Cheese Made of Nuts? Why My Eyes Rolled

HeidiHoBy now, you have probably heard of the show Shark Tank. I love it because it is gritty and really epitomizes what America is about. It centers around entrepreneurs coming into a board room with five investors sitting in front of them. The entrepreneurs pitch their company to the investors and the investors can choose whether they want to invest money. One interesting product caught my eye on this show recently called Heidi Ho. This chef had found a way to make cheese without milk. As someone who works in the dairy industry, my first reaction was an eye roll, but then I realized this food product is still agriculture. After all it was made from nuts.

It got me thinking about how I react to a lot of “different” kinds of foods. These food products may be different, but they still are agriculture. Then, why did my eyes roll?

While I agree this was a fluffy product that seemed on the foo-foo dust side of reality… at the core, I think it was because I knew this could hurt the dairy industry. This is how it starts and why there are farmers and agvocates on both sides of agriculture that want to see the other side fail. While my eyes did roll, I am of the firm belief that if we are going to unseat the likes of the Food Babe, we need to work together as an agricultural community.

Which brings up a huge dilemma. I don’t really have a good answer, but I think all products have a place with consumers. Otherwise they wouldn’t sell anything. Yes, cheese made out of nuts may lead to more dairy farms going out of business, but it could also mean that those that deal with lactose intolerance can actually eat “cheese”. At the end of the day, we need to understand that the world is changing and consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about their food supply. As agvocates, we need to unite agriculture under one banner, not tear it into this side versus that side. A divided nation never wins the war.


Why You Should Have Faith in Gen Y Agvocates

WhyYouShouldHaveFaithInGenYAgvocatesWhen I was growing up, I often heard parents talking about the next generation. They were always worried about the future and leaving the world in “our hands”. While I understand this feeling now as a foster parent, I also know that Gen Y agvocates are ready for the task. Here are five reasons you should have faith in Gen Y agvocates:

1. We understand the cause

While we may appear young and naive, we do understand what’s at stake. I have met several Gen Y agvocates, including myself, that had lost their family farm growing up. It is a part of our generation and we know that we don’t want it to happen to other farms.

2. We are tech-savvy

Social media is always evolving and Gen Y has evolved right with it. We have grown up with these new platforms and are armed and ready to learn the next one.

3. FFA and 4-H

In an age where the number of farmers is shrinking, the membership of FFA and 4-H continues to be strong. Many Gen Y agvocates have their roots in FFA and/or 4-H; programs that I think are invaluable to our industry. These programs are making leaders out of it’s memberships.

4. We are good at making “friends”

While we may not be the generation that will just walk up to anyone and say “hi”, I do believe that my generation is more connected to the people we meet than ever before. We now connect with our acquaintances on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and stay more connected, sharing the story of agriculture along the way.

5. We are opinionated

I don’t think I really need to defend this. You all have probably seen how opinionated Gen Y can be. It is one of our strengths because we are going to fight for agriculture. We have a drive to tell the real story and we are not going to let anyone tell us differently.

You may have doubts about Gen Y agvocates, but I don’t. I think we are poised to make a difference in this world in the name of agriculture.

Sometimes the World is Just Messed Up

WorldMessedUpThis last week I’ve been really down and I have been looking back on the world and have had an “ah-ha” moment…the world is really messed up.

I can’t explain why people are starving in third-world countries and in our backyard. I can’t explain why someone would want to harm a child. I can’t explain why some farmers choose to abuse their animals. I just can’t. I can only realize that the world is just messed up sometimes. If you don’t understand it today, you will soon. You’ll see a video online, or a tweet that is really insensitive and it will freak you out. You will wonder if you as an agvocate (someone who has a small social media account), are really making a difference in the world. I’m here to tell you that you are making a difference.

There is a large debate about food right now. It wasn’t here 10 years ago, but I see agvocates like you joining the fight every day. Consumers are joining the conversation every day and having agvocates there is important. It may not seem like we are winning the fight every day, but we are doing better than yesterday.

The forces against us are strong, but we have something they don’t have…a belief in what we are doing. I strongly believe agvocates are the most passionate people in the world and our voice will be heard. Maybe not today, but tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. So, today I urge you to join this fight. Man your post and fight for your passion. Fight for agriculture.

Today the fight is #RealWIDairy, but tomorrow it could be something completely different. Are you up for the challenge?

Stop Using Money as an Excuse for Ag Practices

Stop-Using-Money-As-An-ExcuseLet’s be honest here with one major fact about most farmers: most farmers need to make money.

While this is a fact about most farmers, we as agvocates typically use money as an explanation for some agricultural practices. For example: “They wouldn’t do anything wrong because it would hurt their bottom line”, “I do the things I do so I can put food on the table for my family” and “I need to grow my operation to support my family”. While I understand the logic behind each of these statements, they really come off as “cold” and heartless to the unassuming consumer. It makes your family-run farm look like a well-oiled, profit-driven company.

Whether you like it or not you need to think about the perceptions that form from everything you say. While money may be a good reason to the agricultural community, money is not a good reason for the general public. Consumers want to hear you say that you care about their families, not just your own.

Making a personal connection with consumers helps make our message much more effective. Make sure you think about that the next time you are about to use money as an excuse.

Should We Stop “Feeding the World”

290384685_640“Feeding the world by 2050” has been a common phrase agvocates have been using for many years. It is based on the real need to feed the world’s growing population by 2050, but I don’t think it is working. This is just one example I found online that explains what consumers are being told, and it all isn’t a lie. I think consumers are beginning to see “feeding the world” as an excuse rather than a reason for why producers farm the way they do.

This is why agvocates need to stop using this “excuse” and begin using reasons. Producers don’t give cattle antibiotics to feed the world, they give it to their cattle for health reasons. A producer’s farm hasn’t grown to feed the world, it has grown to respond to market conditions pushing the price of milk down and feed costs up.

A farm isn’t a business so it can feed the world, it has always been a family-run business to feed a family.

Somewhere I think we agvocates have forgotten that farming is about family. If producers don’t do everything right, they could lose everything. They could lose the farm that supports their family. For some reason, consumers view these family businesses in a different light than the millions of other family business that are across America.

Agvocates need to help consumers realize farms and small, family businesses are actually the same thing.






Why Ellen’s #selfie Should Make You Mad

By now you probably have heard about this…


The (in all honesty) awesome photo taken at the Oscar’s that features Ellen DeGeneres, Julie Roberts and a bunch of other A-list stars. You probably also have heard that Samsung has decided to give 3 million dollars to a charity of Ellen’s choosing? And 1.5 million of that she has decided to give to HSUS? More about that here.

While this all should make you mad because we all know who and what HSUS is and stands for, I want to instead discuss something else that should upset us…Why are we agvocates not connecting with A-list stars?

Ellen is just the beginning of a Hollywood that doesn’t know the facts about agriculture.

HSUS, PETA and any other animal rights groups are always armed and ready with a top movie star that will shout their name. Where is agriculture in this mix? Where is our #selfie?

I don’t really have an answer for you, but all of this news about Ellen and her #selfie made me just a little jealous that we don’t have stars giving farmers money.

I guess for now, we agvocates will need to keep tweeting and sharing our own #felfies. None of us may reach 3 million retweets alone, but as a collective unit we will. That’s the great thing about agriculture, when we come together, we have a really big voice.

Why We Need to Stop Saying GMO

cs_gmo-freeGenetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Wow I hate those three scientific words. Pushed together to make a perfectly sounding concoction of food and Frankenstein science. Just the fact that we need to shorten it to GMO, makes it even more scientific.

GMOs have been at the center of a very large international debate. “Are they safe?” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue that knows about GMOs. You may not like to believe it, but the words Genetically Modified Organisms actually scare people. This is why at this moment, I am starting a bandwagon to stop calling these crops GMOs and instead call them a different name, a better name.

You see, science is confusing to the general public (here is one example). And when science is confusing to the general public, they don’t ask questions to the scientists, they ask questions to the google world (and who knows what they get out there). And trust me, they don’t trust the people that are economically tied to the success of GMOs.

This is why I propose we come up with a new name for GMOs. So instead of scaring people with the name, we need to make them feel comfortable. We need them to stop being scared to ask us questions.

Here are just a few suggestions: Genetic Crops, Yielded Crops, Increased Yield Crops, Advanced Crops, Modified for Your Environment Crops

Ok, so I’m obviously not a good title writer, but you get the gist. It may be difficult to change the name of GMOs, but I think we need to at least do a better job of explaining this group of crops. Maybe, we make a tagline, GMOs: The Higher Yield Alternative. Just and idea. Either way, we need to stop speaking science and start speaking human.