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Working in the Cold here in Oregon

30 Nov

We have been having some pretty cool weather here in Oregon lately.  Which to tell you the truth, I have been loving!  It’s been that cold freezing and crispy weather, where the sun comes out yet you still have to wear a hat and gloves if you’re working outside.  It is a sign that this year not only is our little baby #2 due to arrive in just a week and a half, but also that Christmas is coming, winter work is gearing up and the hot long days of harvest are behind us for another few months.

So what do we do when it’s literally freezing outside?  Some days there is a lot of shop work or office work we find ourselves working on.  Other days you just do what you would have done if it had been 60 out.  Last week was one of those days and Matt and I headed out to the back of the farm to calibrate a sprayer that we had just finished doing some tweaks to.

Our sprayer can just about drive itself, it is GPS and auto steer equipped to give us an incredible amount of accuracy when out applying crop tools such as pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, etc.  So this year we did some updating that made the automatic shut off even more accurate, and as smart as computers are, you still need to calibrate.  So I bundled up and headed out to stand in a field on a freezing cold morning and watch a sprayer turn on and off.  I know…it was thrilling!  It was awfully beautiful though with all the frost, and I’ll say it again, I just love this cold weather!

I hope that everyone has a great week.  Sorry I have been not very timely in my posts lately.  I have a list of excuses a mile long but really the only real ones are that family and farming have taken up most extra ounces of my time as of late.  And with our new baby due in only 11 days I doubt things will get better.  So bear with me for awhile, maybe a long while, on my blog posting consistency.

Business & Pleasure, A Trip South of the Border

26 Oct

I love when my hobbies in life can collide.  At the start of this month I was able to combine my love for traveling with my love for agriculture.  My husband and I took off for Mexico for a short getaway, a short conference, and a whole lot of sun!

 Bayer Crop Science has been a company that I have always been impressed with, but not more than in the past few years.  As a chemical company it might seem easy to stick their heads in the sand and just do what they have always done, which is provide safe and effective products for farmers all over the world, Bayer however is looking around at world wide agriculture and seeing that there are conversations that need to start happening.  Their commitment to agriculture goes beyond just the farmer, they work for the bees, the crops, and the soil.  Their slogan of “Science for a Better Life” is being played out right now at the forefront of their efforts.

 So on our little getaway we attended Bayer’s Horticulture Symposium.  Attended mostly by industry folks and farmers from all the Americas.  Along with Matt and I, Marie Bowers Stagg (OregonGreen Blogger) and her husband Tristan also attended to represent the Pacific Northwest.  It was interesting being at a conference where we had to listen through the voice of a translator for most of the presentations, but more interesting was that the challenges that people are facing all over the world are challenges that I am facing on my farm in Oregon.  The life of a farmer isn’t easy, pests find your crop no matter what, and learning new and innovative ways to take care of that pest is something that all farmers are looking for.  Another issue that was talked about at length was the challenge with finding good consistent sources of labor, a problem that has prompted more creativeness when it comes to robotics and machinery.

It wasn’t all about our problems out on the farm though.  We heard presentations about what customers around the world are looking for.  They like quality shown to them in certifications and standards, traceability, sustainability, and social responsibility.  So finding ways to balance all of that while at the same time encouraging the next generation of farmers, improving people’s lives and livelihoods, and taking care of the environment will be an ongoing conversation for as long as I’m farming I am sure.  It is encouraging though to see that these are real conversations that people are having on so many levels, from the dirt up you could say.

We were also fortunate enough to head out into Mexico for some farm touring.  We met a jack fruit farmer and a mango farmer.  Jack fruit is a large (watermelon sized) fruit that is grown in trees.  You won’t believe it until you see it!  95% of the jack fruit grown in Mexico is exported to the US, where it can be found in almost any Asian market across the country.

  I know, I know…let the jokes of “It looks like you swallowed a jack fruit” begin!
 Mangoes on the other hand are largely consumed in Mexico.  Only 35% of the mango production heads off to the export market. In the photo below is a 20 year orchard of mango trees.  To harvest the fruit, which grows throughout the very tall canopy, no ladders are used.  Just really good tree climbers, long poles for reach, and harnesses to keep from falling!

I did say there was a lot of sun involved and while it was a bit hot and humid for someone 7 1/2 months pregnant, it was still a great time to getaway!  We did go fishing one day and had a small amount of luck, the break from the humidity on land though was worth every second!

  We also were able to enjoy many sunsets on the beach, I had my share of mocktails, and some really really good food!

 I can’t thank our field man Barry Duerk from Bayer enough for inviting us to come and enjoy this experience of learning more about agriculture around the world, but also what they are looking at from their perspective.  I don’t think that there are easy conversations when it comes to how to best serve all parties involved in the agriculture industry.  It’s a complex system filled with farmers, pests, consumers, marketers and above all the ongoing challenge of getting enough food to feed the world.  I don’t think you can ignore the pure politics or complicated nature that gets injected into every piece of that puzzle.  But what I think we can do is keep having these conversations and keep working to find that balance that will probably never be fully achieved, but can always be improved and worked towards.  From what I saw on our trip south of the border, Bayer is going to be a player in these conversations for a long time to come!

U.S. Breast Milk: Glyphosate-free

10 Aug

Earlier this year I googled pregnancy and pesticides.  Honestly I was curious to see if any other farming ladies had any advice on what and when to stay away from pesticides, what their thoughts were on driving a sprayer, mixing, using PPE (personal protective equipment) and any other ideas I hadn’t thought of.  In the end I came upon some really “out there” opinions.  One of them said that if you live near farming areas you should move, and went on to advise that you should also not live near anyone with a microwave…I quit reading at this point.  There is so much craziness out there about fear of pesticides and exposure it’s very overwhelming.  I ended up not looking any further on Google and enlisted the advice of people who I actually know and used the antique thing called a phone to call them.

After that experience I saw an article hitting my Facebook from Mom’s Across America.  They are a group that, from what I can tell, are out to stop the use of all chemicals in agriculture, and using plenty of fear to get their agenda across.  They had published a study done of a mere 10 women, concluding that yes, glyphosate (main ingredient used in Round-up)  was found in women’s breast milk.  As a mom who did nurse, I saw this article and to be honest, because of the source, took it with a grain of salt.  It was filed away in the back of my brain for a possible blog post in the future.

On July 27th, 2015, Michelle McGuire, a professor and researcher from Washington State University came out with a new study.  One that basically says Mom’s Across America got it wrong, that there was no glyphosate found in the breast milk of mothers in the US.  You can find the article here.  Now there is a lot of scientific talk when you read either conflicting articles, but I’m inclined to believe the findings from WSU for these main reasons.

  1. McGuire points out that the testing done for Moms Across America treated breast milk and water as the same substance.  From what I can read from the testing methods referred to on the Mom’s website, this is correct.  They describe the methods used for breast milk and water as being one in the same.  To me it makes perfect sense that there would and should be a difference in testing methods considering that the formulation itself of those two components are different.  They should then have separate testing methods, methods that were different when McGuire did the research.
  2. The study done first is in regards to only 10 women who were studied.  I couldn’t find out any information on these women or where their tests came from, the website only mentioned that they sent in their samples of urine and breast milk (chain of custody concerns).  I did like however that the study done by WSU used 41 women to study.  I would think that looking at more samples you would get a closer and more accurate picture of what is really going on.
  3. The women that were used in the study for WSU all live in an agricultural area (presumably the highest at risk for glyphosate to be found in them).  Also there was a good mix of those who had used glyphosate in farming, those who ate organic, those who lived on a farm, those who didn’t, etc.  Still there was no sign of glyphosate in their breast milk.

I’m glad that WSU and McGuire took the time to really look into this issue and come up with some more things to think about when it comes to whose study we believe in what has become a war almost of science vs. science.  Sometimes you have to take a step back and see what these studies are really saying, the subjects they use, the methods they use and draw your own opinions from there.  I’m sure that the battle back and forth of funding and who is friends with who along with the inevitable “Monsanto” overreach will be talked about in conjunction with these findings.  But as a walking example of a healthy person who has had plenty of exposure to glyphosate, because I’m a farmer and we use it on our farm for many different reasons, I can tell you that I feel plenty safe around all of these products, and I felt plenty safe nursing my baby too.

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