Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas from the Goats!

This has certainly been a year of changes for me, but during the Christmas Season it is easy to see all the blessings around me! I am incredibly fortunate to have my brother (who is studying in Egypt) visiting the farm for Christmas! It is an absolute joy to be able to share the holiday with the people you love! We are looking forward to seeing our extended family during the Christmas season. God often sends us families that are not connected to us by blood, but rather by love. We are grateful to have many friends who have become family members to us, and we look forward to celebrating with them over Christmas!

I am incredibly blessed to have a group of former student assistants who have become treasured friends of mine, and are truly my "kids"! These are amazing young people who enrich my life and I am so appreciative of their support. We have a great time together, and they are always willing to assist me on the farm when I need extra sets of hands! I am also quite lucky to have my friends Angie & TEC who offer their support to me & the goats! My buck is currently breeding their does, and we are enjoying our "goat partnership". Goat people are great people and Angie & TEC are prime examples of this!

I have been incredibly fortunate this past year to have many educational experiences through the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, and the American Goat Federation! I have learned a great deal and met amazing individuals in these groups. Many of these professional acquaintances have become treasured friends and I am so delighted to have them in my world! These friends have promoted my farming enterprise and supported me on a personal level, and I cannot offer my thanks sincerely enough!

Every year has its challenges, but this allows us to appreciate the sweetness of life all the more! Raising livestock definitely gives me many opportunities to work on developing patience & fortitude, but I would not change my chosen work for anything! I feel very fortunate to have found flexible part-time jobs that allow me to focus on the farm & my family. I could not do these things without the love & support of all my friends! They are always there as my cheering section, to help in a crisis, and to celebrate life's joys! I am incredibly blessed! I hope that this Christmas season will likewise be one of great happiness for you & yours!
Photo Caption: Celebrating with two of my favorite goatherds!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Weather Comes Early!

The snow has set in early this season! December feels a lot like February this year! We've had numerous days in a row with temperatures below freezing and there are a few inches of snow on the ground. Beautiful winter days are lovely to look at, but not nearly as fun when there is work to do outside! No matter the temperature, however, the goats must be fed!

During the winter, I carry water to the goats -- which can be an arduous task when trudging buckets through snow. The goats aren't able to spend time nibbling the remnants of the pasture when there is snow on it, so they need more hay. In addition, I increase their grain to make sure they have plenty of nourishing calories to keep them warm in the cold weather. This morning I realized that I inadvertantly left the gate to the West pasture of the barn unlatched . . . when I looked out the kitchen window and saw goats happily browsing the front yard! Luckily, most were quite compliant to return to the West pasture when they realized I was offering grain if they returned!

Many of my does are quite pregnant, which is much earlier than I expected them to be showing large bellies & full udders! Keiko Dynamite -- God rest my little goat -- must have been more successful than I realized when he jumped out of the buck pen & spent time wooing the ladies last summer! I worry about some of my first time mothers in this weather. Goats are very resilient & hardy, but the babies have to be cleaned by their mothers very quickly in this cold weather so they can warm up. When the babies are born they are wet with placental fluid. The mothers have a natural instinct to clean them off, which is very important so they can then start to warm up and nurse for nourishment.

The chickens are doing well in the cold weather! I typically let them out for a few hours each day so they can move about the chicken lot and enjoy the leftover bread & vegetables that I save for them. My chickens really don't mind the winter; they simply fluff up their feathers and nestle close to each other at night!

Baby V the cow is quite happy living with the yearling goats. She enjoys the hay from my good friend the Hay Farmer, and she is putting on weight. Abe the Mule with a Tumor is now living with Forrest the Aged Goat. These two grumpy old men seem to get along well. Unfortunately, Abe had a massive icicle attached to his hoof last week. I heated some very hot water and was eventually able to melt it off. I hope to get some more pigs come springtime, but right now I am enjoying last year's pigs (that are in the freezer!)

The animals & I send you best wishes for a blessed & joyous winter! Think of me outside in the cold, bundled up in my Carhartt's, while you are warm inside your houses, relaxing over the holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ohio Farm Bureau's Rocking Annual Meeting!

I wrote this piece on Ohio Farm Bureau's Annual Meeting for inclusion in Franklin County Farm Bureau's quarterly newsletter, The Conveyor! Annual Meeting was absolutely fantastic this year! Hope you enjoy reading about the Farm Bureau policy process!

One of the greatest assets of Farm Bureau is its history as a grassroots organization! Farm Bureau was founded by farmers for the benefit of farmers. Over the years, Farm Bureau has welcomed members that are not involved in agriculture, but support the farm community. At Franklin County Farm Bureau we value each of our members! This is YOUR organization, and each member has the opportunity to influence the future of Farm Bureau by participating in policy development!

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation held its 2010 Annual Meeting in Columbus on December 1-3. Franklin County Farm Bureau was fortunate to have an excellent group serving as delegates to the meeting: Barry Conrad, Glen King, Jack Orum, and Jeff Schilling. These gentlemen – dedicated farmers & successful businessmen each – worked to represent the interests of our county during the delegate sessions with representatives from all 87 county Farm Bureaus. (87 counties? Doesn’t Ohio have 88 counties? Yes! Jackson County & Vinton County work together in one organization!)

Annual Meeting is a great opportunity for delegates from the county Farm Bureau organizations to network, share ideas, and discuss the future of Ohio Farm Bureau. This year, delegates had the opportunity to hear presentations on health care, the next Farm Bill, and the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, as well as an address from Dr. Gordon Gee on the future of OSU Extension. Delegates participated in two days of policy work as a voting body, working to craft Ohio Farm Bureau’s agenda for the upcoming year. In addition, representatives to the State Board of Trustees were elected. Franklin County extends its congratulations – and appreciation – to Andra Troyer for her re-election as the Southwest District Women’s Trustee!

While much work is accomplished and great conviviality is enjoyed, Annual Meeting is not the start of the policy process for Ohio Farm Bureau! In fact, the policy development process starts with YOU! Every year, Franklin County Farm Bureau solicits policy proposals from its members that participate in Advisory Councils. What is an Advisory Council? It is one of the best ways to get involved in Farm Bureau and have great fun! Advisory Councils are groups that meet to socialize and discuss issues. In Franklin County we have several councils, ranging from groups that meet for breakfast to groups that meet for Happy Hour or dinner! Most councils meet 8-12 times per year, and discuss suggested topics that might be related to agriculture (livestock care, genetic modification of seeds, environmental stewardship), or might be issues of general concern (school funding, social media, sustainable energy). If you are interested in joining a council or starting your own, contact the Franklin County Farm Bureau office for more information! Then, when advisory councils put together their proposed policy suggestions, you can be a part of the process!

The Policy Action Team takes the policy suggestions from councils, recruits ideas from county governmental leaders at their annual county luncheon, and invites new proposals from individuals at the annual policy development session. Franklin County is fortunate to have Jeff Schilling as our Policy Action Team Leader! Jeff did a fantastic job this past year of leading the team in analyzing suggestions for local, state, and national policy! It is quite a bit of work to look at a variety of proposals and analyze if our county can have an impact on the local level with those suggestions, whether it is for the well-being of the state & nation, and if current policy already exists on these matters. From this point, the Policy Action Team submits proposed policies to the Franklin County Board of Trustees for review. Once the board approves these suggestions, the policies are brought to the membership of Franklin County Farm Bureau at our county Annual Meeting. (Yet another great reason to attend Annual Meeting: delicious food, fellowship with other members, AND the chance to participate in the policy process!)

All 87 county Farm Bureaus then send their policies on to the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. Just as the county has a committee to offer recommendations, the state also has a policy development committee. I had the pleasure of serving on that committee this year, along with nine other county presidents and representatives from the State Board of Trustees. It is fascinating to read the ideas offered by each county! The Policy Development Committee is divided into subcommittees which focus on certain areas, and I had the opportunity to work on the section that focused on government & tax concerns. The subcommittees analyze proposals from each county on state & federal issues, compare them to current policy, and then offer proposals to the full committee for approval.

In Franklin County, as with other county organizations, we select our delegates to OFBF’s Annual Meeting during our county’s annual meeting. These individuals are provided with copies of the recommended policy suggestions from the Policy Development Committee prior to the state annual meeting. There, delegates vote on the proposals from that committee and offer ideas of their own. Once OFBF approves its state and national policy suggestions, the state president is charged to take those ideas to American Farm Bureau at their annual meeting. Thus, from the suggestions of individual members at the county level, the democratic process of Farm Bureau influences policy decisions all the way to the national level!

Do you have ideas for the future of Farm Bureau? Do you have concerns about policy issues related to agriculture? Are you upset about something? GOOD! Farm Bureau thrives when its members decide to get involved and take action! This is YOUR organization! It flourishes or languishes based on YOUR involvement! Join an advisory council, attend a policy session, volunteer to help with membership, assist with educational events. . . our volunteers are truly treasured! If you are looking for suggestions on getting involved, always feel free to contact me or another member of the Board of Trustees! We look forward to hearing from you!

Katherine M Harrison
Photo Caption: Franklin County Farm Bureau's delegates pose together at Annual Meeting!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Butchers' Day Out!

I recently had the pleasure of attending The Ohio State University's second annual Animal Welfare Symposium. My former intern was back in Ohio for a few days, and we planned an educational "girls day" together! Abby & I met when I spoke to her Animal Science 600 class at OSU, and shortly after that we arranged for her to do an internship with me. It was wonderful fun! We both enjoyed it, and I think we spent many of her internship hours out trying lamb chops at different restaurants in Columbus! Abby now works in quality assurance for a major meat processor out of state, so it was a joy to get to spend time with her at the Symposium!

The Animal Welfare Symposium was a very educational event that featured speakers that were researchers, animal behaviorists, veterinarians, etc. I was particularly intrigued by a researcher who reported on her work evaluating the view of consumers on animal issues. One factor that amazed me was termed the "Underdog Theory", as there was a correlation between those in lower socio-economic groups ranking animal welfare concerns highly. The researcher theorized that humans who feel trod upon by society transfer these feelings of oppression to animals, thus resulting in increased desire to treat animals well. A gentleman in the audience raised the point that perhaps this same group would get most of their exposure to animal care issues through television -- which often sensationalizes animal care stories.

The highlight of the day was the opportunity to hear Dr. Temple Grandin speak! HBO recently aired a movie on Dr. Grandin, starring the actress Claire Danes. Dr. Grandin was diagnosed autistic as a child, and had difficulty communicating with humans. This same challenge, however, made her more observant of animal behavior. She now serves as a professor at Colorado State University, and is a leading expert on animal handling. I was quite impressed with the matter-of-fact approach that Dr. Grandin used in discussing animal care. She emphasized the importance of viewing facilities through the animal's perspective and noted that it is the quality of the handling performed by the human -- not the quality of the equipment used -- that matters most. Dr. Grandin offered straight-forward views on management practices. When asked about tail docking in sheep, she noted that it isn't always needed in the cooler climates out West, but -- for Eastern farmers -- tail docking can be an efficient management practice. This is due to the fact that warmer summers encourage flies, which are attracted to matted feces on a sheep's tail. Or, as Dr. Grandin put it, "You don't want to have maggots around their butts! That's nasty!"

The Animal Welfare Symposium was well-organized and I learned a great deal! Providing excellent animal care is important to farmers, and educational opportunities allow us to develop our skills . . . plus they provide wonderful "girls day" inspiration for two lady butchers!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gratitude Matters -- Please Thank America's Veterans

Agriculture is truly my passion! I love working on the farm and I adore telling others about it. Hence, my online farm journal! Like many farmers, as much as I love agriculture, I must also rely on other income to meet my needs. I like to eat, my goats like to eat, I utilize a cell phone, I enjoy driving the Goatmobile -- and these things all cost money. Thus, I hold a substitute teaching license and I work part-time for a catering company. These work opportunities allow me to be able to carry out my dream of a farm enterprise, and I truly value them!

The catering company for which I work is quite super, and I have met a lot of interesting people through it! This weekend I had the opportunity to work a very intense house party in German Village. The chef who oversaw the event was an individual I had not met before. I will admit that my first impression was that he was a bit of a grumpy old man, but it took only a short time working with him to realize he was incredibly skilled & treated other individuals who worked hard with respect. He teased me quite a bit for my formal traits, as it was ingrained in me by my grandfather to always say "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am" and I follow that rule strictly.

Toward the end of the chef's shift he engaged me in conversation, asking what I did besides the catering work. He was intrigued by the goats and we had a nice discussion about my farm work. During our chat, he mentioned that he had served in the military. I asked which branch he served in, and learned that he had been an army medic in Vietnam. My immediate response was to offer a simple "Thank you." The chef -- a bit surprised -- asked me to repeat what I said, and then told me that in the three decades since he had returned from war, I was only the third person to say that to him. He shared a bit about his experiences in the military, and I appreciated the chance to discuss it, albeit briefly, with him.

This exchange has stuck with me all weekend. We are so blessed to live in a country where we have such freedoms, and without our veterans none of this would be possible. A man who has served his country, and then returned home to quietly carry on a civilian life, is an amazing hero. I was delighted to see the wonderful celebrations on Veterans Day this year, but as Americans we must remember to honor our veterans EVERY day. A veteran should constantly feel appreciation for all that they have offered our great country. It is a gift from God to be an American, and our veterans have been willing to offer their greatest possession -- their lives -- to protect our land & our liberties.

There are so many things we have to be thankful for during this holiday season: our families & friends, our health, our farms, and life itself! The next time you hear someone say that they served in the military, remember that they made it possible for us to have the peace & freedom to enjoy these blessings! Please thank them. Simple gratitude means a great deal! We are so blessed and we should never forget to offer appreciation to those who guarded our liberties!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pepperoni & Other Dairy Products!

Yesterday I was delighted to join the Madison County Farm Bureau to assist with their Farm/City Day at London Elementary School! The Madison County Farm Bureau did a fantastic job of organizing this educational event for the students. Numerous groups participated, such as the Soil & Water Conservation District and the local 4-H. Two of my goats (Roundhouse & Redonculous) joined a lamb, a calf, and a duck in the small animal display. (Apparently there was an unfortunate incident when Roundhouse and the duck nearly came to blows!)

I assisted with the "Dairy" Station. We saw 17 groups of children (about 50 students each time), that ranged in age from pre-school to 5th grade. I had the opportunity to share some information with the students about how healthy dairy products are for us. We also talked about different animals that give us milk and foods that can be made with milk. The students were very good at identifying cows, goats, and sheep as animals that give us milk to drink. They also did a great job of naming cheese, butter, and ice cream as foods that we make using milk. One of my favorites, though, was the young man who solemnly raised his hand when I asked about dairy products, and named "Pepperoni!" as his favorite food made from milk!

The students then made butter by shaking vials of heavy whipping cream. After about 5 minutes of shaking, they would have a soft butter to enjoy on some wheat bread. The students definitely seemed to enjoy learning about the butter-making process! I was impressed with the Farm Bureau volunteers who helped me sing for 17(!) classes the butter-making song with the chorus of "Shake it, shake it, shake it; shake it if you can; shake it like a milkshake; and shake it once again!" By the end of the day, my biceps were a bit exhausted from all that butter-shaking!

This event was a wonderful opportunity to help young people learn about farming! While many of these students had rural connections, some did not. This was a fun chance for them to gain appreciation for farming. They got to see tractors, pet goats, drink apple cider, earn stickers that said "soy power", and other fun activities! Thanks to the Madison County Farm Bureau for including the Goatherd, Roundhouse, and Redonculous in Farm/City Day!

Photo Caption: Goats contemplating escape from their pen!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So That's Why Farmers Are So Happy!

I recently read this article and wanted to share it with you! It made sense to me!

Agricultural Workers Are Happier Than Most

The agriculture industry is accustomed to seeing studies and news reports indicating how grueling, dangerous and difficult agricultural jobs are, so it's surprising when new information is released that supports agricultural workers and their careers.

A new study of health and satisfaction of people in various occupations showed people in the farming and forestry sector have some of the highest scores, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The index is the first-ever daily assessment of U.S. residents' health and well-being. By interviewing at least 1,000 U.S. adults every day, the Well-Being Index provides real-time measurement and insights to improve health, increase productivity and lower healthcare costs.

The category of occupation that scored the highest was business owners with an index of 73.3 out of a possible 100. Farming and forestry was ranked fourth with an index of 69.2, outranking the occupations of sales, clerical, construction, installation, service, transportation and manufacturing. Ranking ahead of farming and forestry was the professional category with 72.9 and manager/executives at 72.

What was the most revealing about the study was the percentage of people who were satisfied with the job by occupation. Business owners had the highest percentage of people satisfied with their jobs at 94.2 percent. However, the farming and forestry industry had the second highest satisfaction percent with 90.7 percent satisfied with their jobs. That's a very high score for an occupation that is typically called out for how dangerous and hard it is.

Reprinted in part from Dairy Herd Network

I have often written of the demands of working in agriculture. Despite the hardships, however, those of us that farm are very passionate about what we do! It is not easy, but it is incredibly rewarding! Farming is not a mere job, it is a way of life. As such, it is extremely rewarding to experience the joys of caring for the land and God's creatures! As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, this is a wonderful time to remember the farmers that labor to provide our food! May God bless them, and may God bless our great country! Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board

I was recently asked to offer my input on the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to a student who was writing a paper on its purpose, how it functions, and potential benfits to farming. I wanted to share it with you to offer perspective on how the OLCSB is shaping up since the passage of Issue 2 in 2009 that led to its creation.

I am a commercial goat producer in Franklin County, and also raise chickens, cows, pigs, and sheep on my family's farm. I am the fifth generation of my family to raise livestock on this land. In addition to my farming ventures, I also do quite a bit of public speaking to promote agriculture and serve on the boards of the Franklin County Farm Bureau, the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, the American Goat Federation, and the Eastern Cashmere Association. I previously managed an on-farm slaughterhouse, which processed sheep & goats that were marketed to the ethnic community of Columbus.

Having worked closely with the Ohio Department of Agriculture during my five years at the slaughterhouse, I am keenly aware of the challenges & demands of food processing. Likewise, my experience of marketing sheep & goats, with the general public and with various niche markets, indicated to me that the public values certain standards in food production. I see two primary values to the creation of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board: the opportunity for Ohio to assert itself as a leader in animal care and the ability of consumers to know Ohio farm products are exceptional.

Farmers who raise livestock work incredibly hard to ensure the care of those animals. Agriculture requires long hours of labor, sometimes in difficult conditions, for minimal profit. Farmers who raise livestock do it because they are passionate about their chosen field. They are sincerely concerned about the well-being of the creatures in their care. Thus, farmers are disgusted when any case of animal abuse arises within the farm community. Cases of animal abuse are detrimental to the public's regard of the farm community, and such abuse is not tolerated by members of that community. Beyond the innate concern that farmers have for their animals, they also recognize that a mistreated animal is not productive. This makes animal abuse counter-productive to the ability of the farmer to succeed in his business. Farmers in Ohio want to be regarded as leaders in animal care. The OLCSB provides an opportunity for standards to be developed by which farmers can assert that their animals are raised in superior conditions.

Consumers routinely indicate that they want to know the products they buy are produced under standards which they support. The OLCSB allows for Ohio farmers to be able to promote their products in a special way. Consumers can purchase Ohio-raised meat, milk, eggs, and fiber with the assurance that the source animals were treated with excellent care. Farmers & consumers have a special relationship that is primarily dictated by consumer dollars. Through the free market, consumers can enjoy food choice by choosing products that reflect their desires. Whether conventional, organic, naturally raised, no hormones added, etc, etc -- farmers seek to raise products that allow them to be profitable. Profit is NOT a dirty word: farmers also have to feed their families, afford housing, and pay bills. Thus, if consumers show a willingness to support certain farming practices financially, farmers will utilize such production methods. The OLCSB can serve to oversee standards that allow consumers the confidence that all Ohio products are raised under certain guidelines, therefore allowing consumers to make further food choice selections from that point.

I currently serve on the Sheep and Goat Subcommittees for the OLCSB. The OLCSB is set up in such a way that subcommittees are structured to provide appropriate input relative to different species of livestock. The Sheep and Goat Subcommittees include farmers, veterinarians, processors, and researchers. This allows for a wide variety of input to be offered to the OLCSB as decisions are made on standards creation. Any rules proposed by the OLCSB are then subject to public hearings and government review under the J-CARR process of the state legislature. This allows for the public to also be involved in the work of the OLCSB.

At its heart, the OLCSB serves to protect consumer interests, advocate for the well-being of farmers, and ensure that Ohio's livestock are treated well. It offers a bright future for Ohio farmers!

Photo Caption: Mr. Piggy enjoys being an animal raised in Ohio!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Promote Peace Amongst Men -- Serve Meat!

There was an intriguing article on meat consumption in the American Sheep Industry's weekly email that I wanted to share with you . . . and for those with meat-loving men in their lives, it is wonderful news! I intend to cook plenty of lamb & beef for my brothers & guy friends!

Lamb Chops and Steaks Calm Down Stressed Men

Women who want to calm down their husbands after a stressful day should serve him a big steak, scientists said this week. Contrary to popular opinion that a hunk of red meat may make men aggressive, experts said it actually has a calming effect. The researchers from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said seeing meat provokes a sense of non-aggression that could be related to family feasting among the earliest humans and reminds males of friends and family at meal time.

Lead researcher Frank Kachanoff, Ph.D., admitted he was surprised by the findings. He said the idea that meat would prompt aggressive behavior makes sense as it would have helped our primate ancestors with hunting. However, experiments found that the opposite was true and that the sight of meat had a calming effect on males and made them less aggressive.

Evolutionary experts believe it is useful to look at innate reflexes in order to understand trends in society and personal behavior. They said this latest research was important because it looked at ways society may influence environmental factors to decrease the likelihood of aggressive behavior.

Photo Caption: Researchers would encourage this type of meat-rich meal to promote happiness & peace amongst men! On a side note, does this mean vegans are angry?!?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sean Arabia & His Ladies!

Yesterday was a wonderful day for my buck Sean of Arabia: he went to live with the ladies!

Sean is the son of Captain Butler, my long-time herd sire. His mother is Mop the Goat and his sister is Tonja. When Sean & Tonja were little, they were the resident "baby goats" in the Franklin County Farm Bureau display at the Franklin County Fair. Since then, Sean has matured into a nice young buck. Yesterday he moved in with the ladies that he will be romancing this fall. Gestation for a goat is five months, so I hope that in April we will have many "Arabian" babies!

I hope you will enjoy this video of Sean of Arabia meeting his ladies! He was so excited and immediately began curling his lip with joy, calling out loud snorting noises, and urinating on himself! Truly, goat love is amusing!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Delicious SHEEP Cheese!

I had a wonderful adventure yesterday attending the Ohio Dairy Sheep & Milk Initiative Symposium! I was there as a representative of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, and I greatly enjoyed it! In recent years, interest in dairy sheep has begun to grow in the United States. Throughout the world, sheep are often used as dairy animals, but in America we tend to consider them as fiber & meat animals. They can, however, be prolific producers of milk, which can then be used for delicious cheeses.

I first became aware of sheep cheese a few years ago, while shopping at my friend Said's market. His store offered an amazing Bulgarian-made sheep cheese, that was particularly good crumbled on a salad. Having had this enjoyable experience with sheep cheese, I was delighted to have the opportunity to be involved with the Dairy Sheep Symposium! The Ohio Sheep Improvement Association works to promote all sheep-related products, while offering education for farmers, and informing political leadership about agricultural needs. Thus, while the director of OSIA was attending the Make It Yourself With Wool Contest to support the fiber production of sheep, I got to attend a meeting promoting the dairy abilities of sheep!

The Dairy Sheep Symposium was held up in Wooster OH, which is a fascinating community. Wooster, in Wayne County, sits in the middle of beautiful agricultural land. This rich soil has encouraged large conventional farms as well as specialized niche operations. In addition, Wooster is the home of The Ohio State University's Agricultural Technical Institute (which hosted the Dairy Sheep Symposium) and the Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center. Several of my student assistants have studied at ATI, so I have a connection to the college through my visits there to my kids.

Wooster is about two hours from the Farm, so it was an early morning for me yesterday! My dog was a bit baffled as to why she was leaving her comfy bed to be put outside on her lead at 6:30am, but I stressed to her the importance of promoting the sheep industry! The drive to Wooster is an easy one, and passes by scenic farmland along Route 30. I was a bit surprised to encounter snow falling the closer I got to Wooster, but fortunately it did not stick!

The event was well-attended, which definitely illustrated interest in the potential for sheep dairies! There were speakers on many facets of this niche market: a researcher on dairy sheep, a farmer from Virginia that raises dairy sheep, and experts on nutrition & grazing. I manned a table to promote the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, which is sponsoring its annual Buckeye Shepherd Symposium in December. The Shepherd Symposium will be held at ATI this year, so it was a natural fit to encourage the attendees of the Dairy Sheep Symposium to return to the same location next month for even more opportunities to learn about sheep!

After departing the event, I took time to stop by Local Roots in Wooster. Local Roots is a market that promotes locally raised & made products. There was great community support for farm markets in Wooster over the years, but those were seasonally limited. Thus, a group of individuals came together to find a standing location where farmers could offer their items for sale throughout the year. A non-utilized county building was converted to a marketplace. Farmers can join for a fee to sell their products and shoppers can join for a fee to purchase at Local Roots, or a donation of time working at the market can fulfill this requirement. After hearing about Local Roots, I was very excited to see it. There was a bounty of local products, and this marketplace fulfills a true need of connecting farmers with those who wish to source locally raised items.

With all the fun of my trip to Wooster, the highlight remained the delicious sheep cheese that was served at the Dairy Sheep Symposium! Thin slices of a flavorful cheese, along with fresh grapes & apples . . . marvelous! Looking for sheep cheese in Columbus? I would like to suggest Al Safa Market at the corner of Trabue & Fisher on the west side of town. Take 70 west and exit at Fisher Road, turning north on Fisher. The next major intersection is Trabue Road, and Al Safa Market sits in a small strip of stores on the corner. Ask Said for some of the delicious sheep cheese and tell him that Kayt sent you!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"COWS!" . . . My Adventures with Small Children

During my teaching career, I spent my time in high schools and junior highs. There was only one single day that I worked as an elementary teacher while subbing, and that was enough to convince me that my teaching certification needed to be for the upper grades! Thus it was with some tredepidation that I agreed to speak at Darbydale Elementary School last week. Luckily, my good friend the Hay Farmer agreed to join me, so I knew it would be an adventure!

Darbydale Elementary spent several days involved in activities around a theme of the "county fair". To end the week, the classes engaged in learning experiences that were also fun: in gym class they had a "tractor pull" activity, someone from ODNR brought wild animals for the students to see, a farmer drove a combine & tractor for the kids to climb on, there were goats & horses & rabbits to represent livestock, and an author brought his book about a chicken to read to the classes. In addition, the Hay Farmer & I were on "exhibit" as real, live farmers! We had a fantastic time! The classes ranged in age from 1st through 4th grade, and we spent fifteen minutes with each class.

The Hay Farmer & I both wondered what we would talk about for fifteen whole minutes, but the time flew by rapidly! We opened by spending a few minutes describing our individual farms to each class, then we took questions from the students. The older kids, of course, asked more in-depth questions. The younger students tended to raise their hand and then tell a story. The Hay Farmer claimed the kids were trying to win my favor since many offered statements such as "I like goats!" and "My uncle has a goat!" My favorite young man, however, was the one who raised his hand, and with a serious face proclaimed, "COWS!" That was it . . . just the one word!

So it turns out that I do quite enjoy elementary students when I get to tell them about my favorite thing: farming! I have to applaud the school administration for initiating these activities to educate the students through unique experiences and I was very impressed with the manner in which the teachers managed their individual classrooms. We left each student with a sticker that read, "I Met a Farmer Today!", and I hope we also left them with a better understanding of farming. And a love of goats!

Photo Caption: Amaretto the Goat hopes that the school children remember the Goatherd and support farms!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Doody the Goat says, "Get Out & Vote!"

I love Election Day! For me, this is almost as exciting as the feeling of waking up on Christmas & Easter! Beyond the religious holidays that anchor my faith, this day is one that inspires profound gratitude in me for the gift of being an American citizen! I prefer to vote on Election Day (as opposed to absentee), as I like the gratification of going to my polling place, casting my vote, and receiving my sticker that says, "I voted today!"

As a child, my grandfather stressed to me the importance of voting. Often he was still harvesting when Election Day came in November. I can remember that he would feed the animals, have breakfast, and then dress to go to town. It was a special day, and he would not go to the fields until he had voted. My grandparents would take me with them to the polling place. I can recall Grandfather taking my hand and leading me with him to the booth. He would kindly answer my many questions (probably the same every time) about the machine. We would talk about what he was doing and why he was voting. As I got older, and was at school while he voted, I can recall the two of us sitting around the kitchen table and discussing the election over dinner. Grandfather encouraged my interest in politics and always questioned me so that I learned to defend my views on issues.

Election Day was set on a Tuesday due to the need to avoid interrupting the Sabbath or market day. It was expected that farmers would need a day to travel, a day to vote, and a day to return home. Thus, Tuesday was the day selected to permit this schedule to occur. This shows not only that the Founders valued the farm vote, but that farmers strived to engage in the political process even though it involved lengthy travel for many. In modern times, many people complain that they must wait a few hours to vote. They forget that voting used to be a process for which American citizens set aside days! Beyond this, too many people forget what a blessing it is to be able to vote in a free election!

As Americans we are truly blessed to be able to vote! I hope you will exercise this amazing freedom today! Doody the Goat says, "Get out and Vote!"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dear Coyote: Prepare for a Reckoning!

As much as I love farming, I detest coyotes. I love goats & sheep, and unfortunately coyotes do too. Coyotes have been a problem to our farm for two decades now, and this week they again struck a blow. The graphic picture at the left is all that is left of the Keiko buck I so proudly bought this spring.

Many people in central Ohio are surprised to learn that Coyotes thrive so close to the Columbus metropolitan area. They are, however, a problem throughout our state. In the early 1990s, I first remember my grandfather dealing with coyote attacks on his sheep. Around 2003, there was another group that moved through, killing many of my mother's lambs. This led her to purchase Great Pyrenees dogs to protect her herd. I lost many kid goats in 2008, but that was such a difficult year as it was, since my mother passed on that spring. I instituted several safety measures that discouraged the coyotes: bringing animals into the barn at night, shutting gates to exterior fields, leaving lights on in the buildings. That summer I snared two coyotes. Since then I have had no problems. In fact, I had not even heard the coyote's blood-chilling howl at night for some time.

Tuesday night we had a powerful windstorm in Ohio. The rain left the goats quite unhappy, especially my three bucks that were grazing the north pasture. After the worst of the storm passed through, I checked on the boys to ensure they had weathered the storm. Wednesday when I went out to feed, I could not locate Keiko Dynamite. Boyo Knightley and Sean of Arabia were strutting across the fenceline from the ladies, but Keiko was nowhere to be found. I walked the perimeter of the field and later drove out to use my headlights to scan the field. I hoped that Keiko had jumped the fence and simply was out of my sight.

Sadly, the next morning, when I headed out to let the chickens out of the hen house, I saw something in the distance that turned out to be poor Keiko's remains. I knew immediately it was coyotes. In a panic, I suddenly realized I couldn't find Sean! I grabbed Boyo and moved him into the lot with Abraham the Mule, mourning my beloved boys. Imagine my joy when I realized that Sean had already jumped into the lot with Old Abe! With many hugs, I told my boys to hang tight, and I would soon reward them with numerous ladies!

Now smelling like Boyo & Sean, I mobilized to take action. I was truly surprised that Keiko was attacked. I did not know that coyotes were hunting our area again. This past spring I had seen three foxes. The old farm wisdom is that foxes & coyotes will not hunt the same turf. Thus, I assumed coyotes were not residing within range of Harrison Farm. While I knew that the north field was the most convenient for an attacking coyote, I didn't think any predator would go for the three big bucks. I can only assume that Keiko, being the smallest, was miserable after the rainstorm, and an easy target for a predator to take down. What a loss! I had just purchased the noble Keiko Dynamite last spring to be my new herd sire and I was so excited to use him!

My first call was to the division of animal control. They dispatched an officer to assert that it was not a dog attack. Both the lady at the department and the officer who came out were very pleasant & professional. The officer asserted right away that it was definitely a coyote. Dogs are more random in their method of kill, and will attack across an animal's neck and shoulders. Coyotes are skilled killers that know to strike at the throat. We both took photographs, and filled out the paperwork to notify the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, a call to the Department of Agriculture served to inform me that there were no funds to recompense me for the loss of the goat. The coyote (which theoretically belongs to the State of Ohio) killed my valuable new buck and I am simply out of luck. This is very financially damaging to me considering what I spent on the goat, and crushes the potential for what I could have earned from Keiko's ability over the years.

Truly, I detest coyotes.

Coyotes are wild animals. They are carnivores. I do not begrudge them the ability to hunt. I fully intend to hunt the coyote myself, and I look forward to using my skinning abilities to cut out the coyote's skull for a trophy. I do, however, protest government policies that allow predators to thrive near agricultural areas. I am fortunate that I have only lost one goat this year. I know of ranchers out west that have lost hundreds of animals, especially to wolves which are protected by the federal government. Farmers & ranchers work incredibly hard to raise animals; to have them become food for coyotes is heartbreaking. One of my favorite books about livestock was written by a rancher in Montana and is entitled: "Today I Baled Some Hay for the Sheep the Coyotes Eat." It is a sad, but true part of raising animals.

As disheartened as I am when I see the above picture of Keiko's remains, I look forward to posting a companion photo of his killer!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Goodbye to Betty's, Columbus Brewing Co., and the Surly Girl!

During my lecture to the Animal Science 597 students -- as with all my presentations -- I emphasized the importance of food choice! I sincerely believe that we should be able to select the foods we want for ourselves and our families. Thus, I fully support the many different types of production: conventional, organic, locally raised, naturally raised, etc. I believe the ability to choose our own food is extraordinarily important! No one -- and no government entity -- should be able to force certain foods or production methods on us!

The handsome young man with me in the picture above is one of my very favorite people, my wonderful younger brother! He currently lives in Philadelphia, where he is very active in the cultural scene of that city. My Philadelphia brother is one of those amazing people who is so kind of heart and such a pleasure to spend time with! I am so happy whenever we are together! We are, however, two very different individuals -- and this includes our diet. For his well-being, my brother is a vegetarian. I think this is awesome! I love vegetarians because they show the importance of food choice. I have extremely different health concerns from my brother, though. Because I am typically very low in iron and have a gluten intolerance, I structure my diet around protein-rich red meats, dairy, and fruits & vegetables. My brother's diet works for him; my choices work for me. The freedom to choose our own food is very important to both of us!

Despite my support for vegetarian choices, I was very disturbed to read in the paper this morning that a few local restaurants had joined with a so-called "animal rights" group (Mercy for Animals) to offer vegan menu items during "World Go Vegan Week". These restaurants are Phat Wraps, Knead, Columbus Brewing Company, Surly Girl Saloon, Dirty Frank's, the Tip Top, and Betty's. I will no longer support these businesses, and I will be contacting those that I have frequented to express my concerns.

To clarify, I have NO problem with these restaurants offering vegan choices! Food choice is important and I believe in the market dictating production. If businesses wish to offer vegan options and consumers wish to buy them, I think that is fantastic! My concern is that these restaurants are joining with a group that exists to shut down farms that raise livestock and businesses that are involved with meat processing. This is NOT food choice -- this is forcing an agenda on consumers! Mercy for Animals is very clear in all its publications and presentations that they intend to promote world veganism . . . thus putting farmers like me out of business, subverting the ability of individuals to choose their own foods, and adding to the world hunger problem (since meat is a protein-rich food source that provides needed calories).

Please support food choice! Please voice your desire to be able to select what you want to feed your families! Please use your dollars to support businesses that reflect this!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Humans & Animals . . . Or, the Goatherd at OSU!

I was absolutely delighted to be invited to speak last week at OSU in Animal Science 597! This class focuses on issues relative to human & animal interactions, closely observing how humans use animals. I was excited to be able to address the students on this and to be able to share my perspective as a farmer.

I kicked off the two hour lecture by telling the story of Thunder the Sheep, noble guardian of Harrison Farm. I shared that Thunder had been born through a C-Section, and was the only baby of quadruplets to survive. My mother raised him on a bottle and we became attached to him. Thunder came to live with me at Harrison Farm, where he served as one of my bellwethers and was basically a big brother to all the goats. He was incredibly patient with the baby goats that would frolic & jump on his back as he lay down. Everyone loved Thunder!

Sadly, about a year ago, Thunder began to have serious issues with arthritis. And as he approached his 10th birthday, it got worse & worse. I had moved him up to the boxstall in the front of the barn to feed him, as he would no longer walk out to the field to graze. Eventually he would no longer get up on his own. I knew that this was the start of a long road downhill. When animals refuse to get up at that age, they rarely recover. Instead they slowly waste away. I decided I did not want Thunder to suffer slowly. He was a noble sheep and deserved a quick death. It was a gray & rainy day when my friend Abdi helped me to butcher Thunder. After I hugged Thunder's neck for several minutes and told him what a good sheep he was, Abdi & I got to work. The end was quick and we were able to stock a great deal of meat. I know I won't be able to get over the sentimental aspect and eat it myself, but I will be able to cook it for my dog.

I used this story to get the students thinking about my goals as a farmer to provide the best quality care for my animals that I can and to show them respect in life & in death. I wanted the students to think about what they would do. It was VERY hard to make the decision to butcher Thunder, but it gave him a quick death and it provided a protein-rich meat source for my dog to eat. He served me in life & continues to serve in death. So many people today are only familiar with their pets, and don't realize the differences between companion animals and livestock and wildlife. I encouraged the students to consider this, as we began a discussion about my perspective as a farmer, my work as a butcher, my experiences with religious slaughter, and the way that religions regard animal care.

As a former government teacher, I stressed to the students what a right truly is, and why it is a fallacy to use the term "animal rights". A right is something that must be codified, it must be won, and it must be protected with recourse. In other words, I can elucidate what my right to freedom of speech means. This right was won by Americans who fought for personal freedoms and enshrined this in the Bill of Rights. If someone compromises my freedom of speech, I can seek protection through our court system. In contrast, my dog Jolie cannot state her rights, nor has she won them, and she has no system for recourse of suppression of any rights. Thus, she does not have rights.

I encouraged the students to change the conversation to one of animal care. Using examples from various religions, I discussed that although the world's religions do not recognize "animal rights", they do stress the moral obligation to care for our fellow man, nurture our world, and shepherd the creatures in it. Thus, it is paramount that we show respect for the lives of the earth's creatures -- without losing sight of the appropriate relationship between humans and animals. Although my dog Jolie may not have "rights", it is my moral responsibility as her owner to care for her in a manner that provides a decent quality of life. It would be disrespectful of my fellow man, however, if I elevated Jolie in such a way that I served her over others. Far too many people go to bed hungry, do not have proper housing, and suffer from basic diseases. As humans, we need to keep things in the appropriate perspective as we strive to fulfill our obligation to animals, yet focus on improving the world for our fellow man.

I sincerely appreciated how hospitable the students of the class were! It was a great opportunity and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yay for Facebook!

Ready for more farm information?!! Of course "ewe" are! Craig the Cat would castigate me if I did not point out our presence on Facebook. Please check us out by searching for "Harrison Farm". We hope you will enjoy all the stories posted on the farm journal as well as the status updates found on Facebook!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Day in the Life of The Goatherd

So what can you expect from my farm journal? Information about agriculture, promotion of Harrison Farm products, and recounts of my hilarious misadventures! With apologies to the parents of Winchester Elementary Bus Route #5, here is a typical event in the life of the Goatherd . . .

One of my favorite recurring jokes is to reference the TENS of dollars I make as a goatherd! Farming is definitely a business for those who are passionate about agriculture, can handle hard work in difficult situations, and realize that their chosen field will not yield abundant financial profits. I work to utilize everything possible to save money, and try never to let anything go to waste. This can lead to some interesting scenarios . . .

During the summer months, I tend to check the animals a few times a day to guarantee that they have plenty of fresh water. It was the afternoon of one of those late August days, where the sun beats down in such a way that it is hard to believe autumn is so close. After arriving home from a Farm Bureau event, I decided to make a quick jaunt to the barn to check on the well-being of the livestock. As I approached the barn, I could see that one of the little boys had his head stuck in the fence that divides the buck pen from the pasture where Abraham the Mule resides. One of the frustrations that I live with as a Goatherd is dealing with unthinking goats that stick their heads through the fence to nibble at whatever might be on the other side. They can usually stick their head through the fencing, but then discover that the angle of their horns prevents them from removing their head. Typically this results in me struggling to get them out of the fence, since they refuse to believe I could possibly be doing something to help them!

I jumped in the horse lot, expecting to push the head of the kid goat back through, when I realized this was a more serious situation that initially expected. Was the goat alive or dead? He appeared to have put his head at such an angle that he was strangling himself. I pushed and pushed, eventually freeing him, only to realize the goat had just died. Immense frustration! This was the best of my kid goats! Nearly the perfect 50 pounds for sale, healthy, and the son of Little Stuff (one of my best does). Due to his stupid actions, the goat had not only committed suicide, but had lost me the potential to sell him for at least $60 (as the market was running around $1.20/pound).

Losing animals is not only hard on the soul -- this was a living being I had cared for -- but very hard on the wallet. Hay is $4 per square bale. The goat feed I give the young goats is $14 for a 50 pound bag. I spend about 2 hours each day working with the animals. These are all expenses for me. I rely on the sale of meat goats to not only cover the expense of the herd, but provide me with needed funds to eat, to have an SUV, to pay for my cell phone, etc. I cannot in good conscience let anything go to waste. The goat was dead . . . but barely dead. The meat simply couldn't be a total loss.

I hustled back up to the house. Still wearing my summer "barn check" outfit of a Hard Rock Cafe tank top I bought in 1992 and a pair of blue shorts, I added my knee-high black Muck boots and my cowboy hat (which proudly sports a feather from a vulture for decoration). I grabbed my knives and a tupperware container for the meat and hurried back down to the barn. The goat was still dead, so I heaved him over the fence and dragged him up near the water hydrant.

Although I had honed my butchering skills over the last five years working as the general manager of an ethnic slaughterhouse, this was the first animal I had butchered on the farm. In the Great State of Ohio, you can slaughter your animal on your land with no regulations. If, however, you wish to slaughter your animal at another person's property, they must be licensed as a slaughter facility. If you intend to sell the meat, an inspector must be on site. I intended to eat the meat of the goat myself, cook the bones for my crazy dog, and give the internal organs to a friend, thus I could butcher my own animal without regulatory issues. Since the goat was already dead -- sigh -- I did not have to worry about a humane kill. (Actually, so-called animal rights groups should respect that I allowed the goat to choose the end of his own life! HA!) I was a bit overwhelmed, however, with how to start the processing . . .

I tried to consider the best way to keep the carcass clean, using the skin as a work area to protect it from the ground. I decided to take the front legs off first, since I could easily keep them clean. In all my glamour of shorts & Muck boots, I bent over and started skinning out the first leg. After opening the skin, I grasped the leg firmly as I cut it off of the carcass. With a final swipe, the leg was freed, and I stood up -- with goat leg in left hand & knife in right. And at that very moment, there went the school bus with all the little elementary kids looking out the window! Complete embarrassment on the part of the Goatherd!

As I finished the process, I tried to reassure myself that the kids (human variety) were probably too busy texting or talking to pay any attention to the farmer cutting up a goat. I considered that I was doing the right thing by raising and processing my own meat. Really, children need more exposure to farming and food processing! I still couldn't help but think, though, that the small children would now know me as the crazy goat lady with the knife who made them scream on the school bus one afternoon . . .

Just another fun day as a Goatherd & Butcher!

Photo Caption: The Goatherd & Cassie the Goat at the Franklin County Fair! Cassie has NOT been butchered, because she is not suicidal and does not stick her head in a fence. Cassie is part of my herd of commercial meat goats and is an excellent mother. I raise the kid goats for meat, but retain the best little does (girls) to add to the herd. Cassie raised triplet girls this year! I hope to keep all three.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Welcome to Harrison Farm online! As a farmer who is passionate about agriculture, this farm journal is an opportunity to share my experiences. I hope to provide readers with a window into what life is truly like for farmers . . . separate from what is portrayed in the media. In addition, I hope to share information about local foods in the Columbus metropolitan area. Speaking of which: Penguin the Chicken would like for me to advise you that Harrison Farm offers farm fresh, naturally raised brown eggs for $3.00/dozen! Contact Katherine at 614.271.0304 to place an order!