Monday, November 17, 2014

Changing the Food Movement Means More Than Just Changing Food.

     I just finished reading a review of the foodie vs. farmers war meeting organized by the NY times. Some want to call it elitist, ($1400 to attend) and focused on organic foods and sustainability.
The restarant on the grounds has a tasting menu priced at $198. They are concerned that junk food is being targeted at children, setting up a pattern of food intake that wrecks our health forever.
The current state of farming was the target of much discussion and derision.
    I recently have been getting schooled on poverty and food insecurity. A recent seminar on poverty was eye opening. Some elementary schools in my area provide free or reduced meals for up to 90% of their students. The school district I live in provides free/reduced cost meals to nearly 10,000 students, almost 40% of the total enrollment. My church provides Thanksgiving meals the families from one area elementary school. Not a huge school, but we will sent 275 family sized meals home with the kids from this school. One comment last year received last year was," thank you, but you don't understand, we can eat for almost a week on what you brought us today."
Last January my wife and I took in some kids through a program called Safe Families. First we hosted a couple of toddlers, children of a single mom, secondly we hosted a brother and sister while mom does some couch hopping, trying to figure out housing.
These kids look at food way different than we do. For the first two months with our toddlers, they devoured quantities that amazed me. I didn't quite know what to make of that. It took almost three months before they started to turn up their nose at any thing. Our most recent hosting the kids ate like food might not be there again. But then would waste food like it had no value. Junk food was the norm. But it's starting to make some sense. When you are homeless or broke, a pantry is a luxury. They showed up with a grocery bag that held all of their groceries. Meal planning is hard if you don't have a kitchen. Or a pan big enough to cook a meal in if you do have a kitchen. You might have a microwave, but no table and chairs. If I'm hungry today, I'm eating today.
I know that some of these problems are driven by poor decisions. I get that. I really do. But we are making decisions for children who had no hand in causing their problem.
    So how are we supposed to tell them how the "system of food" is supposed to work when we don't understand why they make the choices they make? Let me further jump into the politics fray, but saying now we are going to even more limit calories for school kids because "we" know what's making them fat?
Michael Pollan made his mark on the world by saying the food system is broken. Maybe he should try to understand why people, especially the poor the rest of the world, eat differently than he does.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Competition and One-Upsmanship

I came across an interesting article today thanks to my friend Dairy Carrie.
John Lancaster wrote a piece for the New Yorker called," A Foodie Repents."
This is the link.
In the article John talks about how much of the food movement is based on insecurity of who we are, and the thought of being able to reinvent ourselves through food.
He makes a lot of good points, but a think he missed the biggest one.
For some reason we as humans need to outdo the next guy. Bigger, better, faster, stronger.
Tractor pulls came to the public in the 70's. Today pulling tractors can have jet engines.
Someone invents a pogo stick and someone tries to cross the country on it.
Every wedding proposal is better than the last. If you love you, the proposal needs to be an event.
A bride wants her wedding to be the event everyone is talking about. Quote,"I'm going to have penquins at my wedding. And I need more bling on my dress." (A real quote, and $10,000 more bling)
There's even a thing called mommy shaming. "I'm a better mom than you are because I only use an all-organic diaper service to wash my organic cotton reusable diapers."
As disposable incomes have gone up, more money has gone into the eating experience. 
It used to be supper, today it's an eating experience.
Don't get me wrong, I love people that are passionate about their craft, and that includes chefs, but sometimes the passion can become a win at all costs passion.
"I care more than you do, more than you possibly could."
I don't know what the answer is, but I know we in animal ag need to respond.
One concrete thing we can do is to let people know who we are. We can no longer be a faceless crowd that is easy to attack whenever someone has an axe to grind.
That means putting ourselves out there. Letting folks see us, and in today's world, good or bad, that means social media.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Idiots Are Everywhere

So a few weeks ago, working in the quiet confines of my shop, I developed an idiot detector.
A little gadget that you could point at at anyone or any article on the web and find its idiot rating.
Some days the idiot rating meter was off the charts. Other days it seemed a bit more reasonable, but it was constantly going off.
The sensitivity was uncanny. Sometimes the simple act of driving past a car would alert me to the idiot behind the wheel. Other times the phone ringing would bring a high alert.
Then last night I took it apart and realized the electronic idiot detector works just as well if you had inadvertently installed the sensor in it backwards....................
Think on that for a moment.....

The stupid thing was pointed at me the whole time..........

Monday, October 6, 2014

They Don't Understand Me

So this past week at World Dairy Expo, I had the opportunity to discuss the fact that I use Twitter and Facebook on a pretty regular basis. The discussion was had with mostly coworkers.
Most of them don’t get it.
I love them to death, but my fascination with social media and what is possible with it, escapes them.
The topic at large came to a head because rather than watch the Vikings get killed by the Packers with a bunch of cheeseheads from my office, I went to a tweetup.
 That term brought howls of amusement from coworkers.

“What in the world is a tweet-up?”
 When you meet friends from twitter IRL. (In Real Life)

“How do you know when a tweetup is happening?”
Someone organizes it and lets folks know. In this case Eric Danzeisen of Seirra Desert Breeders. Thanks Eric.

“Who is going to be there?”
 Not sure. Don’t know. I’ll report back.

“Any ideas who is going to show up?”
 Probably a dairyman from Montana. @mtdairyman. A semen salesman from California. @funwithbulls. One from AZ. @jverbovineaz. A couple of dairymen from Wisconsin @dairycarrie and @jenabently. A polled bull semen supplier from Ontario. @dairybullsonlin. And the list goes on.

“Who can Show up?”
 If you’re friends of the people in this group, we’d love to meet you.

“How can I get involved?”
 Are you on Twitter?
 That would seem to be a good place to start.

“What do you talk about?”
 Same stuff that we discuss on twitter, but responses have to be limited to 140 characters or less…….

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Selfishness and Selflessness

I'm going to apologize right now for rambling. I've been avoiding this topic for months because I didn't know how to address it. This may never see the light of day, for a variety of reasons.

Just over three months ago my wife and I became foster parents. We got involved with a program called Safe Families. A voluntary program for parents in crisis, designed to give them some support and help before abuse or neglect require that the state needs to get involved. It's church based. It asks the church to be the body of Christ to step up and help those in need. The program was new to our area, and we were among the first families to apply. About three weeks after we got approved, we welcomed into our home siblings aged one and two.

Some details become important here. My wife and I are almost empty nesters. High school, college and married kids are now our life. Our house was never kid proofed. our youngest was six when we moved in. Toddlers aren't our wheelhouse.

For security reason I can't say much about our kids. They are siblings, toddlers, and all kid. Precious beyond what I could have imagined.

They've reminded me a lot about kids, but I learning a lot more about myself as this goes along.

I'm much more selfish than I knew. Many days I resent giving up the freedom that we had at our house prior to their arrival. The ability to takeoff and go is kind of gone. I now remember why we didn't attend a lot of events when our kids were little, and sitting still isn't a big skill of mine and even less for toddlers. Having to leave an event, or not attend shows me a side of me I don't care for.

I used to think I was pretty patient, but I have nowhere near the patience that a single parent needs. The amount of respect I have for someone doing this on their own is tremendous. My wife was traveling for four days recently and I got to be a single dad for that period of time. It was exhausting. Absolutely exhausting. One night of very little sleep and the I don't know that I would have been much good at work the next day. Thankfully they picked a Friday night to keep me up. Most single parents don't have that luxury. Every day is go time.

I'm the most uncomfortable when someone compliments me on what my wife and I are doing. Not every moment is filled with a full measure of Christ's love. Sometimes it's a lot of work, and I get lost in the fact that it is a lot of work. I've always thought that I was giving til it hurt, but that was giving until a tiny bit uncomfortable. So the compliments are hard to accept because my heart doesn't always feel that.

I've been asked by teens that I meet through youth group how I could care for a child that wasn't mine. Those kids were pretty easy to love. The day to day raising of them was someone else's challenge. All I usually lost was a little sleep. Loving these two is both more difficult and much deeper. I rarely deal with tantrums when working with teens, but toddlers are a different story. But nothing beats the hugs and kisses from a child. Nothing.

So why do this? That's a good question. The most obvious answer is because there's a need. It's one of the most glaring in-your-face ways of being asked to show Christ's love to those who need help. But it isn't easy.
I once asked a young lady who asked me for help,"Why did you come to me? I mean, I'm big and old and scary. Why me?"
Her answer floored me. "You don't understand, there wasn't anyone else."
Single parents without a safety net, deal with that kind of situation everyday.

Please don't make me out to be something I'm not. My wife and are are just trying to be faithful. But if you see a program called Safe Families coming to your area, Take a look.
The blessings are out of this world. Literally.