I hope our daughters never write a post like this – International Women’s Day

For most farm folks, taking a day off of work just isn’t realistic. Animals must be fed and cared for, no matter what the calendar says.title image

So its understandable that many of my farming friends just couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that women across the country were going to strike by not working or contributing to the economy today.

Just because a “take a day off” type of protest doesn’t fit the farm and ranch lifestyle, does not negate the need for equality in the agriculture industry.

So what am I going to do about it?

How am I going to work for equality in the industry that I love so dearly?

I’m going to focus on my kids.

Its often said that “children are the greatest thing we grow on our farms.”

We as farm and ranch parents must make a point to raise our sons and daughters to treat people with respect, dignity and equality, regardless of their gender.

I hope our daughters will never be able to write a post like this one.

I hope that if my daughter decides to make her career as a farmer, she is acknowledged as a farmer. Not just a “farmer’s daughter” or “farmer’s wife.”

I hope she is never the only woman in the room at a producer group meeting.

I hope she is asked to judge livestock shows, instead of being treated like a secretary for her dad or brother’s judging offers.

I hope that if she says she wants to be an animal scientist, her parents won’t have to sit her down and explain that if she wants to be taken seriously she’ll have to be a Dr. not a Mrs.

When she meets with a male client, I hope his wife doesn’t feel threatened by her.

I hope that “women’s programs” at agriculture conferences are a thing of the past and that no one ever questions why she’d rather be in the waste management seminar with the rest of the farmers.

I hope that if she is ever pregnant, she will be able to make her own decisions on what tasks and travel are healthy for her. I hope she is never sidelined just because someone assumes she can’t do something while pregnant.

I hope that if she breastfeeds she will not be shamed for needing 15 minutes to pump while her male counterparts take smoke breaks whenever they please. state fair

I hope she doesn’t have to shop around for a feed mill or veterinarian because so many treat her like she’s an idiot.

I hope that when she packs for a business trip she doesn’t have to try on 27 outfits to find the ones that look “cute enough” but still boring enough that no one assumes she’s trying to pick up a date.

I hope she doesn’t have to come up with polite and professional answers to being called “sweetie,” “honey” and “little lady.”

I hope she never has to add “my daddy said” or “my husband said” as a preface to her own thoughts just to be taken seriously.

Because each and every one of these things has happened to me.

I hope and pray that someday when I tell my children these stories they’ll be shocked by them.

Maybe they’ll be baffled that there was ever a time when I was the only woman in the room at a producer meeting.

Maybe we’ll all laugh about how ridiculous it was that someone actually called me to ask if their uncle (the one who couldn’t get away from the farm fast enough) could judge their livestock show but didn’t want me to do it because I’m a woman.

Maybe they’ll be proud to hear stories of how their father and grandfather stood up for me, but shake their head at the idea that it was ever necessary.

While this is my hope, I know that it will not be their reality if we as parents do not create it for them. 

We must be the ones to hire the female judges for our livestock shows.

We must be the ones who quit critiquing ladies’ outfits and start focusing on their work.

We must be the ones who speak up when we see women being put down and dismissed simply because they are female.

We as parents of the next generation in agriculture must step out, step on some toes and stand up for equality if we want our daughters to have it. 

piglet

Please note: I am well aware of the fact that many women in agriculture have faced different challenges than the specific examples I have discussed in this post. Some have faced very minor sexism while others have faced far worse treatment than I can fathom.
As with all posts on this blog, I focus on sharing MY experiences. Those experiences may not resonate with yours, and that’s O.K. What is most important is that all of us in agriculture work together to create an industry standard of respect and equality. 

 

Guest post: Celebrate Rare Disease Day with #RareActsOfKindness

File Feb 21, 4 49 25 PMMy sister Anna was born with a very rare genetic disorder called Alagille Syndrome (ALGS). There are only about 8,000 cases of ALGS in the United States and only a couple of hospitals that treat it.

For the past two years, Anna has challenged her friends to perform Rare Acts of Kindness in honor of Rare Disease Day.

I am honored to let her take over my blog this week to spread the word about this event and celebrate rare people everywhere!


It’s almost Rare Disease Day 2017, everyone!

This year’s theme is With Research Possibilities are Limitless, which focuses on the importance of research for those affected by rare diseases.blog image

Living with a rare disease means that you are often left with a lot of uncertainty. After a long, hard journey to a diagnosis, we are often left with more questions and less answers.

Is there a cure?

Are there treatment options?

What does the road ahead look like?

What is my prognosis?

As someone with a rare disease, you learn all the ways that doctors say “we don’t know”: “it’s too soon to tell,” “we’re looking for an answer,” “let’s focus on this for now,” “we’ll see how things go and continue on from there,” and “we aren’t sure.”

These phrases never get easier to hear. It’s an incredibly frustrating and helpless feeling.

This is why research is vital. Research takes the “we don’t know” and changes it to “we are learning…”

What might seem like just a slight turn of phrase, is actually a much needed glimmer of hope for someone with a rare disease.

A few of the ALGS families we are celebrating this Rare Disease Day.

A few of the ALGS families we are celebrating this Rare Disease Day.

For my rare disease, Alagille Syndrome, research has discovered new genetic markers for ALGS and drug trials that are greatly improving the quality of life for young ALGS warriors.

Research leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to treatments, treatments and knowledge leads to cures.

Research means hope.

For the past two years, I have asked you to join me, my family and friends in celebrating Rare Disease Day with Rare Acts of Kindness. We have been overwhelmed by how many people have joined us!

This year, let’s spread the hope and joy in our local communities. Give someone a reason to smile and share the love for people with rare diseases!


HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

From February 24 – 28, 2017, perform an act of kindness in your community. 

Make sure you snap a photo and share it online with the hashtags #RareActsOfKindness and #RareDiseaseDay so that we can see how everyone is participating!

To make things even easier, we’ve designed printable cards to share with your #RareActsOfKindness recipients. Click here to print your #RareActsOfKindness cards.

For ideas of ways to celebrate and to connect with other rare people and the folks who love them, make sure you join our facebook event!

NEW THIS YEAR: LuLaRoe Fundraiser to benefit the Alagille Syndrome Alliance

shareableWe have always made our Rare Disease Day celebration about service and not fundraising but when a friend who is a LuLaRoe consultant approached me with this idea I couldn’t turn it down!

Eight phenomenal LLR consultants have teamed up to do a HUGE multi-consultant sale and donate a portion of the proceeds to the Alagille Syndrome Alliance!

There will be hundreds of gorgeous items in a wide range of styles, prints and sizes. This is the perfect opportunity to snag an adorable Easter dress or some new leggings, all while helping support a cause near and dear to our hearts.

Click here to join the LLR Rare Disease Day Fundraiser group. 

As always, thank you for participating and helping us celebrate Rare Disease Day!

Farm Mom Favorites: Baby Essentials for Stock Shows

When my daughter was 5 months old, she attended her first Kentucky State Fair. As a new mom, I was just starting to get the hang of things but taking on 4 days in a show barn with a baby was going to be whole a new experience.

Luckily, I had my own mom to help and some fantastic advice from veteran show moms on facebook and twitter.

Essentials for Stock Shows with a Baby

My first Kentucky State Fair as a mom, 2012.

Fast forward 4 years – I’m packing for baby #2’s first state fair and ended up in a facebook conversation with a friend swapping tips on avoiding the “Louisville crud” head cold we all know and dread each year.

I’ve learned a lot over the last four years and I was eager to help her just like so many other show moms had once helped me. That’s when I realized I haven’t shared any of these show mom-ing tips on my blog. (Sorry y’all!)

So here’s the run down on our absolute favorite things for stock shows with a baby.

*** This post contains affiliate links. ***

Clorox wipes

Clorox wipes are the duct tape of cleaning supplies, they can be used in pretty much any situation. Which is why they’re just a show staple for us, baby or not.

When we do have a baby, we know that everything is going to end up in their mouth. This makes the Clorox wipes that much more valuable, even if it seems like we’re constantly wiping things down.

Toys that are easily sterilized

Our barn toys are almost all hard plastic so that they can easily be wiped down with Clorox wipes. When we get home from the show, I put them all on the top rack of the dishwasher and run a sterilizing cycle.

We especially love these plastic rings. Babies love to chew on them, plus they can be used to attach toys to a stroller, high chair or baby carrier. (Which keeps them from getting thrown into a hog pen!)

Snack cups

If your little one has reached the finger foods stage, these Munchkin snack cups are a must! They can reach in and get their snacks but when the cup inevitably gets knocked down it doesn’t spill. There are few things as frustrating as when a whole cup of Puffs ends up dumping in the barn!

Bonus points – these cups have handles you can attach to those rings I love so much!

Baby wipes with a flip top

You guys know I’m all about saving money, but this is one time I pass up the best deal.

Baby wipes are much cheaper when you buy these gigantic refill boxes. 99% of the time that’s what we do. For hog shows, though, we always pick up a few of these smaller flip top packs.

Obviously we use wipes for diaper changes but also anything else that I don’t want to clean with a Clorox wipe. (Wiping off baby’s hands/face, wiping my hands, etc…)

The little travel cases of wipes don’t hold nearly enough for a long show day and you don’t want to fool with a big bulky box. The flip top packs are the perfect middle ground.

Blankets, bibs and burp cloths

Showing in Louisville means that even in August, we have to make sure to keep our baby warm. We always bring one warm fleece blanket into the barn for just that reason.

I also bring a bib and burp cloth for each day of the show. Drooling babies in dusty barns are a recipe for nastiness. Having a fresh bib and burp cloth each day helps keep that under control. I also keep a spare of each in the diaper bag, just in case of a major spit up.

Our Barn Baby Boutique blankets, bibs and burp cloths work wonderfully for this!

Basic medicines and a thermometer

My daughter decided the NAILE would be the perfect place to cut her first tooth. So at 10 p.m. we were leaving the show barn with a sobbing, feverish baby, driving around Louisville looking for an open drugstore to buy her some Tylenol. NEVER AGAIN!

Now I bring the basic meds with us to every show. We never leave home without Tylenol and saline nose spray.

We’ve found saline spray to work wonderfully when our kids are too young to take any cold medicines. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician before trying it though.

I also bring my thermometer with us on every trip. I LOVE this Braun no-touch because I can check their temp without disturbing them while they’re sleeping. (I’ve heard it also works pretty good on sleeping husbands who don’t like to admit they’re sick).

Menthol baby bath

This tip comes straight from my mom, which makes it a tried and true one! She discovered Johnson’s Baby Soothing Vapor Bath when I was a kid and we’ve been using it ever since. Adults, kids, everybody!

Its basically baby soap plus menthol, so we bathe with it when we shower at night after being in the barn all day. The menthol helps clean out your sinuses and we’ve found that really helps to fight off the “Louisville crud.”

Travel humidifier

We’ve been using a travel humidifier in our hotel room for about 2 years now and I really think it helps us fight off the sinus colds.

The air in the show barn is so dry and then we go back to a hotel with dry air and its just miserable on your nose and throat. The humidifier adds a little moisture back to the air.

We use this travel version but you can bring a full sized one if you’d like. We prefer the compact version and have found that since we usually go to bed late and wake up early at shows that its able to run the whole time we’re sleeping.

Baby carrier

I listed this one last because it is by far the biggest investment but I also feel like its a game changer. When my daughter was a baby, someone always had to hold her while she was napping. Which meant if you wanted to watch the show you were completely worn out by the time she woke up.

Sometime in between babies I made friends who were into baby wearing and introduced me to Tula baby carriers, which completely changed my life as a mom. I wear my son almost daily! Its so much easier to keep up with my 4 year old when I have both hands free. I could go on and on about how much we love it.

baby essentials at a stock show

Wearing my baby at hog shows has been a complete game changer for our family. Even my sister wears him!

For the sake of this post, let’s focus on baby wearing at stock shows.

Its so helpful for my son to be able to nap at shows in the Tula. I don’t miss a single class and since his weight is distributed evenly I don’t wear out my back/arms either. Next year when he’s running around, the carrier will also be perfect for keeping him out of harms way!

You should never do anything while wearing a baby that you wouldn’t do while holding baby in your arms. So I don’t recommend showing in a boar class or anything crazy like that! But I am able to do basic tasks like carrying water buckets and walking pigs while baby wearing.

Did I miss anything? Is there a show baby secret we show moms need to know? 

Feel free to share your advice in the comments, I know there’s always more to learn from the show moms who have been at this longer than I have!

They say “it takes a village,” you know. I definitely can’t think of a better one to raise my babies in than the show barn!

Baby Essentials for Stock Shows

Unsinkable – Fundraiser for Louisiana Flood Victims

Over the past 5 days, my home state of Louisiana has been devastated by record breaking floods.pinterest image

(If you haven’t heard about this disaster, this article can fill you in on what has happened).

To be quite honest, its hard for me to put the devastation into words.

My dad’s hometown is underwater. My grandmother was evacuated from her home in a boat.

Three generations of my family are trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces.

Their friends and neighbors are all facing the exact same situation, multiple generations of families whose homes were all flooded in this disaster.

And I’m 12 hours away, heartbroken and helpless as the waters recede and they begin to see just how much damage the flood has done.

It feels like there is nothing I can do.

I can’t rip the drywall out of my grandmother’s house. I can’t replace my aunt’s carpet.

I can’t help my cousins blow dry family photographs and try to sort through the years of memories that the flood tried to wash away.

I can’t even give my Mawmaw a hug and tell her how proud I am of her for staying so strong through all of this.

But I can create. I can pour my heart and my tears and my worries into my art.

All weekend my husband and I have prayed over how we can use these talents and this blog that God has given me to help the flood victims.

This is where He led us.

I’ve designed a t-shirt that you can order through Booster. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to flood victims.

The shirts will be available in two colors and can be purchased until August 31, 2016. After the campaign ends, Booster will print and ship the shirts directly to you.

The Booster campaign also gives you the option to make a donation in addition to your shirt purchase. So if you want to donate $100 but you only want one shirt, you can add the rest as a donation.

You can purchase t-shirts here: www.booster.com/unsinkable

unsinkable shirts for Louisiana flood victims

If t-shirts aren’t really your thing or you’re on a budget, I’ve also added the same design as an 8×10 inch printable to the Celeste Comm Etsy Shop.

Our instant download printables are only $5 and 100% of those proceeds will be donated as well.

You can purchase the printable here: http://etsy.me/2bay6hR

unsinkable printables for Louisiana flood victims

Please understand, this is NOT about exposure for my business or my blog. I’m even going to donate any ad revenue this post generates. I’m not going to pocket a dime from this.

This is about using the avenues that God has helped us to establish to do His work and help others.

Most of all, we ask that you pray for everyone in Louisiana who has been devastated by this record setting flood.

They have a very, very long road ahead of them.

Photos by Tyler Bicknell Photography.

Photos by Tyler Bicknell Photography.

(A very big thank you to Tyler Bicknell Photography in Lafayette, LA for graciously providing photos of the flooding). 

Is it ok to hunt Pokemon on a farm?

A long, long time ago, when Gameboys were black and white and Pokemon was first popular, I was the proud trainer of a pretty ferocious Charizard.Is it ok to hunt Pokemon on farms?

My brother and I were obsessed with Pokemon, spending as much time playing as my parents would allow.

When I saw the new Pokemon Go game was released, I couldn’t help but smile thinking of how many adults my age were rekindling their childhood love of catching and training those little virtual creatures.

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know I mostly focus on food and farming. I’ve written about anti-family farming extremist groupsfood shaming and how to save money on groceries.

So why on earth am I writing about Pokemon?

Because my news feeds are blowing up with news stories about people playing Pokemon Go and wandering their way into trouble!

Which got me  thinking, what’s an easy way that a Pokemon Go player could get themselves into trouble in the rural area where I live? Wandering around on a farm.

Here’s a few reasons why:

Private property

First of all, its important to respect private property laws. If you wouldn’t wander into a stranger’s living room to catch that Jigglypuff, then you shouldn’t wander into their barn or crop field.

Plus, you don’t want your Pokemon hunting to end with a conversation with your local law enforcement. If a farmer sees a strange person wandering around on their farm, chances are the police are going to end up involved.

A farm is a business

Would you go into a department store and walk all over all of the folded clothes they’re selling until you caught that Growlithe?

Of course not! That would be extremely rude and damaging to the product they’re selling.

What if it was a field of corn or soybeans?

Wandering around a crop field, stepping on plants and knocking over corn stalks is damaging the product that farmer depends on selling to support their family.

Safety

What seems like a simple hop over a fence could leave you seriously injured.

First of all, the fence itself could hurt you.

It might be made of barbed wire (a type of fencing with sharp metal pieces that can easily cut you) or it could be an electric fence. Trust me, if it’s shock is strong enough to deter a 1,000 lb animal that means its not going to feel too good to you either!

Speaking of animals, you should never get in an animal’s pen without permission from the owner.

When an animal encounters a stranger, they are often frightened will probably do one of two things: run away from you or charge at you. Either way, you or the animal could easily wind up seriously injured.

Even if a pasture looks empty there could be an animal in it. During the summer, most livestock like to hang out in the shade. So while you might not see that bull hiding out at the edge of the woods, he sees you.

So is it ever ok to hunt Pokemon on a farm?

Sure, if the farm owner gives you permission.

During your conversation, be sure to ask if there are any safety concerns you should be aware of (aggressive animals, sinkholes, electric fences, etc…)

Don’t assume that you have permission to return and hunt again whenever you want. Things could have changed since the last time you were there. An area that was once safe for you to wander around might not be anymore. Always speak to the farm owner before you go out onto their property.

Most importantly, respect the farm and make sure not to damage anything.

Hopefully these tips will help protect both you and your local farms on your quest to catch ’em all! 

Meet our little farm boy!

You may have noticed things have been quiet around here lately, but I promise, we’ve got an awfully cute excuse for that.

On March 31st, we welcomed our son Landon.

He is absolutely perfect, with his Daddy’s blue eyes, his Mama’s mouth and the spitting image of his big sister as a baby.

Meet our little farm boy nb pic

Big sister couldn’t be more in love with him.

The first thing out of her mouth every morning is “Good morning Landon! Can I hold him, Mommy?” (Mom and Dad are chopped liver these days!)

She reads him books, picks out his clothes and has appointed herself the official diaper-trasher.

Meet our little farm boy sister

Landon seems to be pretty fond of her too.

When he wakes up before her, he is so confused by the quiet. He’s constantly looking around for his playmate.

He loves to lay on the floor next to her and watch her play.

His first “real” smiles came from her singing to him.

Meet our little farm boy family

We are so blessed to have two beautiful, healthy children.

The most unexpected blessing has been getting to watch them love each other. Right now, we’re soaking as much of that in as we can.

I’ll be back to my blogging game soon, but for now I’m sticking with the “babies don’t keep” mentality and enjoying every moment of having a lap full of cuddling kiddos.

Guest post: #RareActsOfKindness Week to celebrate Rare Disease Day

#RareActsOfKindness Week to celebrate Rare Disease Day 1My sister Anna was born with a very rare genetic disorder called Alagille Syndrome (ALGS). There are only about 8,000 cases of ALGS in the United States and only a couple of hospitals that treat it.

Last year, Anna challenged her friends to perform Rare Acts of Kindness in honor of Rare Disease Day.

It was such a success that this year she’s making a week-long celebration of it!

I’m honored to let her take over my blog this week to spread the word about this event and raise awareness for rare people everywhere!


Guest post by Anna Laurent

It’s almost Rare Disease Day 2016, everyone!

I’m so excited about the theme this year, Patient Voice because it highlights the importance of advocacy on behalf of those with rare diseases.Guest post: #RareActsOfKindness Week to celebrate Rare Disease Day 3

For those of us who have a rare disease and are able to advocate for ourselves this is simply a part of living life. Whether it’s telling a friend about your condition for the first time or explaining your physical limitations to an employer, our lives are spent advocating.

In some situations, those with rare diseases aren’t able to advocate for themselves. That’s when our families, friends or caretakers take on the role.

This is an incredibly difficult job. I remember when I was young and unable to express my unique needs, how my parents took on that important task. They gave me a voice in the world when I was unable to do so myself.

To be honest, there are times when advocating feels more like fighting. Facing the reality that this battle is never ending can be overwhelming.

Life with a rare disease can feel very lonely, but in the middle of some of my greatest trials my family and friends rallied around me and supported me every step of the way.

Together, we can ALL unite to support and celebrate the amazing impact rare people make on our world.

Together we can increase awareness for ALL rare diseases.

Together we can make sure the voices of ALL rare people are heard.

#RareActsOfKindness Week to celebrate Rare Disease Day

In honor of Rare Disease Day, I challenge you to join us in celebrating rare people by performing acts of kindness in your community from February 22nd to February 29th.

Make sure you snap a photo and share it online with the hashtags #RareActsOfKindness and #RareDiseaseDay!

To make things even easier, we’ve designed printable cards to share with your #RareActsOfKindness recipients. Click here to print your #RareActsOfKindness cards.

For ideas of ways to celebrate and to connect with other rare people and the folks who love them, make sure you join our facebook event!

Last year’s Rare Acts of Kindness was a huge success, making our communities a little more kind and warming the hearts of rare people around the world. I can’t wait to see what an impact we can make in 2016!

 

A thank you to my FFA friends

When I started seeing National FFA Week posts pop up on my various newsfeeds today, the first thing that came to mind was fond memories of some of my dearest friends.

I recently wrote a post about the many things students gain from FFA and agriculture education.A thank you to my FFA friends

Today though, I want to focus on another aspect of my FFA experience that has made a profound impact on my life – my FFA friends.

I don’t know why FFA friendships are so special.

Maybe it was bonding over pink lemonade and orange sherbet at FFA camp. Maybe it was the pantyhose runs, tie tying lessons and late night shirt ironing.

Maybe there’s something about giving speeches, showing livestock and interview contests that brings like minded kids together.

Whatever the reason, as I look back on the eight years since I hung up my FFA jacket, one thing has not changed – my FFA friends are there for me no matter what.

One of them became my husband (so I guess you could say my very best friend came from FFA!) Our FFA friends became our college friends, roommates and the members of our wedding party. One of them is even our daughter’s godfather.

They make up half of our Christmas card list. They’re the reason that any agriculture event feels more like a family reunion than a business function.

Nothing is off limits with FFA friends.

When I launched my business and we began the journey of trying to buy our farm, they were the ones we could call on for pep talks to keep us motivated and blunt reality checks to keep us grounded.

They’re the kind of friends who give you candid advice you never knew you needed, whether in the form of Dave Ramsey books or breastfeeding tips.

Sometimes they help you pick out car seats, paint colors and sushi rolls. Other times they’re helping you decide between job offers and life insurance plans.

No matter how big or little the decision, they’re your most trusted advisers and the people you want to springboard your ideas off of.

A thank you to my FFA friends 1

They’re the first people you turn to when you need prayers.

Farm folks are always there for each other in the hard times, ready to do whatever they can to help or ease the pain just a little.

FFA friends are no different. Since they’ve known you since you were a teenager, you’ve grown up with them and they understand you in a way that friendships forged in adulthood just can’t.

FFA friends show up at funerals for your family members they barely knew, because they know you need them there. When you get a call that your grandmother was airlifted for emergency surgery, they talk you down from your crying meltdown and keep you calm enough to drive home safely.

They send you a heartfelt text or a facebook message when there are too many miles between you for a hug.

When their sibling is battling cancer or their baby is in the NICU, an army of prayer warriors rallies around them, made up mostly of FFA friends.

In my toughest times, knowing that I could turn to them for prayers, support and someone to have a good cry with made all the difference.

A thank you to my FFA friends 2

Friendships like these are such a blessing.

They’re the kind that grow stronger through the years, even though it seems that you’re spending less and less time together.

They survive the changes that come with marriages, babies, moves and new jobs.

They never expect a thank you, but they deserve one.

When I think back on everything I gained during my time in FFA, my friends are the first thing that come to mind.

The plaques and banners were boxed up years ago. The jackets are hanging in the back corner of a closet. The photos are buried in some old facebook album.

The friends? They’re still on speed dial and I don’t foresee that changing any time soon.

So to each of you: thank you.

Thank you for the laughs, prayers, hugs and memories. And thank God for FFA for bringing us all together!

Lighting a fire in the D.C. snow | National CommonGround Conference

About 2 weeks ago, I dodged a blizzard and safely arrived home from a whirlwind trip to Washington D.C. for the National CommonGround Conference.

CommonGround is a team of female farmer volunteers who are passionate about having conversations about how food is grown. We are a grassroots effort, funded by America’s soybean and corn farmers to share our personal experiences, science and research to help you sort through myths and misinformation surrounding food and farming.

Lighting a fire in the D.C. snow | National CommonGround Conference

The Kentucky CommonGround volunteers and staff attending the national conference.

We don’t get paid to participate.

No one tells us what we can and can’t say.

We volunteer our time to host events and share personal stories from our farms because we believe that connecting with the people who eat the food we grow is important.

I’ve been volunteering with Kentucky’s CommonGround team since it first began in 2011 but this was my first opportunity to attend the national conference/training. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to finally be able to go!

I’ll be honest, most people in my life thought I was crazy for even going to this conference. I really don’t blame them. I was 30 weeks pregnant and there was a record setting blizzard headed right for D.C.

I could sense what they were thinking: “You’ve been blogging for years, what are you really going to learn?” or “Is this really worth getting snowed into D.C. for?”

I had my doubts too, but luckily my wonderful state coordinator reminded me that attending a training of this caliber at the Smithsonian was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I ignored my worries and hopped on a plane headed into a snow storm.

I had no idea we were going to light a fire in that D.C. snow.

I wasn’t prepared to be rocked, motivated and recharged in ways I didn’t even know I needed.

I didn’t know that these women and this cause would take root in my heart, in a deeper way than I had ever experienced.

We all had a lot in common.

All of us are family farmers. Most of us are wives. Many of us are mothers.

Every one of us was passionate about sharing how our families grow your food.

Every woman in the room was eager to connect with her non-farming peers, ready to answer their questions about food and farming.

Being surrounded by women who were so much like me was a surreal feeling.

Lighting a fire in the D.C. snow | National CommonGround Conference

Alicia and Katie, having blogging farm mom friends like these two is such a blessing!

At meals we swapped stories about raising our kids around agriculture and commiserated with each other over the challenges of being self-employed.

During a breakout session, we shared tips on answering food questions from that one relative we all have who still hasn’t caught on that Dr. Oz is a quack!

We laughed together, cried together and grew together as women united in the common goal of pouring our hearts and souls into sharing the story of American agriculture.

For as much as we had in common, we were also dramatically different.

Some were blogging rock stars, with thousands of online followers and fans.

Some barely used a facebook profile, but were known throughout their local communities as the best person to reach out to when you have a question about food or farming.

There were women who were amazing writers, natural born teachers, all-star farm tour guides and those who could strike up a conversation with anyone at a trade show.

No matter what the audience/occasion, there was a woman there who was perfectly suited to use it to share the story of American agriculture.

I watched in awe as my new friends showed off their talents, making things I’ve struggled with for years look so easy.

I carefully considered the way I approach blog posts, online conversations and in-person discussions with the people who eat the food my family raises and tried to soak up as many tips as I could to make these interactions more meaningful.

These women lit a fire in my heart and I left refreshed, recharged and eager to rededicate myself to sharing the stories of family farms like mine. 

Lighting a fire in the D.C. snow | National CommonGround Conference

So what does that mean for you, my lovely readers? There’s going to be some exciting changes around here!

Now that I have a new network of 60+ new farming friends, I’ll be sharing their expertise to help you learn even more about how food is grown.

When I talk about how we raise our show pigs on our small farm, I’ll also be able to share with you how my friends Val and Alicia are caring for their pigs on their large farms.

When its time to talk about milk, corn, soybeans, sheep or wheat, I’ll have the perfect friends to call on to help me make sure I’m sharing the most accurate information with you!

Also, after all these years, I’m finally launching a facebook page for this blog.

I’ve had readers requesting it for a while, but honestly, I was worried I’d neglect the page because the Celeste Comm and restaurant pages keep me so busy.

Thanks to some tips from those blogging rock stars I mentioned earlier, I’m going to give it a shot and hopefully we can all connect even more!

I’ll be sharing my latest posts, as well as posts and videos from my farming friends’ blogs.

I hope you’ll give it a like and share the posts that connect with you.

A Farm Mom's PerspectiveFor more information about CommonGround, check out our website. Its a fantastic resource for answering common food questions! We’re on facebook, instagram and youtube too!

The truth about FFA and agriculture education

The truth about FFA and agriculture educationToday an article from the animal rights extremist group PETA has been making the rounds online, calling FFA “lame” and saying all sorts of horrible things about the National FFA Organization (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America).

(I won’t be linking to the PETA article because I’m not going to help them spread their propaganda and slander. If you’re dying to read it for yourself, head to your favorite search engine and I’m sure it won’t be hard to find). 

I have blogged about FFA several times. I’m very open about the fact that FFA changed my life in more positive ways than any other organization or extracurricular activity I participated in. Today, I’m honored to call the Kentucky FFA Association a client and to tell the story of the amazing students who make up their membership.

So today when I read the article from PETA, I was overwhelmed with pity for the author.

Somehow this young lady was so caught up in her own world of extremism that she missed out on all the amazing opportunities FFA and agriculture education provide for students.

Obviously, as someone who raises cattle and show pigs on my family farm, the author and I disagree on the issue of raising animals for human consumption. So we can just agree to disagree on that.

What about the thousands of other aspects of FFA?

Here’s the cold hard truth about FFA and agriculture education:

FFA and agriculture education focus on science-based, hands-on learning.

I have no doubt that some of the greatest teachers in the world are agriculture educators. In a world of standardized tests, they still find a way to make hands-on learning the cornerstone of their classrooms.

Agriculture education students learn about plant science in their school’s greenhouses. They build clay models of the complex digestive system of a cow in animal science class.

They learn how to weld and the science behind different types of welding machines. They learn how small engines work, while building and repairing them.

In FFA competitions, students can conduct science experiments and compete in the Agriscience Fair. During this competition, students are not only evaluated on the merit of their experiment but also on their ability to present their findings to the judges. Which brings me to my next point…

The truth about FFA and agriculture education service

FFA teaches public speaking and advocacy skills.

Ask any former agriculture student and I bet they can still remember the time they had to say the FFA Creed in front of their class. For many students, that was their first taste of public speaking. Their agriculture teacher was the first person who taught them how to stand up straight and present a speech, how to persuade a listener or how to present complex information in a way that the audience could understand.

Through FFA competitions (called Career Development Events) such as prepared public speaking, extemporaneous speaking and agriculture issues, members develop real world experience in public speaking/presentations that will benefit them no matter what career path they choose.

FFA prepares students to run a business.

The author of the PETA article makes reference to Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) Programs, often called “projects,” that FFA members must participate in. Basically, every member has to have some sort of project that they work on outside of class time to apply the skills they’re learning in the classroom.

My SAE was raising show pigs. My husband’s SAE was working at his family restaurant.

FFA members keep a record of their income and expenses pertaining to the project. They fill out record books detailing how their money was spent and any profits made. These record books even include short answer sections where members discuss what they learned in the project and how they can improve the next year.

When I was in FFA, I never expected that I would someday be self-employed. The experiences and tough lessons I learned on my small SAE project have proven invaluable today as a small business owner. Not a day goes by that I don’t draw on my FFA experience when running my business.

The truth about FFA and agriculture education sae

My husband and I participating in our FFA Supervised Agriculture Experience Programs.

For many FFA members, SAE’s are the foundation of a future career.

My cousin started his landscaping business when he was an FFA member over 10 years ago. Today his business has grown to one of the most well respected landscaping companies in our area. He is able to provide for his family and create jobs for several other people in our community, all through a business that first started as his SAE.

FFA members give back to their communities.

The last line of the FFA motto is “living to serve” so it should be no surprise that community service is an integral part of the FFA experience.

During my 4 years in FFA, I helped my chapter organize food drives, purchase Christmas gifts for needy children, pick up trash along the highway, raise money for a local non-profit that helps adults with special needs, restore rural cemeteries, participate in Relay for Life, raise awareness for local conservation efforts, support rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina and provide a full day of farm tours and agriculture experiences for 3rd grade students.

That was just one chapter, in one rural community.

Every single one of the 7,757 FFA chapters across the country spends their year giving back to their community in numerous ways.

Through my work with the Kentucky FFA Association, I’ve even been able to cover chapters doing community service in communities far away from home during the annual Day of Service at the Kentucky FFA State Convention.

FFA members load up their buses and travel several hours to attend the state FFA convention but also bring their work boots along so that they can serve the Lexington community during their stay. Have you ever heard of any other group of high schoolers taking time out of their summer vacation to serve a community they don’t even live in?

The truth about FFA and agriculture education service

The author of the PETA article wants you to believe that FFA and agriculture education is only about raising livestock for meat.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

A favorite saying among today’s agriculture teachers is “FFA isn’t cows, sows and plows anymore.”

Today’s agriculture classroom is about biotechnology, conservation and environmental issues, record keeping, public speaking and business principles.

Today’s FFA member spends just as many hours doing community service as they do practicing for any competition.

Today FFA and agriculture education are cultivating the next generation of agriculture leaders through a commitment to hands on learning, personal growth and living a life of service.

Sorry PETA, nothing about that seems “lame” to me.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions reflected in this post do not reflect the opinions of any of my Celeste Communications clients, past or present. Specifically, this post was not commissioned, compensated for or otherwise influenced in anyway by the Kentucky FFA Association or the National FFA Organization. All opinions expressed in this post are my own as a proud former FFA member.