Thursday, August 27, 2015

Blessed are the Persecuted

It's been a crazy couple weeks: county fair, state fair, farming, and work.  During this time I have been tested more than once for what I believe in, in taking the high road, in being the bigger person.  How often in life we are faced with challenging situations that check us for what we believe in, stand for and truly want to be known for?  I have had more than my fair share of successes and failures in my short 32 years, but one thing I learn over and over again is that I am so much more than my successes and failures.  I have recently used this phrase: "My past with not define me but refine me".   When faced with challenging situations I have tried my best to evaluate all benefits and consequences of my choices, but at the end of the day I have to be willing to take responsibility for my choices no matter what may come.  And then, I learn from those benefits and consequences.  It's the learning part that becomes so critical for growth and I am still a work in progress on that. 

Lessons learned this past week include that some people will hate you no matter what you do.  It's the truth.  It doesn't matter how much I can explain myself or defend myself, certain people will only hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see.  I stand where I stand and I am coming to terms that I will upset them for holding true to my integrity and strength.  I have always tried not to outright offend people and be kind, I know I have failed some times, I am willing to admit to those times and take my responsibility in those situations.  In this situation I was in the "right" and just, but it doesn't matter.  The truth for me is that hatred that I feel towards me is real and it hurts.  It hurts when we try so hard to defend what we know to be just, truth, and fair only to be persecuted for it.  I keep playing a quote from Matthew 5:10-12: Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.  Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I will not back down from my stances in life, in fact I find myself more convicted.  Part of that ever growing integrity includes being empathetic to those who do hate us.  So this week have been trying to pray for those who hate me.  Not that they learn to "like" me again, but that whatever they have going on in their lives can be healed by God's everlasting love.  It's a an incredibly humbling experience to pray for those who hate or taunt you.  Today, try praying for those who hate you, you may be surprised by the love and grace you will feel. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Buying Local

There’s lots of hype about buying local and while I’ll bet you’re reading this thinking I’m about to start talking about how you can buy dairy and other foods locally, you’re wrong.  I’m actually going to talk about how dairy farms help to keep their local economies running by being part of their communities and how dairies benefit from their local communities.  I bet you didn’t see that coming!

Sunday night I was helping milk at my dad and brother’s dairy.  We were about 2/3 done milking their 120 cows in the middle of a pretty good thunderstorm, when we lost electricity on the entire farm.  Everything stopped, barns went dark, and we couldn’t milk cows.  It only last a few seconds and then the power came back on again.  A lightning strike was extremely close to the dairy farm and knocked the power off.  Shortly after the electricity came back on we were able to keep on milking, well for only a few more minutes when we lost vacuum.  Vacuum is what works to pull the milk away from the cows teats, contrary to the belief that we “suck” the milk out of them, we just use it to move milk through the pipelines.  My brother and I rushed into the milk room where we could smell smoke from an electrical fire and quickly assessed that we have blown the vacuum pump motor.  We quickly decided that we weren’t capable of fixing this and made a call at 9:30pm to the local electrician.  Within 30 minutes Bill was on farm and working on the situation.  Thankfully it was a quick fix, a contactor had blown out from the load of the power surge.  We were only down for about 1 ½ hours, and we were very grateful to be milking again, as were the cows. 

Blown out contactor on vacuum pump
Once we were up and running again, we reflected on how this situation could have been worse.  We could’ve had a fire, we could’ve had a motor that was damaged and more importantly we could’ve been waiting a long time for help.  We are blessed to have a local infrastructure that is very supportive of agriculture.  It’s important not to take those businesses that support agriculture for granted.  Without a local electrician that could help us, we could have been waiting for hours or more importantly our cows could have been waiting for hours.  When you have an udder full of milk and it’s milking time, the struggle is real; poor cows.  When you have an emergency on farm it is crucial to have your key services local.  I know my dad has always valued the importance of working with local vendors for farm supplies, services and materials.  I see now that I am older that we really depend on having those small businesses local and take a lot of pride in impacting our communities.  We feel confident spending our dollars with these companies and keeping our towns thriving.  So, thank you local businesses for your support for all agriculture in your area!  We greatly appreciate all that you do, especially when we are desperately in need.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I'm Fine

“I’m Fine” are the 2 worst, most deceiving words in the English language.  They are used so often to cover up our true feelings of sorrow, grief, sadness, pain, shame, weakness, embarrassment, struggle, anger, frustration, and just plain ol’ fashion vulnerability.  We act like “I’m fine” is a good enough protect us from being seen; to help others feel at ease rather than being honest and real with what is actually hurting us or how we feel.    No wants to admit feelings but so often we need to in order to free ourselves and grow.  Dairy farming is tough, there’s no way around that, and right now it is very tough.  Farm prices for milk are once again at an industry low.  While these prices are nothing compared to the catastrophic year of 2009, these are tough times once again.  Another factor is the ever increasing costs of farming, whether it is land, feed, insurance, labor, or even regulations.  Now ask a dairy farmer how things are going on their dairy and most will reply, “I’m fine”.  Only on certain days when farming has really got them beat down will they be honest about the sacrifices that they have to make. 

Then they will tell you how much it hurts to feel so vulnerable to the markets and have so much of their life out of their control.  How hard it is to know that you might not be able to pay all of your bills this month.  How disappointing it is to have an excellent employee leave your business because you just can’t justify giving them a raise for their hard work, right now.  How much it hurts to look at their families and know that they can’t give them everything that they need or want, and that as a family they will have to be the first to sacrifice so their employees and their families can be paid and fed first before their own.  Disheartened over the next major machinery repair, which means unplanned bills that will have to be paid, because you can’t go on without that vital piece of equipment.  Every cow, heifer, and calf was already a valuable living being, but their wellness is even more critical when prices are low because illness and death are expensive.  Essential equipment upgrades have to be put on the back burner, until prices are better. 

It’s ok to be honest about these feelings and challenges.  I think consumer should hear the struggles of the American family farmer.  A very wise friend pointed out that so often we let egos get in the way of what we’re really trying to feel and say, especially in agriculture.  I think he is right, let the egos go.  Be honest.  When you get asked how things are going on your farm, let be real with each other and consumers.  It’s not all roses and butterflies, in fact some days it gets down right ugly.  If given the chance, though I’m certain all of us would keep on farming regardless, that’s what we’re made of: perseverance, passion and drive.  Lets be honest with each other and consumers, it’s not all pastures and prairies; it's floods, droughts, storms, and most days rainbows.