What I Have Learned Being A Farmer's Wife

When I first married my farmer I don't think I ever fully realized how the past I had before him would be so helpful in my future with him.

I have always been involved in the Ag industry. It started with 4-H and showing horses and sheep and then moved on to FFA when I was in high school. And then everything just flowed naturally to college. It felt perfect for me to head to Purdue University and pursue a degree in Agricultural Education.

I was completely involved in everything I could be that involved agriculture. Then I met my farmer and moved to the farm. And I everything I had "learned" was now something I could apply every day. And for once I felt like my past, my present in education, and my future with my farmer came full circle.

And every day I find myself using all my skills and knowledge from my past to apply them to what is going on on our farm. But, there have also been quite a few things I have learned. Ok, may a whole lot of things.

1. Timing is everything. On our farm the livestock have to come first. And that is a concept I get, for sure. But, one thing I didn't really grasp right away was the timing of the crops. My hubby tells me stories of combining through the night to finish the last field before an early ice storm came in. And I have stayed in the grain cart until well past midnight to try and get as much done as possible before we were going to have a full day of rain. And sometimes the timing isn't perfect. Sometimes cattle get out right when you are walking out the door on your first date in a month.

2. Learn how to do it all, if you want it done soon. My husband and I always seem to have a list of projects that we want to do around the house. Well, ok, maybe my list is a lot longer than his. And since the farm pretty much gets all our time, you can probably get that our home projects are always done last. Luckily, I have a degree in Agricultural Education, which means I took a lot of classes in relation to agriculture. And shop classes, mechanics, electricity, and welding, are all classes that I have taken and being able to have that knowledge is pretty handy. So having the knowledge of power tools is super helpful, especially when I am dying to build and hang shelves downstairs in our basement.

3. Dinner or lunch will rarely ever happen on time. So, be prepared to reheat or keep warm.

4. Dinner will also almost always be requested to be in the field about ten minutes before the noon hour and you have already laid out spaghetti on the table. So, having a back up in the freezer is ideal. Hamburgers work great.

Delivering lunch to the field.

5. When you are asked to help for just a little bit be sure to pack a bag. With water, a snack, toddler toys, bottles, sippy cups, diapers, wipes, and pretty much anything else you can think of that you might need for at least half a day. I can't tell you how many times I have been asked to help for a little bit, only to end up being at the farm the rest of the day and night. Which is fine if it's just me. But, when you add a little one in the mix you always have to have a bag ready.

6. During harvest or planting pretty much plan on doing it all. Sometimes I already feel like I do it all around our house. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, maintenance, painting, small repairs, but during the fall and the spring it's pretty much essential to know you are on your own. And that means wrangling your child everywhere you need to be. When Ellie was a baby I took her to a few different Ag related events that I needed to be at. She has sat quietly sleeping in her car seat during business meetings I have had or conference calls. It's imperative to be prepared for those seasons!

Having a meeting at South Dakota Soybean with my crawler.

I have learned so much being a farmer's wife. But, more than that I feel like I have truly contributed. I have good ideas and I really value that my hubby listens to my ideas and respects them. And even more importantly, I have learned that as a farmer's wife I am always, always learning. Every day is a new adventure and I learn something new about our farm and why we do things a certain way nearly every week.

My advice to any future farm wives...Always keep learning and always keep asking questions!

Milk Matters

I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge milk drinker. Not because I don't like it, but because I always choose something else. But, I am a huge supporter of all dairy products. And I want to make sure my daughter gets her milk. I know how important milk is for my growing girl, and if you don't have a lot of time on this Saturday here is a quick run down of what milk has to offer!

Milk has 9 essential nutrients to help you grow...

1. Calcium- Builds and maintains strong bones and teeth 

2. Vitamin D- Helps absorb calcium for healthy bones

3. Riboflavin- Converts food into energy 

4. Phosphorous- Helps keep bones strong 

5. Protein- Builds and maintains lean muscle

6. Potassium- Regulates fluid balance and blood pressure 

7. Vitamin A- Promotes good vision and healthy skin 

8. Vitamin B12- Helps red blood cells

9. Niacin- Converts food into energy

And if you have time to read more about milk check out DairyMakesSense.com

Where My Milk Is From

 This is a pretty neat resource for all you out there who may be dating a dairy farmer!

 Check out this website to track just where your Dairy product comes from.

I thought it was so cool I had to get all the Dairy products out of my fridge and start searching!
Then, when I was all finished I poured myself a glass of milk and said a prayer of thanks to all the Dairy farmers out there...Milking is a lot of work!

Being A Woman In A Man's World

Now, this post is for all you women out there. Women that have the dream of marrying their farmer and working along side him every day and can't picture yourself anywhere else.

Being involved in the American Ag Industry is typically two things. Being white and being a male. Welcome to your typical "man's world".

Back when I started just getting involved in the Ag industry, in high school, it was predominately boys. For ten years I have gotten the pleasure to see things change a little bit, not much, but we are always evolving.

It still isn't common to find women who are the matriarch of the family farm. But, they tend to be the glue that keeps the entire family and business together and running smoothly. Women are typically in the background and they do all the unseen work. Like the bookwork, paying bills, cooking three hot meals a day, raising children, picking up parts, giving rides…and the list can really go on and on.

It isn't typical to see women standing up and taking leadership roles in some of the large agricultural associations. But, this last year National Corn Growers had a woman president.

You most likely won't see women sitting next to their husband's learning as much as they can about building a new feed lot facility. But, at the last seminar I went to alone, I was surprised to see wives sitting along side their husband's taking notes and running numbers.

I obviously haven't been involved in the industry for centuries, but even just seeing a change over the last ten years is amazing to me and extremely motivating. It pushes me, as a woman, to continue fighting to be a part of a man's world.

When I first married my husband I would say that he let me work alongside him every day, and SOMETIMES took the suggestions I had and actually thought about them.

Now, I would easily say that when we discuss future endeavors we are together and listening to each other's thoughts and opinions. He truly makes me feel like I am on the same level as him, and that is so rewarding. Rewarding that he values and respects my opinion is such a wonderful part of our relationship.

It's one thing for a man to listen to what you have to say, it's another when you can see them ACTIVELY listening, asking questions, and engaging you to get your own thoughts on a certain project.

If you want to be a woman entering this man's world make sure you make it known up front. If you want to be like me and be beside your husband every day, working every single part of the operation make it known from the beginning. If you would rather do a few things here and there, keep house, cook, and raise children- make sure you make it known. If you want to stay in town and continue to have a career- do it.

In the beginning it was decided once I was done with college I wouldn't start teaching, I would instead join the farm. Before we had our daughter I worked with my husband whenever he needed me. Even if it was something as simple as cleaning out a tractor. I worked alongside him. Now with our daughter I don't get to work alongside him as much as I want to. But, I make sure he comes home to a clean house and a home cooked meal.

My husband is supportive of whatever career choice I decide to choose and as our marriage and relationship grows I realize more and more that I enjoy working with him everyday now, more than ever before. Because now I my opinion is valued in his world.

Fixing a feed bunk cable as a family on a Sunday. 

Sharing The Holiday Cheer

The holidays are pretty easily my favorite time of year, and I think it's safe to say my husband's too.

He may not admit it, but we both enjoy seeing all our trees set up, wrapping presents, looking at Christmas lights, reading the story of Jesus to our little girl…I think the holiday cheer is in full force at our house!

Since I married my farmer and moved 800 miles away from my family and friends we tend to schedule our holidays well in advance. We start talking about our plans for the holidays a few months ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Basically what we have set up is that we rotate. One year in Indiana for Thanksgiving and South Dakota for Christmas. Then we swap. Sometimes, like last year, we stay home for both holidays. It was our daughter's first holiday and we wanted to celebrate at home just the three of us.

Typically Christmas tends to be a favored holiday to visit for my husband. He loves Christmas. And that probably works out best since we started tiling our own fields and there is a good possibility we could be in the field tiling. Sometimes he gets a little stressed when we hear it has snowed 3 feet in South Dakota and we are in Indiana unable to help, but it works out.

My husband tends to only take one vacation a year. As a farmer it's really hard for him to leave the farm. He prefers to always be home. We don't really count visiting my family for a week over the holidays as a vacation…it's more like we don't get to see my family all year long so we cram as much as we can into seven days of holiday bliss.

This year I took the holiday planning pretty seriously. It's the first year our daughter will really be able to experience it and I wanted things that my farmer husband could also participate in, around his schedule.

One thing we always do is a Angel Tree family. This is something we can all participate in, and help pick out gifts for. Then we wrap them up and take them to our local business and they distribute. It is a really great way to spread holiday cheer, plus I really love taking the time to pick out something extra special. And my husband loves buying presents, it's a perfect family trip to town.

Another thing I did this year was really focus on the advent calendar. I wanted something timeless, fun, and still had the meaning for the season. This is what I did, and so far it seems to be working perfect! I share a little tid bit about the story of Jesus and then we choose a jar. In the jars I have things as simple as a sweet treat to driving to town to look at holiday lights as a family. This is something that if I am at a meeting my hubby farmer can manage on his own, and could even be a bit "helpful" in his choice of jars so that he could pick an easy one, like popcorn and a movie, since that will probably be his favorite activity in all the jars!

Holidays are such a fun time for celebration and being married to a farmer can sometimes bring more stress into an already stressful time of year. Especially when two years in a row you are moving snow on Christmas Day, just so you can feed the cattle. It happens, trust me.

But, the good thing is if you communicate your thoughts ahead of time and do other small things to celebrate the season it really helps be prepared for a blizzard on your Christmas Eve Dinner.

One thing we do in our family is rotate chores on the holidays, unless it's an "all hands on deck" kind of day. But, typically each man in our family has a Sunday for chores. When it's a holiday we rotate out the same way. This year, for example, we had Thanksgiving. This gives every person a chance to spend the holiday with their family. And if it blizzards then they load up their wives and kids to watch gates while snow is being moved.

Even if we are bundled up doing chores and trying to stay warm while doing it on Christmas Day it just matters we are together and celebrating our holidays being thankful for our livelihood.

Tiling A Field

Once I married my farmer I became more and more knowledgeable about what exactly happens on a farm every day. And I often say it's like little boys who had little toys and they grew up into big boys with bigger toys...And I mean that in the sweetest way possible!

A few years ago a tile plow was purchased around here and our Harvest that typically ends at the end of October now kind of extends into November with tiling

When you "tile" a field you are doing it in order to help with drainage. You mainly lay tile in spots that have poor drainage, which means a wet spot where water just kind of sits.

You dig a line in the ground and lay some tile in order to help that water move along through the field, rather than just sit in one spot. If you have spots in a field where water just sits it tends to mean you can't plant seed there, which means a loss in bushels per acre since that spot now does not have a crop planted in it.

The whole process to me is way cool. I think my husband thinks so too, especially since he spent so much time with the user manuals and attending classes to learn how to do it properly. It is so neat how everything has to work together just right to make it happen just right.

I have seen what happens when all pieces of equipment work perfectly, and unfortunately I have also seen what happens when they aren't working perfectly
Lots of steps..but this is how we do it.

We start by flagging the location we want to lay the tile. 

We roll out the tile to get ready.

The tractor that is then pulling the tile plow has to drive the line where we are going to put the tile. This links it into the GPS, so we know where the starting position was. This is a slow going process, as you normally run about 1.7 MPH. So, nice and slow.

Once you reach the end where you want to be you hit stop. That line is now in place.

In our case we have a line already set that we want to link into. Which means that the excavator has to come over and dig down to that line so we can "T" into it. Or add the tile we are getting ready to lay.

You then stick the tile into the top of the tile plow, it digs down the correct depth, in this case around 3 ft and lays the tile. You then continue to follow the line you just drove by following the GPS coordinates.

Now, we technically have three pieces of equipment linked up at any given time. The tractor pulling the tile plow, the tile plow, and the ranger that puts in the flags. And we give all that credit to GPS, making it happen smoothly and connecting everything together so we know just the right spot to lay the tile.

I am an advocate for technology and continuing to grow in Agriculture. I think this is one more example of being stewards of the land. With GPS we can ensure we put the minimal amount of tile needed in a field to ensure proper drainage and a worthy crop.

Keep in mind, farmers out there, I have simplified this process a bit because I think really getting into the nitty gritty can get a bit confusing if you aren't out in the field seeing it first hand! 

Thanking A Farmer

Kontz Family 
This holiday season I would say that I have a lot to be thankful for. This month I had the opportunity to write an article for The Hood Magazine here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It's a free publication that I love to pick up whenever I get to town. I thought it was the perfect thing to share with all of you since we are entering the holidays and the season where we are reflecting on the past year and all our blessings!

As a wife, I know the way to my husband’s heart is right through his stomach. As a mom, I know that sometimes I have to let my little girl make a mess while I’m cooking, just so she thinks she is helping. As a farmer, I have a unique perspective when it comes to the food I put on my table. When you live and breathe agriculture every day, you understand the care and work that goes into providing the wholesome food that helps feed us every day. I spend my days working on our beef farm, blogging, raising our daughter Elliette, and cooking for the farm.

However, no matter what hat I’m wearing (wife, mom or farmer), it’s extremely important that my family always has a wholesome and nutritious meal on our table. This is especially true when it comes to cooking for the holidays.

The holidays hold a very special place in my heart, and are always full of excitement. Excitement to prepare my grandmother’s famous dishes that have been passed down for generations, as well as the excitement of starting new traditions like serving beef brisket for our Thanksgiving.
The holidays are also a time to share laughter, count our blessings and come together over a delicious meal. Actually, the more I think about it, food plays such a central role in all ofour lives. Whether it’s an everyday meal or a holiday feast, the dinner table is a place where we can all come together and find common ground.

As you sit down this holiday season with your own families, you can feel confident that your food was raised with great care. Whether you may realize it or not, a South Dakota farmer had a hand in growing the food that’s on your table. Your holiday turkey or ham was raised on corn and soybean meal that comes from our fields. The yummy cheese in your side dishes likely comes from a South Dakota dairy. As a grocery-buying mom, I am confident that what I buy at the store is safe and nutritious because I know that somewhere, there is a farmer like me, supplying that product.

More and more, I find myself being extremely thankful that my family has the opportunity to raise the food you put on your tables. This season, I hope that you too, will take the time to think about where your food comes from, and be thankful for the local farmers who help grow it.

My Dreams In Agriculture

Before I met my farmer I was pretty passionate about the agricultural industry. So passionate that I chose to go college and enter into Purdue University's College Of Agriculture in Agricultural Education. I was way active in Indiana Agriculture. Always busy with something.

Now way back in my college days I would have said my absolute dream was to settle down and marry a farmer and have tons of little babies to spoil and play with.

My dreams haven't changed so much. I have settled down, I have married my farmer, and some day we hope for more children if God chooses to bless us.

Beyond what I wanted my family life to be I also had a dream of being heavily involved in Agricultural Education. I knew I didn't want to teach at the high school level forever. I foresaw myself with continuing on with my Masters degree and even one day my PhD. And then I wanted to say home and be a farm wife and a someone's Mommy.

As life changes I have also had to adjust my dreams. Getting my Masters while chasing a 19 month old around wouldn't be easy, but I want to be a focused Mom. A PhD would be wonderful to have, but I'm not sure I would use it while my little ones are still young. But, I believe in continuing education and always believe in learning.

I spend my days doing whatever my husband needs on the farm. I also have a couple of bred cows that are mine to check on twice a day. And I have a beautiful little girl that needs guidance, all from me. I believe in play dates, trips to the museum, libraries, and lots and lots of play time and snuggles. I believe in teaching prayers, manners, and giving her a voice. I believe that I am the best one to give these to my little girl, so I put my other dreams on hold…but I am always learning and take advantages of days where I can simply go and learn at a conference. Whether it's about impacting with Social Media, or a recent day of buildings for putting cattle in.

Play dates at the Children's Museum.

I volunteer my time talking to producers about the benefits of using social media on their farms. I talk to consumers about how they can feel confident when making decisions in the grocery store. I blog about what it's like being married to a farmer, and how sometimes it can feel like I am a single parent.

Late night snack with Daddy after he got in from the fields.

My dreams are still the same, maybe one day I will have my PhD. But, I do know that now my dreams are my little girl, my husband, continuing to have a faith filled home, and raising my child in God. My dreams are volunteering all my spare time to talking to consumers and answering whatever questions they might have about modern farming practices. Blogging about my life. And I may not be earning a Masters while I do all these things, but I am certainly learning more and more every day. With every person I have a conversation with, with every discussion I have with my husband over animal welfare, and with every time I make a decision to be an active part of our family's life.

I continue to learn and share that knowledge. And I think that is a pretty important dream too!

Biotechnology meeting in St. Louis.
Women who attended the Biotechnology meeting in St. Louis.

The Hottest Topic In The Food Industry Part 2

A few weeks ago on my trip to St. Louis I was enlightened and completely intrigued to hear from some of the top people in the food industry talk about GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms). I blogged about it here, and today I wanted to talk about why I am so supportive of using GMO's on farms across America.

First off the process of getting a biotech trait approved is pretty intense. The USDA process takes 13 to 15 months for one biotech trait. And that trait is tested over and over and over. 

A trait is a distinguishing characteristic. Very similar to humans having brown hair or blue eyes. And a GMO's are plants with traits that are helping us farm more efficiently. For example, last year we had a little something across the Midwest, called a "drought year". It just so happened we planted a little something called a "drought resistant crop". Not all of our fields, but we did have a few. This drought resistant crop helped us to grow a crop with little rain because of that special little trait.

Now, this helped us during a drought year…but the another great benefit of having a plant with this trait is what it could mean for climates that are typically more dry.

Technology continues to improve. It allows us to plant our crops in all types of conditions. And this could mean growing crops in places of the world where the environment doesn't always allow.

It means growing more on less land. As the world's population continues to grow so does our need to offer more food to feed them.

It means protecting our crops from pest infestations so we will never have to suffer a complete crop loss because of bugs.

By the year 2050 the world's population is expected to reach 9 billion, which means we will need 70% more food. Biotechnology allows us to farm with less water, less fuel, less fertilizer, and less pesticides.

Biotechnology is sustainability.

Biotechnology is feeding the world.

Next post on GMO's I am going to be talking about the awesome things that are happening at the Danforth Science Center in St. Louis. There are some very passionate people working there who believe in biotechnology and sustainable agriculture.

Starting A Family With Your Farmer

Is about like getting married. It never seems there is a good time!

My husband and I have been married for four years as of last Thursday. Our daughter has blessed with her presence for 18 months.

I remember being pregnant with her two harvests ago. I spent my Fall in the grain cart out in the field. Sick, very sick. I had a pretty rough pregnancy, but it was so worth it.

And it didn't really go as planned. Ideally we had aimed for having a baby right at the end of November or May. This gets us through harvest and through planting seasons.

I will say that babies never come as planned, but I know that I am really glad we didn't have our daughter smack in the middle of harvest, because then I would have had a husband that would have been distracted I think. Especially since we were at the hospital nearly a week!

It just so happens that the day we were admitted into the hospital it started raining, and raining and raining. It rained so much we in fact had to replant some fields that Spring.

The day we got home from the hospital I remember my husband helping me into the house. Laying our little girl in my lap, kissing my cheek, and saying he will be home soon.

He then spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening feeding cattle and working on various projects. Work on a farm is never done, even if you do have a baby.

I remember sitting on our couch watching the sun go down, debating whether I should wake up our pretty little girl to eat or let her sleep. And being just a tiny bit sad that my husband wasn't here to discuss it with me.

But, I will say he was as supportive as he could be every night when he did come home and we also worked a pretty great routine out for the night shifts. He wanted to be a part of every moment and I love that. He was just as passionate about being a Daddy as being my Farmer.

I love watching my farmer with our daughter on the farm. It is one of her favorite things to do- go with Daddy. She loves all things farm, tractor, and cow.

You can't help but feel her joy for agriculture as she sees and learns everything for the first time. It is a nice reminder of the beauties of our industry.

My farmer and our farmer in making at a local farm show. 

The Hottest Topic In The Food Industry

Has got to be GMO's. Or Genetically Modified Organisms. Or Genetically Engineered Foods. I wonder if they will change the acronym now? Or the simple term Biotechnology.

Anyway, it's something that has become a norm in the grocery store, in the legislative, and a top concern among consumers.

The topic is one of my top questions that I get asked. Last week I decided to take a quick trip to St. Louis to listen to some of the top players when it comes to GMO's. And when I say quick I mean I spent more time in an airport and the car than at the meeting.

But, I will have to say that it is one of the best meetings I have been to yet. The knowledge was abundant and I feel even more confident in saying we grow GMO's and I support them. Here's why.

First off the speakers we listened to are both considered "experts" in biotechnology. So, some may say it is a one sided opinion. However, it's hard to argue when these people have dedicated their lives to not only biotechnology but providing food to underprivileged countries and have made it a personal journey of solving the world's food problems.

We discussed everything from the definition of biotechnology v. traditional breeding to the labeling laws that are trying to get passed in various states (It recently failed in California).

Traditional breeding is something you will see in heirloom seeds or even in the different varieties in the greenhouse you may choose your garden plants from. In traditional breeding you basically are choosing from a parent line and select the traits you are looking for and creating a new plant.

With Biotechnology a trait is chosen in one plant and studied for years and that trait is very well understood before being put into another plant.

I often explain biotechnology as us nudging Mother Nature along. However, it was pointed out that for over 10,000 years we have been interfering with Mother Nature, selecting what we want in plants (traditional breeding) and making new plants. In biotechnology we have vast knowledge of one trait and we aren't creating something new we are simply putting that one trait into something else.

I wanted to get the basic definitions before I continue on with my findings at this meeting. So, look for more in the next couple of weeks about biotechnology, feeding the world, and the Danforth Science Center that is doing AMAZING things in St. Louis.

Marrying My Farmer

When I married my farmer, some things had to change. I couldn't just run off to town real quick for what I needed to make supper, or even to run to town to pick out the perfect outfit for a special event. Tanning and getting my nails done are now a thing of the past. My favorite make-up counter is not even existent in the state of South Dakota.

And while I miss those things and enjoy when I do get the chance to be a "city girl" again, I wouldn't trade my muck boots, pony tails, or coveralls for anything.

I wouldn't say as I married my farmer that my hobbies have changed, but I definitely feel more confident and more credible now, than ever before.

I spent my childhood being involved in 4-H and FFA. When it came time for me to go to college I knew I wanted to teach, but wasn't sure what. When I made my decision it felt right. I chose to major in Agricultural Education because as an educator I would always be learning- because the Ag industry is always changing and evolving. And that was something I wanted to be a part of.

Through out college I was active in various groups promoting the Ag Industry. I participated in debates and forums. Even sitting on a committee in the Indiana State Department of Agriculture on improving education in rural Indiana. I was President of my 4-H groups, sat on various community boards, and actively an advocate for the importance of Agricultural Education.

So, marrying my farmer didn't chance my interests. It just strengthened them. Instead of just talking or teaching about farming, now I can talk about my real life experience with it. When I say that I support GMO's, I can tell you why we use them on our farm and the benefits that I see every day across the industry as a whole.

I spend my spare time doing my hobby. Being an Advocate for the Ag Industry. Something we need more and more of. I spend late nights blogging, replying in comment sections to articles speaking out against the Ag industry, speaking at various events, and when I get the time, traveling to talk about my blog and the benefits of using social media to engage with consumers.

Marrying my farmer didn't change who I was, it only strengthened what I believe in and he has shown me the importance of continuing to put on a face on agriculture.

Make sure that when you marry your farmer you don't fall away from your passions, but make sure you marry him because he makes you a better you.