I scream, You Scream, We all scream for Ice Cream


By Jenna Kilgus

Earlier this month, I gave a tour of my farm to twenty pre-school aged children from a local day care. I asked them, “What’s your favorite dairy product.”

Unsurprisingly, I received an enthusiastic, loud and simultaneous answer: “ICE CREAM!!”

July is National Ice Cream Month. I love to celebrate and I’m guessing almost all Americans do to. Whether it’s chocolate, strawberry or vanilla, most people love ice cream.

It’s a favorite treat on my farm for two reasons. One, because it is cold and perfectly refreshing after a long day of baling hay, and two, because our farm has an ice cream machine!

The soft serve machines runs Monday through Saturday in our little on-farm country store. That’s right. My three kids have daily access to ice cream. They’re the most popular kids at school because their mom brings ICE CREAM to school for their birthday treats.

We started making soft serve ice cream mix on our dairy farm in 2009, when we took a leap of faith and built an on-farm milk-bottling creamery. We decided we needed to diversify our operations and increase our income in order to bring two more family members back to our family farm full time.

After traveling all over the Midwest, researching what draws consumers to country stores, quickly realized we needed two things: a viewing window where visitors could watch the milk bottling process, and something yummy for them to snack on while they watched, so we bought an ice cream machine.

Today in our creamery, fluid milk is our primary product, but we still make 10 gallons of ice cream mix per week. It doubles to 20 gallons in the hot summer months when our ice cream cone sales go up.

Our little soft serve machine gets a good cleaning once a week, and then we change the flavor. We always have vanilla, but also switch it up. We rotate between the old favorites – strawberry, chocolate, caramel – and throw in some new flavors: pina colada, egg nog, watermelon, root beer, and our customers’ current favorite, lemon. In total, we have more than 15 flavors of ice cream that we rotate between.

Looking out my kitchen window while washing up our supper dishes, I usually see a family or two, sitting on the front patio of our store, enjoying the fresh country air, and an ice cream cone. What can be more enjoyable than a trip to the county, visiting a farm, and getting a taste of what those hard working cows can produce!


Family Feature: Maine and Chianina Junior Nationals | June 17 – 24

feature piece from Kyndal Reitzenstein

Grand Island, Nebraska hosted the Maine and Chianina Junior Nationals this year. Exhibitors from all across the nation participated in numerous contests and shows. The Higgins family from Auburntown, Tennessee, competed at junior nationals. I was lucky enough to talk with Allison and Amelia about their operation and how advocating for agriculture plays a role in their families operation.

Tell me a little bit about your family/operation.

Our farm is located in Auburntown, TN, approximately 50 miles east of Nashville. We have about 65 IMG_6788registered Chiangus cows and a handful of Angus dams. We started raising Chiangus cattle in 1986, and our brother, Andy, began showing in 1995. Our family has been active in the Chi industry ever since then.

How many years has your family been showing?

Allison- My first show was the DeKalb County Fair in 2002 when I was 8 years old. I attended Chianina Junior Nationals in 2004 when I had reached the minimum age required, and I haven’t missed one since then. At 22, this year was my thirteenth and last Junior National. I’m sad to see my junior career come to an end, but working consistently toward my goals over the years has allowed me to be competitive on a national level. That’s something I could only dream about when I started showing!

Amelia- My first show was the Wilson County Fair in 2003 when I had just turned 8 years old. I had attended Junior Nationals in 2003 and 2004 to watch my siblings show, but the first Junior Nationals I actually exhibited a heifer at was in Richmond, IN, in 2005. As Alli said, we have shown at every Chianina Junior National since. It’s kind of fun to look back and remember where the Nationals were each year and remember the first time I even won a class. At that time, I never imagined I could possibly win the whole show in 2014!

What has showing done for your family?

Allison- Showing cattle has shown me the value of perseverance and hard work. Washing heifers day after day can get a little tiring, and there were some days I definitely wanted to be doing something else. However, I knew that if I ever wanted to be successful, I had to be diligent. My brother and his example have taught me almost everything I know about cattle and shown me how important relationships with others in the industry can be. I’ve met tons of amazing people and traveled through a majority of the United States by showing cattle. I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been presented as a result of being involved in the cattle industry.

Amelia- Along with the wonderful attributes of the cattle industry that my sister described, I was fortunate enough to serve on the American Junior Chianina Association Board of Directors for four years, giving me even more opportunities to grow and develop with my personal life, as well as professional. Attending Youth Beef Industry Congress in 2012 allowed me to meet young leaders in other breeds across the nation and develop relationships with them. Learning to work with our board and making influential decisions in our breed’s organization taught me the value of thinking through and analyzing situations before coming to a conclusion. The experiences and lifelong friends gained in the cattle industry are truly irreplaceable.

How have you inspired young exhibitors to keep showing or get involved?

Allison- I’ve always tried to be a good example to young exhibitors and encourage them to work hard and be persistent towards their goals. I’ve done demonstrations at Middle Tennessee State University Beef Camp that teach the kids everything from setting up their stalls at a show to proper hair grooming to showmanship skills and technique. I hope that they’ve learned from me that if you want something badly enough, you can’t be lazy in trying to obtain it.

Amelia- As my sister and I come to the end of our show careers, we are sad that our time is almost over, but we have started teaching our 10 year-old cousin the ropes of showing cattle. He has always had a strong desire to be involved with livestock, but since he doesn’t live on a farm, it is difficult for him. His first show was a small cattle show at the high school a couple of years ago, but this year is the first year that he will be old enough to show at Tennessee 4-H Beef Expo, so we are preparing him for that now. He is usually a fast learner, but we try to encourage him when he isn’t sure how well he is doing. I hope he stays involved for many years to come.

What do you love most about the agricultural industry?

Allison- The values and lessons I have learned through agriculture are something that could never be taught in a classroom. When I would tell the other kids in elementary school about all the work that goes into living on a farm and showing cattle, they didn’t understand why I would want to spend so much time laboring over it. Today, some still don’t understand the role that agriculture plays in their lives. I love being a part of an industry that impacts every single person on the planet, whether they realize it or not.

Amelia- This summer I am interning at Tennessee Beef Industry Council, and a reoccurring theme we always seem to talk about is how much we love the people in the beef and agriculture industries. We all in the industry share a love for agriculture, and it seems to make each other better to understand. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, but there is just something about the people in this industry that I just love.

We would like to thank the Higgins family for their time dedicated to the AgChat Foundation! 


How Conservation Tillage Helps the Environment

It seems like every day there’s a new claim out saying farmers hurt the environment.

We know that’s not true. Farmers, of all stripes, use a variety of tools to guarantee they’re farming with as sustainably as possible.

Some farming practices, like conservation tillage, have even improved the environment.

corn field“In 1970s, there was a revolution in agriculture. A real conversion from conventional intensive systems to a system that was more in tune with nature — conservation tillage,” Richard Fawcett, a retired Iowa state agronomy professor said.

Thanks to herbicides, like atrazine and glyphosate, farmers don’t have to disturb the soil with tillage or plowing.

No-till has a number of environmental benefits:

  • Less soil erosion: Conservation tillage dramatically reduces erosion and soil runoff. According to the Conservation Technology Information Center at Perdue University, “Depending on the amount of residues present, soil erosion can be reduced by up to 90% compared to an unprotected, intensively tilled field.”
  • Cleaner water: The EPA says erosion and soil run off is the most significant pollutant of American waterways, so by reducing it we also improve our water quality.No till corn farming saves 150 million tons of topsoil every year – the equivalent of 5 million worth of dump trucks filled with soil. That’s soil that is now staying on the farm instead of running off into water.
  • Healthier soil: When soil is tilled, carbon is released into the atmosphere. No-till agriculture keeps that soil in the ground. As farmer Brian Scott explains, ”Tillage disrupts the natural structure of soil and releases some of the carbon soil organisms thrive on.  Soil biology plays an important role in providing crops with the water and nutrients they need.”
  • Less air pollution: When farmers don’t have to plow, they use less fuel. Conservation tillage saves an average of 3.5 gallons of fuel/per acre.
  • More wildlife: Conservation tillage, enabled by herbicides, helps to make great habitats for birds, aquatic creatures and small animals.Soil runoff in water harms aquatic habitats by undermining food chains. The lack of sunlight makes it hard for plants and algae to grow, denying fish a source of food.No-till land is also great for birds and small mammals that can make homes there.“There’s been an explosion in wildlife. With conservation tillage, with no-till we actually use our land for a dual purpose. We can efficiently provide food and fuel and fiber and also provide wildlife habitat,” Fawcett said.

With all the great benefits of no-till it’s good to know the practice is growing. In the U.S., no-till farming is now increasing about 1.5% each year. In 2009, more than a 1/3 of farms in the U.S. had some no-till fields.

So next time someone asks about herbicides or environmental affect of farming, you can talk about conservation tilling: a farming practice that’s improving the environment.


Elizabeth Held is a director at the White House Writers Group, where she advises food and agriculture clients. 

There’s a time and a place for everything – insight on the #AgChat & #AgVocate hash tag

There’s a time and a place for everything – insight on the #AgChat & #AgVocate hash tag

“There’s a time and a place for everything,” was a comment my mother often made. This statement has magically become one of my popular pieces of advice for my three boys. A perfect example is the time my youngest son and I were waiting in line to checkout at the grocery store. To make the time go faster, the woman in front of us struck up a conversation with my son. They began talking about his lambs. She asked him to share their names and what he will do with his pets. He quickly corrected her and explained, “that we will be probably be eating the lambs,” and went into much more detail. The woman’s tongue became temporarily frozen as she finished the transaction and quickly left without an opportunity for my explanation. Based on the woman’s reaction, I feared we would be met by the Department of Child Welfare once we arrived home.

He was truthful, frank and did accurately describe our intentions for the lambs. He shared the information with pride because of the time and care he has taken to ensure the lambs were treated humanely and to the best of our ability. If we had been sitting with family around the television on Sunday afternoon, the conversation would have been completely normal. The right place and the right time.

The grocery store check-out line was neither the right time nor place to be discussing his ‘pets.’

What determines the right time or place?

Generally speaking, the audience. The woman sharing the grocery line was not the right audience to be sharing as detailed information at that point in time.

The same can be said for the use of the term agvocate. People who are outside of the agriculture industry have been known to comment that the word includes a typo. It’s not a familiar term to them and carries very little value. Social media profiles used across multiple platforms are required to fit into a small set of characters. When working with limited characters, every word counts and must include words which clearly connect with your intended audience.

I’m proud to be an agvocate

In my years at the AgChat Foundation, I’ve met many farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists who are proud agvocates – and rightfully so. Whether you are first generation ranchers or seventh, there is pride in what you do. It’s an inherited gift we all share and should continue to celebrate, among the right audience.

My intended audience includes a targeted group of people, generations removed from the farm who share common interests such as the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, home renovation, hunting/fishing and parents of all boys. It’s a crowd which has no connection to the term AgVocate, so I choose to avoid using the word with my communication to this audience. It is simply not the right place.

It is also not useful to include the #AgChat hash tag when I’m trying to reach beyond the choir. Moms of boys and St. Louis Cardinal fans are not searching for AgChat, most will use hash tags such as #boymom, #momofallboys, #StlCards, #GoCards, etc…

If your intended audience is other farmers and ranchers telling their stories, then the use of the #AgChat and #AgVocate hash tags will likely draw the attention of those individuals.

How do I determine which hash tags to use to reach my intended audience?

This is fully dependent upon your target audience. Visit our blog post, “Non-Ag Hash Tags You Should Watch,” for suggestions and ideas of useful non-agriculture hash tags.

My mother also told me, “choose your words wisely,” and I’m often reminded that not only is there a time and place for everything, we need to pause and think of what we say, or type, before we speak or push the enter key.

After all, we want to engage with our audiences and inform them where we can; not leave them more confused that when we started the conversation.

written by Jenny Schweigert


Uniting Bee Health

One of the many misconceptions of agriculture pertains to the wonderful world of honey bees. Farmers are continuously dealt increasingly, challenging playing cards including weather, lower prices for their products and increased expenses. Its important that the general public understand that despite these steep challenges, farmers and ranchers continue to place priority on stewardship for the land and other assets such as bees. Assets such as honey bees and other pollinators are an absolutely necessity in the world of farming and ranching.

The Feed A Bee initiative brought together more than 70 partners pledging thousands of acres of land to A portion of a honey bee colony at the Bayer Bee Care Center in North Carolina. AgChat.orgincrease forage for pollinators, including nearly two dozen individual growers and family-owned farms who committed to converting acres of their land to pollinator havens.

It is also essential that farmers and ranchers understand the concerns shared by moms, dads and the general public. In a partnership with Bayer Bee Care, the AgChat Foundation will bring together farmers, ranchers, agriculturalists, moms, dads, dietitians, chefs and more to discuss the issue of bee health. This joint conversation will occur on Twitter using the #AgChat handle on Tues., Feb. 2.

“Everyone has a connection with the honey bee. They work hard to pollinate many of the foods we eat every day. We’re looking forward to opening up this conversation with the AgChat community to discuss the important role of bees on the farm and in our backyards.” – Dr. Becky Langer, Manager of the North America Bayer Bee Care Program

In addition to the Feed a bee program, Bayer CropScience has a unique partnership with an up and coming cartoon character, Vitamin Bee, who offers appeal to children.

“Vitamin Bee is all about educating kids about healthy eating and how bees are a vital part of getting the food we eat from farm to table. We’re so excited to connect our community of parents and teachers with the agricultural community on Twitter!” – Geoffrey Kater, Creator/CEO – Vitamin Bee, LLC

We invite you to join us on Twitter, 5-7pmPT/6-8pmMT/7-9pmCT/8-10pmET, as we discuss bee health, Feed A Bee and encouraging today’s youth to become involved with Vitamin Bee. You can join the conversation by following the #AgChat hashtag on Twitter. The discussion will provide useful tools for both the agriculture community and the general public.

For additional information on how to join this discussion, click here.