What should you do when you meet a tractor on the road?

What should you do when you meet a tractor on the road?Last week, Aaron mowed down the remnants of our 2015 garden. The dry cornstalks and dead bean bushes had been driving him crazy for weeks and he was thrilled to finally find time to bushhog them down.

Our tractor is housed in a barn about three miles away from our home, so I dropped Aaron off and he drove the tractor and bushhog home.

The majority of the trip is on two-lane back roads but for the first mile he has to drive on a four-lane highway that just happens to be one of the busiest in our county. Since it was a Sunday afternoon, traffic was heavy.

Seeing cars and semi-trucks fly past my husband on our small tractor makes me very nervous. Now that Lorelei’s carseat is forward facing, she could see it too. As we followed behind him in my SUV with hazard lights on (to help alert the other drivers of the slow moving tractor) she yelled “Hey car, slow down that’s my Daddy!”

I’m thankful that we only have to make that trip with the tractor a few times a year. For many of my farming friends, however, moving tractors on busy roads is a daily occurrence.

According to the The National Safety Council about one-third of fatal tractor accidents occur on public roads.

As my crop farming friends begin harvesting this fall, I thought this would be a good time to share some friendly reminders of what you should do when you meet a tractor on the road.

Slow down.

The first thing you should do when you see a tractor ahead of you is slow down.

Many tractors’ and combines’ top speeds are 20-25 mph. On a highway with a speed limit of 55 mph, this is much slower than you’re probably traveling so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to slow down.

Speed is far too often a factor in roadway accidents. By slowing down, you give yourself time to assess the situation and make safe choices.

Don’t get too close.

Riding 5 feet behind the tractor won’t make it go any faster, I promise, but it seems that many people don’t understand this concept.

You know what happens when you follow too closely behind a tractor? The driver is now focusing on you.

So in addition to operating their machinery (which is much more complicated than driving a car) and paying attention to oncoming traffic, they are now having to keep an eye on you. Instead of focusing on what they should be doing, they’re hoping you don’t get too close and rear end them or the planter, sprayer, grain cart, etc… they are pulling behind them.

You are distracting the tractor driver, so his/her ability to make safe driving decisions is being compromised. Plus, in the event of an accident, your vehicle is too close to the tractor to safely react in time.

Keep a safe distance and keep everyone safe.

NEVER cut in between an escort vehicle and the machinery.

Escort vehicles are normal cars/trucks that drive with their hazard lights on and sometimes flags to alert other motorists to the slow moving machinery in front of them.

They keep a safe distance from the machinery, therefore if you’re behind the escort, YOU are a safe distance behind the machinery.

Escort vehicles also help machinery make safe turns. Since tractors, combines, etc… aren’t able to turn as sharply as a car, an escort will often prevent traffic from passing in the other lane to ensure the machinery can make a wide turn safely.

Don’t pass until it is safe.

Farmers are well aware that being stuck behind a tractor is not fun. As the line of cars backs up behind a tractor, the driver is scanning what’s ahead, looking for a safe place to pull over and let traffic pass.

Sometimes the farmer or escort vehicle can see that there is no traffic coming in the oncoming lanes and will wave you around to pass.

When you do pass farm machinery, make sure you do so cautiously. Its not hard to pass a tractor that’s only going 25 mph. There is no reason that you should hit 70 mph while passing them.

NEVER pass machinery when it is turning!

Farm machinery has to make wide turns. Passing while they’re turning is incredibly dangerous.

Watch for signs of turning like blinkers on the tractor and hand signals from the tractor driver.

Keep in mind that sometimes farm machinery will turn off of the road and directly into a field. Just because you don’t see a driveway or road doesn’t mean that the blinker or hand signal is an error.

Be patient.

This one is likely the most important of all.

Farmers hate having to transport machinery on the road. Its a dangerous and nerve wracking part of their jobs but combines and tractors must be moved from one field to the next.

Like it or not, its a reality.

Driving that tractor is someone’s dad, mom, son or daughter. They’re your neighbors –  your child’s soccer coach, the family a few pews ahead of you in church on Sunday.

They’re trying to do their job and get there safely, just like you. A little patience and courtesy can go a long way in keeping us all safe.

Advice for my daughter’s generation on National Agriculture Day

Read any post on my blog and you’ll quickly realize that I think American agriculture is something worth celebrating.Advice for my daughter's generation on National Agriculture Day

So obviously, I had to do a post for National Agriculture Day!

When many bloggers write about Ag Day, they focus on celebrating all the wonderful things about agriculture today and challenge you to “thank a farmer.”

I’m always up for a pat on the back, who isn’t?

That’s not what this post is about, though.

This post is for the next generation of agriculturalists.

For the ones who’ll be celebrating National Ag Day 10-20 years from now, my daughter’s generation.

The kids who are playing with toy tractors and herding stuffed cattle. Whose favorite playground is a hay barn or a feed bin.

Someday this precious world of agriculture that your parents and grandparents (and maybe even generations before that) have loved and fought for will be yours.

You are the select few who will nurture, cultivate and care for the land and livestock.

With the passing of this baton comes greater challenges than any generation before you has ever known.

Today you are still learning to count, but someday your generation will have to learn how to feed 9 billion people.

You will likely have less farm land available to you, as cities and subdivisions pop up where crops used to grow and cattle used to graze.

Like most farm parents, I wonder if I am preparing you for the great task that will be set before you.

Will you be equipped with the tools to be successful individually in agriculture, let alone as an industry?

So I offer this advice to you; to my daughter, my friends’ children and their entire generation.

– Pour your heart and soul into 4-H and FFA

I firmly believe that 4-H and FFA are the greatest youth organizations in the world.

4-H and FFA are molding the next generation of agriculture to be leaders, advocates and servants. I’ve already written about what 4-H taught me and the impact FFA left on my life.

Whether you learn to give speeches, judge livestock or weld, the experiences you have in 4-H and FFA will better prepare you for a future in agriculture than any elementary or high school class work ever could.

– You will never be finished learning about agriculture

You may have a college degree in agriculture and your whole lifetime of farm experience under your belt, but you are never finished learning.

Agriculture is an ever changing world. There are constantly new technologies, new developments, new production methods.

Don’t be that farmer who refuses to change just because “That’s not how Daddy did it.” I promise, your Daddy and Mama would much prefer you innovate and succeed than slowly go out of business because you are stuck in your ways.

Go to conferences, classes and seminars. Read books and industry magazines. Seek the advice of experts. Research innovations, see if they would be a good fit for your farm and embrace change.

– Fight for agriculture

Share your experiences as an agriculturalist. Whether in person or online or in whatever form of communication your generation uses, find your own way to share your story.

Campaign and vote for politicians who defend the rights of family farmers. Lobby for legislation that protects the American food supply. Meet with local politicians and school board members. Invite local classes to visit your farm on field trips.

We are fighting today so that we can pass this amazing industry and huge responsibility on to you someday. Carry on the legacy and keep fighting the good fight.

– Even if you don’t return to the farm, stay connected to agriculture

Not every farm kid is destined to be a farmer. That doesn’t mean that the lessons you learned in agriculture won’t be an important part of your daily life.

If you are a parent, teach your children where food comes from and how it is produced.

If you are a teacher, make agriculture a part of your science lessons. If you are a doctor, care for your patients with the same dedication and selflessness that you once cared for your sick livestock.

No matter what, don’t ever forget the hard work and determination that was instilled in you on the farm.

Advice for my daughter’s generation on National Agriculture Day

After all, you, each and every farm kid across the country, are the most important thing we’re raising on our farms.

You are our life’s work. You are our legacy.

As I tuck my little farm girl into bed tonight, I’ll pray that I’m preparing her a little more each day to face the challenge and carry on the tradition for many more National Ag Days to come. If I had to guess, I’d bet your parents are doing the exact same thing.

To the mom who DOESN’T feed her kids organic food

Dear mom at story time, To the mom who DOESN'T feed her kids organic food

I see you stashing that wrapper in your pocket after giving your son a snack.

I see you eying your friend’s kids running around with their Horizon brand boxed milks. I notice your kids’ drinks are in cups.

I overhear your conversation with your friend about her most recent shopping trip.

She had all of her kids with her, one had skipped a nap and she just couldn’t make it out of the store fast enough before the tantrums started.

You commiserated, assured her that every mom goes through this (we really do!) and gave her a hearty pep talk.

Then she says “And to make it all worse, they didn’t have any organic spinach so I didn’t even get everything I needed. What was I supposed to do? Feed my kids that GMO crap?

Being a family farmer, ag college graduate and a mom, that sentence couldn’t help but catch my attention. Forgetting my manners, I turned and looked right at your table.

I saw you squirm, shoving the wrapper from your son’s Kroger brand string cheese further into your pocket, your eyes on the floor as you said, “Yeah… that’s the worst.”

Your friend didn’t notice, but I did. I wanted to give you a hug.

I wanted to introduce myself, spout off my credentials and launch into a huge explanation about why you shouldn’t hide your food wrappers or be ashamed of what you feed your kids.

I wanted to tell you that you aren’t doing anything wrong and your friend isn’t doing anything special, food is food!

But I knew you’d be mortified if your cover was blown and hun, the last thing I wanted to do was make you feel worse.

So tonight I’m writing to you and every other mom out there like you.

Maybe this popped up on your Pinterest feed or your Facebook timeline. Maybe a friend tweeted it to you or a mom in your playgroup shared it.

I hope so, because you need to hear it.

You are doing a good job feeding your kids.

Did you get that?To the mom who DOESN’T feed her kids organic food

YOU…that’s right, YOU with the bags under your eyes.

YOU are doing a good job.

Your kids are healthy. Your kids are growing up strong and happy and well fed and loved.

Because of you!

Because you feed them a balanced diet.

Because you make sure they are eating their fruits and vegetables.

Because you feed them protein to build their muscles and carbs to fuel their energy and somehow get them to eat it!

Because you let them enjoy a treat every now and then but still manage to teach them that they can’t live on ice cream alone.

YOU mama – YOU are doing a good job feeding your kids!

So don’t think for one second that you have done something wrong just because you didn’t buy food with the same labels as your friend.

Here’s the cold hard truth:  When it comes down to it, labels don’t make food healthy.

Science has NEVER proven that organic foods are any more nutritious than non-organic.

Need proof?

How about the Mayo Clinic? Or Harvard Medical School? Or Stanford Medicine?

In fact, this misconception has become so widespread that there are entire websites dedicated to educating people about the facts about organic and non-organic foods.

Like SafeFruitsandVeggies.com, a website run by The Alliance for Food and Farming, a non-profit organization comprised of BOTH organic and conventional farmers.

So mama, let me make something clear to you: its none of my business what you feed your kids. To the mom who DOESN’T feed her kids organic food

If you want to buy organic because you prefer organic farming practices, go right ahead.

If you want to grow all of your own heirloom vegetables in your backyard, knock yourself out.

If you only want to feed your kids beef from organic, grassfed steers with black hides, go for it.

If that particular label is important to you and makes you happy then by all means, do it!

But don’t you dare criticize another mom for choosing to feed her kids food with a different label on it.

Because when we get down to the facts, its just a label and she’s just a mom.

A mom just like you who is working her butt off to do a good job feeding, caring for and loving her kids.

So mama, don’t you hide your food wrappers. Remind yourself that your kids are fed, your kids are loved and YOU are doing a good job!

Guest post: Rare Acts of Kindness to celebrate Rare Disease Day

My 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 who treat it.

Rare Acts of Kindness to celebrate Rare Disease Day

The Laurent sisters in our Remarkably Rare shirts. (Left to right) Celeste, Anna and Renee

Throughout her life Anna has faced many challenges.

The symptoms of ALGS, constant medication and regular doctors visits. Constantly having to explain her disease to teachers and classmates, which is often difficult and embarrassing. Stares from strangers and comments from people who are downright cruel.

It would be easy to dwell on the hard parts of living with a rare disease but Anna won’t allow anyone to pity her.

Instead, she has always found joy in knowing that God made her exactly the way He wanted to, different but still perfect.

When Anna and I began discussing Rare Disease Day, I could tell she wanted to do something big to celebrate. Rare people like Anna make the world a better place every day. I’m honored to let her use my blog to continue to do so. 

Guest post by Anna Laurent

Rare Acts of Kindness to celebrate Rare Disease Day

Anna (left) with some of her friends with ALGS at the 2014 International Symposium for Alagille Syndrome.

It’s Rare Disease Day 2015, everyone!

I’m so excited about the theme this year, Living with a Rare Disease because the focus is on those who provide the love and support necessary for us with a rare disease to get through each day.

These people are the parents, siblings, spouses, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and more, who are living their life day-by-day with a rare disease patient.

They are present for the lowest of times with their shoulder ready to be cried on and the first to celebrate the smallest of victories with us. (For instance, when my weight finally hit triple digits!)

Rare Acts of Kindness to celebrate Rare Disease Day

Anna’s Racer Band friends are a big part of her support system.

These people don’t have to be involved, yet they choose time and time again to enter into the scary unknown of a rare disease. They possess an inner strength, able to support themselves and others.

My journey with Alagille Syndrome would be very different without the love and encouragement from these people.

As Rare Disease Day drew closer, my sister and I discussed ways we could celebrate.

It was important to us that we do something uplifting, something to celebrate the positive impact left on the world by rare people and those who love them.

So we came up with an idea for a challenge: Rare Acts of Kindness.

On February 28, I challenge you to complete an act of kindness and post a picture afterward with the hashtags #RareActOfKindness and #RareDiseaseDay.

I hope that these Rare Acts of Kindness will serve as a tribute to rare people just like me, as well as those people who support us through the roller coaster of a rare disease.

Let’s flood the internet with Rare Acts of Kindness!

To help you plan your Rare Acts of Kindness, I’ve created some printable cards.

Pass one along when you do your good deed and you’ll help spread the word about #RareActsOfKindness and #RareDiseaseDay!

CLICK HERE to print your Rare Acts of Kindness cards.

Rare Acts of Kindness to celebrate Rare Disease DayP.S. You can purchase the shirts we’re wearing in our sister photo (and many more) at www.remarkablyraredesigns.com

A portion of all proceeds from Remarkably Rare shirts are donated to the Alagille Syndrome Alliance which funds research and provides support for ALGS families like ours.



The most important lessons 4-H taught me have nothing to do with livestock

It’s no secret that 4-H and FFA are huge parts of my life.The most important lessons 4-H taught me have nothing to do with livestock

These two organizations were integral in teaching me about the agriculture industry. They ignited a passion in me that led me to major in agriculture in college and now work in the ag communications field.

It was 4-H that first exposed me to the livestock showing and judging world. 4-H gave me my first experience with public speaking.

Through 4-H I competed in contests and shows, raised my own animals and won many awards. While I am proud of those accomplishments, I now realize that the most valuable lessons I was learning in 4-H had nothing to do with livestock.

To celebrate National 4-H Week, I’m sharing some of the most important things 4-H taught me.

4-H taught me to travel.

4-H has taken me more places than any other activity in my life.

The most important lessons 4-H taught me have nothing to do with livestock

The 2006 Kentucky 4-H Livestock Judging All-Star Team visited Gettysburg while en route to a judging contest.

My junior and senior years of high school I was a member of the Kentucky 4-H Livestock Judging All-Star Team and represented Kentucky 4-H in contests in Wisconsin, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Indiana.

Each of those trips included 2 days of traveling to the contest and stopping at some of the country’s most well-respected farms and agriculture universities to practice along the way.

I learned how to pack light (though my coach would probably beg to differ). I learned how to connect with farmers when we visited their farms and soak up every ounce of knowledge they shared with us. I learned that sweet tea and Dr. Pepper weren’t readily available north of the Ohio River and that saying “yes mam” to a waitress in Milwaukee will get a strange reaction.

I was exposed to people, places and cultures I’d never had any desire to visit and I never would have on my own. My life is forever impacted by those experiences.

4-H taught me how to teach.

For several years, I competed in the 4-H Demonstration Contest. I became a 12 year old expert on decoupaging and practiced my presentation relentlessly. By the time I was competing on the state level, I’m pretty sure Mod Podge could have let me film an infomercial for them!

To be honest, I don’t remember the last time I used Mod Podge in a craft project but every day I use the skills that the 4-H Demonstration Contest taught me. Whether I’m teaching my daughter how to do something new or showing a small business client a new way to promote their business, I’m using teaching skills first honed in my 4-H demonstration.

4-H taught me to keep records.

I’m sure my dad is laughing as he reads this because I was quite possibly the worst 4-H record keeper of all time. I hated keeping track of my expenses in my show pig project and never completed and entered a record book in a competition, despite my dad’s constant encouragement to do so.

Though I lacked the discipline to apply those skills as a child, I still had to sit through the record book “how to” meeting each year and somehow those lessons sank in!

Today as a small business owner, keeping records is of vital importance. When I first launched Celeste Comm I knew that skipping out on a “record book” wasn’t an option. Luckily I’m much more disciplined than I was at age 12 and had a basic knowledge of record keeping to expand upon as my business grew.

4-H taught me to make different kinds of friends.

If you’ve ever been to a 4-H leadership event, you’ve probably noticed that they sing a lot of silly songs. I’ll be the first to admit that I rolled my eyes nearly every time I was forced to dance and sing “grey squirrel, grey squirrel, shake your bushy tail” at a 4-H event.

The most important lessons 4-H taught me have nothing to do with livestock

Dancing to the 4-H classic “Grey Squirrel” at the 2005 Issues Conference.

There’s something about that collective silliness that made us forget about trying to look cool and actually get to know each other as people, not as kids from different counties or schools.

My 4-H friends were people who had dressed in different styles and came from different backgrounds. They were people I normally wouldn’t have associated with but many of whom I’m still friends with today.

There are plenty of organizations that provide this opportunity for high school kids, but few that give 9-14 year olds a chance to learn this valuable lesson. Before I’d even started high school I had learned to get to know people before forming opinions of them, something I think we can all agree our world needs a little more of.

4-H taught me the importance of having fun.

Before every contest, my 4-H livestock judging coach Dr. Richard Coffey told our team,

“Remember, world peace does not depend on the outcome of this livestock judging contest. Go have fun guys.”

When you’re a 16 year old kid spending your fall eating, sleeping and breathing livestock judging it can be hard to remember that it really is just for fun.

I’m so glad that our coach made sure we didn’t lose sight of that because today none of my teammates are making a living judging livestock. They are a veterinarian, a member of the peace corps, a migrant advocate, elementary school teachers, pharmacists and family farmers.

Whether we won or lost a contest had no real effect on where we are today. The fun and friendships from those trips made much more of an impact on us than any placing cards we we ever turned in.

4-H taught me how to lose.

The 4-H motto is "to make the best better."

The 2006 Kentucky State 4-H Livestock Judging Contest. My team was announced as the high senior team but due to a tabulation error we later found out we actually hadn’t won.

My biggest losses as a teen were all in 4-H contests.

I can still remember the market steer class that I completely busted, keeping me out of a spot on the livestock judging team “Gold Team” that would compete at the North American.

I’ll never forget the knot in my stomach when the best pig I’ve ever shown placed second in her class at the Ky State Fair, despite the fact that everyone ringside was certain she was headed to the Sale of Champions. (I’ve written an entire post about that experience and that pig, here).

I literally spent years chasing goals, only to fall short and go home empty handed. I cried, I got angry and I learned how to move on.

You know what? There’s a lot of losing in life.

I meet prospective clients who eventually choose a different photographer. Brides who go with a different stationary designer. We think we’ve found the perfect farm to buy and then everything falls through. I miss out on moments with my daughter while working and opportunities for my business because I’m a mom.

There is no avoiding losing. Through 4-H I learned how to handle it gracefully, dust myself off, move on and appreciate the wins even more.

4-H taught me that your best can always be better.

The 4-H motto is “to make the best better.”

I had a lot of success in 4-H over the years and I’ve got boxes of plaques and trophies to prove it. When I think back on those awards, I remember always feeling that though for a moment I was the best, I had to continue to get better to stay on top.

You have to keep growing as a judge or showman to continue to be successful in competition.

The same goes in my life today as a small business owner, wife and mother. No matter how good you are, you can always keep growing and improving.

I consider myself very blessed to have spent 10 years learning and growing as a 4-Her.

I was lucky to have amazing volunteers, leaders and agents along the way who invested their time and talents in me. I made dear friends who are still a huge part of my life today.

If your child is considering becoming involved in 4-H, please encourage them to do so. You can learn more about how to get involved on the 4-H website.

Who is really watching you at livestock shows?

Now that I’m a mom, I realize who is really watching the showmen at livestock shows. Who is really watching you at livestock shows? www.celesteharned.com

I watch Lorelei interact with kids 5 or 6 years older than her and try to do everything they do, knowing that they will be the teenagers she’s looking up to when she begins her showing career.

I can’t help but think back to my first time showing my own pigs. When, while watching the senior showmanship class, my dad said, “You see Julie and Hope? You watch everything they do.

So I did, with all the focus an 11 year old kid could muster.

I watched them make laps across the ring, slow and steady, finding the open spaces. I studied the way they penned their pigs and waited for the judge’s cue to bring them back into the ring. I tried to eavesdrop as they answered the judge’s questions.

I was a sponge. If Julie and Hope did it, then that was what I was going to do too.

Chances are, there’s a parent telling his young showman to watch you.

Whether you’re in the show ring, the wash racks or your tack pen, there is always someone watching. As showmen, we bear the great responsibility to represent the best of the agriculture industry and the 4-H and FFA programs.

So now that the show season is beginning, I’d like to offer some advice to you older showmen:

1. Help other showmen.

Help the 9 year old whose pig keeps running away from him make it back to the pen. Share your spray bottle with someone in the makeup ring. It will probably have no effect on the rest of your day but it might just turn theirs around.

2. Participate in the skillathon.

Most shows have a skillathon, quiz bowl or some sort of event that focuses on industry knowledge. Over the years, I’ve noticed more and more of the older showmen skipping out on the skillathon because apparently they are too cool for it. Or worse, they participate but talk and make jokes the whole time.

Remember, there was a time when you didn’t know how to calculate average daily gain, had no idea what was in your pig’s feed and couldn’t tell the difference between a Boston butt and a picnic shoulder. You took the time to learn those things because you knew it would help you to be a more well rounded showman and take better care of your pigs.

You know that learning is important to being a successful in the show ring, set that example for younger showmen.

3. Dress modestly and appropriately.

Ladies, this one mostly for you.

I don’t care if you are the greatest livestock showman to ever live, if your jeans are too tight and your shirts are too low cut people are going to say that’s the only reason you won. Take pride in yourself as a person (and in the example that you are setting for younger showmen) and let your skill in the show ring make a statement, not your clothes.

If you’re interested in a more thorough discussion on this topic, please see my post: How to dress for livestock showmanship.

4. Don’t lose your temper with your animal.

I know first hand how frustrating and embarrassing it is when your animal doesn’t cooperate. (I once had a Ky. State Fair judge joke on the microphone that I should have entered my hog in the pig races instead of the pig show. I was mortified!)

You know what I guarantee won’t make it any better? Losing your temper.

I’ve heard judges tell stories about dismissing showmen from the ring because they weren’t keeping their temper in check. (And I’m glad they did!) No ribbon, banner or buckle is that important, I promise.

5. Remember that you might be the only “hog farmer” some people ever meet.

Whether you’re at the state fair or a county show, you never know when a non-farm person will be watching you work with your animals. You might be the only example of how farmers treat their animals that they ever see. (Making number 4 all the more important!)

If they ask you questions, take them seriously. Give them thoughtful, educational answers. Be friendly. Remember that you probably aren’t an expert on their industry either.

6. Shake the judge’s hand after the show.

I don’t care if you disagreed with every word he spoke and the way he placed every single class. At the end of the show, you thank the judge. Its just the right thing to do.

Someday you might have the privilege of judging a livestock show and you’ll realize how difficult that job really is. When that day comes, you’ll remember which showmen came up to you after to thank you.

Who is really watching you at livestock shows? www.celesteharned.com

There are always younger showmen watching you.

At an ag event last year, someone told me that they had interviewed an FFA member who said that I was her role model. I was obviously very flattered, but I didn’t recognize the girl’s name. After a quick Facebook search, I realized that she had shown pigs and was a participant in one of the workshops I had given at Ky. FFA Convention several years ago.

I hardly knew her, but she knew me.

You never know who is following your example. You never know who is looking up to you.

Hold yourself to a higher standard because the next generation is who’s really watching you at livestock shows.

UPDATE (May 28, 2014):

Several readers have contacted me who feel like I am “publicly shaming” girls in this post’s third point. I have also had many readers (showmen, 4-H/FFA leaders and parents) who have contacted me to thank me for bluntly addressing this issue.

Let me make clear, my choice of words was not intended to “shame” anyone. It was strongly worded to serve as a wake up call to teenage girls that this is how unprofessional and overly sexualized dress in the show ring is viewed by others. I stand by my words wholeheartedly, ladies should “let your skill in the show ring make a statement, not your clothes.”

I directed this at ladies specifically because I have never witnessed (nor heard stories from fellow showmen/judges) about young men dressing immodestly in the show ring.

If you’re interested in a more thorough discussion of how to dress for livestock showmanship, please see this post from my blog archives.

Finding the good moments in a bad day with a toddler

Recently, one of my online mom friends passed along a bit of wisdom that an older lady at her church had given to her.pinterest image buses

“When you are raising small children, there is no such thing as a good day, only good moments. The sooner you accept that, the happier you’ll be.”

Bam! As soon as I read that one it hit me over the head.

I needed that.

I needed someone to tell me that I wasn’t failing and that striving for a “good day” with a 2 year old was ridiculous.

The idea of “good moments,” though, I could really connect with.

Our days were full of good moments:
– Lorelei told me “thanks” without prompting.
– She ate her lunch really well (and it was healthy!)
– We had a dance party to the Frozen soundtrack complete with tutus.

After a few days, I noticed that one of the reoccurring good moments was watching the school buses go by our house.

We live pretty close to a local middle school so every afternoon traffic really picks up on the road in front of our house, complete with school buses. Lorelei has always loved watching the cars go by but school buses take it to a whole new level.

I decided to add a guaranteed “good moment” to our daily routine.

Every day at 1:45 p.m. we go sit on the front porch and watch the buses go by. We watch them pass on their way to the school and then wait for them to load the students and head back past our house as they begin their routes.

Lorelei waves to the drivers and yells “KIDS!!!” when she sees the full bus loads.

We count the six buses that will pass our house and then know that if we wait another 15 minutes or so we’ll see the handicapped bus (and 9 times out of 10 that driver honks at us, which Lorelei loves!)

For the past 7 school days, we’ve spent 30 minutes a day watching the buses go by. That’s 3.5 hours of good moments.


Being a mom to a two year old is hard.

Running your own business is hard.

Finding a balance between work and family is hard (so hard that I wrote an entire post about it!)

On days (like today) when my toddler skips a nap and a client needs my attention and my husband is working an extra shift, all I really want is a drink that’s hard.

Its easy to look at those days as “bad days” and feel like I failed.

Now I know that there was at least one good moment in every one of those days. (And I’ve yet to have a day that I couldn’t come up with a few more good moments to add to the list).

Would I call it a good day as a whole? Probably not.

Were there enough good moments to make it all O.K.? Definitely.

What were your good moments today?

Is being a work at home mom really worth it?

The past two months have been stressful, to say the least.pinterest image

Lorelei came down with bronchitis, our extended family faced an unforeseen and heartbreaking tragedy and we all got a dose of the stomach virus.

In the midst of it all, I had Valentine’s Day and wedding Etsy orders to ship, five custom birthday invitations to design and two huge newsletters on tight deadlines for agriculture clients.

Its times like this that make me question being a “work at home mom.”

Times when I’m running on fumes and barely have time to eat, let alone work or sleep.

Times when meeting deadline means working until 2 a.m. and dosing off in the recliner during 7 a.m. episodes of The Cat in the Hat.

Being a work at home mom (WAHM) is hard. Very hard.

If anyone tells you otherwise they’re lying to you and themselves.

Being a WAHM means choosing between blow drying your hair or using that extra 15 minutes of nap time to work.

It means becoming best friends with your crockpot and keeping frozen pizzas on hand for days when a client has a crisis.

Its learning to type while holding a sleeping baby and wearing out the springs on your desk chair from using it as a rocker.

While other moms enjoy a glass of wine after their kids are in bed, I’m brewing a fresh pot of coffee so I can go back to work.

Its responding to emails from your phone while waiting on your stubborn toddler to finish eating her peas.

Being a mom is a huge lesson in patience. Being a WAHM takes it to a new level.

Before she could even crawl, Lorelei started emptying and “reorganizing” my desk drawers.

A month ago she grabbed my sketchbook and scribbled all over a sketch I was going to send a client that evening.

I still have to make sure that sticky notes stay out of her reach or she’ll peel them off of my desk and hide them in her toy boxes.

So often I find myself whispering “this is her house just as much as its your office” and summoning every ounce of patience I posses to keep from overreacting.

It usually works. When it doesn’t, there’s the overwhelming and all too familiar feeling of “mom guilt.”

You see, “mom guilt” and I are on a first name basis.

When things are stressful, the “mom guilt” kicks in and I feel like I’m not giving enough of my attention to my daughter or my husband (let alone housework!)

Then “small business owner guilt” kicks in and I feel like I’m not giving enough to my clients. (Yes, “small business owner guilt” is a thing, ask anyone who owns their own business!)

Next thing I know, I’ve eaten half a sleeve of Thin Mints and I’ve beaten myself up so much that I wonder if its even worth it.

So this post is for me, and every other WAHM asking herself the same question.

This is your reminder: Yes, it is worth it.

It might not always feel like its worth it.

It might not always look like its worth it.

It will be hard and exhausting and your friends probably won’t understand but it WILL be worth it.

Because at the end of the day, being a WAHM is making me the best mom I can be.

Being a WAHM means I can clear my work schedule to spend an entire day with our family.

It means that my daughter won’t see a stereotype of what a “working mom” looks like. She’ll watch me curl my hair and slide on my heels for a client event one day and then see me crank out a huge design project in my t-shirt and yoga pants the next.

She sees me make the most of every spare moment. Whether that means squeezing in reading a book while photo files copy or having a mini-dance party while exporting videos.

She is watching her father and I work as a team in every possible way, from folding laundry to managing a business.

I’m teaching my daughter that if you have two dreams, they are both worth fighting for.

I’m showing her that being a woman and a mother doesn’t make you any less of an entrepreneur.

Maybe most importantly of all, I’m teaching her to be her own kind of mom.

There will always be “mom guilt.”

There will always be generations that don’t understand your choices and friends who lead completely different lives.

There’s no right answer. No perfect formula. What works for one mom won’t work for another.

This is the kind of mom I was meant to be. Its time I start reminding myself of that.


Why we bring our kids to agriculture conferences

This time of year is known as “conference season” for many of us in the agriculture industry.

If you’ve spent any time at agriculture conferences, you’ll notice one thing is different from a lot of other conventions and trade shows – there are children, and lots of them.

Lorelei and I at the 2014 Ky. Pork Producers Annual Meeting.

Lorelei and I at the 2014 Ky. Pork Producers Annual Meeting.

96% of American farms are family owned and operated.

Farm families are known for doing everything as a family, from harvesting crops to feeding livestock. Attending conferences is no different.

When I was growing up, all of the Laurent kids tagged a long with my dad to the Kentucky Pork Producers Annual Meeting every year.

We played with the other farm kids shared coloring books and toy tractors. We got excited hearing the ring men hoop and holler at the scholarship auction and cut a rug right along with all the grown ups at the dance.

Today, Lorelei tags along with me when I work at agriculture meetings and conferences throughout the year.

As a mom, I can now see just how wonderful an opportunity my parents gave me by bringing us along to farm conferences.

My non-ag clients are often surprised to learn that I bring my toddler with me to so many events. Since I grew up in ag, I didn’t realize just how unique that was.

So after explaining so many times to non-ag friends and clients, I decided to put it all in one post.

Here’s why we bring our kids to ag conferences:

Learning never ends.

If you had asked 6 year old Celeste who was the world’s leading expert on beef cattle, I wouldn’t have thought twice about my answer: my dad.

Part of that was because I was a child and as far as I was concerned my parents were perfect (except when I was in trouble). The other part was that my dad is an Extension Associate. His job is to help other producers learn how to raise cattle more safely, humanely and efficiently. In my mind, that meant he must know everything!

By attending ag conferences with my dad, I watched him learn.

I watched him ask questions and discuss issues with other farmers. When we came home, I was there to watch him implement new techniques and figure out the best way to apply new technology to our farm.


Over the years I went to banquets, meetings and livestock events with my dad and made friendships with men and women in all sectors of ag simply because my dad worked with them in some way.

My dad never said “make sure you get to know him, he’ll get you a job someday” or anything like that. Instead, he introduced me to their kids who also showed pigs or we joked about how they were just as obsessed with their favorite team as we were with LSU football.

I never knew that “Mr. Mike” who always goofed off and played with my siblings and I was the director of the Ky Pork Producers and one of the most respected men in Kentucky agriculture. To us, he and his family were just our friends.

Without ever telling me, my parents were teaching me about what networking is really about – forming true friendships and working relationships with people in your industry who you respect and who respect you as a person and your work.

When I graduated college, so many of the people I had first gotten to know at an ag conference were there to offer me career advice, a reference or tell me about a job opportunity. Not because I had spent years sucking up to them but because we were truly family friends.

How to strike up a conversation with anyone.

There’s a lot to be said for knowing how to make polite small talk.

Whether I like it or not, I look like my dad with a ponytail so there was never any denying that I was “Kevin’s daughter.”

This meant that people who hadn’t seen me since I was 4 would often come up and start a conversation with me, assuming that I remembered them as well. I learned from a young age how to politely navigate these awkward conversations and never let the person know that I had no idea who they were!

Guess what? That’s a skill I still use on a regular basis in my professional life.

Getting involved in the political process

In a post this summer, I tallied how many times Lorelei has heard Commissioner James Comer speak in her short life. (We can now add the 2013 Ky State Fair and 2014 Pork Producer’s Annual Meeting to that list).

Many people go their entire lives without ever hearing from their elected officials, let alone talking to them or making their voices heard.

At agriculture conferences, children not only get to hear from elected officials but learn what is happening in Washington and their state capitol and how it affects agriculture.

They get to see the political process in action, not just read about it in a text book.

The importance of giving back

Every ag conference or convention I’ve ever been to has some form of fundraiser to give back. Whether its a scholarship fund, a donation to a non-profit or raising money for a youth organization, its hard to find more generous people than those in agriculture.raffle tickets (2)

Every year, the Kentucky Pork Producers has a scholarship auction to raise money for the scholarships they give every year. As children, we loved coming to the auction and hearing the ring men hoop and holler while the bidding went higher and higher.

When my brother was about 8 years old, some friends let him bid for them on a pottery piggy bank.

He was so proud to be the one casting bids and as the bids went higher he got more and more excited. He ended up winning the piggy bank at the whopping total of $350.

Even as kids, we knew $350 was WAY more than a piggy bank was actually worth.

That night, my parents explained to us that bidders were paying an inflated price because it wasn’t really about what they were buying, it was about supporting another generation of farmers as they pursued a college education.

I think most of my farming friends would agree, agriculture conferences just wouldn’t be the same without the children.

And I, for one, hope that never changes!

Why do you bring your kids to ag conferences? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Farm Mom Favorites: Christmas books for children

pinterestI am completely obsessed with Christmas books. Every year my mom always bought a new Christmas book for us and we’d spend the whole month of December reading through our collection, time and time again.

I knew I wanted to start the same tradition for Lorelei, so last year I searched book stores and scoured the internet until I found the perfect book for her first Christmas.

I asked a few of my blogging farm mom friends to recommend their favorite Christmas books for your little ones. I know I’ll have to add these to our collection over the years!

*** This post contains affiliate links. Your support is greatly appreciated! Opinions and experiences shared are 100% my own. ***

Celeste Harnedceleste

Kentucky – Blog: A Farm Mom’s Perspective

My all time favorite Christmas book is A Special Place for Santa. In this story, Santa is worried that people are focusing too much on him instead of the true meaning of Christmas. After delivering all of the toys on Christmas, Santa stops at a church so he can be the first person to wish Jesus a happy birthday. He begins to apologize that he is taking the focus off of Jesus when God starts speaking to him and reminding him of how Santa Claus as we know him came to be.

The book focuses on the story of St. Nicholas and the history behind Santa bringing gifts on Christmas. At the end of the story, reminded of all of the good that he does to spread Christmas cheer, Santa gives his gift to the baby Jesus: a list of all the good things people have done over the past year.

Holly Spangler

The Spangler kids.

The Spangler kids.

Illinois – Blog: My Generation

We love Mrs. Wishy Washy’s Christmas. It’s completely silly and every one of my kids adored it as toddlers and preschoolers. The words roll off your tongue – “I’m chilled to the bill, and that’s not nice!” – and the tale of the cow, the pig and the poor old duck sneaking into the Wishy-Washy house and using her pink bathroom to avoid the cold barn washtub is giggle-worthy, every time. We found this Christmas version of the Mrs. Wishy Washy series through our all-time favorite book, Mrs. Wishy Washy’s Farm. They are two great books for every preschool library. “…and no doubt about it, home is best!”

Emily Zweber

The Zweber kids.

The Zweber kids.

Minnesota – Blog: Zweber Farms Blog

My mother has a tradition of buying a new Christmas story book each year. Several years ago, she bought a book titled “Farm Country Christmas Eve.” I loved the story instantly, not knowing that book would lead to me to meet some amazing people. Set in the 1950’s, the story is about a dairy farm family celebrating Christmas Eve. The family must go to the barn to do chores and milk the cows, so that Santa has a chance to visit their house. The children are quick to do their chores and are greeted with simple, but meaningful presents when they are done. Two years ago, I learned that the author of this book, Gordon Fredrickson, was going to be doing readings at our county fair. Tim and I decided to take the boys to go meet the author. We instantly connected with Gordon and his wife Nancy. We learned that they do not live too far from us. I now consider the Fredrickson’s friends. Farm book lovers both young and not so young with enjoy Gordon Fredrickson’s books. He even signs all the books he sells and has free shipping.

Ashton Dawson

The Dawson family: Ashton, her husband John Dockins and their one year old son Kirtley.

The Dawson family: Ashton, her husband John Dockins and their one year old son Kirtley. Photo by Morgan Marie Photography.

Kentucky – Blog: Ashton Oakes Photography and her personal blog, Everyday Farmer’s Wife.

Sharing Christmas books with my son are one of my favorite traditions. Year round. My parents bought Christmas books for me as a child, and continued once my sister was born seven years later. I remember sitting in the big blue recliner, not so big now that I’m adult, with Daddy or Mama reading these books. Then once my sister was born, I would hold her in the big blue recliner reading the same stories. I’m not sure why these memories stick out so much but it made me want to start the same tradition for my own children. Hoping they will enjoy it as much as I did and still do.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is based on the song we all know. Kirtley was given this book just a few weeks ago but it’s become my favorite very quick. I don’t keep this book out with the rest for the simple reason I have a one year old boy and I’m afraid he’ll tear pages out. I guess this book would be one of my favorites because of his reaction when we sit down to read it. As each page turns he asked what this animal is or this object. He ooh’s and ahh’s over every page. Taking it all in. The Twelve Days of Christmas is a beautifully illustrated book. Down to each little detail. Nothing is missing. I’ll probably continue to keep this book just out of reach until Kirtley is old enough to take care of it.
The Christmas Story is one of the first Christmas books my mom bought for me. She wrote my name and the year in the cover. She bought several that same year, all a Little Golden Book. This book tells the story of Jesus and his birth. Kirtley thinks the donkey in the book is a cow, so as we turn the pages he moo’s. Then he points asking who is this, pointing to baby Jesus. Occasionally he’ll say baby. All I can think is yes son that is a baby, the most special little baby the world has ever known. I know he’s too young to understand the story of Jesus’ birth, but in the upcoming years he will and this book will become even better.
Photos by Ashton Oakes Dawson of Ashton Oakes Photography

Photos by Ashton Oakes Dawson of Ashton Oakes Photography

Emily Mohn

emily mohn

Emily and her beautiful daughters.

Minnesota – Blog: Sweet Home Minnesota

My favorite children’s book around the holidays was always “The Mitten.” It’s a Ukrainian folktale about a young boy who loses his white mitten in the snow. Different animals in the woods found it and burrowed in to get out of the cold. As a young child I always thought it was so funny how so many animals could fit into one little mitten! I remember my grandma reading it to me mostly, and to this day, at age 28, I can recite this book word for word. THAT’S how much we read it growing up. My family is from Scandinavian decent so the artwork in the book always reminded me of my grandma and her house. In the book, the grandmother is referred to as “Baba” which is polish for “Grandma” This is what all of us grandkids called my grandma so I could relate to the book in that special way too.  My favorite part of the book is at the end, when the boy finds his mitten again, all stretched out from so many animals being in it. He gives it to Baba and she is looking down at it wondering what in the world happened!

One more favorite of mine is “Cajun Night Before Christmas.”A classic Christmas story with a bit of a southern twist. If you can find someone from Louisiana to read this to you, you will enjoy it as much as I do! My dad, who was born and raised in southern Louisiana, bought this for me a few years ago to read to my kids. I do my best, but it sounds so much better with his strong accent. It reminds me of my grandparents from Louisiana who have both passed away and the way they sounded on phone conversations. Imagine a southern drawl with a French kick! It wasn’t always easy to understand them but I LOVED their accent. So, if you’re ever down that way…ask a Cajun to read you this story!

*Note from Celeste: Emily Mohn and I are both Cajun transplants so we’ve always connected over our love of all things Cajun. I grew up reading this book too and absolutely loved it! My sister Renee and I always got a kick out of the fact that two of Santa’s alligators were named Celeste and Renee. I loved that Emily chose it as one of her favorites too!