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  • Jennifer is a self proclaimed country girl born and raised in Northern California. After joining social media, Jenny met a farmer from North Dakota. She followed her heart all the way to the rural prairies of ND where she is now married to that farmer. Besides spending time with her farmer, Jenny can be found with a camera in hand capturing the world around her, loves the challenges of bringing culture to the North Dakota prairie through a variety of culinary creations, and using her interior design degree to flip their bachelor pad into a home. All of this and more can be found on her photography blog:
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Wheat Harvest in North Dakota

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎09-19-2014 11:28 AM

Since I shared the article several weeks ago about Why I Choose to Eat Gluten, my eyes have been opened to how truly vilified wheat has become. As I shared in that post, I believe as people living in a state that relies on wheat production, it is important we too become advocates for wheat and wheat products.


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In conclusion of wheat harvest, I will be sharing wheat related posts on my social media channels for the next week. I plan on using these images to share some fun facts about wheat., much like the one you see above. You can find these by following me at Prairie Californian on Facebook or finding my handle on Twitter, @PrairieCA all next week. I hope you will share these so that we can put a positive message behind the wheat we grow, instead of the message in books like Wheat Belly


Today I wanted to share some images from our wheat harvest. There is something truly magical about wheat. Spend the evening watching the sun go down over a wheat field as it dances in the wild and you will find yourself falling in love.


Some producers are still finishing up as we experienced rain delays for nearly three weeks. We finished our harvest a little less than two weeks ago. And we wouldn't have gotten done with such speed without the extra help we received from family and friends. Yields on our wheat were good, but the rain delays reduced the quality of our wheat crop. 


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Don't Forget How Far You've Come

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎07-30-2014 12:09 PM

Growing crops is a lot like life. We get so caught up in the NOW. We need rain, we don't need rain, we need sunshine, the crops look good, the crops look bad. 


We go look at them multiple times a week. Always checking, always tracking where they are right now. But once they get out of the ground and have started on a path towards maturity, we often forget how far they've come. We forget the little miracles that were once seeds, seedlings, and how much growth we've experienced in between. 


So today, in the spirit of celebrating where you are right now and where you are going... Don't forget to take a look back on how far you've come. The sometimes seemingly slow progress you've made towards a goal in your life is important. The sometimes endless struggle towards the finish of something in your life is important. 


I hope you look back feeling empowered and full of pride of the things you've accomplished. Much like these crops have grown and still have a long way to go, so do our lives. We are forever growing, changing, and maturing... But we've already come so far. 


Progress is important so enjoy the journey.


And once in a while, take a look back.


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Standing in the Ocean

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎07-23-2014 01:12 PM

Several weeks ago I wrote about how we are growing flax again on the farm. Flax is a crop that Grandpa used to grow. And he's been eagerly awaiting it to bloom. He keeps telling me when the flax blooms, I will have to go stand in the ocean. 


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And this week, I stood in the ocean. As we came over the hill to the field of flax, there was no denying it was blooming. You could see it from a mile away. And it literally did look like an ocean of blueish, purple. It was gorgeous. I stood in the field, my camera in my hand, soaking it all in. 


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The blooms are starting to cycle through and once they fall off, they form what is called bolls. They are little pods that contain the flax seeds. These bolls are what we will harvest when it comes time. 


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Up close, the blooms are gorgeous shade of purple-blue with such intricate detail. Morning is the best time to catch these beauties blooming as they close up in the evening or whenver there may be bad weather. We drove by the other evening and sure enough, no blooms. Field was green, not the ocean we had seen the previous morning. 


Crops never cease to amaze me. Farming never ceases to inspire me. It's a constant learning experience. And I wouldn't have it any other way. 

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Have any of you ever seen flax bloom? 



Going Back to a Crop of the Past...

by Jennifer_Dewey ‎06-18-2014 10:58 AM - edited ‎07-23-2014 04:06 PM

I have written quite a bit about the future in Agriculture. I’ve written about thinking outside the box and being willing to adapt and accept new things in your farming operation. But sometimes thinking outside the box may be trying something we used to do, bringing back something of the past. This year on our farm, we are doing just that. We needed a crop to go into some production land that has had wheat on it for a couple of years. Two weeks ago I wrote about our crop rotation and while we maintain that rotation throughout our fields, sometimes it just isn’t possible.


So we needed a new crop. Our answer? Going back to something we used to grow. Flax.


Where did flax come from?

Flax is actually one of the oldest fiber crops in the world. It is said to have originated in the Mediterranean region of Europe, but it was extensively cultivated in ancient China and Egypt. In fact, the linen cloth that wrapped mummies in Egypt has been found to contain flax fibers. Flax production made it to the United States for commercial production somewhere around 1753 and became a popular crop as the upper Midwest and parts of Canada were settled during the 1800s. Today, worldwide, the top producers of flax are the Soviet Union, Poland, and France.


Where is flax grown?  

Flax is a crop that is traditional to North Dakota. Back when people first settled here and broke the native prairies, flax was one of the crops produced. Because flax thrives in moderate summer temperatures and rainfall along with fertile clay soils, the North Central part of the country is where flax has traditionally been grown.


Flax has a history in other North Central states such as South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In Alternative Field Crops Manual put out by the University of Wisconsin Extension in 1989, they reported that “Wisconsin had 2,000 acres for seed in the state in 1966… Minnesota had 378,000 acres in 1920 and over 1,600,000 in 1943. Since 1943, acreage has steadily declined with only 15,000 acres grown in 1988. “


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If we take a look at the 2013 Flaxseed Planted Acres by County, we can see the current numbers of production for selected states such as North Dakota. Even though we and many other farmers in the area have moved onto growing other crops, North Dakota continues to rank first in flaxseed production with more than 90 percent of the nation’s flax crop grown here. Flax grown in North Dakota is often used in a crop rotation along with other small grains such as barley and wheat.  Flax is also traditionally and continues to be grown in Canada as well.


So what is flax used for?

Producers typically grow two types of flax: seed flax for the oil in its seeds and fiber flax for the fiber in its stem. Today most grow flax for the oil and food use in the United States. Flax seed is crushed and used to produce linseed oil and leftover linseed meal. The oil has many uses while the meal is used for livestock feed. The fiber seeds are used to a variety of paper products and linens. Apparently cigarette paper is a major flax paper product. Who knew!?


With the trend towards eating healthier, flaxseed has gained in popularity. Flaxseed contains high levels of dietary fiber, lignans (antioxidants), and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have suggested the benefits of flaxseed on lowering cholesterol levels or in those with breast and prostate cancers. Although no conclusive evidence has been produced. I certainly know that I have seen it pop up more and more in recipes for healthy baked goods as well as in things like smoothies and energy bites.


Being that I am originally from California, I have never seen flax in production. I was very excited when my husband announced that we would be planting it this year. I look forward to watching it grow and getting the opportunity to firsthand learn about an entirely new crop. I have heard it is beautiful when it blooms! Stay tuned and I hope you look forward to following along and learning with me!


Here is what our flax looks like right now.


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It seems lately there has been an outpouring of events in my life and people who are connected to me's lives that keep reminding me of how tangible our lives are. As people on this Earth, but more importantly, as farmers we are not invincible. No matter how much we think we are, our lives can be taken from us in an INSTANT. I have even heard some people verbalize "oh that won't happen to me". It only takes one error and your life could be flashing before your eyes. I am sure that every single one of us can count at least one person we've known who has been injured or had their life taken in a farm-related accident. It shakes close to home when it happens, and safety isn't something we talk much about. 


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Did you know that agriculture has been deemed the 8th most dangerous job? In 2011, the injury rate for agricultural workers was over 40 percent higher than the rate for all workers.The Department of Labor states that " farm related accidents claim as many as 1300 lives and cause 120,000 injuries a year, most of which are preventable." But even then, farm accidents don't just cost lives, limbs, or health, they also cost equipment breakdowns and delays. Accidents are usually caused by avoidable physical hazards, carelessness, sleeplessness, and stress-related actions such as rushing to get things done. The majority of those factors can be prevented. So if they are preventable, what steps can we take to ensure farm safety?


Get Some Sleep

Farmers talk a lot about hard work and it is something to be very proud of! In a society where the value of hard work is long gone, farmers are a shining example of those seemingly "old fashioned" values. If only more people could learn to value work like farmers do. Farmers are usually up before the sun and come home after dark. Sometimes they work all night because it's simply what you've got to do to get done. But is it possible that the sacrifice of our sleep could potentially be dangerous? 


Stop for a minute and think about a time where you've experienced someone (or maybe even yourself) fall asleep at the wheel. Of a tractor, truck, or other piece of equipment. You are not alone. Nearly 60% of people have admitting to driving drowsy and nearly 37% of people have admitted to actually falling asleep at the wheel! That is a pretty sobering statistic... And as the wife to a man who farms 20 miles away, him falling asleep at the wheel of his pickup to come home is something that crosses my mind almost weekly. 


Watch Out For Potential Hazards

What about throwing caution to the wind when doing on the farm activities? Entering into grain bins or leaving a tractor running to check a malfunction "just this once". Or maybe because it's how you've always done it and nobody has ever gotten hurt. Not respecting machinery of any sort leads to accidents and injuries. 


Be aware of these potential situations. And if that thought crosses your mind "this may be dangerous" then it may be best not to do it. Sometimes it takes planning and preparing to minimize hazards, but it is better than losing your life over it. Here are some general hazards to watch out for from the National Ag Safety Database


  • Use protective equipment or safety guards even if it means taking an extra second to put it on or off
  • Whenever parking or leaving a piece of machinery for any length of time; even to check a malfunction; the motor should always be shut off, brakes engaged, the transmission in park-lock or in gear, keys removed and any attachments disengaged.
  • All implements and attachments should be used in the proper manner for which they were de-signed, and lowered completely to the ground when exiting or shutting-down the tractor. Never over-load wagons.
  • If a piece of equipment becomes clogged or jammed, never attempt to clean out the blockage until the machine is shut off and all moving parts come to a complete stop.
  • Never tow an implement improperly hitched to a tractor or truck. Equipment being towed should be hitched directly to the draw bar with a hitch pin secured in place by a cotter pin. Do not tow implements with chains, cables or ropes. The breakage of chains, cables and ropes while towing can cause severe, even fatal injuries to the driver and bystanders. 


Take Time to Train & Teach

My dad jokes about when he learned to butcher, his dad basically handed him a truck, knives, and a steel and said no go out and butcher. I have a feeling many farm kids will tell you that is how they learned to drive a tractor. Dad simply gave them a crash course in how it works and off they went.


Of course, we value our children working alongside us and as kids we are elated when we get to help Dad or Mom out on the farm. The thought of danger doesn't even cross our minds. As this Southwest Farm Press article so eloquently says, "Farm families, like most of us, want to protect their children without sheltering them too much. My dad would never have knowingly put me in danger. It was a simpler time and we didn't consider the danger." Here's a startling statistic for you. Farm machinery, including tractors, accounts for 36 percent of (farm-related) deaths in youth. Thirty percent of farm machinery-related deaths occur in children less than 5 years old. It just breaks my heart. 


So what can we do? Take some time to teach your children (and your employees for that matter) about those hazards and dangers. Guide them in the correct steps to safety and teach them to respect the machinery. Before allowing them to use a piece of equipment, the person should have complete training in the item to be used, and be made aware of hazards that may occur with its misuse. Besides actual training programs, manuals are a good thing to let them read. 


Attitude & Being Aware


I would argue that one of the most important aspects of farm safety is the attitude of the operator. If the operator is constantly on the lookout for accident situations, if he doesn't take chances, and if he doesn't accept accidents as being a part of farming, he will probably not be involved in an accident. On the other hand, if he believes that he can cut corners, always doing things half assed, or that he won't ever get hurt... accidents will happen. Accidents happen to all of us, even those of us who are careful!



I would say that the majority of farmers are pretty safety cautious because they know that if they are hurt, there is no one else there to get the work done. But it is easy in a movement of stress to rush to get things done and safety goes out the window. Always being aware of the dangers and keeping your mind on the job you are doing at that moment versus what else you need to get done can prevent many accidents. 


It is my hope that through simple prevention, we can eliminate stories like I heard this week from a friend of their neighbor getting caught in a baler trying to fix a netting malfunction. It took his life and consequently his wife and 11 year old daughter found him. Accidents happen, but let's try and prevent more from happening with prevention. Attitude and being aware is a key component, as the quote above states, 90% of all agricultural accidents can be prevented. It's simply up to you! 

What is an agronomist? What do they do? And where does the future of agronomy lie? 


Crop Rotation on Our Farm

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎05-28-2014 11:07 AM

I am not sure if we are blessed or cursed on our farm here in North Dakota in that we plan a variety of crops. I think it intrigues people and even some farmers on the diversity we plant up here. North Dakota has a history of diverse crops; in fact, someone like my husband’s grandfather didn’t originally plant many of the crops we plant now. Crops of the past such as wheat, barley, oats, sunflowers, and flax have been slowly phased out for crops like corn and soybeans. But on our farm, we still continue some of the tried and true crops in our area. The reasons behind this are numerous and with this post, I hope to shed some light on those reasons.


On our farm we grow four different crops. And we grow these crops, honestly, because we have the opportunity to do so. Planting a variety of crops for our operation lowers our risk. What I mean by that is that in our area we can have a great short season and a bad long season or vice versa. In turn, we utilize a variety of short season AND long season crops. Our climate and seasons simply aren’t set up for a full season crop such as corn all the time.


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Out of the four crops we plant, two are broadleaf and two are grasses. We cycle them through in rotations from grass to broadleaf and repeat. A rotation like this also allows us to change modes of herbicide action so that we aren’t putting the same herbicides on the field time and time again.


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We plant sunflowers on our farm because it is a good warm season broadleaf that utilizes the leftover nitrogen in the soil from the previous corn crop. The flowers are planted in between the previous year’s corn rows. We are fortunate in our area to be able to plant sunflowers as many places around us are too wet or have a problem with blackbirds. Sunflowers are also the crop we’ve become known to produce, as my husband is well known as Sunflowerfarmer across social media.


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Wheat is an original crop grown to this area and we choose to put it in our rotation because it is a great short season grass. We seed wheat into sunflower residue because as a short season crop, it does well after a full season crop like sunflowers. Sunflowers also tend to leave behind limited water so if you were to plant another full season crop like corn, it could run out of water later in the year. With a short season crop like wheat, we typically don’t have this problem.


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Soybeans are a great stable crop for our area. Soybeans allow us to maintain good weed control as well as are a pretty  tolerant crop. We need a crop that can be seeded into wheat residue that has the potential to be wet and soybeans allow us to seed in a wide range of planting dates.





Corn, for the most part, is an opportunity crop in our area. If you can get quality yield and good prices, corn does very well for us. But you can only sustain so many acres in corn because it’s a hedge on risk. We plant our corn early, as corn is a full season crop, and on soybean ground because the soybeans leave us with low residue in the field.


I want to be sure I state that this is simply what works for our farm. It is by no means a rigid set of rules or guidelines for others in our area to farm. In fact, all farms differ. From year to year, for some farms, the crops may vary or crops may stay the same. Not all farms have the opportunity to do a rotation like this, some areas are simply not set up for certain crops. As you can tell from this post, crop choice and rotation hinges on many different factors. This year we are even going back to a crop of the past and planting some fields into flax.


Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each farm to decide for themselves what is the most beneficial and profitable for their farm all while keeping all those various factors like soil, nutrients, water, residue, etc. in mind when picking crops to plant. Choosing crops and seed varieties are not a choice that any farmer takes lightly. It takes time, research, and even counsel sometimes to find what is best for your farm. And for some it takes trail and error before they figure out what works and what doesn’t. It is much like anything in life, finding a good balance is key. 

You Wonder What He Thinks...

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎05-21-2014 10:12 AM

One of my favorite Sunday afternoon activities to do is to stop by Grandpa & Grandma's house... My husband and I stop, Grandpa usually offers us a beverage, grandma brings out food or candy, and we just sit there and talk. We listen to the stories that living 80+ years brings. 


I love listening to Grandpa's stories.. The stories of the farm, the many auction's he's attended, the stories of cattle and crops, and winters. Grandpa really is a one of a kind. I've never known a man who could make me laugh so much in one sitting. Or a man who is so full of one-liner's like when he shakes your hand and says "this is where two good hands meet". 


As I sit there and listen to him talk about the past and catch up on what's new in our lives. I think to myself... You wonder what he thinks...


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What he thinks about how much the farm has grown since he's retired




What he thinks about how the equipment has changed, grown, and advanced




What he thinks about how the methods have changed, the landscape has changed




What he thinks about seeing the new generation of his family farm the same ground he did for all those years


Last time he was out at the farm, he told me a story about his planter. He can remember back to when he planted with a 2 row planter. Now he marvels at the new planter in the yard. He says "I almost couldn't believe when my son brought home an 8 row planter and now look at this." 


I cannot even imagine what it will be like to take in all of that once I have turned some 80 years young. To see the changes that occur in my lifetime. Right now 20-something feels like a long time, but my life is just a drop in the bucket. I look at Grandpa and I can only hope to age like he has. To still have as much spark,  be as full of life, and witty as he is. 


But for right now, I feel so fortunate to be able to listen to his stories on those Sunday afternoons. And maybe one of these days I will have to ask him what he thinks... 


We all know that saying "April Showers Bring May Flowers..." But what do May showers bring..? I'm not sure besides lots of cranky farmers. 


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So far this spring, we have been getting lots of rain and cool temperatures. It's been maybe a day or two where we saw above 60 degrees. Certainly, things could be worse. We could be getting some of that dreaded S-word. 


Since it's been cold, the frost deep in the soil has yet to go away... Add rain on top of that and you've got LOTS of standing water with nowhere to go. Yesterday, my husband and I drove around to check some fields. I was amazed at how much water is standing around. For some fields, it will be a while before we can plant. The ducks are sure loving it! 


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With rain and cold temperatures in the forecast for much of this week, things aren't looking promising. We still have about a third of our wheat left to seed then it's onto corn. With the majority of farmers planting 3-4 crops in our area, we require 20-30 days in the field planting. I am pretty sure we haven't even gotten half of that..


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Speaking of wheat, we dug some up yesterday... It's been in the ground for nearly 9 days... And this is all the growth we've seen on it. But the cold doesn't seem to be hindering the weeds, plenty of fields are showing green growth. With all this rain, once the sun comes out, we will have some serious work to do. 


But I guess such is the life a farmer... always anxious, always predicting, and always wanting the opposite of the weather we are getting... Most of the time it seems like we are praying for rain... This time, we are praying for it to stop raining!  


It certainly has been an interesting spring...Let's hope we can get back to this soon.... 


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How has the weather been in your area? Unsual? I know there have been lots of storms and tornados. I hope everyone is staying safe! 


Well there is still plenty of snow on the ground and we are still experiencing sub-zero temperatures, but it is March. And that means, hopefully, spring time is around the corner! Springtime is one of my favorite times of the year. It's a new beginning for a new year on the farm, it's a re-birth of sorts as the snow melts to reveal the grass that has been hidden all winter. The grass is green, flowers bloom. It's such a beautiful time of year. Springtime, to me personally, means a whole new year to document the happenings on the farm. I document our happenings on the farm through photographs. 



With one click of the shutter, a moment in time is forever captured. Today, photography doesn't require a fancy, complex camera and hauling around a bunch of gear. Photos can be captured using your smartphone. We take photos of all important aspects of our lives: births, marriages, first steps, first day of school. Small moments, large moments, emotions captured, where we have been, who we’ve been with.. All of these things are a piece of our legacy here on Earth. Farming is as much a part of our everyday lives as all of these other important events and it is indeed a huge part of our legacy here. 


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So why is it important to take photographs on the farm...? 


1. Gives You Something to Share - We all love the iconic old time farm photos. There is something about old tractors, families working together, a farmer with dirt on his face that brings us nostaglic feelings. So much so that many long to reverse modern farming. But that is a debate for another time, the point is that we all enjoy images of farm life, it gives us something to share with those around us. It gives us visual memories to share with your kids, grandkids, or even your extended family. Everybody loves photographs, they love looking at photographs. And now with social media, photographs have the potential to build communities. Without even a spoken word, you can build friends through apps like Instagram or even sharing photos on Twitter or Facebook. The farm life interests people, it intrigues people that are far disconnected from the farm. Even every day tasks to someone outside the farm can be interesting. Never underestimate the power a photograph of a simple, daily task can have on someone looking from the outside. 


For a long time, my Dad was what I call a "technological dinosaur". He didn't have an email, he wasn't ever online, and still carried with him a "dumb phone". He finally decided to upgrade, much to my surprise, to an iPhone 5. I didn't think he was going to like it, but now I get photo messages from him a few times a month. He reads my blogs and my articles on his iPad (he liked his iPhone so much we got him an iPad for Father's Day last year), he takes pictures wherever he goes, and he even has an email address now. My dad, although he still doesn't understand much about social media, understands the power of it. He understands that when he sends me photos of his every day life at the butcher shop and I post them on our Facebook, people become interested. It builds our community. And so, he continues to take photos. Not only do I enjoy seeing what is going on in his life as I am living in North Dakota, I enjoy being able to share those special moments with our customers, family, and friends online too. 


2. Sparks Conversation - So let's say you decide to share an image of your every day farm task on social media. People outside of agriculture aren't only going to be interested, they may ask questions. Because they are unfamiliar with what is going on in the photo, it could spark conversation. They may be asking, "What is going on here? What is this?"  This gives you the opportunity to open dialogue, share an experience, or educate through explaining what is going on in that image you just shared. Photos can often times pull on emotions much more effectively than words ever can. I think we see this all the time in animal rights groups. One image of an abused animal can have the potential to change the lives of so many people to turn against agriculture. Or think of the powerful images shared during the time of war. Photographs power charge our emotional responses, they spark conversation. By sharing your own images, you have the potential to facilitate that conversation. You are given a voice in the greater conversation.


3. Gives You a Visual Legacy and History - My mother in law every couple of years has an aerial photograph taken of the farm yard. She's been doing this for years. In my husband's grandparents house, grandma and grandpa have proudly on display, those images. It is so interesting to see the visual legacy started by my husband's grandfather and continuing to my husband and his brother. Grandpa proudly will tell you all about every building, when it was built, what year it was torn down, what the building housed, and how much it cost him to build it. The farm has indeed changed quite a bit since the first photograph, but as older buildings are torn down, new ones are built. Photographs like these give our family a visual legacy and history of the farm. It reminds us how much the farm has changed. And someday when our kids are grown and the next generation begins, they can look back on how the farm used to be when they started out. 


4. It's a Reminder in Personal Growth - Personal growth is a good thing. Often times we get so busy, so stressed out, and so involved in the day to day activities on the farm that we forget how far we've come. Taking a moment to stop and reflect on images of the farm from years past is a great way to measure personal growth. Maybe it was that you replaced an older piece of equipment or that you've put up a new building that you walk into every single day. I've talked a lot about looking towards the future. But in order to progress, we must learn about the past...what worked, what didn’t work, and look back on how far we’ve come. Measuring progress is important and also allows us a great medium to share our own personal stories as well. 


Photographs may be a simple record of existence, but they are so much more than that. They are a record of our legacy here, they are the trials and tribulations we experienced, they are the happy moments, the sad moments, the proud moments. Photographs can tell a visual story much greater than written words ever can. They can tell a different story, they can spark conversation. They can build communities. Taking photographs on the farm is important, not just for sharing with others via social media, but if anything, for our families. Our children, our grandchildren, and their future children. I invite you to start thinking about documenting those memories more on the farm. So that when you are long gone, there is something left of your legacy and all those hard years you spent on that same land.