I knew I wanted a big post for my 100th Midwestern Gold entry. I knew I wanted something that people could really grab on to and take with them. I figured it would be gimmicky (since that's the sort of personality I have). I held off because I needed an idea. I never thought the idea would be handed to me, neatly packaged, in a hysterical mess.
This isn't going to be a fun, gimmicky post.
Farmboy and I have been dating for almost six years. Over that time, his family has become my family, and vice-versa. While out playing with my niece and nephew at the park, I got a phone call from Farmboy.
His dad, who I usually refer to as Bossman, was being admitted into the hospital. Apparently, an achy knee turned out to be a symptom of a blood clot in his leg.
Given my family history, I'm terrified of loss. Losing a parent at age 12 can leave you fairly paranoid. I'm awfully anxious about losing loved ones, and if anything happened to Bossman, it would feel like history repeating itself. And to me, a blood clot seemed horribly close to the heart attack that stole my Daddy from me. I can only really sum up the feelings as "fear."
Farmboy's father laid in that hospital bed, yet his family devoted a great chunk of their attention to making sure I was the one put at ease. That sort of feeling sticks with you. I'm sure to them, keeping me fairly calm was a coping mechanism. I eventually settled down over time, and am actually for the most part alright today. Stressed? Yes. This is the second scary experience I've had with a father figure this year (my stepfather was in and out of the hospital all winter with something they never could diagnose). I went to work, I continued my business as normally as I could. But, I did spend the day thinking.
One of the big conversations we had last night while we sat around in the hospital room was the fact that farmers are often stubborn; Bossman could have gone in much earlier to have his knee checked out, but it's easy for a man in their upper-40's to dismiss aches and pains. There was too much to do and not enough hours in the day to stop and go to the doctor. We talked about close calls local farmers had had that should have killed them, and didn't. We talked about what needed to be done on the farm, but wouldn't be right away. We talked about the 4-H crops judging Bossman wouldn't be doing this weekend because of his ailment. We talked about the peach trees they planted at the farmhouse, and how Farmboy was thoughtful enough to bring the first two ripe peaches to the hospital as an encouragement for his parents.
It was tense. It was terrifying. I know I was a fairly obvious wreck. We talked because silence meant you had a chance to think. We chatted about things that had to be said, but also to maintain the thin veil of casual reaction over the natural fear of the situation.
Scares like this, they make you think.
Bossman could have continued to ignore the knee pain, and continued to do too much. He could have continually stretched himself too thin. He could have pushed that clot to the breaking point and cost himself his life. He could have, but he didn't. That's a huge blessing. Now, when I close this computer, I'll be hopping in the truck with Farmboy to spend the evening at the hospital with his family. We'll all talk and laugh and enjoy ourselves. We won't talk about how scared we all were, especially me. We won't recount the thoughts we had of what could have happened. We will, however, most likely talk about good things. Blessings.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
There's something about a much-loved, hard-worked, weight-pulling farm truck. You know, those pickup trucks that a farm would be at a loss without. Some double as soccer-mom-vans, taxis, picnic tables, benches, offices, and school buses. Some are for farm use only. Some are first cars, some are old favorites, and some are family heirlooms.
I'll start by saying, I'm truck-neutral. I was raised around Fords, I'm dating a Chevy, my brother's a Dodge, my stepfather is a Jeep, and I've seen some really nice foreign-made trucks out there. A good work truck is a good work truck, and the rivalry is, in many ways, based on the farm community's need to ALWAYS have something to tease someone about. (Just like a good tractor is a good tractor!)
Farmboy's truck is a perfect example of the history a single automobile can have. It's a '96 Chevy Silverado 1500. It's an extended cab, short-bed machine that has lived multiple lives through multiple family members. Bought new by Bossman (Farmboy's dad), it was his primary car. They took it on family vacations, hauled a camper behind it, and worked it hard on the farm. That truck earned its keep several times over. When Farmboy's sister got her license, the Silverado (which I refer to as Betsy) became hers.
Now, Farmboy and I started dating before either of us could drive. Our first two years of dating required his sister driving us everywhere. Even before we could drive, we had good memories in that truck. By the time we we graduated high school, Besty had reached 200,000 miles.
It was the day after our senior prom. We were going on a day-trip to Indiana. It was quite the family affair. After we hit that milestone, Farmboy even called Bossman to celebrate. I actually think he called his sister, too. All owners of Betsy, current and previous, celebrated her longevity. Betsy is still kicking, even after two
years of going back and forth from college. (As of today, Betsy sits above 227,000.)
In fact, Betsy has helped move my overabundance of girly belongings to and from college a few times.
Betsy obviously isn't the only farm truck I'm in love with. There's Old Smokey, the '95 GMC Sierra (diesel) that shakes when you push it past 50. The seat won't move, so I have to have a pillow behind my back to drive it. The first time I hauled seed corn was in the back of that truck. (That first run was nerve-wracking. Now, it's not so bad to have thousands of dollars worth of something in the bed of the truck...acclimation is a wonderful thing.)
The crown jewel of Bossman's fleet of farmy trucks is the one I currently call "The Beast." The Beast is both a family vehicle and a work horse. That truck has earned its keep already, it's a 2008. The Beast has a crew cab that sits size comfortably. It's got an 8-foot bed. The hood of that truck is eye-level to me. If
you want to learn about proper fine-handling of a large truck, try to take one of those things through the drive-through at Mickey D's. If you don't do it, you have a bunch of hungry, angry farmers wondering where their Big Mac's are while they're trying to harvest on empty stomachs. If you do it, but ding something up, you got a bunch of hungry, angry farmers wondering why you couldn't go through the drive-through without breaking anything. (Or, you'll have some good-natured, not-angry farmers who will just laugh at the fact that you're crying.)
This is just one family. Their fleet of farm trucks are easily a pivotal part to productivity. These trucks are personal vehicles, business investments, and the safe carrier of precious cargo. Much like the work horses of the old days, farmers would be lost without the trucks that make everyday tasks easier. So, next time you're driving down the road and you send up behind that pickup truck with hay or seed in the back, don't just think of it as an inconvenience. Chances are that truck is very important to someone, and to their business.
So, what about you guys? Do you value your farm trucks as something more than just a piece of farm equipment? Do you have any especially interesting stories about old farm trucks? Leave a comment sharing, it may get featured in a future post about farm trucks. (I know have more stories to share!)
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Not literally. But, we do have a new "home." By that, I mean within the new few days, you won't be able to access us through http://illinois-corn.blogspot.com anymore. (That link is still currently active for a transition period, but will most likely stop working sometime soon.)
Now, Midwestern Gold officially resides at MidwesternGold.com! This is a huge step for Midwestern Gold, and represents something of a "growing up." That's not to say I'll lose any of my fun or goofy perspective. No, I'll still be just as silly and shameless as ever before.
During the next few days, my widgets/features here on Midwestern Gold will be a little temperamental. We're still settling into the new home, so be patient with us!
I'm pretty excited about this, although in the grand scheme it's relatively small move. Midwestern Gold is very special to me, and seeing how far it's come from its first post as an internship experiment makes me very proud. So, as Midwestern Gold continues to see improvement and growth, I'll do my best to continue to post interesting, fun, emotional, diverse, and engaging content.
So, as I wrap this up, I have this question. Please comment in response:
What do you want to see on Midwestern Gold? What do you want to change? What can I do better, or what am I already doing well at? I'm writing for you guys, so I want to hear what you have to say. Do you like the new look? What widgets or features do you think we need? What subjects would YOU like me to post about?
Let me have it!
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I'm a whole lot of things. I'm a painter, I'm a girl, I'm a writer, I'm a sister, I'm a friend, I'm an artist, I'm a girlfriend, I'm a student, I'm a car-owner, I'm a lover of baby animals, I'm a fan of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches...but I'm not necessarily an organizer. I guess I can be, if the mood strikes me, but overall I am a doer, not really a planner.
Well, last night, something I've been planning for weeks, came together. It happened. And I think it went well. For a while now I've been working with the local Corn Grower group, Farm Bureau, and Extension program to put together "Cultivating Communications." And I am incredibly pleased with the end product.
My gracious, awesome, enjoyable guest speaker, Ray Prock, did a wonderful job of running through some of the why's and how's of social media agovocacy.
I don't know how many of the 12 people who showed up will turn around and start agvocating. I don't know how many will be joining our wonderful online community and reaching out to folks. I don't know who even listened that much.
I know our audience had some good questions. I know I enjoyed talking with the folks that showed up. I know I really enjoyed eating dinner with Ray (who had the pleasure of meeting Farmboy and his family). Overall, it was a great experience. I would have loved for more people to show up, but I'm not disappointed by last night, at all.
If even one of those people turn around and join Twitter or Facebook, if one of them seizes an opportunity to talk to someone about ag, Ray and I did our jobs last night. (Ray did most of the work last night. I'm still amazed that I managed to pull it together, being a non-organizer.)
This post is short, and vague. I think most of all, I just needed a place to put my gratitude for everyone that helped pull last night together. I think I wanted to post about how blessed I feel for the fact that Cultivating Communications even happened. So, thank you to everyone. The Kankakee County Corn Growers, the Kankakee County Farm Bureau, the University of Illinois Extension (Kankakee County), and Ray. Thank you to Farmboy for dealing with my minor planning-related panic attacks, as well as my ego-trips when I hit a milestone for planning. Thank you for my AgChat friends for being supportive and interested.
I know, in the large scheme, this little get-together was a small deal. But for someone like me, it's been a great experience. So, I can't state my gratitude enough.
Now, I get to enjoy a few days "off" from "big" stuff. I get to relax, spend a few days with only my jobs to stress me out, and act my age.
So, to everyone in the AgChat community, and everyone here in Kankakee County, thanks for being awesome. You've all become a pretty huge part of my life, in the best possible way.
(NOTE: Also, BIG thanks to Darin Grimm, Mike Haley, and Janice Person for helping me keep my head on straight through the various stages of stress, panic, planning, efficiency, disorganization, and excitement. To my in-area folks...thank you to Keith, Lisa, Laura, Farmboy/Tim, Chad, and Beth. I don't know if any of you will read this, but THANK YOU.)
Monday, July 12, 2010
The town I live in is nothing special. It's got about 3,000 people. For northern Illinois, this is tiny. For rural midwest, this is a middle-of-the-road size. When my family finally moves, we'll be living in a town of 400 people. That's a whole new brand of small.
To some of my city slicker friends (two of which went on vacation with Farmboy and I this last weekend), my hometown seems like some enchanted, down-home, straight-out-of-a-book quaint rural town. In some ways it is, but there are plenty of things that keep it pretty far away from that stereotype. However, the novelty they found in driving through my native area and being surrounded by woods, fields, hills, and open skies made me smile.
We met at my house and left the car their brought sitting safely in my driveway while we swept off across the eastern Midwest to a theme park in Ohio. The amazement they showed at the seven-foot-tall corn, the rusty barrels where we burn our garbage, the fact that my dog could run loose in the yard without breaking city laws...it was amusing.
If you ever want to refresh your love of the country and the outdoors, take some well-meaning city slickers to a corn field. Show them hawks circling overhead and cardinals perched right outside your very window. The pair of city kids (actually suburban kids, but to me those are fairly synonymous) were amused at the way Farmboy and I commented on fields we passed. ("Was that a strip-tilled wheat field with 30-inch rows?! I don't understand!" and "Look at the heat stress on that corn. Sure hope that's silage corn...")
Overall, it was just a nice experience. After my friends packed their car and left for the suburbs, I was left with the warm and fuzzy feeling that I had given them something new and interesting. Now, they're asking when they can come back for a bonfire, or to go fishing on the river, or go out to the farm. This is such a different world to them, a world they never knew. A world they never thought they'd be interested in.
And that is why my city friends make me smile.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
(Disclaimer: This post is not an attack against anyone. It is meant to highlight the importance of two-way communication, especially when there is a cause involved, such as agricultural outreach and education. In fact, I hope that everyone who reads this can take something away from it. Thank you.)
The importance of engaging an audience is something that seems fairly natural to me. My formal education is in a refined sort of Internet communication. My hobbies involve the visual and textual outreach to others. My passion involves sharing stories and perspectives about the world's oldest industry.
So, I get it. Audience matters. Engagement matters. You have to stir up folks, you have to elicit some response. Get them to respond. The more responses you have, the more material you have to write about later. Dialogue is valuable. Interacting matters. Shouting into the darkness, hoping someone might absorb something from you, is hardly serving a purpose.
You have to get involved. You become a part of a community, rather than a silent billboard praying for someone to notice it.
Being able to react and learn from your audience is a vital part of any social media campaign. Understanding that the audience has just as much to teach you is vital. Sometimes, it's valuable to note that you won't be right about everything. Sometimes, it's valuable to agree to disagree.
Regardless, you can't simply release drivel and try to pass it off as the absolute, 100% truth. You can't say something, then ignore the dissent that comes to it. If your audience doesn't like what you have to say, you have to be willing to listen, learn, and back up your point. Or agree that you may be wrong. This rings true in agriculture.
In every industry, you get those folks who just refuse to share dialogue. They say their piece and pass off their opinions as fact. They refuse to accept that there are multiple means to the same end (i.e. creating quality raw goods for the public, albeit food, fiber, or pre-fuel materials). Then, they argue. This happens in agricultural outreach just as much as any other trade.
A perfect example of this is a question that arose in AgChat this evening. It had to do with the idea of monoculture. It questioned why monoculture was considered bad. Regardless of the crop, a field that is made up of a single crop is an instance of monoculture. For some reason, folks did not think of "monoculture" when they thought of strawberry fields, beet fields, basil fields...
(For clarification, layman's terms for monoculture is a field that is ONE TYPE of plant only, i.e. a corn field, a soybean field, a tomato field, a Gladiolus field, a parsley field, a wheat field, etc.)
"Monoculture" seemed to imply evil, soulless, endless stands of corn and soybeans. "Foods" that shouldn't be eaten. While some folks productively listened and acknowledged that there was a sort of stigma regarding monoculture (even though it is the primary means for growing ANY crop, even specialty crops), some skirted the topic. Some simply said that "diversity is key." They never said what it was key to, or what "diversity" implied. I can't help but imagine that a single field that's a discombobulated mess of various crops ceases to be a field; it becomes a meadow. Or a jungle.
The simple fact was, folks were trained to think that monoculture, especially in corn and soybeans, was evil. Many realized the oddity of the language use when others pointed out that the vast majority of all crops are raised in monoculture systems. Flowers (I particularly am familiar with Gladiolus flowers), herbs, grains, fruit trees...they're all unique forms of monoculture.
Regardless of the logic that monoculture systems are not inherently evil, some folks just kept spewing that diversity is key. They didn't recognize that there were merits to a monoculture growing system. They weren't even willing to consider the likelihood of any alternative but their own.
This stance, this habit, is the downfall of social media outreach. What good is it to "reach out" to others if your only activity is to talk down to others and ignore their feedback? Feedback is one of the pillars of communication.
Flexibility and dialogue are the keys to getting a point across. Acceptance and tolerance are vital to maintaining a strong community. Cooperation and understanding in tandem is the only means to reach the ultimate goal of creating a diverse array of quality good across several different methods and mentalities.
Whatever you do, don't shout into the dark. Don't spout information and/or opinions, and expect people to listen. Don't assume that there's value in your content, when you have no proof that someone will find it valuable. Make it valuable. Give it a path to follow. Create communication.
WITH THIS IN MIND...
What do you do to guarantee that you aren't simply shouting into the darkness? How do you share your story and views in a productive way, that encourages interaction and dialogue? I'm curious. I'd like to know. Share your stories, interact with each other. I think it's valuable for us all to learn from each other, so let's try out this "commenter community" idea. Let's go.
Friday, July 2, 2010
You guys remember that video I posted a while about the old saying, "Knee high by the Fourth of July?" You know, this one. Well, I decided that I needed to head back to that specific spot of that specific field, and do an update on just how much higher than "knee high" the corn really is.
Behold. Me, in corn. With leaves in my face.
Happy 4th of July, everyone! Have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend. And when you eat all of those great seasonal/special occasions/cookout foods, be sure to remember the men and women who work hard to bring it to you!
(My supportive and hard-working cameraman requests that I give him due credit. Thank you for your riveting cinemographic work, Farmboy! You're a wonderful production assistant!)
Also, don't forget that most modern explosives contain corn...including those fireworks!