Friday, December 28, 2012

Jessica Hedges - A Cowboy Poet

Today we're sharing the story of Sam & Jess Hedges, a cowboy-ing couple from the Great Basin! 

We're Sam & Jessica Hedges, from the beautiful, vast and wild area of the Great Basin known as SE Oregon, south of Burns, OR to be specific. 

We both grew up on ranches. Sam in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. Jess in California and Nevada. Since getting married, we have ventured into Washington and Oregon. We both had a short stint in Elko, Nevada where we met while we were going to college, but quickly figured out that our lives were about cowboying and that's how we wanted to raise our someday family. 

We are both driven by the history, the tradition, the horsemanship, the sense of family that surrounds ranching. Its hard work, but it is honest and heartfelt.

Our favorite thing about living on a ranch is the freedom. 

"There is nothing like the feeling that you get down deep in side when you trot out in the morning and you're hired on to ride."~ Waddie Mitchell

Right now, Sam buckaroos for Tree Top Ranches, a cattle operation in SE Oregon and several other states. His day consists of anything that needs to be done, but mostly cowboying and duties directly related to keeping cow/calf pairs fed, watered, and otherwise cared for.

Jess use to ride on a daily basis when the couple lived in cow camp, but has recently hung up her spurs to be a full time mom to their 7 month old son, Quirt.

Outside of the normal day to day, Sam makes knives and braids rawhide. Jess is a nationally acclaimed cowboy poet and has started her own accessories line, The Buckarette Collection. 

A typical day for us is non-existent. You can walk out the door that day with a plan and have it all change. Sam can be on a horse, welding, putting out mineral, or any other number of things in a day. Jess can be on the road performing, running errands in town, training a dog or horse, or creating an original Buckarette Collection piece.

Jess gets to deal with a lot misconceptions and misunderstanding about cowboy life through her experiences as a cowboy poet. 

I (Jess) was talking to a group of grade schoolers in Durango, CO and you could hear them gasp as I explained that we only went town once a month. Walmart was 5 hours and was a once every couple of months trip.

Although we are no longer in cow camp, we had in the past lived 4 hours from town and had no cell service, no tv, there were times of the year that you couldn't get in or out. The idea that people are happy without technology and do this all for the sake of producing the nation's beef is unheard of. The remoteness and the lifestyle it takes to have a cheeseburger available when you hit the McDonald's drive thru is one of the biggest misconceptions.

You can learn more about Jess Hedges and her story by visiting her poetry website, her poetry Facebook page, and her Facebook page for the Buckarette Collection. She also has a personal Twitter account, and a Buckarette Collection twitter, as well as an Instagram

If you or someone you know is interested in sharing your story or agricultural experience, please contact us today! We are always looking for more features - YOU could be the next Face of Agriculture! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Morgan Kontz - A First Generation Farm Wife

Today we welcome Morgan Kontz of South Dakota. Morgan is the author of the blog "First Generation Farm Wife." She is a great agvocate for agriculture - working hard to represent agriculture and promote conversation about food and farming.

Hi! My name is Morgan Kontz, a First Generation Farm Wife, from Eastern South Dakota. My husband and I farm in a partnership with his brothers, their wives, and my in laws. Between the three families we have 8 kids involved in the operation. Talk about a LARGE family farm!

(My husband, my daughter, and I at Mt. Rushmore. We went to a South Dakota Corn Board husband is a Director on the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council)

We farm corn, soybeans, alfalfa, raise beef cattle, and run a beef feedlot. We stay quite busy year round- whether it’s in the fields, feeding cattle, working on equipment, or moving a ton of snow!

A typical day for me on the farm could include many things, or sometimes very little, depending on the time of year. This last harvest season I started my day getting our daughter ready for a day in the tractor and fixing meals for the day to feed the farm. Once I got to the farm I would typically spent the entire day in the tractor. Around bed time I would take our daughter home so our babysitter can get her settled for bed, and then I would be back in the tractor until the late hours of the evening- or the early hours of morning. However, you look at it!

During the non busy season things are a bit less busy for me around the farm. I spend a good chunk of my time during a month cleaning cattle water fountains and fencing with my husband every now and then. I also do bookwork, pay bills, and keep tabs on our breeding herd of cows- and those are just a few of the things I know need to get done. My schedule can vary depending on what my husband needs- whether it’s giving rides, watching gates, running for parts, or sometimes just having a family date in the tractor.  

(Cleaning cattle fountains- water source for animals)

(Filling salt and mineral tubs- supplements for our breeding cows)

Since we are involved in such a large operation sometimes being on the farm alone is very rare. The days where I get to spend with my husband just the two of us (well the three of us I should with our daughter!) is probably one of my favorite parts. I wouldn’t trade being involved on a family operation for anything- but there is something about sharing what we both love when it’s just the two of us!

One of the unique things about our operation is how we split a lot of our duties. The women on the farm do the bookwork and split the responsibilities in the office. We also do a weekly rotation of cooking meals for the farm. Most of the year this includes the noon meal. During the busy seasons it includes two meals a day, delivered 
to the field. We also split our Sunday chores and holiday chores so that each guy has a chance to spend time with their families.

(Delivering supper to the field during harvest)

One of the things that I wish consumers understood about farmers is that many of us are family owned and operated businesses. 98% to be exact. I always get many shocking looks when I discuss that with various people at different events. I didn’t come from a farming background, although I grew up loving agriculture and made it one of my passions to educate others on agricultural production and practices in modern farming (I have a degree in Agricultural Education). I think looking back I would have been stunned to know that 98% of farms are family owned and operated, so it’s fun and enlightening for me to be able to share that with others.  

I am very involved in the industry and always have been in some way or the other since high school. When I met my husband and moved to South Dakota I became a first generation farm wife. Other than my time on the farm I am also a volunteer for CommonGround. The organization is sponsored by National Corn and United Soybean boards. Our main goal is to have a conversation about food, and of course farming! 

Being involved in the Ag industry outside of our farm is something my husband and I take very seriously, and something we both enjoy. Even if it’s just a simple conversation about small areas of farming it is so important that consumers feel confident and establish trust in farmers again! 

Years ago farmers would have never anticipated having to defend their livelihood. Today, I believe it is more important than ever as farmers and ranchers to share our stories in a positive light. Consumers need to feel safe in their food decisions and I believe their is no one more skilled in telling the story of America’s agriculture than us!

To read more about our family farm check out my blog:

Have questions about Food? Check out the CommonGround site to meet other “experts” in agriculture!
Thank you Morgan for a great feature!!! Keep up the great work!!! Be sure to check out her blog to learn more!  

You could be the next FOA! It's easy - just send an e-mail to to learn more! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Liz and Adrian Brannan - Buckaroo Barbies

Today we feature two sisters from California. These girls work hard to promote western culture and ranching traditions. Please welcome Liz and Adrian of Buckaroo Barbie!

First of all, thank you for having us here at Faces of Agriculture!! We’re the Brannan sisters and we are best friends, business partners, dreamers, cowboy-girls and advocates of the cowboy/ranching world.

We were both born in Ventura, CA….in the land of the Vaqueros. But we were raised all over, NV, CA, Scotland, and MO…so it’s a little difficult for us to know where we’re from. Our dad was a saddle-maker turned cowboy turned international terrorism specialist, so our upbringing is really different than your typical cowboy or rancher.

Liz is the oldest at 25 and used to start colts for the public and braid rawhide, until she moved to Northeastern Nevada and became the first woman outside of family to cowboy on the Quarter Circle S Ranch, for the Van Normans. Getting the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best cowboys out there was an amazing experience for her.Liz got chronic Lyme disease and eventually had to quit cowboying full time, and now lives with Adrian in Northern CA. Because of her health limitations, Liz focuses on other aspects of the cowboy world now. She and Adrian are partners and are writing a book called Buckaroo Barbie and Liz runs their blog, which you can check out at,

Adrian is the youngest at 20 and at the ripe old age of 14 was given the opportunity to make a CD. She now has 3 albums to her name, one of which was produced by her childhood hero, Tom Russell. Her latest album, Buckaroogirl, was released early this year, to the clamor of fans who had been eagerly awaiting its arrival. You can check her music out at She also has a blog,

Today, Adrian travels full time for her music and Liz works for her little sister as her Personal Assistant. We have the BEST working relationship…we are a team. Because of Adrian having a public platform to speak from because of her music, we are able to promote the western lifestyle in a different way. It’s always a fun experience when we’re traveling and someone stops and talks to us because of our hats, our boots, or Adrian’s guitar, and you can see their preconceived notions being challenged because of our lifestyle. It’s been really eye-opening for us to see just how many people really don’t understand where their food or beef actually comes from. Many of them are genuinely surprised that beef cattle are still raised on ranches in the United States, and cared for by real cowboys.

When we’re not on the road, we really just enjoy being home. Our folks rent the house on the ranch where we live now in Northern CA, and the ground is leased out for cattle. We ride our fat horses, maybe shoot a little and occasionally a neighbor needs some day work. Adrian especially needs time to cowboy in order for her to remain connected to this way of life and retain her sanity. Liz still tries to make time to braid rawhide and occasionally ropes at a neighbor’s branding.

We feel so blessed to have been able to grow up with the lifestyle that we did…as a cowboy’s kid there is no better feeling than getting to go to work with the “big guys”…and the practice of passing on information and traditions to the next generation is something we very much believe in, and want to continue in our own lives.

Thanks to Adrian and Liz for a great feature!! We wish you much success and keep up the great work! Be sure to check out the Buckaroo Barbie Blog and Facebook Page. You can learn more about Adrian's music on her blog and Facebook page.

Are you an advocate for you way of life? Are you passionate about ranching and farming? We need your story! Send Elizabeth or Jamie an e-mail at to learn how you can be the next FOA feature!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Abiqua Acres - A Family Dairy

Today we welcome Darleen of Abiqua Acres. This farming family is rich in history and tradition.

Situated in the foothills of Oregon’s Cascade Mountain range, Abiqua Acres is on the edge of the diverse Willamette Valley. The valley truly is an Eden for agricultural diversity, and I feel truly blessed to call this region home! Our 100 acre farm is home to one of the nation’s few 100% registered Guernsey herds. We milk about 85 cows and raise all of our replacements on the farm. The whole farm is rotationally grazed for as many months out the year as the Oregon weather will allow. There’s just something truly special about seeing our fawn and white Ladies out on pasture, that’s a sight I will never get tired of! Except for grass forage that is baled for the calves and heifers all other feed is purchased and brought onto the farm, so we are not farmers, just dairy farmers. That in itself is more then enough work for our family operated farm that consists of a work crew of myself, husband and my parents.

I am the 4th generation, 3rd generation dairy farmer, since our farm came into the family in 1938. It was purchased by my Grandmother’s parents so she would have a chance to attend High School. Although I was born and raised here and grew up with a love for dairy farming, this isn’t what I always thought I would end up doing. It’s a lifestyle choice and one I struggled with deciding on. I guess I could say that choice was helped along by my boyfriend at the time. Together we decided this was the life we wanted and have never looked back. We were married in 2007 and joined my parents as partners in 2008. While my husband grew up in the country, he was in no way a farmer and I am so proud to see him jump in completely with both feet to take on this occupation. While it is hard work, it truly is a labor of love and we enjoy seeing our success reflected in our Ladies and our family. Since home and work go hand in hand for this lifestyle, I find it hard separating the two, but that was a big reason we made this choice. And in 2011 when we had our son, this choice just makes even more sense for working and raising our children together.

Currently my typical day is dictated by my 20 month old micro-manager, and I will admit it has been a bit of an adjustment for me! I can honestly say I have had my hand in all aspects of the operation, but daily tasks now include calf care, cow feeding, manure management and clean up, as well as several milkings a week. With my parents still fully involved we are currently blessed to have weekends to spend with family and friends. Nap time during the day for my son has opened a window of time for myself to put a face to dairy farming. I am just starting this adventure in blogging and also starting to use our farm facebook page to reach out. I really feel there is a shift in the public to know where their food comes from, but still see a huge disconnect. Most people are at least several generations removed from any kind of farming, and information I take for granted is usually completely unknown to most. I am finding it fun and easy to share our story and hopefully educating a few people about dairy farming along the way. Right now on our facebook page we are celebrating 60 years with registered Guernseys and I am having a blast going through our family history.

This isn’t an easy lifestyle and there are definitely days I really wish I could just leave work at the office and have a break from my colleagues. But the family that works together stays together and I have found a deep respect and understanding for my husband and parents through these daily deeds. This everyday togetherness I feel brings a strength that makes the good times that much better and the bad times that much more bearable. One of my favorite things about the farm family is that we all sit down for lunch together, it’s a great chance to connect and just take a breather during the day. And how many people can say they have lunch with their family almost everyday of the week?!

I wish I could say there was a clear and obvious path for the future here on the farm, but much of that is out of our control and dictated by the milk prices. There are quite a few updates and remodel projects we would like to take on for better efficiency on our farm. Our top priority is always cow care and comfort, the Ladies come first. I wish people knew more about how much we truly care for our animals. We don’t take care of ourselves until all the animals are cared for, for the day. We also work with a great team to make sure we are providing the best. This includes a veterinary that is on call night and day as well as monthly herd checks. A nutritionist who helps us provide the best ration for our hard working Ladies. As well as a dedicated hay grower, and a hoof trimmer who gives our Ladies a wonderful pedicure! It’s a 365 days a year job, yes the cows need to be milked twice a day every day, even Christmas, but we will continue to work hard for the lifestyle we love. There is definitely a daily sense of accomplishment when I see that milk truck leaving and I know our best possible product is inside!

Thanks Darleen for a great feature!!! Please check out Abiqua Acres on Facebook and on their blog!

Your farm or ranch can be the next FOA feature - contact Jamie or Elizabeth at to learn more!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Missouri Beekeeping with Erin Mullins

Today we welcome Erin Mullins. Erin is a Missouri girl who discovered the joy of beekeeping!

Hello, my name is Erin Mullins and I’m from the northwest corner of Missouri. I am 19 years old attending college to become a Nurse. I still live at home with my parents on our farm of 10 acres nestled along a creek and surrounded on 3 sides by timber.My whole life we have had animals of all kinds on our farm such as goats, emus, buffalo, hedgehogs and now more recently we’ve added bees to that list. My dad has always been interested in animals that are not so domestic and has fortunately passed that gene down to me.

Every year in January and February the local technical school offers Personal Enrichment classes for people of every age to learn about all sorts of different things. They offer classes about computers, dog obedience, flying an airplane and many more. 3 years ago I found myself going to the class they offered for beginning beekeepers. Before that class the only things I knew about bees in general were that they made honey and they stung. My cousins from Iowa had hives but I had never been out to see them up close.

So off I go notebook in hand to learn about bees. When I showed up I realize that I’m the youngest person there by about 20 years and one of only a few women. I started to think maybe I was a little out of place. The class is taught by a group of about 5-6 men from a newly founded Northwest Missouri Bee Busters who have beekeeping experience ranging from about 5 years all the way up to 30+ years. By the end of the class I learned about the different parts of a hive, diseases a bee can get, and how to harvest your honey, but most importantly a hunger to learn more. I was absolutely fascinated. Lucky for me they offered another class in February that was more advanced and went into greater detail on beekeeping.

By March of that same year I got my first 3 hives of bees. Now something you need to know is that when you buy bees you buy a “package” or box of bees it exactly that, a box that contains 1 queen and about 10,000 worker bees. It’s very intimidating when you’re riding in a car for 2 hours and a few bees escape from those boxes and are flying around in the car with you. The queen comes separately in a little tiny box, inside the bigger box, with a piece of hard candy or a cork on the bottom. The purpose the queen is separated is because if you were to release her with the other bees she would just fly off because she has not become acquainted with the other bees. So you hang her and let the bees eat the cork out and get use to her as their queen. Then for the next 5-6 months during the spring and summer the bees work to fill boxes on top of their hives called supers with beautiful golden honey. We only take the supers we put on the hives and that the bees fill so that they can have a sufficient food supply to last them through winter.

This is what you get when you order a package or box of bees.
The first year I harvested my honey I entered it at the Missouri State Fair in the FFA division. I sent a quart jar to Sedalia not knowing exactly how they judged it or if my honey was even worth sending. I don’t know if it was beginners luck or what I had was truly gold, pun intended, because I ended up receiving Reserve Champion. This past year I sent my honey again and didn’t get grand or reserve but still received a gold ribbon which I’m very proud of.

My Reserve Champion Honey from the Missouri State Fair FFA division.
Today I am a member and amateur web designer for the Northwest Missouri Bee Busters. We meet once a month and have discussions on honey prices and diseases we should check for but mostly it’s just a place for people to ask questions and get every ones opinions on the matter. It’s been said that if you ask 2 beekeepers how to do one thing you’ll end up getting 3 different answers. But that’s the great thing about beekeeping is that someone is always there with advice and information. Then basically you just have to try the different things out on your own until you figure out what works best for your operation. As a club we put on the beekeeping classes at the tech school, set up a booth at the American Royal in Kansas City, MO for the school tours, and do other talks about bees around the community.

This is the booth our club had at the American Royal in Kansas City for the school tours.
We had honey sticks for the kids and an observation hive with live bees.
I am also a member of the Missouri State Beekeeping association who meet twice a year. At those meetings they bring in scientists, professors, and experienced beekeepers to give lectures on all sorts of beekeeping related matters. It’s a great place to learn and meet some very interesting people. This past year I had the privilege of getting to know the Missouri State Honey queen. I traveled with her and her mom to St. Louis for one of the state meetings and got to see her at work. It really sparked an interest with me. I’m hoping that next year I will be able to run for the queen position. They have the opportunity to promote beekeeping and agriculture in general to kids and adults all across Missouri and even Kansas.

Beekeeping is a wonderful hobby to have that comes with many great benefits. Not only do you have the opportunity to sell your honey, bees are very beneficial to agriculture. According to The New Agriculturalists in the United States alone bee pollination is valued at several billion dollars. Bees pollinate about 1/6th of the world’s flowering plants and over 400 agricultural species. So I strongly encourage people to get into beekeeping as a hobby because what you are doing just by keeping bees, you’re also helping American agriculture an out. Plus nothing tastes better or is better for you than fresh honey right from your backyard.

For more info about beekeeping here are a few websites you can go to: – My local clubs website. – The Missouri State Website – The National Honey Board –The American Beekeeping Federation

Thanks Erin for the great feature. You can follow Erin on her personal blog: Diaries from the Dirt Road.

How are you involved in agriculture? We want to hear your story! Send us an e-mail at and we can get you started writing a feature!