An Open Letter to PETA

In response to the blog that needs to stop being shared because it's so stupid.  

PETA,

First off, thank you for getting me out of writing my research paper and going to the grocery store.  I try not to be a procrastinator, but you’ve made me think that this is better worth my time. 

It’s better worth my time because you are attacking my lifestyle, and I’m not ok with it. 

You attack my lifestyle on a daily basis.  You attack what great people do every day, and they do it to care for others.  I cannot imagine having a job that put someone else down every day, how depressing!  If you can do that, I question your morals.    

I am ok with you choosing what you eat.  In return, I want to choose what I eat.  And I like steak.  And I’m not apologizing for that, because I believe that steer was put here for a reason just like I am put on this earth for a reason, and my reason to be here is to tell you that you are terribly rude.  (I wish I could type worse words but I try not to cuss on my blog.)

What you don’t understand is that you made a huge mistake, you infuriated the largest youth organization in the country.  That’s just dumb. 

FFA is all about premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.  The organization develops students into great people each and every day.  Clearly it didn’t work for the person who wrote the blog, but not every great thing is perfect, right?

The things I learned from FFA include: how to meet friends, how to prepare a speech, how life and school go hand in hand, what great agriculture is around me, what successful people do after FFA, the parts of the animal, how animals make a difference if people’s lives around the world, how to do an interview, how to cause a traffic jam using tractors during FFA week, how to talk to professionals in my community who support the program, how to set goals and achieve them, even how to rip a good pair of panty hose and what a tallywacker is.  The list goes on and on.

What I am most proud of, as an alumnus of the FFA, is the way students have stood up for themselves.  Because of you, they took a stand.  Have you searched #FFAproud? It’s pretty remarkable what each student has gained from his or her experience in FFA, and they shared that because of you.

PETA, you win this one.  You win because you caused uproar, which is exactly what you wanted to do.  But you won’t win again, because I also learned through FFA that the agriculture industry is the most powerful and amazing group of people you’ll ever meet.  We solve problems, we work together, and we care for each other.  Something you will never be able to achieve.  Therefore the FFA wins in the long run. 

I don’t believe in PETA, instead I believe in the future of agriculture and what FFA does for young people.  You should try it.  Or at least stop writing false blogs that have very little truth. 

Sincerely,

An alum of the greatest organization in existence.  

 Iowa FFA Officers at the 2015 State Convention.

Iowa FFA Officers at the 2015 State Convention.

Study Abroad; Argentina

It's been a few weeks since I returned home from my first adventure abroad but the memories have not faded. 

Pink House
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 I learned so much from my trip to Argentina.  It's hard to share everything I've learned after 9 days of tours and visits to various places and businesses.  Below is a break down of each day, follow the links and enjoy!

Day 1/2) Arrive in Buenos Aires

Day 1) US Embassy; Buenos Aires

Day 1) Cargill Headquarters Presentation; Buenos Aires

Day 2) Buenos Aires City Tour

Day 2) Tango Show; Buenos Aires

Day 3) Gaucho Ranch

Day 4) Liniers Cattle Market; Buenos Aires

Day 4) Cargill Inc; Villa Governador Galvez

Day 4) Dinner at Rizobacter Test Plots; Pergamino

Day 5) Rizobacter Business Tour; Pergamino

Day 5) National Institute of Agriculture Technology (INTA); Pergamino 

Day 6) Pagano South America Business Tour; Carlos Casares

Day 6) Zubeldia Manufacturer; Carlos Casares

Day 6) Roberto Lence Dairy Farm; Carlos Casares

Day 6) Orazi Feedlot and Pork Producer; Carlos Casares

Day 6) Dinner at Lence Farm; Carlos Casares

Day 7) Los Grobos Agribusiness Cooperation; Carlos Casares

Day 7) Raul Cardaci Farm Tour; Carlos Casares

Day 7) Duckas SRL Hay and Silage Producation; Carlos Casares

Day 8) Arrive at Iguazu Falls

Day 9) Tour Iguazu Falls National Park

Day 10) Start Towards Home; Conclusion

If you read even one blog, you'll see that I went to learn about agriculture but I learned so much more.  By talking with people who live in Argentina, the group was able to learn about the culture and lifestyle.  I really enjoyed my trip abroad and I am looking forward to future trips.  

I Know Where My Food Comes From

This is in response to the editorial in the Iowa State Daily entitled “Do We Really Know Where Our Food Comes From?

When I walk into a grocery store, I am overwhelmed with the amount of options I am given, from the juice I drink to the meat I eat.  There is one thing I know for sure, the options of meat that are given to the American consumer are safe and nutritious.  How do I know?  Because I am part of American Agriculture.

Today, Madison Ward asked students really know where their food comes from (Iowa State Daily, 4/17/15).  As a student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, I wish Madison would have approached myself or my classmates this question and discussed her concerns. Maybe even a farm visit would clear up many misconceptions about life on the farm. Instead, I welcome Madison to listen to our opinion and continue an open discussion about where your food comes from. 

This response is a collaboration from the mad minds of Ashley Smeby and Lexi Marek, about what we have learned from our experiences growing up on a farm in Iowa. 

I’ve seen Food Inc., a documentary that looks into large agri-businesses in America, which is produced by Hollywood.  Hollywood is looking to make a bang for their buck and most likely has not experienced everyday life on the farm.  I would not ask my hairdresser to diagnose a health issue for me, so I sure wouldn’t ask Hollywood how my food is grown.

Instead I would ask a farmer. 

Madison suggested supporting PETA.  We do not support them, and this photo is just one reason why.

The photo on the right was sponsored on social media by PETA, and the photo on the left is a freshly sheared lamb.  Shearing a lamb is like shaving your legs, no blood involved!  As usual PETA has twisted a safe, ordinary farming practice and made it appear to be cruelty to animals.That is the reason I do not trust PETA or any organizations that are supposed to be supporting animals but instead spend millions of dollars promoting the mistreatment of animals instead of helping them. 

We are a part of the strongest agricultural university in the nation, and it is our responsibility to get the facts from respected, science-based sources.

Now, lets talk about the “almighty dollar” that Madison mentions. Farming is unlike any other career path.  This industry is not just a business, but a lifestyle. Growing up on the farm I was taught the importance of taking care of the land and our animals.

When most look at farming, it can be easy to look over the initial costs that come with the lifestyle. Over the years, more and more people have left the farming business because of the input costs, and the amount of time that goes into farming.

Many important aspects of farming often become overlooked by those who have been raised away from the farm. Things such as land, machinery, fuel, labor and even time often become forgotten. 

Farmers depend on their animals for a living they are too invested in this lifestyle to mistreat their animals. Most farmers spend day and night, working more than just 40 hours a week, to care for their animals. 

Within large companies, growers are held reliable by the company and also by government restrictions, to make sure everything is done correctly, from caring for the animals, to caring for the land. They are part of the communities they live in, and contribute to its economic stability. They have the responsibility of providing high quality, safe food for consumers around the world. In order to grow enough food for the growing world population, agriculture has had to evolve from it’s past. Farmers are continuing to improve their practices to better care for their livestock, families, community, and the world. 

We suggest for anyone who has questions about agriculture to ask a farmer, or check out the following blogs written by Lexi Marek and Ashley Smeby, who both grew up on farms in Iowa.

Check out Ashley's blog at http://ashleysmeby.blogspot.com/

Day 6) Dinner at Lence Farm

I loved having a professor who was from the country where were toured, because of the insight he gave and the connections he had.  One of the best nights in Argentina was the asado held at the Lence farm.  Not only was the food delicious, the family was very welcoming.

Food is an important part of Argentine culture, and it's a good thing I like meat.  Asado is a type of BBQ where the meat is cooked for many hours over an open fire.  It is also usually cooked without being cut away from part of the caracas.  After playing yard games and touring the farm, we all sat around the fire for a great meal.  

The meal consisted of meat and bread, and I tried to eat traditionally only using a knife and bread to eat the meat.  Although I was only somewhat successful, I enjoyed the company.  We couldn't all speak the same language, but we did laugh quite a bit.  While eating, I discovered the lamb kidney is not my favorite, but it's all the experience, right? 

A big day ended well with good food and good people, I really was enjoying Argentina.  

Day 7) Los Grobos Agribusiness Cooperation

ur first stop on one of the last days we spent in the Las Pampas area of Argentina was at Los Grobos.  Los Grobos is a very impressive agri-business that is the connection between land, farmers, and necessities.  They are a leader in products, services, and knowledge. 

Because interest rates in Argentina are about 35% per year, Los Grobos helps farmers manage risk by assisting farmers by lending credit.  I thought it was interesting that through consolidation, Los Grobos was able to grow. 

After talking to a farmer, he mentioned that the community was skeptical at first but they are now supportive of the business.  The business so very diversified so they are able to help farmers with almost everything, from purchasing grain to selling products.  They also help companies, like Rizobacter, move product past their company salesmen and Los Grobos helps sell product to their customers. 

The large company was interesting and I am looking forward to seeing the company grow and prosper in the future.  

Day 6) Orazi Feedlot and Pork Producer

The last stop on our longest day did not disappoint.  We visited the Orazi Farms, owned by two brothers.  One brother was passionate about beef cattle, while the other was beginning in pork production.  Because of the poor infrastructure, we were picked up in vans to avoid the bus traveling down the rural roads. 

The feedlot was comparable to a feedlot seen in the United States.  The cattle were kept in a large pen with feed bunk where they eat.  Orazi’s have 1000 cows, which they raise their own cattle.  They also are hired by outside sources to feed out cattle.  The calves are descendants of Scottish breeds, making them smaller in frame size.  The calves are weaned at about two to four months old and go to market after one year at 750 pounds.  Growth promotions are prohibited in Argentina and the cattle are usually sent to local markets to cut transportation costs. 

Instead of charging his customers a rate to care for their cattle, they are only charged an increase above what it costs to feed the cattle, usually 20-40% depending on the markets.  Orazi’s farm about 2,800 hectors (7000 acres) of corn and soybeans.  They yield goals are 60 bushels per acre for soybeans and 160 bushels per acre for corn, which is just slightly lower than yields in the US.

Again it was mentioned that it is difficult to find good employees who are knowledgeable and motivated.  The people who work on the farm have been there for quite a while and are valued. 

Since my background is mainly in pork production, I was very excited to see a pork production facility.  The second Orazi brother showed us his new facilities that he is in the process of building.  By this fall, this goal is to have 50 sows with one of four groups farrowing every 30 days.  The farm consists of four hoop buildings, one for maternity, finishing, keeping the sows, and growing the pigs. 

Although slats in buildings are common in Argentina, the costs are high.  The maternity hoops will have pens that are between a farrowing crate and an open pen, allowing the sow to move. 

To breed the sows, a boar is used to heat check and see if the sow is in heat.  Then a foam rod is used during Artificial Insemination.  The semen costs about 70 pesos per dose and he is currently using 3 doses per sow but make sure they are bred. 

It was interesting to hear that feed is the highest cost just like it is in the US, being 70% of the total cost in Argentina.  This was one of my favorite stops because of the dedication and excitement the Orazi brothers had with their farm.  

Day 6) Roberto Lence Dairy Farm

Never being on a dairy farm before, I enjoyed traveling to Roberto Lence’s dairy farm.  The farm was started in 1991 and currently runs 345 cows.  The goal is to have 80% of the cows always milking; so 300 cows are currently milked twice a day.  I had the opportunity to step down and watch alongside the milkers as they worked to milk 24 cows at one time.  I loved seeing the passion and dedication that each person on the farm consisted of. 

Dedication is important on a dairy farm, and the family in charge of milking was defiantly dedicated.  They milk at 2 am and 2 pm each day so the milk is ready when the truck comes at 5 am.  Each milking takes about 2 ½ hours and the milk is then sold for 38 cents per liter. 

It was also great to hear that about once a month the surrounding farmers gather to discuss issues and challenges with their local vets and other people in the industry.  I could tell that farming in Argentina was a collaborative effort and everyone worked together.

All the feed that is fed to the cows, calves, replacement heifers, and feeder steers is mixed on the farm.  It consists of cottonseed, wheat burrs, and corn silage.  Vitamins and minerals are feed but rarely are their antibiotics and steroids given to the cattle.

When breeding the cows, they use Artificial Insemination.  Hormones are given to the cows so they know when she is in heat and can be bred.   They are bred throughout the year to meet the goal of having 80% of the cows in milking conditions at all time. 

Seeing the young dairy calves was one of the highlights on my trip, and I thought it was interesting that they are kept outside with constant access to feed and water.  Every two weeks the calves are moved to a different part of the yard to keep the ground clean and limit bacteria growth.  They are kept outside because it is a healthy alternative to stay warm in the sun while their mothers are being milked. 

Walking around the dairy farm reminded me of a farm in Iowa, complete with passion, hard work, and lots of animals.  

Day 6) Zubeldia Manufacturer

During one of the stops in Carlos Casares was at Zubeldia, an agriculture equipment manufacture.  The 38-year-old company specializes in quality manufacturing and is family owned.  Zubeldia has a total of 16 employees, four in sales and 12 manufacturing the equipment, and exports to four to five countries. 

I enjoyed seeing their latest breakthrough product, a sprayer that is the longest in the world with the boom width at 41 feet.  It was also very interesting to see the quality of work that the company prided themselves in.  They said it takes one week just to sand and paint the equipment.  They produce various sizes of equipment, ranging from $800-$250,000. 

After viewing the various types of equipment at Zubeldia, we had lunch hosted by a local honey producer’s house.  The typical lunch included delicious bread, cured meats, and farmer’s cheese.  Our host is a mid-size bee producer with 1,200 beehives around the area. 

It was interesting to hear the large amount of impact that the government has on the honey industry, specifically with exports.  Currently, there is no market for honey and they are also being forced to mix the high quality honey with lower grade honey, which also hurts the business. 

It was an honor to have dined in an Argentine home, mostly because our host felt like it was a great honor.  He was delighted that we were able to experience his culture and was very welcoming. 


Day 7) Duckas Hay and Silage Production

Our last agriculture stop was where I got sunburnt, but seeing a family run silage business was worth the burn.  Duckas Hay Production is a 32-year-old family run business that has been serving the same customers for the past 18 years.  Not only do they cut silage all over Argentina, but they have also expanded their business to meet all needs of their customers.  They provide services for hay balers, manure spreaders, and construction equipment. 

We watched Duckas cut silage for a 4,000 head dairy.  50% of the silage they cut goes to dairy and the other 50% for meat production.  Their chopper was imported from Germany and the crews work for six months, living in provided housing.  The employees are also fed by a chef that travels with the crews and are provided with clothing.

The tips I took away from this visit were the fact that you need to do everything possible to please your customers as well as your employees.  The fact that they have not had any new customers for the past 18 years but have been able to expand their business is amazing.  It proves that customer service and good character is important.