes, and that is why I work so hard and spend so much time doing fields trips like this.

*I received a travel stipend for this tour (it covered my gas from Indian Valley to Woodland and back). I also received a crapton of veggies. However, may I just note that this did not sway my opinion in any way, that would take pigs!

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The Future of the Farm

Last month I got a rather interesting email from a Professor at Chico State. Dave Simon, who is the author of “Meatonomics” is going to be at Chico State and Dr. Jones (the Prof), is interested in putting together a discussion like The Commonwealth Club did here. Dr. Jones wanted to know if I’d like to be apart of this discussion.

I’ll admit, I was hesitant. My experience with some vegans and vegetarians have been less than stellar. Putting myself in the line of fire, away from my computer, is scary and outside of my comfort zone. But, part of the reason this blog exists is because of a vegan that went out of her way to attack my way of life, despite having never met me or seen my ranch. That experience did have a profound affect on me – I flung my barn doors wide open and never looked back.

When I flung my barn doors open, several leaders in my industry made it clear to me that they did not approve. While I certainly understand the repercussions of being so honest (I’m still feeling them), I think our industry needs to be as transparent as we can. We have nothing to hide.

 

Simon_Poster_11x17

It’s no secret that my biggest criticism of the beef industry is we don’t engage with our consumers in serious matters. We should be using every opportunity, every forum, every event as a platform to tell our stories. For too long, our stories have been told by others, and it’s gotten us no where.

When Dr. Jones mentioned he was having trouble finding someone from the cattle industry to participate, I knew, right then I would love to be apart of this discussion. I met with Dr. Jones to get a copy of the book and talk about this event. I was very much surprised to find Dr. Jones agreed with me about telling our story. He assured me that this event would be positive and informative and not your typical “meat bad, cattle rancher bad” event.

I’m excited. This is me, practicing what I preach.

If you are in the area Monday, October 20th, won’t you think about attending? Word on the playground is there is going to be some Q and A, and I know I could use some support. Plus, I think it is just great that our University is hosting events where we all can learn from different points of view, that is the whole point of education, right?

 

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Lambs: Scene One.

WARNING! This might be considered by some to be gross, inappropriate, or tragic, but I think it is extremely important share the how’s, what’s and why’s of our food. If you have any questions about anything you see please ask – I love to share about the ranch.

Basque Mike when I met him this summer.

Basque Mike when I met him this summer.

This past summer I met a wonderful man, Basque Mike. And over beers at our neighbor Pete’s house, I learned that he was an actual real-life shepherd that came to America when he was 16, with bread and wine, to herd sheep. He has a very heavy accent that was sometimes hard to understand, but he was a serious kick in the pants. My conversation with Mike inspired me. Mike told me that he would teach me to cut lamb the Basque way. The only problem with that is I don’t raise lamb.

Lambs, man.

Lambs, man.

I had a pair of bottle lambs when I was a kid, but for the most part, my experience with sheep has not been pleasant. I’ve been chased around by a mean ram, had a really bad experience with awful mutton and generally distrust sheep because they are evil. I really think it is a cattlepeople thing – we just aren’t used to things like goats and sheep.

Baaaa

Baaaa

After months of  hemming and hawing I decided to buy some lambs. This was not an easy choice for me. I just wasn’t thrilled at the idea of having sheep back on this ranch. Even my dogs were not sold on the idea of sheep. And our bottle calves were absolutely horrified.

But, I have a friend from college that just happened to have some lambs ready for slaughter. Neighbor Pete said he would help cut and wrap them if I wanted to learn. It was meant to be. I had cash because I sold my car (so sad!!!),  I bought some lambs from my friend’s Stacie and Taylor at Heart  P Livestock. After a week on the ranch, they were slaughtered and hung.

A hung lamb, ready to be cut and wrapped.

A hung lamb, ready to be cut and wrapped.

After a few days of hanging I went to learn how to cut and wrap a lamb from neighbor Pete. Pete is incredibly fast and amazing at what he does. We cut and wrapped 3 lambs in no time. It blew my mind. I learned my basic lamb cuts after the first two lambs, so by the third I was able to wrap and label with no assistance.

Pete is very fast, especially when he has help!

Pete is very fast, especially when he has help! (That’s my Dad helping him)

Since before this time, I was not a fan of lamb, I decided to split my lamb with another neighbor. I regret that now. Getting my hands dirty, being part of my own food, made me like lamb! (Plus it was quality lamb to begin with, I highly recommend Heart P). Go figure, that I would like lamb! Plus I have all kinds of people wanting to trade lamb meat for cool things. I LOVE trading! Since I don’t have a steady cash income anymore, I’ve started trading my time and talents for things I need and want. It is awesome.

This is me, learning from Pete how a lamb is put together.

This is me, learning from Pete how a lamb is put together.

Although Mike and I haven’t connected for a Basque session I feel much more confident in my lamb knowledge.

MY lamb.

MY lamb.

I would have been embarrassed to even have him attempt to teach me anything before this because I just did not have enough basic knowledge about lamb to make it stick. I took the first step, I got some lambs, I learned about some lambs, I wrapped some lambs. Lambs are good. I’m ready for next time.

My Manicure Monday picture from the day. I don't have pretty hands, but I have capable hands, and to me, that is more important.

My Manicure Monday picture from the day. I don’t have pretty hands, but I have capable hands, and to me, that is more important.

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Horsemanship & Cattle Working Clinic

 

 

I am excited about this. My friend Brian Drake is doing a Horsemanship Clinic. And guess what? He’s gonna use Sue horse! I am super exited about this and I urge you to attend if you have any interest. I’ve had the privilege to ride with Brian, and it was a life altering experience. Seriously, do it!
BRIAN DRAKE CATTLE WORKING CLINIC FINAL 6.15.13

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San Francisco, The Tens and Meat

San Francisco. I've been to several major cities in the world and San Francisco is one of my favorites.

San Francisco. I’ve been to several major cities in the world and San Francisco is still one of my favorites.

I love San Francisco, love it. Whenever I can sneak down there I do. Especially now that my anxiety is under control, for the past 5 or so years I haven’t been able to fully enjoy City trips (but that is for another blog post).
San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City Hall

I got to take a little day trip down to San Francisco to do some reconnaissance. I am currently trying to sniff out some different markets for my meat, especially since I am exploring raising pastured poultry and heritage pork. In addition to that there was an art show in City Hall, my friend had gone and told me how amazing it was, and I decided to kill two birds with one stone.

Fatted Calf. Dreamy. Expensive. Worth it.

Fatted Calf. Dreamy. Expensive. Worth it.

I spent the morning walking around the City. I saw Fatted Calf, had lunch at an amazing Thai place, did a little shopping, tried a new beer, it was glorious.

Tommy's Joynt - I'm going here next time!!! It was so cool, but I was too full of Thai food to eat there. http://www.tommysjoynt.com/

Tommy’s Joynt – I’m going here next time!!! It was so cool, but I was too full of Thai food to eat there. http://www.tommysjoynt.com/


Going to the City for me is like going to the country for “normal” people. San Francisco is soooooo out of my comfort level, there are so many people and buildings, and cars and things! It’s kinda sensory overload for me, but in the best way possible.
New beer from Africa! It was good.

New beer from Africa! It was good.


Shipping container house! I want to build one on the Ranch, but not like this, I want a courtyard!

Shipping container house! I want to build one on the Ranch, but not like this, I want a courtyard!


The art show I went to was inside of City Hall, actually it was inside of Supervisor Jane Kim’s office.
Harvey Milk! Thank you Mr. Milk!

Harvey Milk! Thank you Mr. Milk!


I missed the opening so all the photos were sold by the time I got there (I want one!!) but it was still super cool. The artist’s name is The Tens. The show highlighted the Tenderloin District of San Francisco (the “Loin” is the place my Mom told me to avoid). This show definitely gave me a new perspective on the community that lives there and how I feel about that.
Some of The Ten's photos

Some of The Ten’s photos


Such a beautiful building!

Such a beautiful building!


What impressed me the most about this artist is for a day job he is an attorney for the AIDS Legal Referral Panel. The ALRP protects the rights of people with AIDS and HIV; we are talking basic rights that most of us take for granted like the right to healthcare, the right to housing, the right to work. In addition to working for the ALRP the artist donated 30% of his sales from the show to the organization. Wow.
I come from the generation that was taught “if you have pre-marital sex, you will get HIV”; I have several friends living with HIV. AIDS/HIV has always been in my world – so to me this is something that is important and I’d like to support. Since I did not get to buy art – they came up with something I could and will buy! WINE! What a great idea! I’m ready for Christmas (I think my elected officials need a bottle of this delivered to their offices, don’t you?).
Buy a case of wine and ALRP gets $30 (or $2.50 a bottle) - guess who is going to buy some wine?!

Buy a case of wine and ALRP gets $30 (or $2.50 a bottle) – guess who is going to buy some wine?!


Now when I say “they” I mean Mr. Bill Hirsh (the Executive Director of ALRP) and Mr. Jim McBride (the Director of Development of ALRP). I just happened to meet them while I was there. And I loved them, I really wish I could have spent more time talking with them. Mr. Hirsh had been to India and was telling me great stories! We also got to talk agriculture (who are we kidding, that is all I talk about!) and I got to share that 98% of farms and ranches are family owned.
Mr. Hirsh, his partner and Mr. McBride. They were a kick in the pants! And do excellent and needed work, thank you!

Mr. Hirsh, his partner and Mr. McBride. They were a kick in the pants! And do excellent and needed work, thank you!


Even though I didn’t get to buy any art and I didn’t sell any meat, I had a much needed break from my reality! I got to meet new people that work in fields totally different from my own. I got to see what meat like mine goes for in the City (I’m under-charging) and I’m getting wine! The Ten’s show runs until March 8th (I think), but you should go check it out if you get the chance!

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Adult 4-H

As you recall my Parents gave me their blessing to get pigs. This has been a dream of mine for several years. The deal is, I promised my Parents that I would pay for and care for my pigs and they would not have to pay for or do anything for the pigs. I also promised I would get a heritage breed hog.
What is a heritage breed you ask? Generally they are breeds of animals that are not raised commercially. For that reason, the breeds can be rare. For example, the type of pig I want, Red Wattles, are considered critical. I kinda look at heritage breed animals, like heirloom vegetables, for some reason that analogy makes sense in my head.
I started thinking about this, a lot. I really enjoy raising my own food, it makes me happy and I know others enjoy it too. I’m also 30 kinds of stoked to be raising a heritage pig! I feel like I will be getting a superior pork product and bringing attention to neat breed. And in typical Megan fashion, I have a plan.

The pig pen. It needs a lot of work.

I was already planning on getting at least two pigs (so they wouldn’t be lonely. Happy pigs are healthy pigs!). But since I am so freaking passionate about agriculture and education – I thought this pig project would be a great opportunity not only for myself, but for some of my friends.
I am incredibly lucky to know a large group of people that want to be connected to their food. They buy local, know their farmers and do a fabulous job of educating themselves about current food issues, I am proud to call them my friends. I see a lot of these people looking for ways to get involved with production agriculture, but having little success, unless they want to pay dearly for the experience.
Light bulb! Adult 4-H. Many adults yearn to re-connect with their food and get their hands dirty, but there are still few opportunities for them to do that. Like I said above you can pay to intern on some farms, you can pay to work on a Dude Ranch, you can pay to be in a CSA (community supported ag), you can pay to go to school. Kids and teenagers at least have 4-H and FFA to learn from. But adults, especially ones with no or little ag background/training, can have it tough.

Milkshake stop – it’s hardwork fixing a pig pen!

This is where I can help!!!!! I have the space, I have the knowledge (I raised pigs in 4-H and my Dad knows a lot!) and I have the drive. I want people to have the same opportunities that I had, so they can learn about their food, agriculture and animals. It is in my best interest to share my point of view with as many people as I can. Plus how awesome is it going to be to have two of my friends play on the ranch with me?

Kristen found the pig waterer part.

“Adult 4-H” has started. My friends Kristen and Mahina are joining my “4-H club” as founder members. With the help of The Intern (more about him later), we started fixing up our pig pen last weekend. I’m hunting down Red Wattle piglets to buy. I think this is one of the most exciting endeavors I have started recently. I think the potential to learn and teach is huge. Stay tuned!

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, arts & crafts, food, Pigs, Ranch life, Uncategorized

Am I Really the Crazy One?

Edit from October 2013: “if you’re a strong, powerful, smart woman, you tend to end up at some point in a roomful of men trying to prove that your ideas are good.” Elizabeth Moss

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I went to my local county cattlemen’s board meeting tonight. My blog was on the agenda because for the past few months I had been asked to use my social media savvy and create a Facebook page for the group. I’ve posted mainly fun facts and articles about the industry, but I figured since my blog post about California Beef Council dropping the social media ball directly impacted Butte County Cattlemen (since they all pay into the check-off), I’d post a link to my blog on the Butte County Cattlemen’s facebook page.

Ready to talk the Board about my blog, change within the industry and facebook.

Some of the members didn’t like that I did that. I understand that fighting and drama can look bad when done within the industry. But when you read my post about the California Beef Council, I feel like I am not really fighting or attacking. I offered my help, I want to get involved! I did point out that the beef industry has a problem when the group we fund to talk for us, won’t talk to us. So it confused me that these men took issue with my stance. I guess I thought more of them would be upset too.
I found myself being the only woman and the youngest one there trying to explain social media, blogs, my blog, the story behind my blog, and how social media works to a group of men that, I think it is safe to say, don’t fully appreciate this technology, it was like talking to a roomful of my Dads. It got confusing. People interrupted me and told my story for me (although that part was kinda nice – I got to hear more about the drama I caused higher up, but I didn’t know because NO ONE WOULD TALK TO ME ABOUT IT). I got annoyed that I could have been sitting on my couch, with my cat and wine (Wino Wednesday!), instead of being talked at about a thing I know and am pretty good at sometimes.
I went ahead and printed off a couple of my blogs, the ag code that explains the California Beef Council’s job, and Todd Fitchette’s blog about my blog, hoping to give the board members some background into what I have been doing. I don’t think that helped, but I did try and do my due diligence to explain why I thought I was there.

My packet of information about the California Beef Council.

The meeting went on about if Butte County Cattlemen should even have a Facebook page. A side note, I asked how many of these men even had a form of social media and I think 4 out of the group of 10 or so did, one mentioned that he knew how to turn on a computer! I guess I do understand now, why these guys aren’t as upset at the lack of social media in our industry when they don’t understand what it is or how powerful it can be.
I think by now, most of my serious readers realize I love ag, I love anything to do with it, and I spend an enormous amount of my time talking and sharing about it. I was honest and told them it really wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they removed me from their Facebook administrator because I do have my hands in so many different ag related activities. They said that they wanted me but they wanted policies and procedures, more regulation – no drama, no opinions, you know kinda the stuff that makes me such an amusing person. I told them that for a donation to my scholarship they could tell me what to post, and I wouldn’t piss anyone off.
So about that time I burst into tears. Because when I am put on the defensive and not listened to, that is what I do. It was a highly effective tool to communicate with my Dad and since these men all reminded me of my Dad, I went there. I do hate that about myself, it makes me look very unprofessional, but it is also a huge part of who I am. However, want to know how to make a room full of cattlemen really uncomfortable?
So that was my meeting. I think they decided to have a young cattlemen take over the page. I must question though, how many pages about the beef industry do we need that only talk about puff? How effective has that been?
I went home after I started to cry. I’m on my couch with Jack cat, doing what I do best these days, writing about the odd predicaments I get myself into. I don’t feel like my point was gotten across. I feel like I am missing yet another opportunity to help my industry. I feel like I don’t know how to communicate with others in my industry, am I the only one that feel like this? Am I really the crazy one?

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Filed under Ag, Beef, food, Ranch life, Rants, Scholarship, Uncategorized

Field Trip: Monsanto and Tomatoes

Tomatoes have a special place in my heart. I’m not a huge fan of the actual fruit anymore (the reason why is coming up), but I love all things derived from tomatoes – sauces, salsas, ketchup. And I love to grow the plant. I think I love them because one of my most cherished childhood memories is about garden fresh tomatoes. My grandfather, or Papa, had a pretty amazing green thumb; his garden remains legendary in my mind.

Pretty heirlooms!

When I was little, it was a big deal to spend the night at my town Grandparents. Grandma and Papa spoiled us with Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes in the morning and cable (we didn’t get more than four channels until I was in high school, country livin!). After dinner, it was a big deal for Papa and me to head out to his garden to water, harvest his vegetables and pick tomato worms.

As little five-year old me was searching for those awful tomato worms, I remember telling Papa that I didn’t like tomatoes because “they were gross”. At some point during my little life I must have eaten off-season, store tomatoes and decided all tomatoes were like that. Papa gently picked some ripe cherry tomatoes off his vines and told me to eat one. Surprisingly, I did. And it was glorious. I remember shoving those little jewels in my mouth as fast as I could, being totally surprised at the sweet, warm burst in my mouth, it was like candy. I did that until I threw up. What can I say; I’ve never been good with moderation.

Every time I see a tomato plant, I remember my Papa and his warm cherry tomatoes. It’s a very happy memory. I think that memory is why my favorite part of my Monsanto tour was learning about tomatoes.

The tomato rows at Monsanto's farm. I wanted to frolic through them. But I restrained myself. Barely

The tomato rows at Monsanto’s farm. I wanted to frolic through them. But I restrained myself. Barely.

My field trip to Monsanto left me overwhelmed, I think I caught a really bad case of agnerditis while I was there. Monsanto was fascinating, it was like taking a plant science, a sociology, and a economics class all in one day. I loved it! Unfortunately, I have a mild case of writer’s block when it comes to writing about our day there, I learned so much! However, I am fighting it! Because I think it is important to talk about GMO’s, technology and Monsanto with an open mind.

Talking plant breeding with the actual plant breeders. No big deal or anything. Nope, not at all.

Learning about tomato breeding from actual tomato breeders! Nope, not a big deal. Not at all. (OMG IT WAS SO COOL)

Doug the Tomato Dude was our tour guide for the tomato portion of our tour. He was passionate about his tomatoes! By the time he left us, I wanted to start researching tomatoes too. He made it sound so interesting, and it is! He told us his passion for growing things came early (something I totally identify with), he grew garden peas as a kid. His fresh garden peas tasted nothing like canned peas – and there you go – inspiration comes from the simplest things!

Learning from the master....

Learning from the expert!

Doug is working on a breeding project where he is using various naturally-occurring genes to improve heirloom tomatoes! He explained that there are three natural color mutations in the heirloom realm, tiger stripe, purple and a bi-color (like Rainbow). Working with these three mutations he can breed tomatoes with different levels of acidity, sugars, and volatiles (what you smell) . Something for everyone!

Doug’s goal is to make tomatoes that taste as good or better than existing heirlooms while having the level of fruit setting and disease resistance of modern tomatoes. And he wants to find ways so we can have heirloom quality taste much longer than the current seasonal window. In addition to making tomatoes taste better for us consumers he is also using tools from his genetic toolbox to help the farmer by eliminating cracking in the fruit (less waste!) and increased setting of the fruit (more product with less resources!). Doug is using genetic material that is over 60 years old along with some of the new great things he’s found! I think it is amazing that Doug and Monsanto are keeping these old genes alive and in production. Notice that is something you never hear about from the media. This germplasm dates back many decades and is responsible for long-time home garden favorites such as Better Boy, Big Boy, and Early Girl. By combining the past and the present some great things can happen that both preserve flavor for the consumer and add value to the grower.

Grow babies, grow!

Grow babies, grow!

Doug’s tomatoes are fresh market tomatoes, you know, the tomatoes you buy at the store. As I mentioned above, I think many of us are scarred from the tasteless, pretty tomatoes that dominated the store shelves for years. But Doug is changing that! Doug wants to see more heirlooms on the shelves; he wants more variety, more diversity so consumers can have a choice. (Isn’t that just music to your foodie ears? It was to mine!)

Doug mentioned that he loves to eat his own tomatoes, and his family does too. In fact he said he was making his family BLT’s with seedless tomatoes that very night for dinner doesn’t that sound fabulous?

Look at the pretty heirlooms!

More heirlooms, so pretty!!!

The most exciting thing I learned during this portion of my tour was about the seedless tomatoes that have been developed, the Sweet Seedless. My Grandma has diverticulitis, so foods with little seeds, (like tomatoes), hurt her, she actually cannot eat them. This is unfortunate for people like my Grandma, because it can affect her nutrition. I plan on going to over to my Grandma’s house next spring and planting some Sweet Seedless in Papa’s old garden plot, so my Grandma can eat something she loves again. I think my Papa would be super proud of me.

Meeting Doug the Tomato Dude and learning about his work in tomatoes was marvelous. Being an animal science person, it is wonderful for me to learn more about plant science. I was able to make the connection in my head that like cattle, plants often benefit from different breeding techniques. These techniques and technologies are changing agriculture for us farmers and ranchers in the best possible way – we can produce more with less, we can increase the nutritional content of some foods, we can increase diversity, and we can give our consumers more choice! What an amazing time to be involved in agriculture!

If you want to learn more about this I highly recommend checking this blog out http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7076455123022001652&postID=5115683617599271132. Dr. Folta is one of my favorite experts.

*Also thank you to Janice Person for a couple of the photos in this post!

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Filed under Ag, Field Trip, food, photos, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized