Minnesota Farmer


Connections to a tragedy

When word first reached me of the death of 16 year old Ross I didn’t think I had any connections with him or the family. Yes, he lived near a neighboring town, but what connections could I have with him.  The connections have begun to pile up.

The first connection was to our church.  He had for a while been coming to Sunday School classes there and still had family who were members.

The second connection was to friends.  His high school choir director was our daughters friend, we know that family well.  She had brought Ross and some friends to our church to sing at the Living Nativity just days before the accident.

Next came connections to Farm Bureau.  His dad is active in their county Farm Bureau and I have seen him at state activities.  He had just won top prize in the foundation raffle.

The last one hit hardest.  Ross had been coming to sing with our barbershop chorus during the summer.  I had talked to him then, but had not seen him for months.  Our chorus has been asked to sing at his funeral today.

Memories now flood back to an earlier funeral of a promising young man we sang for years ago.  Jeff had been my son’s friend.  They sang in a high school quartet and in our chorus.  That death had been a lot closer, but in no way less tragic.  Both deaths involved cars and both deaths involved making lethal mistakes.  Now another young man is gone.

Hold your children today.  Tell them again to be careful and that you love them.



Trust the Bus Driver

It happened to me again today.  I had someone tell me that if they really wanted to know what the local road conditions were they would ask a school bus driver.FarmBuildings00016-300x200

Wow, what trust to put in those of us on the road early in the morning or late at night.  Yeah, we are out in the early hours on roads all over the country.  In fact, I’m usually the first one on many of the county and township roads of my route, all to often I’m there before the snow plow.  I have to know those roads because I’m asked to drive them in fog, rain and snow.  I’ve had many a trip where I have known where the stop signs and corners are by counting the hills.  Those are not the days I prefer to drive.

Winter here in Southwestern Minnesota can be a challenge at times.  Knowing where the road is in hazardous conditions is sometimes a challenge.  The fact is though that I will never take a child out on a road in my bus if I do not feel confident that I can get back to town.  That’s not to say that I have always stayed on the road, but usually if I get into trouble it is not because of a blizzard, it’s ice or fog.

So, thank you for your trust.  We want your kids home safe as much as you do.  Besides, do you really want to spend a cold night in a bus with your child and all of their friends?  Neither do we!



Rule of law
January 5, 2014, 11:06 pm
Filed under: friends, history | Tags: , , , , , ,

I had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine today that only reinforced my feeling that we here in the U.S. are very lucky.  You see, Noel grew up in The Central African Republic.(CAR)  He is worried about the family that he left behind.
central-african-rep-pol-map
I’m sure most of you have never heard of The Central African Republic.  CAR is in the middle of the African continent just north of the equator.  When Africa was carved up by Europe, the French got CAR.  The country is rich in resources, but lately short on peace.  Despite its current problems, we don’t hear much about it in the news.  That may be because it is looking to France for help, and not the U.S.

CAR is in a battleground that has recently been drawn on religious lines.  For many years the Moslem and Christian population got along well.  Then Moslem fighters who were thrown out of Sudan and Chad came in and started recruiting young Moslems to point out Christian homes and businesses.  As more and more Christian’s were killed or chased out matters got worse and worse.  Now many are dying, and they are being given “help” from the U.N.   The problem is that the U.N. is sending African troops from Moslem nations.  That is not making things any better.

That only reinforces to me one of our greatest gifts here in the U.S.  We still have a rule of law here.  We have police who will help and courts that will uphold your rights.  No, we do not always get it right for everyone, but for  the vast majority of Americans, Law means something good.  Yet we do get it right more often than much of the rest of the world.

Tonight we will go to bed and know that our home and belongings are still ours in the morning.  We can travel freely and have plenty of food  available in the grocery stores.  We can ask a policeman for help and usually get it.

In this new year it is good for all of us to count our blessings, and while you are at it, send up a prayer for peace in places like CAR.  Our ancestors came to this land to find opportunity that was being denied them elsewhere.  We need to seek justice for those who are being denied justice in the rest of the world, even if they do not speak english, or furnish us with oil.

Michael

 



30 days: Blogging after the harvest

Wow! I’ve reached day 30 of the 30 day challenge, and I still have things to say!  Today it’s blogging.

Back in 2009 I was at a Minnesota Farm Bureau meeting where we were challenged to get involved in a new thing called Social Media.  Activist groups were taking over this new mode of influence.  Some very nasty things were being said about agriculture and we were challenged to get involved and tell our story.  The thing is, that if you are not involved in setting the table, the next thing you know, you may be on the plate.  The goal is to stop fighting over divisive issues that some are pushing to the forefront.  We are trying to stop the food fight.

no-more-food-fights-sm

Author Michele Payn-Knoper calls for decorum instead of mayhem in the conversation around farm and food. http://www.causematters.com/farmfoodbook/

I am not your usual blogger.  Most bloggers are younger and female, so a mid-50’s (now 60) male on the blogosphere was a bit unusual.  Yet I did have something to say, and I hoped that with my years of living someone would listen to me.

To get a large enough audience you have to say things people want to hear, share your personal stories and get known.  Then, when they are comfortable with you, you can write opinions that may, or may not be well received.  You also need to be reading, and responding to, other people’s blogs.  A well thought out response may just make someone curious enough to check out what you are saying.

I also think it is important to write carefully.  I am distressed when I read well thought out comments or blogs that are full of spelling and grammar errors.  To be believed, I think you must write like you actually have a few brain cells tied together.  Now I do not write with perfect grammar, but I do hope that I write well enough that my old english teachers would be surprised at my progress.  Back when they knew me, I was a farm kid who had no intention of being a writer.

Today, I am still amazed when people stop me and comment on something I wrote.  To have local people reading my blog is unexpected.  I have had many nice things said about me when I do chance to meet one of my fellow bloggers at a Farm Bureau meeting away from home.  All I can do is say “Aw, Blush, Thank you” when they do.  I have even been asked to comment on agriculture issues and had them reposted or quoted from by bloggers I respect, some of them from very far away.  This is getting to be more than I had ever expected.

This month I have joined other agriculture bloggers in an 30 day challenge to write something every day for 30 days.  I have been pleased to join these folks in this challenge.

30 Days Bloggers

It has been an interesting 30 days for me, and I hope for you also.  I invite you to contact myself or one of these other farm bloggers if you have questions about what is being said about our food.  I can tell you that they will take your concerns about the food you eat seriously.  If we do not know the answer, we can steer you in the correct direction.  So thank you for joining us on this 30 day challenge of blogging.

Michael



On turning 60, June 12, 2013

I grew up a child of the 60’s, an era when young, politically active, people were proclaiming that you should ” never trust anyone over 30,” and now I am twice that age.  It has been a long interesting ride.

Supposedly when you get old you are full of wisdom and are entitled to being listened to with respect, but I do not as yet see myself as being an elder.   For me there is so much yet to learn, so much yet to do.

I never really felt I fit into the mold the world thought I should fit into.  As the eldest of three children living in rural Minnesota I had few friends.  I interacted more easily with the older folks in my family and community than my peers.  I was conservative when the talked about people in the world where liberals.  My people skills were poor and I was afraid of conflict and of doing something that would embarrass my family.

I was, and still am, bookish, preferring to read rather than interact.  Because of a tendency to motion sickness however, traveling and reading do not mix, so I watch the world around me when I travel, or I sleep.  I can sit for hours in a public place and just people watch.  No matter where I am there is always something interesting to watch.

My job is mostly solitary.  Long hours in the field allow contemplation.  I have learned to observe the little things that occur around me, hawks diving at mice, clouds, growing plants.  I will solve work related math problems in my head as I work and contemplate moral and political issues as I travel up and down the rows of cropland.

I am lucky to have found a best friend that I married.  Although not always on the same page, we mesh in so many of our beliefs and interests.  We have raised three children who still think we are relevant.

I have been a joiner and a doer.  The list of organizations that I have held jobs in is long.  This activity has given me the most satisfaction, since I have had to get out of my shell and deal with people.  I have learned so much about the world and my country in my travels for these organizations.

So turning 60 has not been so bad.  I’ve had a good life so far, and am looking forward to some good years yet to come.



American Farm Bureau in Nashville

cropped-2013_blog_headerWe made the trip to Nashville for this years Annual Meeting.  Since my sister lives just south of the city it was a dual event.  Our weather started out really nice, and then went cold and rainy.  Wish we could have brought some of that rain home.

Essential things for the AFBF Meetng

Essential things for the AFBF Meeting

Site of the meeting was the Opryland Hotel.  It’s a huge place with 2881 rooms and 15 restaurants on 6 floors.  Because of continued expansion and no understandable structural layout the hotel is bit confusing.  Each hotel area has a central garden area that is really stunning, with each different in many ways.  The attached convention area was also a bit confusing so keeping a map within reach was really helpful if you were going someplace new.  They said we had almost every room in the place booked for Farm Bureau members.

Sunday morning started out for us with a Minnesota breakfast at 7:30 gathering.  It was a place to get to see most of the folks who made the trip from Minnesota.  It was also a chance for President Paap and his staff to give us our tasks for the event.  Since I’m not known to be shy, I was assigned 4 radio stations to call back in Minnesota at specific times.

After breakfast we gathered for the opening session.  Along with many awards and introductions of important people we all needed to know, we had an address from AFBF President Bob Stallman.  Bob talked about the challenges and triumphs of the past year.  Included in those challenges was the lack of a Farm Bill in the U.S. congress.  This lack of a farm bill leaves a lot of uncertainty for all involved in agriculture.  He also addressed some disturbing government regulations that we were able to stop.  These included a regulation that would have prevented farm folks from employing their children on the farm, and threatened regulations on a small chicken producer that would have forced them to get a pollution discharge permit when nothing was being discharged.

We also got to spend some time at the trade show where they had displays from each state showing what they were doing to promote agriculture, as well as displays from several agricultural companies.  We had our choice of seminars put on by companies and the Farm Bureau.  I got to meet some old friends and make some new ones along the way.  The evening was free to spend as we wished.

Fellow bloggers Ryan Goodman and Janice Person

Fellow bloggers Ryan Goodman and Janice Person

Monday included more seminars and demonstrations in both the morning and the afternoon.  At noon I joined other county presidents for a luncheon and a speaker.  Our closing session started at 3 in the afternoon and included more awards and contest winners.  We also heard from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who spoke of the optimism he has for the future of agriculture.  The real highlight of the day was Keynote Speaker Captain Mark Kelly.  He had a great story to tell.UnknownThat was the end of the sessions for the general public.  Tuesday brought the delegate session and regional caucuses, wednesday was the AFBF Board of Directors meeting, none of which I attended.

With the rainy and cold weather, the rest of our time was mainly spent indoors checking out area attractions including one night spent in a country music bar, we just had to check out Vince Gill andTTJ_LOGO_225group_MainFeature  It was a fun and restful trip, but it is good to be back home.

Michael



If I sat at my computer all day
December 26, 2012, 9:17 pm
Filed under: church, family, Farm, friends, time, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Driving down the road I think of some great story I would like to write, and then I forget it when I get to the computer.  I miss a lot of stories I want to tell you all, I could tell them to you if I sat at my computer all day, or maybe not.  An interesting life, and interesting stories come from getting out into the world and living it.  After nearly 60 years of living life on the farm I have some interesting ones.

Opinions, I’ve got them.  You don’t spend your life doing the many things I have done and not develop a few opinions.  I miss telling you my opinion on many things because I’m not sitting at my computer all day.  I’d love to sit here and tell you my opinion of everything, start me off.

My kids tell me I spend too much time on the computer writing blogs or reading facebook.  The thing is that after the years I have spent, the need to get out and earn a living for a growing family is not as great.  I’m not well off, but I am comfortable so I don’t need to be accumulating things.  I live life a bit more simply than many and am content.  I write what I want, when I want.

You’d never know it, but I hated writing in high school.  My wife says my writing still leaves a lot to be desired.  I still need to read and reread my writing to be sure I’m getting my point across, and I still mess up.  I do enjoy reading, and rarely do not have a book that I am in the middle of, or several magazines that I am reading.  I still prefer the old-fashioned paper book.  I’ve read most of the ones in my library many times, they are old friends.

My family takes some time also.  Three kids, two of them married, two grand daughters, a wife, parents, in-laws, sisters and their children, cousins, aunts and uncles, they all take up my time.  Then there are activities with friends to attend.  They also help provide stories to write about.

We love to travel, and I have been blessed to have traveled most of this country and several others.  It can really crimp your writing time if you are on the road.

During the cropping season I am especially busy, and now record keeping and tax preparation will be taking up some of my time.  I also have church and organizations that I belong which keep me busy, and provide more stories.

My life would be a lot more boring if I sat at my computer all day.  Not only that, but I would have a lot less to write about.  So I guess you are just going to have to miss out on some of those stories I could have written, if they were good enough, they will come back again anyway.  In the mean time, I’ll be out living life, so I have some more stories to write about for you.

Michael



If you only
November 18, 2012, 3:28 pm
Filed under: family, Farm, friends | Tags: , , , , , ,

In church today the pastor challenged us to think of what you would do different if you only had one more year to live, or one day.  Only one day was easy, I’d spend it with my grand daughters. Who wouldn’t love spending time with them.  They are a bit over a year old and busy as all get out.What I would do different if I had one year left was harder, because I already seem to be doing exactly what I want.

As a school bus driver I get to spend time with children.  Now at times they can be difficult, but the wonder of everyday in a child’s eyes is something that I try to cultivate in myself.  They help to keep me young.

I get some time for reading almost every day.  Mostly it’s the news, but every once in a while I can get lost in a good book.

I grew up in a traveling family.  We went to visit friends and relatives in the area often.  I have relatives in many states and have been traveling with my family to see them all my life.  I also get to visit new places when I can.  Trips to Canada and Mexico as well as Europe, the Middle East and Africa are all thing I have gotten to do.

I have a job I love.  It is varied and interesting.  Let it look a little bit the same as last year and you will get a curve of some kind thrown at you.  The money has not always been the greatest, but it has been enough.  It makes me rely on my skills and education, yet is random enough to not be boring.  There are others I can talk to that are going through the same things so I do not feel alone.  My job has also given me time to live a life of service,

There have been several organizations I have given myself to over the years, lately it has been my church and the Farm Bureau.  Both have given me an opportunity to travel and learn.

I was raised to be content.  I just need enough money to get by and my job and hobbies have allowed me enough time and money to be content.

I have a wife and children who tolerate and take care of me.  They are my best friends and my love.

I guess you could say that I have everything I need, why would I want to change a thing if I knew my time was limited.

So how about you?  Would you change anything I you knew your time was limited?

Michael

 



Spreading the message

For a number of years now I have been helping Farm Bureau spread the message of what really happens on the farm.  You would not think this would be something that needs to be done in a rural area such as ours, but it does.  Most of our work here is to help reinforce the message the farmers really care about the land, water and people that they are taking care of.  We are adding our own small voice, to those of many others, so that there are more chances for the message to get out.

Yesterday, we had a booth up at the Windom Farm and Home show.  Although this is not some big city show, it does bring people of all ages to exchange ideas and visit with their neighbors.  For one day, area businesses and groups turn the high school into an area to see, shop, learn and talk to friends old and new.

The county Farm Bureau had one area of their booth specifically for some educational media that we have.  The new materials caught the eye of many and allowed us to spread the message that telling our story is something all should do.

If we did not see you at the show, please feel free to contact me about our activities.  We are ready and willing to spread the message that farm folks care about Animals, Environment, Food and Family.

Michael



American Farm Bureau in Honolulu

it’s 2012, the time has come again for the American Farm Bureau Federation to meet in Honolulu, and this year I decided to take advantage of the fact.  Now I’m not a delegate or an exhibiter so I’m not getting my way paid by anyone, but I am a Farm Bureau Member and I do have a daughter who lives in the Aloha state, so I had at least two reasons to go.

As with any organization there were  meetings for the whole group and meeting for special groups, like the Minnesota Breakfast for the about 100 of us from Minnesota, or the County Presidents Luncheon which I attended.

There were also breakout sessions on subjects that members might find interesting like these;

  • Food and Farm Facts, Navigating Waves of Change in Advocacy and Agriculture Literacy
  • American Farmer: Heart of Our Country
  • Election 2012
  • 2012 Farm Bill
  • It’s Not What You Say, It’s What They Hear
  • Business Development
  • 2012 Crops Outlook Conference
  • 2012 Livestock Outlook Conference
  • Asia in the Present and Future of U.S. Agricultural Trade
  • Celebrating Differences:How to Capitalize on Diversity in Times of Change
  • Protecting your Estate:Essential Questions to ask your Estate Planning Professional
  • Operating in and Era of Hyper Regulation
  • Farm to Table, Aloha Style

Whew, I only had time to get to three of those, I wanted to go to many more.

All of this was held in the Hawaii Convention Center in Ala Moana neighborhood of Honolulu.

The Hawaii Convention Center is a four level combination of open air spaces and closed meeting rooms with all that the over 6000 farm folks could want, and plenty of space to do it in.  The exhibiter area was large,  There were multiple areas for breakout sessions and meetings as well as banquets and grab a quick meal areas.  Several restaurants were just across the street.

The beauty of Hawaii is that the temperatures are usually good.  Closed rooms usually have air conditioning, but all hallways are open to allow the out doors in.  Dress code for Farm Bureau conventions is Business Casual, but in Hawaii casual is the Sunday-go-to-meeting-norm,  a Hawaiian shirt is dressed up.  To Hawaiians we were over dressed.

Inside and out the building was beautiful.  Even from the back, everything was designed to welcome.  This water wall was hidden away where few conventioneers had to go.

I expect that in about ten years the American Farm Bureau Federation will be back again to visit the Aloha State.

Michael