Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Livestock

FSA County Committee Nomination Deadline

It is important for one to stand for what they believe in and takes an active role in one’s community. Effective leadership is crucial to any community or organization.  An effective leader understands the issues at-hand, is knowledgeable in his/her area, knows the proper ways to motivate others, embraces change, can work in a variety of settings and with a variety of personalities, and involves the group or followers in important decision-making. That being said, remember that a leader is not only a political figure or someone that is well known, but a leader can be a farmer, local businessmen/women, or anyone in a community or organization.  For those individuals desiring to take on leadership roles, consider serving on the FSA County Committee. Details for how to step into this role follow.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) encourages all farmers, ranchers, and FSA program participants to take part in the County Committee election nomination process.

FSA’s county committees are a critical component of the day-to-day operations of FSA and allow grassroots input and local administration of federal farm programs.

Committees are comprised of locally elected agricultural producers responsible for the fair and equitable administration of FSA farm programs in their counties. Committee members are accountable to the Secretary of Agriculture. If elected, members become part of a local decision making and farm program delivery process.

A county committee is composed of three elected members from local administrative areas (LAA). Each member serves a three-year term. One-third of the seats on these committees are open for election each year.

County committees may have an appointed advisor to further represent the local interests of underserved farmers and ranchers. Underserved producers are beginning, women and other minority farmers and ranchers and landowners and/or operators who have limited resources.

All nomination forms for the 2019 election must be postmarked or received in the local USDA service center by Aug. 1, 2019. For more information on FSA county committee elections and appointments, refer to the FSA fact sheet: Eligibility to Vote and Hold Office as a COC Member available online at: fsa.usda.gov/elections.

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Posted in Livestock, Programming, Youth

Sportsmanship & Youth Development

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My youngest daughter, Meredith has been learning responsibility with her first bucket calf.

Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines sportsmanship as “conduct becoming an individual involving fair and honest competition, courteous relations and graceful acceptance of results”.  Sportsmanship starts with parents teaching their youth how to accept a win or a loss, although in the 4-H youth development program, even if the youth receives a red ribbon, nothing is lost as long as some basic knowledge and skills were gained. Too often in our society we focus on the tangible results of a ribbon or trophy and don’t think about the process that youth went through to achieve the end results and what was learned from that process.

I often use the example that as a youth, I’ll never forget receiving a red ribbon for a market heifer; I was disappointed, but will never forget my dad asking me, what the judge said in the comments.  After we talked it over, I realized his reasoning and was able to understand the type of animal I should select the following year. That was a lesson I’ll never forget.  My parents instilled the value of hard work into my sister and I and any animal we showed we bought with our own money to build a small cow/calf herd or they came from our own herd. We rarely had the award-winning animal and were extremely excited to even receive a purple ribbon. The learning that occurred, memories and fun we had were just as valuable then if we would have received a trophy or plaque.

For these reasons, it is really rewarding to work with youth who are happy with any ribbon placing- white, red, blue or purple. It really is just one person’s opinion on one particular day!

The 4-H Program focuses on providing positive youth development and developing young people as future leaders. A ribbon or plaque placing does not achieve this; rather it is the process, skills and effort that went into the project.  It is also important to mention that the entire 4-H program extends beyond the county fair and is done through educational workshops, career portfolios, leadership experiences and much more and is a year-round program.

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My oldest daughter, McKenzie added pigs to her 4-H project this year and has been having to learn lots more responsibility and patience.

Positive Youth Development

National 4-H reminds us that there are four critical components of a successful learning experience which include a sense of belonging, independence, mastery and generosity. During county fair and all 4-H programming, it is important that youth experience these.

Belonging

Youth need to know they are cared about by others and feel a sense of connection to others in the group. As the facilitator, it is important to provide youth the opportunity to feel physically and emotionally safe while actively participating in a group. Create a safe and inclusive environment and foster a positive relationship with youth learners. Use discussion questions that encourage youth to learn from each other, synthesize and use ideas collaboratively.

Independence

Youth need to know that they are able to influence people and events through decision-making and action. They learn to better understand themselves and become independent thinkers. Throughout each curriculum, youth are given opportunities to develop and reflect upon thoughts and responses to the challenges, explorations, and investigations. Youth begin to understand that they are able to act as change agents with confidence and competence as a result of their learning.

Mastery

In order to develop self-confidence youth need to feel and believe they are capable and they must experience success at solving problems and meeting challenges. Youth need a breadth and depth of topics that allow them to pursue their own interests. Introduce youth to expert knowledge and guide them toward their own sense of mastery and accomplishment.

Generosity

Youth need to feel their lives have meaning and purpose. Throughout each curriculum, youth are encouraged to broaden their perspectives, find relevance in the topic area and bring ideas back to their community.

Adapted from 4-H Essential Elements of 4-H Youth Development, Dr. Cathann Kress, 2004.

Posted in Crops, Livestock, Programming

Good farmer or a great manager?

The difference between a good farmer and a great manager often comes down to knowing the true financial position of a farm. Good records make it possible to track an operation’s true financial position. Inaccurate records can lead to misguided management decisions.

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“Good Farmer to Great Manager” Record-keeping classes will teach farmers and ranchers to keep accurate records for their operations. These classes will be held at three locations:

  • Lincoln, July 18 – 19 at the Lancaster County Extension Office
  • Bridgeport, July 25 – 26 at the Prairie Winds Community Center
  • Grand Island, July 30 – 31 at the Hall County Extension Office

Each class will run from 1p.m. until 5 p.m. the first day, and 8 a.m. until noon the second day. The course fee is $50 per participant; class size is limited to 25 people per location. Register online at https://www.regonline.com/registration/Checkin.aspx…

Keeping good records is less about using a certain software and more about gathering and organizing information, according to Tina Barret the Executive Director of Nebraska Farm Business Inc. and course instructor. “In this class, you will learn about what information you should have easily available as part of your farm or ranch records. When you have good records, everything from tax preparation, annual loan renewals, and financial analysis become much easier,” she said. “More importantly, it will allow you to make financial management decisions that improve your business.”

Posted in Livestock, Youth

Celebrate Beef Month

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My daughter’s bucket calf from two years ago had a calf and she was ecstatic; it has been a great learning experience for her, in addition to teaching responsibility.

As we enter into the spring and summer months, nothing smells better than a delicious, juicy hamburger or steak on the grill and being able to barbecue outside with friends and family. It’s no surprise then that May is National Beef Month!  The beef industry is especially important to Nebraska’s economy. In fact, according to the USDA National Ag Statistics Service, Nebraska ranks top in the nation with beef and beef product exports and second in the nation for having approximately 6.8 million head of all cattle and calves in the state (February 2019). So, why is Nebraska, the beef state?  It has a unique mix of natural resources and according to the Nebraska Beef Council, cattle turn grass from 24 million acres of rangeland and pasture, more than one half of Nebraska’s land mass, into protein and many other products for humans. Land that is grazed allows more people to be fed than otherwise possible and more than one billion bushels of corn are produced in Nebraska, of which 40% is fed to livestock in the state.

Now that I have explained how and why the beef industry is important to Nebraska, let’s explore the health benefits of beef. Beef is a good source of zinc, iron and protein and there are 29 cuts of beef that meet the government labeling guidelines for being lean. In fact, a 3 ounce cooked serving of lean beef (which is about the size of a deck of cards) provides 10 essential nutrients and about half of the daily value of protein in about 170 calories. According to recent research from Purdue University, the cuts of beef considered lean can be included as a part of a heart-healthy diet to support cardiovascular health and has consistently demonstrated that the nutrients in beef promote health through life.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_823e.jpg

With May as beef month, my colleague and I recently provided beef program to students at Shickley Public Schools. I taught lessons to the elementary students on the importance of agriculture, with an emphasis on beef production. With the disconnect most consumers have with agriculture, it is important to teach people, especially youth the facts about agriculture. Some of the classes were taught the difference between beef and dairy cattle, as there are many people who do not understand the differences between the two. Extension assistants Rachel Adam and Nathan Haman taught middle and high school youth about beef nutrition by bringing in the Mobile Beef Lab.

If you would like more information on beef production, you can view our Nebraska Extension website beef.unl.edu. Our Extension experts have a variety of articles from beef nutrition to reproduction to lease information. If you would like recipes or tips for preparing beef, you can also check out Nebraska Extension’s food.unl.edu website. There are some great tips on saving money when purchasing beef and links to the Nebraska Beef Council’s website which has great recipes as well.

Enjoy some beef today!

Posted in Crops, Horticulture, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming

Ag Offers Rewards, but can be Stressful Too

Recently I presented a webinar with my colleague, Glennis McClure that reminds us of daily stress in our lives, especially for farmers and ranchers. Agriculture is a stressful occupation and while it provides numerous rewards, it does not come without challenges. Too much stress can contribute to health issues and make us more accident prone.

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The National Center for Farmer Health points out that stress is the human response to any change that is perceived as a challenge or a threat. Changes that cause worry, frustration or upheaval and seem beyond our control can cause stress. An example that hits close to home for Nebraska farmers and ranchers is the recent weather-related disasters. Attitudes, perceptions and meanings that people assign to events determine a large part of one’s stress levels.

There are many symptoms of stress that impact our body, mind and actions. For example, physical symptoms might include nausea, shortness of breath, shaky legs, headaches, and fatigue just to name a few. When under stress, some people may experience moodiness, frustration, anger, loneliness, anxiety or depression and even suicidal thoughts. Sleeping too much or too little, increased use of alcohol or drugs, withdrawal from others and exhibiting nervous behaviors are all examples of how our actions might change when stressed.

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The good news is there are many ways to reduce stress. A summary of ways to decrease stress as compiled by Susan Harris-Broomfield, Nebraska extension educator includes:

  • Exercising ½ hour a day every day or every other day
  • Getting enough sleep to meet the demands of your body
  • Accepting that stress is a part of life and not dwelling on it
  • Learning to relax which could include taking deep breaths
  • Balance work and family time
  • Connect with sources of support
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Talk with a friend or counselor
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you recognize someone in distress, express your concern to them and ask about their situation. Do this in a non-judgmental way and actively listen to them. People in distress might turn to suicide and a majority of people who attempt suicide have given a clue or warning to someone. Don’t ignore indirect references to death or suicide. In fact it is a myth that talking about suicide with someone may give them the idea to carry it out. Asking someone about potential suicidal thoughts they may have or discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do for someone who is suicidal. If someone indicates they are thinking of suicide, do not leave them alone. Call for help and/or take them to a hospital or health care provider. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This hotline can be accessed day or night.

In keeping with the #NebraskaStrong idea, remember to be strong and seek out help as needed and assist others who may need help. In Nebraska, our Rural Response Hotline can be accessed at 1-800-464-0258. When a farmer, rancher, or rural resident calls the hotline and requests help with stress related issues, they are connected to an experienced staff person who is trained to help callers through the Counseling, Outreach and Mental Health Therapy program. Staff members are trained to work with individuals over the phone or in their home, providing confidential information and assistance.

A recording of the webinar, in addition to resources utilized for this program can be found at https://go.unl.edu/wellnessintoughtimes.  More resources, especially disaster-related resources can be accessed on the flood.unl.edu website. For more information, contact me at brandy.vandewalle@unl.edu or (402)759-3712.

Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming

Nebraska LEAD Program

Eleven years ago I met twenty-nine talented individuals with a passion of agriculture through the Nebraska LEAD program. To date, I remain friends with many of them and the networking opportunities have been tremendous. The in-state seminars challenged me to think outside of the box and remain an advocate for agriculture. I could go on and on about the excellent opportunities the LEAD program has provided, but I challenge you to experience it yourself!Fruit Market pic

The Nebraska LEAD Program is dedicated to building future Nebraska leaders so that our food and fiber system is preserved and enhanced. If you would like to be a part of the leadership necessary to chart the course . . . now and in the future, and you are presently involved in production agriculture or agribusiness, there will never be a better time to make application to the Nebraska LEAD Program. Fellowship applications for Nebraska LEAD (Leadership Education/Action Development) Group 38 are now available for men and women involved in production agriculture or agribusiness and are due on June 15. Up to 30 motivated men and women with demonstrated leadership potential are selected annually for the Nebraska LEAD Program. Generally the program is for people between the ages of 25-55 years of age.

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In addition to monthly three-day seminars throughout Nebraska from mid-September through late March each year, Nebraska LEAD Fellows also participate in a 10-day National Study/Travel Seminar during the first year and a two week International Study/Travel Seminar during the second year.

Content essential to leadership focuses on public policy issues, natural resources, community development, interpersonal skill development, communications, education, economics, and social and cultural understanding. Soon beginning its 39th year, the program is operated by the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council, a nonprofit organization in collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and in cooperation with Nebraska colleges and universities, business and industry, and individuals throughout the state.

Applications are due no later than June 15 and are available via e-mail from the Nebraska LEAD Program.  Please contact Shana at sgerdes2@unl.edu.   You may also request an application by calling (402) 472-6810.

Nebraska LEAD Program offices are in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. If you are even thinking about applying, contact me and I’d be more than happy to share my experiences with you and visit with you about this life-changing opportunity!