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Monday, January 26, 2015

Food Education Starts Early!

Photo credit: Judy Baxter (Creative Commons)
A few months ago I was asked to create a PowerPoint presentation for children.  The subject was to be “Where our food comes from.”  Easy enough, right? 

I thought so too.

As it turns out, the task was far from easy.  I started by opening the PowerPoint program.  I titled the first page “Where our food comes from.”  I was rolling along pretty well, huh?  Then it hit me.  I couldn’t create this presentation. 

It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t know where food comes myself, or that I didn’t know how to tell kids where food comes from.  It was the fact that I didn’t know what these kids knew.  I had no idea what kind of knowledge base children have about where their food comes from.  And if I remember correctly, I got pretty upset when, as a sixth grader, all these adults came in telling me stuff that I had already learned in the third grade.
The gears in my brain started to turn.  I didn’t want to be the adult who upset these kids.  Who will hear this presentation?  Will it be pupils in urban schools?  Or in rural ones?  Will it be kids with a rural background, going to an urban school?  Or will it be kids with an urban background attending a rural school?  What have their parents and teachers already taught them?  How do I address these different audiences?  Who IS my audience at this point?

So I did what any logical PhD student would do at this point.  I researched it!  And I researched it…  And I researched it…  And I found two documents describing children’s knowledge of where their food comes from.  TWO.  Both documents were surveys done in countries other than the United States.  I searched the USDA, the FDA, the US Department of Education, and found no documentation that I could use to help me understand how much children in our country learn about food production.
This was very disappointing to me.  We have consumers raging about wanting to know where their food comes from, but we don’t even teach it in schools.  We’ve got people spending hundreds of dollars more in grocery bills just to have natural and organic products, and they don’t even know the difference between naturally and conventionally-produced food.  And we have people throwing fits about GMOs when they have no clue that their dog is technically a GMO.

As an industry, have to change these things.  And not just within the beef industry.  All agricultural industries will have to be involved. 
We have to teach people how food is produced, so they aren’t afraid of it.  The adult population has been so inundated with misinformation from television, the internet, and other media sources that many will not change their ways.  Children, however, still have open minds about the world.  They are sponges.  They take in all the information they are given, and then use it in the future.

We must provide the correct information for them to utilize in their futures.  We must open their eyes to the fact that food does not just come from the grocery store. We must teach them how their food is grown, processed, and packaged so that they are confident in not only the product they buy, but the way it came to them.  And we must teach ourselves how to do this.
Our jobs are changing.  We do not just feed people in a hungry world anymore.  We inform the world about how we are feeding those people. 

It will start with understanding what to teach and who to teach it to.  Then we will need to devise a strategy as to how to teach it to them.  I propose that we start with children.  We teach them how their food is grown, and even how to grow food themselves.
My 10-year-old nephew lives in a city of 65,000.  He hunts, he fishes, and he’s coming to my family’s farm to spend a summer learning how to drive a tractor, feed cows, and haul hay (among many other things).  He is so excited about it!  He’ll go back and tell his friends, and they’ll be excited about it!  Children get excited about things!  They learn, they do, and they are happy doing it!  We need to use this enthusiasm to help them learn, and to get them involved.  That is our calling as educators, mentors, parents, and contributing members of society—we can make a difference, and we need to make it now!

Tiffany Lee

Monday, January 19, 2015

Super Bowl Commercials

The Super Bowl is less than two weeks away. Crazy how time flies, and there were some crazy games in the playoffs as well. Not going to lie, kind of disappointed that Jordy Nelson doesn't get to play in the Superbowl, but oh well (my K-State bias coming through).

Whether you watch the Super Bowl for the game itself or for the commercials, probably several of you will be watching one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Every year, companies spend millions of dollars for advertising spots during the game. Several of these commercials are the chance for companies to make a big splash on advertising to kick off the new year.

So I got to think about the best Super Bowl commercials, and there was one that came to the top of my list. The Dodge Ram commercial, "So God Made a Farmer." You can watch the ad here.

I remember exactly where I was when this commercial aired. Several of my vet school classmates got together to watch the big game. We were all around visiting about the game, reflecting on life, and having fun. Then the commercial came on the television. Our attention all tuned into the tv, and nobody said a word. You could have heard a pen drop. It was that captivating!

Now this wasn't the first time I have heard this speech given by Paul Harvey before. He gave this speech at a National FFA convention in 1978. Now I wasn't around back then, but other people made me aware of it before because it had that much of an impact on them when they heard it in person. Paul Harvey was a radio icon that I listened to growing up as well. His "News and Comments" and "Rest of the Story" always provided great insight into things. In fact, we always tried to arrange lunch to occur after Paul Harvey's "News and Comments" concluded, so we could listen to it while working in the tractor.

Back to the ad by Dodge now. I tip my cap to the Dodge marketing people for taking the time to use expensive advertising to promote agriculture to the entire country. I could watch this ad over and over (in fact I did and recommend you do as well) to further gain knowledge and appreciation for what all the farmers and ranchers provide for this country. Thank you Dodge!

Now typically I always end my posts with a catchy phrase, "Until next time." Our own Dr. Dan Thomson ends his segments with, "I'll see you down the road." Today, I'll end with a phrase credited to Paul Harvey (and yes I hope you read it in his voice).

Good day!

Miles Theurer

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bruce Vincent Lecture Now Online!

Bruce Vincent speaking at K-State as part of the Upson Lecture Series
If you weren't able to attend the Upson Lecture Series event featuring Bruce Vincent, which is highly unfortunate, but were still wanting to hear his message, I have great news for you!

The lecture is now available online on the Food For Thought YouTube channel - you can click over there and watch or you can view it below.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this event happen - specifically the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine classes of 1962 and 1966 for fully endowing the Upson Lecture Series. Sincere gratitude is also extended to Frontier Farm Credit and American Ag Credit for their generous role in bringing Bruce to K-State!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thankful for a Life Around Cattle

Hey FFT Blog readers!  My name is Lindy Bilberry and I’m a new face on the Food for Thought scene.  I am currently a sophomore studying Agribusiness at Kansas State University and grew up around cattle—both in a beef feedlot and on our family’s cow-calf operation.  Growing up, I lived for the mornings that my dad would let me tag along on Saturday mornings to check cattle at the feedlot with him.  A lot of us are probably unfamiliar with what exactly happens in a feedlot, so I am going to share about my experiences in our operation.  Hopefully it helps us all to understand a little bit about how the cattle in the pens eventually become the hamburgers and steaks that we like to see on our plate!

Growing up, spending time around cattle was my way of life.  That’s me in the leopard print jacket with the calf.
One summer in high school, I had the chance to work as a ‘pen rider’ at Circle Feeders in Garden City, Kansas.  Basically, this meant that my job was to get on my horse every morning at 6:00 and ride through pens of cattle, checking to make sure that none were sick.  If we did find an animal that was sick, we would take it out of the pen and to the hospital (yes, we call the barn where sick cattle are treated hospitals) where the employees who are trained in animal health treat the animals for their ailments.  Circle Feeders had a capacity of holding about 13,000 head of cattle.  At that time, I was riding about one-third of the pens and on an average day I would pull maybe four or five cattle out for treatment.

Last summer my dad and I did some work at a feedyard outside of Garden City, Kansas.  This is a picture of what a large-scale beef feedlot looks like.
There is a lot of talk right now about antibiotic use in livestock and the fear that we are ‘drugging up’ animals in order to make them bigger.  I have had the chance to spend time in a lot of feedlots and around a lot of beef producers in my day, and I have never once found this to be the case.  People who are raising cattle, whether it’s in a feedlot, a cow-calf operation, or whatever, ultimately care about the health of their animals.  When I was working at the feedlot, I would pull animals out to send to the ‘hospital’ because I was worried about their well-being.  They weren’t treated with medicine to bulk up or get muscles, but rather to treat an illness.  They’re going to an animal doctor, just like we go to the doctor to get medicine if we have a sore throat or the flu or a fever.  Cattle are treated so that they can get back to feeling normal so that they can continue to eat and grow!

Questions, thoughts, comments, or concerns?  I would love to hear them!  As we approach Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think about how thankful I am to have grown up around cattle, feedlots, and producers who truly care about the well-being of their animals!
Until next time,

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Get Those Hands Dirty! Bruce Vincent to Speak at K-State for Upson Lecture Series

Do you like Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs? Well, get ready because you're going to love the next installment of the Upson Lecture Series!

This coming Monday, November 10 in the K-State Student Union in Forum Hall, Bruce Vincent a third-generation logger from Libby, Montana will be speaking about getting involved in careers that get your hands dirty and the thought process and attitude behind producing goods that stimulate the economy and create a healthy environment.

Think about it, without farmers and the tough, dirty jobs they do we would not eat. Without coal miners or linesman/women we wouldn't have electricity. There is a whole world out there that is driven by hardworking men and women who are committed to using their hands, in addition to their heads, to keep the gears grinding.

Please make plans to join Food For Thought on Monday, November 10 at 7 pm in the K-State Student Union Forum Hall as Bruce Vincent presents "Wish Vision There is Hope -- How NOT to be the Career of Last Choice." It will be an eye-opening lecture and hopefully one that sparks you to institute change.

This installment of the Upson Lecture Series is partially funded with generous support from Frontier Farm Credit and American Ag Credit. Additionally, the Upson Lecture Series has now been fully endowed by the K-State Veterinary Medicine Classes of 1962 and 1966. We are excited about the amazingly generous support of these groups and look forward to bringing many more inspiring and intelligent speakers to KSU for future ULS events!

See you there!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

3 Ways Anyone Can Agvocate

Start with keeping up on current issues in agriculture. From GMO labeling to conventionally raised vs. grass-fed beef, you want to be informed about the industry and what it is you’re trying to communicate. You can share as frequently or infrequently  as you’re comfortable with. Try starting with baby steps.

1. Share, like, reblog:

            Perhaps the easiest way to get information out is to pass on what researchers, professionals and agriculturists have published. If you like something you read, feel free to share it with your friends and followers! You can ignite more interest by adding your own opinion or perspective in a few short sentences.

2. Post your favorite recipe or dish

            For me, the main reason I follow Kansas Beef Council or Kansas Pork Association on Facebook and Twitter is the recipes and pictures of yummy food they post daily. It’s a quick, easy way to share fun, new ways to prepare your favorite foods (hello, Maple & Bacon Donut Fries)!

3. Original content

            There are many ways you can share your own agriculture story with others. If you’re willing to take a step outside of your comfort zone, there are opportunities everywhere, from social media to real life conversations (gasp!). Next time you sit next to a stranger on an airplane or bus, strike up a conversation—who knows, maybe you’ll be able to teach them something! However, if you’re not as comfortable with that method, there is always the wild and wonderful worldwide web. Try telling a short story along with posting a picture on Facebook or Instagram. Tweet about a newsworthy event related to agriculture that you’re interested in. Whatever you do, represent the agriculture industry as best you can.

One of my favorite things to do is feed cattle with my grandpa. Rain, sleet, snow or shine, it’s always great to spend the day on the ranch when I go home. These cattle know the sound of the feed truck and wait their turn for lunch while we feed the pen across the road.

If you’re looking for some new reading material or pages to follow, some great examples of agvocating can be found here:

Thanks, y’all!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Always wished you knew more about how all those bales sitting in the fields as you drive by are made? Did FFT member Bruce Figger’spost back in August really spark your interest in the baling process? If so, today’s your lucky day. J Many things can be baled and used as feedstuffs for cattle. I’m just going to go through a quick overview of the general process for those that aren’t very familiar with it.
A swather is used to lay down whatever crop you want to bale. When using a sickle swather like the one shown below, the sickles on the front of the swather header cut the hay at its base and an auger moves everything to the middle of the header where the conditioner is located. The conditioner crimps the stalk of the plant to allow air access for faster drying. This leaves windrows of hay in the field, and the bigger the swather header, the more hay there is in a windrow. The length of time that the windrow lays out to dry before being baled depends on the crop, size of the windrow, and the weather and climate conditions. If the hay is too wet when being baled, mold can grow within it, decreasing the quality. If baled too dry, quality is decreased due to loss of nutrient-rich leaves.

New Holland sickle swather

Swather cutting sorghum Sedan grass
Windrows after swathing in beautiful western Kansas!
Once the hay is dry enough, we are ready to rake and bale! Usually one person operates the rakes with the baler operator not far behind. The rakes speed up the baling process by combining two windrows into one. When baling sorghum sedan grass, as shown above, rakes may be needed to help dry out the windrow by rolling it over a couple days prior to baling.
Rakes in action

The windrow is gathered by a pickup attachment in the front of the baler and the hay is delivered into the baler where a series of belts begin rolling it into a tightly wrapped bale. There is a tensioner roller inside the baler that keeps the belts wrapped securely around the hay to ensure that the bale is packed tight from the beginning of the process to the end.

There is a sensor within the baler that will tell the operator when the bale is at the desired height. At this point, the baler will wrap the bale with either twine or net wrap. After the bale is wrapped, the operator can drop the bale out of the baler onto the field. Net wrap is used more commonly than twine because it is more efficient. This process is continued until all the windrows have been picked up and turned into bales!
This photo isn't mine but wanted you to be able to see a freshly made round bale being dropped out of a baler.
Source: ttp://
Such a pretty sight!
Hope this was as interesting to you guys as it is to me. J

Keep calm and bale on,



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