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!