Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Little John Meets Facebook

Little John, the most recent addition to our herd of Simmentals, has joined Facebook.  That's right, he has his own page here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Little-John-the-Simmental/208516512493321?ref=ts

The idea of having our calves communicate with the world via social media had been bouncing around in my brain for a bit, but then a good friend encouraged me to utilize the Facebook page feature as an outlet for both creative writing and agricultural advocacy.  I've had to remind myself not to start out too fast and furious because I don't want to get burnt out, nor do I want to burn out Little John's fans.

I hope this little experiment works but if not, I'll just do my best to learn and improve!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Agriculture: Education vs. Conversation

While participating in Agchat on Twitter, there have been a few times when I noticed a dichotomy in the discussion regarding agriculture and the general public.  Some people emphasize the importance of educating the general public, while others stress the need for having a conversation with consumers that are likely more educated about agriculture.

Certainly the internet has provided a wealth of information to a population that is further removed from agriculture than it was several decades ago.  Unfortunately, much of the information available is not reliable nor scientifically sound, and typically found in the form of emotionally charged editorials.  So despite the rise in interest leading to self-education by some of the population, the two percent of the population involved in agriculture have a responsibility to educate and dispel myths when necessary.

The Information Highway, though,  is not completely cluttered by intellectual litter.  As the X-Files put it, the truth is out there.  So when interacting with more knowledgeable yet inquisitive consumers, the conversation aspect becomes crucial.  I'm not a psychologist, but I don't think I've ever met anyone who enjoyed feeling like an idiot because someone talked down to them. Having a conversation with someone goes beyond education because you listen as much - if not more than - you speak. Any and all information during a conversation should be provided to consumers in such a way that they feel confident in your reliability as a source.

Most of my interaction with consumers occurs at local fairs and expositions.  At these events, I find it best to start with basic educational points, and as I gain a better understanding of the consumer's perspective and knowledge, I shift into a more conversational mode. I always try to end on a positive note because if it's the only interaction a consumer has with a producer, it needs to be the best one possible.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

One Divine Bovine

Every so often, I find myself thinking of the one that got away after leaving such an indelible impression on my heart. Maybe you've had a similar experience - wondering where that special someone is, what your life would be like if she was still in it, and how many heifers she had.  Yes, that's right, I'm talking about a cow. 

My special cow was a Belted Galloway named Evergreen Hydrangea. I met her while I was at the University of Maine.  She was donated as a calf to the Witter Farm's beef program.  She had some of the best genetics in the country and was structurally sound, too.  I helped show "Gea" as a yearling and again as a two-year-old. She placed second in her class at the Eastern States Exposition Belted Galloway show when she was two.  I still have the ribbon, and looking at it reminds me how hard I worked in the ring in an attempt to get her to the top.

Gea had an amazing disposition not only for a Beltie, but for a beef heifer in general.  She was quite docile and always approached the fence when I called her. Of course, she quickly retreated if I did not have my usual treat: a handful of grain.

After an unplanned pregnancy (a much shorter but apparently much-determined Inkberry knocked her up), Gea calved in at just over two years of age with a bull calf that I named Jujube.  Following Jujube's birth, the farm made the decision to flush Gea to maximize her genetic impact.  She responded very well to the treatment yet a horizontal bend in her cervix prevented university staff from completing retrieval of the embryos. I was devastated since her genetic potential would not be fully realized.

Soon after I graduated, Witter Farm experienced several changes and the farm's Belted Galloways were sold at the Northeast Livestock Exposition's purebred sale. I was not aware Gea was included until a few days before the sale so I didn't have enough time to discuss housing and finances or future herd plans with my father. I had no choice but to let her go. I don't know where she went (I could not even make a trip home for the auction), but I hope she has been providing someone with adorable and agreeable heifer calves, and more importantly, that she lived or is living a long and happy life filled with plenty of green grass, hay and handfuls of grain.