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politics

The Christmas Card Fiasco

So it is that time of year. The time of year that Christmas cards need to be addressed and I need to decide whether or not to write a letter to accompany it. I have to think about who  is going to get cards and who is not. Who has our family fallen out of touch with or, quite honestly, who can I skip if I run short. The trick is identifying that forgiving friend that is ok with a texted picture of the card and those who won’t even know they didn’t receive one.screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-9-30-28-pm

But the letter…that is the hardest part. With seven of us in the house I have to be fairly concise. I take a bit of time to reflect on the past year and feel like we haven’t done anything “out of the ordinary”. I pause to think about what others would want to hear and some of the things my kids and family have done. Finding the balance between sharing and bragging can be hard. Having a letter that doesn’t sounds like we live in a constant chaos and have too many different schedules is hard too. And heaven forbid I even consider saying something like, “As 2016 wraps up and 2017 kicks off, we couldn’t be happier that there will be able people required to go back to work, fossil fuels will regain vitality- drill and mine baby, drill and mine, and we are thrilled to know taxes will become more equitable and US companies will be returning to the US in order to make America great again.”  Who wants to hear about politics in a Christmas letter?!

I deeply believe that Christmas cards and letters should be filled with uplifting light-hearted highlights, stories and experiences – not politics or a written temper-tantrum and pout session.

As I await for my cards to arrive, with an unknown delivery status due to 2 weeks of crazy winter weather here in North Dakota, I sit down to write the letter that I have decided I need to write. But, as my fingers tap on the computer keys I will keep these 5 rules in mind:

  1. Keep Christ in Christmas and focus on our blessings!
  2. Share something school and extra-curricular related for each child!
  3. Share one family highlight!
  4. Keep it short and sweet!
  5. No politics!

So I ask that as you sit down to design cards or write letters think about what you really want to share and what is the most important, what sustains you from minute to minute, day to day and week to week. Keep some guidelines in mind and have some fun!

Merry Christmas to all (and because I don’t have cards to stuff and computer is about to run out of battery) to all a good night!

 

The Day I Cast My Vote

So I filled in some bubbles, folded it according to the pre-creased lines, placed it in two envelopes and signed the back of my absentee ballot. This was the day I cast my vote.

Was it easy? The bubble filling was, but my decisions came with a lot of thought. The toughest bubble to color- President. I had a few thoughts cross my mind….Do I pick a candidate that is not a “R” or “D”? Do I not fill in a bubble at all? Do I align myself based on the party I identify with primarily? Hmmmm. Lots to consider.

Media has taken both major candidates and highlighted all their social nuances and ill doings. Both Trump and Clinton have been nasty to each other. People have blasted social media with their favorite parodies and personal feelings. Candidates have avoided answering questions and when they do answer share just enough. So, how does a person decide who to vote for when both act like they are auditioning for a new or a revisited 2017 sitcom? Well, I had to step back and look at issues and topics important to me…

Taxes, immigration, abortion, trade, economy.

fullsizerender-15Ok, those are the big ticket items and yes, I did not mention agriculture. You may ask, “How can I do that being that we farm?”. The reason is that many of the issues I did tune in to are related to or have a direct impact on agriculture.

So here is what I did….

The first step I took before deciding which bubbles to fill in was to decide if I had a duty to vote or if it was simply a right granted to be. I had to decide if those thoughts were the same or different. I decided that they were different. I have a right granted to me by our constitution and I have a responsibility to place an informed vote. Should I have decided to not spend time to know what or whom I was voting for, I would be acting irresponsibly and should withhold my vote. BUT, I did take time to read and listen and think before I filled in my circle.

The second step I took, before I dove into each candidates position, was to write down what I felt was important and what my beliefs were on the topics listed above.Why you may ask. Well, simply because it is easy to sway one direction or another as a person dives into information. I knew that media’s drama of the candidates was inevitable and  as I was to embark on a bit of “research” wanted to keep true or as close to my core beliefs as possible. So, I sat down, did a bit of soul searching, and made some notes.

The third step was to dive in and read. I looked at some information shared by organizations I belonged to. I went to the candidates own websites, reviewed positions from my state’s elected officials, watched the debates, and tuned in to various news stations. I made notes and eventually knew that there were just some positions that I couldn’t compromise on. After taking time to “get to know” the candidates positions, I made my decision.

The last step was the easiest- I filled in bubbles, folded the ballot and placed it in the envelope sealing it with my signature.

My right to vote was acted on as a result of the responsibility I felt that right deemed necessary. Just voting for voting sake it scary. Not voting is just as scary. We have the duty to be informed and although finding the truth in matters such as discovering what the presidential candidates are all about may be difficult, we should take the time and energy to make an attempt, to ask questions and listen. In the long run, even if we choose the candidate that is not victorious, we will know that we made an informed choice that reflected what we felt was best. Ultimately THAT, the informed vote based on our beliefs, is the right choice!

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Sake of Tomorrow

So in all honesty I started this post over a week ago and have been struggling with the direction I wanted it to take. The last week has forced my hopes to soar, my heart to hurt, and millions of questions in regards to “what is next” to flutter through my mind. So it is with the coincidental wise words of friends that I decided to be honest, to be simple, and ask a huge favor. Here it goes!

Lately, deep in my heart I have had the desire to throw my hands up, turn my heard, close my eyes, crawl in a hole and just give up. Living “off- grid” really doesn’t sound all that bad, right? I look out over the tragedy in the world and the politics playing out in this country and wonder what tomorrow will bring. I ask whether or not people have hearts, souls, and faith. I ask myself if as a nation we have become so entitled, spoiled, and self righteous that we don’t stop to look beyond the end of our nose or apply lessons from our past to our lives. Deep down, I wonder what my grandparents would have done, would they have set aside the foundation on which their ability to reside in this country was set on? Turning my head, throwing my hands in the air is not a solution, but part of the problem…. So, I shake my head clear and think about what is important and why “off -grid” is not the solution. 13558742_10206635918525175_5297340711586269329_oIt’s my family and the promise of each new day that tells me to find another way.

Tomorrow is what I desire to provide for my family, my friends, and neighbors. Tomorrow , quite frankly, is what I desire to make possible even for those whom I conflict with. Tomorrow is uncertain and that needs to change!

The question then become- HOW?!

I truly believe that it all goes back to me and you, you and I! We do not need others telling us how they can make things great. There is no trillion dollar plan that will solve our problems. Speech after speech, plan after grand plan will not make our troubles disappear. The solution is much simpler and greater than that…. it is you and I.

There is true magic in the power of 1! 10694475_10204851557547897_3429914000056718470_oThere is something heart warming in knowing that simple things like unconditionally greetings others, offering assistance, and providing people the opportunity to rise above temptation and make good choices.  Sure we can lock people up, take away their rights, provide hand outs so that they can get by. Heck, we can even blow them up, but it doesn’t solve the problems. Those actions are band-aids to a surface lesions with roots of origination in our hearts and minds. To change the need to band-aid actions, we need to cure the cause. The only prescription out there comes back to us. To morals, values, pride based on hard work and earned accomplishments, and God! We need to be able to stand on the footings on which our country was established, hold them high, respect them and live by them. We must stop finger pointing and take responsibility.  We must not let fear push us aside and become dependent and servants. We need to be able to think, problem solve, function in society- giving back, and we must be civil!IMG_6199

Tomorrow is full of possibilities- good and evil! The direction that it goes is up to me and you! Take time to examine what tomorrow will be… make it memorable, make it meaningful, make it make a positive difference for someone else!

We can do this… There will be a tomorrow to look forward to…America will be Great by the power  1 almighty God working within each of us!

 

 

 

GMO Labeling

There is steady chatter about labeling GMOS. Quite frankly I do not believe that it is going away anytime soon.

Chatter is one thing, but chatter about something that is not understood is another.

Right now there is the reality that food items will be labeled with a national QR code where if a consumer really wants to know more about the product they can scan it. This would be a national standard with a uniform symbol and unified information- not a patchwork. If there has to be a label, I can live with this, but it still sends my head spinning!

Spinning? Really? Is that really how I feel about this? Not happy! Why? Not for reasons you may think. I have no concerns over crops that are genetically modified being used, therefore I feel a label is unnecessary. I feel the general consumer has developed fear of the unknown and not taken to understand the process and is reacting to a marketing ploy.

Now before you scream, “what?” Or”this lady is crazy”, let me explain.

Labels of this nature signal that there is a safety concern. The longevity of research and approval by not only the USDA, FDA, and the EPA clearly states that there are no safety concerns. The process used in breeding plants, and thus seeds, is complex and time consuming, but simply boils down to replicating a process of resistance or tolerance that occurs naturally out in the environment, the Eco-system, over long periods of time. Several companies use this technology, it is not just one.

There is more research and approval given to the seeds I have available to choose from, then many of the medicines, dietary supplements, and vitamins you have in your cupboards, can purchase on the shelves, or get with a prescription. Just look at the labels and see which ones say “approval by FDA or USDA pending” or “statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA]”. Yet, we buy them without flinching. Why? Because someone told us they would do something for us, solve an ailment, or maybe even make us skinny!

FullSizeRender (11)

As a farmer, I am thankful for the availability of technology used and the research that goes into each seed we choose to use. Are we forced to plant a genetically modified seed-NO! Do we choose to plant them- YES, when it is the right decision. If a particular seed will allow me to reduce tillage and potentially pesticide and herbicide it is worth my consideration. If I can care for the soil by preserving its organic matter and reducing compaction, genetically modified seeds are worth my consideration.

So, I ask, why label something that has not risks, that isn’t a “thing” but a process. If we label this, then do we need to label all breeding techniques? Identifying genetic traits and breeding plants, thus seeds, is science, it’s nature, and it is something that advancement in technology and precision makes possible in a controlled setting, reducing variables and drastically cutting down on time- decades to be exact. We demand genetic identification of traits for disease, deformities, and cures for ailments; yet want to deny it when it comes to development in sustainability, preserving resources, and fiscal responsibility.

So, why label? Is it needed? Do we really even understand all “those” cute little designs, codes, etc? Do we really even know how to read or use the codes and pictures already on the package?

I do believe that a label for GMO’s is a waste and used for marketing, companies gaining a profit by protruding fear to the millions who have not idea what it means but that it must be bad because a product says “it doesn’t contain”, even if it never had a chance of it having it in the first place.

To label or not that is up to you- you have a right to your own opinion,  but will it really make a difference? Will you take time to understand what it means?

I encourage you to take minute to do a little more research:

Read an article by Mark Lynas, a former non- supporter of GMOs: http://www.marklynas.org/2016/07/time-compromise-gmo-labelling/

Watch a short video “What is a GMO?”

And visit the website below: 

https://gmoanswers.com/

or if all else fails ASK A FARMER or find a farmer at :  http://www.askthefarmers.com/

The Core of Corporate Farming

Have you ever looked at an apple? What color or variety did you choose? Yellow, red, green?  Was it a Pink Lady? Gala? Granny Smith? Was it sweet, tart, perhaps sour? How did you choose?
So you are probably wondering why in the world I am talking about apples when I titled this post “corporate farming”. Well think about it. An apple comes in many different kinds. Some are larger, some are smaller, some have many seeds and others very few. Some make us pucker and others smile at their sweetness. Some are better suited for cooking and others are perfect to toss in a lunch pail. Regardless of the apple variety, its core parts are still the same- core, seeds, flesh, skin. Each apple is like a farm or ranch, all core parts are present. It’s just some of the details that vary and are available for selection based on personal preference, need, and use. A farm business should be no different. The essential parts are in place- land, farmer/ employees, crop or livestock, equipment, supplies are available and the way that they are used to have the best outcome should be a choice. In essence, the farmer should decide how to use the core parts in order to run his farm to its highest potential and this includes the right to choose the business structure that meets his/ her needs. At this time in North Dakota, the business structures available are limited.
Corporate farming… definitely a hot topic in North Dakota and one to pay close attention to… especially, because it is your duty as a citizen to vote and it’s on the ballot!
Measure 1 depends on you knowing what you are voting on!
Corporate farming… It definitely gets played as an emotional issue and one that many want people to see as impacting the “family” aspect of farming. Many people have the image of the small mom and pop 1 field, a cow, and a few chickens farm. They don’t want the nostalgia of what farming was 50 years ago to go away. They hear the word “corporate” and think suits and ties and 100’s of employees. Most people are three generations removed from farming or ranching; thus leading to the lack of or misunderstanding of the business aspect of farming and the sad reality of the significantly smaller number of children returning to the farm after graduation.
IMG_4161
Keeping Farming Business Options Open for the Future
Simply put what I see as best is all possible options for business within agriculture. I would like to see all crop and animal agriculture farms be open to or able to choose the business structure that is right for them, of course this would include a corporation. The corporate farming option allows for non- blood relatives to enter into a business. The northwest part of North Dakota is one area in the state that is seeing a huge reduction in farmers and people who want to come back to the farm. They are struggling in some places to convince people to rent the land.The economic times are such that the option for investors in farms or partnerships of the corporate nature assist in the ability to persevere and possibly grow in the business sense. Corporations are generally allowable for all other business sectors and should be for agriculture too.
Currently, as passed in the legislative session in 2015, hog and dairy, within the confines of the legislation, can use the corporate business structure, but no other crop or livestock farm can.  Corporate farm structure does not nor has it been shown to in other states mean large companies like Hormel, CHS, Golden plump etc coming in and buying land and family farms- in actuality they do not want the headaches of the day to day farm business.
If farms can be a corporation, then there is a chance that more families will be able to be directly involved in farming and will not have to walk away from farms that have been in their families for generation. It can also mean opportunity for more families to become involved and start to farm. We know that it is very difficult, if not impossible, simply due to initial capital investments, to be a first generation farmer or rancher and the ability to use the corporate structure is one way to bring upcoming generations back into production agriculture and ranching instead of pushing them away.
Some basic information as of fall 2015:
There are 2.1million farms in US, 5 %are Incorporated. Of that 5%, 4.5 % are family, .5% non-family. 98% of family corporations have less than 10 shareholders, 90% of non-family farms have less than 10 shareholders. The average size of family farm corporation is 1249 acres and 1078 acres for a non family farm.
Voting… Yes, voting on this issue is something North Dakotans will be doing very soon. Do you know what you need to know? What questions do you still have? ASK AWAY!
When you fill in your bubble on the nifty ballot paper keep this in mind:
A YES VOTE means approval of what was passed ( swine and dairy) and a no vote means it should not stand as passed ( no corporate structure at all).
In hopes that over time other crop and livestock farms will be included.
I recommend, a YES VOTE.
Help keep farms and ranches in North Dakota up and running. Help them bring new farmers in, maximizing the potential, and building a stronger economy.
Farming is in our blood, it is our heritage, at the root of our culture and economy, and our future. VOTE YES on Measure 1 because “Farming is as American as Apple Pie!”.

Politics R Us

A sunny Saturday in April and where was I for 2 1/2 days? Inside at the state Republican Convention. In all reality, 5 years ago if you told me that I would be looking forward to this event, I would have said you were crazy. Today, I can honestly say that I am happy I was there.

Why? Was I not missing out of things back at the farm and with the kids? IMG_2536Yes, I was! But I try to find balance! My oldest daughter joined me for a few different events the first evening. She was reintroduced to Senator Hoeven and his wife Mikey. She came with me to the arena where the convention was held and met Randy, from our Congressman’s office, who has worked diligently on a few different matters directly for the farm. I was able to walk her through the nominating process and what all was going to happen the following days! It was a great educational opportunity and binding time for us. So yes, I was missing out on a few things back home, but gaining some insight and working for the future by becoming active, voting based on my beliefs, and conversing about various topics with people from all walks of life. In the words of my friend Annie Carlson, “If  you are not at the table, then you will be on the table.”

The one thing that I will boldly say that that it is everyone’s responsibility to be involved. It is our duty to vote. It is our duty to be informed and it is our right to run for office if we feel we can do diligence to the position. At no time should a person serving in office be sitting in office. They are servants to the citizens. It doesn’t matter if one is serving on a small local rural board or in a capacity as large as in DC. Being active and representing the people and/or state is what it is about. Attending the Republican Convention made some of this belief of mine clear. There was close competition for several people seeking republican support. It was clear that the incumbent can not sit in office but must be on the ball and active. They need to fight for their position and represent the people.

I close with this:  If you are unhappy about the actions of an official, ask them about it. If you want to see something different taking place become involved. If you have the time, skills and dedication do what our country is supposed to be set up to do…. run for office and serve the people. BUT always keep in mind that you are not in it for yourself.

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