Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Hands of a Wyoming Farmer: Brian Cox

Our first Out of State Post. Proving that farmers hands have to wear many different gloves.  From welding, to gardening, and weaning to greasing gears, farmers duties are varied and many.  Everyone welcome Brian Cox!

Hands Pictured Above: Brian Cox  Age: 29

Involvement in Agriculture: My involvement in agriculture is teaching high school Agriculture Science in Pine Bluffs, WY. I teach agriculture classes to students grades 7-12 as well as high school courses in horticulture and welding. When I was a child I had thousands of acres of imaginary fields that I tended to with my toy tractors, I knew that someday I wanted to be involved in agriculture. I started out showing pigs then later sheep at my county fairs then when I was in high school I joined the FFA. I enjoyed the program so much and it took me so many places that I decided there was no better way to become involved in agriculture and be a better advocate for the agriculture then to teach the future generations about what agriculture really is! On the production side my family also raises show lambs for FFA and 4-H members to exhibit at county and state fairs s as well as a few major shows.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: Luckily for me not being involved in the production side of agriculture all of the highs and lows do not always affect me, but the most difficult time in agriculture that I have been a part of was this fall when the U.S. Department of Labor put tough regulations on what “Farm Kids” Could do. This could be potentially devastating to many family farms because the wording is unclear! I teach in a small town on the Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado border where nearly every person is involved in the agriculture industry or the oil and wind energy industry. With the tough regulations my students would not be able to operate any machinery on farms, show any type of breeding animal, vaccinate or treat any injured or sick animals, or work in any type of agriculture related jobs. Farm kids are taught work ethics, responsibility, and the true values of agriculture at a young age without them whose hands would the future of agriculture be in?

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture: I do not think that I can begin to list the joys of agriculture! It would start when I sold my first show pig and made a profit! After that joining the FFA and putting on my FFA Jacket for the first time. Then winning the Wyoming FFA Parliamentary Procedure Contest and placing 3rd at nationals and getting to compete on National Finals Hall at the 2001 National Convention. Being a part on one of the most successful junior college livestock programs in the country at Casper College in Casper, WY. Winning the Arizona National and Cow Palace in sheep, beef, swine, reasons, and high team overall. Another joy was attending Texas Tech University and judging Livestock there and experiencing agriculture in another part of the country. I had never seen cotton in all of its stages until the summer of 2006. Getting my first teaching job, and placing two agronomy teams in the top ten and hauling sales and meats teams to state twice in my two years at Abernathy High School. Watching my first students in Wyoming place in CDE’s and watching my first student be named the Wyoming FFA extemporaneous speaking champion, But perhaps the biggest joy of being a teacher is knowing each day that you are going to teach you students something new about agriculture. These kids are our future and the more that they know about agriculture the brighter our future is! Someday they will be Vets, Lawyers, Mechanics, journalists, teachers, and maybe a few of them farmers and ranchers and knowing that you made a difference in their life by teaching them about agriculture!

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Hands of a New Farmer: Josh Snodgrass

Hands of a New Farmer: Josh Snodgrass

It is always nice to hear from a new generation of farmer!  Josh Snodgrass’s story is quite inspirational if you have ever considered farming for a living!

Hands Pictured Above: Josh Snodgrass Age: 23

Involvement in Agriculture:I am beginning my career as a cotton farmer in the Panhandle of Texas, specifically, Crosbyton, TX. 2012 will be my first crop on my own and I am extremely excited to see what the future holds for me. Production agriculture, in my opinion, is the most valuable job in the world. It all starts at the ground, literally, and to be involved in such an occupation makes me extremely proud. I have tried other jobs throughout college and I can’t ever seem to stay away from the farm. I love every aspect of our operation and enjoy waking up in the mornings to go to work. Production agriculture can tend to be a very stressful and time consuming occupation. In order to remain in operation for years into the future, it is very important to enjoy a hard day’s work. As an individual, I never back down from a challenge. Production agriculture is a challenging occupation that requires risk, effort, and hard work. It is very rewarding to me to be able to work very hard by putting in long hours and strenuous labor, and hopefully reap the benefits at the end of the season.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: Since this is my first year, I don’t have many difficult moments just yet. In this occupation, it seems there will always be something difficult to worry about. To make that “perfect bumper crop,” the stars literally have to line up and everything has to fall into place. The farmer has to worry about the weather, the markets, finances, and the list could go on forever. I am starting my first year in the second worst drought in Texas history. I know that one day, it will rain, I just pray that it happens soon! Now that I am paying for my own inputs, I have found that EVERYTHING the farmer uses to grow a crop is expensive and continuing to increase. I can look back in the past and see certain events that can prove this life a difficult one. Two years ago, in 2010, we had that “perfect bumper crop” with the highest market prices in history and on October 22 at 2 in the morning, we had to listen to a violent hail storm beat our 3 and 4 bale crop to the ground. I know that difficult times like these will definitely happen.

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture: The most joyous time for a farmer definitely has to be taking a crop to harvest. Farming is a very rewarding occupation. We don’t get a paycheck on a weekly or monthly basis, we put our lives on the line for six months out of the year and get paid once a year. When I plant that seed in the ground in May, put thousands and thousands of dollars into the crop throughout the season, and then harvest that crop in the fall and sell it at the end of the year, that paycheck proves to be a very joyous and rewarding time.

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The Farmer and the Sabbath!

Good Shepherd Catholic Church - Lometa, Texas

Good Shepherd Catholic Church - Lometa, Texas

Blessed is anyone who does this, anyone who clings to it, observing the Sabbath, not profaning it, and abstaining from every evil deed. ~ Isaiah 56:2

Even the work of advocating for agriculture should take a rest in observance of advocating for God!  The Hands of a Farmer Blog will take a break on each Sunday in order to allow each of you to spend the time you would use reading our blog with your families, in quiet prayer,

I remember reading a story about my maternal great grandfather…that he was the type of man who would be out walking through the pasture and when he observed something particularly breathtaking, or had a thought he believed to be inspired by Divinity, he would remove his hat, drop to a knee, and thank God for his beautiful creation.

HOAF will take that same attitude.  We are so thankful for those of you who have viewed the blog, we are unbelievably thankful to those of you who have submitted your stories, and we look forward to telling the story of American Agriculture through your hands!

May the Blessing of the Lord be upon you all!

In the Hands of an Ag Mom: Amy Smith

Amy Smith Hands

Where would most of us be without our mothers?  I know my life would be a wreck for several reasons. Ag mom’s are a special breed of mom…they are the ultimate multitaskers, efficient in their work, and always lend a soft place to fall or cry! One day a year to celebrate mom’s is certainly not enough….but when we consider Ag Mom’s; 365 Days a year would not be enough…Today we honor a very special Ag Mom….

Hands Pictured Above: Amy Smith  Age: 38

My name is Amy Smith. I am a grandchild, child, active participant, cousin, wife, parent, friend and God-willing grandparent in an Agriculture family. The key word there is FAMILY. Whether by blood, marriage or acquaintance, I am part of a family.

My faith causes me to believe that God created Agriculture. He made the plants, trees and animals- each for a specific purpose. He also made man (and woman) to care for His creation. Agriculture was part of His perfect plan.It is the circle of life. I am part of the God-fearing community who prays, helps and shares all they have. When was the last time you heard of a murderer or drug addicted farmer? We might not make a million bucks doing it, but this is the village that I have chosen to help raise my children.

What is your involvement in agriculture?

My role in agriculture is incredibly diverse. In any given week you will find me driving. I drive to the farm to feed, to take the kids to feed and to buy more feed.  You will find me communicating via text, email, phone call and in person. We communicate about who will feed, current health problems, seeking and offering advice. You may find me researching. I research show times, weather forecasts and feeding strategies. You may find me meeting. You may find me cooking for kids who are getting up at 4am to attend a show or contest or bland food for an animal who needs to be nursed back to health.  You may find me comforting a child whose animal met an untimely death or chastising a child who didn’t make sure their animals were cared for properly. Not a day goes by that does not encounter some aspect of farming or agriculture.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture

One of the most memorable occasions that I have is of a little calf my dad picked up at the sale barn. He was a little brown cross, about 5 days old and full of spunk. It isn’t uncommon for these young calves to get sick, but for some reason this one was different. We spent hours coercing him to drink, even a little. When it started raining, there were no complaints from the kids when he needed to be fed. There were a couple trips to the store to get medication. I’m certain that Pa (my dad) spent more on this calf than he normally would, for the sake of the kids. When it was time to leave, we said goodbye to Pa and hugged the calf. We talked and texted over the next few days, checking on the calf. He died. We all cried. I can think of several occasions when an animal had to be put down, but very few that I have such a vivid memory of.

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture

There are two that come to mind. The first was when my son found a bare patch in the grass. We went to Home Depot to get grass squares but found them brown and mostly dead due to the drought and extreme temperatures.  I reluctantly bought a few, because he was begging. Over the next few weeks, he watered those squares by hand. He pulled the weeds and even put a border around them to make sure they did not get stepped on.  They eventually took root and started to grow and became one of the best spots in the yard.

The other moment that sticks out is when we brought a sick goat to our home (in the city) because he was sick and needed “round the clock” care. The kids set up cots in the garage. The outside temperature was around 30 degrees that night, but they stayed in sleeping bags and coveralls to make sure that the goat was okay.

Those are defining moments as a parent you know that even in the tumultuous challenges of surviving the teenage years, that we (my Ag family) have planted the seeds of compassion, patience, pride and perseverance. These are the foundation for greatness in whatever they choose to be.

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Hands of a Cotton Farmer: Matt Caswell

Matt Caswell Hands

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them! ~ William Shakespeare 

Today’s farmer fits all three. Today we honor a young man who exemplifies greatness in every fabric of his life.

Hands Pictured Above: Matt Caswell  Age: 30

Involvement in Agriculture: I am a fourth generation cotton farmer on the plains of West Texas. I live south of Lubbock,Texas on the Lubbock and Lynn County line with my beautiful wife of eight years and two gourgeous daughters who will certainly make mel pay for my raising.

A cotton farm in West Texas is an everchanging world that can show you the best days you’ve ever had and take everything away from you that very night. We live and die by Mother Nature with decisions we as farmers have absolutely zero control over. With growing costs and unstable markets throughout the world, farming is a gamble few can stomach and most don’t understand. Increasing costs and advancements in technology make the present day farm a never ending process of learning and concern.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: My worst day in agricuture came the day after the funeral of my Dad, Jimmy Smith, in October of 2011. I have never felt more alone on the farm than that day when all the decisions came crashing down in my hands and panic set in. If it were not for the agriculture community that surrounded me, i might have sunk. The group that i am proud to call farmers, agriculturists and my friends kept me afloat until i could gather myself and get both my feet securely underneath me. Everyday is a struggle without him but if not for him i would not be where i am today with the knowledge and skills that he instilled in me. Thanks Dad!

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture: One of the scariest times in a young farmers life is when he has to go to bank and ask for astronomical amount of money that he only prays he can pay back by the end of the year. I payed off my first bank note in the winter of 2009. I swelled up with pride as i strolled out the bank with a huge feeling of accomplishment. Their is no greater satisfaction than knowing that you survived the year and put money in the bank only to do it all over agian the next year.

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Hands of a Female Farmer: Cora DeLeon

Cora Deleon's Hands

Not all farmers are rough and rugged men.  Some of them work just as hard but happen to be female!  Some of them work harder because they are female! Today we honor a prime example.

Hands Pictured Above: Cora DeLeon  Age: 28

Involvement in Agriculture:I am currently an Agriculture Science Teacher at Sabinal High School. I am a ranchers grandaughter, and have grown up in, and around the agriculture industry. My grandfather Wayne Cheney taught agriculture in D’Hanis, Texas for 35 yrs, the family also raised Limousin cattle, a few sheep, and baled hay.

Some of my earliest memories are of feeding cattle out of the back of a pick up truck, or riding in an open cab John Deere tractor with a worn yellow cannopy to block the sun. That is when my Mom and Papa instilled in me the love of nature, respect for the land, and care for livestock and equipment. Over the last 16 years I have worked at a feed store, grain elevator and in college wrote for a quarterly cotton publication before begining my career as an ag science teacher. I believe that educating the public, young and old about what agriculturists do is the only way we will overcome the stigma that so many organizations and ill informed Americans have created about the agriculture industry.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: Drought, not just your average South Texas drought, watching my grandparents struggle with the decision to sell the ranch that has been in my grandmothers family for over 100 years. Cattle prices were low, feed and fuel prices were high, hay wouldn’t grow, stock tanks and water wells were going dry. The truth was we didn’t know how long the drought would last, or how long we could continue to struggle through these times.

Mother nature cannot be controlled, we have to work with her and take the good with the bad. We as agriculturists have to advocate for all of those who have known this struggle. We need new and innovative technology to create improved practices and products. We have to figure out how fewer farmers and ranchers can produce more food and fiber on fewer acres for an ever growing population in the United States and around the world.

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture: I would say seeing agriculture in its purest form, when my students take seed and earth and create a living plant. No matter what kind of day a student has had, or how mad I may be at them for being late for class, that all falls away when I see the pride and accomplishment on their face when they see the first tiny green sprout sticking out of a pile of soil. That feeling is why we have food and clothing, every farmer or rancher has felt that at some time while looking at a crop, or a newly born calf. My students may never run a tractor, or work cattle. However, in that greenhouse they are learning where food and fiber come from, responsibility, hard work, and pride in what they have created. All of those things will go with them long after completion of the course or graduation. As an agriculture educator I could not ask for more.

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Hands of a Retired Farmer: Melvin (M.F.) Klose Jr.

Melvin (M.F.) Klose Hands

 

Hands Pictured Above: Melvin Fred (M.F.) Klose Jr.  Age: 68

Involvement in Agriculture: M.F. Klose is a 5th generation American, Texan, and Farmer/Rancher.  He was raised in the small community of Lometa, Texas, has traveled all over the state performing various agricultural jobs, and settled back in Lometa with his wife Linda and children, Leanne, Gina, Jeff and Chris.  He spent the last 30+ years of his life raising Beefmaster Cattle, Delaine sheep, Angora and Boer Goats.  With an emphasis on goats.  Each year he would run between 2000 and 4000 head of goats through his ranch in Central Texas.  M.F. has also been involved in the fiber and grain industry, feedlot industry, sheep and goat industry in towns from Clarksville, Texas on the Red River to Donna, Tx in the Rio Grande Valley. He has worked in auction barns, on ranches, on a tractor, and in a Bobcat clearing cedar for hours to improve water availability on his ranch.  He is a husband, and father, a son and brother, and lives his faith by example to those around him.  He is a VERY quiet man who would NEVER brag on himself.  He has given me the liberty to write about him though since I have known him now for 33 years!

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: There were many of them, but he says that the biggest issues he faced were fighting predators (mostly coyotes and bobcats), trying to make a profit, and keeping the public informed about what was truth and what was fiction about agriculture.  I remember when we raised angora goats…M.F. would stay out at our ranch, which was 13 miles from our house each night during kidding season.  He would wake up every two hours and walk through the kidding pens when the does were having babies.  Each one that had a baby was picked up and brought into a barn where the mother and kid had individual 5X5 stalls with heat lamps, water, hay and feed.  Once the mothers completely accepted their kids and the kids were strong enough to make it through the mild winters (usually 3-5 days), they were put out with small groups of other does and kids.  Then the small groups were assimilated into larger groups once they were older and stronger. If this was not done, the mothers would abandon their kids in the cold weather.  Without heat, the kids would freeze to death and there would be NO kid crop.  When raising angora goats, it was common for a rancher who did not institute these practices to have a 70-80 percent kid crop.  I don’t remember a year that my father had less than a 100 percent kid crop and most years it was between 110-120 percent.  But all this work took a HUGE toll on him and his family.  Many times he would only get to see his kids at dinner time.  He would drive the 26 mile round trip with very little sleep.  He would come in occasionally for basketball games, or other school events.  He always tried to make it in on Sunday mornings for Church, then back out to the ranch to check goats again.

 

Most Joyful Moment in Agriculture:  New Life!  Seeing those new young baby goats, lambs, and calves running and playing in the pasture.  Knowing that he was helping to feed the world.  Feeling the sense of accomplishment that came from raising his own children to understand the importance of hard work and dedication to ones purpose in life no matter how menial the rest of the world may see it.  I will also add this (he did not say this because he is too humble to do so). He was an innovator.  In the section above you can see how the system he worked out helped increase production even though it took tremendous amounts of hard work.  When the government saw fit to remove the wool and mohair incentive act from the farm bill, he found another avenue to provide for his family and switched from raising angora goats for mohair production to raising Boer goats for meat.  Mills county, Texas is one of the largest meat goat producing areas in the U.S. He was always looked to by the buyers and other producers as the person who had figured the system out.  He took great strides to learn about various ethnic holidays from various ethnic groups who consumed large quantities of goat.  He worked tirelessly to make sure he had the goats at the proper weight at these times in order to provide the perfect animal for their religious days.  He learned how to market his animals and have them ready at the right time.   He was indeed ahead of his time, a pioneer in his field, and an agriculturist through and through.  He believed in the future of agriculture, and lived that belief every day.

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Hands of a Farmer: The Beginning 2 – Brandon Williamson

BWilliamsonHands

Hello, my name is Brandon Williamson and I will be joining my good friend Jeffrey Klose in telling the stories of American Agriculture. When I was first approached about participating in this blog I found myself jumping at the opportunity to be a part of such a noble idea!

It seems that the American agriculture industry has come under more scrutiny in the last decade than at any other time in history. As our country becomes increasingly urban, our population becomes more disconnected with the source of their food supply. In many cases, today’s average American does not know (or worse, does not care) where their food comes from just so long as it is cheap. I often refer to this as AGRICULTURAL ILLITERACY. This epidemic has resulted in a breeding ground for organizations such as PETA and HSUS to press their agenda on the uninformed. 

As those organizations continue to “vilify” the hard working men and women who provide the food in their stomachs, I look forward to this blog being the voice of truth…to show the compassion and humanity of the American Agriculturist.

Hands Pictured Above: Brandon Williamson   Age:30

Involvement in Agriculture:
I currently work as an agricultural science teacher in Burleson, Texas. I am more or less just like the typical American citizen. I have never lived through a situation where production agriculture was the basis of my family’s survival. In fact, I would consider my family to be “recreational farmers” as both of my parents had jobs outside the agricultural sector.

I grew up on land that belonged to my grandfather. On that land, we had a very diverse enterprise ranging from barbado sheep on native west Texas rangeland, to small plots of wheat utilized for grazing terminal cattle. As a high school FFA member, I branched out on my own to include a 32 sow commercial hog operation. 

The diversity of my agricultural experience has served me well as I entered into the realm of high school education. The 7 years have allowed me to teach production agriculture in a very urbanized school district. I have learned that information I knew as a 5 year old regarding where my food and clothes comes from is considered profound knowledge to not only high school students but to many of their parents as well.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture:
While all agriculturists can recall a struggle or two along their paths, some strike a blow that is deeper penetrating than others and thus often times more educational in the long run. For me that blow came as a sophomore in high school. I was given the opportunity to strike out on my own and given the chance to make my own production decisions. As I ventured into the commercial hog industry, I worked really hard to save enough money to purchase a high quality spot boar from a farmer in the Midwest. After having him shipped to me and putting him on feed, I was devastated when I went out one morning and found him dead. 

Years later, I realize that what I encountered that day is commonplace to the American farmer. It is not unusual to “put your eggs in a basket” only to have them crushed by factors outside your control. From this experience, I learned what risk management is all about. I pass this lesson on to my students each year and try to ensure that future generations can learn from lessons I received the hard way. 

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture:
The life of an Agriculture Science Teacher is filled with joyous moments and while I have had more than my fair share, I want to focus on one specific time. A few years ago I was helping my students pick out market hogs to compete with at the major stock shows here in Texas. We were traveling through the Midwest, bouncing from farm to farm, when one of my students looked at me and said “You know Mr. Williamson, this is how people were meant to live.” While this simple statement seems so commonplace when I read it out loud to myself, he struck me at the time. It was the first time that I can recall “knowing” the good that I was doing. For one of my urban students to have found a true appreciation for the industry that I love means more to me than any one accomplishment that I have achieved on a personal basis.

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Hands of a Farmer: The Beginning – Jeff Klose

JKloseHands

The Beginning

Hello, My name is Jeff Klose. Along with my friend Brandon Williamson, I am reaching out to be the voice of the American Farmer. There are so many groups attacking U.S. agriculture today. PETA, The Humane Society of the United States, and others constantly attack a group of people who are working hard to feed and clothe the world. We understand that there are bad apples out there. We also understand that those apples are very few and very far between. We are here to set the record strait; to rally the troops; to be the voice calling out in the night for truth and justice; the voice that will stand up for the great thread that holds the fabric of America together: AGRICULTURE! This blog will be the beginning of a step toward telling the story of American Agriculture through the hands of Farmers, Ranchers, and Agri-business professionals across our great country. Each post will have a new set of farmers hands and we will tell their story. So today, we start with your host:

Hands Pictured Above: Jeff Klose Age: 33

Involvement in Agriculture: Currently an agriculture science teacher in Canyon, Texas. I was raised in central texas on a cattle, sheep, and goat ranch. While growing up, I learned a deep appreciation for the land and for hard work and animal welfare. I understand that the last thing farmers and ranchers and agriculturists want to do is hurt an animal because that is where our bread is buttered. I also understand that some things people may see as “in-humane” are much more humane that the proposed alternatives. I understand animals, animal behavior, and have spent a good deal of my life pondering the relationship between animals and humans and our dependence on animals for food, working partners, and companionship.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: The day the wool and mohair incentive act was taken out of the farm bill. My family made a living raising angora goats. The lies that were told about the wool and mohair incentive act that eventually lead to its demise were atrocious, hurtful, and ended my families way of life. I have never seen my father so upset at any other time. Knowing that he would have to change his entire operation, lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in animals because they were no longer worth a dime, and start over buying more expensive meat type goats just to try to continue to make a living was very hard on a 14 year old boy.

Most Joyus Moment in Agriculture: Watching my agriculture students be successful in high school and afterward. Seeing them grow up to be doctors, lawyers, businessmen, agriculturists, musicians, scientists, engineers, farmers, ranchers, journalists, mothers, fathers, and active community members who are working every day to spread the message of the importance of agriculture is AWESOME! Each day I get to teach students the truth about the most important industry in our great nation. And each day, I get to see the fruits of my labor come to fruition as they go out and help educate the world through their actions…

So what happens next?

Today, we take the fight to the streets. Today, we call upon the millions of farmers, ranchers and agribusiness-men across the nation to join us. Lift your voices, let us tell your stories, stand against the lies and untruth’s spoken by miseducated and ignorant people. Help us win the hearts and minds of people who are seeking the truth about production animal agriculture in the U.S. and how we are able to provide the safest, least expensive food supply in the world; and for the world!

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