Monday, February 13, 2012


One day will forever remain historic in my high school as the "Little Debbie Massacre." What started as a simple game of Turkey Bingo in the cafeteria, soon resembled the Apocalypse. In an instant, students started tossing Twinkies, smashing Swiss-Cake Rolls, and catapulting Cosmic-brownies- all the while, a Zebra Cake zipped past my head and hit someone in the face, students starting climbing on tables, screaming in the halls and creating a giant riot. It was awesome.
Nonetheless, today I find that the idea of a food fight has been redefined.
While I constantly find myself annoyed or amused by the chatter of social media about agriculture, I haven't said too much.
Still I find myself questioning the overall message that we convey:
If it is our mission as agriculturalists to produce food, not only for ourselves but for the growing hungry population then...
Non-GMO vs. GMO
Caged vs. Free-Range
Grass fed vs. Corn fed
Antibiotics vs. Natural
No-till vs. Plow
...Vegetarians vs. "Normal" Meat-Eaters
This food fight between agriculturalists about- how, what and who is better is relentless!
* Why get upset with organic farming? They are also supporting the universal mission of providing a nutritious food supply, and helping alleviate hunger. Who knows whether or not it will be the end-all-solution to world hunger, but it is just another way of producing food.
* Why get upset at someone who doesn't like eating meat, or if there is a "vegetarian option"? They don't judge you because you don't like eating mushrooms, tomatoes or (heaven forbid)... peas. They support agriculture through their daily purchase of vegetables, fruits and soy foods.
* Why get upset with companies like Chipotle or McDonald's because of their decision to have cage-free/crate free animal products? They aren't eliminating or "bashing" agriculture! Why get so defensive about this topic, just because they disagree with the conventional way you farm. They are simply choosing a different farmer to supply their pork, eggs or chicken, which they agree with. Agriculture is changing, just as much as societal beliefs, as does fashion as does music. Its totally preferences.

A typical Facebook status, or link to such topics will conclude with a comment about : We must "EDUCATE" and inform "CONSUMERS" because "THEY" don't understand.
First of all, (last time I checked) we are ALL consumers. We all eat, so don't make this separation greater. Further more, it introduces an idea of "US vs. THEM." The mentality that people from a non agricultural background are uneducated and ignorant truly illustrates our own weakness. We are not perfect and we do not understand everything. Just because another person does not understand or view agriculture the same way you do doesn't make them stupid!
That person in class who prefers organic, or caged-free or rBST free-milk supports agriculture, just in a different way. They may not know what you know, and I bet they understand plenty of things you don't. Why make this a battle, competition or game of defense?
Agriculture is, and always has been an industry of collaboration to feed the world.
It's just silly. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Since I just spent a week up at an FFA camp, I thought I would change things up a little for this blog and give an FFA shout out/ challenge!
See that guy in that picture? The one on the left... kind of smiling... kind of confused...kind of awkward.

YEP... ME.
This is for sure, my first documented photograph wearing Official FFA Dress and to be completely honest, I never imagined my life being changed so much by a single organization. I'm pretty sure that this awkward sophomore would have never gained the confidence, passion or drive to live my life for others and serve the agricultural industry.
Quite often, I hear the words, "I don't know what I'm going to do when I'm done with FFA!"
I've got a simple response:
Live your life.

When that day comes to finally unzip, take off  and hang up your FFA jacket for the last time (and trust me its kind of weird...) I sure hope that you don't hang up your future as well!
 Everything you have learned, given, worked for and become would be IN VAIN, if you limited it to just being an FFA member. It is not just FFA... I'm talking everything you are involved with. Your special, individual life is so valuable and SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE is just waiting for you to be yourself, and be a part of their life. It may be a co-worker, college roommate, family member, future spouse or someone in another country...or in your classroom.
Bottom line- your life is made for more, and you have the power to change someones life by being you... and all they need is you.
Never limit the passions, things that make your heart race and the person you are to a JACKET. Never limit your life to 4 years in a jacket. 

What did you learn this week?
"To be a leader...That I can make a difference..."
So what? Don't keep it in the FFA, don't leave it in high school, and don't keep it to yourself... live it. Not just for the next year or until you reach that one goal you've always wanted- make it your life.
Tell me: What is stopping you?
Different jacket, but I'm the same person with...

** On that note: There are some limits you should obey like the...
  • Speed limit
  • Weight limit on an elevator
  • Fishing limit
  • Amount of 5-Hour Energy's you drink in 1 hour
  • Number of helium balloons you inhale... seriously you will GO BLIND!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It came from WHERE?!

Q: Where does your milk come from?
A: The grocery store.

Too often, I have found myself or friends quickly victimizing or undermining the individual who would answer a question like this. We are so quick to say...
NO. It came from a farm!
...and make the person who we asked this trapping-question, feel like an idiot.

As agriculturalists, we definitely have passion:
  1. Passion for what we do.
  2. Passion for our lifestyle.
  3. Passion for every aspect of the products/services we provide.
When people do not exactly understand or know it, it can be frustrating or disrupt a normal conversation. Nonetheless, we need to make sure that we are honest with ourselves in the questions we ask and the motivation behind it.
If we are asking questions like this to:
  • Share a laugh with our friends, or create a mockery about it at a conference (You know exactly what I'm talking about).
  • Prove individuals wrong.
  • Create a scene or make a visible statement.
Think about what you are doing...
Is this the "PASSION" and attitude you wanted to be labeled with?

In everything we do, it is great to have passion -with out a doubt.
However it is important to show COMPASSION when we share it, voice it or talk about it.  
Having a passion for something is so unique to each of us as individuals, so its incredibly unfair for us to assume that everyone else will understand it like you do.
Passion is great, but you can't share it unless you are compassionate towards those you share it with.

Now back to the beginning question about milk and the grocery store. Let's be honest with ourselves... 
Honestly, how many of you get it right from the farm?
I bet few.
**Prove me wrong, and take a picture of you getting your milk for a bowl of cereal from a bulk tank...everyday.

Its great to be having conversations like this with consumers of all differing levels of background, education and age. But please, do not be that person who will write off someone as "ignorant" or an "idiot" for not knowing what are you passionate about.
Put yourself in the situation of talking with some one that is incredibly passionate about a topic that you are neither passionate nor knowledgeable about.
Don't create traps or ask questions- it makes you look like a complete...let's just say not compassionate. 

What will you say?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


The barn exploded with sound! However, it wasn't the typical, iconic "MMMMMOOOOO" of the cows. With eyes as wide as a kid on Christmas morning, the visitors in the milking parlour of  Autumnwood Farm were full of questions...

Do they eat anything else besides hay?
How does the milker stay on?
What happens when they don't get milked?
How come they can't produce milk before having a calf?
Is that a COW?!?!

With smiles of their face, the Daninger family welcomed each and every question... no matter how "simple" or repetitive they were. A "growing need for agricultural literacy, advocacy and education" was the primary driver for Pat and Sharlene Daninger to begin the annual Farm-City Day at Autumnwood Farm. Since 1902, dairy farming has been a part of the very life and land that Autumnwood Farm still sits on today. It is quite different today than it was over 100 years ago as the farm has expanded to include their own micro-creamery and bottling facility. While the event started small, it has grown so much through the support of local farmers, growers, organizations and community members. While some "heard about it from a neighbor" and others "just love their milk", everyone had a reason to be there. The most common theme among young families was the fact that "my kids have never been on a farm!" 
I attended this event last year because I just happened to be in the cities around the same time... and I was conveniently in the same situation this year! As a high school student I was exposed to agricultural education through classes and FFA. Nonetheless, I believe that the Farm-City Day is agricultural education at its finest. Whether you are 4 or 40, where else can you get a firsthand experience of how your milk goes from "grass to glass" than visiting a dairy farm? Firsthand, they met the people behind their products. Although the event was just one day, I firmly believe that the experience that each and every visitor had will extend throughout their life. Aside from a warm day in June, Autumnwood Farm creates connections with consumers through their own newsletter highlighting the events on their farm, and even personal stories about their cows.
Days like this often make me wonder...

What am I doing to promote agriculture ?
Who else shares the story of agriculture like this ? 
Are the experiences I have in agriculture shared with those disconnected ?

The Daninger family has embraced their passion for agriculture, and they are NOT selfish about it!  Too often, I find myself only sharing my experience in agriculture with those who actually are engaged in agriculture simply because they "get it" and others would be confused. Families and farms like Autumnwood Farm remind me of how open we must be to those around us.

- Share your story - Share your passion - Share your life -
Through that, you can change a life.  

One more thing... their chocolate milk is to die for.  =)

I'll let their website sell itself... CLICK HERE!!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Goals Shmoals

Memorial Day @ my house = CLEANING.

As I was uncovering the piles of mail I have received throughout the school year, I found an unopened envelope that had my penmanship all over it. I quickly opened it up to find that it was a letter I had written to myself in the summer of 2009 at a State FFA Camp I was working at. In the letter were some basic "What are you doing with your life?!" statements and questions.
On the back, however were...
             My Top Three Goals          
  1. To place 1st in the State for the Sheep Production Proficiency and advance to Nationals
  2. To run for and be selected as the Minnesota FFA National Officer Candidate
  3. To work for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service as a D.V.M - Veterinarian.
As I looked them over, I became immediately disheartened. At this point in my life, I have not accomplished any of these goals, nor am I in the position to accomplish them! More like "My Top Three Fails!"
Here's what happened...
  1. I placed 3rd.
  2. I ran twice and was not selected.
  3. I am not studying Pre-Veterinary Medicine anymore.
I began to think even more and realized the error behind my thoughts. I'll admit, when I didn't achieve those first two goals it was tough, especially because they were two things that meant A LOT to me at the time. The third goal, after deciding within my first semester of classes, I began to feel embarrassed when I would have teachers, friends and family members ask me about "So how's Mr. Vet doing?"
Above all, here is the truth that a good friend of mine helped me realize.

This is a GOAL.
One way I like to think about is like looking through a telescope. Say, you are standing on land and your sights are focused on this island you see before you! You set the goal to reach this island, and you never take your eyes off of it... constantly focused, doing whatever you can to reach it. You set sail, enduring weather, bumpy waves and avoiding the number of obstructions along the way.

However, for some reason a current prevents you from reaching the island. The current takes you away, and suddenly there is nothing but the vast expanse of blue water before you. You take down your telescope and see, once again, nothing but an endless amount of blue water reaching to where the earth appears to end.

It is GREAT to have goals, but I believe that with goals it is more important to have a vision. Out goals are A PART of our vision. Whether or not we "achieve" or "meet" a goal, it should not stop us from reaching our vision.
This is VISION.

Although I did not reach the above three goals, it will not stop me from keeping my life focused on my vision. My vision is to serve others through agriculture. Whether it is through my local FFA chapter, in an agricultural business or even at an international level- I will continuously strive to serve and improve people's lives.
Create goals. Strive for your goals, but don't be discouraged by not accomplishing them.
Look towards your vision.
What is your vision? 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Got _____ ?

                       MELLK... ( Midwestern )
                              MAHLK... ( Valley Girl )
                                        MUKE... ( British )
                                  MILK... (The rest of the world ) 

No matter how you say it, drink it, or have it with- it's delicious. 

So, it has been ages since I last posted- in fact too long. Nearly 6 months!! Anyway, now that I have finished up school I do intend to get back on track. So lets get to it.

A new TV show came across my radar tonight on ABC called "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution." The premise is to analyze food service in metropolitan school districts, identify issues, eliminate "processed crap", and create awareness for students and parents. In this particular episode he takes the time to discuss milk- especially flavored milk. He speaks up at a school meeting and criticizes them for serving chocolate milk, and even fills an entire school bus up with sugar to demonstrate how much sugar kids get from drinking milk. "Over 20 grams!!!"

Time to drop in my 2 cents:
1. If you don't want your kids to drink chocolate milk- don't drink it! Kids aren't forced to drink chocolate milk, but they do prefer it over the plain milk next to it in the lunch line. 

2. Pop, soda and other soft drinks are the #1 source of sugar in a child's diet! In fact, what Mr. Oliver seemed to forget is that over half of those "20g" of sugar, are naturally occurring sugars in milk. Lactose, for example, is a sugar!  

3. Flavored or not- according to the American Dietetic Association - children who drink milk consume more nutrients and have a lower BMI (body mass index) than their peers that don't drink milk at all! 

4. 8oz. of flavored milk has as much... 
Vitamin A as 2 hard boiled eggs!
Potassium as 1 banana!
Calcium as 10 cups of raw spinach! 
Phosphorus as 1 cup of red kidney beans!
Vitamin D as 3/4 oz. of cooked salmon!
Riboflavin as 1/3 cup of whole almonds!
5. Chocolate milk may not be the BEST decision when it comes to a daily consumption for students, when compared to plain milk. However- lets not eliminate it from our diets! Studies show that chocolate milk is the best drink for athletes to have, especially after a workout. Its a powerhouse of nutrients, and a great food to have at all times of the day. 

So my point: do drink milk - do research - do not believe everything on TV - 
*Oh one other thing that was kind of funny was this Oliver guy had a problem with milkshakes. So- he takes strawberries, yogurt and ice and blends it together... and argues with a restaurant owner on how this is a "milkshake." Sorry buddy, but look it up any other place, and you've gotta have ice-cream, milk and fruit/chocolate... you just made a smoothie. 
** The actions he took with the school district resulted in him eventually being disallowed to enter the school and he even attempted to enter the school, but was escorted out by police. 
***A healthy diet is important, and all things must be eaten in moderation- no matter how "healthy" or "unhealthy" they are. 



Friday, December 31, 2010


Wow- It has definitely been too long since my last post! Finals preparation consumed my entire month of December, so I'll blame it on that.

Each Fall on the St.Paul campus of the University of Minnesota campus the leaves turn red, and conversations turn sour about professors, homework or classes.
Of these... ONE still sticks in my head.  "Apparently there is a "dead" zone in Louisiana, and I'm supposed to care? We live in Minnesota, this doesn't matter." 

I have never taken AGRO 1101- Biology of Plant Food Systems, but many students that are agricultural majors can take it as an alternative to the General Biology requirement. To my knowledge, one of the first topics the students cover is related to the impacts of agriculture on algal blooms and eutrophication in the Gulf of Mexico. As noted earlier, I have seen it on Facebook, and heard it in conversations about the "irrelevance" of this topic for agriculture students in Minnesota. 

Let's bridge this gap, and reveal some quick facts and my own personal beliefs on the topic.
  1. It is SO relevant
    •  A trite statement like "it doesn't matter", simply belittles a problem that is much closer to home than we may think.
    • FACT: This phenomenon is not exclusive to the Gulf of Mexico. Dead zones occur worldwide, but it is SO relevant to us in the United States to discuss the Gulf of Mexico because it is connected to our land, the Mississippi River empties into it and it is part of our recreation & fisheries industry.
    • Whether you are from: Minnesota or Massachusetts, New Mexico or New Jersey, you can see Alaska from your house or Cuba- it matters. Speaking of New Jersey, did you know the Gulf of Mexico dead zone is the size of New Jersey? Sometimes (I think all the time) opening our mind to a new perspective, idea that is different than our own mental set is good. If we spent the rest of our lives stuck in the snowglobe of small-town USA (or even St Paul), we would never care about anything other than where we came from. You can still survive like this, no doubt. However, complacent attitudes will never seek to take action, make change and work towards improvement. This whole idea isn't about the dead zone, but about a general attitude in our culture.
  2.  What is agriculture's role?
    •  To say that agriculture has not been blamed for the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico would be a lie. A recent documentary released about the dead zone, Troubled Waters, presents some interesting points about Minnesota agriculture's role in the development of hypoxic water. If you haven't seen it yet- do it. The University of Minnesota, for example has several places and venues to watch this.  Again- as stated in my previous blog "Seek to understand, then to be understood"
    • It is no coincidence that the mighty Mississippi River is the central hub of the Midwest agricultural industry, as well as several others. This water body allows trade, irrigation and a natural movement of sediment, fish and other invertebrates. St Paul, Minneapolis, St.Louis, Quad Cities, Memphis and New Orleans are all major metropolitan areas located along the rivers for this very reason.  Now back to my original theme about agriculture's role... I'll keep it quick.
    • Agriculture is not a perfect system or industry. Fertilizers: nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, ammonia, liquid manure ... they are all commonly applied to fields. Guess what? Sometimes these compounds are applied excessively, or with out precision and the result is a higher concentration of nutrients in the soil than the corn or soybean plant needs. These compounds, especially in a tile drainage system, will mix with water and runoff into the nearest river system- which more than likely will end up in the Mississippi River. On top of that, before and after harvest large quantities of soil are lifted into the air and displaced. While "no till" practices aim to prevent this erosion of soil, it is not conventional in the industry. This sediment, joins the fertilizer on it's trip down the river and meets up with other sources from across the United States, where it sequesters, promotes algal blooms and degrades the oxygen content of the Gulf of Mexico
    • * It is encouraging to know that our industry is realizing the gravity of such practices, and the effects it has on the environment as well as our image. We are making changes.
    • FACT: This Mississippi River Basin is composed of 31 states. This issue is not just directed towards Minnesota, but every state that has a river that flows in the Mississippi (Ohio River, Missouri River) That's over half of the Lower-48! We are all apart of and connected to this problem.  
    • This issue is not solely because of agriculture. For example: Think about the number of impermeable surfaces we have created in our cities, especially in metropolitan areas mentioned earlier. These high traffic cities have completely removed the natural landscape and introduced extensive impermeable surfaces that promote the concentration and speed of contaminated water (gasoline, industrial waste, pesticides,trash, septic waste, sediment) in storm drains that empty directly into the Mississippi River. Additionally, the building of dams has disrupted the river ecosystem by deliberately raising and lowering water to unnatural levels, creating unnatural lakes, changing water temperatures and blocks the flow of sediments and nutrients resulting in eutrophication.
    • It's not an industry problem- it's OUR problem.
    • Finally: In my own mind, every issue is universal and deserves some type of understanding by each of us- otherwise we will not learn from our, or other's mistakes. It's a part of being a citizen of the United States, and the global population.

 Create your own belief statement about the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico (or any issue). Let's say you "believe that agriculture is not to blame for __________" Then, write a paragraph, or just research and find 5 sources that prove your belief wrong. This isn't a test to change our values, because our values must be upheld, especially in agriculture. It is a merely a way to gain an understanding of an outside view. LEARN from it.

If you have questions, concerns, suggestions for future blogs or simply disagree- just post a comment below! Thanks-