Thursday, July 20, 2017

Much More Than Just a Four-leaf Clover

Fortunate enough to grow up in a small town enriched in agriculture, I eagerly looked forward to the county fair each July. Though I saw a majority of my friends during my weekly trips to the aquatic center and various local sporting events, I yearned to be reunited during what my 10-year-old self saw as her "favorite time of the year." My summers consisted of countless hours washing, brushing, and walking my livestock; reciting my educational presentation umpteen times in the bathroom mirror; putting the finishing touches on my latest project for the exhibit building; and perfecting Mom's chocolate chip cookie recipe for the food auction. Throughout all the hustle and bustle of county fair time, it wasn't until I was much older that I realized 4-H had became much more than an opportunity to reunite with my best friends. Instead, it became a safe place for me to learn, grow, and build skills.

4-H taught me hard work and responsibility. Having an animal to care for each morning and night takes a great deal of time and patience. It made me accountable for the health and well-being of something other than myself. I was the soul provider of feed and water for my animals, and without those nutrients they would die. I gave them baths and kept their barn clean and dry. A majority of my classmates slept in during summer vacation, while you could find me up by sunrise feeding my animals before I was able to eat breakfast myself.

4-H taught me the value of a dollar. In a previous CAST blog titled Dreaming Big about Cattle and Communications, I shared that I made my first real purchase of $100 when I was only 10 years of age. At the time, I was just excited to finally have an animal that I could call my own. Little did I know how life changing that small purchase would be. Fast forward 12 years and that small purchase has helped kick-start my love for the beef industry, allowed me to travel all over the United States, paid for my first car, and financed a large portion of my college education. Thanks to that 600-pound bottle calf, I have learned the importance of saving and investing money.

4-H taught me many life skills. Contrary to popular belief, 4-H is not only an organization for farm kids. It has programs and curriculum for everyone's interests--whether you live in the suburbs of Chicago or the farmlands of Kansas, 4-H has a place for you. I became a more confident public speaker by giving presentations at monthly meetings--speaking in front of my peers and colleagues became a breeze. Cooking, sewing, and carpentry are also tools in my tool box thanks to the countless blue-ribbon projects I completed throughout my involvement.

Although here I've only touched on a small fraction of the lessons learned from the organization of hands-on learning, one other opportunity must not go unnoticed--the chance for consumer engagement and agricultural advocacy. A recent blog written by the Animal Ag Alliance provides 3 Tips for Consumer Engagement This Fair Season. During your time in the barn this fair season, a moment might occur when a fair-goer asks a questions about your 4-H project. Take this time to share your story, show you care, and tell them why the agricultural industry is important to you. They just might learn something new too.

By: Kylie Peterson

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ag Headlines—Pollinators, Biotech Crops, Cheese Alerts, and the Hygiene Hypothesis

News items about food production and agriculture offer us a digital smorgasbord, but many readers do not have the time to dig under the surface of the headlines and tweets. Check out these recent items—and the article, commentary, or blog that can provide more insights:
Mac & Cheese Reports--Health Alert or Fear Mongering?
After testing 30 different cheese products, researchers found that all but one contained chemicals called phthalates--man-made substances that have been shown to interfere with human hormones. The highest levels were found in the cheesy powder used to make the sauce for boxed macaroni and cheese. BUT—according to many, a mac-and-cheese eater would need to eat hundreds of servings to reach a toxic level. University of Florida scientist Kevin Folta says the reports are another case of manipulating your deepest food fears. 

Pollinators and Bee Health--Common Sense Approaches 

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has initiated the “Voluntary Plan to Mitigate the Risk of Pesticides to Managed Pollinators.” The document consists mostly of recommended best practices for the use of outdoor agricultural and commercial pesticides to minimize honeybee losses, but does not strengthen pesticide regulations. It mainly encourages beekeepers and pesticide applicators to communicate more effectively and use chemicals wisely. Check out CAST’s informative commentary, Why Does Bee Health Matter? The Science Surrounding Honey Bee Health Concerns and What We Can Do About It.

Biotech Crops and Trade

Global seed companies have called for transparent, science-based approvals processes for new crop types after China approved two more genetically modified crops for import but left four others on the waiting list. For an in-depth look at global regulations and biotech crops, check out this CAST commentary--The Impact of Asynchronous Approvals for Biotech Crops on Agricultural Sustainability, Trade, and Innovation.

Gotta Get Dirty

Yet another expert is explaining why “dirt is good” and saying that kids need to be exposed to germs. Check out the CAST blog, The Hygiene Hypothesis—Farm Germs Might Be the Best Medicine.



by dan gogerty (bottom pic from

Friday, July 14, 2017

Beef: Could It Play a Part in Preventing Alzheimer's?

In Memory of My Grandpa Peterson

There are very few things in life that I love more than my family and good cattle. My parents could see, from a young age, that I would grow up to be a young woman rooted in agriculture. By the age of five you could often find me in a pair of Levi jean shorts, a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, and my dad's old Stine Seed hat stirring up dust on our generational family farm in southern Iowa.

Although you are unable to see it in this picture,
my mom often found me "farming" in a pair of old tap shoes.

My love for the beef industry was something that I proudly shared with my father and late
grandfather. Sundays often consisted of a visit from Grandma and Grandpa to enjoy a home-cooked meal and an update on the latest farm activities. When October 4th came around, I grew another year older, but something that I failed to notice was so did Grandpa.

For several years my family watched as Grandpa's mind slowly slipped away and the memories that we shared became fuzzier, as the dementia began taking over his life. It made problem solving and the completion of familiar, everyday tasks a struggle. This led to confusion, frustration, anger, and depression. With heavy hearts, my family laid my Grandpa to rest on October 28, 2016.
My Grandpa and Dad with our show string, 
at the Iowa State Fair, 
a few months before he passed away.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, this disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 5 million people currently living with it. Alzheimer's attacks the brain and shows severe decline in mental ability, interfering with the victim's everyday life. Though deaths from this disease have increased by 89% since the year 2000, it is not a normal part of aging.

So can Alzheimer's be prevented? That question is one that researchers work diligently to answer daily. As a quest to find new treatments is under way around the world, one study shows that beef could play a positive role in Alzheimer's prevention. In this article written by Amanda Radke, she states that beef provides the perfect saturated fats and nutrient-dense protein per serving to fight and prevent Alzheimer's.

Though my Grandpa is now watching over me from above, I hang on to the wonderful moments and memories my family shares and thank him for helping me discover my passion for the beef industry. Watching a loved one suffer from this disease is heart wrenching, and I have high hopes that someday we can find a cure. Until then, you can help make a difference by participating in research, becoming an advocate, or making a donation!

By: Kylie Peterson