Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If I Die Young, Blame Tupperware

I once heard somewhere that trying to find Atlantis was difficult. 
Have those people, with more degrees than fahrenheit, ever tried to find a matching lid for a piece of tupperware at my house?

Growing up, matching tupperware was something only rich people had. 
They had a lid. 
They had a bottom. 
They were the same color. 
They were the same shape. 
They weren't even stained with spaghetti sauce. 

Because of my occupation, these are the 
first two thoughts that come to my head 
after seeing this on Pinterest:
1. This is not a sustainable practice. 
2. I smell Photoshop. 

Growing up at BSG, we had a lid. 
But sometimes it was saran wrap. 
Sometimes it was foil. 
Sometimes it was saran wrap, covered in foil, with a rubber band around it. 
Sometimes it had "Cool-whip" written across the top. 
Sometimes it was cracked because someone tried to force a square lid on to a round bottom. 

If I had back all the time I've spent looking for a matching lid or a container of the appropriate size (without a crack in it), my book would be written and I would have gotten the trash out on time Monday morning. 

I really believe the patience issues I’ve had to work through in my adult life stemmed out of growing up in a home where we had to open eleven plastic Cool Whip containers in the refrigerator to find the one that actually had Cool Whip in it. 
First tub: potato salad. 
Second tub: Lasagna. 
Third tub: pot roast. 
Fourth tub: beef and noodles. 
By the time I found the actual Cool Whip, my pumpkin pie was growing mold. 

I tried to find tupperware at my parent's house on Thanksgiving to take home leftovers. By the time Mom finally found a matching lid, Dad was laying out the Shorthorn roast to thaw for for Christmas dinner. It's genetic

And how could I forget that experience with the tupperware container that held something for an extended period of time? 
"How was the leftover soup I sent home with you? Did you remember to take it to work?" I once asked a dinner guest the next afternoon. 
"Oh it was fine. Tasted a lot like blue cheese?? Which I'm allergic to.....kind of odd. But yeah, I remembered it," said my dinner guest; he was never invited back. 

Sorry that I'm not sorry. Had you choked down seconds, we wouldn't have had the left over problem. 

I have two theories about knowing someone before you commit to any kind of long term relationship:

1. Women: Before committing to a man, you should consider how he reacts when backing up a livestock trailer, family camper or hay wagon with shoddy help directing him. 
2. Men: Before committing to a woman, you should consider how she reacts when trying to find a  matching tupperware lid after Christmas dinner when she's full, tired and on her second glass of wine. 

I'm no relationship expert, but you can thank me later. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

True to Their Roots

This entire week I've spent time reflecting on my FFA experience. In doing so, I've realized there has been one resounding person that comes to mind as I remember how grateful I am to have been part of a program much bigger than myself. Being just a year older than I, she was an incredible role model of mine as I navigated through high school. And even today she is a true mentor and friend. And, as life turns out, a neighbor.

That being said, when the idea of this entry came to me, one that could potentially till up emotion, I knew we had a good enough relationship that I could ask to come spend an evening with the family. 

Actually, I just Facebook messaged her Mom.

My mentor's name is Kristen, and Kristen's FFA story is a unique one, with a rich history and deep roots. 

It would be fair to say Kristen's passion for agriculture was instilled in her from both parents and both sides of the family. But one parent was able to see her receive her American Degree, and one wasn't. 

Kristen was eleven, and her sister Kaitlyn was five, when their father, Barry, was killed in a farming accident. Though he was never able to assist his two daughters with their SAE projects, Barry still had a fundamental role in the foundation of their agricultural interests and pursuits. 

"The girls were so young when we lost Barry, it is almost ironic how they've grown up to have the very same passions that he had. They didn't have a lifetime to learn from him, to do the things that he loved to do. Still, they're doing it themselves, every single day," says LuAnn, while sitting at the dinning room table with her two daughters, who are both very involved in the agriculture industry. 

Kristen & Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn, a senior at Purdue majoring in agriculture education, is ready to give back to an organization that gave so much to her. In fact, our discussion in their old farm house was delayed a bit because Kaitlyn was wrapping up FFA Week activities with the kids she is currently student teaching. 

"I know I got my passion for cows from Dad, and I relive the things he enjoyed through my own experiences today. But each of us," Kaitlyn said while looking up at her mom and sister, "are in production agriculture today and I know it's because of his memory."

Kristen values her FFA experience because of the real-life applications it provided her.
Today she works in the agribusiness field and also has a cattle operation with her husband Jason. "Whether I knew it then or not, the things I learned in FFA are applicable for the rest of my life," says Kristen. 

But Barry wasn't the only one in their rural Indiana family that was, or is, passionately involved in FFA and agriculture. 

Their grandpa Marvin was State Reporter in 1955-1956. 
Barry served as District Reporter in 1976-1977.
Kristen served as District Vice President in 2001-2002. 
And Kaitlyn brought the three generations together by serving as District Treasurer in 2007-2008.

And the best part, all four also held offices in the Hagerstown FFA Chapter. 

A collection of jackets, and stories 

Many who read this blog know Kristen and Kaitlyn, though some haven't had the pleasure. I  say with confidence that I don't know two ladies who are so well-adjusted and driven, as these two are. The influence they've had on others' lives is incredible , whether they realize that or not.  Our small east central Indiana community has watched these two grow up. 

Though the sisters claim to be very different, I couldn't help but notice how they finished each others sentences during one part of our discussion: talking about the fight we're fighting to be AGvocates in our industry. Both shifted in their seats as they described the unfortunate stereotype that agriculture still faces today and painful misconceptions about where our food comes from. Lucky for these two, the farm legacy runs deep in their blood. 

"Everyone talks today about family farms and staying true to your roots. Well, we've done that. Even with Dad not around we've pulled together, gotten stuff done and stayed engaged in the industry. We address things in world wide agriculture, but we're still a family-based operation," Kristen says as she looks to Kaitlyn, who gently nods in agreement. 

"It is humbling to see how much of Barry is in each of them," LuAnn continues. "His legacy of compassion for other other people is visible in both of them. These girls, they'd both give five minutes to anyone who needed it...well, except for each other!"

All four of us laugh, but none of us believed that. 

She continued, "I look at my girls and all that they're doing. They may not realize it, but that all comes from him. Both are exactly where Barry would have wanted them to be."

After our conversation around the dining room table, I drove to Kristen's house to pick up her beloved jackets. On the drive over I couldn't help but smile, feeling quite thankful for knowing the crew I just spent an evening with; what classic ladies, who understand the importance of hard work and persistence, even in the darkest of hours. 

I reached Kristen's house. She blew the dust off of her jackets and handed them to me as I stepped out under the porch light, into the cold February air.

She stopped me. 

"Listen, I know we said "legacy" a lot tonight, but I don't know if that is the right word to use when you write this. We're down to earth people. I like to think of my Dad as my guardian angel, in everything I do."

I looked at her and smiled. 
A word wasn't needed;
After the conversation the four of us just had, I strangely understood exactly what she meant. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Please Excuse The Dust II

Two weeks ago I began the "Please Excuse the Dust" series, simply capturing ordinary things in life and putting a black frame around them. This week I wanted to showcase I cinder block room that holds endless memories for folks who grew up in the Nettle Creek school district: our agricultural education room.   

Past the cafeteria, through the gym and tucked back behind the shop, this room has seen countless students, peanut shells, debates, grapefruits, flashcards, muddy boots and one very Wise Old Owl.

And remember, please excuse the dust...

Glory Days. 

"Get your beef sticks, get your Mountain Dew - 
Come One Come All! Step Right UP!!"

The Wise Old Owl has used this more than once...

This leads to the further reflection, that no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture. I know of nothing so pleasant to the mind, as the discovery of anything which is at once new and valuable -- nothing which so lightens and sweetens toil, as the hopeful pursuit of such discovery. And how vast, and how varied a field is agriculture, for such discovery. The mind, already trained to thought, in the country school, or higher school, cannot fail to find there an exhaustless source of profitable enjoyment. 
- Abraham Lincoln, 1859

A long standing, successful history. 

The shop classroom.

Aren't we all a work in progress?

Stairway to Heaven? Nope just where I spent 
many hours weighing peanuts and sorting citrus.

 Cheers to new beginnings

One of my favorite classes in highschool: small engines. Not only did I learn much about piston rings and torque wrenches, I also learned more than I ever needed to know about high school boys....

Back home at BSG, somewhere between the sequins of the prom dresses and the polyester of the cheerleading warm-up suit, rests my dear old FFA jacket. I remember how bad I wanted that old thing - and how stiff it was the first time I put it on. I remember learning how to speak publicly in it, and also walking across the stage to receive my
American Degree. 

Stay tuned for more this week as I tell stories from the "back hall" 
and reminisce fondly on a family that shaped my agriculture experience. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Promise of Better Days

It is my belief that those who fight 
modern agricultural practices 
know not the passion and truth 
behind this entry. 

I encourage them to read on - 

I believe in the future of agriculture.

Who across the United States, no matter what generation, doesn't recognize the root of the seven words above? If you're one who hasn't a recognition, you likely also don't have an appreciation for national blue corduroy, standing in a pit evaluating dirt or even Robert's Rule of Order. 

Those seven words begin the creed of the National FFA Organization. 
The creed is the foundation in which the organization was built upon. 
It is the solid block on which the organization still proudly stands today. 

It is also partly the foundation in which modern agricultural practices are based upon in 2012. While some may see agriculture as a "behind the times" occupation, picturing our grandfathers sitting on buckets and milking a Holstein, I know firmly that the only reason this nation - this world! - has sustained is because agriculture was willing to foresee the future and change with the times. 

Agriculture is the most progressive industry in the world. 

We are not Kodak
We are American Agriculture. 

With that, nothing disappoints me more than those who claim that modern production practices across the United States are out of line. Please, become educated before you make those claims; it only tarnishes your credibility in real world, sustainable applications. Contact me, I didn't get up at 4:57AM everyday of high school for nothing. I'd be glad to give you accurate information, directly from someone who has lived and breathed the industry. 

I know not of an organization with such historical roots that still abides by the same principles and values that it did when its creed was firstly written, such as the FFA. 
I sorely wish our Country could proudly say the same. 

If you don't know the FFA creed, or FFA for that matter, I encourage you to take three minutes to read it below. It will help you understand why the national blue and corn gold runs fiercely through the veins of hundreds of thousands across the country, and why those of us involved in agriculture, whether former FFA members or not, are so darn passionate about our livelihood.

If you were an FFA member and do remember the creed, I encourage you to read it again as we celebrate this week. I was actually called out three weeks ago by a professional mentor after I told him I was a proud FFA supporter -

"What is the creed?" he boldly asked me. 
I was completely blank. 
And, also reminded that it is always important to have at heart the foundation in which you're supporting. Whether that be agriculture, religion or something as trivial as the Giants vs. Patriots. 

The Creed of the National FFA Organization:

I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds - achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.
I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.
I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others. I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.
I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so--for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.
I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.
The creed was written by E. M. Tiffany, and adopted at the 3rd National Convention of the FFA. It was revised at the 38th Convention and the 63rd Convention.