There are no “vacation days” when it comes to caring for livestock. So this Thanksgiving, alongside enjoying the traditional turkey and stuffing, my fiancé, my uncle and I helped sort bison calves at my parent’s ranch. As you can imagine, my dad was glad to have family visiting so he could “put them to work.”
Because they’re all cute, fluffy and brown, sorting calves should be easy, right? Not when it involves separating these babies from their mommas. Each calf is weaned so it can be sold at auction. This is always a stressful time for any animal, but it’s even more stressful with bison cows and calves because they aren’t quite as domesticated as cattle and are known to be highly-protective of their calves. Though difficult, we sort calves through a network of corrals and gates. When a cow runs through, we quickly shut the gate so she is separated from her calf. The bison cows then move on out to pasture while the calves stay in the corral, reducing the stress on the cows once out of the corral.
Each year, there’s always at least one bison cow that puts up quite a fight. This year was no different. Instead of moseying toward the open gate, this cow chose to charge us, annoyed she was in the corral in the first place. My uncle had the job of walking in the corral to encourage the cows to leave, and this particular cow charged at him not once, but twice. Thankfully, he was able to get behind a hay bale, “dancing” with her much like a rodeo clown dances to avoid a bucking bull, until she ran out of the gate.
Like most families, we always look forward to getting together for Thanksgiving dinner, but I think we look forward to sorting buffalo calves even more. We’re just as thankful to work together as a team and take pride in raising healthy bison calves.
Posted by Abby.
The Midwest’s drought has been all over the news lately. The effect it has had on the soil. The fact that Hurricane Sandy and the resulting storm helped very little. The specter of higher grocery prices. I’ve seen the effects of it, too. Here in Kansas City, I’ve grumbled with my co-workers and friends about having to water my bushes more than normal and how my garden’s tomatoes just didn’t last in the summer heat.
But I don’t think anyone has felt the effects of the drought more than those in agriculture. My parent’s bison ranch is no exception. With little rain, the pastures are sparse. This year’s hay crop wasn’t nearly as big as in the past. And there’s the constant worry of water in the ponds. Is there enough water for the herd, or will we have to haul in water in tanks?
You can see the toll it has taken in these photos of the “Big Pond” at my parent’s ranch.
My childhood activities often revolved around the Big Pond. While the “town kids” were hanging out at the city swimming pool, my friends and I were diving off of the pond’s dock, in our own private haven. It was there that I learned to fish and spent countless hours with my family, swimming and trolling for fish in the john boat. We explored the banks, finding salamanders, turtles and mussels. When it got cold enough in the winter, we went ice fishing or donned ice skates and pretended to be Olympians. We won’t be enjoying any of those activities on the Big Pond anytime soon. It’s at least 20 feet low, almost completely dry.
We’ll continue to pray for rain for everyone who needs it. And think about all of the things we’ll be able to do, for fun and for food. If it rains…
Posted by Abby.
Americans love pork and pigs. Having grown up on a hog farm, I share this love, even now, having “BUYPORK” on my Kansas license plate (I get lots of stares and questions; one lady even posted how humorous she thought it was on her Facebook page. We didn’t know one another, but have a common friend that shared her amusement with me).
Recently, I was in downtown Kansas City and found myself at “Bacon Fest,” which prompted me to wonder why as a population we are so enamored with the porcine species. I landed on the fact that most of us have some emotional connection with pigs (whether on the hoof or on the plate).
Who didn’t read Charlotte’s Web as a child? That Wilbur was “some pig.” If you are like me and grew up on a farm in the south, you connect cold weather in January to the social (and industrious) event known as “a hog killin’.” And yes, we really did kill hogs. I would venture to say that most people, however, have a favorable memory of the smell of bacon in the morning, or of one’s father grilling pork loin in the summer, or of their mother frying a pork chop for supper.
In my family, our love of pork is even part of our individual identities. My dad and I like lots of sage in our sausage; my husband likes his spicy hot. My mother likes her bacon as crisp as you can make it; I prefer my bacon not so crispy. My son likes his bacon in great quantities and its preparation is of little consequence.
On the farm, you get accustomed to eating what you raise, so we may never have had “some pig,” but certainly had “some sausage” and “some bacon!”
Posted by Allyson.
I recently vacationed in California’s central coastal region. While wine country was our target destination, it’s difficult to visit the nation’s top agricultural state without devoting some thought to the U.S. food system. After surviving the Los Angeles freeways, we quickly got off the beaten path and drove north through farm country.
Instead of the ubiquitous corn, soybean and wheat fields we’re accustomed to in the Midwest we drove by countless vegetable fields, as well as groves of fruit and nut trees. We also were among the more than 10,000 people to attend the weekly farmers market in downtown San Luis Obispo. More than 70 area farmers put their produce on display – mounds of every fruit and vegetable imaginable; tables of freshly cut herbs and flowers; refrigerated trailers of fresh cuts of meat; and a wide variety of freshly-made cheeses.
Later, while taking pictures of an especially beautiful vineyard, I noticed a lone olive tree growing in a roadside ditch. Much of its fruit lay on ground where it had fallen, with nobody to enjoy the harvest. How great would it be to have an olive tree in your backyard?
For people who witness this food-production miracle on a daily basis it might be understandable that they think everybody should eat this way. Of course, that’s impossible. Those of us in colder climes are thankful that California and other year-round food growers can provide fruits and vegetables so a balanced diet is possible regardless of the season.
The local artisans who bring their harvest to markets like the one we visited and others throughout the state are to be admired. But can’t we have just as much admiration for the scientists who developed the processing methods that allow us to enjoy these food products year-round? Or the agronomists developing new plant varieties that help crops better survive even a horrible drought like we experienced this year?
The food choice options Californians and many of us have today are truly spectacular. So too are the many different people, from the lab to the field to the processors, who make these foods possible.
Did I mention that the wine was also great?
Posted by Cliff.
Our love for food knows few bounds. Whether raising it or cooking it, those of us involved in and responsible for today’s food have a deep affection for it. That sounds like something worth celebrating.
Food Day, a national platform with local events, is scheduled to take place on October 24, encouraging people to celebrate healthy, affordable and sustainable food. The promotion of the Food Day offers an opportunity for those in today’s food system to actively participate in the conversation about how food is produced, even though we all may not agree on the each and every message. Whether sitting down for a nice meal with your family or taking part in a public event, there are many things we can all celebrate about today’s food system:
- Choice! We all have a tremendous variety of choices in the food we provide our families. The best food choices for one family may not be right for another. But we should all have the opportunity to purchase foods that best fit our needs and values.
- Sustainability! Food system practices must be ethically-grounded, scientifically-verified, and economically-viable. Without a balance of these three elements, systems cannot be truly sustainable.
- Farmers! Without farmers, there would be no food. Farmers are dedicated each day to producing safe, healthy and affordable food for people in this country and those around the world. They are committed to protecting the environment and ensuring the well-being of the animals they raise.
For more information about Food Day and how you can become involved, please visit www.cfiengage.com. And most importantly, thanks for taking a day to celebrate food!
Posted by Abby.