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:

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  Contact information is available there under the tab “member engagement”. We want nothing more than for more members to these great committees.

Did you know? – The Harris family

It has been a great week; busy but great.  The fun highlight was the Young Farmers and Ranchers State Conference.  We have really enjoyed connecting with farmers and ranchers from across the state, discussing the different aspects of agriculture.  This year, the state conference was in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, and as a standing joke it is NOT the armpit of Oklahoma!  It is way in the corner and it feels closer to Arkansas and Texas than Oklahoma.  It was a long drive but completely worth it.  Friday we spent the day learning about chickens.  I must be honest I was not overly excited about all the trees and the fact I couldn’t see even 1/8 mile ahead, but I admit that both forestry and chicken farming have a place in Oklahoma agriculture.   Did you know that in Oklahoma alone forestry has 3 million acres!  Yes that is MILLION!  It is the third largest Oklahoma agriculture commodity and no, they do not count the mesquite trees in my pasture because I asked.   However, my close friend Brent Howard has some bodark trees his grandfather planted that intrigued the OSU Forestry guys!  The Tyson hatchery in Broken Bow handles more eggs than I have seen in my lifetime in just one day and maybe an hour.  So many little chicks-holy cow there was a bunch.  The Tyson processing plant was extremely interesting as we toured their entire process.  It’s amazing how many employees they have at this facility.  I believe they told us it was 1,600.  The plant operates on 3 shifts and one cleaning crew, as compared to the hatchery that only operates on 17 employees and 2 maintenance members.  They get their eggs from local farms within a 2-hour drive, hatch them and send the chicks back out to local farmers to feed for roughly 7 weeks before they are sent to the processing plant.  They process about 260,000 birds a day and use 7 gallons of water per chicken.  What astounded me the most is how many cuts of meat are used and that the most valuable part of the chicken, I assumed was the breast, was actually the cartilage in the back and the entire foot of the chicken.  The foot is considered a delicacy overseas and the cartilage is used in the human medical field.  Not to jump, around but back to the hatchery they vaccinate them 3 times once in the egg and twice before being shipped to a farmer.  Justin, our tour guide, said that if they didn’t vaccinate in the egg most wouldn’t survive because of I believe a lung disease in the embryo.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, obviously in all the storms, we received some more rain.  After last year, you won’t hear me complain about it.  The US drought monitor updated on April 10 states that we are nearly out of the drought.  I would have guessed it would have taken several years of average rain to regain this moisture.  God is so good.   In addition, to reestablishing our moisture in the soil; God has also protected our area from some severe weather.  I know this past week lots of our friends and neighbors weren’t so lucky.  All the large hail that went through Kansas and Oklahoma certainly ruined lots of fields of wheat with lots of structural damages too.

I started laying down the hay today hoping for a few days without rain so that I can get it safely in the barn.  The wheat that had been laid down due to wind is mostly all standing up again.  Grandpa and I took a tour around our places on Monday morning and I would guess 10-20% of our wheat was laid over and today only 5-10%.  I am very pleased with that.

One of our combines is ready to go for the upcoming harvest.

We received a photo message today that one combine is complete and sitting in Enid, Oklahoma.  I am getting excited.   All of the wheat is mostly filled and should start “turning” by the end of next week.  Turning is a term used to describe wheat as it begins to die after, becoming fully mature and turning a golden yellow color.

See ya next week!