Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hey, Emily! Did you know it was National Ag Week?

Why yes, yes I did!

Wait? You couldn't tell I already knew it??

Is it because it's now THURSDAY, and I'm finally writing about some things that happened last SATURDAY?


Anyway, in case you missed it, Jack and I celebrated National Ag Day (which was yesterday) by playing tractor family:

And while I don't have anything truly profound or crazy to share with you in honor of National Agriculture Week, I do want to share with you that I have emerged from my mom coma, slapped on a pair of heels and will be doing my "thing" not once, BUT TWICE this week! 


I'm fancy.

And, yep, the twins have gotten some road time and exposure from these endeavors.

Last Saturday, the girls and I loaded up for the Illinois State University campus in Bloomington. Each year, mini vans invade the campus for three days. The Hearts at Home National Conference happens here every March, and before I became a mom, I completely thought this sounded like the most bizarre concept. Ever. While the mini van stereotype is true (why am I surprised every year I go that there are a lot of sensible gals out there who rock the mini van?), this conference is anything but bizarre. Moms from across the country gather to hear New York Times bestselling authors and nationally heralded speakers and experts who range in their expertise from parenting to marriage to technology to fashion. It's really awesome. I have attended, but considering my girls are pretty close to the source and, while this is a mom conference, there are NO KIDS, I was delighted to volunteer for Illinois Farm Families in their booth.

Genius. Moms are overwhelmingly the primary grocery getters of the family. It's a mom's conference.  We're moms. Here's the proof: babies. 


Plus, I got to go with Holly, my dear, dear friend. We spent the day jiggling babies, changing babies, all the while advocating for agriculture. It was the ultimate in multi tasking. The genius marketing we had there: BABIES. Twin babies. We were flocked to like a moth to a flame. 

In between answering the ever present, "yes they are twins," "yes, they are mine," and "no they are NOT identical," questions, we were challenged to answer hot topic questions. Moms here are from all over. Urban, rural, Midwestern, etc., but they all want to know and to buy and to feed their kids the best way possible. We had moms who wondered about GMOs, even though Holly and I felt like we were in a Jimmy Kimmel moment when one sweet mama offered that GMOs were sprayed on and were killing her bees. Huh? Holly wowed me with her knowledge and rattled off the big word chemical that had been linked to bee health. However, it really made me think of this awesome video:

I'm digressing.

But it was funny, right?

Anyway, we had moms who just wanted freezer beef. They wanted to have the opportunity to run out to their freezers and enjoy a steak dinner on a whim, as I did on Monday night. 

We had folks who wanted their questions about antibiotics answered. 

We had moms who walked by and rolled their eyes. Yes, we had a rather large (read: life sized) picture of a rather dusty older gentleman as our poster child (not the greatest choice...could we change that, please?), and we had no giveaways to truly entice them to come up to us, but we had babies, and sparkling personality and a breadth of knowledge, and were able to make a few connections and calm a few misconceptions. 

It was also a little bit of This Is Your Life, Emily Webel Edition! Friends from junior high, high school, college, early adulthood, my old church, my former moms name it, I had a buddy there. It was awesome.

After a brief side trip to some stores I never get to go to, I headed home, happy, exhausted, and with aching feet. It was so worth it to be amongst the people.

This week, being National Agriculture Week, is perfectly wrapped up with the Women in Agriculture conference. Holly, Deanna and I will be podcasting...deep breath...LIVE at the last session. I have the important details covered: I know what I'm wearing, and the diaper bag is packed. However, what to say...we'll be working on that tomorrow. Never fear, friends, if you're a listener, our latest podcast is "short," and it's 30 minutes. We're nothing, if not chatty!! You can listen to it here.

So, in answer to the initial title question, yes! I do know it's National Ag Week, and YES! I am celebrating it...just actually doing something about advocacy in agriculture to honor it.

How genius, don't you think?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dear County Market,

In our small town, we are very lucky to have the convenience of your supermarket.

Your market, while not as large as ones in metropolitan areas and without a vast selection of every possible food imaginable, is so wonderful to have in our community. Your staff is friendly, helpful, efficient, and kind. When I needed cilantro, you got it out of the back (fresh off the truck, mind you) for me. When I needed birthday cupcakes for my daughter, you made them with less than 24 hours notice. I recognize checkers as parents who sit on the bleachers during basketball games, and your store's size is small enough for me to navigate with my toddler and twins, without the fear of losing anyone, or my mind for that matter.

Your store's location, good coupons, and impact on the local economy keeps me coming back.

Until yesterday.

I sent Joe, my husband, to your store to pick up a few last minute items for my daughter's birthday party. While we were prepping for a happy day, he came home, fuming.

Joe is an agricultural professional. We used to be beef producers, and while currently do not operate a commercial cattle business, we understand the impact fear mongering and anti-agriculture marketing places on local farmers. Your company, based in Quincy, Illinois has decided to hop on the bandwagon of fear based, inaccurate, and shameful advertising for their meat products.

The checker at your store, while thanking Joe for coming in, handed him this card. She handed Joe, a Beef Quality Assurance Certified producer, who has taken multiple Beef classes in college from Tom Carr, one of the nation's top experts in all things beef, this card:

The picture is not the best, but you developed it, you should know what it says. However, let me tell you how it makes us feel.

We are angry.

We are confused.

We are frustrated.

We are fuming.

I'm not shaming the checker. She was just doing her job. However, your company, as I stated before, based in America's heartland where food is produced safely and efficiently, has decided to confuse consumers.

This card seems friendly, almost fancy. One may feel bad tossing it in the trash, as it is made of heavy, glossy stock. The size of a business card, this card could be tucked into a mom's wallet and referred to as she navigates the meat counter. It is simply worded, elegantly composed, and, from my layman's perspective, a marketing home run.

Billed as an FAQ for consumers for your new Wild Harvest product line (antibiotic and hormone free meat), its underlying message is anti conventional agriculture, anti food choice, and offensive to those in the beef production industry.

In your attempt to give consumers more information, more choice, more options, your message has stated that conventional beef producers, those who follow guidelines of animal husbandry, tend to their animals with the utmost care, are doing it incorrectly, and thus, will harm these consumers if their product is purchased.

While you concisely stated that "the animals raised and harvested for this program have never received antibiotics or added hormones-ever!" (Note the exclamation point. Your grammar, not mine.), you mention that those animals who do receive antibiotics are pulled out of your pool to be used in this program. However, you failed to mention that when animals, whether beef cattle, poultry, pork, etc., do receive antibiotics, by the time they are ready to be harvested and in the meat case, those antibiotics are out of the animal's system, causing no harm to the consumer. In other words, they once had used antibiotics, but are now free of any trace of them. While I'm not condoning juicing up animals on hormones, or using medicine at a rate that is unnecessary, your advertising is misleading.

Strike that, your advertising is not just misleading, it's yet another example of fear based advertising, confusing consumers, and painting a picture that conventional agricultural practices are going to hurt folks.

Another sticking point I have is the statement, "Animals must be humanely raised and handled safely at all times."

That's a requirement for this new Wild Harvest product line.

Once again, while you are not directly stating that conventional producers are not being kind with their animal husbandry practices, the insinuation is there. The tone is there, and if it's one thing I have learned as a mother, a writer, a friend, it's not always the words that are said, it's the tone in which it's expressed that can cause alarm.

I am all for food choice. While I am one to defend the industry, I am not so brazen to believe that everyone should buy what I buy. A family must do what is right for themselves, but this advertising is insinuating that our former livelihood, our community's heartbeat, is incorrect, unsafe, and inhumane.

And that is unacceptable.

I charge you, County Market and SuperValu to share openly, in just as pleasant of a light, conventional meat practices. I want to have an FAQ for the other choice I have, and I want it in soft colors on glossy paper.

I want you to continue to support our local producers, or I will have to forfeit my business from your store.

Emily Webel
Confessions of a Farm Wife blogger and Agricultural Advocate

Monday, March 2, 2015

On Being the Oldest

March 2, 2015

Dear Anna,

Today you are ten.



There are parts of me that can hardly believe that the baby I brought home, the one with the chubby cheeks and big pink bow, is now holding another baby with chubby cheeks and a pink bow. You're doing this without being asked, just because you love your little sisters. And, let's be honest, you could tell I need help.

That's what's so amazing about you, Anna. Even though you're freshly ten, there are times that you act so wise beyond your years. We expect so much from you and then, in the same breath, feel so guilty about it. Just a fourth grader, you are so helpful, respectful, responsible. You do things for us without being asked. While I know that our family dynamic requires you to be responsible for your laundry, your retainer, your homework folder, shower, animals, you name it, I think if we would have just had you, you would have done the same. You're just that type of person.

But, when you're not, and you act like just a "normal" fourth grader, I get frustrated, and I'm sorry for that. You're just TEN, but I often forget that you're still a little girl. Maybe it's because you're innately responsible, but maybe it's because you are big enough to sit in the front seat beside me, wear the same size shoe as I do, and almost look me dead in the eye.

It's almost too much.

This growing up is happening too fast.

While we started out two peas in a pod (yes, you cried every single time I left the house for the first three years of your life), you and your dad have forged a special bond throughout the years. He's who you confide in. He's who you look up to with hopeful eyes. He's the guy who speaks the language you understand. He's a first born, too, so he understands how you feel most of the time. He speaks livestock talk and understands the bond you feel with animals.

And that's okay.

It's actually really great.

I know that while your dad is who you need most of the time, our bond is still strong. We have an unspoken one. The trust I have in you to be my helper, the respect I have for you as someone I can have a meaningful conversation with, and your sweet, tender heart is our bond. You don't need me to do things for you like the little kids, you can take care of your own business. (except when it's time to make your bed when you've fought with your covers that night or put your ponytail in!).

Our bond is one that is easy, because it has been easy to be your mom. You have made it that way, and I'm ever so grateful. Sometimes, however, I feel like because you've been so fun to be around, easy to discipline, reason with, take care of,  I have forgotten to enjoy all the little things and appreciate all the good and light and sweetness you bring to our family. It's just always there, and like so many things, I take that for granted.

But I am so grateful for you, Anna, and I want you to know that, especially on this special day.

You are my oldest. My first. You are the one who made me a mom first. You are the one I chose over my career, finishing my master's degree, everything. I chose to be your mom first and only. The other kids are just as important, but when I had you, everything changed, and I am so thankful for that. Being a mom has been the best decision, next to marrying your dad (of course!), I ever made. I thank God that He made me your mom.

While being a mom to you is easy, being the oldest in this family is not. Being the oldest around here often times means that you have to wait the longest, do the most, handle a lot more. That looks harsh as I type it out, but I know that these skills will serve you well. You'll be one of those people who can survive the first year of college with clean clothes and a stable psyche. You're going to be one of those friends who doesn't put up with drama, and not just because of your laid back personality, but because you've grown up with a family who doesn't have time for drama.

I have been your mom for ten years, sweetheart, and it seems like ten minutes. I can't believe that in the same span of time that I have been your mother today, in just another blink, you'll be 20. An adult. A college kid, with lots of life to live and lots of potential in front of you.

I'm so happy I was chosen to be your mom, and I'm so thankful you're my oldest. You started it all, kiddo. We hit the jackpot with you, that's why we kept going, right?

Thank you for being you. Keep being you. Your dad and I love you more each day, if that's even possible.

Happy birthday.