Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where do we go from here?

Recently, I'd explain that Midwestern Gold wasn't going anywhere.

That was only partially true.

Juggling multiple blogs and websites can be difficult; this is why I've decided to consolidate Midwestern Gold and my other blog, Cheap Pizza, as "series" in my website:  KellyMRivard.com

This site will stay live, to serve as the official Midwestern Gold archives.  I'm also sentimental, so Midwestern Gold stay live for those reasons, as well. I'll still be blogging about food, fuel, fiber, feed, farmers, fields, and flocks. It'll still, in essence, be Midwestern Gold. It'll just be part of my online activity in a larger scheme.

Now, in addition to my ag blogging, you'll have my work portfolio and other resources right at your fingertips.

So, don't think of it as the end of Midwestern Gold. Think of it as a new exciting chapter to something that is already fantastic. I'll be seeing you at KellyMRivard.com!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Taking a Break

Change is a natural part of life.  I find myself blogging about change fairly often.  I feel like my life is a constantly shifting maze, and just when I think I've figured out the path, things switch.  Never knowing what's around the next corner can be scary, even terrifying.  Sometimes it's exhilarating.

Well, a big change became official today.  As stated on Twitter earlier, Farmboy and I are no longer "Farmboy and I."  While it was pretty out-of-the-blue, in the end it was a fairly mutual arrangement.  We split on good terms.  And while this time last week, I was expecting a diamond ring before I was expecting goodbyes, I don't regret any of it.

The problem with this is that Farmboy was so deeply-rooted in Midwestern Gold, that I need to reassess my perspective and regain my footing.  This is a big change.  We spent six wonderful years together, and have agreed that we'll still try and be the best friends we always have been.

So, there's my dose of personal life on Midwestern Gold.

Midwestern Gold is NOT, I repeat, is NOT going anywhere.  Its author just needs some time to clear her head.  Thank you so much to everyone who reads this, and to everyone who's offered so much support over Facebook, Twitter, and various other mediums.  The support, love, and encouragement has been valuable through all of this, and very much appreciated.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Domino's Pizza Pays Homage to Farmers!

Domino's Pizza has had an interesting go of it the last few years, from bad PR to completely changing their pizza recipe.  (Hey, I liked the old pizza.  I still like the new pizza, though.  Then again, unless it's just downright BAD pizza, I love most pizza.  Anyways...)  Their latest campaign, however, caught my eye.  It really, really spoke to me.

So there I am, sitting on the couch at Farmboy's apartment, watching TV, being a normal, lazy college kid on a Saturday afternoon.  This commercial comes on.  It's for Domino's.  It's about how they took some customers to a focus group to discuss Domino's flagship product, pizza.  Someone mentioned the cheese.  Suddenly, the customers were alerted to the fact that they weren't at some corporate building; they were in a temporary building, on a dairy farm.  One of the dairy farms that supplies the milk that goes directly into making the cheese that Domino's uses.

This caught my attention.  I mean, how often does a major restaurant chain draw its ingredients all the way back to the source for the public?  This is fantastic reputation management for Domino's Pizza, but is also a hat-tip to the hardworking men and women who supply the ingredients that go into your pizza.

It gets better.  This campaign, all about getting to know where Domino's ingredients come from, actually has an interactive website devoted to it.  It isn't just television commercials with heart-warming shots of happy dairy cows.  There's an ONLINE GAME.  Domino's Pizza encourages you to learn more about the farms where their ingredients come from, and give you rewards for doing so.  In fact, there are multiple farms mentioned specifically by name.  Mixed in with the interesting facts, explanations of ingredient-preparation processes, and chances to win coupons, there are GAMES.

GAMES.  That you PLAY.

So...we have interactivity, appreciation for farmers, and food that I personally love (probably too much). I wish more companies acknowledged that their ingredients come from real farmers and ranchers, on real farms and ranches, across the continent.

Whether this works as a good marketing campaign for Domino's Pizza, I don't know.  But as an agvocate and avid supporter of farmers and ranchers, this thing has me buzzing.  I'd love to see Domino's Pizza include more of their ingredients in this campaign!  Our amazingly diverse agricultural system contributes to this company in so many ways!  Here's hoping this idea catches on in the greater public, so that more and more people can realize that behind their pizza, pasta, hot wings, bread sticks, steak, or whatever else, there were hard-working men and women who pulled long hours to produce the product from the very start.

Thank you, Domino's Pizza, for appreciating the farmers and ranchers who work tirelessly to provide your company (and your customers!) with safe, plentiful, and affordable ingredients.  And thank you to the farmers and ranchers, too!

Want to experience Domino's Pizza's "Behind the Pizza" project yourself?  Check it out here!  You can also see their normal business website here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Is This All About?

Agvocacy, the act of advocating for agriculture, is a big part of my life.  It's become a big part of who I am.  Despite that, I have plenty of friends and family members who have no connection or tie with America's farmers, except for that they've found through me.

They ask me why I do what I do.  They don't necessarily understand why I have a passion for this agvocacy thing.

The answers vary, depending on what's timely and relevant.

Sometimes I say that my agvocacy work is to help people understand the life that Farmboy and his family leads.  Sometimes I tell folks that it's a way to stay in touch with a lost part of my family's legacy.  Sometimes I talk about how spreading the word about a vast, diverse agricultural industry can help consumers better understand and appreciate the various items that farms supply them with.

In the end, though...in the end, it's about one thing.  One word.


The people are what make this a passion.  They're the cement that hold the industry together.  I didn't really "get" it right away, when my agvocacy journey started.  When I sent my first tweet on the #agchat stream, I didn't think of it as a means for enhancing my human experience.

I just thought I was connecting with people who had a common interest in agriculture.  Am I glad I jumped into it?  Yes.  My life has changed drastically because of it.  I have some direction.  I have something to hold on to, to drive me.  Studying in communications seems so much more valuable knowing that I can apply it to a field I am passionate about.

However, it wasn't until recently that I really got how pivotal the people are.  There's always the consciousness that behind a Twitter handle or a Facebook profile or a blog, there is a real living, breathing, thinking, feeling person.  You see glimpses of lives, picture of animals and fields and farm equipment and friends and family.  You experience a snapshot view of their life as a whole.

It isn't until you step back and get a feel for the person behind the profiles, that it really becomes clear.  It isn't necessarily the industry that keeps me coming back, tweeting and blogging about farmers and ranchers.  It's the people in the industry.  It's the farmers and the ranchers.  And when I say "farmers and ranchers," I don't refer to them as people who just farm or just ranch.  It's not just a job; it's who they are.  There is no way to separate the job title and the person.

The realization of that true humanity doesn't arrive all at once, though.  I've become aware of it in stages.  You can claim to "get" the people who tweet and blog and poke and lurk and digg.  But it takes time to truly realize the unique individuality and interactive potential of the millions of other users on here.  These people are wives and husbands and children and sisters and brothers and friends.

Because of Twitter, I now have close friends scattered all over the U.S., and a few in Canada.  I've sat in my dorm room in Illinois around midnight and complained about homework with a farmer pursuing an M.B.A....in Nebraska.  It's one instance of the interactions that I would have once thought absurd.  Now, they're normal.  Now, they're a part of my everyday life, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

These people, they're special.  They are the reason that this country keeps ticking.  They're amazing.  Now, they're sharing their stories online.  And they have real, true, breath-taking, amazing stories.

If anyone ever tries to tell you that they agvocate for any other reason, call them out.  They're wrong.  They can talk cotton and cattle and corn all they like, but it comes down to one thing:  people.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How Farming Helps Me Pass Math...

I hate math.  With a passion.  With a burning, fiery fury.  I avoid balancing my checkbook if I can and nine times out of ten if I don't have a calculator I am helpless to do any sort of arithmetic.  (Yes, that was an intentional pun...if you can consider that a pun...)


Fact is, my brain just doesn't get along well with quantitative reasoning.  I've made a point to establish resources to help me out when I need it.  Farmboy helps me figure out gas mileage, because simple multiplication and division leaves me frustrated.  Even numbers relating to agriculture leave me a little overwhelmed.  You can tell me the bushels per acre on beans or corn, and I can say, "Wow, that's great!" or "Uh oh..."  You can't, however, expect me to figure out any of the other calculations that BPA could be figured into.  (For non-ag folks, grain is often measured in a unit known as a "bushel."  In most regions, it's the standard of measurement.  Sometimes it's measured in tons per acre, rather than bushels.  However, I ignore that standard of measurement, because I'm used to bushels and I'm already confused enough by numbers without conversion playing a role in my life.  This discussion is officially making me feel inadequate.  Moving on.)

Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Even ag-related numbers can leave me a little overwhelmed.  Precisions is key in agriculture, from the exact distribution of fertilizer or pesticides, to the amount of feed used, to the population at planting.  (The easiest way to explain "population" would be the density of seeds planted in a row.  High population means thick, close-planted rows.  Someone correct me if I have this incorrect.)

Obviously, there's a lot of jargon in addition to numbers.

Fact is, I hate numbers.  And most days, even farming is unable to make numbers simple and fun for me.

However, in recent months, there's a set of numbers that I've become more interested in than I'd have ever expected.  In fact, I just wrote a paper about these numbers, for my math class.  And I'm sure that paper will be the only decent grade I get in this course for the rest of the term.

So, what do those numbers have to do with farming?  Well, I quote about tracking statistics of Midwestern Gold.  What is this blog about?  Farming.  And farmers.  And corn.  And agriculture in general.  And if it weren't for my avid involvement in blogging, I'd probably have no desire to know what 2+9 is.  (Yes, that is a random example...and it's 11, right?)

I thank farmers a lot on this blog, but today I'm going to thank them for something a little out of left field.  Thank you farmers, for helping me pass my graduation-requirement math class.  Because of you, I should (keyword, should) be one gen ed closer to my bachelor's degree.

Special thanks especially to my good buddy Darin Grimm, who often gets called Data Boy or Data Dude or "the numbers guy."  Because half the time, Darin's the one getting desperate IMs and text messages when I can't figure out some simple problem in my own little noggin.  Check out Darin's blog here...there's often numbers involved.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's a Worldwide Affair

I have yet to meet a human being who doesn't need food to survive.

It just doesn't exist.  Every one of us needs nourishment.  We all share the same general requirement for food to generate energy in our bodies.  Not all understand or appreciate the food in their lives.  The world is riddled by food-related problems...hunger, malnourishment, undernourishment, eating disorders, obesity, drought, famine...whether it's by quantities which are too large or too small, problems with food abound across the globe.

Doesn't that make things like whether or not you'd eat meat, whether your cattle are grass-finished or corn-raised...doesn't that make it seem petty to have such heated arguments over this?

American has the strongest agricultural presence in the world.  It also has the most diverse array of growing systems and methodologies.  It is a leader in production of thousands of different raw goods, food included.  We should all be taking a step back and appreciating the diverse food system that the United States has to offer, and being grateful for the rights and the choices we have each day in regards to our nutrition.

These arguments about what's "better" are petty.  We all have a right to choose how our food is produced and how much we're willing to pay in both time and money to have that food.  Every system has its benefits and set-backs; pasture-raised, confinement, corn-fed, grass-fed, organic, "conventional," large, small...the fact is, we are lucky.  We are part of a place where many, if not most, don't have to worry about where their next meal comes from.  We don't often have the fear of starvation or malnutrition.

If we did, we wouldn't be taking sides about where our food comes from, who raised it, and how.

So, in honor of World Food Day, which is coming up on October 16, I suggest we all take a moment to appreciate the depth of our options, and the people who exercise their right to bring you healthy, plentiful, affordable food, in a variety of ways.  Thank farmers and ranchers for their work.  Thank grocers and butchers and processors for making the food system more accessible.  We no longer have to raise our own food, if we don't want to.  We don't have to butcher our own meat or cultivate our own gardens.

Many people do for hobbies, but that in and of itself speaks of how fortunate we are.  What many people do just to survive, we have the ability to do "for fun."

Think about it.

Next time you read about malnutrition, starvation, obesity, eating disorders, world hunger, or shortages, remember how fortunate you are to have the choices we have.  Because, in reality, food is both a source of and solution to many, many problems.

For more information regarding World Food Day, see here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Endless Possibilities

My parents are the proud new owners of approximately 22 acres in Iroquois County, Illinois.  There's an 8 or 9 acre cornfield at one corner of the property, and the rest of it is woodland, natural clearings, and riverfront.  They're having the abandoned house taken down, and are placing a modular home there.  The new place should be ready for us by Christmas.

Now, other than the cornfield, that doesn't sound too agricultural, right?

Well, it is.  22 acres of woodland, clearings, and riverfront in rural Illinois just screams agriculture.  And 22 acres is a lot of room for some empty-nesters who used to have a houseful of rowdy kids.  They've discussed ideas about what to do with the land.  Obviously, they have plenty of space!  So here are some of the things they've tossed around:

  • Taking out the corn and starting on alfalfa.  The soil here is sandy, which isn't always best for corn, but tends to be a nice soil type for alfafa.
  • Leaving in the corn.
  • Getting together a herd of goats, most likely boers and/or other meat breeds.  Goats do great in woodland settings and can clear undergrowth well, so it'd be a method for forest control as well as a hobby and possible side-income.
  • Clearing a little extra land and finishing bottle-raised dairy steers.  This is especially enticing to them, because bottle calves are more likely to be friendly and easy to handle, and this would mean that their grandchildren (my nieces and nephews) could participate in this activity.  My siblings and I were lucky enough to stay in touch with where our food came from (it's easy to do when it comes from your own pasture/finishing lot), and I think it'd be great for them to once again offer this opportunity to the next generation.  (Why dairy steers?  It's hard to find bottle-raised beef cattle for cheap, and dairy farms always need an outlet for their male calves.  It's a win-win, for us and for the farmers who work in dairy full-time.)
  • Chickens and/or ducks.  My stepdad thinks they'd be fun.  My mother and I are both pretty anti-poultry, though.
  • Renting out pasture land.
  • Previously, they'd considered working out the corn field and getting a contract with the state to return it to forested land.  However, they'd possibly lose their agricultural zoning if they did that, and that's valuable for future plans!
For me, this is exciting.  The possibilities are endless.  Agriculture, and farming as a whole, is a limitless industry.  For two empty-nesters looking for a hobby that could serve as side income or source of food, farming is a great option.  They have the land, and a little money for the start-up.  They love the land, and my stepfather would much rather surround himself with animals and nature than people on most days.

This runs a little deeper than just "what my parents want to do with the property" for us kids.  Up until I was 12, my family farmed.  Even if I wasn't directly involved other than cleaning up steer poop, playing in the pastures, and occasionally bottle-feeding a calf, it's there.  I remember it.  I miss it.  This would be like that coming full-circle.  You never stop being a "farmer's daughter," and I'd have that chance again.

I can't put into words how beautiful, how natural, and how therapeutic the woods and the river at the new property are.  But I can tell you, if I were a farm animal, I'd dang-well love to live there.  And because the options are so numerous, who knows what animals will be lucky enough to call this place home?  I'm looking forward to seeing what my parents end up doing.