Thursday, February 25, 2016


We had a snowstorm!  In 24 hours we got about a foot of snow.

February 23

February 24

This is also the same week Kris and five of his farmer friends went to Florida to tour dairy farms. Unfortunately, due to the threat of the storm, his flight was cancelled.  Since they couldn't get a flight until two days later, and they all wanted to be back on their farms ... they drove the 24 hours home.  (I strongly suggested that Kris wait it out on the beach, but these business owners are so darn responsible.)

Thanks to our wonderful employees, everything still went pretty smoothly.  The milk truck got a little stuck, but it didn't take them that long to get it out.

I tried to leave today to go sledding with friends, but the roads were still drifted.  I thought it was going to be okay, but then there was a truck pulling a car out of a ditch on my road ... right in the middle of the road.  I couldn't get around it, the side roads were even worse, and Kris wasn't home to call if I got stuck!  So, we turned around and came back home.

Instead, we made snow ice cream.  It consists of -

5 cups of snow
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of sugar
2 t of vanilla

We added chocolate syrup and sprinkles.  The kids were very happy.

However, we used the last of the milk.  I didn't want to try to leave again, so I asked Kris to buy some if he and the guys stopped at a gas station.

He said he did buy some, but when they got out they opened the back of the SUV ... and the milk gallon fell out and exploded.

What a fitting end to a dairy tour!  Milk everywhere.


Thank you to Eureka Elementary's Mrs. Markman and her first grade for inviting me to do a dairy lesson yesterday!  The kids, as always, had tons of questions, and I loved answering them.  "Where did you buy that calf bottle?" followed up by "Where did you buy that milker?" and "Where do they sell cows?"  made me think these kids were pretty entrepreneurial and ready to start their own dairies!

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ag Expo8 - Where middle schoolers learn about agriculture

The Clinton Career Network wanted to introduce 8th graders in the county to the many agricultural careers available.  They brought 600 students over three days to AgroLiquid Corporate Headquarters in St Johns.  The students listened to speakers, visited their choice of four job stations, and consulted with educational institutions.

It was a great representation of ag careers, both traditional and non-traditional - including communications, agronomy, marketing and sales, human resources, banking, veterinary medicine, conservation, agri-tourism, and of course ... farming!

A few interesting points ...

- I really enjoyed talking to the students who came to my station.  I often started by asking them if they already knew what they wanted to do when they grew up.

Many of them already knew, and their answers didn't often fit with the agriculture theme.  When a student would answer. "neurosurgeon," or "pediatric dentist," I would focus on what brings us all together no matter the job ... food.  It was also nice that we gave out cheese sticks.  Go dairy!

- One group of students said they didn't know what they wanted to do when they grew up.  I said, "Well, what are your parents' jobs?  Do you want those jobs?"  Some of the kids in this group didn't know what their parents did.  "He works ... in an office ..." one kid trailed off.  "It's in Lansing." Another girl said, "My dad works for the state and I don't know what my mom does.  She works ... somewhere."

This really surprised me, because I thought everyone knew what their parents did for a job.  For me, it took me back to part of the reason we quit our marketing jobs to buy the farm.  I distinctly remember Kris saying, "I want our kids to know what we do.  I don't want to be gone all the time and them have no idea where I work or what I do every day.  If we farm it's all at our house."

- For the kids who did know their parents' jobs, I said, "Would you want those jobs?"  "Noooo!" they chorused.  I turned to a kid who said his dad was a dentist. "Why not?"  "Because he always complains about his job," he said.  The other kids agreed.

That's another funny thing about farming, for all the (millions of) worries about farming, people keep wanting their kids to do it!  In fact, I was at a farm meeting this past week and a dairy farmer said, "I have five kids ... four of them have moved out and never want to farm - one's still in high school ... so I have ONE MORE chance!" The whole room laughed.

So not only are we growing and raising food, but we're also producing the next farmers!

- I got to one group and asked a girl what she wanted to be when she grew up.  She said seriously, "A YouTuber.  They definitely make the most money."  She had green hair and was wearing a Pikachu costume.  I think she's well on her way - careers have been made on much less!

When I was in 8th grade, my first job after graduation - telecommuting as a technical writer for a software development firm - didn't even exist.  It's fun to think about what careers these students will be pursuing, and how business and technology will change before they even graduate.

I read a quote by Brenda Schoepp that read, “My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher, but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.”

Thankfully, we need all of us.  And the more you know about careers, the easier you can make your decisions!  That's exactly what I'll be telling my boys as they pick what they want to do ... no pressure on becoming the seventh generation. I mean ... being a YouTuber is hard to beat.

Thank you to everyone involved with Ag Expo8!

Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.

Some details:
Students Introduced to Ag Careers at Ag Expo8

More than 600 Clinton County eighth grade students recently had an opportunity to begin thinking about their futures, and consider careers in Michigan’s second largest industry. Students from Bath, Pewamo-Westphalia, Ovid-Elsie, Dewitt, Fowler, Fowler Most Holy Trinity and St. Joseph Pewamo assembled over a three-day period at AgroLiquid Corporate Headquarters in St. Johns. The Clinton County Ag Expo8 development committee would like to thank the following list of sponsors, supporters and presenters for their dedication to this event: 

Greenstone Farm Credit Services
Clinton County Economic Alliance 
Clinton Conservation District 
Clinton County Regional Educational Service Agency 
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Clinton Veterinary Service, P.C.
MSU College of Veterinary Medicine
Clinton County Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
Ovid-Elsie Agriculture Program
MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Michigan College Access Network
Clinton County RESA Career Connections
United Dairy Industry of Michigan
Lansing Community College C3R

For more information about the Clinton Career Network please contact Denise Palmer at 989-224-6831, ext. 2365.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Windy day

Kris and I had planned on going to see some of our high school team members and friends' kids play in their Friday night basketball game.  (We'd been trying and trying to go see them, and we finally were able to schedule it!)

He didn't come home, so I decided the boys and I would leave without him.  We ran outside into the gale force winds to see the tree limb in our yard.

Kris called when we were about to see the game, and when I got home he filled me in on the events of his night.

First of all, the wind caused the plastic to blow off half of the corn silage pile!  Kris said that the plastic was moving him even as he was standing on it, trying to put tires on it.  Kris and the guys had to get the plastic and tires back on in the crazy wind.  It's difficult even when there's a breeze ... this wind made it almost impossible.  Russ, our friend and vet, even helped the entire time.  He didn't have to do that as a vet OR friend!  That was incredibly nice and helpful of him.

Then, one of the drive-through gates blew in as someone was closing the giant garage-like barn door. The door wouldn't work after that.

That meant Kris had to climb up the highest ladder we have to the top of the barn.  First, he chained the bottom of the ladder so that the cows wouldn't mess with it, bump it, and accidentally knock him off and fall to his death.

He said he climbed very carefully, and when he got to the top, he held onto the brace post while he tried to fix the garage door opener.  He thought, "If the ladder falls, and I'm still holding onto this ... how am I going to get down?"  I helpfully suggested that he would have eventually had to jump and broken both his legs and possibly pelvis. (Spoiler alert - he didn't fall.)

He spent a long time working on it, with nothing working and eventually fixed it by ... unplugging it and plugging it back in!  The solution of so many problems!

Today I read the news:

"Buildings were evacuated in downtown Chicago this afternoon as 69-mph wind gusts whipped glass out of under-construction skyscrapers, smashing them into nearby buildings and shattering them onto streets below."


"Heavy winds are beating up on the roads and powerlines throughout the area. Multiple reports are coming in about heavy winds causing trees and powerlines to crash into the roads.  Consumer's Energy says thousands of people have lost power tonight -- the largest outage being in the Holt area.
According to the outage map, power won't be completely restored for at least another 48 hours, which includes the more than 1400 people who were in the dark this evening in Holt."

Today was also windy, but nothing like it was yesterday.  As a result, we managed to do all our plans.

Luckily, the basketball season isn't over - maybe the weather will cooperate with our next game!

Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

You don't have to be lonely ...

Every other year, young ag people gather for a huge leadership, development, and social event - the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference.  This year it was in Kansas City, Missouri.

Fellow USFRA Face of Farming rep Jay Hill and I were on a panel talking about our experience in this role and about how we are reaching out to our real life and online communities.  People asked lots of questions and it was really enjoyable!

We were also judges for the collegiate discussion meet, which is a competition where the students discuss issues in agriculture.  We judged the sweet 16 round, and we were impressed by the students' talents.

After a breakout session, a woman approached me and said she was originally from Michigan but now she and her husband farmed in Missouri.  I asked how they happened to move there, and she said that she met him online.

"What site did you use?" I asked ... because I always do.  (I have my own personal survey going and like to share the results with my single friends.)

"We met on Farmers Only," she said.

"Hooray!" I practically squealed. "You're only the second married couple I know that met that way!"

"Really?" she said. "I know a few!"

She told her romantic story of them meeting, talking on the phone for hours, driving to see each other and meet their families, and getting married within four months. She finished, "And now we've been married nine years!"

After we left, my friend Alex (who is also married but likes to help friends) said, "We should coordinate a YF&R singles event!"  A group of us started discussing the possibilities. A girl offered, "We could have nametags that designate you as married or single.  A guy offered, "Or add 'dating but willing to upgrade!'"

I sat down for lunch with different friends and relayed the Farmers Only love story. A girl said, "One of my friends asked if I was on there, and I said I would never be on there! I hate their commercials! They make farmers look like a bunch of hicks. My friend threatened to sing it and I got mad." 

Jay said, "But I bet every person in America knows that jingle."

I told them I think their commercials are hilarious. Good marketing, memorable ... And apparently it works.

She said, "Yes, but the way they reinforce stereotypes?  And the way they talk?  They make it seem like we're a bunch a rednecks!"

We discussed it for awhile. Some of their commercials definitely go for the stereotype, but some are just goofy.  (You can see the first Farmers Only commercial here.  I remember seeing it for the first time and laughing so hard.  Not so horrible ones exist like this, and there are some that celebrate riding horses, fishing, and country attire.)  

I brought up Alex's singles event idea and everyone thought it was great .... the married people could organize it for the singles, and it'd be way better than Farmers Only. These were real farmers in real life!

Later at the awards banquet, the farmer speaking said that we have chosen "the greatest responsibility" - we need to feed everyone. He went on to say that the future of farming and ranching was in that room of 1100 people, and that we all take it seriously. 

I looked around. There were college students, young people just starting out, people taking over after generations of their families doing the same thing.

The farmer asked who was a first generation farmer, and out of the entire room, four people raised their hands.  I looked to the back of the room where there were - as always during these events - tons of moms and dads standing and holding babies. Tiny babies, fat babies, happy babies. It's hard to start a farm from scratch. It's way more common to pass down the work and land you love. If Farmers Only is helping people find each other, despite their stereotyping farmers, it seemed their marketing was doing more good than harm.  

The next day, I was chatting with my Algerian electrical engineering student taxi driver. I asked him, "Have you ever seen a commercial for Farmers Only?"

"Yes," he said. "I've seen that."  He half sang, "You don't have to be lonely, at ..."

"So, we were talking about those commercials," I said.  "Do you think they portray farmers in a negative light?"

He said, "Farmers are busy. They word hard. They are on their farms, and how do you meet anybody of you don't work somewhere else?  It makes sense."

Singles events, conferences, blind dates ...  no matter what, people are managing to meet, marry, have kids, and run farms together. The people in the Farmers Only commercials don't represent the farmers I know, (Kris has never even ridden a horse!), but the marketing seems to be working.

Maybe a suggestion?  Show farmers actually farming - but keep the jingle. If every farmer, Algerian student, and baby knows it ... you know you've got a hit.

Thank you for U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, Michigan Farm Bureau, and the YF&R team!  Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.

There was a casino night too ... here we are with Meghan Grebner of Brownfield Ag News after our interview

The Marriott decorated for Valentine's Day

Fun USFRA friends Paul Spooner and Jill Mantey

My Michigan people - Mark Daniels, Alex Schnabelrauch, Ricky Southward, Darcy Lipskey, and Calby Garrison

Michigan out on the town

Jay Hill farms in New Mexico, thus the cowboy hat!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Does milk make girls develop faster? No.

Does milk make girls (or boys) develop faster?

I commonly get this question about modern milk – does it make girls hit puberty earlier?  Does it affect growth?  I actually get it more as a statement, like “We don’t drink milk because ... you know what it does to girls.”

As common as this is to hear, I have good news – it’s not true.   

Best Food Facts is trying to dispel this myth.  Check out this excerpt:


“We’ve heard literally dozens of women discuss their concern with hormones in milk causing early puberty. In focus groups near Chicago and New York City, when we asked moms what concerns they have about today's food, the topic of early puberty due to "hormones in milk" came up several times. The women expressed that they know girls who have started menstruation earlier than they thought was normal. News articles including The New York Times and The Huffington Post have discussed it. Foodie momsfarm moms and nannies are blogging about it.

Clearly, this is a scary scenario for parents – certainly one for which we wanted to help find some credible information. To get the facts, we enlisted the help of Dr. Ann Macrina, research/teaching associate, and Dr. Terry Etherton, animal nutrition professor, both of Pennsylvania State University.

BestFoodFacts: There seems to be growing concern about the association between hormones in dairy products and early puberty in girls. What are your thoughts on this concern?

Dr. Macrina: “The age at which puberty begins in girls has been decreasing since the mid-1800s. It is odd to blame it on dairy products since dairy consumption has actually decreased during the same timeframe. Several things have been cited as causing early puberty in girls:  

·     Girls are maturing more quickly because they have better nutrition.

·     Many believe girls must achieve a certain body mass for the onset of puberty to occur. The obesity rate is increasing in this country at a rapid rate and girls are reaching this point much sooner.
·     Ethnicity might play a role. African-American girls and girls of Hispanic heritage tend to reach puberty sooner than Caucasian girls."

“There are many contributing factors to be considered but I don’t think dairy consumption is one of them.”

Dr. Etherton: “There are zillions of protein hormones in both plant and animal foods. They are digested in the stomach, which kills their ability to have any biological activity. There is just no way to come to a science-based conclusion that hormones in food or dairy products cause early puberty.”


I want to stress – hormones in the stomach are digested and this “kills their ability to have any biological activity.”

Let me also add that these are naturally-occurring hormones, which all milk has, because it comes from lactating animals.  Hormones aren't just present in milk - they're present in all types of food. For instance, look at this chart about estrogen from Allen Young, Utah State University Extension dairy specialist and associate professor:

Another way to put it, from Science Blogs: Aetiology by Tara C. Smith, is:


“Studies have shown that human and bovine milk normally contain small amounts of growth hormone. After ingestion, growth hormone as any other protein in milk: it is digested into its constituent amino acids and di- and tripeptides. There is no data to suggest that BST present in milk can survive digestion or produce unique peptide fragments that might have biological effects.

Even if BST is absorbed intact, the growth hormone receptors in the human do not recognize cow BST and, therefore, BST cannot produce effects in humans. … Overall studies show recombinant growth hormone cannot be absorbed intact through intestine and even if small amounts get absorbed, there is no receptor for bovine growth hormones in humans.”


I think that's a great way to put it: "there is no receptor for bovine growth hormones in humans."

Cows ... people ... our bodies are different inside and out!

So!  Cheers to milk.  It has nine essential nutrients, it tastes good, and our cows are making it every single day. 

There are lots of things to worry about when raising kids, (and feeding yourself), so let this one go. I'm going to go back to worrying about how to teach my kids fractions, since that seems way more complicated than puberty.


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Any questions?  Email me.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Out and back

Today I volunteered with CommonGround at the Women's Expo in Lansing.

Janna Fritz, Tera Havard, and me in front of burning questions
I had the opportunity to have some really great conversations about farming and food.  Here are some things I heard that really made me happy:

- (After I explained that CommonGround was an all-volunteer organization that answers questions about farming and food) - "Oh!  I thought it was a dating service like Farmers  I love those commercials!"

- (Following a long conversation) - "I really understand GMOs better now.  Thanks so much for coming to this."

- (After a great conversation about organic and conventional farming practices) - "I'm so glad I talked to you.  Now I don't have to feel guilty that I'm not buying $10 milk."

- "What do you do?  I'm a psychic.  I eat clean, because when I do, that allows the angels and guides to communicate better with me."  (Then why did she ask what I did?  Shouldn't she already know?)

Thanks again to CommonGround.  

Meanwhile on the farm ...

Kris met with our nutritionist and vet to do an in-depth analysis of how we can improve this next year.  Spreadsheets!  Graphs!  Stats!  All the kind of things Kris loves - farming and getting better at farming.

It is MUDDY.  Everything is a huge mess.  We all love it, but this is another reason we built a barn for the cattle in the winter.  Otherwise the pastures get completely torn up.

We milked the cows, we fed them, then we milked them again.  Then we scraped manure.  Same old, same old ... broken up by celebrating Kris' birthday and the Super Bowl with tons of great food and laughs with friends and family.  Hooray, February!

Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.