Category Archives: Life on the Farm

They have arrived!!! Beautiful, friendly and RED!

This is a day on the farm I will never forget and I hope my 3 year old doesn’t either.

First, let me share with you some history.

As I was growing up on the farm, our cattle operation consisted of a wide variety of cows my grandfather would find at the sale barn. We had tall ones, old ones, black, white, grey, red and sometimes down right mean ones. And some were a little of everything.  Grandpa had a great mind for business and he focused on how to make a quick dollar here and there to sustain the crop production side of farming.  It was admirable and it was so much fun to sit and watch him work the sale barn while bidding.

My father on the other hand was and still is equally wise for business but had a different, much longer term perspective. Dad saw the big picture and instead of a quick dollar he envisioned an operation that would fit the evolving market and sustain the beef production side of farming.  This meant investing in good genetics and creating a herd that was pure, black Angus.  It has been incredible to see this dream become a reality for both Dad and my brother.

Our hodge-podge pasture groups have transformed into healthy, black beauties who both calve well and have a much more efficient weight of gain. Dad and Ryan have built great relationships with breeders and have a good eye for the market demands.  It has changed the entire dynamic of our beef cattle operation.  We now do rotational grazing and are expanding into direct-sales with our freezer beef.  The genetics and feed have come together to fashion tender, flavorful beef that has given us returning customers year after year.  Not every year is a stellar market but with the crop production side of our farm we are able to ride it out and stay in the game.

Now, how does that lead to my big announcement today?  Well, one more fun little story.  As I shared, my dad prefers black cattle. They tend to bring a higher price in the beef industry and he simply likes the velvety look of them. I, on the other hand, prefer red cattle. Specifically Herefords (red with white faces) but any red cow will do.  When I was younger and dad began customizing our herds, he reminded me that he will never purchase a red cow.  He didn’t want me to get my hopes up.  I appreciated his honesty even though I would tease him about it year after year as the time drew near for me to begin my SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) for FFA.  I specifically had requested Hereford calves.  He again reminded me that we do not raise red cattle on our farm.

When I thought all hope was lost for my red herd, I saw my beloved Grandpa drive in pulling a goose neck trailer. He had come straight from the sale barn. I peeked in the holes of the trailer and couldn’t believe my eyes.  He had purchased, just for me, not one but five Hereford heifers. I was beyond excited. They were the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. Their white heads curled just right and they were so sweet and friendly.  I named them after my favorite childhood book series that Dad used to read to me at bedtime, “Little House on the Prairie”.   Laura, Mary, Cary, Grace and Nellie (she truly was a little ornery) were here to stay on our farm.

Every time I think back to that day and those heifers I wish I could try one more time to convey to my late grandfather how much it meant to me.  The funny thing is, I hand fed those babies into large cows and we bred them to one of our black Angus bulls. My dad again didn’t want me to get my hopes up so cautioned me that their calves would be black and white. The black is almost always the dominant gene. Guess what I did? I prayed. Yep, I prayed about cows. I asked God to please bless me with at least one red and white calf from my sweet heifers.  He answered this farm girl’s prayer in a big way. Four out of the five heifers calved and more than one was red and white!   I love how God cares about the small stuff and gave us all something to chuckle about for years to come.

Now,  15+ years later, my dad and brother informed me that we were purchasing a group of red Angus cows and one of them even looked like a Hereford!  Once again, I couldn’t believe it.  They were almost sheepish in telling me.  It was great. They do have very logical reasons in making this purchase. It wasn’t really about my hair preference.  You see, red cattle do not get as hot as black cattle so they will not be spending every warm day huddled under the trees.  What’s the big deal in that you may ask?  A few main issues arise when they spend a majority of their day under trees. It makes it harder to check them and their calves, fly control is nearly impossible and it doesn’t spread out the manure over the pasture to naturally fertilize the grass. We rely heavily on healthy, well maintained pastures since a majority of our cattles’ lives are spent on grass.  So the red really does have an efficiency value, not just a photogenic aspect.

I’ve waited weeks for these girls to be delivered with their new calves.  As I was rushing around feeding breakfast to my daughters and getting us ready for a trip to town my husband walked in the door, knowing I would be very excited, and informed me that my red herd was finally on the way!!! I quickly dressed the girls, grabbed my camera, thanked God and ran out the door just in time to see the trucks drive in pulling goose-necks full of the most beautiful red headed creatures you have ever seen. Okay, so maybe the most beautiful red headed cows and calves you have ever seen.

They have been well fed, worked with and loved by the Swallow family. We will do our best to carry on that same affection.  I keep looking out the window grinning and wishing my grandpa could see them. Enjoy these first pics of their new home at Britt Farms.

DSC_0817 DSC_0823 DSC_0826

DSC_0844 DSC_0849 DSC_0857 DSC_0863

DSC_0887 DSC_0891 DSC_0900 DSC_0906 DSC_0909

Beautiful!!! I’ll keep you posted on how they are doing and I’m sure you will see many more pics in the days to come on our Facebook page! Today was one for the books!

Love always,

Kara

GMOs and Chemical Usage vs Organic Crops

Our nephew, Jeremiah, is a well rounded “farm boy” who is passionate about agriculture and preserving the land. He cares deeply for his family and we are so proud of his accomplishments during his high school career which will quickly be coming to an end in May. Too quickly. Where did the time go?  Recently, he asked a few of us to review an essay he had written for one of his classes. As soon as I finished reading it, I just knew it needed to be published on our blog.  He clearly and efficiently tackles a very tough topic in today’s food industry – GMO vs Organic.  I hope you find this information to be useful as you plan your grocery list and strive to feed your family the best food you can afford.  Please note, we support all family farmers whether they raise their food organically or conventionally.  We simply want to cancel out the “fake news” being spread about conventional farming methods. 

Jeremiah Gebhardt, guest contributor

GMOs and Chemicals Versus Organic

            This past Thanksgiving my family began a debate that seemed as if it would never end. The subject has always had an extreme importance to us. That debate just happened to center around if GMOs and the chemicals used during the plant’s life are truly bad for humans to consume.

GMOs are genetically modified organisms. They have been around for nearly thirty years and have impacted agriculture in many ways. Farmers have actually modified plants and crop production since 4000 BC, at least that’s the earliest recording of it from the Egyptians. In 1919 the word “biotechnology” was coined by Hungarian engineer Karl Ereky but it wasn’t until the 1973 were we able to successfully splice a gene from one organism and move it to another. In 1982 the first modern biotech plant was produced.  Technology simply allowed for the original process to become more precise and more efficient. As a farmer,  I believe that GMOs and chemicals are helpful and positively affect our lives and world today. They are able to help farmers produce higher yields in their crops which have helped with world hunger, lower ethanol and biodiesel prices, and help livestock farmers better feed their animals. On the other hand, others believe that genetically modified organisms and chemicals are unhealthy, add unnecessary toxins, and are harmful for our environment. The great debate is whether the positive influences of genetically modified organisms outweigh the potential health concerns and are the potential health concerns based on fact or fear.

The grand debate of farmers using GMOs has been going on for as long as they have been around. The opposing side’s claim of GMOs being unhealthy truly intrigues me. In his article “Ten Reasons to Avoid GMOs” Jeffrey Smith claims GMOs are unhealthy because of organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility.  He also states that GMOs are unhealthy because the science community has seen a higher increase of chronic illnesses, food allergies, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, and digestive problems. After making these accusations, Jeffrey Smith admits there is no research to prove that GMOs are the leading cause of this increase of disorders.  His only link to the rise in health concerns is the timing of an increase in GMO usage.  He does not have evidence to support his hypothesis.  If he cannot prove what he is claiming then what validity is there to his statement? It could simply be that technology advanced rapidly at this time causing GMOs to be made possible while at the same time the medical field gained the ability to better test and diagnose chronic pain and disease. Genetically engineered food undergoes substantial research and testing before reaching the consumer. In 2012, the American Association for the Advancement of Science released an official statement regarding genetically modified foods, stating “the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques is safe.”  In fact, some genetically modified food is even more nutritious than their non-GMO counterparts, according to Dr. Peggy Lamaux, a Cooperative Extensive Specialist at the University of California-Berkeley. She further explained, “An example is low linoleic acid canola oil that can reduce trans-fat content.”

Many people who are anti-GMO believe that genetically modified organisms add unnecessary toxins to maternal and fetal blood. There is a counter article to this concern titled “10 Studies Proving GMOs are Harmful? Not if Science Matters” by Layla Katiraee stating that they do not. Layla Katiraee points out that anti-GMO researchers reasons are incorrect, because their measurements were based on an experiment trying to find Bt’s Cry1Ab in plants not in humans. In order for the study to be correct, pregnant women would need to eat several kilos of corn in order for the Bt measurements to be found in the woman’s blood. There is also the thought that it would not be toxic to humans either way. For example, it is how chocolate is toxic to dogs but humans do not need to worry about the fear of chocolate being toxic. Even though they have found a small amount of toxicity in GMO plants, there is no evidence of the genetically modified organisms being more toxic to humans than organic food.

cropped-cropped-planting-and-terraces-0652.jpg

The environment also benefits by using GMOs. In 2014, a company named PG Economics finished a study that concluded with finding positive environmental and sustainability impacts from GM crops. In the study, they used previous and new data, and compared the difference genetically modified organisms have made on the environment and how GMOs were able to grow more crops on less farmland. During this study, they found that genetically modified crops were able to significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions from agriculture practices by using less fuel and additional soil storage with the reduction of tillage practices.  In 2012, carbon dioxide emission savings were equal to removing 11.88 million cars off of the road. Also with this study, they were able to prove that GMOs are able to grow more crops with less land. They found this very important because the amount of farmable land is declining significantly. They predict that in a 90 year time span we will have a third of the amount of acreage farmland per individual. This study proves a couple of the many positive effects of genetically modifies organisms that organic foods do not have.

Another area of concern for there being toxicity is in the chemicals that are applied to the crops such as Roundup. Many people who are anti-GMO and anti-chemical believe that crop farmers drown their crops, which would create extra toxicity in the crop. In an article covering this myth by corn and soybean farmer, Dave Walton, he puts how much chemicals farmers add to their fields into perspective. He states that corn farmers, on average, add half a gallon of herbicide spread out over one acre yearly which is roughly a football field. That would also equal to being one-third of a drop of chemicals per square foot. For soybean fields the amount of chemicals spread is even less. Farmers put on yearly an average of a pint and a half plus a couple tablespoons of herbicide per acre. This would equal one twelfth of a drop per square foot. The amount of chemicals added to a field is not near enough to add any concern of any toxins being added to the crops and especially the food that is presented at your table. Since chemicals added to GMO crops do not add near enough toxins to be more dangerous and more unhealthy than organic foods, genetically modified organisms do not lose the battle of having unnecessary toxins added.

The family discussion at Thanksgiving showed how the great debate over GMOs is often more based on emotion rather than on facts.  A simple fix for human illness is ideal, and when a fix cannot be found a quick cause to blame is often sought.  When emotion is removed and facts are focused upon, GMOs seem to be more positive than negative for our local community.  GMOs give today’s farmer the potential to produce more grain on less land, with no scientifically proven health concerns, and the bonus of helping the environment at the same time.  The facts show GMOs and chemicals are positive for farmers, consumers, and the environment.

By Jeremiah Gebhardt

 

References:

Smith, Jeffrey. “10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs – Institute for Responsible Technology.” Institute for Responsible Technology, 14 Mar. 2016, web.

Katiraee, Layla. “10 Studies Proving GMOs Are Harmful? Not If Science Matters | Genetic Literacy Project.” Genetic Literacy Project, 1 July 2016, web.

PG Economics. “Beyond the Rows.” New Study Shows Positive Impacts from GM Crops | Beyond the Rows, Monsanto Co, 15 May 2014, web.

Walton, Dave. “GMO Myth: Farmers.” Genetic Literacy Project, Genetic Literacy Project, 24 Mar. 2015, web.

Licklifer, Lauren. “GMO Foods – CommonGround.” CommonGround, findourcommonground.com/food-facts/gmo-foods/.

Lydeas Picture

No, I have never milked a cow. Yes, I am an American farm girl.

Nearly every time I share with a non-agribusiness person about our family farm, I am asked the following question immediately, “Did you wake up early to milk cows?”

No, I did not. I did, however, wake up early to take buckets of corn out to my beef calves. Does that make me a unique farm girl?

No, it does not.

97% of today’s farms are family owned and operated. There are more than 2.1 million farms in the US (Ag Census.USDA) and out of that 2.1 million only 47,000 are dairy farms (Dairy Management, Inc).

You have a much higher chance of meeting a farm girl who showed pigs or goats in 4-H, than one who has milked a cow on her farm.  Before you feel bad for ever asking a farm kid that question though, please know that you are not alone in your thinking.  Have you ever opened a child’s coloring book about farm animals?  Rarely have I found a cow that wasn’t white with black spots (a Holstein dairy cow) or at least didn’t have a farmer knelt beside it primed for milking.  Has your child brought home an assignment from school about agriculture and it had a cow on the page? What did it look like? My guess is a dairy cow. Here’s what happened when my adorable farm girl niece was asked to color her assignment page in 1st grade…

Lydeas Picture

It was seriously a very proud moment for all of us. Definitely Facebook worthy!

A couple of months ago an exciting food chain opened up only an hour away. I have been a loyal customer of this chain ever since we moved to Louisville back in 2009. However, once we moved back to the farm I no longer had access to that rich southern sweet tea, perfectly breaded chicken nuggets or peanut oil fried tators. That all changed when one opened recently in Columbia. I have visited three times already and my taste buds were satisfied. I was treated with such gracious hospitality and they even offered free mouth wash in the bathroom which was perfect for my niece who was headed to an orthodontist appointment.  Yes, I’m talking about Chick-Fil-A. Their “eat more chicken” slogan doesn’t offend me as a cattle producer because I support all farmers. What does offend me though is that they use the wrong breed of cow to promote their chicken! If I was served a steak from a Holstein I would “eat more chicken” as well! Thankfully, I’ve only been served tender, mouth watering black Angus steaks. The breed American’s prefer for their choice of red meat. My brother thinks it’s just funny they have to use a cow to sell their menu.




One last example to prove that we do have a problem, Houston, comes from an incident on my husband’s iPad last night.  He was lovingly showing our toddler some cute animal videos to entertain her while I made dinner and she asked to see the one about a cow.  This comes as no surprise because she has been “mooing” since she was 9 months old and daily she asks to go out to see the cows. While watching the video together my husband realized it wasn’t just a cute cartoon, it was actually supposed to be educational. Great! It’s rare to find agricultural education on the toddler level. However, as they watched together he heard them rattle off what a cow is used for such as milk, caramel, cheese….NO BEEF!  Beef was not even mentioned when listing what a cow is used for! You may be asking right now if this is really that big of a deal….. ummmm, yes! Not just for our livelihood but for your health.

You see, beef accounts for iron, vitamins, protein and essential nutrients that are vital to your family’s health.

“Beef is an excellent source of vitamin B12 and very good source of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus. It is also a good source of choline, pantothenic acid, iron, potassium, and vitamin B2.” – www.whfoods.com (World’s Healthiest Foods)

Please, do yourself and your kids a favor and print out the included coloring sheet for them to work on while you cook up a delicious beefy meal and explain to them that a majority of cattle are used for beef and they taste yummy! Praise God for beef!

Fun Farm Facts Coloring Page on Cows (click me!)

Need a beefy new recipe? Try our family favorite, Cheeseburger Soup!

Enjoy!

Blessings,
Kara

 

 

unnamed (3)

Mizzou wrestling vs Tagging calves

We currently have two employees that used to wrestle back in the day….not each other thankfully but for their high school teams. It’s fun listening to them talk about challenges and meets they competed in and which schools were the hardest to face.  Here in Missouri we are very proud of our Mizzou wrestling team who won a National title this year!  Those guys are beasts! Very athletic and have worked hard for that title. All of this wrestling chatter lately has opened my eyes to the everyday wrestling that happens here on the farm.  Have you ever considered the similarities?

It has been calving season for several months now and each time you wonder how that momma cow is going to react. First, our guys have to hook the calf’s leg with their bare hands and get them on the ground (don’t worry, it doesn’t harm the calf).  Then they try to hold them  down while reaching for the tagger tool.  And have you ever noticed how the wrestler’s give each other a quick smack in the head prior to “getting serious” on the mat?  That’s what our men have to do. That cow is not too happy about their calf being restricted away from them so they often have to have a light tap on the nose to show them who is dominant and to keep the cow from running right over them.  Some tricks of the trade including working quickly as to not stress either the momma or the calf more than necessary and to also keep the calf between you and the cow at all times so she can see it and know that it is okay.

Here are some photos my mom took of my dad recently tagging a few newborn calves. It’s just like piercing it’s ear. Small pinch of pain for an instant and then they are up and walking!

unnamed (1) unnamed (2) unnamed (3) unnamed (4) unnamed

 

Why tag them you might ask?  There are several reasons actually.  The ear tags numbers and colors are very important. They tell us which cow is their momma, which pasture they belong in, what shots if any they have had, who owns the calf and where it should go next.  Also, when you purchase beef from us we are able to tell you exactly which calf your beef comes from, how it was raised and what genetics it has in it.

Some other wrestling simliarities I’ve noticed include the fireman’s carry which on the farm is used when the farmer needs to carry a calf to a warmer place or to it’s momma. There is also the move where one wrestler simply gets out of the ring. Haha. That happened here the other morning.  The men were working cattle and it was about to storm so the cows were acting crazy! It’s amazing how the weather will affect an animal’s mood!  Four cows jumped OVER the gate!  Our guys were very close to getting seriously injured. Cattlemen are tough but still human. We know of 4 men who ended up in critical condition from our area this year alone as a result of cows charging them.  It is not a job for the faint at heart that is for sure!

Here are some more photos taken recently on our farm during calving season. Enjoy! We are so thankful for the beautiful weather this week and green grass! So are the cows!!!

DSC_0785 DSC_0779 DSC_0717

Apple Pickin’ Picnic

One fine, fall evening a few weeks ago we enjoyed a lovely time at Nana and Papa’s house picking apples!  It was complete with a small picnic!  Have you enjoyed many fresh apples this year?  Nana has picked, and picked, and PICKED apples! We went over to help her this particular night and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to capture some fun moments.

DSC_0817 DSC_0811 DSC_0799 DSC_0795 DSC_0793 DSC_0783 DSC_0780 DSC_0772 DSC_0768 DSC_0758 DSC_0746 DSC_0740

Do you have a favorite apple recipe? We would LOVE to hear about it! Nana needs ideas on what to do with all of these apples! Ha!

Actually, last weekend our church families came out to the farm for a hayride, wiener roast and on Sunday night  FRESH apple cider thanks to Rice Farms and their cider press. It was DELICIOUS!

Tonight I served my family locally raised pork chops smothered in apples.  I know, it’s not beef, but we are giving a little shout out to our local pork producers! :) Share the love, right? The pork chops were purchased from Kings Processing, our preferred processor in Marceline. Great flavor!  Here’s the recipe for the baked chops and apples…a perfect fall meal!

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium peeled cooking apples, sliced
  • 2 heaping tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 bone-in pork rib chops, about 3/4 inch thick (we prefer either Marek’s pork chops in Salisbury or Kings Processing in Marceline…both are locally raised and have GREAT flavor!)
  • 1/4 stick of butter

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350. Place apples in casserole dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover with foil (or baking lid) and bake for 15 minutes.

DSC_0044Cinnamon with sugar is just so pretty and yummy….on almost anything…

DSC_0045

2. Spray skillet or drizzle it well with Olive Oil, heat over medium heat 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle pork chops with season salt. Turn up heat and cook chops in hot skillet about 6 minutes turning once, until light brown.

DSC_0053

3. Slice butter over apples and then place chops in single layer on top of apples. Bake covered for 10-12 minutes or until pork is white near the bone and/or meat thermometer reads 145 degrees and apples are tender.

DSC_0055

4. Enjoy with your favorite sides (we prefer smashed red potatoes and green beans) and a yummy pumpkin dessert (I prefer pumpkin pie. This one is from Twin Oaks owned by the Mennonites in Brookfield)

DSC_0060

DSC_0056

 

 

The last rose blooms of the season made the dinner table complete.

DSC_0057

 

Happy Fall,

Kara