Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Facebook Status. An Update, A Year Later

So about a year ago I mentioned the story behind my Facebook status. For those of you who haven't read it, here's the link
Nearly a year has past since I wrote that blog, and I thought I would give everyone an update.
It's been a pretty eventful year. I had a son and a whole bunch of other kids graduate for high school. These kids had become pretty special to me. They had allowed me to walk along with them through lots of growing up stuff. They shared more of their lives with me than a dad could ever expect. Each one of them was a tremendous blessing to me.
The year held unexpected blessings.
At the top of the list was the opportunity to sit with a young lady, as she opened her heart and asked Jesus to come into her life. I've talked to kids before as they made that commitment, but this was the first time it happened with one of "my" kids. This young person is still a part of my life, and I'm so happy to see God's continued work in her life.
I've been blessed by the young people that God brought into my life in the past on how they continue to be a blessing. Graduations and new jobs,  new towns, and new challenges. A new openness to the challenges life brings, and an opportunity to see God's hand and his love at work. Tremendous personal growth that is sometimes hard to see from the inside, but so very evident to the rest of us. Twitterdad is proud.
God also saw fit to introduce me to some new kids this year. Talks have gone from boyfriends, to parents, to death/suicide and even dogs. I've been asked to pray for them, and continue to pray for them. They continually amaze me, and the big things they have to deal with are staggering. They've become an important part of my life.
 I've been called pops, big poppa, and #standindad. None of those terms are anything I deserve.
 God's work is an amazing thing to behold, and he's taking me along for the ride.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Is Agvocacy Worth the Fight?

I'll be one of the first to admit, sometimes this agvocacy thing is for the birds. Who has the time, or the will to fight all the uninformed and agenda driven anti-ag people out there? And what's to be gained?
When I listened to the newly released Worth the Fight, by The Departed I gave that a little more thought. And here's why I get involved in the "fight".
I'm an old farm kid turned feed salesman.
I have one of the greatest jobs in the world.
Each day I get to work with farmers and ranchers.
They work hard, they play hard. They get to see everyday the wonders of this world in a way that few ever even get a glimpse of. Piglets, calves, crops and weather make up their days.They worry about how they are going to make a living like everyone else, but most of them are in the process of making a life. Not standing on the sidelines wondering, but making their life. They give of themselves in ways that would make most folks envious if they only knew how richly they are rewarded. Not monetarily mind you, but with a satisfaction that they made a difference in someones life.
Are they perfect? Not by a long shot. But they are incredible people. Their way of life deserves to be defended and fought for.
They are "Worth the Fight".

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Does Social Media Have Legs?

When I first got into the feed business, I got so frustrated by what I call, "the good ole boys network." I might have the best product, the best programs, and a great price, but still not get the business. So many of the reasons that people were doing business with each other was due to the relationships they had established. It took a lot of time to get a relationship going with many of these folks. But it came down to relationships.
People are comfortable with those they are most comfortable with. No different than anyone else.
Over the last four years I've been navigating the world of social media. I started on Facebook to stay in touch with some wonderful young people I met on a church service project. To see how this new thing called social media would affect their world. At some point I added Twitter in. And my world got a lot bigger, and a lot smaller. I now have friends in the farming community from all over the US and Canada. Dairymen and women, nut farmers, cowboys, pork producers, college students, ranchers, foodies, equipment dealers, agronomists, and people at BPI are among my friends. Displaced farm kids, wanna-be-farm kids, dairy suppliers, calf ranchers, a dairyman from "across the pond", and a couple of farmers from Australia. Many of them have embraced social media as a way of life. Some have become good friends.
 In much of the farming community, social media is viewed primarily as just that, social. It's a part of life that doesn't get to intrude in on the business of business. Conversations about social media and the business community almost always get back to, " how does this help my business". I wish I knew how to make that transition. It's a different way of thinking about doing business.
Does it have any legs? I don't know. But a little while back I got to see what it is capable of accomplishing.
Recently, shareholders for Domino's Pizza voted down a resolution brought forward to eliminate the use of pork produced through the use of gestation stalls. The shareholders voted it down by 80%. A group of farmers decided to thank Domino's for trusting farmers and animal welfare experts to care for animals. First on board was a hog farmer from Missouri named Chris Chinn. She writes a blog thanking Domino's.
So I wrote a blog thanking Domino's for their stand as well, and then we created an event called, Ag Pizza Party in conjunction with a Facebook page called The Truth About Agriculture.
Participants were asked to leave a note thanking Domino's for their support of farmers. In the end, whatever Domino's decides, is their decision to make, but the ag industry was thanking them for going about making that decision the right way.
It went over really well. Pictures were posted from all over the US. Some Domino's stores received stacks of thank yous. The Truth About Agriculture event got thousands of hits. Tens of thousands of hits.
Has that turned into any business? I can't say. I truly don't know. But it bears some watching.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Playing the Blame Game. aka Globe Warning

One subject that is bound to get people crazy is global warming. And it's no wonder. Weather is one of those topics that never seems to get old on the farm, or anywhere else for that matter. Endless hours are spent wondering if we can beat mother nature, or if she is going to beat us.
I sat in on a presentation form a U of M meteorologist this past February on global warming. I don't have his presentation, but here's what I remember.  Weather averages are reported on a 30 years average. In 2010, the average dropped off the decade of the 70's, and picked up the decade of the 2000's. When that happened it changed the average rainfall for Brookings, SD from 19.24" to just over 24". The high temps for the area aren't as high, and the lows aren't as low. But the the high of the day to the overnight lows, aren't changing as much. We are also dealing with more humidity. A dew point of +70 degrees feels tropical, and used to be rare in this area. Last summer we had 7 days with a dew point of over 80 degrees. On July 19th, Morris MN had a dew point of 88 degrees. Rain events are changing as well. In the time frame from 1986 to 2004, our area averaged just over one rain event per year that amounted to over 2 inches. Since 2004, Sioux Falls, SD has had 23 such events, with the largest event being 4.85". The presenter was quick to point out that he wasn't a theorist, but just a numbers guy. Does this change things on the farm? Absolutely. If we can't count on overnight cooling, and have to deal with high humidity, shade and cooling become MUCH more important. More fat cattle of the black variety during the summer is a real situation that needs to be addressed.
So why do I bring this all up? Everyone has been spending the last decade blaming everyone for everything. Claiming something isn't our fault and that it isn't happening are two different things entirely. So many are trying to find fault with everything and everyone that it gets hard to deal with possible issues. FTLB has been available for 20 years and ammonia has been used in food preparations for decades, but is now being blamed for killing us? If one takes a stand in support of technology we get accused of poisoning the planet. Life expectancy is higher than ever, and we are feeding more people than ever before, but still it seems to be in vogue to accuse farmers and ranchers of all sorts of evil.
Is global warming real? I don't know. But I know our winters have been incredibly mild in the northern plains. Europe has been cold. They were trying to skate the canals in Holland this year for only the second time since the 1970's. It hasn't been cold enough for the race for decades.
I know that in today's environment everyone is an expert. The Internet has allowed everyone a voice. But leveling the blame is getting in the way of moving forward.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Too Much Technology?

Growing up, I was fascinated by my dads hands. They were huge. A game we played as kids involved dropping a quarter through his wedding ring. I think dad wore a size 15 ring. Hands formed by milking cows by hand. Sometime in the 60's they switched to a vacuum pump and bucket milkers. The time spent with each animal went down as the technology increased.
A recent run of events brought this topic to mind for me. But the topic, is one that we seem to running into headfirst.
If we make use of technology in caring for animals, does this diminish their quality of life?
The most recent catalyst for this discussion was a post that highlighted the Lely robotic milkers. Someone I respect a great deal, suggested that this would remove the basic tenets of animal husbandry. This also seems to be the charge leveled against any of today's large farms.
Can any farm with hundreds to thousands of animals really take care of them?
What constitutes care?
This same friend offered that animals make our lives richer, and that we enrich their lives. I can't argue that point, but does an animal need daily interaction with me to be fulfilled?
Is there a different level of interaction that each species would require? And lastly who gets to decide what that level is?
If some of the basic jobs can be done by others/machines, does that diminish what happens on the farm?

When I was growing up, one of the jobs I got, was cleaning the calf barn. With a pitchfork. You know, the manually operated kind. It took a couple of hours each week. Character building kind of work. Within two months of my taking an off the farm job, that barn was being cleaned with a skid loader. They replaced labor with capital. The trend continues today.
Today's farmers are faced with the same issues that people everywhere face.Pay the mortgage, raise a family, and try to improve their quality of life. Growing up on a 40 cow dairy, we rarely took vacations. A week away from the farm was almost unheard of. If an opportunity came up for a day away, it could work, as long as it fit between morning and evening chores. Relief milkers were difficult to come by at best, and impossible to find at worst. The expansion of the dairy allowed for more hired help, more available labor, and more flexibility in time off. 
But has animal care gone down? I'd argue that it has gotten better. The barn of yesteryear were dark dank old caves that lacked much of what we now know contributes greatly to animal welfare. People see animals in barns when on their summer vacations and wish they were out running in the pastures and meadows, but when they get out of their cars they head for the air-conditioned comfort of the motel. Today's barns offer shade, and a great deal of animal comfort. Are they perfect? No, but producers are always on the lookout for cost effective ways to take better care of their animals.
Do farms today look like an updated version of Olde McDonald's Farm? Nope, and most likely never will again. Does that automatically make us evil? Nope, it doesn't

Friday, March 23, 2012

Taking Everything Too Seriously....

So passions a great thing right? Absolutely!!
Maybe not.
Recent events made me wonder why we as humans almost always go over board. What in our DNA causes us to take a passion and turn it into an obsession? We've all met those folks. They look normal, but ask the wrong/right question, and it's off to the races in the woods just outside of Obsessiveville. We can get so caught up in the cause that we lose focus and why the cause is important.
A recent post on the Truth About Agriculture page on Face book really got to me. The poster was asking a farmers thoughts and perspective on the dangers and use of GMO wheat and Monsanto.........
An important detail, there are no GMO varieties of wheat available. None.... The fact that there were different varieties was a surprise as well. But I don't think there was any question that that this person was anything less than earnest in their question. But was the passion was misguided?
What happens when we let ourselves get swept away on the wave of concern? I'm not exactly sure, but there are a few things I know. People and their passions will always be a challenge for every walk of life. Wars are fought because of passions, Religions go to war and kill each other because they feel passionate. We tend to take all of our human walk to extremes.
So sometimes it good to get a good handle on our place in the universe. We are but a speck, on a tiny planet, in a medium sized solar system, in a medium sized galaxy, surrounded by billions of other galaxies. In the big picture of the universe, we are incredibly insignificant. Doesn't that mean we are entirely insignificant?
Not by any means. We should strive each day to make life better for everyone and everything around us.
I was reminded of that this past week at youth group when the "Why are we here?" question was asked. A wise young lady answered,"we are here to glorify God".
Are we using whatever passion we possess to do that? Farming/agvocacy or whatever our calling is.
If we let the passion of any of our causes get too important, then maybe we are taking it too serious.
Passion is awesome, but temper it with knowledge, understanding, and ultimately a caring heart. The world will be a better place.

Friday, March 16, 2012

An Opportunity To Tell Our Story?

I'm a big fan of farm tours. BIG fan. With so many so removed from from what it takes to produce food, tours give us a great opportunity to show folks what we do. But what if they won't show up? Time to get creative.
Ag United of South Dakota sponsors a Breakfast On The Farm in multiple locations every summer. Crowds from 400 to 1000 show up for the free feed. Tour guides set up at different locations answer questions, and it's a great experience.I've talked antibiotic use, cull cows, and ionophores at these events.
But how about WAY out of the box?
In a week or so, the Central Plains Dairy Expo comes to Sioux Falls. The kickoff event is a concert by Sawyer Brown. The floor area of the arena is going to be occupied by dairy producers and dairy industry people. The seating in the rest of the place? For a $10 dollar donation to Feeding South Dakota, the general public gets to come to the concert. They get to interact with people from the dairy industry, and meet "real" producers.
Now, granted, Sioux Falls isn't a huge metropolis, as removed from the ag community as some areas, but it is still a great way to let folks see our industry,
Every year we see a lot of people, mainly kids, coming through the trade show to get a glimpse of what the dairy industry looks like. We need to take advantage of these opportunities. They are coming to us!
So if at a trade show, you see someone wandering around, slightly lost, a little bewildered, or just confused, step up. It might be your moment to AGVOCATE.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Agvocate or Farm Broadcaster?

When I first started this blog, it was because of a conversation with a young lady named Megan. We talked about what happens on the farm, and did it in a fashion that hopefully was interesting to Megan. I tried to follow Megan's lead, and address what she thought was important. To Megan's credit, she was a very intelligent young lady with good questions and comprehension. It made for a really cool conversation. Since that time, I've watched as this part of agvocacy has exploded. That's what I'm using social media for, not exclusively mind you, but for the outreach part of the message. So are others. Folks are trying to reach out. It's a really good thing.
But what is the message?
A recent blog I wrote reminded the ag community that some of the audience is in the lurkers. But are we putting a message out there that they would appreciate?  Several of the folks a follow on twitter are notorious for the amount of tweets that they turn out about all things ag. Huge amounts of tweets. Many of the tweets, only understandable to someone steeped in ag. 
But what if 90% of them mean nothing to someone outside of ag? Is that a problem? We can step into our "farm speak" so easily that it makes it impossible for a non-ag person to follow. Think of some of the terms that we use regularly. Triple stack, ADG, genomics, and multiple links make the messages hard to follow for the non-ag folks in the audience. Not that we shouldn't use those terms, but be aware.
Think about the lurkers when you have an interaction. Are they going to get engaged with you in what you are discussing. Not every conversation needs to be for them, but neither can we afford to forget them.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Networking Failure

When I first started in the feed business, the "good ole boys" network frustrated me to no end. I could have a better product, better price and a better group of specialists behind me, and yet not get the business. Over time I became a part of that network, and came to understand why that network existed. People are comfortable with, and do business with, people they like. As I get older, I'm finding it takes less time to find the resources that I need, because I know people who know people. Our like interests make us really good at networking.
Up to a point.
I took a trip out west to visit the World Ag Expo 2012 (#wae12) recently. Thousands of folks attend. While there, I got to participate in a tweetup.  About 15 of us showed up. Fifteen. One five.
We had a ball. Great people. @rayprock @funwithbulls @griminuscattleco the list goes on, for another dozen or so. Great networking time. And we are pretty in touch with the ag folks on twitter.
So how many people in the US population at large are using social media? The best answer a friend could come up with was about 50%. If our #wae12 tweetup was an indication of the number of ag people involved, well, the term epic fail comes to mind.  We need to be intentional in reaching outwards, not inwards.
But beyond the fact that we are outnumbered and outgunned, are we just talking to each other?
Sometimes we just talk to each other.
So here's the challenge. Once you get involved in social media, expand your reach. Look for groups with interests outside of the ag community. Running, cooking, even parenting have their own online communities.
Extend your Ag reach. No more just chatting with the choir.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Trust and an Eraser

Through all the stuff I get to see on social media, I've found some gems and some stinkers. I had several of each this past week.
 One I really liked was this quote.
" some folks just need a pat on the back,..........
of the head,..........
with a hammer...."

But some are more serious. Like this one I shared last week, shared for one young friend in particular.
Trust is like an eraser. It gets smaller and smaller with each mistake.

What I wasn't expecting was the response I got.
 "What do you do when there's no eraser left? And you can't walk away?"

I didn't and don't have an answer for that question. It did how ever make me think about the trust that we try to nurture with consumers.
So often we think to think that the outreach is the all important part of connecting people with the farms. But what happens when there isn't any trust left, and our opponents are so heavily invested in their cause that they can't seem to find a way out or the desire to step away?
A couple of thoughts. Some folks don't want the dialogue, don't egg them on by giving them a platform to beat you up. But be polite. They want you to lose it. Don't give them the satisfaction.
Some people are sort of unlovable. It must hurt to be there. Don't add to their misery.
Our opponents want us to look untrustworthy, don't give them a reason to say,"See, I told you they were a terrible person!"
But it's really hard for me to be around someone that I don't trust. I chose my friends and allies for a good reason. It bothers me a lot when I see someone who is not looking out for others, getting the best of a friend. It ticks me off.
And lastly. If you find yourself to be that person who folks don't trust, remember that trust that can be lost so quickly, will take years to rebuild. Trying to force that won't make it heal faster, but further alienate yourself.
I'm blessed with so many young friends that challenge what I think and how I approach issues. They are each a blessing to me. This young friend and I will continue to talk about trust. Maybe we'll figure something out.....

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fathers, Daughters, Mothers, Sons

This is a copy of the devotions that I did for youth group recently.
Fathers, Daughters, Mothers, Sons

So is anyone else uncomfortable yet?.

So why pick a topic like this one? Maybe a little background for you guys. You know I do the Hopeline for DMLive.  The reason for starting that went along these lines. God blessed me with a great upbringing, stable family, no question that my parents loved me. If  I could share some of that stability with the kids calling the Hopeline, it would be a good thing I could do to build Gods kingdom. But something odd happened along the way, God used that experience to teach me about his grace, mercy and love. It also taught me something about being a parent.

A show of hands, who thinks their parents just don't get it? One of the things I found at the hope line, was that I tended to agree with parents most of the time. Not all the time mind you, but most of the time. And honestly that surprised me a bit. I wasn't expecting that. I really thought these kids would come from some messed up places. Some did, but some of what I heard was just parents and kids not figuring stuff out.

But parents and kids not getting along is something new right?
Matt 10:35 "for I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law...".
So 2000 years ago this was going on. Not far enough back?
Micah 7:6 same verse.
Let's go back a little further, Jacobs dream was Jon's topic two weeks ago. He received his birthright but deceiving his father, with the help of his mother.
What I'm trying to say here is that the conflicts between parents and their kids is as old as the human race. And it is a far too big topic to address on a Wednesday night.

But God gave us the perfect pattern to follow to be parents. He calls himself our father doesn't he? So why aren't parents perfect? Let's try something.
We have two easels here, I'm looking for three volunteers.
So one of you will give instructions to the other two. Use the instructions that you heard to recreate the picture that you envision being described. The end results looks nothing like what the instructions that where given.

In the same way that these pictures became distorted by the fact that the people drawing them didn't understand what they were drawing, parents don't always get it right either. They don't understand what they are being told, or they aren't paying attention, or they have a detail that they think is more important. Lots of reasons, but not what God intended. We, and you, can't  fix what's wrong with your parents. The only part of that relationship that you can control is you. And sometimes that is really hard.

So I'm just going to focus on a couple of specifics of the relationship. The topic tonight, was listed as fathers daughters mothers sons for a reason. In all the relationships that I watched at the hope line, these two were, in my mind anyway, incredibly important. These two relationships lay the framework for how your future relationships work. For starters these two relationships are one of the few you will have in your life, that don't have a sexual element to them. They give you a way to figure out how to interact with the opposite sex, without sex being part of the picture. So much of what happens in a marriage is just life. So watch how you young ladies interact with dad, and guys with mom. It matters to your future.

Guys, understand how dads feel about their daughters. It is the guy relationship that you will be judged against by the young lady that God brings into your life.
This past week I've been having a couple of conversations about asking a girls dad, for permission to marry her. Think of it as a matter of respect. Respect the relationship that she has with her dad, enough to ask him for her hand. It isn't a rule, but is a good idea.
Also understand that the relationship that you guys have with your mother will shape how you and your future wife interact. And guys, the girls are watching how you treat your moms, and the other women that you interact with. Can you say teachers?

Girls, the respect that you show you fathers, is something that someday you will share with your future husbands.

All of this just adds to the amazement that I have for God, and how incredibly he made us. He created all of these interactions.
 One time I told a young man at the Hopeline,"you want to know how amazing God is? He understands women."

And how wonderful is God? He created women.

But that is a topic for another night.....

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Facebook Status

I was looking at my friends list on Facebook recently, and was reminded that while I know many of my facebook friends well, there are others that only know me through SM. And after looking through the new timeline on facebook a lot of my status' probably don't make sense to those of you who don't know me well.
I'm a middle-aged married guy with four kids, aged 15,17,19 and 21. To someone reading my facebook status you would think I'm a helicopter parent or that they are always in need of help. Not the case at all, they are great kids, they are doing great. They experience the normal teenage angst, (guys/girls, relationships, grades, school decisions), but they are awesome kids.
I'm also work with teens through my church's youth group, and until recently, I was a volunteer Hopecoach for the Dawson McAllister Ministry. Dawson McAllister has a radio show that runs for 2 hours on Sunday nights on top 40 radio, all over the country. Honest forthright answers, with a dose of Christ's love mixed in. Volunteers and staff talk and text, with thousands of young people each month. Five years ago, I started answering phones for the ministry on Sunday nights, and discussing whatever topic came up with the teens that called in wanting advice or a friend to talk to. In the past five years I've had one on one conversations and made friends with, somewhere around 1500 young people. My young friends are bulemic, cutters, prostitutes, pimps, gang members, over-acheivers, drug addicts, anorexic, dropouts, strippers and potheads. They struggle with their parents, teachers, divorce, each other, depression, boyfriends/girl friends, and relationships in general. They have been let down, stomped on(literaly and figuritively), beat up, raped, abused and neglected. I've been on the phone with them when we called the police. They have tried to committ suicide, hurt themselves and everyone around them. I've talked to a young person with a pistol on the seat beside him, driving around looking for a quiet place to end his life. I've talked to 17 year old young woman who had never heard anyone tell her that she was loved. I've prayed with them, and I've had them pray for me. (You want to talk about being humbled, that will do it.)
When I got invloved in my churches youth group, it wan't long before kids found out about the Dawson McAllister call work that I did. So they started to talk, call and text. They also started to refer friends who were dealing with big stuff. Why do they talk to me? I don't know. Someone once told me that my grandpa could talk to anyone, and maybe God blessed me with some of him. I can say the conversations are one of the greatest blessings that God has blessed me with, and I'm a pretty blessed guy.
An animal welfare person I've come accross, once told a group of us,"I'm your worst nightmare, an insomniac, AR person, with a computer and an internet connection." He would say he was kidding, but he isn't even close. My nightmares include missing a call in the middle of the night, a phone call going dead, a call from a young person saying they've been raped or that one of "my" kids has died.
This isn't something I do on my own. God has blessed me with a great bunch of folks to walk along with, and I couldn't do it without his help. And please don't make me out to be anything more than I am. I am one of God's screwups. I mess up all the time, and without his help, I'd be an even bigger mess.
So in this New Year, if you see my status asking for a prayer, say a quick prayer for one of "my" kids. Thanks.