Jun 29, 2012

Musings of a “Hollywood” mom

Last week, I had the opportunity to jet set across the country and hit L.A. representing Ohio Farm Bureau and the United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. Sounds glamorous, but I was out there talking about all things agriculture. Who is not to say farming is glamorous, right? What we do is the backbone of our country and very important work, which provides food for many, including my family.

Farmers and Ranchers from across the country, along with TV producers, chefs, business owners and even a few celebrities gathered for talks called the Food Dialogues. Topics covered a wide spectrum about food from the farmer, processor, distributor, store and ultimately on to our dinner tables.

I participated in the panel titled “Real Chef Challenge: Understanding how Food is Grown and Raised.” We had cattle rancher and Dean from Chico State University Dr. Dave Daley; hog farmer Julie Maschhoff; the owners and chefs of the restaurant “Animal,” Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook; Ray Martin, VP Culinary Development for BJ’s Restaurants; Gabe Segovia, Manager of Culinary Innovation of El Pollo Loco; Laura McIntoch, host of “Bringing It Home;” and me. How did I fit into this equation? I was not sure at first. Why would they invite a small farm mom from Ohio to participate in this dialogue? When I arrived, I saw very few familiar faces. But as our conversation began, I came to realize the importance of a small farmer/mother role at our conversation table.

From left to right:  Jon Shook,  Kristin Reese, Ray Martin, Gabe Segovia

I have a very unique role that I feel is of great importance in the conversation of food and agriculture. Without one there is not the other. The only thing missing in between the farm and the table is perhaps the most important chair at the table…the farmer who can connect the two. Although our farm is very small, I have a great appreciation of how large farmers farm. I also get to see firsthand the practices that they use and learn if I do not already know why things are done the way they are. I also understand how both very large and very small farms can serve vital roles in our food supply.

I often wonder why some in our culture think big is bad and small is good. Why is one better than the other? Why can we not work together to make what we do better, whether big or small?

On our small farm I am continually looking to make sure we are doing the best we can. Sometimes you learn new techniques to improve your farming toolbox. The same is true for all sectors of agriculture.

The other challenge facing agriculture is its responsibility to meet the food needs of a growing population with increasing restrictions. We need farms large and small to work together to produce food to meet these needs. Because we all need to eat, there is room for all types and styles of farming. We are fortunate to live in a free country where we have the opportunity to support causes we feel are important and make the food choices we feel are best for our families.

The tv crew setting up for the event. Those are crew member sitting in at the table
checking the lighting where we sat.
What I learned most from my Hollywood adventure is that there is a definite breakdown between the farmers/ranchers and the mom at the grocery store or even the restaurant owner or chef who puts the food on the table.

I started my small business, Local Flavor Foods, in early 2011 to address this challenge. I saw a huge disconnect between the person who buys food and we the people who produce the food. For years, people have been saying, “If you are not hiding anything then let’s talk.” I could not agree more. Let’s come to the table and have civilized dialogues about what consumers of food want to know. More than ever before, farmers are here to listen, not to condemn, but to listen and answer your questions.

On a trip to Chicago, I met a woman who changed my perspective on the way I talk about agriculture. This was a fantastic experience that opened my eyes as to how others view farmers alike. While I did not agree with most of her statements, I did feel her passion for making sure she and others eat safe and healthy foods. I am not an expert at much, but I sure do have a passion for family, food and agriculture. I invite you to become part of the conversation. If you have questions, find a farmer in your community to ask those tough questions. Let’s put all of our passion to good use and accomplish great things together from the West Coast to the East Coast and all of the farm fields in between.

Jun 28, 2012

Recipe that Celebrates

As we celebrate July 4th with our friends and family we often do so with good food. Take the time to appreciate the freedoms we have as a Nation but also the freedoms we have to make decisions when it comes to what we eat. Farmers and Ranchers all over the U.S.A. are working hard to provide safe food that is affordable and abundant. Large farm or small, organic or traditional we have the ability to make choices that are best for our own dinner table. I encourage you to take the time to reflect on what our country was founded on and the principles that our country was based.

Enjoy this patriotic recipe that has become a tradition in our family each 4th of July. The kids love to help bake and decorate and it is an opportunity to talk about history and make it fun.


18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 cup sour cream at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To assemble:
2 half-pints blueberries
3 half-pints raspberries

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.

Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.

Serve this cake right in the pan.


Jun 26, 2012

Tuesday Ewesday: Kids showing sheep

 The kids recently went to their first sheep show of the year. They had so much fun showing their two ewes. It was a bit reduculous that we took a two year old and a four year old on the road but it was a fun time. It was a bit wild in the showmanship class but we know what we have to work on now...Everything!
I told him to keep his eyes on the judge. Looks like he just gorgot to hold the sheep while he was doing it.
It is hard work for a little lady to show all afternoon. She did great and
wants to do it again soon!
Getting the ewes ready for the show. Parker takes this very serious if you can not tell.
Parker loved his ribbon from showmanship.
I think he liked the $10 even better.

Jun 25, 2012

Truck and Trailer

Yesterday evening the kids were outside running around our yard with no shoes having a blast. They were hopping on their battery powered 4-wheeler riding all around the yard while I picked berries. Parker came out of the garage with the radio flyer wagon and headed to the swing set where they had parked the 4-wheeler. Campbell ran to the barn and came out with some twine. My suspicion was growing and I watched from a distance to see what they were up to. My initial thought was correct --they were going to hook up the wagon to the 4-wheeler using the twine to tie it all together. They are 2 and 4, so as you can imagine I was very interested to see how they were going to work this. Parker was telling Campbell how to hook it up and she was trying her best to loop it all together. After a few minutes I decided to intervene. I asked them what they were doing.
“Going to the State Fair with our sheep and our horse,” Campbell replied.
Parker chimed in “We going to da State Fair to show and we gotta hook up our wagon.”
I had a huge smile on my face. First my kids are adorable and second, what mom would not be proud that their kids were showing sheep and going to the State Fair. I helped them rig their “truck and trailer” and they were off to the fair. They played for a good hour before I broke the bad news that dinner was ready.

Jun 22, 2012

Antibiotics sound bite does not tell the whole story

As I was in the Dallas airport and a news program had a teaser piece about antibiotics in our food. Of course my ears perked up and I had to hear what they were talking about. I am a mom and a livestock producer so I’m very tuned in to the regulations that we as farmers abide by for the health of our animals and the safety of the food we produce. The news segment was about seven seconds long and all it stated was that there is a concern among consumers about antibiotics being in our meats and consumers want to know if antibiotics were used in the food they are eating.

All this segment did in my opinion was make a claim and then provide no facts for either side to go along with the claim. Livestock producers follow strict guidelines to what medicine can be given IF needed, where on the animal to administer the medicine and at what point it can be given to an animal before it would enter our food system. This is all done with the supervision and approval of veterinarians.

What I would have loved to hear on this television segment is more about the great lengths that are taken from farmers and ranchers to make sure that the protein we buy is safe, healthy and nutritious. Antibiotics are used to make sure animals live healthy, quality lives while also producing healthy, quality foods. If concerned about antibiotic use, talk to a farmer/rancher and ask them how antibiotics use fits in on their farm. Because we live in the U.S. we have a variety of food options, some being labeled organic. You need to make the decision that aligns best with your food and family value system and budget. What a good feeling it is to be able to make food choices and have options courtesy of hard working American farmers.

Here some great links to gain more insight.



Jun 20, 2012

Photo Fun

It seems as if everything is coming along earlier this year. We are picking sunflowers mid June, berries early too. Thought you may enjoy seeing some photos.

Jun 18, 2012

Berry today or Pie tomorrow

When I can not find my husband or children this time of year I know just where to look. They often ecape to the berry patch. This was a little something that Matt wrote.

A berry today or a pie tomorrow,
To eat either brings joy and to not brings sorrow.
To enjoy berries today is a wonderful thing,
But waiting a bit can even better treats bring.
So I eat one or two and I save three of four,
Then eat a berry and save a few more.
For a man who saves berries is really quite wise,
When he has a wife who makes raspberry pies.

To pick berries brings such pleasure and pain,
Fingertips punctured and stained.
Many want all that pleasure, but don’t want the work.
They grumble ’bout their hands that hurt.
They want nature’s connection without the pain.
None of the work. All of the gain.
So few work hard while many get fat,
Do you know any folks like that?