Friday, March 22, 2013

Agricultural Advocacy Conference Press Release

"Cultivating the capacity to innovate and communicate through agricultural advocacy."

 Farmers Fight Agriculture Advocacy Conference Welcomes Distinguished Guests to Texas A&M Campus

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS―Over 300 Texas A&M University students welcomed keynote speakers to the College Station campus for the Farmers Fight Agricultural Advocacy Conference March 20. Todd Staples ‘84, Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Forrest Roberts ‘92, Chief Executive Officer of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Don Heller ’83, Partner in Ag Crop Insurance Agency, returned to their alma mater to charge young agricultural advocates to keep the industry alive and thriving.
The group was welcomed by the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Associate Dean for Student Development, Chris Skaggs, Ph.D., who encouraged Farmers Fight members to make a difference in the world of agriculture.
Commissioner Staples discussed the vitality of agriculture to Texas and entire nation, while also encouraging advocates to be mindful of the consumers’ wants and needs.
“The consumer is king,” Commissioner Staples said. “If we lose sight of that, we are out of business.”
Commissioner Staples also pointed out other challenges faced by farmers and ranchers, including weather and politics. He went on to emphasize the importance of leadership and responsibility when advocating for agriculture.
“We have to be accountable for our own actions,” Commissioner Staples said. “You have the opportunity to be advocates for agriculture every day. We have to be a voice and fight for what we believe in.”
Roberts touched on a number of factors influencing the past, present and future of agricultural advocacy. He emphasized the importance of gaining trust and engaging in dialogue in order to bring out the transparency consumers demand in agriculture.
“We have to use a method or application that is not talking at, but talking with,” Roberts said. “Do everything you can with everything you have and learn from it.”
Heller informed the body about the basics of crop insurance and how he became involved in that sector of agriculture. He referred to food and crop production as an issue of national security and asked that advocates recognize the necessity of compromise in all of their pursuits.
“If we fail to educate and have discussion … if we fail to advocate … if voters and consumers listen to the wrong voices, then we fail in our effort to produce and feed the world,” Heller said. “You have a calling and I cannot think of a profession that does a better job of serving than feeding your neighbor.”
The conference concluded with Yell Practice led by Hunter Cook ‘14 and Ryan Crawford ‘14, Fightin’ Texas Aggie Yell Leaders.
Kasey Kram ’15 and Heston Heller ’15, Farmers Fight Lead Advocates responsible for planning the conference were excited to see a successful outcome of the event they began preparing for in August.
“The Farmers Fight Conference is important because behind every movement in history is a solid knowledge base,” Kram said. “I believe that this conference educates our advocates to be better prepared to go out and speak about the positive benefits of agriculture.”
They are looking forward to future Farmers Fight events.
“With the average American nearly four generations removed from agriculture, it is important to inform people just where their food comes from,” Heston Heller said. “I am extremely excited that we have the opportunity to do just that on this campus with Farmers Fight.”
Farmers Fight was born in 2011 when students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M became upset about articles published in their campus newspaper and that negatively portrayed the agriculture industry. Students were convinced that it was necessary to stand up for agriculture in a way that the public could easily understand. Through community and campus outreach events, social media campaigns and representation at a number of prestigious conferences over the past year and a half, the group has grown tremendously while keeping the mission and vision of its foundation at heart.
“Nine billion people by 2050,” Farmers Fight President Mason Parish said. “People are why advocacy is important. It is our job to come together and stand together to meet the goal of feeding the world.”
Farmers Fight will host its second Coloring Book Campaign in the Bryan-College Station area April 8-10 and will, once again, “take over” the Texas A&M University campus during Campus Connection Day, April 11, when students, staff, faculty, administration and passersby can “Get the 4-1-1 on Agriculture.”
For more information on Farmers Fight, visit their Facebook page at or their blog at

Friday, March 8, 2013

Guest Blogger: A Farm Wife

As a young girl playing with dolls I never imagined manure would be a consuming issue in my life. 

I was raised on the East side of Michigan and my dad worked at Fisher Body. He was home every day by 3:30 PM, had each weekend off and we would go to the cottage every year as a family for vacation.

In June of 1971, I graduated and walked down the church aisle in September, right onto the farm in West Michigan.

The honeymoon stage of farm life lasted a while. I learned side-by-side with my father-in-law, who was 2nd generation on the family farm. His vintage tales of using a horse and plow helped me to fall in love with the farm. But not before a falling-out-of grace with farm life.

All the rules I had been raised with were out the window. Dinner as a family happened only on Sunday afternoons after church. Farmer would leave early every morning and not come home until late at night. I became frustrated, anxious and resentful. I was home, raising four boys on my own, and not involved with the farm. I had all I could handle keeping our home standing and the boys fed and clothed.

As our sons grew older we all became more involved with the farm. In the winter, we would carry milk up to the calves, warm liquid splashing the all over our pant legs. By the time we got home, we were walking tin men in need of oil. The pant legs would be frozen stiff and our coveralls could stand up by themselves in the mud room to thaw out.

Slowly, I took over the lawn maintenance and flower planting and gradually I relieved Farmer from bookkeeping. I now drive tractor when needed, and I am the glorified “go-fer”. I go for whatever is needed, and deliver food and people to various places. One nice thing is that it’s it easier for me to find my car in the parking lot of the mall. It’s the only one with a corn stalk or wad of hay hanging from the bumper.

When Farmer and I were first married we milked 125 in a 4-stall herringbone. 

Throughout the years, at times, we’ve had to pick and choose which bills would be paid as the milk prices have fluctuated as much as a post-menopausal woman. Then, add in the droughts, too much rain, bugs and whatever else came our way. 

Now we have 1500 cows and milk 700 three times a day in a double 12 herringbone. We employ 18, which includes three of the four sons. The parlor milks 23 hours a day. 
We use AI and some sexed semen and have just started using genetic markering.

We own 800 acres and rent another 200, raising corn and alfalfa.
Our feed is kept in Harvestores and we have a couple cement silos as well.

We store our manure in two Harvestore Slurrystores. Which brings me back to the manure. There’s a whole lot of it with that many cows.
We qualified to be Environmentally Verified with MAEAP, which was no small thing. It took a lot of work. 

Our Excellence Award from our milk coop was bumped up to Superior this year.
Because of our number of cows, we are now labeled as a CAFO farm and have strict regulations we have to meet. When I hear the media and uninformed people talk about the awful factory farms, I get angry and frustrated, and my passion for the truth rises.

I started to blog ( so I can do my part in getting a real picture of agriculture out there. I want to show the good, the bad and the ugly of farming, and connect people to the milk they drink. My goal is to create an emotional tie to the farm for those reading, and draw-in all walks of life. My blog covers the technical side of farming, but includes much more than that, such as photography, recipes, humor (and farming offers plenty of fodder for humor!)

I have a 5 – 10 minute spot each Wednesday morning on WHTC-1450, a talk-radio station based out of Holland, Michigan. It’s called “Random Ramblings of. . .” where I talk about farm issues – fun, technical and randomness. I want the public to associate a hard-working farmer behind the gallon of milk they pick up from the gas station. I want them to realize a real live person is behind the cotton T-shirt they pull on in the morning. I also share how we’ve improved as farmers. How we take better care of the land, use less water, etc. The station covers all of west and southwest Michigan and is live on –line at  I also have the radio program podcasts listed on my blog.

Last year 300+ toured the farm. My daughter-in-law hosts preschoolers and I have various groups that come through each year. We end the tour with milk and cookies.

Our goal on the farm is to strive for excellence. The land and the critters belong to God and we are doing our best to care for them.
Farmer is third generation making our sons fourth generation. Our biggest challenge now - other than the day-to-day operation - is farm succession. We are trying to pass on what Farmer’s dad and Farmer worked so hard to create.

I have a hard time expressing my love of the land and for my BEBs (brown eyed bossies). While the start of my farm experience was a bit rocky, I would not change where I am for anything in the world. 
Blog contributed by: Diane Loew of "A Farm Wife"