Category Archives: Agriculture

Hands of a 5th generation farmer: Scott Stedje

Name: Scott Stedje
Age: 33
Involvement in Agriculture: Last year my family celebrated 100 years of farming and ranching. I am the 5th generation to farm and the 4th to live in my house. Not only do we farm cotton, wheat and corn but also run yearling cattle and cow/calf pairs in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles. I live in a small Norwegian community north of Gruver, TX called Oslo. For some crazy reason my family sold land in Iowa and moved down to the wide open spaces and break out farm land; land that was said to be unfit for human life in a report sent to the President of the United States at the time.
My grandfather had two brothers and during WWII they drew straws to see which two would go to war and who would stay home- and we wonder why they were called the greatest generation. My grandfather drew short straw and he stayed as the other two went to war. One brother was KIA in war and the other came back after it was over.
Another crazy idea they had was to drill water wells and irrigate farm. So this is why I spend hours working on sprinklers and irrigation motors.
What is Your Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: This is a loaded question because we all know there are discomforts in agriculture. Droughts, bug infestations, and the rising cost of equipment and inputs are just part of the game. Last year we had 3.29 inches of moisture and this year we have had .02. So I am not sure if I have had my most difficult moment, Lord I HOPE SO. 2011 will go down as the worst year farming since my great-great grandfather Stedje. We have no dryland crop, the pasture country never turned green and we could not keep irrigated crops from burning up from heat and wind. We all lost a lot of equity and banks started using a 4 letter word that is a little longer than four, Liquidity. But just like every other farmer, we pray for moisture and prepare to give them hell in 2012.
Another difficult moment was I had to take over the farm when I was a Jr. in college. My father made me pay for my own college so that means I was broke just like 90% of all other college students. The day before he passed away, December 23, I had given plasma to have enough money to go to penny beer. Boy is college rough. A week later, I remember sitting down and paying end of year bills. I broke down and cried like a little girl because I have never seen numbers that used that many commas. My family pushed me to graduate and 1 ½ years, later my uncle came up and handed me a check to pay off student loans. He said as he gave me the check “This is what our family does, your father would have paid off your college just as his father did when he graduated.
What has been you most joyous moment in Agriculture: I find joy when I wake up and look across the open prairie and see a momma cow drop a calf out; to smell the moisture in the air and know God is sending rain; to walk out into my field and pick sweet corn for super. Things move a heck of a lot faster now, but also a heck of a lot slower than other parts of the country. In the winter 2007/2008 we had 4 inch rain and then a foot of snow, good wet snow and stayed white till spring. I hit my first “home run” that summer; we averaged 66 bushels on dryland and 74 on irrigated. The original Stedje section 93, a dryland farm, did 83 bushels across the entire 640 acres. It was a great feeling knowing I was feeding more people than I ever had.

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Hands of a Farmer: Thomas Epting

Name: Thomas Epting   Age: 26
What is your involvement in agriculture: I teach agriculture science in a far West Texas town where each day seems to move at a pace that reminds me to enjoy God’s gifts and blessings.

I have been involved in some form of agriculture my entire life. I was fortunate enough to be raised on a 365 acre piece of land that has been in my family for more than 150 years and has been used for production agriculture the entire time. I have seen the area around my families land turn from fields of grain and pastures full of fat calves running around, into gated communities, apartment complexes and one acre ʺranchettsʺ.

I decided while in high school to become an agriculture science teacher because I understand that the majority of the population has little to no knowledge of where their food and fiber come from and I want them to! My mission is to give students the gift of knowledge about agriculture, and also to become great leaders who work hard, are ethical, fair, and honest in their life.
What has been your most difficult moment in agriculture: My most difficult moment in agriculture has been the death of my mom in August of 2002. I lost someone who was very important to me. After she passed away, I kept looking back at my past and I was angry. In my mind, I was at a stock show every time I got bad news about my mom and her fight with a horrible disease. From the time she got sick until she died, I felt like if I hadn’t been at a stock show, I could have been helping her fight. So I lost my passion for agriculture and what I was doing in it, I lost my goals. But with the support of my family and with God, I was eventually able to pick myslef up and get back into the way of life that I knew I was meant to live, and the way of life I had dreamed of.

What is your most joyous moment in agriculture: Like a lot of others, I have experienced several joyous moments in agriculture. One is know that I help provide opportunities for students to learn about the greatest industry of all and expressing that it is a great way to live. Others included knowing that every morning when I wake up, drink my coffee and listen to the sounds that God gives us, I am going to have a great day. The experiences in agriculture have taught me to work efficently, be independent and to live my life so the preacher doesnt have to lie at my funeral.

Isaiah 41:10 – So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strenghten you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

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Hands of a Farmer: William P. “Billy” Hallman

 

 

An interview submitted by Cara Scogin Olson, of her granddaddy, William P. “Billy” Hallman: A man who is washed by the blood of the lamb, and is living proof of the abundant grace given by God.

Involvement in Agriculture: “We’ve always been involved in agriculture. I was born in 1917. When I was a child, just a little boy, we picked cotton on our farm in Grandview. Dad had a cotton gin. We had 5 or 6 Jersey cattle. My brother, LeRoy and I milked cattle all the time. We’d milk that many, you know. We’d bottle the milk, and then deliver to people’s houses. Some people wanted pints, some wanted quarts, you know. One time, we made chocolate milk, half pints, and ooh, it was good milk. We’d buy Hersey’s chocolate syrup; buy it by the gallon jug. You’d just add to it what you’d need, and pour it in the little half-pint bottles. We’d sell them to the café’s for a nickel and they sold them for a dime. During the depression, Leroy and I would pop popcorn and sell it at the rodeo. At the end of the night, LeRoy and I would go into the bathroom and lock the door, and sit on the floor and count all of the nickels and dimes we made. We could make more money than a grown man with a week’s wages sometimes at those rodeos, popping popcorn. Later on, I went to school at the University of Texas in Austin and graduated with a business degree in 1938. I got a job over here in the Court House in Cleburne on the 1st of January, 1939. Stayed here three years and worked in the tax office. That’s of course, where I met Momma. The first time I saw her, she was sitting on top of a desk with her legs crossed and I thought those legs were the most beautiful legs I had ever seen. I said hello and learned her name was Ida Ruth James. I went home that day and told my mother that I was going to marry Ida Ruth and of course, we did marry two years later in 1941. But I guess that’s beside the point. We moved up to Amarillo, after we were married. That Amarillo job was a land job, see, with the Oil Development Company, a division of Santa Fe. We had thousands of acres, or I don’t know how many there were, but most of them were wheat or corn and we got a 1/3 of everything and keep all of the minerals, and then would sell the land for Santa Fe. Santa Fe owned barrels of money up there; no telling how much. Did that for about a year, and then came back and worked for Trader’s Oil Mill out of Fort Worth. Trader’s Oil Mill bought cottonseed all over the country. Manufactured the oil, and pressed the oil out of it and used it for cattle feed… you know what cottonseed cake is, don’t you? It’s just cottonseed meal cake. They press all of the oil out of the seed and then they take the seed and grind it up into meal; had the consistency of flour, what it was. It was good. They would make ProFlo; protein flour made from cottonseed meal. I sold that darn stuff out as far as Atlanta, Georgia, and let’s see, North Carolina, and I’d be gone about three weeks on those trips. After about a year for working for Trader’s Oil Mill, I entered the service for WWII, as Lieutenant JG Officer of an LST Naval ship. After the war in 1946, I came back to work for Trader’s Oil Mill, and then got a job with National Cash Registry, selling accounting machines. That was a good job. I quit that to start my office supply business I had here in Cleburne, TX and had Hallman Office Supply until I retired in ‘68. First Angus Cattle I ever bought were in 1967. We had Angus cattle and cut and sold Coastal Bermuda hay up until we finally sold out of all of the registered Angus in the mid 90’s. My son, Jim and I still have Coastal Bermuda hay that we sell on our farm here, south of Cleburne.

We’ve had a good life, we’ve enjoyed it… I’ve had a great life, myself, personally. I mean, I’m just thinking about Momma, with her, that’s been the best part of it. 70 years; I can’t believe that. Very blessed in many, many ways, and I’m grateful for it.”

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: “And the worst time; I don’t know when that would be. I imagine the worst time would be this dern drought we had this last year, summer 2011. By far the worst time, because hay was so high, and we didn’t make a bale of hay. It was a hard time for a lot of people.”

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture: “In 1969, we drove down to a ranch in Grandview, drove in on top of hill and you could see the whole darn ranch from that hill. Prettiest ranch you ever saw. All 738 acres of solid Coastal Bermuda pasture, divided up into 12 pastures, and every one of them had water in it. I just knew I had to have it. So my brother, Leroy and I bought it together. Put some good registered Angus cattle on it and then sold out in 1980. But that day on that hill was probably the happiest memory in my farm life.”

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Hands of a Farmer: Wayne Cheney

Sometimes, opportunities come along that spellbind us, change the way we look at life and agriculture, and enrich our lives beyond measure.  Today, we honor Wayne Cheney.  A strong man who is a great depression survivor, WWII Navy Vet, former farmer, former ag teacher, proud husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather.  59 years of marriage, 85 years of agriculture, and our first video submission.  Thanks to Brandon and Sheila Williamson for submitting this video.  Keep in mind, Mr. Cheney is in a hospital bed only because he was about to go into surgery.  He is fine, and should be back to himself in no time! I love the impromptu discussion that breaks out after our typical questions have been asked!  What a pioneer for agriculture! Below the video is a personal note from the Williamson family.

Tonight’s post has a dual purpose.  As always HOAF seeks to share the stories of the American Agriculturist, however this post has special meaning to us.  We post it as a continual legacy to the wonderful man we know as “Pappa” in hopes that one day my two year old son, Blake, can look back at the wonderful example of Christian leadership, hard work, and fatherly love portrayed by his Great-grandfather, Wayne Cheney.


-With love, Brandon and Sheila Williamson

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Hands of a Farmer: Whitney Jones

Whitney Jones

Whitney Jones

Agriculture is certainly generational.  Tonight’s featured farmer proves that Agvocacy is as well!  Everyone welcome Whitney Jones.

Hands Pictured Above: Whitney Jones  Age: 29

Involvement in Agriculture: I attended my first pig sale at 10 days old. It’s pretty much history after that. My daddy was in 4-H and FFA and it was only natural that I follow suit. I showed, I competed, I spoke, I served as an officer and, most of all, I learned. I learned what it means to have pride in what you do. I learned that without hard work, success means nothing. I learned that unless you want to be hungry and naked, you better take notice of agriculture. My degree is in ag. ed, and even though I teach English, I still strongly support the agricultural community. My daddy still raises show pigs and I still help out every chance I get. I also am fortunate enough to teach in a school and community where agriculture and agricultural education is fostered. I teach seniors so I take special pride in helping prepare them for the future. I direct 90% of my students to major in something ag related.I tell them it doesn’t matter what school they go to, the ag department will be the most helpful, most welcominig department of them all. Ag people are universal. We hold the same moral standards, the same love of people and the inborn ability to nurture those around us. I know that by sending my students into an ag related major I am setting them up for success, opportunity.

Most Difficult Moment in Agriculture: The day I had to hang up my blue and gold jacket for the last time was one of the saddest days for me. I was never someone who hated Official Dress. I remember distinctly the feeling I had when I first slipped my blue and gold jacket on. An overwhelming sense of pride washed over me as I reflected on all who had worn the colors of the FFA before me. Deep stuff for a 9th grader, but, man, I loved that jacket. When I had to hang it up for the last time, my heart broke a little. Maybe I didn’t realize when I hung it up that day that I would never wear it again, but days or weeks later it set in. I was no longer a current FFA member, I was now a former member. The same feelings hit when I ended my career as a 4-H member. My last State Round-up was bittersweet. I was proud of all I had learned and accomplished, but this part of my life was over. In fact, I remember calling my dad from my dorm my first week at college and asking him if he would buy me a steer. He didn’t tell me no right away…he missed 4-H and FFA as much as I did…it was hard on all of us to move on. My parents and I often spent more time at the barn or on the road for an event than we did at home. The greatest lessons I learned were taught to me in a showbarn and the best conversations I had with my parents were often held as we traveled the wee hours of the morning to a stockshow or competition. We all three felt a giant void when my days of blue and gold and clovers were done.

Most Joyous Moment in Agriculture: My most joyous moments in agriculture have always involved my daddy. I remember playing in the sand at stockshows long before I was able to show. He worked hard to instill a love of agriculture in me and he did a good job of it. My parents were at every event I entered, at every contest I competed in and they cheered me when I did well and dried my tears when I didn’t. Maybe this is why agriculture has always been synonymous with the word “family.” I firmly believe that one of the big reasons I didn’t get into trouble or get sucked into the wrong crowd as a youngster is because of agricultural organizations and the influence they had on my family. I didn’t have time to get into trouble (well, other than showbarn pranks…) because I was always busy. My parents always knew what I was doing and who I was doing it with. I became a responsible young adult because from a young age I knew what it meant to put something else’s needs before your own. When we were at a show, it was simply understood that no one ate or rested until the animals were fed and cared for. They came first. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my stockshow days were preparing me for motherhood. Being a mom has been my greatest adventure and though it hasn’t always been easy, putting my son’s needs ahead of my own is not a struggle for me. I get giddy at the thought of my son being involved in agriculture. He can be anything he wants to be, and I want him to know that I’ll always support him, but I also want him to develop a love of agriculture just as my parents did for me.

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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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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

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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

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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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