5 things my dad taught me

This past weekend, I was so excited because I was able to go home to Ohio for a few days and spend Father’s Day with my dad. My time at home made me reflect on the impact my dad has had on me, and everything he has taught me. The list below is just a small portion of the things he has taught me.

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  1. A love for agriculture.
    Being away from the farm, I realize, now, how much I took for granted growing up on a farm. It’s a beautiful way of life. Since my dad wanted to continue farming as a career, I was able to have the rare opportunity to be raised on a production agriculture farm. Agriculture has deep roots in American history , and it is so cool to be a part of it. Agriculture has become my life, and I am forever grateful that every aspect of my life has some connection to agriculture. My dad is an extremely admirable steward of the land and you can tell when he talks about the crops or cows, for as frustrating as agriculture may be sometimes, there is nothing else he would rather be doing.
  2. Hard work beats talent every time.
    I mean it is just the facts of life. If you don’t work at something, it is not just going to happen over night. My dad always pushed us to be better than the day before; whether it was showing cattle, playing baseball or softball or writing a research paper. He is always there to support our hard work, and makes sure we have everything we need in order for that hard work to hopefully pay off.
  3. Dedication.
    Dedication to what you do in life is very similar to hard work, but you need dedication to make hard work pay off. My dad is dedicated to the land he farms and his family, and that is how his hard work has become successful. You can work as hard as you want, but until you are dedicated to your work, you will not reap the fruits of your labor.
  4. How to be strong, yet compassionate.
    Strength does not just come from working out. True strength comes from when it has not rained in weeks and the crop is about to get burnt up if the rain does not come soon, or when you just helped a cow have her calf, but the calf is not strong enough to take another breath. But, he still faces the next day. His strength and love for agriculture and those around him, allow him to be compassionate because he cares so deeply about those things and works to keep everything going even when it is not easy.
  5. Honesty, truthfulness and transparency is a key to life.
    One thing my dad always reminded us was to be honest with everyone around us and in anything you do. No one can fault you for not being honest. Yes, the truth hurts sometimes, but being honest with people will get you farther in life. If you are honest with others, they will hopefully be honest with you, but ultimately, you will gain others respect.

Thanks for teaching me these things at such an early age, dad! I love you!

Jess

 

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California Dreamin’

If the saying goes, “a day late, and a dollar short” then I am a month late and $31 short…

Summer sure kicked into high speed after spring semester and when our week break before summer semester began. In that transition, I had the opportunity to fly to San Luis Obispo, California, to present about some research I am working on in graduate school at the National AAAE Annual Conference.

I am not sure what I thought California looked like, but in my head, it was not this… ocean1

On the first day, we had time before the conference so we took them up on the offer to explore the Pacific coast. First, we saw sea lions just hanging out on the coast. I had no idea they could get that big, and so many could fit in a small space on the beach! They can grow as large as 850+ pounds!

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Next, we visited the Hurst Castle that is tucked away in the mountains. The property is still in the Hurst family, and they even run about 2,000 head of black and red Angus cows. California also produces citrus, just like Florida, and there were a few citrus trees on the property. I have not seen too many castles in my day, but, wow! This property was certainly extravagant. Instead of me describing it, I will just let you checkout the pictures below.

Not only did we get to experience a real castle,  we also had the chance to try California wine. We stopped at the Nail & Tooth Winery. They provided samples of wine that paired with certain cheeses. My favorite was the chardonnay. California is home to tons of vineyards, and it was amazing to see just how many grape vines make up one vineyard.

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After our first day of exploring, it was time to get back to the conference. There, I presented a poster on if case studies about agricultural issues increased students’ self-perceived knowledge about those agricultural issues.

 

A part of the conference was the opportunity to explore more of California and California agriculture. We visited an avocado grove, and ate fresh guacamole in an avocado grove. Pretty cool if you love guac, huh? San Luis Obispo is about as far north as avocados can grow. In order to grow efficiently, the trees need warmer climates.

We also visited the Cal Poly meat lab. The university has a new processing plant providing students with the opportunity to experience every step of meat processing. Students also have the opportunity to work the storefront, selling meat harvested there.

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Finally, we visited the Cal Poly strawberry farm. While I have seen strawberries growing in action in Florida, it was really interesting to hear about the research being done at Cal Poly with strawberries. They even provided taste tests of the different varieties. Yes, they did have Florida strawberries to eat in California for us!

 

Not only did we experience California sightseeing and their agriculture, but we got to cross off a few bucket list items: pictures with a giant cow statue, put gum on bubble gum wall (yes, it was quite disgusting, but I still did it!), explore the farmers market, eat beef tips, see lots of cows, and, of course, touch the Pacific Ocean.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit California, I would highly recommend it. I am already planning my trip back!

Have a great rest of the week, and happy Flag Day!

Jess

 

5 things my mom is

Have you ever met my mom? If not, you’re about to get a little glimpse of who she is.

Everyone says their mom “is the best.” I truly believe that to be the case because as a matter of fact my mom “is the best.” In honor of Mother’s Day, here are five things my mom is that truly makes her the best. 11014923_863723487016414_2044903481021065744_n

  1. Strong
    She is the strongest person I have ever known in my entire life. Not just physically strong, although she can unload a truck bed full of feed bags, she is mentally and spiritually strong. Living on a farm, I guess have to be. She taught me to stand up for what I believe in. She taught me to keep moving forward because tomorrow is going to be a brighter day. She also taught me to trust in Lord and He is always there no matter where I am. Her and I have matching cross necklaces we wear every day that reminds me of strength in so many way.
  2. Independent
    Not necessarily in the sense that I can just be a “one-man band,” but that I can do anything I want to do. I can dream as big as I want and accomplish what I want if I work hard enough. She taught me it’s ok to think independently of other and not agree with what everyone else is doing. Sometimes going against the grain has more rewards at the end of the tunnel and standing on your own two feet is a good feeling.
  3. Humble
    This is one of her best qualities. I don’t think she knows it though. She does all these amazing things for everyone else. She gets them through their day with no return or reward. She continually works hard to help my brother and I succeed and when it happens she just steps to the sidelines and smiles. She doesn’t ever say, and I am not sure it ever crosses her mind, “well, I helped them get there.” She says “I am so proud of you! Look at what you did!” with a big hug waiting. We have to remind her, “Mom, you’re a lot of the reason we accomplished (fill in the blank).” Being humble is something hard to describe, but if I had to describe it, I would tell someone to go spend a day with my mom.
  4. Selfless
    She will do anything for you no matter what time of the day it is. She will bend over backwards ten times, and do a hand stand in the mix. It truly amazes me how selfless she is and how much she gives back to those around her. One of the gifts I appreciate from here is her time. She is running her own, very successful business 12193631_947077192014376_8841113784189612722_nand has a lot of deadlines to meet. It could be a deadline day and if I needed to talk for an hour or if I needed something she would pick up the phone or book a plane ticket to Florida that same day. She puts everyone else before herself to make sure they have everything they need. It truly amazes me how selfless she really is. Example: She takes care of the steers in the cool room while we are at junior nationals in another state. Then, on show day she flies to the show just to watch us show for maybe ten minutes and flies back the next day. That’s only one example. Tell me that’s not selfless.
  5. Loves unconditionally
    Maybe the best one of all, she loves unconditionally. She taught me the true meaning of love isn’t money or extravagant gifts or something materialistic. It’s time with people, how you treat people and loving them no matter what. That’s what loving unconditionally is. She is always there for us and is our biggest cheerleader even if we are thousands of miles away. She spends all the time she can with her kids and that I am forever grateful for. We can get off our course a little bit, but she always brings us back and loves us even more. Her unconditional love helps us learn valuable life lessons every day.

Can I be like my mom someday? I hope someday to be at least half of what my mom is. She truly is a one of a kind lady. In addition to all those things above, she is smart, funny and beautiful. Thanks for always just being you mom!I also just got a text that she is helping work cows on her day. You’re awesome, mom! I miss and love you all the way from Florida!

Happy Mother’s day to all the wonderful Mother’s out there!

Jess

Proverbs 31:10-31

 

#PhotoFriday: Visiting the spring calves

One of my favorite times of the year is when the calves are just about two to three months old. They are the cutest and have a ton of personality. In addition, not only are the calves growing, the crops are starting to be planted and soon their will be corn and soybean sprout poking out of the dirt. 

For my #PhotoFriday this week, I wanted to bring you a few of the “camera hogs” I had while I made a quick trip back North last week. It was cloudy the whole time, but these little ones brightened it up!

In our operation in Ohio, our cows are Chianina, Simmental, Charolais and Maine-Anjou. The calves featured here have these breeds plus two of them are half-blood Angus. Angus bulls are used in our operation for their low birth weights and to potentially add strong maternal traits back into the herd with the heifer calves we keep.

It is also fitting to post these pictures since Mother’s day is just around the corner!

Be on the look out for my upcoming Mother’s Day post.

Happy Friday!

Jess

#PhotoFriday: Scenic Pastures

Hey, everyone! It’s been a while – I sincerely apologize for that! Our semester at UF came to a close Wednesday, and since my hay raking blog, it has been CRAZY. A lot of cool and exciting things have been happening since my last post that I am excited to blog about at a later date. However, for now, I just want to share a photo Friday with you to get back in the swing of things.

Cows and a pretty pond. Could it get any better?

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Have a blessed weekend!

Jess

Research Papers to Hay Raking

Saturday morning I found myself in my grad student cubical working on a research paper, and I felt like I was getting somewhere because I was finding the sources I needed to make my case. (For those of you who have been in grad school, you know sorting through the plethora of other research papers to make a solid theoretical framework can be challenging sometimes to get it JUST right.)

I had decided I was going to go to Georgia to see Chandler after I was done in the office to spend Palm Sunday with him and take a break from the office. I packed up my things from the office, and told him I was headed north.

Text Conversation:
Me: “On my way!”
Chandler: “Why don’t you just come to the other cow pasture”
Me: “Ok, send me the address please. I don’t remember how to get there”

When I got there, the day had turned into a beautiful Georgia day. The sun was shining, the wind blowing slightly, the sweet smell of fresh cut grass – soon to be hay and it is not too hot yet down here. I jump in the tractor with him to start raking hay. He had just finished fluffing the cut grass to dry it a little more before it was made into a big round bale. About five minutes went by, we were chatting and he asked:

Chandler: “Are you ready to work?”
Me: “Sure, I guess?” (Thinking I was just going to be buddy passenger for the afternoon)
Chandler: “Switch seats with me, and your going to learn to run the rake so we can get done before dark.”

My eyes must have gotten big because he got a puzzled look on his face.

Chandler: “Haven’t you helped with hay before in Ohio?”
Me: “Well, yeah! I was just on the very end of the hay production chain of throwing the square bales into the haymow when the boys needed help.”
Chandler: “Well, you’re going to learn something new today. This is the clutch, this is the brake, here is where you can shift your gears, this is the lever to bring the rake up and down when you go turn a corner.”

I cautiously slid over, trading him seats, and put both hands on the wheel.

Chandler: “Push in the clutch to take it out of neutral and put your rake down.”

I proceed to do that slowly, and he said to take my foot off of the clutch but apparently not slowly enough…

*Up until Saturday, I’ve never driven a stick shift or anything with a clutch for everyone’s reference. 

Chandler: “Easy Jess! Don’t throw us through the window.”
Me: “I am trying!!”
Chandler: “Try again”

I started getting more comfortable, so he let me go on my own and said to call if I needed anything.

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Thinking to myself, “I got this! Now, I can add “Hay Raker” to my resume :)”
(Chandler reminded me it should probably be amateur hay raker if I do put that on resume – I totally agree. Maybe by the third time I do it I will be a professional.)

I got the whole field done, and was extremely happy because I was able to help out today. For as much as I love being the buddy rider, doing the actual work on the farm is 100x more satisfying.

I took away a couple things from Saturday. 1) Chandler never lets me fail, and he always pushes me to make me better even when I don’t think I can do it. 2) You’re never too old to learn something new. 3) You’re never limited to one position when your life revolves around farming. 4) Farming and agriculture is still the COOLEST industry I know.

hay4After Saturday, I think I can say I can add another #FarmHer star to my hat. Working on the farm is one of the most satisfying and rewarding feelings.

The cows now have the first cutting ready to eat when it comes time to start feeding hay again. I was able to work on my research papers and farm alongside Chandler – about as perfect of a day as you can get if you ask me. It’s pretty fun being a farmer’s girlfriend.

*Don’t worry – I didn’t throw out my back too bad with the jerks of the clutch. Still working on becoming better friends with that pedal though. Maybe next time, clutch, maybe next time. 

 

P.S.
Today is national sibling day! Don’t forget to tell your sibling how much you appreciate them. Chandler and I both have pretty rock star siblings – Thanks for being you, Curtis and Callie!

Have a blessed week,

Jess

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Charlie Brown & the Peanuts to Georgia Peanuts

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Sally, Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Woodstock, and Schroeder. I grew up as a child in the Midwest with these “Peanuts.” Cedar Point was, and still is, one of my favorite places to visit because of the Peanuts. Growing up in Ohio and having a brother who was allergic to the food peanuts, my association with the word “peanuts” was not what it is now.

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I love the Peanuts so much, my office calendar features them!

Although, about two and half years ago, I met someone who grew peanuts on their farm. A year later, I had my first experience with growing peanuts for production sitting buddy-seat in the tractor with my boyfriend, Chandler.

In honor of the last day of National Peanut Month, I wanted share my story of how my view of “peanuts” has shifted. Now, I have two very different, but special meanings of the word “peanuts.”

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Peanut plants at the beginning of the growing season.

I have always been a lover of peanut butter. Yes, I am that person who gets a spoon and eats it straight out of the jar! I never gave it much thought, though, of how that peanut butter came to be. I was surprised at how similar growing peanuts was to the corn and soybeans I grew up with in Ohio. Other than different machines, the process is very much the same.

Peanuts grow in the ground, unlike corn and soybeans. Planting season is springtime and starts around April. After the peanuts are planted, they begin to grow and the green leaves begin to poke out of the ground. The peanuts are planted in rows so it is easier to harvest in the fall. Rows also prevent the tractor from running over plants when the peanuts are sprayed throughout the growing season to protect the peanuts from insects and other pests that might affect their quality.

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The peanuts are cared for throughout the summer by monitoring their growing progress as well as protecting them from insects and pests, as mention before. During the summer, the leaves grow longer, broader and thicker that looks like a “green blanket” covering the field. It reminds me a lot of soybean fields in the summer, except the plants aren’t quite as tall since the peanuts are continuing to grow in the ground. In the picture to the left, the peanuts are grown, but not fully developed. You can see how many peanuts are growing off one plant system.
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Come September, the peanuts are about ready to be harvested. This is my favorite time of the season because it is almost time to eat them! Before the peanuts are picked, they have to be dug out of the ground. The digger has blades that turns the peanuts up IMG_2067-1out of the ground in a way to reduce the number of peanuts lost during digging. After they are dug, they have to dry for a couple of days to order to be picked. Chandler’s mom and sister always told me there is nothing quite like the smell of fresh dug peanuts. I guess I did not know peanuts had a smell prior to experiencing peanut harvest, but I cannot describe it well enough to serve it justice. So, I’ll let you experience the smell of fresh dug peanuts on your own sometime; it definitely is a sensory experience you just have to experience yourself!

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Once the peanuts are dry, they run the tractor back down the rows to pick up the freshly dried peanuts. Typically, you want to be able to get 5,000 pounds of peanuts off one acre. That’s A LOT of peanuts! The peanuts are collected into a bin on the picker and once the bin is full, it is emptied into wagons to be taken to the processing point. At the processing point, the peanuts are then graded based on quality (whole vs. split peanuts) and color to determine what the peanuts will be used for.
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My favorite way to eat peanuts, besides peanut butter, is roasting them. It’s a southern thing to eat them boiled, but boiled peanuts just aren’t my thing. I can say “yes,” I have tried boiled peanuts. Another reason I love peanuts is I have found it to be a great snack for managing my diabetes and controlling my blood sugar.

While the Peanuts and the Charlie Brown gang will always hold a special place in heart, I have gained a new appreciation and love for peanuts the past growing season. Be sure to check out the Georgia Peanut Commission for more information and recipes too.

I hope you were able to learn more about the peanut industry, and enjoyed this Photo Friday. Now, go eat some peanuts!

Have a blessed weekend,

Jess

 

10 Reasons I Celebrate National Ag Day 

Agriculture is something that is very near and dear to my heart as a lot of you may know. There is not a day in my life when I wasn’t touched by agriculture in some way. I grew up on a production ag farm, at 8 years old I found out I had to start taking insulin to lead a healthy lifestyle, and now, amongst many other examples, I’m studying how to communicate about the industry that gives so much.

In honor of National Ag Day and Week here are 10 reasons why I celebrate National Ag Day everyday.

  1. Agriculture gave me a passion. 

    My passion lies within the agricultural industry because it provides so much for every single person in the world. Agriculture stretches from medicine to food production and technology. There are not too many other industries that have the depth and breadth that agriculture does and it makes the ag industry such an exciting place to be.

  2. It gave me the best people to be a part of my life.

    Some of my best friends are people I met because of the livestock and agriculture industry. Due to these friendships and connections, I am fairly confident I can travel the country and probably not have to get a hotel because someone I have met in the agriculture industry is likely close by. One thing I love about the agriculture industry is it is so big, yet so small because everyone always knows someone.

  3. I learned what faith is and how to stay strong in my faith.

    The agriculture industry is a beautiful place to have faith. Sometimes things happen, such as droughts, wildfires, less than 100% weaning calf percentage, and I find myself thinking, “Why did this happen?” The agriculture industry is one of the most trying and sometimes devastating industry. One bad thing can wipe out an entire farm. The only answer sometimes lies in the grace of God. He has a plan, and everything happens for a reason.
  4. I can live a healthy lifestyle.

    The United States is incredibly blessed for the safe, healthy and nutritious food supply that is relatively convenient for consumers to get their food. If you think about it, agriculture touches about 99.99% of everything in a grocery store. Agriculture also allows those with medical diseases to lead a healthy life. Being type 1 diabetic for 14 years, I have agriculture to thank for allowing me to lead that healthy lifestyle and look forward to many more years of healthy living. Hopefully, in a few more years, agriculture will continue to contribute to a cure for diseases such as type 1 diabetes.

  5. Agriculture gave me a special bond with my mom, dad and brother.

    Whether it is riding in the tractor with my dad for planting or harvest, to working show calves in the barn with brother, and helping my mom in the office with her crop insurance agency, we all have a special connection to each other and with agriculture. Agriculture gives us time with each other doing things we all love and are passionate about. Luckily, the majority of that time spent together is around agriculture.
  6. Agriculture gave me something I couldn’t live without.

    When I was a teaching assistant at Purdue, our professor asked us TAs in front of the whole class what is one thing you couldn’t live with out. I thought about it and one of my fellow TAs said “Hey, Jess, how about cows?” I thought about it and she was so right. I cannot physically live without COWS! Go figure. Cows were what I fell in love with when I started showing in 4-H, and today, continue to be a large part of my life.

  7. Agriculture allows me to travel across the country.

    Like I said earlier, I could stop about anywhere in the country and have a friend to stop and see. With that being said, between college, going to livestock shows, attending conferences, and much more, I am able to experience more than I ever thought possible because of my involvement in agriculture.

  8. I get to work with some of the best and brightest minds every single day.

    A lot of why I love the agricultural industry so much is not only because of how cool it is because it feeds, fuels and fibers the world but the people I get to work with on a daily basis. In one day, I can talk to a farmer, communication specialist, lobbyist, a plant scientist, seed salesman and a veterinarian who are at the top of their field. That is the reason why the agricultural industry is moving forward and is so innovative. That is also why I stay motivated because I can talk with these people to learn their story in agriculture.

  9. Agriculture taught me what working hard looks like.

    Agriculture is hard work. There is no question about that. It taught me what it’s like to go help a cow calving with -10 degree wind chill at 2 a.m., or how to work so hard toward a goal because you desire it so badly. It taught me no title limits you to a job. I may have had the title of American Chianina Queen at one point, but that didn’t limit me to still picking poop up in the show ring. If you want to know what hard work looks like, just talk to a farmer or rancher and listen to their story.

  10. Agriculture gave me a purpose.

    Agriculture has given me my purpose in life: tell the story of agriculture and connect consumers to the food they eat every single day while still living my own story in agriculture. Growing up on a production agriculture farm, I have a unique perspective to share with others and my goal is help others understand where their food comes from. My current school work of agricultural communication is helping me reach my purpose in life every single day.

Down on the bayou with the crawfish and cajuns

In the deep South, the “L” shape state that is home to Mike the Tiger at LSU is truly a place you should put on your bucket list to visit. Grassy marshes, water literally every where except in the houses, building and roads, people nicer than having a chocolate milkshake on a hot summer’s day.

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Myself, Peyton and Shelby at Oak Alley Plantation.

Also, there really are such things as bayous! Being from the north, I always thought it was just something people sang about it songs you might find on Credence Clearwater Radio on Pandora. People live right on the bayous, and when you give directions, be sure to say “up the bayou” or “down the bayou” – not north, south, east or west.

I found this all out my spring break trip to Louisiana with two of my sweet grad school friends, one being from Southern Louisiana.

While we were there, not only were my eyes opened to a new style of southern culture, but also to the types of agriculture that are present in southern Louisiana. From the title of this blog post, I bet you can guess one of them, crawfish, and the other being rice.

While I was in Mobile for the SAAS conference about a month crawfishago, I did try crawfish but this time I was more interested in learning how they contribute to agriculture rather than eating them. I’ll be honest, my midwestern came out strong and believe I ate beef about every meal.

Aside from being a little freaked out because the crawfish stare back at you on your plate, I found crawfish and rice farming to be an extremely cool experience.

Peyton’s dear friend Jamie was kind enough to show us around her fiance’s crawfish and rice fields.

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These are the ponds where the crawfish are caught.
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Jaime showed us a cage with crawfish in it to see how they got in with the bait.

The fields are flooded majority of the time while farmers harvest the crawfish. The ponds are about 2 feet deep and when you walk into one, you have to keep moving or you might find yourself stuck in the mud!

Crawfish burrow in the ground and find their way to the ponds for feeding. Uniquely designed cages are used to catch the crawfish. When the cages are set out, a small fish is placed in the cage to attract the crawfish. There are three holes in the cage that allow the craw fish to come in and enjoy the bait. Then, about every day or every other day, some one rides out on the peddle boat to collect the craw fish and get them ready to sell.

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This is the pump used to get the water off the ponds and fields as well as onto the field.

 

 

The engineering of the operation for both the crawfish and the rice comes from pumps that push the water on and takes the water off the field. These pumps are pretty amazing because they are going on 40 years old and still pumping and taking water off strong!

When it comes to the rice, it is planted by air dropping it onto the fields. Before the rice is planted, farmers take the water off of the fields and let the standing of rice get about two inches tall. After it has reach that height, the fields are flooded and the rice is ready to finish growing. When the rice is harvested, it is then taken to a mill to be sold similar to taking corn and soybeans to an elevator in the north.

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One of the rice fields that was just planted.

Of course, I did see some cows while I was there. Due to the heat, a majority of their cattle have Brahman influence.

The agriculture industry always amazes me every single day, and it was so neat to be able to experience a side of the industry that is new to me. I hope you were able to learn something new as well! If you have any further questions about the crawfish or rice industries, check out these links below or reach out.

Crawfish History from LSU AgCenter
Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board
LSU AgCenter – Rice

One last thing, I hope you have green on today so you do not get pinched! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Blessings,

Jess

#PhotoFriday: What are you doing? Chores! 

This week’s photo Friday isn’t one that has the best photo techniques, and admittedly isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken. But, when I snapped it on my phone this morning helping Chandler and Mr. Parrish do chores, I felt compelled to make it my photo Friday. This is what a real Friday morning on the farm looks like. The cows waiting to be fed or just wanting attention. It hit home how much of a part agriculture, and cows specifically, is in my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. For all you missing doing chores this morning, here’s your daily dose.


Happy Friday!

Jess