Thursday, August 25, 2016

Good sportsmanship [Dairy Star Column]

On the field or in the ring, whether we win or lose, it's important to do so with grace and a smile on our face.
youth softball

With bases loaded and two outs, the player up to bat is facing a full-count last pitch. The pitch is thrown. The batter swings and misses. Does the batter's team respond with a disappointed sigh or "that's OK, you'll get it next time"?

The judge has the class of yearling heifers all lined up and is about to make his placings final. You're standing at the top of the class. Then, at the last minute, the judge rearranges the lineup and you end up third in the class. Do you walk out of the ring with a frown or a smile?

A couple weeks ago, both our youth softball season and our youth showing season ended. This was my family's first year with a child playing in the local softball league and the second year of showing dairy cattle in 4-H.

youth dairy show

Both softball and showing were great experiences, with lots of learning opportunities. As I look back at both seasons, I find myself thinking about the importance of role models in each of these activities. Specifically, I noticed the way older players, exhibitors, coaches, leaders, and other parents demonstrated sportsmanship.

The softball league Dan played in is made up of kids ages nine through 14, so each team includes players of all ages. Dan was lucky enough to end up on a team with a group of kids who were playing to learn and have fun. This was Dan's first time participating in a team sport and his first time playing softball or baseball, so he had a lot to learn. The older kids on his team and his coaches did a great job teaching and encouraging him.

Dan's team didn't finish the season with a winning record, but, more importantly, they played every game with positive attitudes and good sportsmanship. They did win one key game, though.

In the first round of the league playoffs...

[Read the rest of this column in the Dairy Star.]

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Telling our story in person [Hoard's Dairyman Post]

Social media should not replace face-to-face advocacy.

Almost every co-op meeting, checkoff organization conference, or dairy industry event includes a speaker or breakout session about telling our story, and for good reason. If we don’t show the world what happens on our dairy farms, someone else will try to do it for us.

Often those advocacy sessions focus on telling our story through social media. Again, there’s a good reason why. Social media gives us access to a nearly limitless audience.

I always say that I can’t give farm tours to thousands of people on a regular basis. There’s not enough time in a day to host daily tours and get chores done. Plus, very few people want to visit my farm in the dead of winter. Social media lets me share my farm and my life 365 days a year.

But social media should not replace in-person advocacy.

In-person advocacy can be as simple as chatting with the person sitting next to you on the airplane (Talk about a captive audience!) or as formal as speaking in public about dairy farming.

I was reminded of the importance of advocating in person earlier this month. Three other dairy farmers and I participated in a panel discussion about farming at a food bloggers event in New York City. After the panel, the most common response I heard was, “That was the best part of this event. I wish we could have had more time to continue the conversation.”

When we tell our story in person...

[Read the rest of this post in the Hoard's Dairyman Notebook.]

Saturday, August 13, 2016

What's wrong with our country? [Hoard's Dairyman Post]

We can critique ideas constructively without resorting to rudeness or insults. After all, it’s vigorous discussion that built America . . . whether it is a discussion about the Presidential election or show whites.

Our forefathers felt so strongly about the importance of idea exchange that it was one of the first rights they declared in our constitution. Nothing changes unless people are willing to speak up, share their opinion, or challenge tradition.

Two weeks ago, my blog post about show whites was published here in the Hoard’s Dairyman Notebook. I figured the “Four reasons why show whites need to go” post would generate discussion, because it challenged a long-standing tradition in showing dairy cattle. I didn’t expect my fellow dairy farmers to respond so rudely or for them to insult me personally.

I read through all of the hundreds of comments about the post.

Most dairy farmers and dairy exhibitors who commented did so respectfully, even if they disagreed. Many offered thoughtful suggestions about a compromise between wearing white and my suggestion of wearing black – like wearing khaki pants or blue jeans.

There were some dairy farmers, however, who apparently feel so strongly about continuing to wear white show clothes that they were compelled to respond with insults and rude comments. They turned what could have been a constructive conversation into destructive disrespect.

Here are a few examples (reprinted here as they were originally published)...

[Read the rest of this post in the Hoard's Dairyman Notebook.]

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Blondies and barn chores

When farm kids help with barn chores, Mama has more time to bake. Grandma Jeanie's Blondies are a much-loved family recipe.
Grandma's Blondies

When Dan was four years old, he asked me one day, “Why don’t you grow pretty flowers like Grandpa? Or bake cookies like Grandma?”

I told Dan, “Because it’s more important for me to make sure the cows and calves are taken care of. Maybe when you get bigger and you can help in the barn, I’ll have more time to bake and garden.”

Fast-forward five years and that day has arrived. My flower gardens don’t look like much, but I have found more time to bake.

making blondies

Everyone works together

This summer, Dan and Monika were assigned their first regular barn chores. They’ve been helping with miscellaneous outside jobs since they could walk, and they’ve had household chores for several years now, but this is the first time we’ve turned responsibility over to them for one of our daily chores.

Dan doing barn chores

Dan and Monika are responsible for cleaning the barn every morning after we let the cows back out to pasture. They scrape the aisle and the stalls and then put fresh wood shavings down.

Monika doing barn chores

Daphne’s a bit too young for barn chores, so she’s in charge of picking eggs and taming kittens.

Daphne, the kitten tamer

For the first couple days after we assigned their job, Dan and Monika balked a little. “This is supposed to be our vacation,” they said.

I replied with my standard response to chore aversion: “Everyone works together because that’s what families do.”

Glen and I explained why it’s important for the barn to be clean and how much their contributions help our farm and family be more successful.

clean dairy barn

We have to give Dan and Monika reminders every once in a while, but judging from how well they’re doing their jobs now, Dan and Monika understand the importance of working together and getting the job done.

Cooperative spirit

Agricultural cooperatives exist because of the same principle: everyone works together. When a co-op’s member-owners work together, the co-op has more business strength than each individual farmer would have on their own. We belong to several agricultural cooperatives, including Land O'Lakes.

Dairy co-ops like Land O'Lakes provide an especially important service to dairy farmer members: milk processing and marketing. Milk is a highly perishable product that needs to be processed and marketed daily. As a dairy farmer, I spend most of my time caring for my cattle and crops – it would take a lot of my time away from those responsibilities if I had to personally market each tankful of milk that leaves our farm.

Co-ops also provide other helpful services. Co-op nutritionists help us feed our cows. Co-op agronomists help us grow our crops. When all of the member-owners and co-op employees work together, the co-op is successful. In turn, co-op success helps family farms stay in business.

This inherent belief in the importance of working together is what makes me proud of both my own farm family and my membership in cooperatives.

More baking

I’m thrilled that I have a little more time to spend in the kitchen now than I did when the kids were little. Homemade treats are one way that I show my family how much I love and appreciate them.

pan of blondies

Baking is even more special with heirloom recipes passed down through my own family. The recipe for these blondies came from my Grandma Jeanie. She baked love into all of the treats she made, too.

pressing blondies into pan

Grandma Jeanie was a farmer and homemaker, too, so her go-to recipes were always practical. I can make these bars in minutes with ingredients I always have on hand. Something amazing happens when you mix a little melted butter and brown sugar together with vanilla and pecans. All of the ingredients work together to create something really good.

ingredients for blondies

In recipes like these blondies, where butter contributes significantly to both flavor and texture, I use Land O Lakes® European Style Butter, which is made with 82% milkfat. (Regular butter is made with 80% milkfat.) Plus, unlike most European butters, which are made with sour cream, Land O Lakes® European Style Butter is made with sweet cream, so it has the same great, buttery taste but with a little extra richness.

kids and blondies

My whole family loves these bars and I’m guessing yours will to.

Grandma Jeanie's Blondies

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Yield: One 9 x 13 pan of bars


½ cup Land O Lakes® European Style Butter, melted*
2 cups packed brown sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

*Note: In a pinch, you can substitute regular Land O Lakes® Butter, but then reduce the salt to ½ teaspoon. Land O Lakes® European Style Butter has slightly less salt than regular Land O Lakes® Butter.


Preheat oven to 350°F for shiny metal or glass pan or 325°F if using a dark or nonstick pan. Grease or spray a 9 x 13 or 10 x 15 baking pan.

Mix melted butter and brown sugar together. Add rest of ingredients, one by one, in order, mixing well after each addition.

Batter will be very thick, almost like cookie dough. Press batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, rotating pan half way through. Bars are done when edges are dark golden brown. Don’t be alarmed when the top of the bars puffs up while baking; it will fall again as the bars cool.

Cool completely before cutting into bars.

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative farmer-owner. I received compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. All opinions are my own. Land O Lakes and the Indian Maiden brandmark are registered trademarks of Land O’Lakes, Inc.