Monday, July 30, 2012

Diane Reed Loew

Welcome Diane, a farm wife living and working on 1600 head dairy with her husband and sons in west Michigan. 

Hello from west Michigan. The land of ever changing weather; I’ll get back to that in a minute.

My name is Diane Reed Loew and I married my husband, who I affectionately call "Farmer" 40 years ago. I walked down the aisle of my church in the east side of the state, and into the barnyard on the west side. What a lifestyle change coming from the suburbs where dad was home at 3:00 PM during the week and home on weekends. Farmer would get home anytime from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM and Sunday afternoon was his time off. It was challenging to say the least. But, definitely the best walk I’ve taken.

We own and operate a dairy farm. We have 1600 head and milk 700 three times a day in a double 12 herringbone parlor.

We grow as much feed as we can. This year we have 650 acres of really sad looking corn and around 300 acres of not so good alfalfa (it’s the weather thing this year).

I took one day, February 13, 2012, and figured out how many man hours it took to run our farm. The total was 141.5 man hours. It would be a lot more during planting and harvest. You can read about that day on my blog. I was surprised myself! I’m sure most farms would be similar.

Our family includes four sons, three that farm with us, three daughters-in-law, 7.3 wigglies (grandchildren), 5 dogs, cats, chickens, a couple of pigs and enough flies for a town full of shoo-fly pies.

There is no other place than here that I would like to be. I am so blessed God plopped me in the middle of the hay and corn fields.

This farm has been in my husband’s family for several generations. He is the third generation and our sons are the fourth with the wigglies bringing up the fifth generation if they chose.

Working with your family is one of the best and worst things.

I can walk across the road at any time and see three of my sons and families, and the fourth lives three miles away. It can’t get any better than that. We have Sunday dinners together frequently and a lot of love, laughter and milk spewing through the noses across the table. A birthday can’t pass without everyone around the table celebrating. It is important to invest in family. When all else fails family is comfort.

At the same time there are three strongly opinionated young men who are trying to work together. Farmer is at the point where he desires to pass more responsibility on to the boys. Things don’t always flow smoothly. We are working on that.

My “jobs” on the farm have included raising calves, office work, tractor driving, milking, yard work and the ever glorious title of “go-fer” – go for this, go for that and etc. I have delegated most of the jobs and I am now down to office work, the go to “go-fer” and the on call tractor driver.

Our farm has grown into a CAFO farm because of its size. CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. The term CAFO can leave a bad taste in some people’s mouths - usually those uneducated about the operation. They refer to CAFOs as factory farms that treats their animals badly and are dirty and poorly run.

We consider our farm a family run operation that supports eight other families that make a living with us.

Our BEBs (brown eyed bossies) come first. They have rubber mattresses with shavings to sleep on. They have pedicures on a regular basis. We have a certified chef (nutritionist) that feeds each group a special meal (TMR – total mixed rations). They have ankle bracelets that are read each time they enter the parlor. The information given helps keep track of many things. Our herdsman is a vet, so thus they have a great health insurance plan. This is our first year doing embryo transfers and sexed semen. We work extremely hard to keep our girls happy.

Our farm has been environmentally verified with Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program, which is kind of a big deal. There are many qualifications that have to be met. It took a lot of time and work to achieve. Each verification is different and dairy verification is one of the hardest. We try hard to be good stewards of what God gave us.

I created my blog, A Farm Wife, to shed an honest look at farming today. To encourage, educate and share. Besides, for some reason, as most writers do, I feel like I have something to say. Please insert eye rolling here.

I also have a weekly radio spot on Holland, MI local talk radio. It’s called Random Ramblings Of. Every Wednesday morning around 8:20ish on 1450 AM or on line at WHTC you can join in the ramblings. The program started when I was promoting my book 101 Ways to Celebrate the Ordinary. One and a half years later with a few sponsors the rambling continues. While I ramble on just about everything, I do try to include farming topics more frequently. As farmers we need to develop relationships with the non-farming community. I share the ups and downs of farming in hopes that they will give a thought to the farmers when they grab that gallon of milk, eat their food or slip into a cotton T-shirt. You can listen to past programs on the blog, A Farm Wife, under the tab so cleverly labeled as radio links.

Now, back to the weather. There’s a saying in Michigan that most of you may have already heard. “If you don’t like the weather, wait a bit, it will change.”

This year the weather hasn’t been farming friendly. We’ve been suffering like so many other areas with no rain. The second week of July, we were 10 days away from chopping what little corn we had in the fields to try to salvage at least some feed as silage.

We received an inch on a Friday. The following Friday we received another one half inch. It’s been enough to keep us going. But, was it enough? Not sure. Probably not.

Last night we had a glorious steady rain. I don’t know the totals and once again it helps, but I doubt the corn can catch up.

For us, it really doesn’t matter. We do what we can. We work hard and then give it to God. It’s all his anyway. We’re just tending the land and caring for the critters.

"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only GOD, who makes things GROW" Corinthians 3:7

I would love to have you visit us in person if you are ever in the west Michigan area or grab a cup of coffee and stop by the blog. Be sure to leave a comment so we can chat.

Thanks for the fantastic feature Diane! Be sure to visit Diane's blog and Facebook page to learn more about her family farm. If you or someone you know should be featured on Faces of Agriculture - please contact us! No need to have a blog, we would just like to share your story!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Melinda Bastian

Today we are featuring Melinda Bastian, a Missouri farm wife, who writes about her sons and their involvement in agriculture and showing cattle. 

When I first started writing this, I found myself being a bit scattered. We have three generations in our farming operations here in Central Missouri and each generation has a different story to tell. I thought the best way to present our entire story would be to break it into generational segments. The youngest generation of our operation is made up of our sons, Chris and Jesse Bastian. Chris will soon be 20 and Jesse will turn 18 a week later.

Chris, Jesse, & Cody McCullough in the Chi Fitting Contest at Jr. Nationals. 
Both have always been involved around the farm and started showing bottle calves when they were 3 and 2 respectively. But showing calves is just the tip of the iceberg of what they have learned. We homeschooled both boys through high school. Homeschooling and farming combined to provide more learning opportunities than we could ever have imagined when we began! Not many young people can do their science fair projects on how to AI a cow with an actual reproductive tract or build a hover board with a calf blower and duct tape! Both were also very involved in 4-H and FFA. They earned the opportunities to judge at The American Royal in Kansas City and The National Western Stock Show in Denver in 4-H and made it to the state level in FFA. Between these judging experiences and their time spent on mission trips to North Dakota with our church youth group, they have developed communication skills I never thought I would see in them. Jesse just got back for his last youth mission trip last weekend. They will be telling our church about the trip this week in worship service. Chris bemoaned the fact he won’t get to talk in church this year. We all were a bit shocked at that statement!

Chris is a full time farmer/cattleman now. Unfortunately he’s learning just what a hard life it can be this year with the extreme drought conditions that we’re experiencing. The corn has very few, if any, kernels and the beans could still produce something, but not nearly what we are used to. Hay is done and has been for a few weeks. It is somewhat a bleak situation, but one that is bringing out some creativity in how we do things. He has been blessed with some great fitting jobs this summer that have sure helped pad his bank account.

Chris helping fit a steer for a young man he's teaching to fit.
Jesse is working at a local truck repair shop this summer and will start a diesel mechanics program this fall. We can definitely use another good mechanic around here and he is developing some great skills in this area. He felt this was a way he could earn a good income and yet still be involved in the day to day farming operation.

Chris and Jesse each have their own cow herds and some cows are co-owned between the two of them. We made an agreement with them that they could have the first good heifer out of their show heifers each year. They also run a fitting and clipping business, Bastian Brothers Fitting. They compete at the Chianina and Maine Anjou Junior National Heifer Shows in the fitting contest each year. This year they placed 2nd in the Chi contest and 4th in the Maine contest. Not too bad for a couple of boys who started fitting on their bottle calves. This October, their fitting company is going to host a Sullivan’s Stock Show U here in Mexico, MO. This will be a free event for participants and we hope to draw many youth from the central and eastern portions of the state. Give us a call, drop us an email or send us a Facebook message if you’re interested in getting the details.

Some of the cows the boys care for. Since this picture was taken,
we had the driest June and July in a very long time. 
The guys both went to AI (Artificial Insemination) school when they were 14 and 12. It has been quite nice to have them be able to breed cows and take some of that weight off Mike’s shoulders. We AI around 75 cows each spring/summer. Before the guys learned how to AI, Mike and I would often be out breeding cows in the dark when he got home from his evening shift job in town. The guys also run a hay crew (not been too busy this year though) and help out with silage chopping. Actually there’s not a lot with the cattle we don’t expect them to be able to handle.

Their days vary quite a lot depending on the time of year. Right now, Chris and Jesse are up by 6:30 and out the door to feed and rinse show calves. Jesse heads off to his town job about 7:40 and Chris takes his breakfast break then. After breakfast, Chris will check cows and calves for pink eye and make sure the mineral feeders and creep feeders are full. Right now, Chris and Mike will head over to Grandpa Bastian’s farm to chop corn silage. They’re chopping nearly all the corn this year due to the drought. Normally we wouldn’t chop that much, but we’re trying to make the best of a bad situation. Chopping silage will keep Chris busy though out the day and into the evening. By the time he gets home, it’s time for supper and then he and Jesse will rinse calves again and do the evening feeding and watering. They have to wait until nearly 9 pm to have enough water pressure to water everyone. All the cattle waterers, hydrants and our house run off the deep well. As dry as it’s been, we’re having to baby our water system a bit. Everyone’s usually in bed by 10 pm and will do it all over again the next day.

Cutting silage to preserve the corn crop.
Chris and Jesse will take the day off Saturday to go to a cattle show nearby. They are taking a few heifers and a steer we sold last year. They’ll do all the fitting as Mike will take their place in the silage. We try to make it all work out and especially since they have the job of fitting the steer.

Sundays are as much a day of rest as we can take. Mike gives the guys the morning off and does chores for them. We let them sleep in a bit then head to Sunday school and church at First Baptist Church in Mexico. After church, they rinse the calves while I’m getting lunch ready. After lunch we try to take some down time. Jesse goes to youth group in the evening and often Chris hangs out with friends on Sunday evening. It’s really a time to recharge our batteries for the coming week and to be thankful for the ways God has blessed us.

Chris exercising a show steer.
Both boys have been honored at the local, state and even national levels for their involvement with the beef cattle industry. They have learned how to explain their reasons through livestock judging, how to carve the ideal calf out through fitting and clipping and how to present their animal through showmanship. They have learned how to deeply care for animals through the care of their heifers, cows and especially their baby calves. They have learned to be quite self-sufficient – from treating a cow for prolapse and stitching her up to figuring out what drug will be best for treating a cow for disease or illness. They have suffered losses (of cattle, of freedom, of time and of money) and they have experienced great joy (by winning showmanship contests, fitting contests and shows, by watching the baby calves playing in the pastures and by growing closer to each other). I cannot imagine how dismal the future of America would be without young farmers. Agriculture teaches a work ethic that is unparalleled. Faith in God leads them back to agriculture even after the worst of time. For everything there is a season, a right time to plant and another to reap (Ecclesiastes 3:2). I am thankful for all the opportunities agriculture has afforded Chris and Jesse and look forward to them getting the opportunity to give back to other youth in agriculture.

A major misconception in the show calf world is that all “steer jocks and fitters” are unethical and crooks. I hope that as people get to know Chris and Jesse they see a different side of the industry. I hope they see the love of the cattle and the youth participating in shows. I hope they see two young men doing their best to present their animals in the best light and simply making a living at it. I hope they see two men who are accountable to more than just the owners, the judges and other fitters. I hope they see two men who are striving to make a difference in the world.

That’s what I hope the world sees when they see the youngest generation at Bastian Show Calves.

Thanks Melinda for the great feature! We look forward to hearing about the other generations of your farm. Be sure to check out Bastian Show Calves facebook page, website, or you can email them ( for more information. If you or someone you know would like to be featured as a Face of Agriculture, please contact us!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Leslie Brazel

Today we hear from Leslie Brazel and family from Kansas!

Hello from South Central Kansas! My name is Leslie Brazle and my blog is CowPies & MudPies. We live in Winfield, Kansas. We are nestled in the middle of wheat country and the grassland/cattle country. My husband Justin and I have been married nearly 18 years and we have two boys, ages 15 and 12.

The Family
My husband and I both grew up in agriculture and are happy to be raising our boys in this lifestyle. I grew up about four miles off the Kansas/Oklahoma border. My folks have a farm and raise wheat, alfalfa, soybeans and they have about 50 cows. I LOVED the farm growing up and knew I wanted to continue in the agriculture field somehow when I grew up and moved away! My sister and I were active in FFA and always helping my dad around the farm.

My husband grew up about 40 miles east of my parents and raised wheat and cattle, but my father-in-law is also an auctioneer and worked at several cattle sales every week. It was a given that my husband would become an auctioneer as well. He began as a young boy and then went to auctioneer school in North Dakota at the age of 14. After graduating from Kansas State University, where he was on the Livestock Judging team, with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science, he returned to Winfield to join his dad at Winfield Livestock Auction. My father-in-law, John Brazle has owned Winfield Livestock Auction for about 39 years. I recently joined the family business full time after working in the medical field for nearly 20 years.

Left to right: clerk, father-in-law, my hubby, internet clerk.
He's smiling even though the market was DOWN!
We have a cattle auction every Wednesday at 11 am. Our sale can be viewed over the Internet through It is amazing that we can not only watch the auction online but also sell cattle online. When we first started with Cattle USA I thought it was crazy and could never imagine buying cattle over the Internet, but amazingly, we do sell cattle on the Internet! We also have an Auction & Realty Company where we specialize in selling land, farm equipment, houses and household items.

Bringing the gals into the pens to load
Along with our Livestock Auction (a.k.a. Sale Barn) we run our own cattle. We buy heifers weighing about 400 pounds in the fall and brand, vaccinate and start them on protein pellets so that we can turn them out on grass around April 15th. We feed prairie hay, protein pellets and keep mineral out for them. We rent the grass for 90 days and sell them about July 15th. We usually run about 600-650 head of heifers but this year is a little different due to the drought. We only turned out about 350 head this year. When we sell our cattle in July weighing about 750 pounds and they are sold at auction through our sale barn. The buyers then send them to a feedlot where they will be fed and finished out and eventually sold for beef consumption.

Before they go to grass they are getting about 5 pounds of protein pellets, per cow, per day.
We only used 2 cattle pots this year, they each hauled two loads.
Each semi can haul around 50,000 pounds.
What we do is a demanding lifestyle. It can consume your days, nights and weekends. Between the business (sale barn) and our personal cattle, boys and just life in general there is not a lot of free time. There are years the cattle make money, then there are years like this one where the market has gone to pot. But we love what we do and I don’t see us ever changing. We are blessed to beyond measure and give thanks to God regardless! Please feel free to visit our auction website, Windfield Livestock Auction or CattleUSA.

Thank you to the Faces of Agriculture gals for helping educate our world on all the different aspects of agriculture and just HOW important it is! Milk and meat and bread do not just “come from the store”!

Thank you Leslie for taking the time to share your families story! You can learn more about this proud Kansas family on their blog: CowPies & MudPies. If you would like to be a feature on Faces of Agriculture please contact us!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jessy McLavey

Meet Jessy; she works at a guest ranch in Wyoming. She believes that agri-tourism can help create advocates for agriculture and bring awareness to issues facing ranchers.

Though she has previously lived in New Hampshire and Colorado, Jessy McLavey currently calls the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming her home. Working as the office manager (reservations, concierge, general guest service, etc.) at an upscale working cattle/horseback riding guest ranch, she deals in a unique aspect of the agriculture community.

Jessy has been working in the guest ranch/Western hospitality industry for three seasons (guest seasons usually run from spring-late fall) and has come to recognize the important role she and her coworkers hold. While the job is to first and foremost show the guests the time of their life and help them escape the “real world” and stress of their everyday lives, there is also the opportunity to have them recognize that this is beautiful country and that small-scale ranching and farming are real, traditional and disappearing American livelihoods that need to be preserved.

It takes a lifetime to run a farm or a ranch, but only one week for a person from “the city” to become an advocate for agriculture!

For most guests, this trip is the highlight of their year and they feel a strong bond to the cattle they move with the wranglers and the horses they ride each time (they feel like they are truly a part of the ranching community, and for that one week they are). They become deliberate followers of low-stress techniques, ask questions and then return to their homes and jobs with stories of their time in Wyoming. They tell their friends and family about the unforgettable time they had, and their friends in turn want to be a part of this special place and community.

It’s really an amazing thing.

The unfortunate thing is that some ranchers don’t embrace the visiting guests with as much warmth as they should. Some (not all) of them use the word “dude” with negative connotations and find tourism a nuisance. Jessy wishes that these folks in the ranching community would recognize the value in having people from outside the area see their lifestyle, embrace it, feel as though they’re a part of it and then return to the city and promote the conservancy of the agricultural industry.

Jessy loves the passion the guests develop for the land and is able to see her Wyoming home with fresh eyes each week. Her favorite part of working on a guest ranch is meeting new, diverse people every week who all share a passion for horses and a huge enthusiasm for the American West.

When she’s not at work, Jessy enjoys riding in the Big Horn Mountains, keeping up with her blogging, reading and braiding custom gear. She consciously tries to improve her horsemanship with each passing day and her hopes for the future include running yearlings on her own small ranch in Colorado.

You can follow Jessy on her blog WestEastern, on Facebook, and on Twitter! Thanks Jessy for a great feature and introducing us to a different aspect of agriculture!

Are you involved in Agriculture? You could be the next feature! Contact us!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Kristen Reese

Say hello to Kristen Reese; mom, wife, farmer, chef, relator and small business owner! She raises her family on the diversified family farm and encourages urban customers to reach out to a farmer and discuss where their food comes from.

Hello from Ohio! My name is Kristin Reese. I live near the small town of Baltimore. We are mainly a rural community but not too far away you will find urban sprawl. This positions us to have a great opportunity to reach out to nearby urban customers and have some fun talking food and farming with those who are two or even three generations removed from the farm.

Thirteen years ago, in the sheep barn at the Ohio State Fair I met my husband Matt. I was running for the Ohio Lamb and Wool Queen and he had just landed his first job out of college working for Ohio’s Country Journal, a statewide agricultural publication, as the assistant editor. He was reporting on the contest. I was selected as the Queen and after many in-depth interviews with the assistant editor we were married several years later. Matt still works for the Journal and now serves as the Editor. Off the farm, I am a Realtor and regularly work with farmers selling or buying land as well as individuals looking to buy and sell homes, land and investments.

We have two children Campbell (4) and Parker (2) who are our helpers around our small family farm. Matt and I both had the luxury of growing up on farms and we feel strongly about raising our children the same way. It is very important that they are very aware of where there food comes from and how hard farmers work to produce a healthy, safe product.

I grew up on a diversified grain and livestock farm and Matt grew up on a dairy and Christmas tree farm. 
We both had deep roots in agriculture. Today we have blended a bit of both families together and have a very busy farm life and also a farm blog, Reese Farm Roots.  

The Reese Family has a 30-acre choose and cut Christmas tree operation and Shiitake mushroom production. Matt and I are active in every aspect of the family's Christmas tree farm including planting in the spring, mowing, shearing and farm maintenance in the summer, and harvesting and working with customers during the sales season. We help make wreathes and arrangements and sell baked goods from the farm gift shop. Christmas Tree farming is defiantly not just a seasonal business. We are busy all year long making sure our customers have the best trees to select from. We grow 7 varieties of trees and have over 30,000 trees varying from seedlings to 10 feet tall. 

My parents, the Root Family, raise registered Horned Dorset sheep and grass and alfalfa hay. Most of the sheep are sold to breeders around the U.S. or harvested and sold for meat locally to private customers and to local markets. We also raise meat chickens for local sales, layers for eggs and meat rabbits for show and for market. I market our farm products through my catering business, Local Flavor Foods, which has been a great way for us to bridge the gap between the consumer and the kitchen table.

We are a small farm, but have many friends and family members who are large scale farmers. As a result, we have a unique take on food and farming. We feel it is our responsibility to make sure that anyone who eats foods knows the truth about food and farming. We want all people to feel safe and secure about the food they buy to feed their families. As a person who eats food, you should be concerned about what you are putting into your body. Be an educated consumer.

As a mom nothing is more important to me than making sure my children are safe and healthy. All food safety issues and concerns boil down to trust. If you go to a fine restaurant, you trust the chef to property handle and prepare the food safely. If you buy something at a farmers market, you have to trust that farmer to provide you with a safe farm product. With these larger scale food safety concerns we are hearing from shoppers out there, it is a matter of trusting the USDA and the FDA that are charged with overseeing these big issues such as antibiotics in livestock, genetically modified foods or food safety recommendations. 

I personally do trust these agencies. And, I think if you start looking into the research that they do, you will find that is hard to argue with the effort, detail and diligence from these agencies to ensure your food is safe. This kind of research seldom makes the headlines like the scary stuff that we hear about our food so often, but when you really take the time to look at the research, it is very thorough and impressive, and it very strongly supports the practices used to produce the safe and abundant food supply in this country that we enjoy.

Got questions about your food? Talk to a farmer!

Thanks Kristen, what a great story! You can find Kristen on her personal farm blog, her catering blog, the family Christmas tree blog, facebook & twitter

If you or someone you know would be willing to share your story on the blog, please contact us! YOU could be the next Face of Agriculture!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Miller Farms

Meet Steph and Lance Miller of Alabama. This proud farming family raises cotton, peanuts, poultry and much more!

Miller Farms is located in North Alabama in an area called Sand Mountain. My husband, Lance and I farm with Lance’s Uncle Jim and Aunt Nell. We farm 660 acres of cotton, 155 acres of peanuts, 85 acres of soybeans, and 55 acres of corn. We also have four poultry broiler houses where we are contract growers for Koch Foods. The chicken houses are 43’ x 510’ and hold around 34,000 chickens each. We raise a 4lb bird in around 35 days.

My job is to go to the chicken houses every morning. Everything is automated, but I still have to make sure the chickens have feed, water, and proper heat and ventilation. I also have the job of removing any dead chickens from the houses. I’m in charge of all of the office work for the poultry operation and Lance and Jim’s farming operations. During harvest season, you can find me in the cotton field. I run the module builder. The builder is what the cotton picker dumps the cotton into when it gets full. I use levers to work a tramper which packs the cotton. After the picker dumps 12-15 bales of cotton, and I pack it tightly, a tractor pulls the module builder forward off of the cotton, and it leaves behind a module of cotton that is ready to be taken to the gin.

Lance, Jim, and our two farm employees always have something to do. In the spring, they fertilize the fields with our chicken litter, spray the weeds in the fields, and plant the crops. In the summer, the peanuts need to be sprayed every two weeks for fungus, and the cotton needs to be sprayed every few weeks with growth regulator, insecticide and herbicide. There is also a lot of bush hogging to do. They also get our equipment and tractors ready for harvest. In the fall, we harvest the crops. The corn will be ready to pick in August, the peanuts will be ready in September, cotton in October, and soybeans in November. Winter is spent on repairs, equipment maintenance and sowing a cover crop.

Lance has been helping on the farm since he could walk. He started working on the farm when he was in high school. After college, it became his full time job. Lance and I were married in October 2006, and I worked a job dealing with the public for almost a year. After I couldn’t take it anymore, Lance said he would build some chicken houses, and I could work on the farm too. Our favorite thing about working on the farm is being able to be our own boss and be around family.

We wish the public would understood how much work and labor is involved in farming. We may take in a lot of money when we get paid for our crop, but it goes right back out the door when we get all the bills. It bothers us when people think that the government pays us large amounts of money to farm, when in reality it wouldn’t even pay our fuel bill during picking season. People need to understand that if U.S. farmers are regulated and priced out of business, all of our food will be coming from other countries, which do not have the same standards as our food does.

Thanks for the great feature Stephanie! Be sure to check out her farming blog (The Life of a Farmer's Wife) to learn more about this families farm! She has a lot of good things going on!

Don't forget you could be the next feature! We want to hear your agriculture story! Contact us for more information - YOU could be the next featured face of agriculture!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hans and Jennie

Meet a couple of farmers from Maryland!  Jennie is also a volunteer for Common Ground - a grassroots movement of farm women educating consumers about our farms and how we grow their food!  Welcome Jennie! 

Greetings from the Eastern Shore of Maryland!

Photo Credit: Edwin Remsberg

You probably didn’t think Maryland had farms did you? That’s generally the response I get when I tell folks I’m a farmer from Maryland. Maryland’s largest industry is agriculture and while the state only has about 2 million acres of farmland, we are American agriculture in miniature! From the Coastal Plains populated by poultry houses and large scale grain operations to the Appalachian Mountains where the land is more suitable for grazing, and all types of agriculture in between, Maryland agriculture is strong but highly regulated as we farm in the shadow of our nation’s capital.

Our family farm is on the “Eastern Shore”, meaning we are on the Eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay. Pull out your atlas if you need to figure out the geography of Maryland. Around here we call it “Eastern Shore” or “Western Shore” as it relates to the Chesapeake. We are a third generation family, 2000 acre family farm growing corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, hay, tomatoes, green beans, and winegrapes. It’s a long story how we got to this point as less than 20 years ago, we were a farrow to finish hog operation along with a cow-calf Angus beef herd. The livestock were sold and we became fruit and vegetable growers in an effort to capture more value per acre rather than trying to expand the number of acres we farm.

Tomato Crop 

The farm consists of my husband Hans and his brother Alan, their father Walter having already transitioned the business to them 17 years ago. Besides myself, we have one full time employee, several seasonal workers for the fruits and vegetables, and of course, our children. We recognize that we have to preserve our soil and improve our soils for the next generation, leaving the farm in better condition than we received it. To that end, we are very conservation minded. Our grain crops are 100% no-till or use conservation tillage equipment. Farming as we do in a critical watershed, we want our nutrients and our soils to stay in place and utilize many best management practices such as cover crops to accomplish that goal.


My main role is to manage a 22 acre winegrape vineyard producing high quality winegrapes for the expanding Maryland wine industry. In addition, I launched a custom vineyard management company 4 years ago to offer services from planting vineyards (using RTK of course), to custom spraying, crew work, harvest, whatever the customer with a vineyard needs. This opened up another enterprise for the farm to bring in income via a different entity while meeting the needs of an emerging market in the region.

Photo Credit: Curt Dennison

My background is as a Registered Dietitian which I practiced for 15 years before leaving the profession. I still maintain my credentials and it suits agriculture very nicely as agriculture and nutrition are like salt and pepper, they just go together very nicely. So instead of reading lab results, I now read soil and plant tissue results, assessing and treating what’s happening to the plants rather than the people. Besides having my commercial applicator’s license, I am also licensed as a nutrient management consultant and write nutrient management plans. Farming is highly regulated in Maryland. Nitrogen and phosphorus are regulated nutrients, meaning you cannot apply either without having a mandatory nutrient management plan. 

In Maryland, there are also restrictions on application of fertilizer between November 1st and March 1st. Currently in the pipeline are new proposed restrictions to mandate incorporation of manure within 48 hours of application, mandatory exclusion fencing of all livestock, and numerous other regulations related to nitrogen and phosphorus. This is an entire blog in and of itself. It would be interesting to hear comments from farmers outside of the Chesapeake watershed about the practices we must adhere to in order to farm in Maryland. If you would like to see what we are faced with farming in a regulatory environment, follow this link to the pdf file to see what’s currently being proposed. You may very well be surprised.

Being an “Ag-vocate” has evolved over the years as I increased my responsibility on the farm and geared up my speaking and media training skills.  In addition to serving on a speaker’s bureau for the International Food Information Council (IFIC), I am also a volunteer for CommonGround, a grassroots movement of farm women educating consumers about our farms and how we grow their food. CommonGround is farmer-funded with our corn and soybean CheckOff dollars. It is a program I strongly believe in and encourage farm women to look into for their state. As a result, I started a blog called The Foodie Farmer where I write about how crops are grown and how those foods get from farm to table.  I also write about issues in the media. I am on twitter as @FarmGirlJen, have a YouTube channel called The Foodie Farmer as well as a Facebook fan page. All of these spokes feed the wheel of my blog which is growing slowly in followers. Social media is a fantastic platform for agriculture to proactively present its message and engage non-farm folks in the discussion of food, farming, and sustainability.

Thanks Jennie for this great feature!  Stop by her blog The Foodie Farmer and follow this farm girl and her quest to educate others about how our food gets from the farm to the table. 

If you would like to be a feature on this blog contact us!! We want to hear your story!  Check out our Contact Page and send Jamie or Elizabeth an e-mail! 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hasekamps of H&K Farms

Today's feature is from a farming family in Missouri.  The Hasekamp's are proud to be involved in agriculture and teach their childern hard work and responsiblity down on the farm.

I live in sunny downtown Tulip, Missouri. At face value that doesn’t sound like the beginning of a rural farm story. And my personal story doesn’t begin as a rural farm story either. I grew up in a small town in the middle of Missouri, population less than 1,000. I fell in love with a farm boy from a neighboring town. We verbally got engaged sitting on a FFA trailer exhibit at the Missouri State Fair and 22 years later are raising our kids to be agricultural leaders of the future.

Heading to the Coliseum - MO State Fair 2007.
My name is Kathy Hasekamp and my husband and I, along with his sister and her husband together farm several acres of grain crops, corn, soybeans and wheat. We raise Angus cattle, we sell seed corn, have a custom hay business and are ABS dealers. Like most farmers of this century, we don’t ‘just farm’. We are proud to support our local 4-H and FFA chapter, we try to ‘agvocate’ farming in all that we do from serving on FSA (USDA Farm Service Agency) boards, fair boards, fair exhibition, hosting school farm tours, taking animals to farm petting zoos and using social media to share our story and promote our way of life.

Sam posing with our display - MO State Fair 2008.
A typical day at H&K Farms starts with feeding, there’s always something to feed. Depending on the time of year this is a quick job of just minutes or hours long job including scooping snow out the feed bunks on a snowy morning or moving cows to green pastures on a dry summer day. We might have a string of show calves to feed, a bottle calf, or bulls in their ‘off time’ in the barn behind the house.

Maintenance is a constant job, whether it's fixing fence, changing oil in a tractor, or nailing down a piece of tin from the barn roof after a windy storm - my husband is certainly a jack of all trades. He and my brother-in-law put in the crops and harvest them primarily by themselves. Busy kids and wives help when we can. We are certainly thankful for modern farm equipment that allows them to cover many acres quickly. Our cattle - both cows and feeder calves - eat corn silage, so we fill two silos every year, which is one of the times they call on myself, my sister-in-law or one of our older sons to help.

Harvest 2005 - Dad always has an extra helper (or 2) riding in the combine.
Our family works hard and plays hard, at least occasionally. One thing we all enjoy every year is many local fairs. We show steers and heifers at many shows throughout the summer, culminating with the Missouri State Fair in August. Three of our four kids show cattle already and our youngest can join 4-H this fall, they are growing up in the same club that their dad and aunt were members of. My nephew and niece are much younger, which means that this will be our summer family activity for many years to come and for that I am also very grateful.

Chopping Silage - 2009
Raising kids who are responsible for animals and farm chores to me is probably the one thing that I find most important as a farm wife and mother. My kids understand the cycle of life, from the ‘birds and bees’ to end of life. They know where their food comes from, they appreciate the hard work that went into putting it on their plate. They are proud to be a part of that and anyone who questions it is likely to get an education, good and bad!

Dad & Aunt Beth help lead calves to an evening show.
I wish that more people had the opportunity to witness first hand just how the food we eat in this country is produced. I think that we take for granted the health, safety, abundance and moderate price that we enjoy in America. I am so sorry that animal rights groups have made people question our intentions. I wish those people would see my husband go to great lengths to save the life of a baby calf, to encourage its momma to claim it and take care of it. I wish that they were there to see the tears in my daughters eyes last year at her first State Fair when she realized it was the last time she would be caring for her summer love, her steer. I wish they were there when we haul hay into the wee morning hours attempting to get the job done before a rain. Or were waiting in my living room on Christmas morning for us to get back inside from feeding the cows so we could enjoy ‘gifts from Santa.’

Jenna in her first year showing - with heifer Lucky - the most pampered cow in the county!
Farming is certainly not a job. It’s a way of life. It’s one that I am proud to be a part of.

To learn more about our family operation please visit my personal blog and Facebook page. We were also featured in Farm & Ranch living in 2009 - you can view the link here.

Thanks Kathy for the great feature! Please take a moment to visit her blog page and facebook page to keep up with this farming family!

Is your family involved in FFA or 4-H?  Do you take pride in your farm and way of life?  If so...YOU could be the next feature! Check out our contact page or comment below!  We want to hear your story! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jan of SlowMoneyFarm

Welcome Jan, from SlowMoneyFarms. She raises rare breed rabbits and poultry, and advocates for having choices available to everyone regarding food products.

SlowMoneyFarm is a different kind of place. It's different in food choice options, and it's different in the animals we keep.

Doing videos, social media, working towards promoting not just what
we do but agriculture as a whole is part of the day. 
With a goal of having a customized opportunity featuring heirloom and heritage plants and animals used to feed people, it's more than a chance to taste what food used to be like. While it takes all sizes and types of farms to provide food choices, much like different grapes produce different wines, different breeds may have slightly different characteristics, and tastes. We wanted to work on a cash basis, without a bank loan, and have been told it's impossible.

I grew up on a farm in Illinois with Charolais beef cattle. 4-H and FFA were long time activities. After high school I attended Black Hawk East Community College, graduating in 1981 with a degree in Equine Science. I worked with horses for many years, as well as on farms. With step-grandparents raising Brown Swiss cows, I still have a fondness for that breed...maybe someday!

I've raised rabbits for over 12 years, so I was comfortable with them, and had several years raising small scale poultry. Both fit into the space we had available, starting with a 25x20 covered pen that initially housed chickens and ducks, with a net over the top to keep area owls as well as roaming dogs deterred. A few rabbit cages were tucked under the high end of the mobile home. 

Dominiques - one of the most popular breeds in 1902,
now considered rare.
Over time, we've added an 8x12 hoop house with 10x12 pens on both sides, a 12x14 hoop with a covered 6x12 area on one side for chickens, and a wing on the other side that's about 15x12' In this "big hoop and wing" we have rabbit cages, with misters that cool the air for fans to keep the rabbits cool in hot weather. Semi portable shelters are also used, and more pens are being built.

It's still growing. Literally, in size, and in volume. The rabbit cages have misters running in the aisles and fans to keep rabbits cool in hot weather - up to 20 degrees cooler even in extreme weather.

We started with a determination to grow into this, building and growing a market as well as starting where we are with what we have. In the beginning that wasn't much. Without a bank loan, everything has been small scale. We started with uncooperative ground that is on a slope, rocky in back, clay in front. Moskvich tomatoes, rosemary, several types of mint, peppers and other items cover the raised beds and other areas up front.

We raise Giant Chinchilla rabbits for show and as a crossbred sire for meat. Connor has earned his own rabbits, purebred Silver Fox and Champagne D'Argents. I also have added a few Satins and Californians to crossbreed for a growing meat business.

We have raised and have flocks to start hatching of Rhode Island Red, Dominique, Buckeye and black Australorp chickens. We also have red and white, buff and dark Cornish, Delawares, Rhode Island whites, and an assortment of birds we don't have roosters for - yet! We also have Midget White turkeys and Muscovy ducks.

Some of the Muscovy ducks.
Food choices drive us. These breeds we use were developed for small situations. The Giant Chinchilla, which is one of the largest breeds, was developed nearly 100 years ago and called the million dollar rabbit. They were developed for fur and meat, and with a characteristic of making use of hay rather than just the higher cost pellets. We don't know what the future holds, so maintaining these rare breeds may seem foolish to some, but their characteristics may be of use in an uncertain agricultural climate.

The Delaware chicken, for example, used to be crossed on New Hampshire hens for broilers. The Midget White was developed for those families who didn't need a 25 pound turkey for Thanksgiving. Many were developed by and for outdoor operations, and those operations are being sought as a food choice by a growing number of people.

We're still working towards an increased acreage operation in Kentucky, a particular area selected for the proximity to Nashville, Tennessee and Louisville. With working towards that, we need to grow not only our flocks and herds but a demand. Let people know we're here, make connections, communicate with people about food choices.

Two years ago my best friend passed away, and her son came to visit during the summer. In the spring of 2011 Connor moved here, with a discipline and typical pre-teen issues. He has cleaned pens, hauled water, dressed out rabbits and chickens, hauled manure, helped build raised beds, weeded, harvested and a host of other tasks that need done. 

A typical day starts with Connor doing critter check and watering while I check emails, see if there's any social media fires to tend to and check the day's schedule. There really isn't a "you do this job I do that one" for the most part with a few exceptions. I do the feeding as Connor's still working on the formation of proper executive decisions! I check to make sure he's properly filled the waters, as it's ultimately my responsibility to insure all the animals have water. He's a teen who did not grow up on the farm and too easily thinks "I'll come back to that" so direction to follow through raises not only the critters but his abilities. Paul is also a big part of things, holding an outside job setting mobile homes to keep the bills paid.

Generally Paul and Connor handle the building of things, the deciphering my sketches in a "make this work!" plea and many of the meals. Yes, we're not traditional - Paul's had chef training, and Connor has learned to not only raise rabbit and chicken but cook it too. Pretty good for a kid that two years ago was tapped at eggs or Ramen noodles!

The only breed of chickens developed by a woman,
Buckeyes have a long history.
I handle the social media tasks, promotion, marketing, selection of expansions, feeding, extra projects to make funds available for expansions or new things...pretty much directing the ship. When we need feed, or need a new bloodline I scout out the sources and make it happen, usually on a budget!

I wish we had the funds to get 20-40-50 acres, and believe it will happen. We have our current place almost paid off and recently purchased 10 acres in Arizona on contract that will be Connor's "savings account". He misses Arizona, and his mom of course, it's a reminder of her. As with many things, opportunity doesn't always come along at the ideal time, but we make it work! Having room for larger stock is definitely a goal!

I love working with the critters, and on Twitter as @SlowMoneyFarm often introduce myself as "head critter gitter" here, making the decisions who to sell, who to breed, who to dress out, what we need to do to get to that next step. When things crowd in, some time with the rabbits fixes everything, even if just in time to stop and appreciate what we have, rather than looking at what we don't.

Last year when the tornadoes came through Alabama, they hit just north and just south of us with devastating consequences. We'd just recently put up the first hoop and moved our young pullets into it. All came through fine. When the tornado hit, we were without power. We had just stocked up the weekend before so had groceries in the freezer as well as fridge and pantry.

I moved the cast iron pan to an outdoor grill, and although it was a much bigger production to get meals prepared, we started using the thawed food then moved to the frozen, which was thawing. We had, of course, eggs still coming. Several days without power gave a new appreciation. We lost some chicks due to the outage, but not nearly what many lost. The next day our birds got up ate and carried on. When the power came back on and we saw the news it was an eye opener. It tested survival, and cemented the decision to move forward.

Midget white turkeys.
We can only have food choices if we work together. Right now we depend on larger farms for our hay, for the feed for our animals. We have, equally, sold hens to those who just wanted a couple birds for producing their own eggs. We won't compete on volume, but offer choices. We have no illusion that rabbit is going to replace beef or pork in American consumption! But without all three farms there is less choice.

I wish more people understood that truly, we are in this together. We're not, really, competitors. The person wanting a 16 ounce Angus steak isn't going to be interested in rabbit enchiladas! The family that is watching pennies needs those less expensive but still safe eggs. But we still offer choices, and are every bit as serious...we just have different goals perhaps.

A big challenge is there isn't a lot of things *for* rabbits. It *is* a niche market. There aren't many vets who are familiar with them. We have to work with other breeders as to what works and what doesn't for illnesses, management, everything. I borrow many ideas from my fellow farmers - the misters for the rabbits, for example. I'm looking at and working towards a type of TMR ration for the rabbits using chopped hay that is easier to handle, with the pellets and supplements mixed in. I'm not content to just cruise along - but strive to make things better. 

Last year at the American Rabbit Breeders Association Convention, held in Indianapolis, Indiana, we entered the Giant Chinchillas in their first real competition since buying the first buck a few years earlier. We bred and showed two top ten does, and two top 5 bucks at the national level. Connor also had a few top 5 placings in the youth division.

Rabbits are unique, too, in that they provide fiber (angora), meat, fur and valued medical use as well as pets. The rare breeds, both poultry and rabbits, are a challenge to find stock. It seems oxymoronic to say we need to eat them to save them, but food choices allow them a job. It allows a reason for people - like us - to keep them besides purely a push for production and fast turnaround of other more modern breeds and operations. In the end - food and farm choices working together is good for everyone. 

Young rabbits, like other species, are ofter allowed a creep feeder to
allow them to access feed without the doe getting too fat.
People can find us easily on our website, Twitter and Facebook as SlowMoneyFarm. We have a farm blog at and more recently started one from the food side, for those more interested in chicken recipes than chicken breeds. It's hoped this will bring in more people who will make choices, whatever the choice is, which then allows all of us a market to fill the choices. 

Choices are good...for all of us.

Thanks Jan for the great feature. Be sure to check out her blog and social media to follow along with her business. 

If you would like to be a featured farmer or know someone who should be, leave a comment below - or check out our contact page. To learn more about the Faces of Agriculture Project click here.