Minnesota Farmer


American Farm Bureau Federation’s 99th Annual Convention

This past week I was able to attend the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 99th Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show. Part of the reason I go is to participate in educational workshops that help me to expand leadership skills and impact policy discussions. There is the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of leaders in agriculture and witness keynote speakers in the general sessions. I get to explore the IDEAg Trade Show floor to gain a stronger industry network, learn about innovative technologies, and enjoy TED-style talks on the Cultivation Center stage.

An annual meeting gives you the opportunity to interact with others in agriculture and share your stories of the rural life. There were plenty of opportunities to tour the Nashville area and experience things only available in Music City.  I also met up with a few friends from across the country that I only see at a major event like this.

Since the Convention was held in Nashville we were lucky to get Reba McEntire as our Monday keynote speaker, but we also heard from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duval plus others.

Sessions I was able to go to included ones on Membership Recruitment, Talking to Consumers, Animal Activism and Religion, Crop Markets, Crop Insurance, Farm Policy, Retirement, and Dicamba.

The last official event of the General Session was an address by President Trump.  It has been 25 years since a president has addressed the AFBF, they are always invited, but few take the time.  Policy development sessions were scheduled for Tuesday, but not being a delegate we did no stay for that.

Next years 100th AFBF meeting is in New Orleans, a place I have yet to visit.  I’m seriously considering making the trip.

 

Advertisements


In the room
January 10, 2018, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Farm, Farm Bureau, Politicians, Politics | Tags: , ,

I’m just back from a trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) meeting in Tennessee.  I like to go every once in a while, especially when it is a city that I have family near.  In this case my sister lives just south of the city.

The main sessions run from Sunday morning until Monday afternoon.  There are tours and contests that run before and during, a trade show and on Tuesday a delegates session.IMG_1408

This years registration included an orange arm band for use on Monday.  That was the only way you could get in to the room for the closing session.  The extra layer was because for the first time in 25 years, a sitting President was going to speak to attendees.

Before we left there was a news release that President Trump would be speaking to the assembly.  Until later Sunday no one was told exactly when.  Then those with the meeting app were sent a change of schedule for the days meetings, including a security page.

Many meeting times were moved up, or moved to different locations, the trade show closed early and security check points were set up.  The ball room was to open at 10:00 for the noon closing session, and the line started forming about 8:00.  By the time we got in line at 9:00 the line went almost all the way across the Opryland hotel complex.

The security was not ready until 10:30 and the line movement didn’t reach us until 30 minutes later.  The first speaker, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue, started on time. Once you cleared security you were ushered to your seat, you went where they told you, no exceptions.  Your group had better clear security together, or you had to sit apart.  We got in at 12:15 and were pleased to get in the door.  We were about 3/4 of the way back and off to the side so the cameras were not in our way.  The auditorium seats about 5000 people, what with about 500 news people, special guests and a congressional delegation, we were quite a crowd.  Extra rooms were ready for a remote feed, but a saw a few empty seats in the back.

Security included toilets and a lunch cart.  Your only choice was hot dogs, and a few different varieties of drinks.  There were no where near the facilities needed for the group.  If you left the secure area you could not be sure you would be let in again.  After the closing session and an interview of Reba McEntire, there was a scheduled 45 minute intermission, which went a bit longer, no one rushes the President.

The speech was not overly long.  He did spend much of it praising the farmers there for their hard work.  He also reminded the delegation that throughout our countries history, farmers have answered the call to build and defend our country.  The President knew the areas of the country that turned out to elect him were mostly rural.  He told us that our forgotten area of the country was not forgotten anymore.

Overall, my opinion of Trump did not change.  He seemed to be on message more than usual, perhaps because he thought he was with a friendly audience.  He got 6 standing ovations, but not all of his usual topics were universally well received.  He did seem to forget where he was later in his speech when he spoke only to the Tennessee delegation, not the whole Federation.

At the end of his speech Trump signed two Executive Orders to promote the increase of the availability of Broadband Internet access in rural areas.  These orders were the product of the Rural Prosperity Task Force which was to deliver it’s findings that day.  The report is available at usda.gov/RuralProsperity

It was interesting to be in the room with a sitting president, to go through the security measures and hype of a presidential speech.  Secretary of Ag. Purdue and AFBF President Duval seem to think he is doing good things for agriculture, we shall see how this all plays out.  I can say I was in the room, and in politics it is better to be sitting at the table in the room, than on the menu.



What’s next?
September 3, 2017, 9:30 pm
Filed under: church, Minnesota, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, travel

So I’ve shared all of my trips to South Africa’s Ondini Circuit with you.  If you are not a long time reader, you can find the first two trips in February of 2011, and August of 2014.  These exchange trips have been going on between the Shetek Conference and the Ondini Circuit since 2008, but what’s next, how do we move along further in this relationship.

Change has seemed to be almost glacial in the Ondini.  There are many societal reasons for this, and change takes time.  In some of my conversations with the younger Lutherans in Ondini I know that they are chaffing at how bad things are and wanting more for their people, but change is also frightening.  We here in Minnesota see something that needs to be done, and do it, in the Ondini, that does not happen.

 

We have spent years now developing a relationship.  It is expected that we will show up every few years to renew that relationship.  Now it is time to step our game up to another level.  We need to spend more time with each other so we can really have a chance to change things.  Two things are being worked on to make longer relationship building happen.

First we are researching ways to get younger residents of the Ondini Circuit who have potential to spend time in Minnesota.  There is a program that brings Africans to the U.S. to work at bible camps.  We are researching how these young people are sourced and placed.  If we can get that information to our friends in the Ondini Circuit, it is hoped that they will come up with candidates to work at our own Shetek Bible Camp.  This will develop a core of young people trained in Christian education to work in their home area. We also plan to help those young people find their way around the Shetek Conference and support them however we can.  That support could also include gardening and health tips to take home with them.

Second we are hoping to place an advisor from the U.S. in the Ondini Circuit to help them expand and improve the projects through out the circuit.  This advisor would have to have an understanding of management, gardening, livestock production and building projects.  They would have to commit themselves to staying on site for at least three months.  Ideally this would be a retired individual or couple with a lifetime of experience to pass on.

Our partners in the Ondini understand their problems.  Pastors and teachers are doing their best to bring the needed change, but they have other jobs to do and personal lives to live.  We need to empower some of the younger people to carry on the changes they envision.  Whatever we can do to keep the best and brightest minds in the rural areas, we must do.  Only when young people see hope where they grew up will the people of the Ondini stay and create the jobs needed to benefit all of Africa.



Gifts and goodbyes
August 30, 2017, 7:22 pm
Filed under: church, Kwazamohkuhle, Ondini circuit, rain, Shetek Conference, South Africa

On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, ten members of churches in the Shetek Conference of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) left for the Ondini Circuit in the Kwa-Zulu Natal of South Africa.  The time for our return home came all too quickly.  14 busy days were spent with the fellow Lutherans of the Ondini Circuit.  When you are in the midst of it all, it seems as if the day will never come, and then we are saying goodbye.

We held our partnership meeting where we discussed what has been done, and what needs to be done, but got into very little of how to do the things that need to be done.

We took our picture with our partners.  That picture is a remembrance and a reminder that these friends of ours are still there working for the betterment of their area every day.

We exchanged gifts.  Ours included an original oil painting by a talented former member of my home congregation.  There were also a pile of the grey “Walking Together With Christ” partnership tees, over 700 partnership pens and a multitude of other items that are needed day-to-day in a depressed area.

Our partners gave us a large platter like those used in so many ways in Africa.

Dale got a Ondini Circuit  jacket like so many we had seen on our travels.

We all got polo shirts.  The shirts have the Luther Rose on the left and the Diocese emblem on the right side.

The backs of the shirts tell of the themes for each of the past church years in what they have been celebrating as the Luther Decade, all leading up to the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth. We all had been looking at the many ways their churches celebrate membership in the wider church and were proud to be able to wear these shirts.

But now the day of departure was upon us.  We woke to a light rain, that changed to just moisture in the air.  The comment was made that even the sky was weeping in goodbye.

We all went to chapel that morning.  We sang for the workers at the Centre and they sang for us.  As usual they sang us out the door.  We emerged to a rainbow in the western sky, and that brought lots of tears.  We were saying good-bye to Africa.

Will I return again?  Who knows, that is for the future to decide.  I do know that I left a bit of my heart with the wonderful people I was lucky enough to meet in the Ondini Circuit, and that will never leave.



Sunday services in the Ondini Circuit

Sunday services in the Ondini Circuit were always a dress up affair.IMG_1126

Women, youth and men all had their uniform, different some times congregation to congregation, and they all wore it proudly.

IMG_1059

Sunday, or even a week day service meant the preachers dressed up.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) has been having a discussion on how pastors should dress and perform services.  They have come to the conclusion that they need to have more ceremony and more elaborate dress in the ELCSA, not less as seems to be the pattern in the U.S.  Sunday services are done with all the pomp and ceremony the congregation can muster.  If they can get 10 acolytes helping with the service, they will all have something to do, complete with ritualized actions, incense and bells.

IMG_1129

While we were there they held an induction service for Reverend Ncanana.  Every pastor in the circuit was there, plus the Doicese bishop and representatives from other Circuits, Diocese and the visitors from the U.S. and Germany that were staying at the Centre.

An Induction is not an ordination, or an installation service as we know it in the Lutheran Churches of southwestern Minnesota.  The pastor is assigned a church, then after a few weeks, if they decide to stay, they are inducted.

Pastor Sarah had asked the day before how long the induction would last.  She was told “The whole blessed day.”  And it did.  There was over 3 hours of service and ceremony, a sermon to tell Reverend Ncanana how to behave as a new pastor, communion and a sermon by the newly inducted reverend.  About noon, apples and bananas were passed out and then they kept on going well into the afternoon.  All of this was done in a way that would have fit in well with a service in the Vatican.

In the afternoon portion of the induction there were many gifts to be given.  I even saw them trying to stuff an appliance of some kind into the reverends small car.  After all, what is a party without gifts.

Singing fills every spare minute of a church service.  Before the service starts members of the congregation would be singing hymns chosen by some self appointed song leader.  The pastor would call out a hymn number and some lady would start singing before you could even reach for your hymn book.  They seem to have the whole hymnal memorized.  There is also dancing.  Processional offerings were an excuse to dance.  Hymns quite often had motions to them that everyone knew.  Even in a church so crowded that you could hardly move, they danced.IMG_1083

Offerings would include at least two plates if not three or more.  There were offerings for the wider church, the congregation, the pastor, the youth league, the children’s fund, they sang and danced and added their offering to the pile.  They are a great people for celebrations.

There is great joy in the celebration of a Sunday service in the ELCSA.  A joy in the gospel that I do not see here in the states.  We could use a bit of that joy here.

 



Of Camping, Host Homes and Hotel Rooms
August 26, 2017, 10:08 am
Filed under: church, house, Kwazamohkuhle, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, travel

Travel in a foreign land can give you an opportunity to see how other cultures live and play.  Our stays at the Kwazamokuhle Diaconal Centre were a bit rough by our standards, but sufficient.

The guest house we stayed in is more like an older bible camp building than a house.  There is a small “suite” on one end that has its own kitchen, bath, living area and bedroom.  The middle of the building has a kitchen, bath and living area with three bedrooms down the hall.  In front is an open porch with an entry to a toilet and shower area on one side and the “bunk house” (bunk beds for 7) and a bath tub room.  There is another bunk house room around back.

All of the rooms were small.  Each sleeping area included a wardrobe and beds but not much else.  The water heater was slow and water pressure could run out if you were there at the wrong time.

Electricity on the grounds was of the older “Type M” plug, not part of the standard power converters. We had two power converters in our group, and it looked like we would not be able to use them, but Andy had found a 3-for sale on type M plugs and saved the day.  Newer outlets could have a different configuration.

Others on the grounds lived in small houses, or even storage rooms.  Rambo invited me into his bachelor’s quarters in one of those store rooms.  By the time he put in a bed, wardrobe and table the room was full.  He was just happy to have a place to call his own.

When we went exploring in the Champagne valley (upper left on this tourist brochure) we got a look at how tourists live and play in the area. The road goes into the Drakensberg mountains.  The paved road is narrow, and becomes more so as you reach its end.  Along the way you pass restaurants, shopping areas, B&B’s, the Champagne Valley resort, The Drakensberg Boys School, and high up at the end of the winding road is the Monk’s Cowl Wildlife area.  There is a lot of luxury along the way only a few kilometers from concrete huts.

The end of the road has hiking and some tourist shops.

There are campsites available in some really fantastic scenery.  The campsites were more suitable for tents, but a smaller caravan (camper) could make it up to road and stay here.  We also saw campsites at Weenen game park, again primitive, but great scenery.

If you clicked the link for the Champagne Valley Resort, you know they have some really nice hotel rooms.  There are also self-service type lodges in the area of many different types.

I have been honored to visit several homes in my visits to South Africa.  They have been homes of ministers, teachers and government agency employees.  All have been compact and well-kept.  Since most housing in the area is of block, brick or cement, they can have issues we are not used to.  Any wet can cause paint to peel off of cement, so bathrooms quite often had peeling paint.  I saw some really wonderful kitchens in these small homes, especially if they’re in the city.

Every home has a fence.  In rural areas it is just a wire fence to keep out roaming livestock.  Fences in the city got more ornate as you climbed the income ladder.  To have a garage or carport was really upscale.  A larger home would have a remote-controlled gate, or even a gate guard if the grounds were larger.

Kitchens in the country were a bit rougher.  This is the stove area in the Centre’s dining hall.  They had a central prep area and a cleanup area on the opposite wall.  Cooktops were bottled gas.  They did have a small oven, but most cooking was done on a gas stove top.

Living areas in homes tended to overstuffed couches and large screen TV’s.  There were also some massive sound systems in these small homes.  Dining areas would fit the table, chairs and not much else.  Decoration tended toward large posters and calendars of school, church or family events.  Running water was available in all of the homes I visited, but not always a water heater.

I never got into any of the smaller homes in the area.  It is easy to imagine by their size that they do not have much.  When you live in a concrete or steel house that is only about 12 feet square there is not room for much.  If you have no running water or electricity, cook your food over a wood fire and use an outside toilet, I suspect the living is rough.

There is a large difference in how people live in the Ondini Circuit.  Those with some get-up-and-go have either left or live as public servants and make a living the best they can.  Those without money live on government payments and often live very rough.

In town, the unemployed may have staked out an area of street or a parking lot where they give parking directions for tips.  Since parking areas are small, or nonexistent this help is welcome.  Pan handlers are scarce, but around.  Many a job we would use a machine to do, they have laborers to keep busy.

South Africa is trying very hard to make its way into the first world, but with so many to employ and such a difference between haves and have-nots, they have a long road ahead of them.  That the government is run by one party, the African National Congress controls 80% of the votes, does not help them get much better.  When things get tough, the people will rise up and get free water, electricity or more government money.  It is a government run by protesters, and our South African hosts are trying to change it.  I wish them luck, it will not be easy.



Food, Glorious South African Food
August 25, 2017, 7:26 am
Filed under: church, food, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, travel

We were well fed on our trip, our South African hosts saw to that.  The food was differently spiced, long on protein and starch, and filling.

Breakfast always included eggs, whether scrambled or hard-boiled, bacon, more of a Canadian style and more meaty that we use in Minnesota, and toast.  Sometimes there was oatmeal or something like the grits of the southern U.S.  Hot dogs, served cold, might also be part of breakfast.

Drinks would include some type of fruit juice, hot chocolate, tea, instant coffee or cappuccino.

Milk in much of the rest of the world is processed differently and is shelf stable, so it is not refrigerated.  That was the case here.  South Africans like lots of milk in their coffee and tea, so there was always a pitcher of hot milk at meals.  They would also have white and a crystalline brown sugar as well as honey to sweeten your tea, coffee or porridge.

Water was always bottled.  We bought it in 1 or 2 liter jugs.  Aside from the fact that drinking tap water in a foreign land is usually suspect, the local tap water had a sulfur smell to it.

Soda brands are different.  The largest selling soda is Iron Brew.  Other brands include Appletiser and Coo-ee.  Sparletta is the local branch of Coca-Cola.  Sodas come in flavors we do not usually see like pineapple, pomegranate, orange, ginger beer, grape, lemon / lime, cream soda, lemonade and raspberry.  It is possible to find a Mt. Dew there, but not easily.  If you want it with less sugar you order your soda lite.

Main meals usually included rice or potatoes, and a curried beef or chicken.  It was also possible that the noon meal included sandwiches or cold hot dogs on a bun.  Sausages (bangers) of many different spicing types could appear at any meal.  Their ketchup was called tomato sauce and was differently spiced than ours is.  For more festive meals they barbecued sausages or a thin cut of beef, usually from the front shoulder, that cost less than what we might buy.

Different combinations of foods were often served.  There was a carrot and white bean dish that was really good.  Beets were served at most meals as was some type of cabbage dish, both were recently harvested from area gardens.  Potatoes had also recently been harvested, other times of the year, white corn would replace it as the starch.  Also on the menu at times was squash, served sliced after cooking.

What they call dumplings, a type of bread made with cake flour and cooked in a double boiler, was a common side dish.  It was too crumbly to use as bread except to soak up some meat juices, but they were good.

We did eat at restaurant chains if we were on the road.  McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried were in the area, but we avoided those.  Kentucky Fried Chicken is the largest restaurant chain in the country.  South Africans do love their chicken. Even burger and pizza joints had menus that were more chicken than any other protein.   Other grab and go food services included Steers, Whimpy and Debonairs Pizza.  

Just 10 km down the road was Thokozisa Center.  The restaurant had a decent menu and free internet.  Menu items could include wild game like ostrich and antelope, plus sea food, pasta and pizza.  There were also some small stores that sold clothing, furniture and touristy stuff.  We stopped there on both of our free nights.  For cool nights part of the restaurant was inside, but most of the seating was outside under thatched roofs.

For as close as it is to the Diaconal Center, I surprised to find that I was the only one who knew about it.  Thank you Simpewi for introducing it to me.

Castle and Hansa became our beers of choice when in South Africa.  Bottles and cans of the size we are used to were common, but you could get your beer in liter bottles.

My most unusual South African meal was served there years ago when I was served boiled beef on a large wooden tray.  It was a Sunday noon meal, and I was eating outside with the men.  There had been a wedding and the family was gathering to eat one of the dowry cows.  With little refrigeration, the whole clan was called in to help eat it.

That and the beef head served this year tell you a lot of the difference in culture that we have around food.

It is plain to see the influence of both England and Germany on the food we were fed.  Bits of India and Asia appear in the spicing and the Americas in the presence of corn, potato and squash.  Eating was always an international adventure in South Africa.