I’m back!

It’s been a while since I’ve utilized this blog. I’ve always had the greatest of intentions to write more…but it’s one of those things I never make myself make the time for. Lately though, there have been so many things on my heart that I feel like I need to find a way to carve out a few minutes to use my voice on this platform again.

My life has changed dramatically since I began this blog a few years ago. I have moved to Iowa, left a job, started a new one, launched my own business, gotten engaged…and now we’re about to experience even MORE changes, as we are leaving Iowa to once again land in Michigan. Life has been crazy, exciting, scary, invigorating, and exhausting, sometimes all at once, and not necessarily in that order!

We are excited to be going back to Michigan, as it will put us closer to our family, the boys, and our old friends. But it is bittersweet to leave our life here. Iowa has been good to us…we are blessed with amazing neighbors and wonderful friends, good jobs, and a beautiful countryside we have loved to explore. Right now everything is just a little overwhelming, but I am constantly reminded to take things one day, one step at a time. And I know from experience that some how, some way, everything always works out in the end!



A Note to My Readers Regarding Ads

Occasionally you may see ads on my page or at the end of blog posts.

My WordPress blog is a standard, free blog theme. Therefore, WordPress runs ads on sites like mine to cover the costs of operating this page. The ads they choose to post are their control, not mine.

I do not, in any way, financially profit from this site or the ads which may be posted.

I have not purchased the “No Ads Upgrade” offered by WordPress that would remove ads from my site.

My blog is also not part of the WordAds program which shows ads to earn money from my site.

For more information regarding WordPress ads, please visit http://en.wordpress.com/about-these-ads/

Michigan’s Right to Farm: How the Media Got it ALL WRONG


Michigan's Right to Farm Act was originally intended to protect farmers when new urban neighbors decided they didn't like the sights, smells, etc. related to the farm.
Michigan’s Right to Farm Act was originally intended to protect farmers when urban neighbors moved in next door and decided they didn’t like the sights, smells, sounds, etc. related to the farm, provided they were following a specific set of management standards.

Judging by the Facebook posts, tweets and messages I’ve received in the past few days, you’ve already heard the news and read the headlines…

“Michigan Loses Its ‘Right to Farm'”
“Say Goodbye to Backyard Chickens & Beekeepers”
“Michigan Bans Animals on Small Farms”

These headlines ruffled a lot of feathers (pun intended, with apologies, but I couldn’t resist), which was exactly what they were intended to do. Alarm, enrage, vilify. There’s only one glaring problem…


Recent changes to Michigan’s Generally Accepted Agriculture Management Practices (GAAMPs) do not mean that anyone is going to “lose” their “right” to farm or protection under Michigan’s Right to Farm Act. It means that every farmer, regardless of the size of their operations, will have to comply with the Site Selection GAAMP if they expect Right to Farm protection.

But before I get to far in that, it’s important to understand the Right to Farm Act and the Site Selection GAAMP specifically.

Developed in 1981, Right to Farm was originally intended to protect traditional rural farmers from nuisance lawsuits from rural newcomers who decided they didn’t like the sights, smells, sounds, etc. of commercial agriculture. Farmers wanting Right to Farm protection are required to comply with all GAAMPs applicable to their operation. The new Site Selection GAAMP has not changed this.

The original Site Selection GAAMP was developed in 2000, when urban agriculture was in its infancy. Like the other components of Michigan’s Right to Farm law, it was written to protect commercial farm operations in a predominantly rural environment, and applied only to new and expanding livestock farms of 50 or more animal units (note that an animal “unit” does not necessarily mean one animal specifically; it is a generalized unit of measure taking livestock size into consideration). It also provided protection to local property owners who might question, for example, building a large livestock facility next to a shopping mall. Provisions including property setbacks and specific housing densities have always been considered when siting animal housing. No new animal facility can be located within 250 feet of its neighbor, nor can it be within 1/8 mile of any area containing 13 houses or more IF the farmer expects protection under the Right to Farm Act. Again, this is voluntary. A farmer can, for example, build a new livestock barn closer than the setback provisions, but in doing so will knowingly forfeit Right to Farm protection.

Zoning compliance is not new to the siting GAAMP. Since its inception, new and expanding livestock farms of 50 or more animal units have been required to comply with local zoning. With the growing popularity of urban agriculture, such farms sometimes claim preemption of local zoning under Right to Farm (due to the nature of their size, by falling under the 50 animal unit threshold). The updated GAAMP merely expands that zoning compliance expectation to new and expanding livestock farms of less than 50 animal units in residentially zoned areas.

This also brings us to an integral part of the new siting GAAMP. It applies to residentially zoned areas ONLY. It DOES NOT BAN owning livestock in these areas; rather, it allows local municipalities to define their OWN guidelines for permissible livestock varieties, quantities and care.

Trever Meachum, vice-chair of the Michigan Commission for Agriculture and Rural Development, the entity responsible for establishing the guidelines within GAAMPs, said in the Michigan Farm News: “Local control is about being a good neighbor, and these GAAMPs–if farmers follow them–help people remain good neighbors. Different communities have different ideas about what they want, and this accommodates those communities.” He went on to explain that “Some people wanted to ignore their local ordinances and still get Right to Farm protection. There has been a lot of misinformation out there from the start, and the commission was just trying to provide some clarification to all communities.”

Currently, urban agriculture does not have a set of GAAMPs tailored specifically for their needs. The Michigan Ag Commission considering drafting a new set of guidelines geared toward urban agriculture. Many, include Michigan Farm Bureau, support this idea and are encouraging the development of these guidelines in order to help foster this important and growing sector of agriculture. (You can read Michigan Farm Bureau’s statement in its entirety here.)

It’s important to remember that the Site Selection GAAMP applies to livestock only. It does not stop anyone from growing or selling their own fruits and vegetables, nor does it override or disallow local ordinances for animals. Also, GAAMPs are not law, and no farm of any size or nature is required to follow them UNLESS they want protection under Right to Farm. The new siting GAAMP simply closes the gap between farms over 50 animal units and those under 50 so that everyone has to abide by the same rules if they expect Right to Farm protection.

To read the entire Site Selection GAAMP, click here.

FAQ’s about Michigan’s Right to Farm act can be viewed here.

Lessons from a Cow Named Peaches

Along the first week of December every year, around the time of her birthday, my mind drifts back to memories of a little cow named Peaches. She was my first registered Holstein, my first show cow beyond 4-H, and believe it or not, one of my dearest friends growing up.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the life lessons I learned growing up on the farm, and a lot of those came from owning Peaches and other cows after her. Animals teach us so many things beyond just their care and feeding…lessons in responsibility, trust, compassion, patience, life and death. So today I’ll celebrate her birthday 20 years ago, remembering all the experiences shared with the little cow with the big personality.

How many cows do you know that got birthday parties? Peach did.
Peach's 1st birthday. She got to come in for a special birthday dinner every year. She was spoiled. ROTTEN.
I learned to fit really fit cattle when I got Peaches. She's pictured here at our county fair as a Winter Yearling in 1993. (That's me saying "No, no! Not the topline!!)
At the county fair the same year. It was our first of many showmanship wins. Peach had this style that borderlined arrogance when she walked into the show ring.
Peaches 2nd birthday. She almost took the pail of grain out of my friend Cindy's hands right after I snapped this photo! (Patience was not a virtue when it came to her food...she LOVED grain.)
Peaches with her first calf, a bull named Poncho. Mom swore Peach was waiting me to get home from school that day; Poncho was born about 5 minutes after I made it down to the barn.
Peaches as a 2 year old at the county fair. She always seemed to have an entourage.
Our 2nd Grand Champion honor, 1994
Peaches was a regular in our show string. Our trucker, Randy, called her the American Express cow because we couldn't leave home without her. She would hear him pull in and would be waiting at the gate before he could even park the trailer. Here she's pictured, 3rd from the left, with our district show string.
Several bouts with acute mastitis in her younger years had taken their toll on her udder and I hadn't shown Peach since she was a 4 year old. But she was ok as a dry aged cow, so we went for one last hurrah at the 2000 Spring Holstein Show before her official retirement.
Peaches in the spring of 2001 (note the gate at the milk barn door--a master escape artist, everything at the farm had to be "Peaches-Proofed"). This was shortly after she had what would be her last calf, a heifer I named Randi. The little heifer was named in honor of our longtime trucker Randy who had recently lost his battle with cancer. We would get devestating news about Peach shortly after this photo, when she was diagnosed with bovine leukemia.
Peaches lived out her last days in leisure, a retirement she so rightly deserved. She basically had free run of the farm, but would spend most of her time by the fence with her girls.
We knew Peaches would let us know when it was time to go. The day this photo was taken, she had been unable to get up and we made the painful decision that it was time to call the vet. Because she was not in distress, we opted to give her til the next day. That night, wanting one last picture with my best girl, I tearfully took my camera to the barn and decided I would sit with her like I had done countless times before. Always a camera hound, Peach's ears perked up when she saw me walk in, and with a fiercely determined look in her eyes, she struggled to her feet. I screamed for Mom, my sister and our friend Kali (who was working for us at the time), who all came running surely fearing the worst. There wasn't a dry eye when they saw Peach had made it to her feet. Chores immediately stopped as we snapped every picture we could before dark that night of our beloved little cow. Peaches left us 2 days later, but I will never forget this night.

Semi-Wordless Wednesday: Looking Back…One Year Ago Today

It’s Wednesday at the Michigan Farm Bureau State Annual Meeting, which means it’s a big day for the Young Farmers. Today, they will compete for several awards including honor of winning the Discussion Meet. One year ago, I was one of those fortunate few.

It marked my tenth year as a discussion meet contestant, and quite frankly I’d begun to wonder if I would ever win the elusive contest I had tried in vain to conquer so many times before. But 2010 proved to finally be my year…so join me as I take you back to that awesome day.

Opening statement, first round
Talking with my hands...as usual 🙂
Receiving my certificate from MFB YF Chair Joe Ott after being announced that I'd made it into the 3rd round
Discussion meet finals with fellow contestant Adam Herford
Finals contestant Brian Sanford
With that look on my face, Lord knows what point I was making!
Giving what would be my final closing statement ever at a MFB YF Discussion Meet
With a couple of my besties, Betty Jo (aka Buff) and Kate at the reception just prior to the evening's Celebrating Rising Stars banquet. Buff was one of my best discussion meet coaches!
Receiving my finalist plaque from Joe Ott & MFB President Wayne Wood. Earlier in the evening I had been honored when Wayne stopped me at the reception to congratulate me on a great final.
Right after I won. Not the best picture but you get the idea!
With Allen Bontuis (a former discussion meet winner as well) from John Deere, receiving one of my awards for winning

Common sense in an uncommon world…