Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye, 2014

Wow - the end of the year.  This Christmas season has been filled with dairy delights away from home, and standard work here on the farm!

In my boys' Christmas parties at school, parents brought adorable string cheese snowmen, while another party featured ice cream sundaes.  (These weren't my ideas, but I was incredibly supportive.  Elizabeth Marvel and Christa Carpenter donated them, respectively.)

Kris worked Christmas morning as always - while the boys open their stockings and then wait for him to open presents.  This is the way it's always been for them - and for Kris and me as kids - so they don't mind.  Kris said that he doesn't mind working Christmas morning, because it's a responsibility he likes having.  Our employees are always really good about working around each other's schedules on the holidays.  Cows need to be milked, and family parties need to be attended!

Other than that, the holiday season has been pretty relaxed ... trying to get the work done in between family and friends and visits.  The big projects always start in the new year!

Like I signed my Christmas card - I hope your new year is full of happiness, buttery rolls, creamy egg nog, and glass after glass of milk!  (This is how everyone is signing their letters now.)

Newsletter - Form is on the right

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Highs and lows of 2014

I love end-of-the-year wrap ups.  As we look back on 2014, here are some farm highs and lows -

Highs - milk prices!  We saw the highest milk prices ever.  In the history of our farming, and in the history of time.  To follow - lows!  They're predicting significantly lower prices for next year. 

The funny thing is ... in our 7 years of farming, this has already happened.  The first year we farmed it was record high prices, two years later, record lows.  (It's like watching a rerun.)  So, no surprises here.  You invest in the farm when you have high prices, and you hold on, roller coaster style, when prices are low.  AIEEEEE!

Lows - We had a super tough winter.  It was the coldest and snowiest winter since the 70s.  It was hard on the guys and the machinery.  High - Thankfully, it wasn't as hard on the cattle. This was the first year they had the new barn to stay in.

Highs - We had a record number of calves and a record number of twins.  The downside?  We had a majority of bulls, and an inordinate number of boy/girl twins!  When there are boy/girl twins in cattle, there's a high chance that the heifer will be infertile due to the mixing of hormones in utero.  (Infertile heifers can't have calves, and therefore never produce milk.  As for the bulls, they aren't so hot at producing milk either.)

Highs - We were able to get a new used chopper.  Low - We had to buy a chopper.  There are other things I'd rather spend money on, but as my dad puts it, "Those don't chop."  Fill 'er up with the 290 gallons of fuel!  Likewise for the manure pump.  Sometimes your business investments are necessary, sometimes they're fun, but most of the time they're really exciting to one person - the salesman.

Highs - We have a really great team here.  Some people I've known my whole life, and some were born the year I graduated high school.  (Or even later.  I know!  Hard to believe they're not tiny infants!)  They're funny, nice, and great to work with.  We had another super year with them.  Lows - we have too many birds that want to eat the feed in the barn, too many critters that want to live in the barn, and cats that don't seem to care about chasing any of them.  But!  As long as the cows and the people are good, then that outweighs the bad.  FOR NOW, CATS.

When I met pig farmer Erin Brenneman, another of the Faces of Farming & Ranching, she said that a friend told her, "Whenever I buy a pork chop, I think of you."  I really liked that.  Since then, a friend sent me a really cute link to a picture of a pillow with a cow silhouette on it, with the words 'Moo-ry Christmas.'  She wrote, "Carla, you have to make this!"

Around here, my lack of craft skills is legendary.  I've failed at almost every craft you can think of - cross stitch, crocheting, painting, wreathes, any of the ones you help preschoolers with ... so!  When my friend thought of me when she saw the cow pillow, it made me happy.  I can't make a pillow to save my life - but I can write about the farm.

So, thank you, as always, for reading.  This is the four year anniversary of writing the blog, and each year it's a little different.  If there's anything you want to know about or hear more about, please let me know.  I'm glad for such a supportive online community.  Here's to another year - happy 2015!

Newsletter - Form is on the right

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wash, rinse, repeat

My friend was talking about her laundry, and how she separated her darks from lights, but then there were some shirts that were black and white striped - and what were you supposed to do with those? So she washes them all separately.  I said that I don't separate into darks and lights at all, but I do separate into three groups - boys, Kris, and me.

So there are many ways to do your laundry ... and now we have another one.

We have a washer and dryer at the barn!  Why?  Because we love laundry this much.

Not really.    

What used to happen was that we used heavy, cloth-like paper towels to clean the cows' udders before milking.  They worked, but they also generated a lot of trash, plus you had to buy a ton.

So now we're using ... towels!  Towels you can wash and dry and reuse.

The guys like them, because it makes it easier to get the cows' udders clean.

They're not dark, they're not light, they're not striped - they're green.  And they're going all in one load.  

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Following the rules

There was some news recently about a Kentucky farmer who said he didn't always follow the labeling protocols on antibiotics.  It was a painful article to read, because like anything - cops, teachers, lawyers - if there’s one person doing something wrong, it reflects badly on the entire profession.

In this instance, it’s even worse, because it affects all of us – and our entire food supply.

On our farm, we only use antibiotics when cows are sick.  For antibiotics, there’s a period of time on the prescription label that instructs you on the period of time it’s in their bodies and you have to dump the milk.

All antibiotics have a strict pre-slaughter withdrawal period, and we always follow that.  Of course you want to do all you can for a sick cow, but you want to make sure that the meat from the cow you’re having butchered is safe and healthy.  We follow the protocol that years of testing and FDA regulation have approved.  The slaughter price of cows isn't worth risking human health.

My family eats the same food and drinks the same milk everyone else drinks – there’s no way I’d want to be giving them something that was tainted.  I don’t want it for them, and I don’t want it for other consumers.  Label rules are the rules, and that’s what we follow.  

The article stated that the farmer has since retired and has no cattle.  I wish him well in his future endeavors … in retirement you can write your own rules.


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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Michigan Farm Bureau Annual meeting

This was the 95th annual Michigan Farm Bureau meeting.  95?!  So long.  This is only the seventh year we've gone.  We've gone from knowing just a couple people to it feeling like it's one big family.

What an organization!  As they state, the purpose of Michigan Farm Bureau is to "represent, protect, and enhance the business, economic, social  and educational interests of our members."  At the annual meeting, part of the program includes going through the process where farmer members adopt resolutions.  

Farm Bureau is the governmental voice for farmer members.  There's the county level, the state level, and the national level.  In Michigan we have 48,552 members and 67 county Farm Bureaus.

We love our dairy farming organizations, but in this one, it's everyone together.  Fruit farmers, vegetable producers, pig farmers, sheep ... it makes of a lot of involved people! 

And we're ... 

This year, our Michigan Farm Bureau president Wayne Wood is retiring.  He did a great job (and is a super nice person) and there were nice tributes to him.

Our Governor Rick Snyder comes and speaks each year.  He does a really good job.  I thought back fondly to the first time I saw a Rick Snyder commercial (during a Super Bowl game, where we were instructed to go to and I immediately did, to check him out.  We wanted to see his views on agriculture and there was nothing other than a heading with a vague paragraph.

Times have changed.  Many years later, he's considered a friend of agriculture.  Part of that is because he showed a real interest and willingness to learn.  His talk was very well-received!  And not nerdy.

We had a tribute to Dave Camp, some great young farmer awards won by friends Melissa Humphrey (from our county), Michael Noll (from our co-op), Kevin Thiel, and Ashley Messing-Kennedy.

Farm Bureau then held a fundraiser for Michigan Foundation for Agriculture where everyone could get together - right across the street at a dueling pianos place.  Another great part about Farm Bureau is that we have a reason to see friends who live far from us ...


Again, it doesn't matter your role in ag.  Whether it's part time, full time, supporter, selling Farm Bureau insurance, on any type of farm - we're all in it together, and it's a great way to be involved in the policy part of farming.  And the people who we've met through it?  Passionate, dedicated, outgoing people!  I can see why this has gone on for 95 years ... and I hope to go until I'm at least that age.

If you want to know more about the farm, like the page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter@carlashelley, or get posts sent to you by email.  Sign up - the form is on the right side of the page. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Milk cans

Last week we went to a MMPA (Michigan Milk Producers Association, our milk co-op) meeting.  I was talking to a milk inspector, and she mentioned 'can dairies.'  "What's a can dairy?" I asked.  She said, "Those are farms that are still delivering milk in cans."

What?!  I had no idea that people were still milking into cans.  We - and many farms - use these as decorative items.  Many of us have them around because our ancestors used them back in ye olde dayes, but now ... we have automated milkers.

I kept questioning her and questioning her.  She said that they milk into the cans, they have milk can trucks (just like they used to) that come and pick up the cans.  The milk is considered Class B milk, which mostly goes into cheese.  She said that some of the farms are Amish, (which made sense), but not all of them.      

I found this so interesting - people still milk into milk cans!  I asked other farmers about it, and they didn't know that either.

So, my decorations are also still-used tools.  Or my tools are decorations?

Ah, it's a fine line.  I have a wagon wheel and an old cow waterer, too.  Apparently I'll take anything once used on a farm and call it 'decoration.'


Not the best luck this week ... one of our team members was doing some plumbing work on his house, and his utility knife slipped and he cut his forearm open.  So badly he had to have surgery!  He had the surgery tonight and said that it went well.  He's such a nice guy - he told Kris that he'd come in before the surgery, but Kris assured him we'd be fine - just heal!

Then, one of our cows had to have surgery too!  She got cut by her ear, and it looked so bad that we called the vet to sew her up.  He put her under, sewed it up, and she's eating well today.  She looks fine, now.  But ... that's enough, everyone!  No more injuries this week.  ... I'm sure by writing about it that'll make it not happen.  

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The New Coke milk

Have you heard? Coca-Cola is launching a new kind of premium milk called fairlife.  It has 50% more protein and calcium, half the sugar of regular milk, and is lactose free.  But it's still milk!

This is what they do - they filter it, separate it based on the molecular components of the milk, then recombine them.  They offer a cute video with smiley, colorful molecules to explain the process:

The milk is supplied by Fair Oaks Farms, which owns fairlife, which Coke invested in.

I can't see a downside.  Another milk product?  In a single serving package?  Hooray!  Maybe all the companies will now be fighting over making their own brand of this, just like the Greek yogurt craze.

fairlife also opened with a splash.  (Get it?)  With these pin up ads:

They're controversial and provocative! People made fun of them!  They generated tweets.  Journalists wrote articles about the 'strange and sexy' fairlife milk ads.

When's the last time 'milk' and 'sexy' were in the same headline?  That would be never.

Congrats to Fair Oaks, fairlife, and Coke!  Their product is available in Chicago, greater Denver, and greater Twin Cities right now ... and soon, if I know Coke ... the world.

We'll be here on our farm, cheering on the milk drinking.  In dresses just like these.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Water, water everywhere!  Do these pictures make you super excited?! Probably not.  But it's upgrade time here.  (Like most of the time.  Like all businesses.)  

Think about the taste of sour milk.  One time my son got a sour milk carton in a restaurant.  He spit it out and said, "It tastes like cat milk!"  We laughed so hard, but then I thought ... how does he know what cat milk tastes like?

The point is, sour milk is terrible, and in order to make sure there's never anything sour around here - we need clean equipment.

After every milking, the entire system goes through a wash.  It's like a dishwasher for the innards of the pipes and milkers.  The bulk tank has its own washer system, which goes every time it's emptied.

What we need is a lot of hot water in a little amount of time.  We used to have two water heaters, but we replaced them with one bigegr, more powerful water heater.  

Like a lot of projects, you can't stop there! 

The pipes are the same pipes that were there when the barn was built - about 1972.  So when you get a bigger water heater, you need bigger pipes.  When you get new pipes, you need someone to come and hook it all up together ... and that's quite a job.  It's been going on awhile.  

So, now that you know the back story, isn't it even more beautiful?  That's our job!  Making sure it never tastes like cat milk.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Icy today, gone tomorrow

This was Friday morning - 2 degrees, and icily beautiful:

Later, I was marveling at the heifers.  They have access to the barn, where they're bedded down with dry, soft straw.  But some of them prefer to lie right in the snow:

I think even the other heifers were admiring her.  Or questioning her comfort choices.

I've been doing a couple interviews for the Faces of Farming & Ranching award, and one of the interviewers asked me about how our farm is 'different' than a lot of dairy farms.  I don't really think about it much, but, here are the ways our farm is different than a lot of others.

- We pasture our cattle.

Not every farm has fields right next to their barns, and not everyone had a parent who built an irrigation pivot.  Barns are built for cow comfort ... sand beds, mattresses, even misters in their barn to keep the cows cool in warm weather.  

- We use natural bull breeding.

Many farms use artificial insemination, which is called AI.  We buy bulls from different farms, let them in with the cows, and let nature take its course.  Why the difference?  When people breed cows with AI, they impregnate them with like, the Harvard grads, NFL bodies of bulls.  Also, it takes bull meanness out of the equation.  We rarely have a mean bull, since we have young ones with only one thing on their minds, but it has happened.  We just have to sell them.

- Our cows calve in the pasture.  

Since the cows are in barns, the calves are usually born in maternity pens.  Other farms, due to AI, also know exactly when the calves are due.  Ours are born within a few months, but the exact time is a surprise.  Usually during the night.

- We don't record each cow's milk production.

On some farms, people have monitors on each cow telling how much milk she gives.  Some farms show the milk coming out of the milker so you can check right away:  

We check this just when we're milking them.

But like when I talked to the interviewer, I told him what I think:  there's no 'right way.'  It's like any business - you do what works for you.  What works for our land or operation might not work for another.  So we're all different, and that's what keeps dairy farms - and dairy tours! - endlessly interesting.  If you're a dairy farmer, anyway.

That, and the weather.  The ice is gone and the mud is here.  Wonder what the heifers will be lying in tomorrow?

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pour it forward

Tonight, the foamers stopped working during the milking.

The foamers are what the milkers use to clean off the cows' teats.  They foam, like foam soap, due to an air compressor.  But something wasn't working.  Kris tried a new compressor, and it worked. They were mostly done for the night, but it would really matter to the guys milking in the morning - always better to fix things .. when you're awake, as opposed to half asleep!

It's super cold here.  It's supposed to get down to 9 degrees tonight.  What mysterious problems will the cold cause tomorrow?  Always a surprise!


I was in Kroger today and heard over the speaker, "Michigan's dairy farmers and Kroger have come together to donate milk to those in need.  Donate a gallon of milk by buying a paper milk gallon at the register."

This is the second annual "Pour it Forward" campaign, which runs this month in all 124 Michigan Kroger stores.  Kroger customers can purchase a paper milk gallon for $3, and the milk goes to local food banks.  The United Dairy Industry of Michigan (funded by dairy farmers) has partnered with The Kroger Co. of Michigan as part of the Great American Milk Drive.

The above article quotes Jayne Homco, president of The Kroger Co. of Michigan, as saying that milk is the number one food item requested by Michigan food banks.

When I got to the register, this is what I saw ... looks like it's popular in the North Pole, too.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Dairy lesson

Today I had the pleasure of teaching at St Joseph ... first, their begindergarten class.  (This is a class for young 5 year olds, and I was excited to be there, because I love words smashed together to make new words.)

I quizzed them individually after and gave them a 'Got Chocolate Milk' slap bracelet when they got it right.  They drank chocolate milk, got their milk coloring book and crayons, and were generally adorable.

I walked into the kindergarten class and heard, "You're my soccer teacher!"  A different boy said, "You're my swimming teacher!"  The class teacher said, "You teach a lot of things."  (You live in the same town long enough, and you'll have taught everyone something!)

In this lesson, I got one of my favorite things about this age.  When I ask for questions, everyone has one ... but it's never actually a question.  It's a really long story about the time they went to a farm.  I love it - it makes me laugh.  We had a great discussion.

After we were done, the teacher said, "Well, even I learned something today!  I didn't know a cow had FOUR stomachs!"  

A student said, "There's a monkey that has four stomachs, too."  (I looked it up later.  Proboscis monkeys have a four-chambered stomach.  What an odd-looking creature ... so I learned something too.)

And we filled all of the kids' stomachs with chocolate milk.  Only one person spilled, and it wasn't a student.  Sorry!  

Meanwhile, back on the farm ... the story is, IT'S COLD!  16 degrees tonight when I came in.  So it's all the regular farm work as usual, just with tons of layers, cold faces, and even colder hands.  It's snowing, too, which slows everything down as usual.  Buckle down!  We're in for another cold winter, I guess ... seeing as how right now it's still fall!

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Seventh grade farming

Tracy's class spelled out 'Truth or Dairy' when it was warm

Since I was already in Kansas City, I went to school with my sister, and did a farming lesson for 220 seventh graders.

The lesson focused on getting good sources, getting points to back up your thesis, and checking out three articles with different views on farming.

We started with this Jimmy Kimmel video, in which people are asked, "Do you avoid GMOs?"  People emphatically answer yes.  Then the video people ask, "Why?"  or "What does GMO stand for?"  Even though the people selected for the video had very strong opinions, they didn't know what GMO stood for or what it meant.  So that led into the articles and how to write their own persuasive essay.

With the articles, we also talked about farming.  I loved the kids' questions, as always!  There were the regular ones, and also these I'd never gotten before:  

- What do you do when a cow dies? (In this sad event, we call a trucking company and they are composted.)

- How much does a cow cost?  Because I want to buy one.  (It varies.  A calf costs about $300, and a cow costs about $2000.)

- Why don't you keep the boy cows?  (Because only girls give milk.)  Why don't the boys give milk?  (Only girls give milk in mammals.)  Boys can't give milk?  (No.)

- Who is stronger, you or your sister?  (Tracy.  But I can run faster.) (I had to say that to save some face.) 

Teaching in the media center

This must be the expression I have when teaching.
Tracy in her classroom.  She can't help but talk about farming - she's from one too!

Back when I got home we had our first snow that stuck to the ground!  The boys were SO excited! This was us at 8:00 a.m.

It's already gone, but it was fun while it lasted.

Kris, who was busy doing all the work ... said he had the exact opposite reaction when he saw the snow!  He was out late last night.  He helped pull a calf - the biggest heifer calf he'd ever seen.  He couldn't even lift her himself.  He thought she probably weighed 150.  (We thought we were going to sell all the rest of the calves that were born because it's so late in the year, but I'm trying to convince him to keep her.  She's so big!)

She's yellowish.  Sometimes this happens when a calf manures while inside the mother.  It's sort of like a coloring on her hair.

So since everything was frozen this morning, of course everything took longer.  Back to frozen-winter farming, with all of its complications!

But that's a class lesson for another day.  When we're still working on which gender gives the milk, we have a few more points to cover before we get to that.

Any questions for me?  Let me know!   You can like the page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter@carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by good old, old-fashioned email - the form is on the right side of the page.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Faces of Farming & Ranching - exciting!

I'm thrilled to announce ... I've been selected as the Face of Farming & Ranching! A MILLION thanks to everyone who voted! For the next year, I’ll be speaking about farming around the country. Right now I’m in Kansas, where they announced the winners at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention.

Thank you so, so much for all the support.  I’ll do my best to represent our fantastic community, state, and industry!

The entire process started with an application, essay questions, and a video.  Through that they chose the eight finalists.  Then the film crew came and recorded a video.  We then had a 30-minute phone interview with U S Farmers & Ranchers Alliance staff and the Faces of Farming & Ranching from last year.  After that, the online vote ... and then the phone call!  They wanted to be able to make the announcement themselves, so they instructed us to keep the news confidential until after the press conference here yesterday.  (It was a difficult secret to keep, so thank goodness I didn't have to keep it for long.)

Yesterday I met the other four Faces - Erin Brenneman, a pig farmer from Iowa, Darrell Glaser, a turkey farmer from Texas, Jay Hill, a crop and cattle farmer from New Mexico, and Thomas Titus, a pig farmer from Illinois - and they were all so great to talk with and so fun.  We had a day of media training, where we practiced our skills, and then the press conference.  We all spoke, did some Q & A, and then had about six individual interviews each.  (It was the most I've talked in one day since ... possibly ever.)

Some spouses and my sister were able to come, plus two staff members, and we all went out to dinner together and talked (surprise!) farming - with a lot of laughing.  They're just a great group of people.          

Thanks again for all of your support.  I'm so excited to be doing this for the next year, and I'm so honored to be selected. 

So that brings us to today ... I'm back in school!  My sister Tracy is a middle school teacher here in Kansas, and I'm teaching a dairy lesson in all her classes today.  She's got them prepped - they've read two articles about dairy, and their assignment was to check the code on their milk gallons.  I'm ready for questions about milk, cows, and whatever else seventh grade boys are interested in.  I've got a good lead ... I do live on a farm with 400 females. 

Want to know more about the farm?  You can like the page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter@carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by good old, old-fashioned email - the form is on the right side of the page.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wacky Wednesday

Today the farm was a bustle of activity ... Kris commented on how Wednesday is always the busiest day, because it's the day everyone in the world is working.  Mondays and Fridays - not so much!

The nutritionist came for his regular visit to take feed samples and talk about corn silage fermentation.  Kris loves talking nutrition with him.  (They're also friends.)  They also go through the barns to look at the cow's manure to see how firm it is, and see how much corn they can see in it.  OH, THE GLAMOUR!  But yes, very important.  Sort of like ... how moms monitor their babies' diapers.

Note: Our nutritionist has a PhD in animal nutrition.

Workman's Comp Auditor
Every so often the insurance auditor comes to check our books and make sure we're compliant with workman's comp.  Our meeting was today.  We're legit.  Though we'd prefer no one ever gets hurt.

Note: She has been doing audits for 27 years.

Tire company
The tire company came to put duals on our tractor.  We tried out a new disc (which is a field implement), and we thought that if we had dual tires it wouldn't slip when pulling it.  It still sort of does, so we might have to just not buy the disc. But we'll keep the big tires.  Better traction and stability never hurts.

Note: This is the first time we've used this company.  It's amazing how many tire choices there are.

Trucking company
We moved some of our heifers over to our heifer raisers' farm.  Our heifers have been outside since spring in the pasture.  We don't have a barn for all of them for the winter, so we pay a heifer raiser to keep them at his place until the spring, when we put them back out on pasture.

Note:  One of our long-time employees now works with his dad at his dad's trucking company. Always nice to see them - they do all of our cattle trucking.  Our heifer raisers have been taking care of some of our cattle in the winter for two years now, and they also have ... twins!

(Why is Max in shorts and Kris in a winter hat?  Because one of them is not still pretending it's summer.)

When you think about a farm ... all these people and all these businesses are involved.  There are businesses whose entire purpose is to fix milking equipment!  (They're hugely in demand.)  It's not just us, alone, on a farm.  There's no chance to be lonely.  We even have a driveway alarm to alert us when people are here - you never know when someone will stop by, looking for us!  There's us, our employees, their families ... then all these businesses and their families ... we're all in it together.  The farm is more than just a family farm.  It's a community effort!

No matter what day of the week we're all working.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Agri-Fit Challenge!

We did such a fun race today!  In the spirit of mud runs and obstacle races, we participated in the Agri-Fit Challenge - a 5k with farming-related obstacles!

The race was:

Climb over round bales
Go down a dirt hill
Crawl under barbed wire
Run through the woods on a winding trail
Crawl under more barbed wire
Go over a set of three round bales
Carry a square straw bale around an arena
Flip a tractor tire down a row and roll it back
Crawl through a culvert
Climb up a semi truck filled with corn, run through the corn, climb down
Carry two 5-gallon pails of water up and down a barn
Push a wheelbarrow of sugar beets around an arena

Then a sprint to the finish.

It was so much fun - and a challenge!

For instance, I thought the tractor tire flip was going to be the hardest, but it wasn't!  That wasn't so bad ... scrambling up the bales was definitely the hardest for me.  My mom made me feel better by telling me that almost all the women had to help each other get over them.

Kris and I were together until we got to the bale carry.  He could run and carry a bale at the same time ... as he picked it up he yelled to me, "This is actually exactly what I'd be doing at home if I weren't here!"

Some of the obstacles felt totally natural.  When I picked up the pails of water it was just like carrying grain for the calves - or two carseats with twins.

I loved that they had sugar beets as part of it.  We don't have a ton of sugar beets around us and I love seeing them.  Cole said that at first he thought they were giant rocks.

We all toasted with chocolate milk at the end - and since it was 29 degrees, got back in the car to warm up the kids.  I was so happy to win my age group, and we finished 7th (Kris) and 8th overall.

As soon as we got back home, we went out to deliver protein tubs to the heifers in the pasture.  It's cold, and they need their protein, too!  Even if it's not coming in the form of chocolate milk.

I'm one of eight finalists for the Faces of Farming & Ranching nationwide competition!  There's an online voting portion which counts for 25% of the final score.  If you think I'd make a good ag spokesperson, please vote daily here:

To learn more about it, you can read the Lansing State Journal article here: 
Vote for Carla Wardin to be National Voice of Farming

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Farming and singing

I've written about the Peterson Farm Bros before - they are Kansas beef and crop farmers that make song parodies about farming. They're very popular in ag circles.  What I love about them is that:

1) They're educational.  They talk about farming process, they show actual farm footage, and they share facts.  Plus, they're the real farmers talking about it.

2) They actually do it.  They take the time to write, sing, and film these parodies.  This is how they're promoting ag!  They don't take themselves too seriously, their videos are entertaining, and I admire these young guys (and occasionally their little sister) for choosing to promote farming this way.

3) They're clever.  The line in here that kills me is "I put ag in swagger."  Maybe farmers have been saying this for years - maybe it's on every farming fraternity shirt? - but it's the first time I've heard it.

So here it is!  An educational, fun medley about farming - full of swAGger ... and a little Disney touch for the girl.

I'm one of eight finalists for the Faces of Farming & Ranching nationwide competition!  There's an online voting portion which counts for 25% of the final score.  If you think I'd make a good ag spokesperson, please vote daily here:

For more about the competition, you can read the Lansing State Journal article here: 
Vote for Carla Wardin to be National Voice of Farming

Monday, October 27, 2014

Then and now

Last year we had a great time attending the National Milk Producers Federation annual meeting.  It's today in Texas, and due to social media, I felt like I really knew what was going on!

But no meeting this year - today was a busy day on the farm.  First, we had the rye planted.  It's in a field where we already harvested, so now we're planting rye for the spring.  It'll be interesting to see how well it grows, since this is a late planting ... due to a late harvest ... due to this late summer!

When I say 'we had the rye planted' it means that we pay a custom planter to do it.  Although we own equipment to do a lot of our field work, it's way easier for farmers to pay people to do it who already have all the (working) equipment.  Lots of farmers use them, so we're all basically sharing the cost of the equipment!  They're busy guys too - trying to coordinate to do all their customers' fields ... all at the same time.

We also unloaded a giant load of hay that we bought.  It looks so big, it doesn't even look like it'd fit on the road!  Of course, we also grow hay, but we buy big square bales to put out for the cattle.

Besides that, another piece of equipment broke, we got a big bill for a machine we had fixed, and we had ... 70 degree weather and sun!  It was like summer!  We spent all evening outside, much of it spent in the pasture behind our house.

Cows are curious.  These heifers see the boys all the time - but they still are so entertained.  There's kicking, running, and a lot of excitement!


... for both the cows and the boys.

I'm a finalist for the Faces of Farming & Ranching.  The winners get to go around the country and help educate people about agriculture.  Online voting is 25% of the final score.  You can vote and see a video of our farm here:

Thank you!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Eight days to vote, and Farm Fashion

There are eight more days (and eight more times) you can vote for the Face of Farming & Ranching here:

This summer I wrote a post called: Farm fashion: 6 classic styles for the farm.  In it, I showed what I see real people wearing when they work on farms.

One of these pictures featured one of our team members who wears this 'U MAD BRO?' tank top. My boys love this tank top more than anything, and they all want one.

Recently, my dad turned 70!  He farmed here for many years, and even though he's now retired, he helps out whenever we need him.  (When he's not flying a plane, traveling, or doing things more fun than working.)

And when it's warm enough, he can wear our gift to the farm.

And let's hope the answer around here is always no.

Thanks again for taking the time to help me represent agriculture at a national level.  Again, you can vote HERE

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nine more days to vote, and checking your milk code

Nine more days to vote!  You can vote once a day.

If you have a minute, please vote here:

Today's the big MSU vs U of M game.  My great grandma, who's shown in the video, graduated from MSU.  Then my grandpa, dad, and Kris and me.  (And various other family members.)

But!  No matter what school you're a fan of, in the 10-day countdown, here's one of the posts people found most useful.  There is a code on your milk that tells you where it comes from!

Each container of milk is identified by a 2-digit state code followed by a 3-digit processing plant code.  It's local!  Michigan is 26.

If you don't live in Michigan, you can check exactly where your milk comes from by typing in the code at this site: whereismymilkfrom.

Thanks again for taking the time to help me represent agriculture at a national level.  Again, you can vote HERE

Friday, October 24, 2014

Asking for your vote! Up for Faces of Farming & Ranching

I’m honored to be one of eight finalists in the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance® Faces of Farming & Ranching nationwide search!  (I don’t like asking for votes.)

So what does that mean?  It means that to help put a real face on agriculture, USFRA selected people who are proud of what they do, eager to share their stories, and are actively involved in sharing their experiences in public and on social media.  (But I’m going to anyway.)

If I’m selected, I’ll spend the next year representing farmers at different events around the country. (Here it comes.)

From today until Nov 2, you can vote for me on USFRA’s Facebook page:
Scroll down until you see my name and video and select the Place My Vote button.  You must have a Facebook account to vote.  If you don't, you can register for one right there.  Votes will be factored into the final decision to pick the next Faces of Farming & Ranching. (That’s ten days, and you can vote once a day.)

If you think I’ll do a good job representing Michigan and agriculture, please take the time to vote for me once a day.  (If you want to share this with others, that’d be great, too.)

So far ... there was an extensive application process.  Essay questions, a video, recommendation letters, and references - it was sort of like applying to college!  

Then, a video crew came out to do the video you're going to see on the USFRA page.  They told me they would be there from 8:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m. to shoot the video.  I thought, it can't possibly take that long.  They were there exactly those minutes!  They did a great job.  (I loved how the crew was always trying to make my hair not stand straight up, or tell me to fix my shirt because it was crooked.  I need people like that in regular life.)   

After that, I had a phone interview with the four Faces of Farming & Ranching from last year, plus USFRA staff.  Now, it's the online voting!  The winners will be announced on Nov 12.  Thank you for taking the time to vote - I appreciate it.  If you see my hair sticking up straight in the video, it wasn't the crew's fault.  They did all they could.

For the next ten days of voting, I'm going to highlight ten of my favorite (and most popular) blog posts. 

Number 10:  
Five myths about farmers: a tongue-in-cheek look at our industry.

Please take the time to vote (today and for the next 10 days!) HERE.  Thank you!  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What’s going down on the farm? Questions you’d ask a farmer if she were your best friend.

Seriously, what’s going on with GMOs?  What are GMOs, anyway?

GMO stands for genetically modified organisms.  If you’ve ever grown a garden, you know that it’s not easy.  Now, imagine that your garden crop is your field and your job.  Imagine that you’re responsible for providing food for your country. (If this were my garden, we would all starve.)  Guess what?  People keep trying to do a better job. 

For about 10,000 years, farmers have been picking desirable characteristics of plants and crossbreeding them to get better plants – ones that grow better or taste better.  Now, lab technicians insert genes from one plant into another to speed the process along.  They can also be more precise this way.  For an in depth view from Popular Science, read: How to genetically modify a seed, step by step. 

GMOs allow farmers to use less water, land, and pesticides to produce more food.  For instance, we grow corn to feed our cattle.  The corn seed we buy has been genetically modified to be more resistant to drought.

From the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance page: “Since 1995, food from GM seeds has been commercially available and has been proven safe for human and animal consumption. No other crops have been more studied or subject to greater scientific review. GM seeds undergo testing for safety, health and nutritional value – and regulation is overseen by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

But!  None of that matters if people think that GMOs are evil and killing us all.  I’m a firm believer in choice – I think we all are – but I also want people to have a deep understanding of what GMOs are, why farmers use them, and why they were developed in the first place.  Farmers are consumers just like you – we only want the best for our families, too.  My family has been farming here for 135 years.  We care about our land, our water, our animals, our product, and ultimately – you!
What’s the difference between organic milk and regular milk?  What’s up with antibiotics and hormones?

Good news for anyone wondering!

Conventional and organic milk have no antibiotics in it.

Conventional and organic milk have hormones in it.  (All milk has natural hormones.)

All milk is tested repeatedly on the farm and at the lab to ensure that it is antibiotic free.  We don't feed any antibiotics to cows.  We only give them medicine when they're sick, and then we don't milk them into the tank when they have the medicine still in their systems.  Then when they're better and the medicine is out of their system - only then do we begin milking them again.  No one wants antibiotics in the milk - the farmer or the consumer.

As for hormones - in Michigan, farmers don't give their cows hormones to help them produce more milk.  (We never have on this farm, either.)  When farmers did it in the past, there was no way to tell the synthetic hormone from the natural hormone, because cows already produced it.  (So there was no test for it.)  But when consumers didn't want it, farmers stopped using it.  In Michigan, that happened in 2008. 

I’m hugely in favor of capitalism and choice, and it's easier to make a decision when you know all milk is healthy and nutritious.    

So what is the difference, then? 

The difference is in the farm practice, not the product.  Organic milk comes from cows that are on certified organic farms.  They are fed organic feed, they are not treated with medicine when sick (they are sold or put into a traditional herd), and they have mandated outdoor access.

On our farm, they’re fed feed we grow, given medicine when sick and not milked into the tank until it’s out of their system, and are out on pasture.  We take fantastic care of our animals – just like all farmers try to do. 

There have been many studies – like by the USDA and the American Dietetic Association – that show organic and conventional milk is equally nutritious and safe.

So, once again – it’s America!  You can choose whatever you want in the land of the free and the home of the brave!  We have giant grocery stores at our disposal!  Just know that all farmers – organic and conventional – are trying our best to provide for you.

Isn’t the manure part of farming kind of gross?

Yes.  But only when it’s wet.  Dry manure just seems like dirt.

Here’s a little fun fact for you … many dairy farmers I know have a separate entry to their houses!  Many of them also have separate showers!  Many of them are also in the basement, for good reason.

Farms each have their own smell.  One day Kris came home and I said, “Where have you been?  You smell different.”

(Note – this is the exact opposite of a scene when a wife smells another woman’s perfume on her husband.  I smelled someone else’s farm manure.)

But the truth is - we need manure!  We save it up and spread it on our fields so we can grow well-fertilized crops to feed our cattle.  Our cattle all - with no training! - spread manure on their pasture themselves!

Do our boots have manure on them?  Yes.  Do our barn clothes smell like manure?  Yes.  Do we have a really good washing machine?  Yes.

Manure is just part of working on a farm and living on a farm.  But that’s where we keep it – on the farm.  We don’t ever go out in our work boots and clothes.  

Not even the boys … no matter how much they want to wear their barn boots to the library.

Any questions for me?  Let me know!   You can like the page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter@carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by good old, old-fashioned email - the form is on the right side of the page.