Toiling with oil exploration companies – The Williams Family

Every week, month, and year is different. This week presented the visit from an oil exploration company, which ran seismic trucks over our wet no-till fields, which they weren’t allowed to do. They did it anyway. We had specifically stated in the contract that any permanent damage done to the soil they would fix. They did not want to. Marty therefore had to enter litigation and stand up for his rights as a landowner…reminding them of the contract. For non-ag readers, the cost to fix the terraces would be significant. It would have cost us $10,000 to repair the damage ourselves on this one farm. They ended up contracting the labor to repair the field.

The point to share is although there may be benefits to these opportunities; there are also snags that you must be aware of in terms of oil exploration contracts. For those of you who may not know, it differs from landowner to landowner, lease to lease. You really have to have knowledge of how these companies work (each one has a different level of reputation). One may try to work you over, while the other may really go an extra mile to honor the landowner’s requests, as long as it’s in the contract. In the past couple of years, we’ve had a couple experiences that have taught us both positive and negative.

This is our first farm. The terraces as you can see have been damaged by trucks running right over the middle of many through this field.

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Attending the Women in Ag conference – The Williams Family

Upon returning from the national YF&R conference, Marty whole-heartedly offered to watch both kids despite the ever-present long list of projects, while I attend the local Women in Ag Conference held in Tonkawa.  I was tired and felt the kids needed me to stay home, but felt I also might learn something. I try to take advantage of any learning opportunity available for the farm wife.  Plus this is always a great conference to attend as it is jam-packed with ideas for women like me who married into the farm life or those fortunate to be born and raised farm- and ranch-savvy.    Great information and enthusiasm is offered in just a few hours.  One keynote speaker was Dr. Christine Rattin, D.O., from the Oklahoma Heart Hospital, speaking on Women’s Hearth Health.

OSU Extension Agents helping with another successful                                         Women in Ag Conference.

OSU Extension Agents helping with another successful
Women in Ag Conference.

Heart disease is the #1 culprit to women, more so than breast cancer and all cancers combined. Yikes! Got my attention. Certainly doesn’t put the other cancers on the back burner, just makes you want to pay attention to your heart health a lot more. And yes, just like breast cancer, this disease has been showing up in younger people…though it is not as common…just be aware. It’s not a bad idea for young mothers, or older women as well, to get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked periodically through the year.  I know first-hand how we as parents and farmers put health on the back burner … but we shouldn’t. We have to take initiative for our own health – no one else will.  Yep, makes you think about eating healthier too, and nixing those energy drinks, which according to Dr. Rattin are not good.   The symptoms show up differently in women than in men. Here’s a link for more info: http://www.okheart.com/the-art-of-heart

The two breakout sessions I chose to attend were “Planning & Preparing Frozen Meals” because time is of the essence in the country, away from the everyday conveniences of city life.  I’m going on 10 years of trying to learn the in’s and out’s of planning & prepping food economically and efficiently. I’m still not great at it.  I also learned about water rights, and permits.  Water rights is an interesting hot topic for political conversation around not just our state but also the nation.  I will leave it at that, but I encourage you to read and stay aware of the water topic.

Exploring the Young Farmers & Ranchers Group – The Williams Family

Early morning “cloudy” sunrise on the beach. First time many have seen the Atlantic Ocean.  Well worth the frigid temps.

Early morning “cloudy” sunrise on the beach. First time many have seen the Atlantic Ocean.
Well worth the frigid temps.

The weekend came, along with another plane ticket taking us to Virginia Beach for the National Young Farmer’s & Rancher’s Conference.  On the plane ride back, I started thinking again about who might be reading this. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a prospective new YF&R member who isn’t really sure what this committee or organization is about.

Marty and I really didn’t have much experience with Farm Bureau and the YF&R group 6-10 years ago. Our county YF&R group has generally been small and inconsistent … not surprising as our age bracket is busy starting new jobs and families, which really isn’t a viable excuse as any age bracket is stretched in commitments and priorities. It is a challenge nonetheless. When we were elected to the state committee, we really didn’t know what to expect since our experience at the county level has been nonexistent other than helping with the farmhand Olympics at the county fair. The past 3 years we have served our state committee have provided the most informative and eye-opening opportunities for us to see how Farm Bureau works as well as each respective committee. Heck, I’ve got to meet people and see places I otherwise would never have gotten to see. Flying out of Virginia Beach, an amazing hub of commerce & trade, history, Naval presence, and contribution to agriculture, I am so appreciative of these opportunities.

Keili Summey, AGED OSU student, coming from a non-ag background. Competed in Final 4 National Collegiate discussion meet in Virginia Beach.

Keili Summey, AGED OSU student, coming from a non-ag background. Competed in Final 4 National Collegiate discussion meet in Virginia Beach.

This is a grassroots organization. One may think sure, the grassroots starts at the county level, and it does, but for me personally I have gained a little more insight into where exactly the involvement and education begins. It doesn’t begin with just YF&R, although this great committee presence is involved. It really starts with the kids. Kids involved in 4-H, FFA, Collegiate YF&R … and surprisingly with non-ag kids who are mentored into these great programs. I have heard more testimonies about kids with no ag background  (impacted by FFA leaders) who are great advocates and leaders of ag.

Both the county YF&R committees and our elected state committee are involved in mentoring kids young and older. We sometimes collaborate together with other counties and organizations (examples are Ag in the Classroom, OSU extension agents, etc.) to do just that. YF&R’s purpose ranges from mentoring programs for kids of all ages, to get them involved, teach leadership skills, and promote anything that has to do with agriculture (safety, legislation, education, etc.).

Great young leaders from our State committee enjoying time with fellow farmers and ranchers,  learning how to be better leaders and advocates back home.

Great young leaders from our State committee enjoying time with fellow farmers and ranchers,
learning how to be better leaders and advocates back home.

Why is this relevant or important to you, the reader? You may be like Marty and I six years ago. Wondering, what is YF&R? What is Farm bureau, I thought it was an insurance company? How do I commit to meetings when I have no one available for childcare? What can I do if my county YF&R committee isn’t very strong? Or more importantly, what you can do to encourage ag and non-ag kids interested in agriculture but without much direction or family support to support an industry that supplies the basic essentials for human life?

You don’t have to be an “expert” in farming or ranching to be involved with this organization. You simply have to have an interest and passion to learn, mentor, or advocate for agriculture.

The 2014 OKFB Young Farmers & Ranchers committee.

The 2014 OKFB Young Farmers & Ranchers committee.

The challenge that has been presenting itself within these three years is making time and eliminating excuse after excuse, to strengthen our county YF&R presence. Goals of the program are to provide state committee members not only a firsthand look into how legislation works for agriculture and other important issues, but also to see agriculture at work in our state, nation, and world. Perspective, networks, and leadership are broadened.  Individuals serving on this committee show up, commit, and sacrifice personal time to invest interest in creating a stronger county and State Farm Bureau team.   Ultimately the goal for members serving on the state committee is to take back what we have each learned about networking, commerce and legislation, and educate our county members (prospective and current), the non-ag consumer, and our youth.

If you have any questions about getting involved with your county YF&R or Women’s Leadership Team, please check out our Oklahom Farm Bureau website at http://www.okfarmbureau.org.  Contact information is available there under the tab “member engagement”. We want nothing more than for more members to these great committees.

A ball and a dance – The Williams Family

Project Woman

Marty and Crystal at the Speaker's Ball along with fellow Harvest Watch Bloggers Zac and Amy Harris.

Marty and Crystal at the Speaker’s Ball along with fellow Harvest Watch Bloggers Zac and Amy Harris.

As busy as this month has presented itself to be, it’s only customary to throw in a couple sick kids to make sure a mother doesn’t get caught up on lesson plans, laundry, or the blog! The flu is on its yearly rampage through our county and has been for at least 2 months. We’ve been fortunate to elude it somehow, until this week. Morgan had a 104 temperature, which it is just awful to see a child so sick. Thankfully within 24 hours his temperature was down and we got through it. Pretty sure when the kids are sick we gain an extra grey hair or ten, but also gain extra appreciation for what we have this day in age to help the little ones get through illnesses.

Morgan getting sick came just before the Speakers Ball, an event we were graciously invited to attend. Marty and I pretty much considered it a late “prom”, but for a greater cause.

This event is a fundraiser hosted by the Oklahoma Speaker of the House to commemorate the start of the legislative session. This year’s proceeds were to benefit and honor an organization called Project Woman. Project Woman dedicates time to raising awareness and funding for women of all ages who are diagnosed with breast cancer and may need support. Speaker T.W. Shannon’s wife, Devon, spoke of her diagnosis (she’s my age ya’ll), and the unfaltering support her husband and family gave her, a beautiful young mother of 3, a young wife of a busy Speaker of the House. It makes you want to find a way to contribute.

Crystal and Marty at the speakers ball.

Crystal and Marty at the speakers ball.

I would want nothing more than for someone to buy the dress I wore to allow us to donate to the funds…even if it’s a drop in the hat, it’s something little ole me can contribute. I don’t have the lifestyle to wear this dress again and would love for someone to enjoy wearing it to a prom or formal event knowing they helped contribute to a good cause. If anyone is reading this and takes interest, please contact us by email at mwfarm@msn.com . The money is to be donated to Project Woman, helping someone like you or me, like any of our loved ones, facing a hard time not only mentally and physically, but financially. Please and thank you.

Farmer and Daughter Dance

Daughter Ava ready for the Farmer and Daughter Dance.

Daughter Ava ready for the Farmer and Daughter Dance.

It just worked out that Marty’s tux would get another go at sprucing up the farm boy on another night for the father-daughter dance held at the grand Marland Mansion. Ava absolutely loves this event. Not so much for the “dressing up” part, more for the dancing with dad and other friends with cookie breaks in between. The parents usually go out to eat afterwards, but this year it was nice to spend Morgan and Mommy time at home, especially after a week of him being sick and us gone for a couple days. These days are oh so messy and hectic, but precious and beautiful no less.

Dustin and Virgil, our hired hands, have been keeping things together while we’ve been kicking off the New Year, Farm Bureau style. Though in between all of the Farm Bureau conferences, meetings, and events, Marty is right back in the thick of spraying, scouting fields, feeding cattle, and attending other committee meetings.

It has been very cold these past few weeks. Marty says about 170 hours below freezing, which for the guys means chopping lots of ice for the cattle to stay hydrated.

Winter workland: Machinery maintenance (and a little fun) – The Williams Family

Williams1-25-14DiscChanging

Changing discs on an air seeder, part of farm equipment maintenance.

After being gone to San Antonio, we had a busy week ahead of us. The guys have been working diligently on the planter. As you can see in the picture, safety comes first…right after necessity.

There are many seed opener discs to be changed on this drill. The new black disc is 18 inches across. The worn out one is 15.5 inches across. If not replaced, soil will not be opened properly for proper seed placement. New discs cost $30 and it takes approximately 15 minutes to change one. There are 68 discs total on this particular 42 foot drill. Also, many other wear parts are changed while the seed disc is off. Patience and persistence are two qualities farmers have engrained in them…with the occasional hat throw, wrench chunk, or pickup peel out for whatever mechanical mishap. Just keepin’ it real.

A single disc from the drill.

A single disc from the drill.

Along with equipment maintenance, came the need to clean the seed barn for a double birthday party. Our hired hands are amazing sports and always willing to “clean” a barn for whatever reason, which they have done many times. I always say having a barn party is a good excuse to get the place clean. Now if they would only apply those skills to the house…

Harvesting Good Memories On and Off the Field

Every once in a great while (once, maybe twice, a year if we are lucky) we get to go hunting together. Most people would think, “Gosh I bet you get to hunt ALL the time.” Well, no… We don’t. Our operation is year-round. There’s always something to do.

Marty and Crystal enjoy hunting together.

Marty and Crystal enjoy hunting together.

Number one, for us hunting isn’t to have bragging rights. We 100 percent enjoy being out and appreciating the wildlife. It’s not to harvest a lot of birds or a huge buck that seems to elude our stealth-like hunting techniques every year (that’s a joke by the way)…because we don’t! We enjoy the outside, walking together in native prairie grass, joking about our slip of youth, and reminiscing stories of childhood adventures.

Number two, we are both pretty lazy when it comes to cleaning game so we only want enough to eat or share with someone else. Or in other words, our aim isn’t so great. And number three, Marty doesn’t have “vacation” or time off. When we are able to take a rare vacation, he’s on the phone taking care of business most of the time. He could make time, but for a farmer trying to make a living and provide, not only for his family but two hired hands’ families, it’s a responsibility and priority to use time wisely for the business…hunting is not one of them. But it sure is fun when we get to go! These are my favorite “dates” and the only time I complain of Marty walking too fast.

Cousin Paul a flight instructor at OSU, Marty the farmer, and Bro-in-law Kelly an elementary school principal in TN hunting a few hours on Christmas Break. (Photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

Cousin Paul a flight instructor at OSU, Marty the farmer, and Bro-in-law Kelly an elementary school principal in TN hunting a few hours on Christmas Break. (Photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

He’s a good sport to take me hunting because we both know the experience is just a little different in terms of bonding, humor, and tradition when it comes to hunting with the guys in the family. Usually the only time they all get to go together is Thanksgiving or Christmas.

It has something to do with tradition, relationships, and resourcefulness. Or that’s a woman’s explanation anyways. Marty always reminisces about the older generations taking him on his first hunts, and even the old guys taking him when he was 12 and 13 years old…I’m talking 60-80 year olds that shot from the hip. Great experiences, great memories, great people in our community. Time in the woods is worth more than counseling and sometimes even church. I said sometimes, not always!

A family that hunts together, stays together. (photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

A family that hunts together, stays together. (photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

Paying it forward – The Williams Family

Ava playing the new My American Farm app.

Ava playing the new My American Farm app.

This month Ava was excited beyond words to take a trip on her first airliner with us to San Antonio’s National AFBF conference. Marty served as a delegate and we each helped with the National YF&R discussion meet. Our trip to San Antonio was a great learning experience as a family and as Farm Bureau members. These conferences are well-worth the sacrifice of time on the farm or at home with the great learning opportunities offered.

I used to get so excited about going to Encyclomedia every year, now I come away from what I call “the farm huddle” with new ideas and passion for what I, a small town girl married into the farm, may be able to contribute. The term “life-long learner” seems to be an attached label. No matter what age we are or background we come from, we can always learn something because there’s never really a time you can say you know everything. And, to add to that, the learning experiences that impact us the most sometimes are the moments in between breakout sessions and keynote speakers. Networking and meeting people at random can sometimes be pretty special.

You never know what kind of people you might meet at a Farm Bureau event!

You never know what kind of people you might meet at a Farm Bureau event!

The last full day we were at the conference, we walked around the gigantic trade show for an hour or so. I was excited about the education booth, Ava playing on the kiosk, and Marty on his phone. As we were getting ready to leave an older cowboy with a handlebar mustache was being entertained by our Ava, who was really not doing anything special besides being herself. We struck up the usual stranger conversation about how old the kids are, where we all were from, etc. We learned about their business in Georgia, which is very busy (I never will complain about being too busy lol) growing produce both organically and conventionally.

The Stewarts are good people, dedicated to making quality products for a variety of consumers as well as educating kids in their area about agriculture. Nichelle is a go-getter, busy from sun-up to sun-down working on their farm preparing products and advertising for the business, as well as, planning and organizing farm tours and activities each week. As Marty talked to Tim and their youngest boy, Jeb, I was thankful for the adult conversation with Nichelle and to learn her ministry in her community, as well as, her Farm Bureau activities. The topic turned to Ava’s birthday, which we were celebrating on our trip early. This woman whom I just met shared that her middle girl, Cheyenne, would have just turned 18 years old that Saturday as she showed me Cheyenne’s beautiful picture on her phone. She had gone home to Heaven a couple months previous from an automobile accident. Mother to mother, you can imagine, and also respectfully see the amazing grace Nichelle has as she carries herself…faith and purpose is strong and very apparent, which is why I’m sharing this experience.

Cheyenne Heard

Cheyenne Heard

Nichelle shared more about Cheyenne’s spirit, clearly attained from both parents. She was a beautiful all American tomboy and cowgirl, the kind most boys shy away from because they are intimidated a little. She was very hard working and giving like her parents; always there to help Nichelle with the school groups, etc. The kind of person you want your kids to know and will hopefully grow the same kind of roots in faith and family. I don’t have to explain the “tough” that this situation brings because many of you, like me, have experienced losing someone too young…the charismatic teammate, friend or loved one who always brought out the best of you and anyone they came in contact with. This was Cheyenne.

Faith and purpose. These two words have stuck with me as I’ve contemplated writing about this. Questions of whether I should include this in our blog have come up many times and I just keep thinking that I would be failing the “purpose” of it all if I didn’t write it. You see, in the short months this family has had, Nichelle started a “Pay it Forward” for Cheyenne. The day we met, she said she couldn’t look at her Facebook or emails yet because the event for this Pay it Forward was set for Cheyenne’s birthday that Saturday, which was just a couple days previous. Hundreds of posts and comments were anticipated on this birthday weekend.

Cheyenne and Nichelle

Cheyenne and Nichelle

She shared that once the word got out about the event people from all over the United States, and even around the world, were chiming in about how they were already paying it forward in honor of Cheyenne. Another humbling example of the impact one person has. Nichelle and her family have literally pulled up their bootstraps and made it through with pure faith and purpose, empowering a community near and far to do the same. Why? My question is, why not? Why not keep our loved one’s legacies going; to celebrate and support each other in our journeys through this life? Isn’t this what we all want? For Martyand I, it is. It’s not about how much land we can attain or yields, or any of the “numbers”; it’s about sharing and building a legacy of love with those around us.

 

Why does this belong on our blog? Faith. I have faith that we met the Stewarts for a reason. To share Cheyenne’s Pay It Forward, which ultimately gives you, hopefully, a new perspective and appreciation. How can you pay it forward in your community…for people you know or even strangers? What could you do as a Women’s committee, or YF&R committee? Think about it, pray about it.

Honor someone you love, as the Stewarts have not only for their Cheyenne, but their two boys, their friends, family, and community near and far. Now that’s purpose.

Cheyenne Heard’s “Pay It Forward” 18th Birthday Celebration @ https://www.facebook.com/events/1389434204645165/?source=22

Williams1-18-14CheyenneMomento

 

Kicking off 2014 – The Williams Family

Editor’s Note: This year’s Harvest Watch blog will feature posts from Oklahoma Farm Buraeu’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee members. These young agriculturalists live across our state and will share their views on agriculture as they tell their personal stories.

For more information about the Williams family, visit the Meet the Families page. Information about this year’s participants will be added with their first blog post.

The Williams Family

The Williams Family

The fire is lit, the cattle are fed, the wheat is fertilized, and the holiday season has come to a close. Here on the Williams’ Farm it is time to prepare and plan for the year ahead. This year our family has been elected to serve the state YF&R in the position as Chairman.  For the New Year, our committee of young agriculturists wanted to allow readers the opportunity to experience our daily lives…basically giving agriculture a face and a story. Each member of our committee has different interests and operations that contribute to the 2nd largest economy in Oklahoma.

Morgan and Ava.

Morgan and Ava.

Our farming operation is located near Red Rock, Oklahoma, established in 2004.  In ten years we have gone through many changes and growing pains, and feel very blessed to be the operation we are today. I, Martin Williams, and my wife, Crystal, daughter Ava, and son Morgan are an integral part of this farm.   For this month’s blog, Crystal and I will each contribute so you will see through the lens of a 6th + generation farmer and a young farm wife who grew up in town with no ag background. We currently raise winter wheat, winter canola, corn, soybeans, barley, grain sorghum, alfalfa, pecans, cattle, and a little hay.  We also sell commercial soybean, corn, and sorghum seed, and have a small business of controlling algae in lagoons at the Phillips 66 oil refinery in Ponca City, OK.  Sounds like a lot, and it is, but with three exceptional employees and other part-time help, it is a very enjoyable way of life.

In the ten years we have farmed, every year has brought significant changes, which we hope to share in a later post. Generally at this time, all of the crops have typically been harvested and the winter crops planted. This year we harvest various crops from May-November. January is typically a slower time for us. Last year at this time we were harvesting pecans…this year we haven’t started yet.

Spring seed orders slowly trickle in, but for the most part we are maintaining equipment and feeding cattle.

Feeding in the snow presents many challenges.

Feeding in the snow presents many challenges.

This past weekend we had record-low temps. Monday morning the outside temperature as many of you know, was -7 degrees. Feeding cows was a challenge, as Marty’s pickup had trouble starting due to the temperature causing the diesel to turn to gel. Therefore, plans changed as far as getting different vehicles out to feed and break ice.

The guys are also hard at work in the shop finishing up re-building portions of a worn-out no-till drill (John Deere 1850, 30ft with 48 rows). It’s taken about 2 weeks, about 40 man hours to complete this particular job.

There are mechanic jobs that the guys can do themselves, depending on the time of year, and other jobs that we depend on other mechanics to complete. For instance our John Deere 4020 sat outside for 23 years and needed the motor rebuilt. We just picked it up today from a John Deere dealership in Blackwell. They rebuilt the engine, hydraulic pump, and injection pump along with the new injectors. Previous to that we had stripped the tractor down to engine and frame, and converted the starting system from the old 24-volt system to a new 12-volt system. As you can see there is still work to be done. The plans are to repaint the tractor along with a new instrument cluster in the dash, new seat, tires, and rims, and don’t forget of course a new diesel tank, lights, and new decals.  

Wintertime brings with it opportunities for maintenance.

Wintertime brings with it opportunities for maintenance.

It all makes sense if you know Marty, who happens to love antique tractors and basically enjoys taking tractors out of the graveyard to the shop to resurrect in a sense. It’s not just a tractor to him, but instead the consideration of the history and life of each tractor, instilling a high sentiment. Usually he can re-tell the full history of each tractor (who owned it, how many acres it plowed or disced – it’s “medical” history).  I have learned that it has actually been cost-effective for him to take on this kind of project at times, when instead of purchasing a “new” tractor, we can find something like this that can be rebuilt for cheaper and seems to be as trusty and dependable as a new piece of equipment. This tractor will be used to mow waterways, auger grain, unroll bales for the barley modules, as well as harvest pecans. All work for this project should be completed by the end of March.

The John Deere 4020 Marty is bringing back to life.

The John Deere 4020 Marty is bringing back to life.

Trash day on the farm.

Trash day on the farm.

And of course, along with working around the shops and office, comes the trash. So this week we had our much anticipated “Trash Day Parade”. This typically consists of our Uncle Steve’s blue pickup bed mounded over with trash, along with an old bed trailer attached and full…led by THE trash truck shown here. We are proud to represent the “Clampits” of Noble County. We take ours to the Davis Disposal, which is about 8 miles north of where we live. 

As far as the family, I am busy  homeschooling our soon-to-be 6-year-old daughter, Ava. She has started piano lessons with the new year, along with her other two music classes and gymnastics. Morgan, the two year old, is busy playing with new toys and waits for time in the shop with the guys. The big birthday party for both kids is in planning mode for the end of what has turned out to be a very busy month.

This weekend we head off to San Antonio for the National Farm Bureau Convention. Marty will be serving as a delegate, and both of us are also helping with the National Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet. Blogging is also on the list! We have much we would like to share, in hopes that readers without much agriculture background can gain insight and appreciation for what the young and seasoned American farmers do every day of the year.