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Heger Family Farms

Honoring the Past, Working Today, Preparing for the Future

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North Dakota

Why 4H? 

4H is a club that I never knew about growing up.We had Girl Scouts on and off and I remember my grandma talking about Campfire Girls. But 4H… hmmm. Well, about seven years ago I began to discover all that it can offer. Yes- a lot of opportunities to do projects and raise and show livestock, but also opportunities to learn new things while gainig leadership and civic insight. 

So although the week before the county fair is stressful and filled with late nights and last minute painting, glueing and baking,  I enjoy all of it! Why? Mostly because it is  also filled with accomplishment, pride and memories! 

My daughter wrote the following article for a local paper and I think she was pretty spot on! 

4H: It’s for You and Me                                   by: Libby Heger

4H is a leadership club for youth ages 5-18 that provides an opportunity to learn new things and develop new skills. The 4 H’s stand for Head, Heart, Hands and Health. The focus of 4H is to better or improve the club, community, country and the world. I joined Kountry Kids 4H in Underwood when I was six years old. I got started because I wanted to learn more about agriculture and many of friends were joining too. I quickly learned that 4H was not only about agriculture but about developing skills in the areas of cooking, art, sewing, science, welding and wood working. 4H is also showing me how to be a leader and better communicator.

 

4H has a lot of opportunities for youth. Some of the opportunities I have taken advantage of include: camp, hippology club, Citizenship in Action, Tractor and ATV certification, livestock showing, communication arts, and static exhibits. Other areas I look forward to exploring are livestock and range judging. To me the benefits of being in 4H are learning new life skills, tips and tricks to things I already know to make them easier and more efficient, and completing new skill tasks. Being a 4H member can also help a person when applying for scholarships and continued training after high school graduation.

There are many activities that youth can choose to participate in and there is only so many hours in the day. Sometimes it can be hard to decide what clubs, teams and organizations to be part of. I know from experience that 4H is a club worthwhile and one I would highly recommend checking out! To find a club near you go to: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/mcleancountyextension/4h-and-youth

Autism: Through the Window

Emotions run high and often the question of “why?” enters the mind. The world of Autism is fascinating, it is frustrating, it is filled with promise!

autismBeing a parent of a child who seemed to be a typical child for the first 18-24 months, it was heart breaking when “little quirks” began to appear.  My child was content to do things or watch the same program for hours, he enjoyed being around adults, toe walked, was a VERY picky eater, black and white concrete thinker, easily overwhelmed and would melt down- crying, screaming and striking out. He was also extremely anxious. Amazingly even with all these struggles he still smiled, asked questions and woke each morning looking forward to the day.  I longed to hold my child, rock and enjoy his company instead of hold him for his own safety. I often told myself, “If I could just peek inside, see through the window”, maybe I would be able to understand and be a better parent.

I was a special education teacher and yet it wasn’t for many years that I understood what all was going on. Through the years we sought support: OT, PT, communication therapy, counseling and pharmaceutical interventions. I read a lot and observed. As the years progressed and with the help and support of amazing OT’s, PT’s, SLP’s and teachers we have made it to the final years of high school. I would have never imaged, but always hoped that we would get to this point. Truly today my child’s anxiety is manageable, eating habits improved, he has the ability to know his own needs and share them, think and function with less rigidity, and participate in “regular” activities with his peers and adults. I now cry for very different reasons. I am no longer scared for what the future holds- I am hopeful. I am not sad for what we have gone through- I have grown in understanding and compassion. I cry because my family and those around us have been blessed. It really is about deciding whether the cup is half full or half empty.

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We’ll Get By (The Autism Song) Johnny Orr Band

Check out this amazing song and music video:                                                                       https://youtu.be/cBOSr7JK8OA?list=PL075BE3078E117E4C

As a parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum, I tell you keep the faith, be patient, do what is right for your child and family, and know that even when you feel there is no one else struggling like you are, that you truly are not alone! It is no a race to the end, but a journey. Love unconditionally and help them build and live THEIR dreams. The future is bright, the sunshine just may come from a little different direction than we expected!

Autism is not curable, it’s what I call curbable, moldable, shapable. A person will always have tendencies, it is part of who they are, but can learn to adapt their needs and understand the world around them.

“Everyone has a mountain to climb and autism has not been my mountain, it has been my opportunity for victory.” – Dani Bowman

What Does it All Mean?? Words, Sights & Experiences

Have you ever been reading along and felt like you totally understood and got the gist of what the words on the page were saying? Yep, I have too! But then you start talking with someone about what you read and they give you the look and probably a few comments expressing that you are out in left field and that what you thought you understood isn’t at all what they took away from the same piece. Yep, been there done that too!

So, how does one handle that situation and how does it come about? I am totally convinced that it is the  fault of three things either independent or comorbid with each other 1) lack of focus/ multi-tasking, 2) prior knowledge set, and perhaps what I blame the most 3) the miraculous brain that makes connections and assumptions without us even consciously knowing.

http-::mrslorber.weebly.com:
Source: Mrslorber.weebly,com
What exactly do I mean? Well, ….

  • Focus and multi-tasking: We, yes all of us, are always doing at least two things at once. We are focusing on one thing while trying to do another or trying to do two things while attempting to understand and/or listen, or we are really tuned in to one thing but the phone is ringing/ nose dripping/ radio buzzing/ or someone talking. There is always more than one thing happening! This also means that we often glance at words and assume what it says or means something.
  • Warning: This just kinda, sort of, well does connect to #3. We all have experiences. Not one of us processes each experience and set of information the same, nor have we been exposed to exactly the same experiences and information. We use these experiences to make meaning and create understanding of new situations, opportunities and information.
  • The Brain. What I can I say? It is awesome, miraculous and amazing. Sometimes it just does what it does. It can see words that “we think” are there but are really in all actuality different words. It assumes ( perhaps because of #1 or #2)  that something “says”, does or means one thing when it really is another. We skim over words and take in experiences superficially and thus the meaning we construct may not always be accurate.

So why do I write about all this? I write because as a mom, a consumer, teacher, and a farmer I need to be aware of these kind of scenarios. I need to make sure that I actually comprehend what is going on and know what I am doing, seeing, reading, experiencing etc. I figure if I need to, then a few others  probably do too.

Now, I bet you are thinking, “This is all fine and dandy, but what does she really mean?” Ok, ok. Here are some common examples….

Correlation vs. Causation. 

Correlation:  a tendency to vary together Causation:  a direct relation of cause and effect

Recommended vs. Restriction

Recommend: to advise or suggest Restriction: to stay within designated limits

Fact vs. Factoid

Fact: something that actually exists, reality, truth                                                          Factoid: Fun, false fact

Prohibit vs Outlaw

Prohibit: to forbid (by authority)       Outlaw: Exclude from the law

Guidelines vs. Directions

Guidelines: suggestion, framework, practice, indicator                              Directions: reference point, instruction, command

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Source: dreamstime.com
See, words can be confusing. We do, read, interpret within our constraints and biases. We all can do better at interpreting what is read, said, done, heard, and experienced.  It is easy to correlate something with another if given a direct and limited set of data. For example: Kids who play on the playground jungle gym get hurt.  It may be true, but how many? How often? What were the condition? Is it all kids? Are adults hurt to? Is it all jungle gyms? Can you really say that the jungle gym causes the children to get hurt or is there a simple correlation?  In another example, some would even venture to say that a certain food makes them sick. I ask, when do they get sick? How much do they eat? What are they eating with that food? Is it hot out? Has the stomach flu been going around? Are they on medications that interact with the food? Have they not eaten that food for a long time before they eat it and get sick? One may correlate the food item to a certain feeling or reaction, but without concrete evidence and eliminating all other possible influences causation cannot be made.

Same goes for the terms recommendation and restriction. Being a farmer there are a lot of different items used in planting and caring for a crop. Each seed and care product has different guidelines and directions. Often we have training to help us understand them, to help ensure that we use the products with efficacy. Many times, the human side of a trainer comes out. They don’t want to lower the hammer too harshly and they choose words that are easier on the ears and the hearts of those in attendance. Two terms that are often interchanged are recommended and restriction. It is important to make sure that the correct word is used and it directly impacts the actions taken. Recommended says that one should or it is suggested that a certain product is used a particular way. Restricted means that a product is only allowed to be used a specific way. Many times the term recommended is used because it is easier to digest, but it can have detrimental consequences.  If the label on a product says that it is restricted to a certain use at a specified quantity, then that is what is meant. Ot is not a suggestion. It is a requirement. Our words and actions impact others and can impact the livelihoods of ourselves and neighbors.

Anyway, ultimately, I wanted to remind myself and the few others out there that often float on the surface and skim though experiences and materials they read, to think about what it is that is happening, what it is that they are reading, and to take time to question the information and opportunities that we are engrossed in.

Words are tricky and our experiences and brain create miraculous meaning… it’s time we become active and help our brain understand what is really being said, done, experienced!

It’s time to engage!

Spending Our Farm Money in 2017

So where have the first three months of the year gone…. budgets, taxes, planning!

2017 has many elements that each year brings…. budgets, taxes, and planning. The difference is that budgets are tighter and therefore planning for farm needs versus wants gets a little tougher.
Each penny that gets spent in 2017 will come with a bit of double checking that it really needs to get spent. There really won’t be too many quick purchases, but a lot of shopping around to find out where the best prices are.

Take for example, seed. Seed is not all the same. BUT there is seed that is sold by different companies that has the same genetic technology, growing length, environmental tolerances, preferential growing conditions, and yield… virtually the same. The difference is a name and a price. No, the big companies aren’t always more expensive. Sometimes it is smaller companies, the ones where service is more than responsive and are willing and able to assist and support that costs more. Why? Well, perhaps simply because they are smaller. They don’t move the same quantity of product, but provide exceptional service and product. So you may ask what does the cheaper seed come with. Well, it comes with a fabulous product, a sales person that answers your questions and investigates concerns and checks in to make sure all is well. The seed has the same genetic components, but a local company sells the product for a larger company versus the company itself. Different business size and structure, same product, both with quality service! Ultimately, it means knowing what you can afford, what kind of potential profit can be made and taking emotion out of a business decision- which is not always easy!

Decisions also are a matter of timing. Being that we have been actively farming for 18 years, we know what parts and maintenance supplies for machinery we are going to need. We also know about how much fuel and propane we will use. So, we keep a very close eye on sales, specials and the price of fuels. Who doesn’t like a good deal and this year a good deal can mean 10’s of thousands of dollars. The important part of getting a good deal is that you have the capacity to take ownership of the purchases when needed. If you only have storage for 500 gallons of fuel and you bought 10,000, you either 1) need to be able to take fuel in increments or 2) find somewhere/someone that can store it or 3) set up fuel tanks to accommodate. A person has to decide whether a good deal is a good deal and if they are truly capable of handling the product. Sometimes when budgets are tight and deals are right, investment in infrastructure is the right way to go.By this I mean instead of paying someone else to store, dry, or deliver for you, purchasing bins, a dryer, fuels tanks, and/ or a semi and trailer may be the best return on your dollar. Forgive the saying but it all comes down to “crunching numbers”.

So, when I say we have been busy this winter, we really have. Yes, we have been repairing and prepping machinery for planting season and hauling crop to point of sale, but we have also been doing a lot of “number crunching” and looking for best use of our dollar on and off the farm. For you see, the farm generates income to invest back into the farm, but also to support our family and community. Decisions have to be made as to where to spend money to meet our needs and wants, as well as, contribute to our community. Decisions and discussions which are never easy, but necessary.

So as I venture into the second quarter of 2017, I can tell you that things look solid for us. Tough decisions have been made. A greater understanding has been reached and the farm planting season will be taking off soon!

2017 may just be the best year yet!  I can’t wait to share more as we get the tractors out in the field, the bottle calves into the barn and 4H projects underway!

2017- lots to come and to be seen!

 

 

Women in Ag: Adventure and Opportunity

No matter what a day on my family farm holds, I can be sure it will start early and with a large cup of coffee. Being active on our farm and sharing with others how we farm and why, all while raising a family makes each day an adventure. So, with the blaring of the alarm and the percolating of the coffee pot, I jump out of bed and let the good times roll.

Even though men are most often pictured as the faces of farming, women are actually the fastest growing group in agriculture. We play a vital role on our family farms, and are active in the food and agriculture conversation. Women purchase and run machinery, make seed and crop care choices, keep the books and budgets, do the shopping and meal prep, attend regular training and keep tabs on the social component within their own farm and family and the broader agricultural community. Through my personal outreach and desire to share what happens on our farm, I have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of inspirational women—most with different stories and backgrounds than mine.

Our farm is conventional, integrating technology and many modern approaches to raising crops. But many of the women I meet farm very differently, and many of the moms I engage with have different perspectives of what farming should look like. At first when I would have these conversations, I felt defensive, but I made it a practice first to listen and then ask lots of questions. With time and practice, I wasn’t as intimidated and defensive. These conversations became learning opportunities all around. As we shared from our perspectives, we began to see that even if we ate differently, parented differently, farmed differently and contributed to our families and businesses in different ways, we still had many things in common. We made informed choices that we felt were best for our families. Who can argue with that? Perhaps most importantly, we learned to be open to new perspectives, to ask more questions and to better understand our own actions, beliefs, choices.

Each day on my farm is different, but I have three main roles. First and foremost I am a caretaker. I work to make sure that everyone gets up and out the door, has been fed, laundry has been started, that there is a path through the house and it looks somewhat tidy, and that we all know the schedule for the rest of the day. My next role is farm support. Although this is a consistent role, it can look very different each day. Somedays, I work in the office doing book keeping and other paperwork, making phones calls and planning. Other days, I am running for parts, driving semi, attending training, or whatever else gets tossed my way.

Advocacy is another regular and important part of my day. Again, depending on what is happening it can look very different. Sometimes advocating means talking to neighbors at the store, reading or teaching in a classroom, and sharing pictures and stories on social media. Other times it is more formal and can include speaking engagements, hosting a classroom at the farm, organizing and hosting events, or talking with the media and becoming involved in the world of politics.

A woman’s work on the farm truly is never done, but it is always an adventure. I can be sure that no two days will look alike. For me the day begins with a cup of coffee and hitting the ground running, but ends with reflection and a cup of tea. I am so grateful for how each of my roles keeps me involved, busy, challenged and active in our family, farm and community, and I wouldn’t trade my ag adventure.

 

Sustainability Defined!

We all like to see businesses succeed. We like to look at our family and neighbors and feel good about what they are doing and how they are supporting their families, communities and other businesses.

Success= Sustainability!

And success looks, feels, and pencils out a little different for everyone.

So what in my eyes is success or sustainability? Simply put I believe it means that one is being responsible and caring for their resources ( family, employees, soil, seed, livestock, machinery, finances etc.) with utmost care in order to continue the practice of farming into the future. It also means that we share with others why we make the decisions we do.

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Now that is simple, but each of those items in the parenthesis above is dynamic and comes with a lot of depth and detail. Every farm has to evaluate how they will care for their resources. They have to evaluate the soil types, employee personalities types, machinery functions types, financial resources and types of expenditures needed versus wanted, and finally they are responsible for choosing and using the seeds, feeds, pastures, livestock and tools for care that are best for their farm and ranch business.

One practice and decision doesn’t fit all….. it is a process of knowledge, data evaluation, resources available, personal beliefs, planning, pacing, and then application.

Sustainability is personal!

Sustainability= Longitudinal Success!

 

Dots on a Map: Educational Standards

Have you ever had a list of places that you wanted to visit while on vacation?  Initially those places are dot on a map or items on a list.

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Source: http://www.123rf.com

There is no direction as to how to get to each place, what to do, when to go, or what to use when going or there. Your list is simply that, a list.

Educational standards are no different. They are a list of items that students need to learn to the best of their ability. They are NOT supposed to be prescriptive- dictating what to use, exactly how to teach, or who is supposed to be responsible for providing instruction. They are simply a list. Often they are organized into a progression of skill sets, but that structure does not prescribe how to teach, what resources to use or who should teach it. It simply identifies the level at which students are developmentally ready and in need of learning a skill so that they can build on it as they continue to learn.

With my background in education and strong belief in local control, I try to keep an eye on what is changing and who pushing what political agenda on our kids. ( Ok, I’ll be honest. I care about the education of my own kids and want what is best for them and their friends!) Anyway, that is why when the Common Core Standards were adopted by our state a few years ago, I tuned in and tried to make sense of the commotion and complaining surrounding them. My conclusion: most had not even looked at them and were up in arms because there was some prescription as to what materials were to specifically to be used and suggestions as to how they needed to be taught identified at times. There was a government dictation and imposition into what should be the local control of curricula. In other wards, the lines between curriculum and standard was significantly blurred. It also became a great marketing tool for educational material companies.

fullsizerender-13So, when the state of North Dakota announced that they were going to be revising/drafting and ultimately going to have their own set of state standards, I quickly filled out the application to be a member of the business and community member committee. This committee would be tasks with reviewing, assessing and addressing the revisions that math and english teachers made in order to reflect North Dakota education, our students, and what we, North Dakota professionals and parents, feel is needed for students to be flexible thinkers, problem solvers, and have a well balanced group of skills in order to be successful once they leave the walls of the school.

This week was my first experience working with this group of individuals. I was deeply impressed by the work that had been done by the teachers. They had really taken time to listen and think about students, the reality of differences in our schools, and the desire for the state standards to truly be one from the people of North Dakota for those in North Dakota.

Prescription was taken out of a lot of places. Definitions re-written to provide clarity, and incremental stages of learning and demonstrating knowledge outlined. Visuals for the English Language Arts standards had also been developed which increased understanding that it is a shared responsibility of all to continually be working on english and language skills. In the math area it was made clear that specifically at the high school level that the standards were laid out according to topic areas, not classes. This directly implies and puts control of the who, when, where and what is used to teach the skills into the control of local school districts and out of the hands of the state. This excited me! Does it mean a bit of work will need to be done? Yes! Will schools need to know the skills students need to learn and not guess or assume that if they teach algebra all skills are covered? Yes! It means conversations, it means collaboration, it means innovation and some rethinking….. it means possibility and opportunity for great things!

I am excited to continue through the next phases of this standards revision/ draft process!

More info on ND State Content Standards is available at:

https://www.nd.gov/dpi/SchoolStaff/Standards/

If you are so inclined, you can also comment and share your thoughts at the link above by clicking on the survey option.

Here’s to great things in North Dakota education!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do We Eat What We Grow? 

There are a lot of different crops grown in North Dakota. Our farm changes what we grow each year a little, but always raise corn, soybeans, and wheat. This year we also raised field peas and pinto beans.

So, that all sounds like food- do we eat it?

Yes and no.

When we grow a crop, we decide the type of seed that we are going to raise based on the growing conditions given to us (short growing season, moisture, and soil type). Most of the crops we are able to raise on our farm are not sold into the food market.

Our crops are used for the following…

Corn: ethanolimg_4162

Soybeans: oil, plastics, insulation, crayons, livestock feedimg_7431

Wheat: flour

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Field peas: livestock,  food aid for foreign countries 

Pinto beans: food- refined beans, canned beans, fast food market 

So back to the question “Do we eat the food we raise?.

We eat the field peas in pod right out of the field when they are plump and bright green. We eat the pinto beans once dry and combined in soups, chili and as homemade refried beans.

img_2683The other crops we do nimg_7437ot eat directly. With that said, we do eat the some of our corn, soybeans, and dried peas in the form of beef, pork, chevon as a result of the cattle, pigs and goats eating them ground as feed.

Additionally, we raise an acre of sweet corn and eat as much as we can when it is ripe. Most of the time we don’t even cook it- it’s shuck and eat for us!


Family Visits to the Farm

Our summer is always busy. The farm is very demanding as machinery always needs repair or fine tuning, crops checked and  cared for, hay is cut, baked and hauled, and animals like to be fed too! 😊 We plant some crops into early June and begin harvest of others  in late July. We also tackle the county fair, summer rec, community events and sneak a bit of time at the lake here and there and a week of travel for family vacation! 

This summer was a lot fun! The best part was having family visit and hosting family and friends out at the farm for a Farm-B-Q! 

Whether it was family from Minneapolis, cousins from the Bismarck area or siblings Wisconsin. Lots of energy was burned off and our farm life shared! 

We hope that many more family and friends venture our way in the near future! 

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