To the Agriculture Class of 2022

U of S Agriculture Building. Image credit: https://facilities.usask.ca/

Welcome to University

It’s been a cool 20 years since I went off to University for an Agriculture degree, even if I don’t feel THAT old. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I started my years of undergraduate studies in agriculture. I was going to be a veterinarian. Spoiler, I’m not a veterinarian. I know things have changed. People claim, things aren’t as “fun” anymore, but I sure hope you will still have the some of the best times of your lives.

Seeing as my generation is now many of the people that will be recruiting and hiring you for summer and full time jobs, here are my nuggets of wisdom to pass on to enjoy your university years and maybe make a few inroads for your career down the line.

  • Get to know your profs,TA’s and Lab Teachers. They are regular people like you and most of them love to talk about their field of expertise. It helps a long mile to get to know them before you miss a lab or fail a midterm. It happens. My first midterm in physics got me a whopping 28% and I was on full academic scholarship. I was smart, damn it. Which brings me my next point…
  • Study, and if you’re like me and sailed through high school, learn how to study. My tips – review your notes after class (within a day or two). Get a study partner (or three) to talk through stuff you don’t get it. They also help when you do end up missing class with the inevitable 1st year flu (self induced or viral). Cooperate to graduate was the tag line when I was in uni.
  • Meet your upperclassmen. They are a godsend in knowing the ins and outs of the program. Hello, old notes/midterm insights!! Never underestimate the valuable knowledge of which classes, profs or labs to avoid to make life a bit easier.
  • Be involved. Join your student’s association. Help fundraise. If you’re a U of S Agro, do the Bedpush, join the Rangeland Club, CAMA, or the Stockman’s Club. Do some rec sports, even if you’re colossally unskilled at them.
  • Have some fun. As much as you may be stressing about top marks, very few people outside of academia will ask you what your mark was in Organic Chemistry. They want to see that you are a normal human and learned to be with people, be on an executive, deal with people and be social.
  • Reach out to Ag professionals. If you’re interested in a career in plant biotech, animal health, research or any of the thousands of jobs in the Ag industry, don’t be afraid to reach out. DM someone on Twitter to pick their brain. If they live close by maybe ask to meet for bevvy or job shadow them. Yes, it can be a bit awkward to say, “Hey, I follow you on twitter, mind if we chat?” but most of us how are friendly and know it is to get a start and the value of network.
  • Go to industry events. Learn about the hot topics in your area of interest. Maybe even go to some events you aren’t particularly interested in or know about. It may be refreshing to learn about dairy cows or organic hemp production or beekeeping. Again, meet people. Don’t be shy to ask about their job, possible opportunities or mentorships. Be bold. People hire people they know.
  • And finally, don’t be afraid to fail. As I mentioned, I was going to be a veterinarian, if you had talked to me in first year. Turns out my back up plan to get an animal science degree and become a ruminant nutritionist (with a Master’s degree) was a way better idea. Hell, I even changed university after my first year. The University of British Columbia was my first stop and I transferred to the University of Saskatchewan for for the rest of my years. Was UBC the wrong choice? Maybe seeing as there were 3 farm kids in a class of 200 Aggies, but I met my best friend on day 1 of orientation and we still are besties 20 years later. I failed that first physics midterm of mine, but it sure woke me up to study more effectively (not more, better). I applied for 40 jobs in my 2nd year of university for summer and got 1 interview and bombed it, big time. From this I went onto work overseas for what was one of my most formative work experience of my career. Failure is part of the process. I have friends that failed a class, some even that had to withdraw for a year to come back to university wiser and more focus. Fail. Learn. Improve.
  • Welcome class of 2022 to the best years of your life and to an industry with amazing people and unlimited potential. Grow on Agros, grow on.
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Young and Hip (Replacement)

When I started my blog years ago, I named it “Fit2Farm” with plans of melding my world of farming and my love of fitness which morphed more so into just farming and advocacy. Today I’m sharing a bit of my wellness journey over the past five years.

When I moved home to the farm in 2013, I was at my peak fitness. I had just finished my first triathlon and then ran a personal best half marathon shortly after. I was running 3 days a week, plus strength training and yoga. I was on the top of my game. Then in early 2104, I slipped while running outdoors. I went to Physiotherapy and was initially diagnosed with a glute tear. I did Physio, but the pain never really went away, and I started to lose a lot of my flexibility in my hips. I gained weight. I felt like an impostor in the fitness world, unconditioned and overweight. I kept trying to get better and I kept working out.

In late 2014, I found out I was pregnant with my third child. It was a rough pregnancy. I got fewer work outs in. My mobility further suffered. I had wicked pelvic pain. I started to hobble/limp and figured it was a result of my third pregnancy and age (I was 35). After I had my baby girl, I told my doctor about my concerns and was referred for Physio therapy again. This time was diagnosed with public symphysis disorder and bursitis in my hips. I did 2 years of Physio with 3 different therapists. Some of the exercises were too painful to completely execute but I was assured I just needed time and to keep at it. I hit the gym again and started walking with a friend but by the end of 5 km I was limping significantly. My mobility and pain never improved. I muscled my way through breeding seasons walking 15-20 km/day and the rest of the demands associated with cattle ranching. I started beekeeping and worked through hauling around 100 lb. supers of honey. I did rangeland assessment work, again hiking 10-20 km/day. I figured it was me. I talked with my doctor along the way, but it seemed like this was the proper mode of treatment.

Finally, this December, I went back to my doctor, nearly in tears due to frustration and pain. He referred me to a specialist to get a MRI to figure out a suspected hip ligament tear. As an extra precaution, he also ordered a hip X-ray just in case and for the specialist to speed along the process. The following week in I was back in my doctor’s office for some big news.

My X-ray showed advanced bilateral osteoarthritis. My hips are in bad shape. I received a referral to the orthopedic surgeon in Saskatoon for a consult. My husband and I went to the referral last week. My joints are too degenerated for anything other than hip replacements. I have no cartilage left in either hip, the bones are deteriorated and I developed some pretty impressive bones spurs. We expected the news but hoped for better. I’m 37 years old and in the next year will be having both my hips replaced. I am told that I have hip dysplasia and even four years ago, there wouldn’t have been much to be done.

Left Hip

My left hip, soon to become ceramic and metal.

I worry for my young family and our farm. My kids are 2, 6 and 8 years old. They are quite used to my mobility issues, but I am not sure how 2 major surgeries will treat them. I also have a farm business and consulting company to run. Last year I ran 17 beehives, took on new contract work and helped with the cows as much as possible. I’m feisty. We will make it through, but I am still a bit worried and honestly, a bit angry about the situation. As a farmer, and really in all aspects of my life, I am used to muscling through a rough path. I am told there is no powering through on joints with without cartilage. In my bones, I know my surgery is necessary (pun intended) but it will take a bit of farmer ingenuity to get this figured out and I look forward to getting my mobility back post-surgery.

 

#Metoo. On sexual harassment and misogyny in the Agriculture industry.

#metoo

I’m going to be very real in this post. Very real. Sexual harassment and misogyny is far too common in my industry.

Here is a few of my stories.

I was assaulted in a barn at a very young age by a family member. My punishment was not being allowed in the hayloft anymore. MY punishment at 8 years old. And it was never spoke about again.

I was groped at 4-H events. I matured early and apparently that made it ok for older men to grope me.

Conversely, I was told I wouldn’t do as well in showmanship because my curves were distracting.

I was stalked aggressively at a conference I attended presenting my research on cattle production. He followed me to my hotel and left me notes and voice mails incessantly. I was at an international conference alone and had to make some allies very quickly to feel safe.

I was told to wear a wedding band on farm as a younger female professional to avoid unwanted advances.

There are farms that I was just flat out told to stay away from to avoid being harassed.

I was also flat out denied entry to certain farms because I was a female.

I was commonly called “baby” by a client for years when I was their nutritionist.

I was told by my own family members they wouldn’t deal with a woman rep because what their wives would think and they didn’t want anyone that would go on maternity leave. They also tend to avoid hiring women in their businesses as employees for the same reason.

I was told that I wasn’t hiring material because female feed reps sleep with their clients at a conference surrounded by farmers I grew up with. I stood my ground and the individual had to be escorted out of the event after our exchange. My husband worked for the same company as this individual. The General Manager called an apologized to HIM, not me. The individual that was escorted out had numerous encounters with young female professionals that caused concern over the years. He was never dismissed because he performed well with his sales numbers.

We have come a long way in the Ag industry but let’s be real and own that there are still problems. I am a strong confident female. My past experiences don’t define me, however, I’d be remiss not to let to it be known what happened to me. We can do better.

 

Being a ranch kid can be hard

The kids on a happier day checking calves.

Sometimes I forget how hard it came be to be a farm kid. We expect a lot of our kids. They learn to be hard workers, to appreciate nature and the value of teamwork. But sometimes it’s plain old hard.

Yesterday we were doing afternoon chores as a family.  We had a newborn calf that was born  backward a few days ago and was struggling. I mixed up a bottle to feed him with the kids.  Unfortunately, when  we got to the barn, I could see he wasn’t long for the world.  Not wanting to give up, I sent my daughter to grab the stomach tube to feed him as he had no suckling reflex. By the time she came back, the calf was dead.  This is the hard part of ranching. To watch my daughter essentially crumple in sadness. To have explain that even if she’d came back with the tube faster, the calf would still died is hard. There is value in the lesson of life and death but delivering these lessons aren’t easy.

I’m proud of the resilience of my kids.  They have learned that one bad result doesn’t determine our worthn our entire experience.  They are hard worker and avid learners. And it’s OK for us to have hard days. 

It’s a souper day!

​Today it’s wicked cold so….it’s a soup day. 

I’m a toss it all together kind of girl but this is the gist of my recipe. It’s an all morning affair.

Beef Veggie Soup

Start with a stock pot and the following:

2 large beef soup bones

1 cube beef bullion

8 cups water

Simmer this for a couple hours. Take out bones. Trim off meat or make it your dog’s best day ever 😀 Skim off excess fat from broth.
Add in the following:

1 c chopped left over roasted beef (if you have it)

1 c chopped celery

1 large potato cubed

1 c chopped carrots

1/2 c quinoa  or pearled barley (I was out.of barley)

1/2 lentils

1 tsp celery seed

salt & pepper to taste
Top off the amount of water to fill your pot. Simmer another hour or so.

Enjoy!!
This will feed a crowd (15 people or so) our freezes well for quick meals in the future.

On working with family

It’s coming up to my first year, exclusively working on the farm. I have been lucky to find a spot to work with my family. My in-laws. Yes, you read correctly, I am one of the blessed people that have wonderful in-laws and enjoy working with them on a daily basis. Here are my thoughts on how and why we have a great thing going.

  • Everyone is valued for their skill set. We each have a niche in the farm operation that we are skilled at and valued as the expert or go to person for that part of the business.
  • Respect. We are respect one another. Everyone understands that we are all out to make the best of our business. That no one intentionally makes mistakes.  I recently screwed up big time and said, “I’d understand if you’d fire me.” Thankfully, the response I got was, “It’ll take a whole lot more than that to get out of here.” And  a couple jokes.
  • Tolerance. We are a diverse group of individuals and personalities. It takes tolerance to know that each persons preferences, behaviors, and philosophies differ and that’s okay.
  • Our own yard sites. I write this in all seriousness. We put a LOT of hours in together as a family. It is nice to still have a bit of separation and privacy at the end of the and a spot that is all your own.
  • Common goals. We all want the farm to be profitable. We market our cattle and crops collectively. There is no yours or mine, just ours.
  • Communication. Yes, we can improve on this one, just like most operations, but overall, we communicate where we stand on major business choices and make sure that the group is on target for our major projects and purchases.  Our board meetings are more so coffee breaks with discussion, but that is what works for us.
  • A sense of humor. We work hard enough each day, so it’s a good thing to see the humor in situations. Sure, sometimes it takes a few days to see it depending on the situations but if you can’t enjoy your work and have a bit of fun most days, you need a better job.

This what works for our farm. We are now where near perfect, but I’m proud to be a part of a family farm business that works like we do.

A bit of baking

This weekend we had a couple inches of rain so we are stalled for corn harvest and it’s not even great weather to get much cattle work accomplished. So, I took the chance to work a bit in my kitchen. Plus, baking bread is a great reason to turn up the heat a bit as bread rises better in warm temperatures 😃

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Zöpf, dried fruit & honey

I made Zöpf, a Swiss traditional sweet bread, dehydrated pears & plums yesterday. Plus, buns today. Here are my recipes.

For the fruit, I simply washed, sliced & cored the fruit and left them on the dehydrator over night. Store the fruit in a air tight container or bag afterwards.

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Pears ready for the dehydrator

For the Zöpf, my mother taught me how to bake and I’m not much of a recipe follower. This is pretty much what I use to make  2 Zöpf:

Zöpf Recipe

Ingredients
1 cup lukewarm milk
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp dried yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, soft
2 pounds white flour
1 egg beaten

Preparation:
Mix milk, salt, yeast & sugar together in a large bowl. Allow yeast to grow for 10 minutes.
Mix flour and butter into bowl. Knead to a soft dough. This usually takes about 10 minutes by hand, or 5 minutes when using a machine.
Cover and let grow for about one hour or until size has doubled. Punch down the dough.
Cut dough in two or four pieces of the same size. Braid as desired. Check out YouTube for bread braiding tutorials if you need tips.
Put bread on a baking sheet & let rise again for an hour.
Before baking, brush the Zöpf with egg yolk.
Bake for about 45 to 55 minutes in the lower part of the pre-heated oven at about 400 degree Fahrenheit. I always add a small baking tin filled with water to my oven to keep the humidity of my oven higher.

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Nice buns, baby.

For my buns, I have an age old 2 hour bun recipe that I use. Again, I’m free and loose for my recipes, so my measures for flour vary depending on how I feel that day.

2 Hour-ish Buns

Ingredients
3 cup warm water
1/3 c sugar
1/4 canola oil
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp instant yeast
2 eggs beaten
4 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats

Mix yeast, water, salt, sugar. Allow to ferment 15 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients. Mix until a dough is well-formed. Again, about 5 minutes. Cover and let stand about 20 minutes.
Punch down dough. Form into buns and place on greased baking sheets. I dust my buns with a touch if flour as I form them. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.
Bake at 350 degree Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes.  This makes 3 dozen medium sized buns. Again, I use the tin with water to add humidity to my oven.