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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Harvesting the Fruits of Your Labor

As I was growing up through my childhood and teenage years, this time of year would be my favorite. Although summer was coming to an end, school was just starting up, and winter was on the way, this was, and always will be, my favorite time of the year. Starting in the beginning of August and carrying through September, my family and I would spend all evening in our garden and greenhouse harvesting what we had planted the spring prior.

One of my favorite memories was working in our watermelon patch with my parents and brother. After watering and turning the ripening melons, Dad would cut a warm melon in the field for us to enjoy. Almost always we would be too sticky to go back inside, so Mom would spray us down with the garden hose.

Our fields of watermelons, strawberries, and pumpkins we grew for our U-Pick farming operation.

There are always a few different options of what you can do with harvested fruits and veggies. You can enjoy them immediately (similar to my family and our watermelons), set up a stand at your local farmers’ market, or save your fruits and veggies for a later date. My family took part in all of these.

More often than not, my mom and I would spend a day in the kitchen after a day of harvesting canning salsa, making cider, and freezing corn, tomatoes, and onions. As much as I enjoy eating our products right out of the garden, it is nice to be able to enjoy the same thing up to one year later, especially when that item might not be in season anymore.

Canning can be tricky until you get the hang of how it works, but your main goal is to kill all of the bacteria already present in the food you are trying to preserve. There are two main methods of canning, with the first being water bath canning and the second being pressure canning. Water bath canning is more commonly used since this type is used to preserve fruits, jams, salsa, tomatoes, pickles, and relish. Pressure canning is used more for preserving low acid foods like vegetables, meat, and seafood. Instructions on both canning methods can be found below.

Even those without the greenest of thumbs can find ways to provide fruits and veggies for their families, and let’s face it, it’s fun to enjoy the fruits of our labor! To some people, having a garden means endless hours of time and effort for a batch of homemade salsa or fresh fruit pie. But gardening doesn’t have to be hard! Some of the simplest ideas can include herbs in your kitchen window sill or a single tomato plant in a pot on your patio. If you have more room, the Pinterest inspired pallet garden would be worth a try along with raised flower beds. For those wanting to make it big, a more traditional style garden might be the way to go with a couple of different options like tomatoes, peppers, and green beans. Another option is to participate in is a community garden if space is an issue. This will allow you to work alongside other members in your community and enjoy agriculture together! 

I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labor since the time mullets were still in style! 

Agriculture is definitely something to smile about and it is something we can all contribute to, no matter how big or small. Enjoying a fresh watermelon at a picnic, having a fresh tomato on a BLT sandwich, or carving the pumpkin you started from seed really is what enjoying the fruits of your labor is all about. Gardening is something that everyone can be involved with if you just have a little bit of time and discipline. So next time, don’t skip the greenhouses in the spring or walk past the canning supplies at the store, give it a try, you might be surprised at where it takes you!

Until next time,

Sarah Plum

Check out these sources of canning as well!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Gold Medal Industry

The summer Olympics are easily my favorite sporting events to watch.  Even if I know nothing about an event, it is still easy for me to root for Team USA.  Regardless of how little I actually know about each of the athletes, the letters USA on their uniforms gives me a sense of connection to each competitor down in Rio.  With each gold medal, my sense of pride in my country grows, but I seldom take into account the hours of practice and numerous sacrifices that it takes for any Olympian to compete at that level.  It is so easy for me to focus on the end product without taking into consideration the years that each athlete has spent pounding on his or her craft. 

If I step back and take a look at the world around me, I notice many similarities to the Olympics.  This summer I left the family farm to work for a show cattle operation.  Although there are many noticeable differences between the two, one thing that they both have in common is striving to produce the best possible beef for the consumers.  Just like the athletes who train for the Olympics, farmers and ranchers are constantly striving for excellence in order to have a positive impact on the industry.

The Olympics are full of a variety of events, and sometimes I wonder how some of the events could even be considered sports.  However, I occasionally find myself having the same thoughts with agriculture.  Growing up on a commercial cattle operation and even showing calves at my county fair, I would have never dreamed of washing as many calves as I have this summer.  Many of the ranchers that I grew up around would have just scoffed at the thought of washing and blow-drying their cattle, but as I have experienced over the course of this summer, it is in fact, a part of the agriculture industry, and both parties have very similar end goals. 

Although Kansas lacks the beautiful beaches that make Rio so special, the farmers and ranchers, as well as the athletes in the Olympics, do have their similarities.  There may not be medals for those who work in agriculture, but we are still faced with the challenge of feeding nearly 10 billion people in just a few decades.  In order to fulfill such a demand, it is vital that those who working in each industry of agriculture strive for excellence.

Until next time,


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

"Fair" Information

In today’s age, information is everything. From knowing exactly what ingredients are in our breakfast to being able to look up a definition in mere seconds thanks to our smartphones, we crave info. You may even be on this blog looking for info on how to properly prepare meat or how gluten affects your diet.  Today’s consumers are looking for the information about our food, and rightly so! However, when I searched the phrase, “What is in my food” nearly 67,900,000 results were pulled up by Google. Where on earth would I start?

Well, I have a solution. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through websites, step away from your computer and head to your local, county or state fair. We are in the midst of “Fair Season” as we speak. Around the country, fair exhibitors are working their hardest to earn that coveted blue ribbon with their assortment of projects. From the outside, it may seem like the fair is simply a place to ride the Ferris wheel and get delicious cotton candy, but if you’re looking for information about what is in your food, or where it comes from, this is exactly the place to find answers. 

Photo courtesy of Central Kansas Free Fair

The youth involved in 4-H and FFA are knowledgeable students who, when asked questions, will tell you the honest truth about their projects. The internet is a bundle of info, some of it scientifically correct, and some incorrect and opinionated; it can be difficult to draw the line. Having face-to-face conversations with these youth can show you the whole picture, the good and the bad. They work year-round to ensure that their projects will be fair-ready and have seen the ups and downs of the industries they serve.  

Not only can you get info from exhibitors, but you can see the process of farm-to-fork in real time. Head to the crops exhibit to learn about the variety of grains and grasses that make up our food supply. Stroll over to the livestock barns to inquire about how students care for their poultry, beef, pigs, sheep and goats. Then head to the baking exhibit to learn about what grains and other ingredients to use to make your apple pie blue ribbon worthy. In a country where the average consumer is 3 generations removed from traditional agriculture, this is the perfect opportunity to witness the process first hand. 

A junior goat exhibitor talking to the judge during showmanship.
Don’t forget the wonderful fair food and attractions, however, like the aforementioned cotton candy and Ferris wheel. If you’re looking for info about your food, put down your technology and head to the fair. Ask questions, witness the work of exhibitors, have fun, and learn about more about agriculture.

Your purple ribbon writer, 



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