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Freedom to Choose, Freedom to Farm

October 29, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m watching a much larger Dominique hen walk over for a drink. As she reaches for the water, one of the duckling youngsters reaches out and bops her right on top the comb. She stops, as if thinking whether to retaliate, and the duckling bops her on the head again. She was a giant next to the young duckling, who was stretching out to be as big as possible. The Dominique hen shook her head and walked away.

I have the Muscovy duck and her three remaining offspring transferred to a more-outdoor, open bottom pen that is – reality – two dog crates opened and placed close together. The little ducks can reach through but not get out, and to help keep the pen dry, small watering containers are placed OUTSIDE the pen. The ducklings are quite bold with other feathered creatures – some might say they’re bullies. Some might say they’re just being youngsters. Some might wonder what that has to do with choosing and farming.

Today is a day to pause and spend a few minutes remembering Troy Nealey. He’s never far from thoughts, but it was this day in 2006 that his life ended far too soon. He chose to serve as a Marine, and chose to benefit youth showmanship in his area if he didn’t come home. So often freedom to choose is taken for granted, and thankfully, most choices aren’t so serious.

Those waving the banner of food and farm choices may or may not have seen the news release.

Rose Acre Farms, the second-largest egg producer in the United States, is looking to operate a 2,600-acre farm with 3 million laying hens near the community of Bouse in La Paz County, Arizona. The operation would be Rose Acre Farms’ first in Arizona.

The La Paz Economic Development Corporation told Parker Live that Rose Acre Farms has entered into an agreement to purchase land in rural La Paz County, from Arizona Public Service (APS).

“We are delighted that APS wanted to ensure this would be an excellent project for La Paz County and the surrounding communities,” said Vincent “Skip” Becker of La Paz Economic Development Corporation. Becker added that the first phase of the project would add 80-100 jobs in the area, including “comprehensive employee benefits”. Rose Acre Farms will invest more than $80,000,000 dollars to complete that first phase, according to Becker.

The project includes a 3 million bird layer farm, a pullet farm, a rail spur and a feed milling operation.

Many say they want small farm products. Most are not choosing accordingly. $80million dollars adding 3 million layers and a pullet farm with their own feed milling operation in an area that is not grain country means they’re seeing something that many are not. While people say they don’t want volume “factory farms” that’s exactly what they’re buying, and poised to buy more of. More people buying in the southwest, an easy ship to California as poultry farmers there adapt to regulations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo what’s that mean for the small place with 50, 100 hens? It means consumers need to choose if they want those choices. Places like us can’t compete on a state of the art operation with millions of dollars and, no matter regulations, they know people will buy. If the market dictated it then regulations aren’t needed!

You see- if choices alone made a difference, and there were 100million people ready to make a change and buy direct, that would change. The fact is that’s not happening, and when compared to bottom dollar of under $2 for a dozen eggs then – well – that’s what most will buy. Is that a bad thing? Not if it’s all about the money you save, I suppose. If it’s just about the money, as I hear in so many comment sections, then why is that couple dollars for a dozen eggs such a big deal? It’s not about the money is it?

Freedom of choices means there is also freedom to farm. Like the young duckling, there’s no fear of the much bigger chicken. A properly timed and aimed thwack and it might get a few to think and alter their actions, but most will continue on their day. There’s too much to do to think about the cost of food, let alone where it comes from. That, too, is freedom to choose, and hopefully is in line with words.

May we long have such luxury to make that an ‘unimportant’ decision. For those providing food choices, it’s not unimportant at all – it’s a means of survival.

Many say that there’s room for all, and yet are quick to throw small producers under the bus. All agriculture depends on consumer choices, but those choices must meet with action. That action IS your choice.

Unique Gift Baskets with a Personal Touch

October 28, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany folks are already thinking Christmas – partly to stretch out the expenses, partly to find good deals early! I’m about the Food, Farm, Life here on the blog – and this might hit all three! Sometimes ideas come easy, sometimes not so much. Over the next couple of months check back for gift ideas – not all from SlowMoneyFarm - to find the personal solution to your gift needs! (pssst – for those interested we have gift certificates too!)

Gift baskets can present themselves in many ways. If you’re looking for ideas of Christmas consider these unique gift baskets whether you purchase them made or use the inspiration to create your own. The baskets here are all listed as under $50.

Sports interest baskets can vary from the Golf Lover’s Basket and fisherman’s basket to auto racing or football. If there is not a commercial answer to the gift basket for a sport it is very easy to create one, simply by putting together items related to that sport, be it rodeo to hockey to sailing!

State baskets or those from a region are wonderful ways to share with others within the state or region and even better to send to those outside your home area! A basket from New England may have maple syrup, pancake mix, fruit preserves, coffee, tea and honey all grown in New England. For those who think the northeast is Boston and New York City this is a visual and tasty way to show them otherwise! Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, Colorado and Oklahoma are just a few with plenty of results on a Google search from farm grown fruits and cheeses to crafts. As people become aware of many farmers stepping into the direct marketing of their own products it’s a chance to not only give a wonderful gift but support financially the farms producing it. Personal interest gift baskets can include relaxing items for her or grill master gift baskets for him. There’s gift baskets for horse lovers and coffee enthusiasts. Gardening, tea, chocolate and pets are other popular gift baskets. With a little looking online you can find not just pets, not just dog but the specific breed of dog for someone’s gift basket. Baskets with three types of honey, handmade soaps and other items especially homemade items are popular.

Professional interest gift baskets can be directly or indirectly about the recipient’s job. A professional who enjoys wine may like a wine accessory gift or a custom basket you add the wine separately. Cheese and meat baskets complete with crackers and a cutting board or with a variety of cheeses from cheesemakers are also popular in many commercial places.

Gift baskets are an easy all in one way to give great, useful gifts and can be under $50 or go to over $100 for those with more means. For some a basket with wine or smoked salmon can be $150 or more as corporate gift baskets with the same place having available 10 caviars or gourmet cheeses from around the world and a Wisconsin Angus Beef Sausage for under $30 that allows for ‘one stop shopping’. We have packages too at SlowMoneyFarm!

For many reasons gift baskets can fit the bill. Find one that fits the person you have in mind!

More Die From This Than Ebola – Be Aware!

October 27, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow that ebola is in the headlines, along with the concern, panic or resignation that it’s going to spread, it’s hard to focus. Reality check – however serious it is, it’s not just about dying. If it was then folks would do something about that which we can control. That which has killed more people in the last year in one state than ebola has in the US. That which is in your complete control to change. Are you ready?

Accidents….car meet combine, truck meet tractor – accidents with farm equipment kill far more people. According to the Southeast Farm Press, 10 people in Georgia alone died last year.

Last year in Georgia, there were 462 farm equipment-related collisions on roads with 169 injuries and 10 fatalities, about 10 percent more than in previous years and, unfortunately, a growing trend, said Harris Blackwood, director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, at a press conference during the Sunbelt Ag Expo.

What you do in your vehicle is your control. Your speed, your control. That text…is it worth dying for?

Even if the tractor is going 15 mph, it only takes a few seconds for a car to travel the length of a football field and into a potential collision with the tractor.

Fatal accidents involving livestock, are assumed to be the fault of the animal owner, but if a vehicle drives through a fence, kids or adults open gates or cut fences, or drivers aren’t familiar with livestock crossings where animals may cross the road, the consequences can be deadly.

Pit a small car – or even a large car – against a tractor, manure wagon, combine or other large equipment and it can be deadly. It takes seconds. Following a slow moving vehicle is not a major issue – it’s a couple stop lights in time. Those who live in or drive through rural areas know that spring and fall bring farm traffic to the roadways more than other times of year. Your driving skills, including awareness, distractions, speed and other factors are within your control. If you see buggy signs in Amish country, you can expect to see horse and buggies at any time and should drive accordingly. You should also be aware that runaway horses, cattle, farm equipment are possibilities.

If you see loose livestock slow down and stop if necessary. If they are along the road don’t assume they will stay there. If they’re being chased they can get in your path faster than you think. If you’re traveling 55 or faster, and they’re doing 10-15 miles an hour, you will be meeting them in seconds.

When you do, cars lose.

Slow down. Put down the phone. Focus. Make it where you’re going alive. Don’t be a statistic.

5 Pet Safety Tips for Halloween – Diva’s Domain

October 25, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPets don’t have a concept of holidays and most aren’t impressed with the ones we celebrate. Although we include our pets in many activities, it must be done with cautions and there are several to consider, for safety reasons, around Halloween. Here are some big ones to top the list.

If you’re taking your dog or other pet out as part of a costume it can be fun but remember your pet trusts you to keep them safe. Use reflective materials on the collar or included on the costume to make sure drivers see them. Snug up their collars to insure they don’t slip loose. A panicked dog at any time is not good but the high traffic in many areas is particularly dangerous for dogs and cats, especially at night.

Remember that aside from other issues of people seeing them, THEY don’t see US the same way. Costumes can scare dogs and even normally docile animals can bite in defense of themselves at an unfamiliar thing reaching for them, even if that thing is your friend the dog knows well. Hidden behind a costume can lead to misunderstandings and injury.

Keep a sharp eye on dogs to keep them out of the candy dish. Don’t allow children to feed them bits of candy that can make them sick. This includes (and especially) sugar-free candies that may have Xylitol that can be deadly as well as chocolate. Many people know about the chocolate but too few understand sugarfree candy is also toxic.

Ideally keep your pet home, inside and away from the commotion. This is much more true if you have black or orange cats or black dogs. Unfortunately there are too many cases of pets being stolen and killed related to Halloween. Don’t take a chance – bring them inside in a comfortable crate for a few hours. Keeping them in a crate with a favorite toy near but not in the activity can be the safest option. When there is a crate to rest in there is less option to dart out the door, leading to a safer Halloween for pets and people alike.

Keep candles and open flames away from pets. They don’t understand the danger and can too easily tip over a candle or pumpkin and start leaves on fire that then start the house on fire. Don’t take a chance – think safety!

These five tips can save lives. Don’t let your pet be a Halloween statistic. Think, be safe, keep them home and secure. Your pet deserves no less!

Fair Treatment & Reflections

October 24, 2014

Life isn’t fair. People aren’t fair. Sometimes we treat others unfairly, or in the ‘busy’ of life we don’t make that phone call or return that message. When it happens a few times, it’s a pretty clear message that it’s just not that important.

Recently I read a book called Better Than Perfect - interesting introspection at how we sometimes cause our own problems – we all make mistakes, sometimes we make excuses. We love to invoke I can’t because…!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs a direct contact with customers, I try to be keenly aware of not only what I say but how I say it. Connor has had ‘life training’ dealing with people through booths at public events – and is good at engaging people. Sometimes discernment in when to make a joke and when not may waver, but he’s learning. As a teenager, his adult life will depend on learning to treat others well not just for what they can do in return but because it’s the right thing to do.

Give and take is a natural. Being willing to help others out is a good thing. It can cross lines when it’s one way. Imagine, for example, being asked multiple times “vote for me” or “go click on this post” and watching the growth that comes from it. Then one day you need something small, and message to “go click on this post” – silence! So then you get another “vote for me” link…are you going to do it? Or will you spend that few minutes messaging someone who does give and take?

It doesn’t really matter if it’s business or personal – if we don’t feel our time is valued then why bother? If there’s a tolerance but ‘stay over there’ message then it’s not engagement, it’s keeping people on strings to prop up popularity, isn’t it?

How do we treat people? How does that come back to us? We can put things out there and not all that comes back is good. There’s a lot of users in the world. I find about 5% on a good day are actually willing to put forth a return on relationships, even as friends. Is it self centered, is it stress, is it just not caring? We don’t always know – but do have a choice in how we react to it.

Like a clique in high school there’s the popular set and those who get jobs done and those who float between. I used to think that adults grew up to get beyond that, but now see that it never really goes away for many! There’s nothing wrong with being popular, successful, accomplished whether you get credit for it or not.

As a customer, a friend or even an acquaintance, the reactions from others does affect how I want to respond. What about you?

And what will you do about it?

 

Reduce Stress with These 6 Tips for Home, Work Balance

October 23, 2014
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALife can get out of hand sometimes and it’s easy to get caught up in the vicious cycle of doing too much both at work and home. Before long both get overwhelming and neither are happy. Here are three tips each to helping keep home and work balanced.

Home:

1.Learn to designate. Are there children in the home? Unless they’re not yet crawling they can help around the home…designate! Having chores to do builds responsibility. Be sure to make it age appropriate. Even a 5 or 6 year old can help match socks (“what ones look alike/different?”) and there’s no reason a 10 year old can’t wash dishes by hand or unload the dishwasher. Many of us did – and lived! If the only other one in the home has a tail – minimize the chores!

2.Organize. What can you do to make things ‘flow’ better? Be it laundry, cleaning or whatever make it your goal to make it better. Consider it a management issue! Give it just 15 minutes per day working on it.

3.Have an “off duty” area or room. This might be a bath escape or a place to read or a room to do a craft. This is the “do not disturb unless there’s flames” area. Go there at least a half hour per day.

4. Take a walk – it doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Park at the end of the row and walk further to get in the store. Take a walk around the building or take a five minute time out to just *be* during a busy day.

Work:

5. Take five to ten minutes at the end of the day to prioritize for the next day. What has to be done when, and what non emergency but needs done things fill in the day? Try to leave your area, day, schedule ready to pick up in the morning and go.

6. Clearly communicate. Communicate what you need, what you need someone else to do, limit what you fit in the day. Overwhelm and unfinished tasks add to stress, not eliminate it! If you need more communication tips there are many resources online as well as entire books on the topic.

Keeping a balance is important. Not only does your mental health depend on it but physical health does too. Reducing stress makes a better and healthier YOU.

 

12 Country Wedding Songs That Weren’t Singles

October 22, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s country music month and we’re not letting it go by without sharing some favorite music! I don’t get to concerts like I used to as the farm is taking time and money.

You look through stacks of songs that have been singles and you know they’ve been played at many weddings or receptions…and they’re good songs that fit the occasion. Or perhaps a new song such as Darryl Worley’s “Tequila On Ice” or Montgomery Gentry’s “Roll With Me” catches your ear but it’s surely going to catch on and be played often and you would like something few others have played. While it’s hard to have a full library of songs that fit the occasion there is a way to narrow the field and these are a few songs that can add to a ceremony or reception – and that many probably have not heard.

1. “One Thing” – Jeff Bates off his current self titled cd is a devotion that sets the tone for such occasions. “I’m only here for one thing..to love you and keep you from ever getting lonely…” is a message that makes it worth finding this cd.

2. “What She Sees In Me” – also from Mark Wills’ “And The Crowd Goes Wild” cd is a balance ideal for the reception for the groom to dance with his mom as well as speaking to seeing the good even in less than ideal situations. This is sometimes a difficult thing to find – the bride and dad creates a tradition but this makes for a nice touch also!

3. “Is It Just Us” – Darryl Worley recorded this on his “Hard Rain Don’t Last” and not only the line of “…is the whole world in love or is it just us?” makes this suitable as a choice song. This is a song that reflects on “seeing things I never noticed until my eyes met yours.” Well worth consideration!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4. “She’s A Woman” – Mark Wills from “And the Crowd Goes Wild” cd is ideally suited for being pressed to use in honoring brides everywhere. With highlighting the everyday moments and the sacrifice of a relationship there’s little more solemn than a tribute such as this.

5. “Hucklelberry” – Toby Keith from the “Unleashed” cd tells of a young love that grew with a little different kind of story.

6. “I Would For You” from Chris LeDoux’s “After The Storm” cd speaks to someone who – at last – is settling down. “…I swore up and down that I would never say, ‘I do.’ But I would for you…” Although better known for songs like “Bareback Jack” and “Whatcha Gonna Do With A Cowboy” this was a different side of a man lost far too soon.

7. “If I Didn’t Have You In My World” – Vince Gill recorded this on his “Pocket Full of Gold” cd pays tribute with a lyric well suited for the occasion.

8. “That Was a River” becomes a metephor in Collin Ray’s “In This Life” cd cut. “That was a river, this is the ocean; that never carried this much emotion…”

9. “A Friend To Me” highlights the basis of a relationship – a solid friendship. From Garth Brooks’ “Sevens” cd, there isn’t many Garth released that wasn’t a hit but this one speaks to the core truth many of Garth’s bigger hits are known for.

10. Toby Keith’s “Unleashed” cd holds another possibility in “Rock You Baby” – an ode to a casual meeting that turns into the real thing.

11. Montgomery Gentry – “If You Wanna Keep An Angel” from the “Some People Change” cd offers lines like “‘I’m no angel, justs lucky that I found one…” and “…if you wanna keep an angel you gotta learn to fly right.” While better known for the uptempo songs, This can fit some situations.

12. Looking for a meaning with a more uptempo sound? “This Can’t Be Love” might be a way to capture the exceeding of expectations. From Mark Wills’ “Permanently” cd.

While usually it’s the singles that get noticed it pays to listen to the entire cd – the song that captures the moment may be there!

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