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

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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!

 

Bringing Back Why We AgVocate

It is easy to get caught up in the numbers, likes, views, rates and excitement of social media. I remember when I first became addicted to Twitter. Every day my husband would arrive home, and the first topic of discussion was the increase in followers. There was a thrill and surge of adrenaline to see those numbers jump higher and higher. I began my Twitter following by highlighting ten Twitter accounts each Monday night. With my main following and focus being in the mommy blogger realm, I would mix things up and add a few agriculture related people into the list each week. The bulk of the features included fellow moms, photographers and home renovation accounts. I had set a high bar of the number of new weekly followers which should be gained by this little project.

We all set expectations for ourselves, our blogs, Facebook farm or fan pages and at times become driven by metrics. When the metric benchmarks aren’t achieved we become frustrated or discouraged. Social media then potentially becomes a numbers game. And, I really got lost in focusing on those numbers rather than who those followers were. It was one of my first social media lessons on the never ending learning curve.

The lesson I have learned for myself is that social media should never be about the numbers but the connections and the impacts you make, big or small. I won’t lie, the increase in followers is still a confidence shot in the arm. Its just that today, I get the shot while also taking a spoonful of analysis to determine if those followers are my target audience – people outside of agriculture.

Some may find success in their stats or metrics expectations. However, before many “agvocates” realize it, we can forget why we began advocating for agriculture, telling our stories or agvocating, whichever descriptor you prefer. I’m no different. I was derailed and lost sight of why I was doing all of this social media stuff. Its also easy to get caught up in meeting the expectations of what others think you should be accomplishing in your advocacy journey. In either case, you cannot let that detract you from your original goal of AgVocacy.

The hardcore truth is that there’s a high likelihood that at some point we have all fallen to the numbers and expectations. If you don’t think that you have, I challenge you to sit down and review your path from beginning to present.

In an effort to bring the ‘why’ back to advocating, the AgChat Foundation began the “Why Do I AgVocate?” series in the spring of 2015. It is an opportunity for you to review your path, share your challenges, refocus and set goals for the future.

Can we share your why? Send us an email at comm@agchat.org for additional information.

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written by Jenny Schweigert, executive director

Turkey Talk: June is Turkey Lover’s Month

June is Turkey Lovers Month2016 marks the 27th year of “June is Turkey Lovers’ Month” but if I was a betting woman, I’d say most people don’t even know that this fun designation exists. Our friends over in the dairy industry share June with us and, in all fairness, they snagged it for Dairy Month long before turkey came around, so I can understand why this might be a little more visible.

Plus, everybody loves ice cream, right?

What’s interesting, though, is how this shows both the strides the turkey industry has made in the past three decades as well as the challenges still before us.

We’re eating more turkey – but we need to eat more!

Turkey consumption has increased a whopping 110 percent since 1970. What was once considered a Thanksgiving bird has morphed into a year-round protein option with a variety of cuts and products available.  But we can do more – and our industry is poised to show folks just how versatile turkey is for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The benefits of year-round turkey production

Year-round turkey production wasn’t always a thing because turkeys typically were raised outdoors. In Minnesota where I’m from, turkey farmers could only raise turkeys from April or May until October for pretty obvious reasons – turkeys were not about to survive the brutal winters we have if they lived outside. Luckily, our farmers had the foresight and wherewithal to move their birds into climate-controlled barns, growing their businesses in the process. Raising turkeys in barns also had the added benefit of protecting turkeys from predators and threats of diseases.

Minnesota’s big on turkeys

Today, many of the same farm families who made these monumental changes to their production methods are still raising turkeys today, so there is a wealth of knowledge from which to learn. Minnesota is also home to some of the most entrepreneurial families in the turkey industry, who created, for example, what is now the world’s largest turkey hatchery company (Willmar Poultry Company) and the 2nd largest turkey company in the U.S. (Jennie-O Turkey Store).

It’s not hard to see why Minnesota is ranked #1 for turkey production in the U.S. – and has been for quite some time.

What’s next?

We’re excited to be working together as an industry, in efforts coordinated by the National Turkey Federation, to increase consumption of turkey to 20 pounds per person by 2020. (It’s currently at about 16 pounds per person.)

In Minnesota, we’re also working every day to show folks what turkey farming – real, honest-to-goodness, modern turkey farming – looks like today. We’re combating persistent myths like turkeys grow so big and fast because of added hormones and steroids. (Not true. In fact, it’s illegal to give ANY added hormones or steroids to poultry in the U.S.) And we’re utilizing social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube), our website, and a soon-to-debut blog to connect our farmers with consumers.

Lara Durben

As we round out June, I hope you will join me by adding a little extra turkey to your meals in celebration of June is Turkey Lovers’ Month. If you’re in need of some fabulous, family-friendly ways to #tryturkey, I encourage you to visit my blog, My Other More Exciting Self, where I share a new turkey recipe almost every Tuesday and also write often about poultry.

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I was thirty-two years old before I ever tasted a papaya.  Growing up in the 80’s in a small California town, the exotic things didn’t show up in our grocery stores.  I think the most unusual fruit I had growing up was kiwi, mostly because my pharmacist father would sometimes get paid in produce.  I loved those boxes of fruit, a lot more than the time he was paid with a bear roast.

Living in Iowa in the 90‘s didn’t exactly bring about more selection in the produce department, and even if it did, I wouldn’t have had the knowledge of how to select a papaya.  Do I buy them green?  Are those spots OK?  Should they be hard or soft?

Photo credit/Emma Stoltzfus

Photo credit/Emma Stoltzfus

It wasn’t until I moved to Hawaii almost a decade ago that I had my first taste of this delightful fruit.  One bite and I was hooked.  There’s nothing better for breakfast than a fresh slice of papaya sprinkled with a little lime juice, unless it’s half a papaya filled with yogurt, blueberries, and granola.  Either option is delicious.

While I was living my papaya oblivious existence in the middle of the Midwest, back in Hawaii a crises was occurring on Hawaiian papaya farms.  The ringspot virus was taking over farms on the Big Island, causing damage and death to both the plants and the fruit.  While farms were being devastated, Dennis Gonsalves was spending his time looking for a solution.  It didn’t take him long to develop a genetically modified plant that was resistant to the ringspot virus, and by 1999, the seeds were given, free of charge, to Hawaii papaya growers.  Today, about 77% of the Hawaiian papaya crop is genetically modified, and those farmers, once on the brink of closing their doors, are still in business.

In our house, we go out of our way to purchase the Rainbow papaya developed by Dr. Gonsalves.  They are, in my opinion, the tastiest papayas on earth.

June is National Papaya month, so if you haven’t already, try this tasty treat. Look for fruit of yellow/orange color, not too soft and not too hard, with a slight sweet smell.  A little green is not a problem, but an all green papaya isn’t ripe and may not ripen completely.  Slice it up, and save the skin for the compost pile.  When you go to scoop out the seeds, don’t throw them out!  Those seeds will make the base for a tasty salad dressing.  Aloha!

Rhonda grew up in Northern California, graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Horticulture, and was lucky enough to marry a farm boy. She established a fruit farm in SE Iowa before following her farmer, David, to Hawaii where he grows seed corn. Her life in Maui currently revolves around 3 teenage children and all things agriculture. The Stoltzfuses were recently honored as the Hawaii Farm Bureau Family of the Year.

Thirsty Land Proves to Be Powerful Connection Tool for AgVocates

The global release of the Thirsty Land documentary took place during the 2016 Water for Food Global conference on the campus of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Emmy-award winning director and producer, Conrad Weaver, aims to provide a conversation starter between consumers and the agriculture industry.

Thirsty Land is a conversation starter and bridge between agriculture and urban Lake Mead - Thirsty Land documentary - AgChat.orgcommunities. Water is a controversial topic in the western U.S. It is also a basic survival need for the entire U.S., and can be a common thread between consumers and the agriculture community.

“What I didn’t expect was that I’d still be thinking about it two days later. And I think about it every time I turn on the faucet. Every. Single. Time,” said Tracy Zeorian, Nebraska wheat harvester and film viewer. “To see people struggling to survive by doing whatever it takes to have water to drink and to bathe with was an eye opener. I see this in other countries, not in the United States! Water and food goes hand in hand for survival – for OUR survival. As with education of where our food comes from, we’ve got to impress the importance of water conservation. This film will make that happen.”

The AgChat Foundation is dedicated to empowering farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists with the tools to share their stories with those disconnected from agriculture.

“Its essential that agriculture advocates know and understand their ‘why’ and ‘what.’ Conrad has captured both and framed this information in a way which connects with consumers,” said Jenny Schweigert, executive director of the AgChat Foundation. “Thirsty Land includes various perspectives which will correlate the fluctuation of agriculture to local economies.”

As the in-kind, fiscal sponsor, the AgChat Foundation assists ConjoStudios, Inc., with fund raising for the project, providing tax benefits to donors. Fundraising will continue in an effort to market and distribute the film. Screenings of the film can also be coordinated by visiting http://www.thirstylandmovie.com/screenings/.