Agriculture Grows Families

A couple of months ago, Chris had the opportunity to speak at the Missouri Governor's Conference as a representative of the dairy industry. In honor of National Ag Week, I'm sharing his comments here, as one dairy farmer just telling his story. 

 Hi, I’m Chris. I'm a dairy farmer in Missouri.  My wife and I farm together with my parents.  We milk Holstein cows, farm acres of row crops, in addition to raising about  replacement heifers on local pastures.   Now, my wife, she grew up on a hog farm in northwest Iowa.  So, naturally we never, ever argue about which animal is better…about which animal smells better, looks better, tastes better…
As I was thinking about what I wanted to say here today, my thoughts were drawn to my little 11 month old daughter crawling around and to my wife who is carrying our next child due in March.  And I thought about my great grandfather who lost everything in the Great Depression and about my grandpa who started all over again with nothing.  I thought about the five generations before me who have dairy-ed in Missouri; about the challenges they faced, the opportunities they made, the families they built.  

By nature, agriculture draws families; or better put, agriculture grows families.  As a result, many of us in agriculture have been here in Missouri for generations; perhaps one generation, or three generations or six or more.  And each of those generations have seen their fair share of challenges.  They’ve seen droughts and floods; humid, oppressive summers and icy, bone-chilling winters; blights and insects; weeds and failed crops; and a financial or farm crisis or too.  And yet somehow, here we are today.  
Imagine the challenges that those early settlers of Missouri saw as they came up the river or through the forests.  And yet, they saw the potential, the rough forms, the uncut gems that could be someday.  And in the fields, in the forests, in the pastures, in the barns, they sweated and they bled and they dreamed and they seized the opportunities they were given.  Heck, sometimes they made their own opportunities where there were none and built a rich heritage of agriculture in the process.

Those are the stories I think about when I think the challenges and opportunities that face my farm and my family and my dairy.  Are there challenges in the dairy industry?  You bet.  Missouri summers are tough, prices have been low, few members of the workforce have dairy experience, and we don’t have the extent of infrastructure that we used to.   
 But we are not without opportunities.  We have plentiful, high quality feed that’s readily available and affordable:  corn silage, soybean-meal, soybean hulls, distiller’s grains, brewer’s grains, corn gluten, cottonseed, alfalfa, and plentiful pasture land.  We have micro-creameries popping up across the state, reintroducing people to specialty dairy products.   We have a good water supply supported by plentiful rainfall.  In the end, though, it’s not about those physical challenges and opportunities; it’s about how we react to them.  

The opportunities afforded us go beyond the physical necessities of dairying.  I find that we have a tremendous opportunity to connect with consumers and to help build consumer confidence.  We have the opportunity to strengthen our social license to operate.  People love dairy cows; they love seeing a calf running through a pasture; they love seeing the care and concern that we have for our animals.  People love the story we have to tell, and they love the way our families are interwoven with our farms.  I strongly believe that this is one opportunity that will have a  positive impact upon our industry for decades to come.
Similarly, we have the opportunity to impact our communities through those employees who work on our farms.  Not only does capital flow back into the local community, but so does character.  I strongly believe dairy farming is character-building work…trust me, I grew up scraping manure and chasing calves.  The character that our employees develop…well, they carry that character and work ethic back into their communities, into their churches, into their families.  As I said before, at its core, agriculture grows families.

So both opportunities and real challenges are present.  But if our forebears who settled this state could overcome the mammoth challenges, we can too.  I believe the future can be very bright for Missouri dairy, for those who have the eyes to see the opportunities and the fortitude to capitalize on them.  To quote President-Elect Trump: “If you’re going to think, you might as well start thinking big.”
Each of us up here represents a different industry with different opportunities and different challenges. It’s a pleasure to be a part of that agricultural community here in Missouri, and a pleasure to be with all of you here today. 

thankful for farmers -- and especially mine


Pregnancy teaches you a lot about your husband. (It also teaches you a lot about donuts and why women hate scales, but that's neither here nor there.)


My husband is a busy farmer. He manages employees and cows and crops and machinery. He works at his desk at home before he goes to his desk at work. He works at his desk at night after he gets home from working at work. He tracks data and runs reports. He does research and recon. He works with nutritionists and dairy science professors and seed salesmen. He buys hay and heifers.  


And in the midst of it all, he takes care of me and our little girl and never, ever complains. He chases her while I put the supper dishes away and reads her books and helps her pick up her toys before she goes to bed. And she -- and I -- love every minute. 

I mean, on Valentine's Day, this guy bought me flowers . . . AND CHOCOLATE MILK . . . AND ICE CREAM because he is just that thoughtful. 

He tells me to put my feet up at night, and when I'm editing articles in the evenings and whining about contractions, he grabs his computer and sits next to me and keep refilling my water. 

He even sends me off to get pedicures and insists I get Panera mango smoothies and mac and cheese while I'm there. (Sir, yes, sir. No arguments from me!) 


I just keep his clothes clean, dinner on the table, his favorite book next to his chair, the toys picked up and a bottle of wine ready after an especially long day. 

It seems like a very small thank you in return for all he does for us. 

(But I did sneak him some chocolate in the form of his F-150 on Valentine's Day. That seemed like a farmer-appropriate gift. And this truck didn't even have two dogs in the back or manure on the tires!)

I try to tell him this on a routine basis, but I really, truly am thankful for all he does. From cows to chicken coops, from black and white Labs to black and white Holsteins, from soybeans to oats to corn, from planting to harvest, from Cat wheel loaders to Deere silage choppers, to taking care of my large pregnant self to reading to our daughter, he packs a lot of life into each day and he does it selflessly for us.

As wonderful as flowers are, my farmer's care for us -- at his own expense -- is at the top of my thank-you list. 

And I suspect at the top of the cows' list too. :) 

Cheesecake-Stuffed Peaches | Dairy


I went to the doctor last week, and the nurse was all like, "You gained five pounds in the last two weeks. Here's your exam room. Now wait an hour to see the doctor."

Ok, it didn't happen exactly like that, but the nurse did say with an absolutely straight, emotionless face that I had gained FIVE POUNDS IN TWO WEEKS. 

I'm pretty sure in your third trimester you're supposed to be gaining right around a pound a week. So in this case, I'm an overachiever in the worst way possible.

Valentine's Day

The most excitement I can remember on a Valentine's Day happened when my mom made our family heart-shaped pizzas. 

Also when I broke up with a boyfriend a couple days before Valentine's Day because he was being a louse. 

I prefer to focus on the pizzas. Pizzas never let you down. Pizzas love you no matter what. 

This year for Valentine's Day, I made a handful of little gifts for a handful of people I like, made a handful of little cards for a handful of little cousins who live far away, and called it a day . . . and then sat down to determine what kind of heart-shaped pizza we'll be eating on the 14th. 

I'm nothing if not consistent. 


I was also trying to use up things in my craft closet: nine million tea towels, extra Pyrex coffee cups, the 47th roll of red baker's twine . . .  

It doesn't take a $200 trip to Target to let people know you care.


Besides, who needs Target when you have a gabillion Pinterest printables at your fingertips? 

Granted, there are some pretty lame ones out there, but then again, there's "I'm cocoa for you!" and "I like you a latte!" And who doesn't feel like a million bucks after that? (Don't answer that.)

Let's just say . . . I'm all for reminding people that they matter, especially when they're worn out from work, spent from chasing after kiddos and everything in between. 

I may not be able to bake you all a heart-shaped pizza, but I do think "You're tea-rrific!" and that counts for something, right? 

Happy Valentine's Day!

winter weather

 When it's been warm but then it turns cold again,

it's usually best just to hunker down in a sunny spot,

cover up with your favorite warm, snuggly blanket (or fur coat as the case may be),

wriggle around until you find a comfy spot, and then fall fast, fast asleep.

And if your boo can keep an eye out for you, and maybe even share the couch, well, blessed are you.

Or Petunia.


happy heifers and apple toffee dip | dairy

We have a routine at our house. Every morning when our little girl wakes up, we go to the window and look for the heifers. If she can't spot them, she cranes her neck to see if they're hiding somewhere. And when she can't find them out one window, she leans toward the other window to see if somehow they're there. 

I mean, they never are. That would mean they are standing smack dab in the middle of the road, and that wouldn't be good for anyone--them or us . . . or the poor Fed-Ex guy who always slows down for our dogs and ends up stopped in the middle of the road honking his horn at them.

Inauguration Day

Let's not get into a Donald Trump vs. Hillary throwdown. That ship sailed November 8.

But let's do talk about the shout-outs that American cattle farmers got on President Trump's inauguration day.

  1. Angus steak was on the menu for the second course of Mr. Trump's first lunch as president. (Granted, the first course included lobster and shrimp, but we won't hold that against him. He is on the East Coast, after all.) And it wasn't just any steak; it was steak smothered in chocolate and potatoes. Be still, my heart. No tofu for this guy. Just straight up beef. I'm in!
  2. The dessert was none other than cherry ice cream. Not frozen yogurt. Not fruit trifles. Ice cream. And we're grateful for the nod to dairy cows; they're part of the fabric of America too. After all, farmers have been milking cows since, well, it's probably safe to assume the Pilgrims got off the Mayflower with a bucket and a two-legged stool in one hand and a lead rope for Bossy in the other, don't you think?
  3. There were tractors in the inaugural parade. Tractors . . . in Washington, D.C., hotbed of taxis and Ubers and Amazon-drones-delivering-groceries. And the parade didn't feature just green tractors. Red, green, blue, yellow . . . they were all represented. That's bipartisanship in farm machinery in action. I vote yes in 2017. 

 I couldn't keep tabs on all the rodeo drill teams and square dancers and pooper scoopers following horses and other country folks that were represented in the parade, but we're grateful for them too.

And for each one of you!

Whether you're eating beef or ice cream in the suburbs tonight, or driving your tractor or milking cows in the country, thanks for supporting America's farmers. We are grateful.

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