Dec 14, 2012

Tradition!


This time of year brings lots of traditions. Being in a family that owns a ChristmasTree Farm it often leaves little time for some of the usual family traditions. I always say we are busy being a part of over a thousand different family traditions as we help get them find the perfect Christmas tree, get their family photo by the reindeer, go for a sleigh ride, and eat their cut out Christmas cookie and hot cider.

One tradition we do with our children is read a Christmas book each evening before bed. We have collected quite the Christmas book library over the past 5 years. I wanted to share with you two of my favorite Christmas books.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

Joshua was a sad spotted lamb who had no parents and felt left out. He was born with one leg that didn’t work right. Abigail the cow was his best friend. When Joshua would get sad Abigail would tell him “God has a special place for those who feel left out.” Sometimes the other lambs were not nice to him. The lambs were going to move to greener pastures with their shepherd. The Shepard told Joshua he had better go back to the stable; he did not think he could make the trip.  

Joshua fell asleep in the stable but was suddenly woken up by a strange noise. Joshua woke up Abigail and said he was scared. Someone was in the stable. They looked across and found a young woman with a baby resting in a feed box. The baby was crying and he was cold. Joshua lay with the baby to keep him warm. This little baby was the new king, his name was Jesus. Joshua had been born with a crippled leg but born with a very special purpose. “God had a very special place for him.”

On This Special Night by Claire Freedman

This is a story about a little kitten who could not sleep because the stars were so bright especially one star in particular. Throughout the night a donkey, lamb, three mice, calf stopped in for food water and rest. They said they were on a very special journey following a bright star. The little kitten and its mother decided to follow their new friends. They ended up in a simple stable where they found a very special baby.  

Dec 12, 2012

12-12-12 Back to Blogging


What a day to be back in the blogging world! I have not blogged since August. Wow, four months has gone by so quickly. I was trying to remember what I have been up to in the last few months and it kind of inspired me to sit back drink a cup of coffee by the Christmas Tree and think about all the opportunities that I have been blessed with this year. I actually sat down on my couch (for a few minutes). Those who know me well know this rarely happens.
This year I have been learning to not take my self too seriously and enjoy the simple things in life. This Christmas Season I hope that you too will take the time to think about what and who has made you to be the person you are. And, more importantly, remember the real reason we celebrate CHRISTmas — our Savior’s birth.

Sep 20, 2012

Photo Fun

Parker plays farm all the time. He loves when we let him
get on the real tractors.



Thanks to Stephanie Barns Photography for spending an evening with our family taking pictures. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, some of us are not photogenic.You did a great job of making the two older family members look good and capturing the kids personalities.

Two little Shepard's tending to some of their ewes.

Campbell and her favorite barn cat "sister".
The tractor wheel never looked so cute.


Our family!
 

Aug 30, 2012

New Season in Life

This has been one crazy busy month! Our family has been here there every where. This week Campbell our oldest daughter started on a new journey of learning, she entered Pre Kindergarten. This is a three day a week all day program. She takes her lunch a big kid book bag and I drop her off at the local church to make new friends learn and have fun. Campbell has been waiting to put on her book bag and pack her lunch in her owl lunch carrier much more than mommy and daddy. I view this as an entire new season in our families life. One that is very exciting yet sad at the same time.
We all survived the first week just fine. Campbell was a bit tired at the end of each day, Parker loved some only child time and mom and dad did pretty well.


Campbell had to go to the barn to say good bye to
the animals. She was worried about them while she
was away at school.
She was so filled with cheer to get to her class!

Parker is not old enough to go to Pre-school yet. He
wanted to pack a lunch and his bag too.

Parker looks like mommy felt!

Aug 7, 2012

Tuesday EWESday: Ohio State Fair Edition

Ruby one of our fall ewe lambs is getting a bath at the Ohio
State Fair. She did not mind the water but the band marching
by did make her a little nervous. We do not have many
marching bands going down our road out in the country.
When you take livestock to the fair you are bound to get good questions. Here are a few oft the most common questions we fielded this year. The best part is that Campbell and Parker are getting old enough to talk to people and answer these questions on their own.

Why do the sheep wear covers? To help keep them clean after being washed. It does not hurt them or affect them from doing normal behaviors. We in the sheep business call them blankets.

Does it hurt them to get their haircut? First off sheep have wool not hair. It is just like getting your head shaved or cut. Most sheep farmers shear their sheep 1 time each year.

Are these goats or sheep? Our breed are Horned Dorsets. Both rams (males) and ewes (females) have horns. This is a breed characteristic. The Rams have larger thicker horns than the ewes.

What do sheep eat? They eat grass or hay when there is not grass to eat like right now. Our lambs also get pellets when they are young and then a grain mix when they are in their growing stages birth-7 or so months. We want them to get the best start as possible from birth so they can be a quality meat protein or a ewe or ram to reproduce healthy quality lambs.

Do we eat our sheep? Yes we do eat our sheep. We keep the best sheep in our flock to produce new lambs. By best I mean sheep that will make our breed of sheep better. We want to continue to better our breed of sheep so we can provide an even better end product. We raise sheep to eat them. It is a fantastic healthy and tasty protein. We take our jobs a livestock stewards very seriously. We want to raise the best lambs to feed to our family and our customers.

Where do we buy lamb? Most every grocery store will have lamb. If you do not see it out in the meat case ask the butcher and they may have it in the cooler or will be happy to special order it. You can also buy straight from the farmer like us. We do sell off the farm as do many farmers.

How do I prepare the lamb? You should not stress about cooking with lamb it is easy. Do not over think it. Lamb can be substituted for many recipes that call for beef. Try making meatloaf or meatballs out of your own family favorite recipe. Lamb is best when not over cooked and feel free to use chicken or beef broths to add even more flavor to your dishes. Visit www.americanlamb.com for some great recipes.

Aug 6, 2012

The Great Ohio State Fair

Ever since I was a little girl the Ohio State Fair has been something to look forward to. It also marked the end of the summer. It was a time to reconnect with friends you only see a few times a year, eat some good fair food and of course take in some livestock shows. This fair we were very busy and the kids had a ton of fun too. Their favorite has been showing their sheep. I have had to drag them out of the sheep barn each evening. At times they have looked like little dirt balls but dirt balls who are having a blast learning so many important life lessons in agriculture. Here are some highlights of our 2012 Ohio State Fair! We had a fantastic run. If only life slowed down after the fair! We are one tired family.
Reserve Grand Champion Christmas Tree
Overall. Champion Spruce and Fir trees as well.
The kids cleaned up in the Jr, Show. We have worked hard
to maintain a good and true to the breed Horned Dorset.
Campbell Miriam wearing wool and showing off one of her ewe lambs "Ruby."
The star of the cooking demo Campbell is missing from this photo. She did a
great job making meatballs. We had a fun time and answered some great questions.
I think people thought it was fun that a farmer was cooking.  Cooking show in my future? That would be a dream come true. I have been doing demos since I was 4 in my parents kitchen.
Sheep do not get this white on their own. Campbell and Parker are pros at
washing sheep. They like to scrub the hooves and horns with a tooth brush. I just hope they
know we use old tooth brushes not current toothbrushes!

This was something we had never done before. You showcase what you raise in your garden. We tied in our livestock as well. Bridging the Gap between the farmer and the consumer. I guess we had beginners luck!



Jun 29, 2012

Musings of a “Hollywood” mom

Last week, I had the opportunity to jet set across the country and hit L.A. representing Ohio Farm Bureau and the United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. Sounds glamorous, but I was out there talking about all things agriculture. Who is not to say farming is glamorous, right? What we do is the backbone of our country and very important work, which provides food for many, including my family.

Farmers and Ranchers from across the country, along with TV producers, chefs, business owners and even a few celebrities gathered for talks called the Food Dialogues. Topics covered a wide spectrum about food from the farmer, processor, distributor, store and ultimately on to our dinner tables.

I participated in the panel titled “Real Chef Challenge: Understanding how Food is Grown and Raised.” We had cattle rancher and Dean from Chico State University Dr. Dave Daley; hog farmer Julie Maschhoff; the owners and chefs of the restaurant “Animal,” Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook; Ray Martin, VP Culinary Development for BJ’s Restaurants; Gabe Segovia, Manager of Culinary Innovation of El Pollo Loco; Laura McIntoch, host of “Bringing It Home;” and me. How did I fit into this equation? I was not sure at first. Why would they invite a small farm mom from Ohio to participate in this dialogue? When I arrived, I saw very few familiar faces. But as our conversation began, I came to realize the importance of a small farmer/mother role at our conversation table.

From left to right:  Jon Shook,  Kristin Reese, Ray Martin, Gabe Segovia

I have a very unique role that I feel is of great importance in the conversation of food and agriculture. Without one there is not the other. The only thing missing in between the farm and the table is perhaps the most important chair at the table…the farmer who can connect the two. Although our farm is very small, I have a great appreciation of how large farmers farm. I also get to see firsthand the practices that they use and learn if I do not already know why things are done the way they are. I also understand how both very large and very small farms can serve vital roles in our food supply.

I often wonder why some in our culture think big is bad and small is good. Why is one better than the other? Why can we not work together to make what we do better, whether big or small?

On our small farm I am continually looking to make sure we are doing the best we can. Sometimes you learn new techniques to improve your farming toolbox. The same is true for all sectors of agriculture.

The other challenge facing agriculture is its responsibility to meet the food needs of a growing population with increasing restrictions. We need farms large and small to work together to produce food to meet these needs. Because we all need to eat, there is room for all types and styles of farming. We are fortunate to live in a free country where we have the opportunity to support causes we feel are important and make the food choices we feel are best for our families.

The tv crew setting up for the event. Those are crew member sitting in at the table
checking the lighting where we sat.
What I learned most from my Hollywood adventure is that there is a definite breakdown between the farmers/ranchers and the mom at the grocery store or even the restaurant owner or chef who puts the food on the table.

I started my small business, Local Flavor Foods, in early 2011 to address this challenge. I saw a huge disconnect between the person who buys food and we the people who produce the food. For years, people have been saying, “If you are not hiding anything then let’s talk.” I could not agree more. Let’s come to the table and have civilized dialogues about what consumers of food want to know. More than ever before, farmers are here to listen, not to condemn, but to listen and answer your questions.

On a trip to Chicago, I met a woman who changed my perspective on the way I talk about agriculture. This was a fantastic experience that opened my eyes as to how others view farmers alike. While I did not agree with most of her statements, I did feel her passion for making sure she and others eat safe and healthy foods. I am not an expert at much, but I sure do have a passion for family, food and agriculture. I invite you to become part of the conversation. If you have questions, find a farmer in your community to ask those tough questions. Let’s put all of our passion to good use and accomplish great things together from the West Coast to the East Coast and all of the farm fields in between.


Jun 28, 2012

Recipe that Celebrates

As we celebrate July 4th with our friends and family we often do so with good food. Take the time to appreciate the freedoms we have as a Nation but also the freedoms we have to make decisions when it comes to what we eat. Farmers and Ranchers all over the U.S.A. are working hard to provide safe food that is affordable and abundant. Large farm or small, organic or traditional we have the ability to make choices that are best for our own dinner table. I encourage you to take the time to reflect on what our country was founded on and the principles that our country was based.


Enjoy this patriotic recipe that has become a tradition in our family each 4th of July. The kids love to help bake and decorate and it is an opportunity to talk about history and make it fun.












Ingredients

18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 cup sour cream at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Icing:
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To assemble:
2 half-pints blueberries
3 half-pints raspberries

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.

Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.

Serve this cake right in the pan.



.

Jun 26, 2012

Tuesday Ewesday: Kids showing sheep

 The kids recently went to their first sheep show of the year. They had so much fun showing their two ewes. It was a bit reduculous that we took a two year old and a four year old on the road but it was a fun time. It was a bit wild in the showmanship class but we know what we have to work on now...Everything!
I told him to keep his eyes on the judge. Looks like he just gorgot to hold the sheep while he was doing it.
It is hard work for a little lady to show all afternoon. She did great and
wants to do it again soon!
Getting the ewes ready for the show. Parker takes this very serious if you can not tell.
Parker loved his ribbon from showmanship.
I think he liked the $10 even better.

Jun 25, 2012

Truck and Trailer

Yesterday evening the kids were outside running around our yard with no shoes having a blast. They were hopping on their battery powered 4-wheeler riding all around the yard while I picked berries. Parker came out of the garage with the radio flyer wagon and headed to the swing set where they had parked the 4-wheeler. Campbell ran to the barn and came out with some twine. My suspicion was growing and I watched from a distance to see what they were up to. My initial thought was correct --they were going to hook up the wagon to the 4-wheeler using the twine to tie it all together. They are 2 and 4, so as you can imagine I was very interested to see how they were going to work this. Parker was telling Campbell how to hook it up and she was trying her best to loop it all together. After a few minutes I decided to intervene. I asked them what they were doing.
“Going to the State Fair with our sheep and our horse,” Campbell replied.
Parker chimed in “We going to da State Fair to show and we gotta hook up our wagon.”
I had a huge smile on my face. First my kids are adorable and second, what mom would not be proud that their kids were showing sheep and going to the State Fair. I helped them rig their “truck and trailer” and they were off to the fair. They played for a good hour before I broke the bad news that dinner was ready.

Jun 22, 2012

Antibiotics sound bite does not tell the whole story

As I was in the Dallas airport and a news program had a teaser piece about antibiotics in our food. Of course my ears perked up and I had to hear what they were talking about. I am a mom and a livestock producer so I’m very tuned in to the regulations that we as farmers abide by for the health of our animals and the safety of the food we produce. The news segment was about seven seconds long and all it stated was that there is a concern among consumers about antibiotics being in our meats and consumers want to know if antibiotics were used in the food they are eating.

All this segment did in my opinion was make a claim and then provide no facts for either side to go along with the claim. Livestock producers follow strict guidelines to what medicine can be given IF needed, where on the animal to administer the medicine and at what point it can be given to an animal before it would enter our food system. This is all done with the supervision and approval of veterinarians.

What I would have loved to hear on this television segment is more about the great lengths that are taken from farmers and ranchers to make sure that the protein we buy is safe, healthy and nutritious. Antibiotics are used to make sure animals live healthy, quality lives while also producing healthy, quality foods. If concerned about antibiotic use, talk to a farmer/rancher and ask them how antibiotics use fits in on their farm. Because we live in the U.S. we have a variety of food options, some being labeled organic. You need to make the decision that aligns best with your food and family value system and budget. What a good feeling it is to be able to make food choices and have options courtesy of hard working American farmers.

Here some great links to gain more insight.

http://ocj.com/2012/04/the-science-and-ethics-of-antibiotics/

http://ocj.com/2012/04/the-dark-secrets-of-agriculture/

Jun 20, 2012

Photo Fun

It seems as if everything is coming along earlier this year. We are picking sunflowers mid June, berries early too. Thought you may enjoy seeing some photos.

Jun 18, 2012

Berry today or Pie tomorrow

When I can not find my husband or children this time of year I know just where to look. They often ecape to the berry patch. This was a little something that Matt wrote.


A berry today or a pie tomorrow,
To eat either brings joy and to not brings sorrow.
To enjoy berries today is a wonderful thing,
But waiting a bit can even better treats bring.
So I eat one or two and I save three of four,
Then eat a berry and save a few more.
For a man who saves berries is really quite wise,
When he has a wife who makes raspberry pies.




To pick berries brings such pleasure and pain,
Fingertips punctured and stained.
Many want all that pleasure, but don’t want the work.
They grumble ’bout their hands that hurt.
They want nature’s connection without the pain.
None of the work. All of the gain.
So few work hard while many get fat,
Do you know any folks like that?







May 27, 2012

Cereal Killer

This was too good not to share!

The mystery of the Central Ohio cereal killer
By Matt Reese

My kids love Life — cereal.

It was nearly bedtime for our two children and they wanted a snack. After debating the merits of candy, ice cream or cookies before bed, I convinced the children that some delicious Life cereal was the best way to go.

Is life like a bowl of Life?

I got the box out of the cupboard that I had put there after breakfast that morning. I opened it up and poured out some of its contents into a bowl with an unsettling “thwump” sound. I looked in the bowl to find a coagulated mass of partially crumpled up Life cereal. I poked it to find that it was sort of gooshey and quite unappetizing in every way.

My mind started racing to assess the potential causes of this horror wrapped up in a cereal box. Had this been festering in there for weeks (or months) since it was packaged? What were the health implications since we’d eaten from this box for breakfast? Did I need to call the emergency room? The cereal manufacturer? If we survived the incident, could we get a free Life-time supply?


I shook the box around and peered deep into its contents, afraid of what I might find. I put my hand in and fished around a bit, finding a little more of the gooshey crumbled Life and no answers. The children saw my concern as I scanned the box for a Life support hotline to call about the gooshey cereal emergency.
Wait. I stopped my search and directed a suspicious stare in the direction of the children. That was all it took.“But daddy, he made me do it,” my four-year-old daughter said while pointing at her younger brother.
Suddenly, the coagulated cereal plot had thickened. “He made you do what?”  “He poured too much cereal into my milk and made me pour it back in the box.”

Apparently, that morning when I had gone to the barn to do chores, and their mother was upstairs, our daughter had poured the excess Life along with a bowl full of milk back into the box. I returned to close up the box and put it away — hence, coagulated, gooshey cereal that falls into the bowl with an unsettling “thwump.” Mystery solved.
When it comes to something as important, and personal, as our food, it is very easy to fear the worst and jump to conclusions that may be inaccurate. People do this all the time.

A group of “Supermoms against Superbugs” recently went to Washington, D.C. to voice their concern about what antibiotic use in livestock is doing to the health of their children. The supermoms had more than 50 meetings with house and Senate staff, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the White House Domestic Policy Council with the goal of convincing legislators to increase regulations on antibiotic use in animal agriculture.

While it is very important for mothers to be concerned with the quality and safety of the food for their families, it is also very important that they are properly informed about the issues regarding their food. This particular group of “supermoms” was organized in part by the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, the group behind a notoriously biased review of the literature for antibiotic use in livestock. The research they cite is real, but they selected only the research that supports their pro-regulatory take on the issue. They conveniently omit the other side of the research that makes this a truly complex debate with strong science supporting differing opinions. So, while the passion of these “supermoms” is to be commended, it would be more productive and beneficial for everyone involved if they were wholly informed. In essence, they are calling the Life hotline before questioning the kids about the mysterious cereal malady, so to speak.

Learning the whole story about food and agricultural issues is not always an easy thing to do, and it is great to see increasing efforts in the farm community to address the misinformation out there. After all, for farmers and consumers alike, knowing the whole story before jumping to conclusions is the best way to handle whatever it is that Life throws your way, especially if it is a suspicious bowl of cereal.




May 18, 2012

Behind the Scenes

Our farm behind the scenes!
I think we are a pretty average American Family. We have 2 children a dog and a white picket fence. It is everything I ever dreamed about! The only difference at our house is we have just a few extra livestock running around. Any mom knows we all have days, though, when you think, “What in the world have I gotten myself into or did I just say that?” My life is far from perfect, but most days I am glad to live this crazy life I call my normal.


Just the other day I caught Parker (2) fishing in our little goldfish pond and Campbell (4) decided she was full so she dumped her cereal, milk and all, back into the box. Luckily she loves Life cereal so we found it the next morning.
Fishing for Goldfish in our garden pond.

When I met Matt (my husband) 13 years ago in a barn at the Ohio State Fair, I had no idea the things I would get myself into. Matt is the Editor for Ohio’s Country Journal. His job is anything but normal and I think that is why he loves it so much. Sometimes he is in need of photos for the magazine or website. He is very creative and can come up with a photo for just about anything. The other day he yelled outside and said “Can you come over here I need to take a picture of your butt.” At the time I thought nothing of it…then we both laughed because what normal family does this on their front porch?

He needed a photo to illustrate how a lack of Congressional action can hurt farmers in the wallet. Matt put a few $50 bills in a wallet and stuffed it in my pocket, I posed showing my best cheek and the photo was on the website a few minutes later.

When the FDA was acting on Antibiotic use, Matt needed a photo of Antibiotics. We pulled together what we had and what my dad had at their house and Matt snapped this photo on our counter.

Maybe we are not normal or the Average American Family after all. The things we do to share the story of Agriculture may set us apart many people, but, normal or not, we would not have it any other way…most of the time.

Apr 30, 2012

Spring Clean


It is time to spring clean at our house. Most times you make a list of items that must be done in your house. Our family makes that same list but for our barn too. Cleaning the barn is one of my favorite things to accomplish. There is nothing better (except maybe fresh mulch in a flower bed) than a clean barn for the animals. We bring in the best barn cleaning crew to help us with the job. Matt and I usually clean the corners and hard to get to spots with pitchforks. Dale (a family friend and the best skid steer operator ever) scoops out all that aromatic organic matter. My dad usually drives the tractor and manure spreader. The kids love barn cleaning day too because this means they can ride in the tractor more than usual.


I mentioned Dale being a great skid steer operator. He can move that machine with the most precision of anyone I know. I am a bit picky and he never disappoints!

Once the manure is scooped out the barn it is then dumped into the manure spreader. This is a great invention that, when activated, automatically spreads all that good stuff out on our pasture. You have to be careful not to apply too much in one area or it could kill the grass instead of fertilizing it.


I would be telling a lie if I said it did not smell. We live in the country and, to me, the smell reminds me of a few things 1.clean barn for animals 2. Cost savings. We do not need to buy fertilizer -- we can use what the animals have generated themselves to put back into our soils. What makes for a smelly couple of days will make our pastures grow for the spring and summer months.

Sometimes farmers get a bad rap when it comes to spreading fertilizers. Some people think the smell is horrible , but to me it just smells like life on the farm.


Apr 26, 2012

What Should you Eat?

I have just had a great opportunity to visit New York City and spend a few days talking to Editors about food, farming and even some political issues facing the farm.


The questions I have heard over and over are about Organic, Local and food safety. I want to break down my thoughts on these issues and I hope it helps you out the next time you go to spend your hard-earned dollars on food. I also hope that you remember that no matter if you buy fresh produce, meat at the market or even canned foods, a Farmer somewhere worked really hard to put that food on your table.

First, food is an important thing for every parent to consider based on the specific values, nutritional needs, and budget of the household. And, while food choices are very important, they can also be very confusing. How can you know that you are feeding your family healthy or nutritious food with all of the marketing gimmicks and farm-related terms that fill the grocery?

I think the easiest way to share what I know is to tell you what I eat and feed my family, based upon my lifetime of involvement with agriculture. We do raise most of our food in the summer. I would say 95% of the time we raise our own meat or I buy direct from the farmer. I do this because I know lots of farmers and I have the freezer space. I also budget more for meat to buy the whole or half of the animal at one time. I understand not everyone has the means or freezer space to do this.

If you want to go above and beyond the grocery store with your food purchases, I think the biggest bang for your buck is by buying your meat locally. This provides a great connection with your food and a great quality product. I have found that especially beef and chicken are hard to beat in terms of cost savings and quality when purchased from a hard working local farmer you know.

I buy all my milk and dairy at this point from the grocery store. I buy the store brand milk 2%. When the kids were smaller I bought Vitamin D. I have been to many dairy farms and those are the hardest working families I know. Large dairy farms, especially, are very clean, cow care is top-notch and they are quite impressive. They milk two and even three times a day and their cows live a wonderful happy life! I have no idea what farm my milk comes from but I have never once worried about what my kids are drinking. Frankly I think kids drinking pop should be a greater concern to the public than concerns about the safety of our milk. There are some small dairies out there, and I occasionally buy milk from there for fun, but it is expensive. It does taste a bit better, but most of the time I go with the better value, and also safe and nutritious store-brand milk.



When fruits and vegetables are not in season I buy from the grocery store. I can honestly say I have never worried about what I put in my grocery cart with regard to these items either. Just be sure to properly wash and prepare your food properly to maximize food safety. It can be really fun to buy your produce when in season from the Local Market, but, when in a hurry, do not fret over a grocery store purchase.

We raise our own eggs, but I do buy them from the grocery on occasion as well. Large poultry farms actually have a number of advantages in terms of food safety over small farms like ours. If you do get eggs from a small farm (which is great) take extra care to avoid eating them uncooked (like my husband eating the cookie dough) and make sure they are cooked properly.
 If you want you and your family to be healthy eat a good mix of food. Go for less processed foods and eat lots of colorful foods. Remember portion control and whole grains! Do not forget to add in a bit of exercise too!

Now, at the grocery you can find all kinds of labels for all kinds of foods. The one I get the most questions about is organic.

Organic

It seems that there are many mothers out there who feel guilty if they are feeding their families anything other than organic. There is no need for this.

Organic is simply a term that describes the way the food was produced, not the end food product itself. Research from USDA has shown there is no nutritional difference in organic verses conventionally produced. There are also no food safety differences between organic and non-organic foods. The ONLY thing organic means is that is was produced following a strict set of production standards outlined at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop. There are many standards, but organic basically means that the food was produced without the use of chemical pest control, fertilizers for crops. Livestock are not treated with medicine and are fed organically produced feeds.

If these things are important to you, then organic foods are a great option. Do I ever buy organic? Yes and No. To me, I buy whichever is more cost effective at the time I am in the store. I will not pay extra for organic lettuce when I can buy an equally safe and nutritious lettuce for less.

Why does organic cost more? The risks for organic farmers are much greater and production costs can be higher, which is one reason why organic production is a very small portion of our food supply. Organic farmers have a niche market and there is a certain segment of consumers who feel a passion for organically grown food. Go for it! If you can afford it in your budget and it aligns with your family values, then buying organic is a great decision. The bottom line is, all types of agricultural production have pros and cons for the consumer, the environment and for food safety.

Local

First off, Local does not automatically mean organic. Please know the difference. Local can mean whatever you want it to mean. If you want to buy seasonally at the farmers market or right off the farm, go for it! When I have time, I love to visit the farmers market. It is a great experience for the entire family to make that connection. In the warmer months, the farmers market seems to be the in thing to do. Fresh food is typically more nutritious and often of better taste and quality. So if you want the more nutritious food, go with the fresher option.

Of course, this is not always possible in Ohio. So, reminder, do not have guilt if you are in a pinch on time or money and buy apples from the store and not the orchard or if you buy a tomato from the grocery store in January. Not buying local is not a bad thing either.

Food Safety

Every time you take a bite, you are taking a risk, whether it is organic, local or from the grocery. Eating is, and always has been, risky business. But today in the United States we have the safest food supply in the history of the world. Yes, there are certainly problems, but really not all that many. For example, the recent BSE case in California was caught. This cow was never going to enter into our food supply. I am personally glad the media was talking about it. This is a great example of a system that did not fail but thrived! If they were not talking about it, I think I may be a little more concerned. Remember, farmers are consumers too, just like you. They eat what they raise. Like you, our families come first. If our families are eating it, than you can rest assured that it is safe for the consumer.

We have enough worries and fear in our lives. I am here to say you should not fear when it comes to your food. Ask questions, be an educated consumer and take care to use all standard food safety precautions when preparing your food. Be sure to get the whole story, not just what you hear or read in the media. When in doubt, talk to a farmer.

And finally, please do not let people make you feel guilty for whatever educated food decision you make for your family.









Apr 25, 2012

The Big Apple



I am on a very small airplane about to arrive in New York City. I am sitting beside a man who is napping. The lady across the aisle is watching a movie on her I-pad and others have in ear phones. Most seem to be traveling back home to the city or on business. I hear talks of business, college searches and people who look like they do not want to talk to anyone. I wonder how many of them live on a farm? How many of them know where their food comes from? My guess is that I may be the only person who was cleaning out a hen house and trimming sheep hooves before they got on the airplane.

I will be spending a few days in the Big Apple visiting with magazine editors, doing a few radio interviews and talking about Women in Agriculture. I get to have this opportunity due to a fascinating movement called CommonGround. One of our appointments is with “Glamour.” I cannot help but wonder if “Glamour” has ever met with a real live farm mom before? The next few days will defiantly be out of my everyday norm, but I am happy to trade in my muck boots for a pair of city shoes, for a few days anyway. I live a pretty simple life -- one that is extremely hectic but pretty simple compared to life of New Yorker!

Maybe while I am at “Glamour” they will decide this county mom from Baltimore, Ohio needs a NYC Glamour makeover!

Apr 24, 2012

Tuesday EWEsday: Fudge in the Field




Fudge, one of our rams poses for a photo! This is a name that Campbell gave him as soon as she saw him, it has stuck ever since. He is quite happy to be out in the pasture with 17 of our ewes. Right now we are breeding for fall lambs which will be born in September or October. We select which ewes we want bred to what rams based on the characteristics we want to have in lambs. The sheep are out on pasture and can come in the barn if they like. When the weather is nice they are outside most all of the time grazing and enjoying the lush green grass. We rotate pastures every so often so not to overburden the grass. This also helps with parasites. http://sheep.osu.edu/ should be a concern when raising livestock. We have to maintain a worming regiment for our sheep to help keep them healthy and reading to start pouring all their energy into keeping those baby lambs alive and thriving inside. Farmers and Ranchers always have something to worry about!


Gestation of a sheep: 145-150 days

It is common for a ewe (female) to have 1-3 lambs at each birth

Breed: Horned Dorset


Apr 9, 2012

Gun-Ho!

I spent the morning with two of my friends Smith and Wesson!

Always wear your protective eye
and ear ware.

I have never written about guns. I am by no means a firearms expert but I do know that I love to shoot guns. I am not a hunter; I will leave that up to my little sister. I enjoy shooting trap, going to the shooting range and target practice. A few years ago I along with my sister and dad got our licenses to Carry a Concealed Handgun. Sometimes in my line of work I find myself going into vacant homes and sometimes meeting people I do not know. I feel much safer knowing that I have a plan in place if I need to enforce it.
Shooting my new hand gun at an indoor range.


Today I was shooting my new Smith and Wesson 380 hand gun with a built in target laser. We were also shooting one of my dad’s hand guns. It was a family outing with my dad, two brothers and sister. I must say it makes my husband Matt a little nervous that I enjoy fire arms. I think he is just jealous that I am a better shot.

I grew up around guns. My dad has always stressed the importance of gun safety. Yes they can be very dangerous but when used safely it is a great sport or line of defense. When living in the country guns can come in quite handy. There was the time a groundhog was up at our house trying to attack the family dog and how can we forget the ever growing population of coyotes moving in on our livestock.

I hope Campbell and Parker will share our love of guns when they get a bit older. For now they will have to stick to water and Nerf guns!




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