Friday, August 15, 2014

The Majority Heads to School

Like everyone, I'm sure, you've seen a lot of cute pictures on Facebook, showcasing new backpacks, new running shoes, a new year.

We did the same. It's been an exciting day so far, and it's only 8:15. My girls headed to school: a fourth grader (who has a new, excited, and YOUNG teacher. I think I could be her mother.), a second grader (who's best friend is in the SAME CLASS!!!), and--deep breath--a KINDERGARTENER!! Amelia is ready for kindergarten, but is kindergarten ready for her???

However, the biggest excitement (despite the fact that I will only have ONE child at home for a few weeks…before I have two more, but whatever.), is that Joe has headed back to the classroom as well! Yes, Farmer Joe, my farmer, has made a leap into the educational world, after 7 years of "just farming" (side note: I hate saying, "just farming," because farming is full time and hard work, but when we started our endeavor as a farm family, it was to be on a semi-part time basis with a steady job and paycheck on the side. Hopefully, I haven't offended any full timers, because, believe me, I get it.). Anyway, Joe started his career 15 years ago as an ag teacher. He loved it. He was good at it. He was moved up the "ladder," so to speak, until the economy tanked, and schools ran out of money to hire his services. He not only taught kids in the classroom, but he supervised teachers in the state of Illinois, and then moved on to develop curriculum and trained teachers across the country…from Delaware to California to Texas. He presented in front of the USDA in Washington, DC…he was a big deal. He is a big deal, and this step back into the classroom makes me want to BURST with pride. 

My dude is a smart one, and it's time for him to show it to the community. 

Plus, he's pretty cute. Please tell me you like his pattern-on-pattern tie…he wasn't convinced, but like a good husband, he wore it!! 

So the majority of my house was gone by 7:30, and that is just plain strange. A good strange. Although it's weird to have Amelia, Jack's partner in crime, gone all day, I'm not the mom that cries at the bus stop. I am made of steel, friends…just kidding. However, I taught. I know that the girls are getting the best love and the great experiences all kids need in school. I loved school, too, even though I cried every day of first grade, but we won't go into that today. I loved it so much that I became a teacher. I think that's another reason why I'm so excited for Joe to start his new chapter. As a teacher, I bloomed. I made lifelong friends with my colleagues and parents. Heck, they even bought me diamond earrings for my wedding day…that's the type of relationships I had as a teacher. I'm so hopeful that Joe will find that bond with his fellow staffers, as being a farmer can be a lonely profession. 

This is going to be good.

So, we have a big day, my boy and I, as the majority is out of here. Right now, he's singing as he watches for birds in his Batman cape. He needs this time, too, before more changes rock his world, but for now, I'm so excited that my people have embarked on another year…and it's not just because I don't have to make lunch for more than two people.

Happy first day of school, my loves.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When Did Canned Food Drives Become Controversial?

Oh friends.

It's the last week of summer vacation here, and like the last few days of summer fun, my spark has waned. Maybe it's because I'm entering the hardest part of carrying twins. Maybe it's because I'm ready for a change. Maybe it's just because there are times I want to just beat my head against a wall because I feel as if I STILL can't advocate for conventional agriculture properly.

Case in point: yesterday. As I sat at a staff meeting at work, hearing all the great things our United Way staffers have been working on (have I ever mentioned how great it is to work for an organization that, with the help of the community and generous corporate matches raises roughly 12 million dollars a year? In just PEORIA, Illinois? That's pretty impressive.), we reached the point in our meeting where we discussed our rather large scale food drive that is organized in conjunction with our campaign's kickoff.

A very sweet lady on our staff raised her hand then and asked if we could please have the grocery stores and drop off points specify that we would prefer organic canned goods so that, and I quote, "healthy foods can go into our family's mouths."


As I sat there, with a few glances from some coworkers who know me well and read this blog…I froze. This was work. This was where I was a literacy project manager, not an agriculture advocate. However, my life as a spokesperson (well, the few years anyway) flashed before my eyes. Yet, I was frozen. FROZEN. Both of my bosses were there at the table, do I dare create waves? And was she SERIOUS? Isn't a canned tomato a canned tomato, and not a bag of Fritos? And weren't we feeding the hungry? Would they really turn down a food donation bag if it were all conventionally produced.

My head was swimming, and for what seemed like hours, I sat there, mouth agape, and still receiving looks like, "you're going to say something, aren't you?"

Finally, I pulled myself together and said something like, "As a conventional agriculturalist, I absolutely disagree with this, food is food."

And that was it.

Now, if you know me, I am rarely at a loss for words, but I hardly knew where to begin, and again, I WAS AT WORK. And since when did canned food drives become a battle ground for conventional vs. organic food? And WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Why couldn't I speak up for myself, our plight, our beliefs, research I have quoted…


I blame it on pregnancy, but in reality, it was because I felt painted in a corner. I wasn't sure how to approach the topic in a staff meeting. It wasn't the appropriate time to have a discussion about organic vs. conventional practice and choice and statistics, etc. Even though I was frustrated about my lack of a poignant statement in regards to the food wars, I guess what frustrated me was that what she was suggesting that we, as a staff, as a marketing campaign, to market a more "healthy" campaign to our very generous donors of food. A choice was asked to be set out in the forefront of the canned food drive, and it was one that was based on false pretenses.

Now, I'm NOT contending that you're not allowed to go out and buy canned organic tomatoes and give them to the needy. I'm not contending that organic farmers are any less of a farmer than we are, but to market it as more healthy is FALSE. A tomato is a tomato. Wash it, peel it, cook it, dump it out of the can. It doesn't take a powerful statement to plead the case that a can of tomatoes (organic or conventional) in a food pantry basket is more healthy for a family than Cheetos or shells and processed cheese. However, to market it as healthy from a non-agricultural perspective, just an emotional plea is FALSE.

So why couldn't I have said that yesterday?

Oh well. The food controversy wages on, my friends, and it's not just what you put in your basket for your mouth. We're moving onto the needy.

So much more work to be done…if I just had the energy.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hitting the Fork in the Road

So I'm a day late and dollar short (thanks for the phrase, Kathleen!), and thus my happy anniversary post to my husband…a day late.

And I was not a dollar short, but quarantined to my home this week, so not even a card was exchanged.

However, we enjoyed a lovely time yesterday at my cousin's beautiful wedding, and dined on my uncle's dime, so Joe was off the hook for dinner! Thanks, Uncle Jeff!!
Us, August 2, 2014

While the same exact date, eleven years ago, Joe and I were truly quite different people, in different places (geographically and career wise), and had the whole rest of our lives ahead of us. Watchingmy cousin and her new husband (who are the sweet, tender age of 23 and 24…was I EVER that young???), exchange their vows and enjoy the night, I couldn't help but replay our night, eleven years ago. Dancing, good food, good friends, a beautiful ceremony (despite a little hail…yes, HAIL), but where we were in that moment is what got to me.

And us, August 2, 2003

Joe was poised to be a force in ag education and training. I was teaching, but was ready to start my first semester in an educational administration program, tracking me to be a principal in five years. We traveled; we ate out; we even had a pool in our backyard.


A pool. And a principal? Who the heck did I think I was? Grad school was college without the fun. And a pool. Honestly...

Anyway, looking at Joe and me eleven years ago and comparing us to who we are today would be unfair. Life has thrown us curve balls, has changed our paths, has exhausted and excited us. In our eleven years, we started with a plan, but that's okay. However, this year has caused us to look at each other and feel a day late, and a dollar short (sometimes literally). Our life plan has changed. Our life path has hit a fork, and we are standing at this crossroads, hand in hand, but looking at it in bewilderment.

This has been a hard year, one for the books, actually. But the thing is, when you're with someone who you know has your best interest and your love in the forefront of his decisions, even if you're not on the same page with all the time…maybe not even in the same book, for that matter, you can face that fork and forge through together.

Joe and I covet your prayers. Our marriage is strong, but with trials come stress, with change comes consternation, with great big scary life altering events come big fat hairy exciting blessings.

It's been an interesting and unpredictable eleven years, Joe Webel…and we're planners! In fact, right after we got engaged, we told my parents, we shared with friends, and then scheduled an appointment with the financial advisor. Such a romantic…

So, in spite of our stress, in spite of our exhausting and overwhelmingly full household, here's to many, many more forks in the road. Let's keep plugging away, surviving, thriving and planning only to have our plans laughed at, but let's keep doing it together.

I love you, Farmer Joe.