Slow down for school zones

I will admit it. I hate driving 25 miles per hour (mph) in school zones. When I remember, I will take an alternate route. When I don’t remember, it’s usually because I’m in a hurry. And then I’m really annoyed because I don’t have time to slow down to the safe speed.

But we do it for the kids. We do it for teachers and playground aides and crossing guards and paraprofessionals. We do it because we respect the zone.

This holiday weekend I have another reason to drive 25mph. Yet again, I’d prefer to be driving 80mph oops…I mean 70mph, Mom! Instead, our family is making the most of the holiday weekend to farm.

But unlike a school zone, tractors and other equipment change “zones” (fields) as soon as crops are ready to be harvested. I would really prefer to stay out of high-traffic areas, but our best fields are typically ready at the most inopportune time for other motorists – northern tourist season.

Just like a school zone speed limit sign, farmers do their best to communicate with traffic by using a slow-moving vehicle triangle sign. They’re typically orange, but I’ve seen older signs that are gray and red. They’re not driveway markers but I commonly see them used this way, which dilutes the meaning.

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I know it’s annoying to slow up an exciting day. I totally understand. I’m about as excited to get in the fields as most people are excited about getting to the lake. But just like you respect the safety of a school zone, please respect traffic laws when you encounter my family and me on the road with farm equipment.

We’re thankful for courteous motorists and we’re especially thankful for this wonderful job of working alongside nature to provide food for your family and our own.

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Grass-fed, Grain-fed…what do these labels mean?

Last night I attended a “Bringing Everyone to the Dinner Table: Understanding Farm to Fork and Today’s Agriculture” event hosted by the Macomb County Farm Bureau (as in, Michigan’s outskirts of Detroit-area).

Michele Payn-Knoper, founder of Cause Matters Corp., Indiana dairy farmer, book author and fellow Michigan State University graduate (see her Spartan Saga here), was the guest speaker. She encouraged the attendees to share the dinner plate when it comes to food and farming topics.

On our farm, we recognize a variety of farming methods are needed to make the community healthy. Small and big farms, organic and “regular” farms, farms that use horsedrawn plows and tractors that use autosteer and GPS, heritage vegetable plots and GMO seeds…the list goes on and on. What we LOVE is to celebrate the choices that we have as American farmers.

Know what those choices mean? Choices in our grocery stores. Heck, choices at the direct on-farm markets and your local downtown farmers markets. The world is not black and white, as much as I would love clear rules. Right now we want things to be green anyway ;)

One more thing that seems to be murky these days, though, are the labels found on foods and other products. Grass-fed, grain-fed…what do these labels mean? Do they matter?

Not to start researching what others already know and have written about, I visited a blog entry from “Mom at the Meat Counter,” written by a mom/farmer/meat scientist/when-does-she-sleep rockstar. Because even though we raise sheep on pasture and our lambs get a “grainola” mixture with most homegrown crops, I know our way isn’t the only way. I’m not always right. (But please don’t tell my dad, OK?)

I always hope to learn from others’ questions. Foodies, I hope you ask a farmer (you’re looking at one) those questions, and farmers, take time to understand those questions. Foodies, you’re our customers and our neighbors. We care about making sure you feel confident in the choices we have. After all, farmers are food customers too!

Michigan is Auto

My news feed is blowing up with tweets and Facebook posts about the North American International Auto Show (follow #NAIAS for details). It’s remarkable that at a time of social unrest both nationally and internationally, we can come together peacefully to talk about cars. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, maybe because of the media trend, so I wrote a few thoughts down as to why #MichiganIsAuto:

Michigan is Auto because we believe. We believe in the power of innovation and technique. We believe that despite the downturn of economies, the act of wars and the hardships of weather, we will remain strong. We believe in creating products that meet customer needs, we believe our history helps us improve and we believe in working together to achieve our visions of greatness. Michigan is Auto because we use the strengths of individuals to believe in something bigger than ourselves.

So what does this all have to do with our farm? Henry Ford also wanted to make the work of small farmers easier with mass-produced tractors. So thankful for visionaries like that guy!