Tag Archives: transparency

Podcast, Mental Health and Agriculture

Recently, I had an incredible opportunity to be a guest on Shark Farmer’s podcast. It was the first podcast I’ve ever been asked to appear on, I really wanted to do a good job! Rob and I have been social media friends for ages, so I knew he would be kind. We scheduled a time for an interview and well, the rest is history!
I am very proud of this podcast because Rob brought up something we don’t talk a lot about in agriculture: mental health. I’ve been very open with my struggles throughout the years with anxiety. Having this new and larger platform to share my message, that everyone has problems and it’s OK to talk about them and seek help, was phenomenal.
Please check out this podcast! It was a lot of fun to do, and it was wonderful getting to know Rob a little better! And please remember, if you need to talk, shoot me an email, I’m here for you.

Podcast

Click on this picture and you will be taken to the podcast page!

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Why I Use Antibiotics

Antibiotics are amazing. They can do so much, so quickly! I want to tell you a story about one calf and one shot of antibiotics.

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We found this little calf in the morning. Her mom gave birth to her in water during the night and left her. She was very ill. Very cold, very close to death. In fact, when we first saw her, we thought she was already dead. We loaded her in the back of the polaris and took her to the hospital pen. We dried her off, treated her with antibiotics, electrolytes, fluids, iodine on her naval, and some vitamins. We followed the label on the antibiotics and the advice of our veterinarian to the letter.  A few hours later,  she was able to stand up by herself. She was ready to go back to her mom in about a day.

Before and after, in just a matter of hours.

Before and after, in just a matter of hours.

My point here is, despite what Subway would have you think, antibiotics are not always bad when used in animal agriculture. They actually save a lot of lives and a lot of suffering. By the time this calf hits the market, no residue will be left. So please think about that next time food marketers talk about antibiotic free.

Antibiotics are a hot button issue within agriculture right now. Farmers and ranchers are working very hard to fight antibiotic resistance, because we realize how this can and will impact us. Personally, our ranch uses superior genetics, nutrition and vaccines to prevent illness. But as I showed here, sometimes we still have problems and we need to be able to do the humane thing and treat our animals. It’s the right this to do.

I urge you to talk to other farmers,  ranchers and veterinarians to learn how and why they use antibiotics on their ranches. Coming from agriculture and seeing how we have changed our protocols, I feel like our general public might not know what we have changed and why, in regards to this topic. Fear and half-truths have been used often to promote “antibiotic free” meat marketing agenda.

I even got the opportunity to learn more about antibiotics at the Alltech convention I attended last May. Meat scientist Dr. Yancey wrote a nice recap about it, you can read here.

Is antibiotic resistance a problem? Absolutely. Do we know for certain what is causing it? Kinda. Is agriculture doing something about it? Yes.  It is a complex issue. But,  friends and readers, feel safe about the meat your are eating. Trust that your friendly neighborhood ranchers are aware of this problem and we are working hard to continue to keep our food supply safe and affordable. 

If you have more questions or would like a list of more experts, veterinarians, farmers or ranchers to talk to please leave me a comment below and I will do my best to accommodate you. Thank you.

 

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The Sacramento Bee, Twitter and Red Wattle Hogs

It’s no secret that this ranch girl has embraced social media like my life depended on it. Some might call it a hobby, my Parent’s call it an addiction, I think it’s a necessity in this day in age. Recently, my social media persona and “real” life has collided in some big ways. The result has been some rather amazing and interesting opportunities.

The catalyst for this recent wave of attention was an article by Edward Ortiz in the Sacramento Bee. Randy Pench contributed beautiful photos and awesome video that accompanied the online version.  But first let’s back up just a whisper shall we?

The screen shot!

The screen shot!

Mr. Ortiz started following me on twitter sometime back. Of course, I followed back because I get all kinds of excited when journalists, teachers, and/or people I lurk follow me. These are the people I learn from, these are also the people I want to learn from me. I respect their thoughts and opinions and I know others do too.

Mr. Ortiz emailed me last fall and wanted to talk about my hogs. Since my falls, springs and summers are generally my busiest times, I had to wait until January to have him and Mr. Pench out to see the ranch and hogs. Winter is the time I get to dedicate to my hogs and opening this ranch’s barn doors.

My Dad couldn't stand it and had to be apart of the interview.  So I felfie photo bombed.

My Dad couldn’t stand it and had to be apart of the interview. So I felfie photo bombed.

Opening your farm or ranch “barn doors” can be a terrifying thing to people in production agriculture. Unfortunately, we expect to be attacked for what we do. There is just much mis-information being put out by our opponents, we are forced to play a never-winning game of catch up.

I was just a whisper excited.

I was just a whisper excited.

That is why I take such a transparent stand. I want every reasonable person, who has a thirst for knowledge about their food, to come on out. I want them to know what I do, and why I do it. It really is in my best interest. Having a reputable paper like the Sac Bee come out, makes me accessible to more than a ranch day ever could.

If you get the chance my fellow farmers and ranchers, I urge you to reach out to your local media. Follow their facebook and twitter pages, answer their questions if they ask. I’ve had such wonderful and positive experiences interacting with the media, especially with the Sacramento Bee.

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The Future of the Farm: The Aftermath

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to take “The Megan Show” to my alma mater, CSU, Chico and participate in a discussion. The discussion was about “The Future of the Farm”. I was lucky to have David Robinson Simon the Author of Meatonomics as a discussion partner. I felt that Mr. Simon and I contrasted nicely and it made for an interesting conversation.

It always makes for a fun and lively conversation when two polar opposites sit down to discuss an issue both are passionate about. Being a cattle rancher, obviously I feel very strongly about what I do. Mr. Simon is a vegan and based on my own experiences and others I know, one must feel very strongly to maintain that lifestyle (it was really hard for me and I failed).

Mr. Simon spoke first. He had a powerpoint that basically outlined his book. Some of the slides had pictures that painted animal agriculture in a poor light. They say pictures are worth a thousand words, but unfortunately they often only tell part of a story. Because agriculture has typically kept our barn doors shut, we have left ourselves open to misunderstandings like this.

While I did disagree with Mr. Simon about several issues, Ag Gag, factory farming, and ag terrorism being a few. I was surprised about how many issues we held similar views on. For example eating “local” might not always be the most efficient and grass-finished beef is not always the most sustainable method in beef production.

It's always a win when I get to share this!

It’s always a win when I get to share this!

I felt like this discussion was time well spent. Being able to sit down and have a conversation with people that don’t always agree with me helps me become a better communicator and helps agriculture open our barn doors. Getting to interact with an audience enhances the experience for everyone; personal connections are made, passions shared. If agriculture wants to engage with our public we simply must take every opportunity, that is why I was disappointed in the College of Agriculture.

It's rare that I remember to take pictures before I speak. I kinda did it this time! Thanks to my friends that came!

It’s rare that I remember to take pictures before I speak. I kinda did it this time! Thanks to my friends that came!

There were only two agriculture students (thanks guys!) in attendance and no staff or faculty. Our industry leaders need to make sure our students and future ag leaders are being exposed to and urged to have conversations with our public. Our leaders are the ones that need to set that example. A huge part of why I am able to speak and engage the public is because I saw my professors do that.

Although I was excited to have the opportunity to participate in this discussion and give back to the University that helped shape who I am (and I’d do it again in a hot second), it worried me that there was a low ag turn-out and Dr. Jones had no success finding someone from the College of Ag to participate. If agriculture is serious about transparency and engaging our public our local leaders must do a better job of setting that example or they run the risk of “The Megan Show” doing for them – scary thought, huh?

 

At least The Megan Show has pretty boots! Thanks Jenny over at http://prairiecalifornian.com/ for coming!

At least The Megan Show has pretty boots! Thanks Jenny over at http://prairiecalifornian.com/ for coming!

 

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Beef, Field Trip, Humor, Know a California Farmer, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: The Master

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It’s Time

The only power the powerless have is being a pain-in-the-ass. In the end, you may still lose, but you’ll make the S.O.B.s say, “It would have been easier, cheaper, and smarter to give her what she wanted in the first place.” –  Claude Seymour

It is easy to tell someone to “get over something”. But until you have lived and felt what they have, that is an insult. I am still struggling with an event that happened to me several years ago, because I am still experiencing repercussions.
Emotions are very strong, and as much as we wish logic could take over, sometimes it can’t. Sometimes you simply need closure. You need the people that hurt you, to take responsibility for their actions, or you need to be able to say your peace. Granted those limp dicked people probably will never take responsibility for their behavior, and that is their flaw. That doesn’t mean I can’t talk, share and demand closure for as long as I need to. Until I feel better.
My mental health is important to me. Thankfully, I have social media, I have a blog, I have a column, I have wonderful, creative outlets where I am able to share the Megan experience wide and far. I am SO lucky to have that.
Thank you friends, for putting up with the Megan experience, thank you for your support. I’m thinking it’s time for me to re-enter the local agriculture community. I think it’s time for some of these people to deal with the new and improved, stronger Megan.
I do not like being ignored.

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13 Thursday – My Answers

Sometimes I don’t understand when people are asking me questions about the Ranch. Because this is all I have known, I assume (I know assuming only makes an ass out of you and me) everyone knows what I know. One of the best things I ever did for myself was disconnect from the Ranch for a few years in my mid-20’s. It gave me perspective, and made me realize that sometimes farmers and ranchers live in our own little bubble and speak our own little language of sorts. I am constantly working at bettering my communication with non-aggie people because I feel like that is the only way our industry will be able to continue. Because I am so passionate, and this way of life is such a huge part of who I am, and how I identify myself, I can become defensive very quickly when people question our Ranch’s practices or my motives. It took me a very long time to realize that often these people are not trying to insult me, they just don’t know! Because of the disconnect between farm to fork and the certain people/movements taking advantage of that fact.
I made it my business to openly share what I do, the good, the bad and the ugly. Surprisingly, this has cause a lot of drama and hurt feelings in my life. But the longer I do it, the better I handle the positives and negatives this blog has created for me. However if not for a certain core group of people I probably would have abandoned this blog long ago. Instead with their kind words, encouragement and support, I continued and will continue. One of those people is Ian from the An Irish Male In America. People like Ian are starting to make a huge impact on farmers and ranchers, they reach out to us when they have a question, they want to know! Ian continues to amaze me, but now he’s made it super easy for me to share about what I do! I mean, he gave me a list of questions! I totally stole these questions from his blog, thanks again Ian for everything you do! Please keep it up.

Ian sent me this t-shirt for St. Patrick's Day (so I could properly celebrate my heritage).

Ian sent me this t-shirt for St. Patrick’s Day (so I could properly celebrate my heritage). Also this is me with no make-up (full transparency here people!).

13 Questions I want farmers/ranchers/AG people to answer (or even blog about!)

1: What is the worst time of year for you?
The worst time of year is the middle of the summer, because it is obnoxiously hot and there are bugs and stickers here and fire danger. Fire scares me. It seems like once a year, we have a fire scare, and it just really sucks because there is nothing you can do. I hate the feeling of being helpless while the ranch burns.
2: What is your favorite farm job?
My favorite farm job is anything outside. I like feeding hay, actually because the cows are really happy to see you and they buck and dance. It’s fun to watch. I also like feeding the pigs, pretty much for the same reason. I like happy animals and just like me, they are happiest when someone puts food in front of them. I love working on the Ranch because everyday is different and challenging.

3: What is your least favorite farm job?

Anything that involves illness or premature loss of an animal. I feel like I failed them. I really hate it when you pull a calf and it is dead or dies, and the cow dies too. That is just the worst feeling ever. Even if you KNOW you did everything you possibly could for them, I still feel tremendous guilt. But honestly, any job can become my least favorite, it depends on who I am working with. There are certainly some people that rush jobs, or are mean to me or the animals. At this point in my life, for my mental health and physical safety I will refuse to work with those people.
4: What type of truck do you drive (on the job) and why did you choose it?
I drive a Toyota Corolla because I drive so much it made more sense than buying a truck. I commute to my town job and in between the two Ranches (we summer in the mountains and winter in the valley). Whenever I need a truck I can use my Dad’s full-sized Dodge or my Mom’s Tacoma. My Dad has a Dodge because I guess Ford changed something and he thought the Dodge was better. I miss his Fords though, I liked them. The Dodge is all fancy and stuff, and I’m afraid I’m going to break something. My Mom has a Tacoma because we need a little truck around the Ranch and we needed it for our kayaks because both of them won’t fit on top of my car!
5: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned in your line of work?
Life isn’t fair. Not even a little bit. And like Dr. Grandin says, Mother-nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.
6: What do you think is the most valuable tool you have, the one you probably couldn’t live without?
The internet. It has given me access to so much knowledge. If I have a question about anything I can find an answer, if I need a random part for a tractor, I can find it! It also shortens the distance from farm to fork, I am able to directly speak to thousands of my consumers. They can ask me questions and I can ask them questions, it’s a win/win! I’m trying to develop new markets, so I can hopefully work on the Ranch full-time within the next few years.
I remember pre-internet, while it was certainly nice to not be connected 24/7, access to information and knowledge was severely limited, especially in rural areas. I like knowing and learning!
7: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your business?
That we are just a bunch of dumb hicks that get all kinds of government money. Actually that is tied with we all all corporate slaves, or huge corporations. Both of those I get a lot. Some of us are very tech savvy, something like 98% of farms are family owned, and despite what you have heard, it’s still a free market and farmers and ranchers can choose what we raise.
8: If you could invest in a new piece of farm equipment tomorrow, what would it be?
A pig set up! I would love to raise hogs on a larger scale. I would love to have a barn, fencing and a water system. These are the things that are holding me back. Mainly the water situation. I could build fence and a shelter fairly easily compared with drilling a well or fixing our spring. I want to raise heritage hogs because I am in love with the pork I raised this year. It’s sooooo good and I want more people to have access to it. Plus if I had a hog set up I could probably retire from my office job, which the older I get, the better that sounds. I’m meant to be on the Ranch.
9: What was the most serious injury you ever suffered in the line of work?
I fell off my pony when I was 4 and broke my wrist but didn’t know it until a couple weeks later, it was a glorious temper tantrum in the hospital (ask my Mom). Other than that just your average bumps, bruises, cuts, broken toes, and sprained things. Oh, actually I got walking pneumonia when I was on a cattle drive when I was like 10. That sucked big time, mainly because I got sent home, and ended up being allergic to the antibiotics they gave me. And I was certain someone else rode my horse (grumble, grumble).
10: Least favorite animal to deal with?
F**king, damned dirty, goats. And mean roosters.
11: (excluding all of the above) What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked?
Leather comes from cows?
12: Favorite beer? (come on, out with it!)
I’m having a love affair with Sierra Nevada right now. I really like the Snow Cap.
13: Thing you’d most like the public to know about what you do!
That I have nothing to hide, I want to share what I do. I love my way of life. And just like everything in life agriculture is not as simple as black versus white, big versus little, good versus bad. Talk to us! Ask us questions! (Seriously!)

Go check out J.D.L. Photograph’s answers here! I’ll try and add more links as more farmers and ranchers (ahem!) do this!

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Wordless Wednesday: The Boss

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The “Appointment”

I’ve made the “appointment”. The pigs are going to be slaughtered March 8. I’ll admit I’m already a whisper sad about it.
I grew up raising my own food animals. I did 4-H and FFA. Every year I watch as our commercial calves are loaded into trucks to become food. I watch the custom exempt slaughter of our personal freezer beef. Heck I even worked in a slaughterhouse. I’m not new to this lifestyle, but for some reason I am already bummed out about the pigs.
Maybe because this was my project, my idea, my money, and my time. It was the first time a bright idea of mine worked out successfully (ask me about goats sometime). Since October, I have spent every day with these pigs making sure they were the happiest pigs they could be. In December I started making their food. I’ve cooked for these pigs more than I’ve cooked for myself.

Happy pig

Happy pig


I realize that is their “job” to be pigs and if they didn’t have a “job” they probably wouldn’t exist. I know I have provided them with the best pig life I could. I know they are happy and healthy. But I am still going to miss them; I think I would have no soul if I didn’t.
Treats!

Treats!


When I would have a bad day at work, or someone poked me with a stick, I would simply go out and hang with the pigs. They are always super excited to see me, even more excited when I bring treats and the most excited when I brush them and give belly rubs. They run and grunt at me when they see me, just like I sing them silly pig songs and talk to them when I am in their pen.
This project has been a success and we haven’t even tried the pork yet. It was wonderful doing adult 4-H and having so many visitors to the Ranch. It was great having something my Dad and I could talk about everyday, where I could ask for his advice. And best of all it was wonderful to bring awareness to this pork. I have a waiting list for next year.
This project reminded me that my place is on the Ranch, not in an office. Over the past three years I have worked in town from 8 to 5. I worked on the Ranch during my weekends and free-time; so I have not noticed how “soft” I have become until recently.
When we first got the pigs I noticed it was hard for me to pick up the 50 pound sacks of grower feed. My arms were sore after I started cooking their food all weekend (it takes my whole weekend to cook enough food for them). I had blisters on my delicate little office hands. I have to make two trips to feed them because two full five gallon buckets were just too much for me.
But after 6 months of taking care of the pigs every day, twice a day (except for like a month at night, when my Parents fed for me because it was too dark by the time I got home) I have upper arm strength again. I can pick up their 75 pound sacks of feed like it is nothing. I now fill their slop buckets as full as I can get them and “pump buckets” on the way to their trough. I have calluses. It feels good and I’m thinking of becoming a bouncer with these guns, lol.
My "man" hands. I've very proud. I missed them.

My “man” hands. I’ve very proud. I missed them.


Since this was a success my Parents have agreed to let me start raising pastured poultry this spring. When I take my vacation next month I am going to build a portable coop and get chicks. I have fond memories of being a small child and slaughtering chickens and turkeys with my Dad (he would always give me the sea glass from the turkey’s gullet). Very exciting stuff is happening for me!
Work. Lots of work. All weekend worth of work. I need a weekend from my weekend.

Work. Lots of work. All weekend worth of work. I need a weekend from my weekend.


Be prepared Dear Readers, even though I will probably be sobbing, I am going to video and take pictures of the whole slaughter process just like I did with my beef all those years ago (Industry groups, if you are concerned about this, please contact me NOW, I don’t want another Beef Council incident).
Thank you to all of you that have kept up with our pig adventures. I’ve really enjoyed all of your comments and feedback! I’ve even met new “friends” through this project, it’s just been such a wonderful experience. However I am a little excited that I can start to sleep in and have weekends again after these pigs are gone. It has been a lot of work balancing my town job and my pigs.

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, family, food, Humor, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Recipe, Uncategorized

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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