Friday, January 29, 2016

Cattle, Editorials, and Toxic Kiwifruit

Kelsey Faivre, a senior in the Iowa State University agriculture communications program, recently joined the CAST staff as an administrative assistant. Kelsey has already communicated with the public in many ways, including articles in ag publications. Click here for her blog titled Like Farmer, Like Daughter

A Cattle Entrepreneur at Age Eleven 

Kelsey with her favorite show steer--Captain.
At the age of eleven, Kelsey Faivre wrote a business proposal. She needed to convince her skeptical parents that she could establish a viable cattle operation on their farm near DeKalb, Illinois, and it would all start with one "bucket calf"--a calf she would bottle feed and eventually turn into a successful business.

A farm financial adviser was impressed with the plan, her parents were willing to let her try, and the rest is history. The 60-pound sixth grader had a 700-pound steer by August, and during the next seven years, she showed cattle, sold "seed stock," and learned about the intricacies of livestock agriculture.

"I love the animals," Kelsey said. "Raising cattle is a great way to be involved in agriculture. It opened my eyes to the hard work and great people in the industry."

Speaking, Writing, and Ag
Kelsey has remained focused on agriculture. As an Iowa State University senior, she is majoring in agriculture communications and minoring in animal science. Her extensive writing and speaking experiences help her succeed at reaching her goals. Kelsey was a dynamic speech contest participant in high school, and she finished as the Illinois champion and 4th in the nation for the FFA extemporaneous speaking Career Development Event.

Kelsey has published several articles, editorials, and blog entries in publications such as the Iowa Ag Literacy Foundation blog, ISU's CALS Connections, and a county Farm Bureau magazine. "I love language," Kelsey said. "It's a great way to think."

The Trip Almost Killed Me
Last year, Kelsey took the opportunity to join a study abroad trip to New Zealand--and of course she ended up writing about the country and its agriculture. One of her editorials was published in Feedstuffs. But as she points out, the venture had an ironic twist. "I discovered I have a strong aversion to kiwifruit." Kelsey is allergic to the country's namesake. "I loved the trip, but it almost killed me."
CAST staff members are pleased to have Kelsey bring her many talents to the organization. Not much bucket feeding in the office, but plenty of writing--and we never serve kiwifruit at staff meetings. 

Photo at right: Kelsey with a New Zealand icon she is not allergic to.

by dan gogerty

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Winter Blues--Kids, Farm Dogs, and S.A.D.

The sun is starting to rise again in the tiny Greenland town of Ittoqqortoormiit. The translation of the village’s name must be something like “place where the sun don’t shine”—at least for two months in the dead of winter. That’s sad.

Literally. S.A.D.—Seasonal Affective Disorder. The winter blues is an official malady, and several sources indicate that it is a feeling of sluggishness and depression during winter when days are shorter and people don’t get enough natural light.

One town in Norway made a valiant effort to provide winter sunlight. Their valley is in shadow during part of winter, so they placed a giant mirror on the mountainside and sent reflected sunlight to the town square. Sort of a natural tanning parlor in the middle of town if you don’t mind baring skin at below freezing temps.

Even Fido Gets the Blues

Some claim S.A.D. is just folk psychology, but others say it not only affects humans, but pets too. Apparently dogs can experience the winter blues. Maybe their "bow wow" turns to a "meh meh," and they are tempted to chill out with the cat in the windowsill rather than chase rabbits. One company even sells the Sol Box, a light lamp for Fido.

It would have been a cold day in Hades before we would have bought a special mood light for our dogs when I was a kid growing up on the farm. And anyway, I don’t think a dog like Smoky—our childhood favorite—ever had S.A.D.

Smoky was with us in the dark before school, wagging his tail as we fed corn to the cattle or broke ice in the hog waterer. He might join us when we milked our one cow—steam coming from the warm bucket, cats in the corner nervously watching Smoky and hoping we’d squirt them in the face so they could lick off the milk.

Smoky usually walked us up a quarter-mile lane—snow piled high on both sides—as we left for school. He once hopped on the yellow school bus with us but jumped back off when he had a good look at the motley crew we rode with every day. He no doubt chased field mice on his way back to the barn as he spent the day chillin’ out and waiting for us.

If Smoky had the winter blues, he hid it well. He’d run with us as we rode sleds down the lane or when we explored the frozen pasture creek. He played football with us in a snow-covered yard, or he jumped into the back of the pickup truck with us when Dad had us haul hay bales.

Smoky knew how to handle pet S.A.D. Stay active; chill out but don’t freeze; and keep a positive attitude. We could tell he was happy by the way he’d jump around, bark amicably, and hang his drooling tongue out.

I’ve had a bit more trouble handling Midwest winters as I’ve grown older, so I try to keep the Smoky method in mind. I stay as active and positive as I can, but I haven’t mastered the barking and tongue wagging yet. I still have a form of S.A.D.—Spring Anticipatory Delirium.

by dan gogerty  (top pic from; bottom pic from

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Painting My Passion

Note: This guest blog comes from Hannah Pagel, an Iowa State University sophomore majoring in agriculture and society. This year, Hannah also brings her farm background, her talents, and her enthusiasm to an internship at CAST, where she is a student administrative assistant.

Cow Paintings Portray Stories of Agriculture

This past year I have done a lot of painting, and in particular cow paintings. I started these works of art after my mom asked me to paint her a picture of a cow for a theme she was going with in her new kitchen. Since that request, I have painted more than 10 cow paintings. I thought my paintings could be used to share my stories of agriculture. And so with that, enjoy my paintings and a story of my life to go along with it.

The first cow painting I accomplished was the one my mom requested. It now hangs in our kitchen and fills the room with a splash of color. I decided to name the painting “Dolly,” because this cow painting reminded me of the first cow I showed at the county fair.

Now I’m not saying that my first cow was rainbow colored, but she had some features that reminded me of one—like her colorful personality. When I first showed Dolly I was in the 7th grade, and she wasn't a cow at this time either—she was a heifer, which is a female who has not given birth to a baby calf. After they have given birth to a calf they then become a cow.

You Can Learn a Lot from a Cow

Dolly was one of my favorite animals I ever showed; she was a black-bodied beauty with a white head, white tail, and four white socks from her ankles down. Every time I scratched behind her ears they would start to flap, kind of like Dumbo's ears when he would fly. I learned a lot from Dolly that year—how to provide her with new fresh feed and clean water, how to wash her and keep that black coat of hers shiny, and how to keep her comfortable in the hot July weather. There were times when Dolly had three fans directly on her to keep her cool.

All of these lessons are a part of showing cattle at county fairs and learning how to properly take care of an animal. That summer I learned the true meaning of hard work and the dedication it takes to raise an animal. I mean who wouldn't want to spend their summer in a smelly barn cleaning out dirty bedding and replacing it with fresh wood shavings on the daily? To me it was all part of the experiencecatching my glimpse of what farmers and ranchers go through every day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Being able to take part in this experience, I have been able to grow as an individual and I have learned life lessons—hard work, dedication, and compassionall from caring for a cow.

The lessons I learned in the 7th grade have stuck with me today and have helped me develop a strong work ethic. Even though I may be too old to show now, I still have the memories and experiences sticking with me of those hot summers working with my cattle. I may have moved on to painting cows instead of showing cows, but if you can find a way to paint your passion then nothing can stop you from working to achieve your goals in life.

by Hannah Pagel, Iowa State University sophomore and student administrative assistant at CAST (pictured above with her dad and brother)