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As long as this isn’t your first time here, it should be no surprise to you my love for the blue corduroy jacket.

Anytime FFA comes up in conversation, I’m the first to back the program, the first to tout its benefits and the first to encourage any kid, farm kid or not, to join one of the best youth organizations in the world. Heck, it’s the one thing I’m going to require my kid to try, at least once. Well, that and vegetables, I guess.

FFA has been top of conversation this week (at least among my friends because the number of my friends who were members of FFA number in the…well, a lot). Why? Because it’s National FFA Week!

Each chapter, section, district and state association celebrates its own way, but the end result is always the same: bringing attention to and celebrating an organization that changes youth for the better.

So, in honor of National FFA Week, this week’s Weekly Round Up is all things FFA:

  • This blog. Oh, I just love this blog so much. This FFA mom put the highlights of FFA into words in such an awesome way. SO. WORTH. THE. READ. FFA Mom
  • This. Because it’s oh so true. FFA Week
  • Don’t know a whole lot about FFA? Don’t worry, I can help – in infographic form! If that’s not enough, or it just piqued your interest, check out www.FFA.org or www.illinoisffa.org. FFA History
  • Another I-wasn’t-in-FFA-but-doggone-it-I-wish-I-would-have-been blog, this time from our friends at Mackinson Dairy Farm. Mary, who didn’t have an agriculture program available to her in high school, is now married to an agriculture teacher and gets to see firsthand, day-in and day-out, how FFA benefits the kids who decide to join. It’s an excellent perspective, and there are cute pictures of her daughter (in a little, tiny FFA jacket!) included. Win-win.Pontiac FFA
  • Oh, and this one, too. I’m sorry —  I just can’t help myself. 10994427_10205627862753158_4292863657505471462_n
  • Oh, Culver’s, you’ve discovered more than one way to my heart! For every view of the video below, Culver’s will donate a $1 to the National FFA Organization — up to $50,000!
  • And this. It isn’t making the rounds on the internet because it’s not a meme and it’s not a picture of anyone famous. It’s just me and a shout out of four of my favorite guys who were my partners in ‘crime’ and my big brothers for the entire year we served as Illinois Association FFA state officers. In the words of my buddy, Bruce, they were, and still are, pretty awesome. FFA Week 2

Weekly Round Up

It’s time for another edition of the Weekly Round Up. Here goes:

  • It was brutally cold here in Illinois this week. BRUTALLY. COLD. And this? Well, it’s a nice reminder of what farmers do. Even when it’s brutally cold. (From our friends at Mackinson Dairy Farm)
    Wind Chill
  • This. I mean, c’mon. Adorable.
  • Are you worried about antibiotics in your meat or milk? CommonGround dished out some excellent information — and a video! — to help answer your questions.
  • Did you know this? Most people don’t realize so many of America’s jobs are tied to agriculture. Largest Employer
  • The Dietary Guidelines Committee submitted its final report to the USDA and Department for Health and Human Services Thursday and they had some interesting recommendations, including reducing consumption of lean, red meat, increasing plant-based foods and decreasing animal based foods. Their reasoning? Plant-based diets are more sustainable. Check out Prairie Farmer for the full story.
  • Have you seen all the stories floating around the internet about fairlife milk? Long story short, Coca-Cola decided to partner (well, more like back the company) to get the new milk option onto more store shelves. But that connection has a few consumers more than a little confused. Which is why Carrie Mess over at Dairy Carrie decided to round up the facts on fairlife to share with her readers. Hey, if a dairy farmer isn’t concerned about a new option in the dairy aisle, you shouldn’t be, either.

Weekly Round Up

Let’s try something new, shall we?

It’s always a challenge to find new and exciting things to post — and then to actually write a post about them.

So what if we, every Friday, post just the top few things from the week? Interesting news stories? Check. Fun agriculture-related memes? Sure, why not. Fascinating blog posts? You got it. Agriculture myth busting? Of course. We’ll call it the weekly round up. And it starts NOW!

  • This. I love this! And I think most farmers would agree, too. Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day (you know, with the heart and stuff…)Life on the Farm
  • Have you seen this pretty awesome blog by Lindsay Mitchell from the Illinois Corn Growers Association? Her Open Letter to Americans Who Don’t Believe In Science is making the rounds on the internet — and it’s a good read. Be sure to check it out. Corn Corps
  • Speaking of pretty awesome reads, Missouri Farm Bureau President and farmer Blake Hurst penned a biting response to the New York Times’ Food for Tomorrow Event. Here’s just a snippet, but don’t let that be your only snippet:

“We can argue about how agriculture should be constituted, and we clearly will, but I thought more interesting was Bittman’s choice of the word “peasant.”  He could have talked about traditional agriculture, he could have extolled the virtues of small holdings, he could have explained how farmers in the third world have adapted their methods to the resources at hand.  Nope – he chose to use the word “peasant,’ and as a person whose speaking and writing fees depend upon his ability to use a word that exactly says what he means to say, I’m going to pay him the respect of believing that he said exactly what he meant.  Farmers should be peasants, with all that implies.”

  • You may have already seen this guy on the Illinois Farm Bureau Facebook page, but if not, take the time to check out the video now. Farmer Johnny Georges was on Shark Tank recently and spoke about his life and convictions as a farmer and, well, they’re just too good to pass up.
  • It’s Girl Scout cookie time! Thin Mints, here I come. But did you know that the Girl Scouts have recently come under attack because their cookies use some GMO ingredients? Check out Canadian farmer, Cherilyn Nagel’s take on the situation — she provides some interesting insights.Girl Scout Cookies
  • And finally, I stumbled across this blog last week and, honestly, might not have read it if I didn’t immediately recognize the author’s name. Trent Loos, who farms in Nebraska, is an awesome agriculture advocate and an excellent speaker (he was the keynote at the Illinois FFA Convention a few years back and was PHENOMENAL). Trent puts an interesting spin on “humane animal production” and it’s definitely worth your time. Trent Loos

 

That seems to be where we are these days — at the intersection of science and emotion.

When it comes to the fork in the road where we have to choose between science and emotion, it seems as though most Americans are more comfortable following the emotional road.

Fork_In_The_Road

According to a Jan. 29 NPR article, consumers like you and I view some of today’s most controversial scientific topics in a completely different way than do America’s top scientists. In fact, the two groups are on opposing ends when it comes to the safety of GMOs, climate change, human evolution, the use of animals in research and vaccines.

The report, published by Pew Research Center, was based on surveys of adults and, separately, a survey of scientists belonging to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Take, for example, the public’s view on GMOs. It’s no secret that the use of GMOs in food is a hot topic. But for scientists, it’s a non-topic.

According to the report, only 37 percent of the public viewed GM foods as safe to eat, while 88 percent of the scientists viewed GM foods as generally safe.

And here’s the remarkable part: 67 percent of the consumers surveyed acknowledged that they lacked a “clear understanding” of the health effects of GM crops.

Meanwhile, a recent survey by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics found that more than 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA” —about the same number as those who support mandatory labeling of GMO foods “produced with genetic engineering.”

Here’s the thing: almost all food contains DNA, just like every human contains DNA.

We’re at the intersection of science and emotion.

Science

Most adults pick the road marked emotion and most scientists don’t. In other words, it’s the scientists who, according to George Mason University communications professor Edward Maibach, can draw from a larger scientific knowledge base. They are able to detach themselves from the issue and, without emotion, understand the risks versus the benefits.

And why is that? Why are we more comfortable siding with our hearts than our brains? Why do we rely more on intuition than on the cold, hard facts? Are scientific studies not accessible to consumers? Or are they accessible but not easily understood?

The situation isn’t helped by the fact that seemingly, for every study that proves a theory, there’s another study to dispute it. And one can’t discount the powerful role that being a parent plays. Deciding on everything about an infant’s or child’s environment is an awesome responsibility. As parents, there are no do-overs. We get only one chance to get it right.

In the end, maybe we need to do the impossible and take both roads and consider our feelings as well as the science behind an issue, too.

At your fingertips.

The information, that is. There’s so much of it and, with the internet, it’s all at your fingertips.

And today, consumers are itching to access all of that information at their fingertips — especially when it comes to their food.

And when it comes to information, in most cases, the best comes from the people who know the most. In other words, you want to hear it directly from the horse’s mouth.

With that in mind, here’s a list (certainly not a comprehensive one!) of social media and websites that can give you some great information about where your food comes from and the information comes, you guessed it, straight from the horse’s mouth.

  • Ask the Farmers – This Facebook page is home to farmers — a lot of them — who are there to answer any and every question you have about your food and how it’s raised. Pose a question, they’ll answer. It’s a good time.
  • Peterson Farm Bros – You might be familiar with these guys. They gained some popularity with their first parody video, “I’m Farming and I Grow It.” The brothers, from Kansas, post a lot of great information about livestock and grain farming and do it with a good dose of humor, too. Visit their Facebook page, website and YouTube Channel.
  • Mackinson Dairy Farm – This one, I’m kind of partial to. Mostly, because I know gal who runs things (and dishes out the awesome pictures and info), but also because it’s a dairy page, and if you’ve been hanging around here any time at all, you know I love all things dairy. Mary Mackinson does an excellent job of showing what day-to-day life is like on a dairy farm — and the lengths dairy farmers go to care for their animals.
  • Illinois Farm Families – I’ve mentioned Illinois Farm Families before, but everything good bears repeating. Information on all kinds of farming and food production from the farmers themselves and from urban moms who have toured Illinois farms. It’s pretty cool. In addition to their Facebook and Twitter pages, you can visit their website.
  • Dairy Carrie – Another dairy page, but a darn good one. Like Mackinson Dairy Farm, Carrie posts pictures and information about everyday life on a dairy farm. She’s a straight shooter and pretty darn funny, too. You can visit her blog here.
  • Keeping it Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl - Love photography? Then Erin Ehnle is your gal. She mixes farm photography with ag facts and the results are stunning. Plus, she’s got it all – website, Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest.
  • Rural Route 2: The Life and Times of an Illinois Farm Girl – Authored by Katie Pratt, this blog tackles everything, from farming to family, and does a good job of tackling agriculture misconceptions. Katie has been a farm girl since, well, forever, and loves talking about the rural lifestyle.
  • The Pinke Post – Unlike most folks on my list, I don’t personally know Katie Pinke, but I’ve visited her blog multiple times and one thing always keeps me coming back: she’s super down to earth. Funny tid bits and meaningful posts laced with all things ag always make it a good read.

These are just a few of my favorites. Do you have any? If so, post them in the comments.

Go, go, go.

If you’re not a resident of the Midwest, you might be unaware of the bitterly cold temperatures we’ve experienced in the last couple of days. Then again, you might not be, since it seems most of the country is experiencing the same crappy weather.

For most of us, that means staying inside with a good movie and a cup of coffee — or at the very least, working the day away in a nice warm office. Or, in my case, it means worrying about my pipes freezing at home while I’m working the day away in a nice warm office. But that’s not the case for everyone.

Winter

I know I’ve said it before, but it’s time to say it again. For farmers, 99° or -25° means the same thing: Go, go, go.

Snow or ice, wind or rain, unbearable humidity or unbelievably frigid temperatures, the work never stops and animals must always be fed.

Cheryl - cold weather

There’s always something to do, even if that means it takes 19 pieces of clothing to keep you warm while feeding the heifers. (Sorry, Aunt Cheryl. The picture was just too good. Plus your hat is cute.)

Farmers are committed. They’re committed to the well-being of their animals because they have to be.

So, thanks to my Aunt Cheryl and my mom and every other farmer out there who is bundling up right now to head out and take care of their animals. I owe you. We all do.

Photo courtesy of Ask the Farmers.

Photo courtesy of Ask the Farmers.

It’s you. You, as a consumer, are the last link in the chain.

Farmers do what they do because of you. They change the way they farm because of your questions, needs, concerns and requests. You’re the reason we do what we do.

IMG_1607 385027_10151265082453236_2021786707_n DT 7 IMG_0124 DSCN8170

If you’ve learned anything reading this series, I hope it’s that farmers care about what you think and they care about their product. They care because they’re eating the same food your family is eating. And they care because you’re the one with the purchasing power.

So if there’s something you want, tell us. We’re working hard to listen. But remember, the listening needs to go both ways. Farmers love what they do and don’t want to jeopardize that. They’ve worked hard to harness technology and employ the latest in science, so when they say they’re working hard for you, listen.

And remember, if you have questions, ask. We’re only to happy to answer.

10171169_716333495081008_9050377903879907054_n Us from clinton Journal awards photo JM 9 Frieders family 8-kids

Don’t forget to check out all the awesome blogs happening this month over at Prairie Farmer.

For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:

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