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Today is May 8. Tomorrow is May 9.

Sorry, I’m having trouble grasping that because it means a year ago tomorrow, my husband and I were in the hospital welcoming our first child. How has it been a year already? It seems like time has really flown by. Especially considering I came up with the brilliant idea of making H’s first birthday gift – a play kitchen out of an old entertainment center – and I’m now SERIOUSLY running out of time to get it finished. Oh well. Who needs sleep anyway?

To keep my mind off the approaching D-Day – I mean, Happy Birthday, H! – let’s do another Weekly Round Up:

  • This article, which talks about the benefits of equine interaction for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a pretty cool read and helps validate what those of us with horses already know: they’re good for the spirit.
  • This. Because, really, it’s just so true. Backbone
  • This article from The Washington Post. It’s a few weeks old, but still worth posting. Many consumers buy animal products produced the way they think the animals prefer, but in many cases, it’s just not the case, as this article shows.
  • This. In my case, it was usually horses out (and sometimes cows if I was hanging out at Grandma and Grandpa’s house) but, yeah, that’s pretty much our version of the neighborhood watch. Heifers are Out
  • And one more, just because I think it’s funny. I think I might need one of these in the trees at my house. Squirrel Feeder

chipotle 2

Last week, I promised a blog post on Chipotle’s latest announcement that the chain will phase GMO foods out of its menu. By now, it’s old news. They made the announcement early last week and most media outlets have covered the story.

Most of the time, I would try to have a post up as soon as possible, dissecting the decision and what it means for farmers and agriculture. But this time, I held off because, honestly, I wanted to know what everyone was going to say about it.

The restaurant chain has consistently been in the news in the last few years, both for its marketing campaigns and the agriculture community’s response to those campaigns, and most of the time, the media has backed Chipotle’s plays whole-heartedly. But not this time.

This time, the response was mixed at best. And that’s what’s interesting.

What’s more interesting is some of the most prominent outlets reporting on Chipotle’s announcement aren’t exactly taking Chipotle’s announcement hook, line and sinker. Time, National Geographic, Slate, NPR, Chicago Tribune, New York Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and more dismissed the announcement as a marketing ploy — and not a particularly good one at that.

That’s an about-face when it comes to the way Chipotle stories have been reported previously. So what’s the deal? Have consumers and the media decided that Chipotle’s marketing team is no longer speaking the gospel truth? Or is something else happening? Are consumers and media starting to accept GMO foods as safe and economical?

I’m not sure if it’s one or the other. In fact, it’s probably more that people are starting to see Chipotle’s marketing as just that: marketing. It’s not a company with a heart, trying to do the right thing. It’s just a company like any other company, trying to sell a product.

Consumers — and the media — are starting to look at Chipotle’s anti-agriculture marketing through critical eyes. And that’s a good thing.

Happy May Day, all! The first day of May means I’m now down to eight days to finish my daughter’s play kitchen for her birthday. I don’t even know if that’s possible considering the painting and sawing left to do. Oh, and the garage to clean and the yard to mow and the….oh, there’s so much stuff to do.

In the mean time, let’s do another edition of the Weekly Round Up.

  • So, Chipotle is back in the news. This time, they announced they’re phasing GMO foods out of their menu. And, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already heard that. There’s been so much press surrounding the announcement, and so many opinions, I’m going to devote a full blog post to the topic. But, until that’s ready to go, here are a few of those aforementioned stories to keep you busy.
  • Speaking of GMOs, this piece by Mark Lynas appeared in the New York Times this week. We’ve talked about Mark Lynas before. and his conversion from GMO opponent to advocate. In this piece, he again gives his ‘why.’ It’s an excellent read.
  • This. Most people don’t think of horses as livestock, but they are. And they contribute significantly to local, rural economies. Equine Industry
  • A little bit of back story for this bullet: there are millions of bloggers out there, but only a few (relative to the number overall) ag bloggers, and I follow most of them. They’re a talented bunch with lots of good stories to tell. This week, one of the bloggers I follow, So She Married a Farmer, had an accident on her farm where her daughter was severely injured. They’re fighting through it, but it certainly puts things into perspective. Which is why Holly at Prairie Farmer focused her Friday Five on child safety on the farm. If you’re a farmer, or if you’re not, take a look.
  • And this. For the Record

I don’t know about you guys, but in addition to celebrating the fact that it’s Friday (YAY!), I’m also celebrating today’s warm weather and non-existent wind. It’s 78 and sunny today. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Anyway, it’s time for another edition of the Weekly Round Up:

  • This. Because it’s awesome. And because on my way home from work yesterday I counted six planters in the field. SIX. And I only live about 20 miles from work. They’re going like gangbusters out there. Text and Plant
  • This blog post from In Udder News… It’s a pretty cool read about the science behind organic farming. I’m a believer in traditional agriculture but I’m also a believer in choice, and organic food is one of the choices consumers have, even if it’s not my choice. Often, organic farming is accused of being unscientific, but writer Julaine Treur shares the science behind her organic dairy farm and other organic farms across North America. It’s worth your time.
  • There’s a lot of talk about sustainable farming, but what is sustainable farming? No one seems to have a good, all-encompassing, agreed upon definition. I’m not saying I have one, but this does seem pretty truthful. If you aren’t successful, you won’t be able to sustain much. sustainable farming
  • Dr. Oz is in the news again, but not because of some crazy claim he’s recently made, This time, he’s in the news because a group of top physicians have asked Columbia University to remove Dr. Oz from his faculty position at the Ivy League school because he continues to promote “quack treatments” and continues to display an “egregious lack of integrity.” Columbia has refused, saying the school “is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion.”
  • And, finally, this. Yes. Without Cows

Time for another Weekly Round Up, folks!

  • It’s no secret I hold youth programs like 4-H and FFA close to my heart, and this article is an excellent example of why I love them — and I why I think every kid, no matter where they live or what their interests are — can benefit from these great programs. Lily Wilson, who auctioned off the pig she was raising for 4-H to help a friend, exemplifies everything that is 4-H.
  • This. Any kid with livestock — of any kind (!) — will tell you this is true. Proof? I distinctly remember pulling my cow, Doreen, into showmanship at our national show in Louisville, making one spin around the ring, and her absolutely LOSING IT because she didn’t like billboards that made noise every time they changed screens. And yes, I smiled THE. ENTIRE. TIME. Showmanships
  • Speaking of youth organizations, this blog from Katie Pratt at Rural Route 2: The Life and Times of an Illinois Farm Girl. In Governor Rauner’s most recent draft budget, the Illinois Agricultural Education line item has been zeroed out. For more on what that means to more than 25,000 ag ed students across the state, check out Katie’s blog.
  • Oh man, if this isn’t true. Farmer
  •  If you’re on social media at all, you’ve probably encountered the Food Babe. You can probably guess what my feelings are toward her, but I’ll leave that out for now. Instead, ladies, take a look Elle’s article questioning the Food Babe’s methods and information. In fact, Food Babe Vani Hari has come under attack quite a bit this week, but I’ll let you search out those articles yourself…
  • And finally, this. Remember, folks, spring planting has started, or is just around the corner, which means it’s time to keep an eye out for farm machinery on the roads. Be safe this spring!Slow Down

Shill or…not?

I like to bust myths here on the ol’ blog.

From the so-called dangers associated with GMOs to ethanol production, regulations, animal welfare and the often misquoted study that speaks of environmental degradation and ozone depletion associated with livestock production, I’ve covered it. But a friend of mine brought to my attention there’s one myth I haven’t done much to address: the Farm Bureau myth.

In other words, the often repeated myth that the Farm Bureau, both on the national and state level, is just a shill for ‘big ag,’ lobbying for the interests of enormous corporations rather than the farmers that make up the membership.

So, if the Illinois Farm Bureau isn’t a shill for big ag, what exactly is it? And what does it do?

For starters, the crowd accusing the Illinois Farm Bureau of being a lobbyist group for ‘industrial agriculture’ is partially correct. The Illinois Farm Bureau does devote some of its resources to lobbying, both on the state an national level. Where shill-crying crowd goes astray is the ‘big ag’ or ‘industrial agriculture’ part of the equation.

Trust me when I say that companies like Monsanto or Tyson or any other seed or food company have enough liquidity to pay for their own lobbyists, and certainly don’t need us to take care of that for them. Instead, when the Illinois Farm Bureau is talking with Congressmen and Senators, we’re doing it on behalf of our members. Illinois Farm Bureau has contacted state and national elected officials to talk about everything from GMOs, water quality and regulations, to the farm bill, animal care and free trade.

What’s more, we ask our members to do the same:

Sometimes our stance on an issue may fall in line with an agricultural company, but that doesn’t mean we’re on their payroll.

And here’s the thing: it’s Illinois Farm Bureau members who direct lobbying efforts, set priority issues and even direct staff on how to work with the media and consumers.

Each December, at the Illinois Farm Bureau annual meeting, members of the organization gather together and vote on policy and priorities for the coming year.

Policy ResolutionsFrom education, energy and national affairs, to transportation, marketing and commodity programs and government finance, and everything in between, our members review current policy and vote to keep it the same or amend it. They also introduce new resolutions based on current events or legislation and vote on whether they should be included in the policy resolutions for the coming year.

Once those resolutions are finalized at the end of the meeting, it’s up to Illinois Farm Bureau staff to make sure that our activities, lobbying and outreach match what was voted on by the members.

But lobbying isn’t the only thing the Illinois Farm Bureau does. We also work with farmers to answer consumers’ questions about farming, work with the media to provide sources and information for agricultural stories, provide legal advice and information for farmers who need it, fund scholarships and agricultural education initiatives and even develop advertising and social media campaigns — all for our more than 82,000 farmer members.

O.M.G., you guys. It’s April. How the heck did that happen? April means I’m one month (well, a month and a week) away from my daughter’s first birthday. HOLY. CRAP. I’m not much on big (or small, for that matter) parties — especially for babies and toddlers. Despite that, we will be having a small party for H. And by small, I mean grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles only. And by that I mean we’re expecting almost 30 people at our house. Oy. I guess it’s time to put on my big girl pants and get the party planned, i.e. get the house cleaned. But I digress. It’s time for another Weekly Round Up:

  • This wonderful podcast, from my friends DeAnna and Holly (and a gal who I think should be my friend because, clearly, we’re both awesome – Emily). DeAnna, Holly and Emily regularly record their Confessions of a Farm Wife podcasts and, this time, they were live at the Women in Agriculture conference. It’s great!
  • And this Op Ed from the Washington Post’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board examined the idea of GMO labeling and came to the conclusion that it’s just not necessary. Follow the link and read the op ed — it’s definitely worth your time.
  • This story, from KSDK.com. It’s not necessarily ag-related, but can be translated pretty easily into ag programs across the state since it’s possible they’re going to be facing some pretty hefty budget cuts themselves. When Gillespie High School construction trades teacher Mark Goldasich saw a measly $600, annually, for his budget — chopped from the year before — he knew he had to do something. So, with the help of his daughters, Goldasich started a Facebook page offering up the work of his students. Now, business is booming.
  • And this, in honor of April Fools’ Day on Wednesday. Posted by Yellowstone National Park, it does explain why so many of the roads up there are closed…Yellowstone April Fools
  • This article, which gives Holly Spangler her second appearance on this week’s Weekly Round Up. File this under questions you don’t ask a farmer. You wouldn’t want to be responsible for the planter breaking down or, in Holly’s case, a calf with an injured leg, when you ask, “How is planting going?” or “Calving going okay?”
  • And this. Again, not necessarily ag-related, but I had to share because it’s just so great! Temple Grandin is well known by parents who have kids with autism (and even those who don’t!) because she herself has autism and has done so much to help kids who are just like her. But you may not know she’s well known in livestock circles, too. Because of her autism, she understands how animals, who can’t always communicate with humans, feel and react to certain situations and has been instrumental in designing humane livestock handling systems. How cool is that?Autism Awareness
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