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!"