Monday, August 30, 2010

Agvocacy 2.0 Training

Today and tomorrow I'm in Chicago to attend the first "Agvocacy 2.0 Training". This training has resulted from a group called the AgChat Foundation. What is that, you ask? Check out:

I'm grossly oversimplifying many, many hours that AgChat Foundation directors did behind the scenes, but basically, through an application process, 50 people from across the United States were selected to attend a two-day training seminar in Chicago on utilizing social media to promote an understanding of agriculture

I'm extremely honored to be a part of the group of agricultural advocates, or"agvocates", that the AgChat Foundation selected and I am looking forward to an information-packed two days and the opportunity to network in person with so many people I've been "facebooking" and "tweeting" these past few months!

Another fun fact is that there are two other North Dakotans in attendance! Paul Anderson of Coleharbor, ND and Val Wagner of Monango, ND. I'm excited for the three of us to return to ND and start spreading the word about what we have learned here in Chicago!

Also, a special THANK YOU to the North Dakota Corn Growers Association ( for their $250 sponsorship, which has helped to pay for a portion of the registration fee for this event.

Monday, August 23, 2010

When Faith and Farming Collide: Part 3

At long last, the third installment of my coverage/opinions on the issue of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's development of a social statement on genetics. This has been an interesting journey of growth in my own faith, Jeremy and I studying the Bible together and growing together in our faith, discussion with MANY fellow Christian farmers and religious leaders, and one of correcting misinformation.

I would like to clarify for any who have heard the rumor that Jeremy and I are not "real farmers", that we receive the majority of our income from farming and we do not farm 30 acres, but over 3,000. I've always stood on the principle that "a farm is a farm is a farm", no matter the size or the business/family structure, but I did want to correct that rumor.

So much of what I have written has been published in "soundbytes", so please take the time to read all that I have written in my previous posts on this issue (When Faith and Farming Collide: Part 1 and Part 2) as well as the related comments, so you have a sense of the full discussion.

I also hope that you will take the time to read Romans, chapter 14 and 1 Timothy, chapter 4. It's up to each of you to interpret as you see fit, but for me these verses mean that we should not be judging/condemning each other on what we choose to eat, and therefore how our food is farmed, but we should be GRATEFUL "for everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving..."

I recently wrote a letter to the Dakota Farmer, in response to this column by Janet Jacobson.

Here is my letter:

In response to Janet Jacobson's letter in the October issue of the Dakota Farmer, entitled "ELCA right about GMO warning", I would like to clarify a few things.

Ms. Jacobson said, "I found the Dakota Farmer's coverage of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's draft social statement on genetics profoundly one-sided". The coverage of the issue was spot-on because the synod hearing in Gackle on August 8th was indeed profoundly one-sided. Concerns with the statement were expressed including questioning why the statement was being drafted in the first place, the expense of developing the statement (approximately $200,000), the impact of the statement (Yes, it will be used as a background document when communicating with legislators), the length of the document (63 pages), the scientific language which makes it somewhat difficult to read and the suggestion was even made to cleave apart some of the issues with human genetics and agricultural genetics. If anyone has further questions about the synod hearings in Gackle, a recording is available through the ELCA, so you can see for yourself what was said. I would also gladly provide anyone who is interested with my talking points from the hearing as well.

As a Christian conventional farmer I have, like Ms. Jacobson "spent countless hours studying...the science of genetics as well as the agricultural and social impacts of genetic modification."

I am told the intention of the ELCA is to write a statement that is a "guide for the faithful use of GMO's", than we should be embracing just that, the USE of genetic technology, meanwhile respecting the fact that some choose not to use the technology. It is unfortunate that it seems the ELCA's statement on genetics has opened yet another door to polarize farmers and once again put us in the stalemate of the organic vs. conventional argument. There is no right answer and there never will be.

I respect the fact that there are likely folks who disagree with my take on things and everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, but I believe it is the responsibility of each individual Christian farmer/rancher who is utilizing genetic technology to analyze the impact of each of their management practices, especially considering God's command for us to be stewards of His creation. This individual analysis cannot be achieved through a social statement. I also believe farms are as unique as fingerprints and to have a vast array of farm management tools and method available and the freedom to choose which ones to utilize is a blessing in itself.

I also hope I am wrong on my prediction that this statement will be twisted by activist groups to fit their agenda because many red flags have gone us as I have been researching this issue and I believe they are chomping at the bit to use this statement against conventional agriculture.

When I said that the ELCA had been infiltrated by the environmental and animal rights movement, I wasn't making that up. I have serious concerns about the direction of the ELCA because on their Rural Ministry website, under "Farming/Ranching Resources" , I found the link to the Humane Farming Association and the statement that the HFA "Gives information on how animals are currently inhumanely raised and slaughtered for human consumption". At the HFA website, I found they are leading a boycott against veal and promoting a vegan diet.

On the ELCA's page on "Caring for Creation" (scroll all the way down, right side), they advertise "The Green Bible: Check it Out Today". This may seem benign, but the Green Bible is published in conjunction with the Sierra Club and the Humane Society of the United States. In fact, a statement from the HSUS director for Animals & Religion Christine Gutelben, is on the jacket: "There has never been a more important time for a resource like the Green Bible. It is essential for anyone interested in a Biblical basis for humane and sustainable living." Sounds harmless, but I think most of us in agriculture are already aware that HSUS is a radical animal rights group with a pro-vegan agenda. Whether ELCA leadership realizes it or not, the ELCA is being targeted by HSUS through their "Faith Outreach" program. The last paragraph of the HSUS page on the ELCA talks about "Luther on why we shouldn't eat animals."

I want to make it very clear that all of my research has been done on my personal computer, and the phone calls to my home I have taken, the presentations I have given, the blogging, has all been done by me on my own dime as an individual because I feel it is important for the future of North Dakota agriculture and the future of the ELCA.

I would like to correct Ms. Jacobson's statement that Farm Bureau has a position on this issue. Yes, I am a proud fourth-generation Farm Bureau member and North Dakota Farm Bureau staff member, but I was not compensated for the time I have spent on this issue and Farm Bureau does not have any policy regarding this issue.

The ELCA's statement on genetics is now on its way to its final form, as the public comment period ended October 15th. In February 2011, the statement will be published at and in August the Churchwide Assembly will consider the recommended proposed social statement and will implement resolutions for its adoption.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Recommended Reading: "The Man Who Fed The World" by Leon Hesser

Dr. Norman Borlaug (1914-2009) is known as the "father of the Green Revolution". Through his work in genetic technology in agriculture, he and his team were able to increase the quantity and quality of food production in developing nations, therefore saving the lives of MILLIONS of starving people!

For his efforts, he recieved the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal.

More on Dr. Borlaug's life here:

Watch a trailer for the documentary on Dr. Borlaug- "Freedom From Famine: The Norman Borlaug Story"

I highly recommend that every American citizen read "The Man Who Fed The World", Dr. Borlaug's biography, written his dear friend, Leon Hesser. A colleague of mine (thanks Gail!) lent me this book, and I enjoyed it so much, I ordered my own copy so I can read it AGAIN!

ORDER IT TODAY! It's ON SALE through the American Farm Bureau Foundation For Agriculture! You will also get an impressive teaching guide for FREE as a part of this sale!

I only wish I would have known more about Dr. Borlaug and his good works while he was still alive, so I could thank him in person for all he did for humanity. I will do my best on my farm to continue his legacy- to help feed the world.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Estate tax and its effect on my family.

At the link below, please scroll to page 5 of the May 31st edition of "FB News", the official newspaper of the American Farm Bureau Federation. My family is featured in the article "North Dakota farmer shares hard-learned lessons".
Many thanks to AFBF staff, especially Cody Lyon, for their work on this issue. For those of us who are responsible for feeding the world, the ability to pass on every possible acre of our land to future generations is imperative.

Please go to the link below to contact your legislators on this very important issue:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

County Fair and a Lesson in Precision Ag

"My First Fawn" by C. Wilson, age 3.

"Come Get Me Papa" by C. Wilson, age 3.

My three year old daughter recently entered her first County Fair. We've been letting her practice photography with our digital camera. So on one trip to the field, on a beautiful, clear, sunny, North Dakota June day, we let her snap away.

It just so happened that Jeremy was seeding soybeans into a winter wheat cover crop. The winter wheat was only meant to cover the ground and protect it until the soybeans were planted, then it was killed off to let the soybeans grow- that's why the winter wheat in the field looks yellowed.

As Jeremy was driving along, he looked back just as a fawn went through the narrow space between the tire and the opener (big disc that could have made a fawn into mincemeat). He stopped immediately. Thank goodness the fawn made it through without a scratch. It was scared a bit, so it ran into the nearby ditch. So Jeremy and C.W. went to check it out. They crouched down and snuck up to it ever so quietly and she got the picture shown at the top of this blog post. It earned a red ribbon at the fair.

The second picture was taken by well. It shows her little sister waiting for her Papa to come pick her up. It earned a blue ribbon at the fair.

The big machine in the background is our New Holland tractor and our Case IH air seeder. The tractor has dual wheels to spread out the weight of the tractor to keep the soil from being damaged by compaction. That big gray tank at the back (called the "air cart") has compartments for seed and fertilizer. Air is pumped through hoses in the machine that blow the seed and fertilizer into small tubes and eventually sends each one individually into a thin slice in the soil the opener (big disc) makes. Then a rubber wheel rolls over the slice in the soil and closes up the gap, leaving the seeds at exactly the right depth with a tiny grain of fertilizer next to it as food to grow.

The tractor is equipped with GPS and special electronic equipment so that we can map out each of our fields. We can layer electronic maps over each other for soil type, topography, and yield, so that we can plant and fertilize our crops with incredible PRECISION (hence, the name "precision agriculture"). We only want to plant seeds where they have optimal growing conditions and we want to fertilize just enough, because we want to ensure soil and environmental health and we don't want to spend any more money on fertilizer than we have to because it is VERY expensive.

For example, when you go out on a date, do you dump an entire bottle of perfume or cologne on your head? No! You apply a precise amount in a precise place. Well, now you know how precision ag. works, and now you know that our tractor and air seeder are pretty amazing pieces of equipment and that my husband is a genius (okay, so I'm biased about the genius part) :-)

Oh, and one last thing about the county fair. C.W. also made a batch of Holstein Cow Chocolate Chip Cookies for the fair which she insisted she make ALL BY HERSELF! She certainly did- from measuring all the ingredients to cracking the eggs. They earned a red ribbon and a "People's Choice" award.

Not bad for a first-timer :)

Channelling my Inner Grannie: Banana Bread

My "Grannie", Freeda Graziano, with her oldest child and only son, my Uncle Rick, on our family's farm in North-central Maryland in the late 1940's.

Tonight, as my children slept soundly and Jeremy was still in the field, I baked banana bread to the crackling sounds of classic country music on a.m. radio, in my cozy home built around the same time as those wonderful old tunes were originally recorded. I reflected on a busy day of being a Mama to two little gals, delivering supper to the field, and riding a few rounds in the combine with my husband. It was the first day of wheat harvest and all our hopes for a bountiful harvest are so close to coming to fruition. Standing there at the kitchen counter, putting to use so many of the skills my Grannie taught me, I could really feel her presence. She's been gone now for almost 6 years, but she was a true country woman, one heck of a cook, and was one of my dearest friends. She left a lasting impression on me, which I hope I carry in my heart the rest of my life.

She was a witty and proud woman, who during her child-rearing years was the wife of a dairyman (my grandfather). She spoke up for what she believed in, but was also a good Samaritan, doing countless good deeds behind the scenes. I hope I can be half the lady she was.

This time spent alone in my sweet-smelling kitchen was a reminder that all the values that our farms were founded on still hold true today- a rock solid work ethic, stewardship of the land, animal husbandry, infallible optimism, and at the heart of it all, faith and family. Although the men are certainly working hard on our farm tonight, long after the sun has set and the evening crickets have begun to chirp, it is the women that have been, and always will be, the glue that holds a farming family together.

Oh, and so you can share some of our farm's goodness with your family- here is a delightful recipe for banana bread- the best I've found, with my own special touches. It will make two loaves of delicious bread- and you can thank my family later for the flour (from our wheat) and the butter (from the lovely four-legged ladies who will graze our land this fall).

6 ripe bananas

2/3 cup (10.5 tbsp) REAL melted butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons baking soda

pinch of salt

3 cups flour

1 cup Craisins (or just throw in the whole durn bag :)

1 cup chopped walnuts (if you're making this for the neighbor farmer, Ben Busch, leave those out)

No need for a mixer, just preheat the oven to 350 and with a wooden spoon, or one of those silicon spatula thingamabobs, mix the butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last and mix in the Craisins and walnuts. Pour the mixture into two generously buttered 4x8 inch loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack (I had to bend mine back to the correct shape, as my 1 year old likes to play with them). Remove from pan, slice and serve with a smile :)