Sunday, November 6, 2016

Let's Talk Politics

Welcome back!

I'm so glad you've decided to join in on yet another adventure with Dallas's Dabbles. Today I'm going to step a little outside of my comfort zone and talk politics. But wait! Before you throw your hands up in exasperation and exit my blog, let me first share the understanding I have of the importance of having a political voice. Currently in our congress are several persons who have never set foot on a farm or ranch. They may not always understand why we agriculturalist have concerns surrounding seemingly simple concepts such as water rights, right to farm policies, the selling dollar for cash crops/trade commodities and free trade agreements with international companies. Yet they are the ones who make laws that could drastically change our livelihood.You can bet your britches we are going to want someone in office who makes being an agriculturalist less stressful. The only question is, how do we make our voice heard?
Political Discussions
Political discussions can be both a blessing and a curse. Either way, they are a vital function that allow nth generation farms or even brand new ones to have a voice in government policies that effect their way of life. There are both good things and not-so-good things about each bill or legislative piece that passes through the Capital Hill in your state. Today I want to take a look at some of the more recent agricultural activity in our government and discuss some pits and peaks of pollinator bills. 

What is a pollinator? This is one of the first things we need to define before we begin delving into legislation involving pollinators. According the U.S. National Park Service, "A pollinator is anything that helps carry pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma)". Included, but not limited to are: butterflies, lizards, birds, bees and insects. In order to maintain a steady crop and food source, we MUST have pollinators.Our current pollinator population is suffering; down to 2.5 million colonies from 6 million in 1947. Though we cannot pinpoint and blame one specific crisis for the massive wipe-outs, we can begin to take cautious and preventative methods within our government that at least 9 other states are participating in. 

Some Issues at Hand
Pesticides are a hot speaking point it seems like no matter where I go. They are also publicly believed to be a major contributor to pollinator decline. Though we do not currently have sufficient evidence to support that the pesticides used are what's actually causing the decline, we are taking preventative measures in our agricultural policies. Som
e states like Washington and California have adopted a policy that mandates farmers use pollen rich plants in place of weedy cover crops to support pollinator habitats in the off-season. Other measures, such as total habitat restoration, are also underway. 

So if I'm Not a Farmer, How are Pollinator Bills Going to Effect Me? 
You don't have to be a farmer to see the effects of pollinator bills. Many of the traditional methods that farmers use are to keep cost inputs down so that consumers can benefit from cheap groceries. If agriculturalists must find new, more costly ways to produce the same food, you can bet (but not too much) on seeing a significant rise in food prices. Despite that is kinda sucks we might have to pay more for food, regulating pesticide use that may harm pollinators is a great sustainability method. I would rather pay more for food than not have any available to me at all. Once our pollinators are gone, we will not be able to sustain life for very long on our own. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Clowns Are Scary; Pig Farmers Aren't

Halloween is approaching fast and with it murderous clowns, superstitions and the tale of La Llorona scaring children off the streets and into their homes before the sun sets. Hocus Pocus, The Hills Have Eyes, The Evil Dead and more will be playing on TV screens across America. Lucky for us, we know that the events in these movies are not real. We may cuddle up close to our crush or sleep with a baseball bat next to the bed for a few days, but for the most part, the terror is over when the credits roll. Not all scary things have to do with Halloween though. In the agricultural industry, people just like you and I are scared about the safety and quality of their food. Hot topics such as GMO's, hormones, anti-biotics and more can cause quite a scare in the consumer sector. But just as the scary ends when the credits roll for a movie, we can take the terror out of agriculture by thinking with our heads and not our imagination. There are many scary rumors going around about pig farming. These rumors include that there is antibiotic residue in the meat we buy in the stores, that pig farmers do not care about their animals, sows are kept pregnant and in farrowing crates their entire life and that we would all be better off if nobody raised pigs. Take a look at this infographic that I put together and decide for yourself!
Take the Scary out of Pig farming #realpigfarming Clowns are scary;...
Still think pig farmers are scary? Check out this link to put a personable face to the job!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

I am a Voice for Agriculture, and I am Learning to Speak Up

"Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire".  I have never been one to stand around and watch idly as my dreams surpass me, so naturally it made sense for me to seize this amazing opportunity to spread truth about the industry that I love. You may have seen me posting more than usual on social media. I have started using hashtags, cool graphics and facts about livestock. But what is this #CAO16, and why do I use it so much?

What does C.A.O stand for?
First off, C.A.O is short for College Aggies Online. We are a bunch of passion ridden agriculture students and groups from across the U.S. Though we may not always be on the same side of the stadium come Saturday, we stand hand in hand when it comes to loving agriculture. If you feel the same, there is still time to sign up your group or club and compete for cash prizes by following this link: . 

What is my role in #CAO16? 
As a 2016 competitor, my role in College Aggies Online is to create social media posts that reflect common misconceptions in the agricultural industries. Some of these hot topics include hormones, anti-biotic use and animal welfare. Each week for 9 weeks, there is a different animal theme. Via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and my blog, I tell Ag's story one post at a time. 

Who am I?
Who am I? Who am I? *begin terrible Eddy Murphy impression of Mushu from Mulan* I am the generous, the gregarious, the indispensable Dallas Dooley. I grew up on a small family farm where we raised everything but wages. After I left for college at New Mexico State University, my mom started a horse rescue called Phoenix Equine. She is a firm believer that bad things happen to good people, and she gives all horses a second chance at life and service. If you ask me, her compassion extends to more than just horses which is why our farm looks more like a petting zoo than a business. However, my mother's compassion is the trait I am most proud to have inherited. It allows me to step back and gives me time to try and understand when someone shares an opinion different than my own. Growing up on a farm taught me how to love and care for animals, though I was not always so good with the ones that could talk back (aka humans). After leaving the farm and going to a university that was several hours removed from my friends, family and animals, I started to get really involved to fill the void of farm chores. As a result, my social skills began to blossom. Years later, I am able to carry on a conversation with a brick wall if necessary, but I can still sympathize with agriculturalist who struggle with talking to people not directly related to the farm. I am a voice for agricultureand through College Aggies Online, I am learning to speak up. 

Time flies when you are having fun. Being a competitor in #CAO16 is no different. We are already at the end of week 3! If you are having a great time keeping up with all of our posts, don't fret because we still have 6 weeks to go. Don't forget to check back in with me for next week's theme: Crops. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

National Pork Month is Finally Here!

The nights are getting colder, pumpkin spice is overwhelming the market and the smell of bacon is in the air. Wait, what? Yes folks, that's right; bacon. Amongst the many things that the month of October brings us; pumpkin spice, jack-o-lanterns, s'mores by the fire, hay rides, Halloween, etc, pork products are more than worthy of being added to the list because October is National Pork Month! While this gives me an excuse to eat bacon 31 days in a row, it also gives me a chance to tell the #realpigfarming stories of my friends, families and mentors whose way of life centers around raising happy, healthy pigs. Although we now have access to delicious pork products such as bacon, pork chops, sausage and ribs year round, we were not always so blessed. October is the official month of pork because this is the time of year that pigs were traditionally taken to market. Even though we no longer have a season specific market, our farmers are still committed to producing a quality product every single day. Here are some creative ways to celebrate National Pork Month, and don't forget to thank a farmer for all that they and their families do to keep food in front of mine and yours.
1. Take a Virtual Farm Tour
Pig farmers cannot let you into their barns because it would increase the risk of disease and harm to their pigs. There is also the chance for undercover videos that have been twisted to put farmers in a bad light to be filmed. Virtual tours are a great way see what goes on while still keeping the pigs safe and healthy. Check out this link to get you started.

2. Eat Bacon Pumpkin Quinoa
Combine the best of both worlds with this yummy treat! It's healthy, easy to make, and best of all it has bacon! Not quite your speed? Try these other 27 unique ways to eat bacon.

3. Write a Thank You Letter to a Farmer
National Pork Month is really a celebration of the pig farmers who continue to grow a quality product for us to enjoy. Real pig farmers do not expect a reward for their hard work; healthy pigs is reward enough. However, a good old fashioned thank you letter never hurt a soul. Let them know how much we appreciate them! Get started on your own thank you letter with one of these templates.

4. Change Your Social Media Profile Picture
Let your friends and family know that you are celebrating National Pork Month by adding #RealPigFarming to your social media profile pictures. You can find the link here.
But do not stop at your own picture! Feel free to share this link and encourage others to show their support of our nation's bacon growers.

5. Ask Questions
Not familiar with pig farming? Let us answer your questions by using the #realpigfarming link. Simply ask your questions, add the hashtag and wait for one of our pig farming experts or communication specialists to answer your questions. Can't figure out myth from fact for anti-biotics, feed additives, growth hormones or animal welfare practices? No problem! We are always more than happy to help. Here is a quick link to get you started.

You can find more creative ways to celebrate National Pork Month by following this link.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Essential Tools for the Livestock Showman

When you show livestock, you need to be equipped with many tools. As an exhibitor, you an arsenal of feed buckets, brushes, show sticks, show sheen, halters, gate chains, extension cords, fans, blowers, and much, much more. As a parent, you should always have the right equipment to save the day. Snacks, blankets, tissues, drinks, entry fees, shot records, feeding records, chairs and a fresh change of clothes are a pretty good start (notice how sanity is not listed). This week I had my first experience at New Mexico State Fair. I came to support my students and run errands, though I mostly seemed to get in the way.

My week began early Friday morning as I watched my cooperating teacher (who was all business) load the trailer we would be taking to the fair. I should have known by looking at the tremendous amount of equipment packed into the trailer that I was going to be in for one wild ride. Yet, come Monday, I was still trying to understand why my 21-year-old body was begging me for a break. In four short days, I have learned more about pigs, cattle and students than I ever thought there was to learn. I have shared the “joys and discomforts1” of this agricultural life with both students and parents. Like the Grinch looking down at Whoville on Christmas morning, my heart has expanded as I’ve watch these youth pour everything they have into one person’s opinion. I’ve witnessed the triumphs as one of my sophomore students accomplished her career long dream of winning Grand Champion Goat. In the same breath, I’ve watched grown men cry as the hog that father and son had
diligently groomed and prepped since the day he came home from the breeder crossed scales and was over his weight limit to show. I supplied the tender, loving embrace of a mother to her child to the young man who was to exhibit that hog and tried desperately to not share in the tears he shed. Countless youth have told me that the number one reasons they show is to miss school and hang out with friends, but in moments like this I know that what drives them to be livestock exhibitors is far more than that.

If you were able to share in the experiences that I have lived in this short amount of time, you would be overcome with emotions as you recall the highs, lows and good times that have nothing to do with winning or losing. In fact, as we recall our essential tools, I believe you will agree with me that a pen, paper and camera are among the MOST essential items you could have in your show box. These items are simple and no you will not need them to groom your animal, but believe me when I say you will need them. You will need the pen to remind you that the choices you make have a lasting effect. Once you make them, you cannot erase or wipe clean what has been done. The paper is to remind you that though the pen may be permanent, you can always turn the page. It is important to not stay stuck on a page that is already full, or to dwell on mistakes that have been made. A clean sheet may seem hard to fill at first, but it has endless opportunity for creativity and growth. All you need to do is have the courage to write, be it wrong or right, the first sentence. Lastly we come to the camera to remind you to capture the memories. One year from now you will look back and marvel at how much has changed and how far you have come.

Though I am hardly an expert on livestock showing, the lessons I have learned thus far have been an invaluable part of my experience. Sharing these experiences with my students has made me feel more a vital part of their lives than any lectures I’ve ever given them in class. I hope that they continue to flourish into productive young adults and that they always remember to carry the proper equipment.

Enjoying downtime between shows with friends

Staring competition between a steer and myself during the show 
Sisters and friends prep for showtime
My students rocking it during the senior showmanship 

1 excerpt from E.M. Tiffany's FFA Creed

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Quick UPDATE - Jr Market Lambs

This first class of market lambs are light weight fine wools. This means that they areb117 pounds or less. Though these lambs are sheared for the judge to more easily determine muscling and fat throughout the body, "fine wool" means that their hair is usually thin and silky. Fine wools hair is not generally very long. We call the length of a lock of wool its "staple". Right now the judge is determining which lamb is the most structurally correct, exhibits the most breed characteristics and is the most market ready. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Start 'Em Early; A Livestock Exhibitor Experience with Broc Spear

He's about 3 foot tall and weighs far less than a sack of feed, but don't let his size fool you. Five year old Broc Spear was all heart in the showring today at New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque, NM. Mr. Spear has been showing cattle for two years now, and he seems to have this winning thing down to an art. When I asked him if he'd won any ribbons today he said, "Oh yeah! I've got lots of those". Today Spear exhibited two heifers in the Open New Mexico Bred Show. He excitedly informed me that their names were Isabella and Red, White and BOOM! Isabella was shown in class 13 which was a Junior Yearling class. There she won a second place and a reserve champion. The tiny, but patriotic Red, White and BOOM was exhibited in class 10 which was a summer yearling class. She is also going home with a second place ribbon and a reserve champion banner.
Mr. Spear is excited about the fair and hopes to continue his showman career for many years to come. Broc Spear, we wish you the best of luck and congratulate you on your success thus far! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hi All!

New Mexico State Fair is only ONE day away! I am so incredibly excited as this year I am going as a teacher. I started my student teaching in August, but I have already gotten so close to my students. I will be taking pictures of those with swine projects, and they will be under the tag #realpigfarming. HOWEVER, as I love each and every one of my bright young minds, I will also be taking pictures of their projects as well. We have lambs, goats, rabbits, cattle and more! Stay tuned for some awesome pictures of youth leadership in action. Follow me on instagram @dallasdooley and twitter @gen1aggie to stay updated throughout fair week. Thanks for all the support!

Support the kiddos as they "bring home the bacon"

Monday, August 15, 2016

#RealPigFarming; More Than A Slogan

Three years ago I accepted my first ever internship with Murphy-Brown (later to become Smithfield). If you would have told me then that I would be sitting here today advocating for pig farmers, I would have told you to get some fresh air because the ammonia is getting to your head. Yet here I am, three years later, doing the thing I swore I would never do.

Pigs were never really my thing. I grew up with beef and dairy cattle, horses, chickens and everything in between, but the closest I came to hogs was bacon on my plate. Truly, when I applied for that first job with hogs, I was only expecting a pay check and a free place to live over the summer. But! It became so much more to me than that.

What does #RealPigFarming mean to you?
I have found myself asking this question quite often lately. When I first became part of the hog farming family, I thought that real pig farming was dehumanizing. I thought that when I walked through those doors of the really long white barns, that I was going to experience some things that I did not like. And I did. I did not like waking up early in the morning every day of the week. I did not like having to take multiple showers a day (do you know what that does to your hair!?). I did not like scraping the alleyways behind the pens. Yet, along with all of the things I did not like, there were several that I did. I loved seeing the baby piglets hopping happily around their moms just a few days after being born. I loved hearing the success stories from my managers and coworkers. I loved knowing that the people in charge of making sure our pigs were healthy and happy loved their job! I learned that being bigger does not always mean bad or that people do not care. What I had originally thought of as a factory farm, I began to see as several families united under one name.

After experiencing the industry first hand, I have come to believe that #RealPigFarming is much more than what anti-agriculturist groups portray it to be. #RealPigFarming is real people providing real, quality care to their animals. Pig farmers are my friends, coworkers, mentors and so much more! So when someone asks YOU what #RealPigFarming is, tell them your story loud and proud. Even if you do not raise pigs yourself, but are a pork connoisseur, be proud of the fact that your meal came from a family whose livelihood revolves around making sure you are delivered a quality product from the farm to the fork.

Thank you for supporting #RealPigFarming and the farming families that make it possible!