Monday, February 28, 2011

Canned Hunting

Among the many topics from last week's class, the discussion of "canned hunting" struck a cord with more students than any other subject. In the words of one of the students, it's like hunting for cheaters. But there were actually a few good reasons for what has become a big industry and many parts of the world.

Firstly, people want to hunt big animals. Whether or not your own moral conscience can accept this, those people will continue to do it for love of the game. Breeding animals for hunting keeps these species in existence and helps give a hunting outlet that isn't based on poaching.

Secondly, some people can't physically get out and hunt they way they used to, but they still love the thrill of the kill and the challenge of that split-second, well-placed shot. I can't really sympathize with this emotion in people, because I've never actually hunted, but I can understand other peoples' needs and their wants to be able to function despite a wound, injury, old-age or other handicap. That's fair, isn't it?

Thirdly, capitalism. In the US, just about anything goes when you consider entrepreneurship and the drive to get somewhere in the grand scheme of life. Well, these canned hunts are just one more step in the path of ambition. If you're ok hunting the animals, the owners are ok being paid for it and there you go. Once again, the animals were specifically raised for this in the beginning, so what's the problem?

Well, the big complaint from everyone is always that it's no longer a fair game. But after you watch this video and the guys who almost die by lion, is it really that unfair of a game? You wouldn't find me in the pen with 3 other guys all ineffectively wielding rifles and a lion on the loose amidst them. I'm cool with anyone who wants to do this, but I'll pass.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

ConCall Professionalism (duplicate post)

Well, Friday afternoon we made it through our first conference call training meeting for the collegiate facilitators. With our registration numbers becoming more final and the core group that will end up in DC slowly sorting itself out, it was time for us to get on the phone, get to know each other a little bit and then for me and my 2 colleagues to lay out expectations, programming plans and schedules for the next month and a half.

This leads me to some simple comments about conference call etiquette, based on observations that I made during the call and which can beneficial to anyone just learning how to function in this now old-school form of distance meeting.

1) When the system you're using for a meeting doesn't work or you have connection issues, be prepared to find an alternative way to run or join the meeting. We had some pretty severe communication issues at the beginning with voice connections not working and luckily everyone was well enough prepared that the meeting ran without much of a hitch. That includes props to some of the facilitators who were dealing with the inclement weather, bad connections and power outages.

2) Many call in systems result in feedback between the audio output and your mic input. Without IT knowledge to fix this being common this is just one of the reasons why people need to mute their mic input when not talking, and prevent double audio output with computer and phone systems to limit this.

3) Another reason to mute your mic is because it picks up and magnifies even the largest background sounds. It's bad when we have to ask the person eating chips to mute their mic and we've never even met these people before.

4) Muting your mic isn't an excuse for not paying attention to the meeting. Many people think they can just get away with being on a call and multi-tasking or even Facebooking. But people always know, and it's easy to tell later who the people were that paid attention during the call.

5) Interrupting is probably my biggest reason for hating conference calls. It seems that even if you don't mean to, you're always butting in on someone else and that by the time they're done talking they've already said what you wanted to say anyhow or changed the topic enough that your discussion is now irrelevant. This system aimed to prevent this by putting a click control over who could talk and when but since nobody was properly educated on this prior to the call, we were never able to use the technology properly.

Regardless, conference calls can be really good for getting people together, especially for trainings and I think ours was a definite success. As the time rolls on I'm getting more excited for the conference in DC.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

American Ingenuity

Today I'd like to highlight a couple of Youtube videos that focus on simple methane digesters. I think with all the discussion about methane digesting and its potential for adding energy to grid while disposing of waste, this is worth your time for personal enlightenment. Of course, these are highly simplified digesters when compared to even the on-farm ones that have popped up in a few places, but it's the general idea that's pretty cool. Both of the videos are essentially the same but for a more rustic touch, I'd definitely go with this one. He made a longer version too, but the outtakes are more just mistakes happening than anything else.

What's really fantastic about this to me is that it's always just a matter of time before someone figures out how to utilize something else that we consider waste and they turn it into something productive and useful in their lives. I have to wonder if the energy put into this is exceeded by the eventual output before the structure lifecycle is reached, but that's a question for the future and experts to decide.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Glimpse into the Future (duplicate post)

Yesterday marked the final selection of applicants for the National 4-H Conference Collegiate Facilitators. It's so far been a very educational process for myself and a great opportunity to be involved and responsible for selecting a team of people who Lauren and I will have to train and manage for the next 2 months before letting them loose to see how they perform in a demanding environment.

Well, based on the on-paper applications and excellent recommendations that I saw from nearly 30 applicants, I'm not only excited to work with those we've selected, but I have to say that the future is bright for 4-H and the other organizations and institutes who will have the pleasure of working with any of the bright, enthusiastic and skilled individuals who applied for the position. Our future is in good hands.

There are many times that I doubt the value of 4-H in today's society and wonder whether there is a way to change the program to encompass more youth or if there is a way to increase the perceived value of extension. This has been especially heavier on my mind as 4-H programs in Ohio have begun to go extinct in this difficult economy. But as long as a program is developing youth like those I saw in applications this week, as long as it still inspires the dreamers to achieve higher education and application of new technology then there is hope. And thus, in my opinion, there is still a future for 4-H.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Targeting Children (duplicate post)

I think violence is so much worse when the intended targets are children. It's been decades now and Ireland/N. Ireland still can't get over the war which never really ended. But who honestly thought it was cool to rig a kid's bike with a bomb? Horrible.

And if you think about the fact that the booby-trapped bike would have only gone off in the case that a kid were to use it, don't you have to wonder if it would've damaged or killed anything but the kid? Worse than a case of using a bomb on a kid to kill your enemies, this was direct targeting of the kid and only the kid.

Of course, isn't targeting children the same thing that any extremist crazy group does? Compare this to Peta who handed out coloring books to children telling them that their parents were murderers and including graphic images for the kids to color of their parents killing animals and eating them. No surprise that there was a huge outcry against the coloring books, but not as huge an outcry as there should've been because Peta still legally exists.

Do agriculturalists target children? Yes, of course, but not in the same way. We encourage them to explore the farm life, to eat healthy which is best done with an animal protein diet and to embrace the quality of life they have been given the opportunity to live in this country.

Compare this to the crazies with ALF and their efforts to target children of employees at Huntington. They unabashedly claimed in their press releases that they target kids instead of the parents because this is what works. The company is too strong, and the adults better equipped to handle the stress of aggression and stalking than the children.

The next time you see a Peta ad with a naked girl telling you to stop eating meat... are you going to listen?

In spite of the weather

I know you hear all the time from so many vocal agriculturalists that farmers work 365 days a year, that they work in the ice and the heat, because time doesn't wait and growing food isn't something people have time to mess up. I can remember many a day where the thunderstorms rolled in and we were still cleaning cages or feeding the animals. It never mattered what the weather was like; we were always there.

Well, now that I'm back in the Columbus area again, I've been able to go out there a little more often. Amanda and I's ewe lambed twins, both healthy, and so I've been out there trying to help as the ewes transition into being mothers and then as the lambs need processed (not quite Mike Rowe style). That's what brought me out to the farm last week on a day which was better than some, but not most.

You can see from the picture the ice that covered the barnyard. Not only is this problematic for getting up the big, slick hill from the road (I made it only 12 feet and had to walk the rest) but this is also hard on the animals' joints if they were to be kept outside during the storm and hard on the people working to care for the animals. Without the extra kids around anymore, my little brother and my mom have so much more work to do on the average day by themselves.

But slipping around on the ice, chipping away at the frozen tanks and running the heat lamps to warm the lambs has its reward in the end; I wouldn't trade this for anything and while this year I'm not out there much, I put in my time, and I will again when this whole school thing is finally over. Leaning on the fence, looking down at all the frolicking lambs in the pens who will soon be turned out to pasture, I wouldn't rather be anywhere else.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Biodiesel on farms

As the biodiesel research continues to make progress and optimism pushes us forward, this is really where I can practically see the new oilseed crops going. An oilseed crusher is just one more depreciable investment that a farmer can add to the schedule and if he can effectively grow these crops for his own biodiesel then the economic savings will be huge. We're never going to fuel the average American driver with this, but this is pretty cool stuff.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Good commentary

Dr. St-Pierre has returned to OSU. A man of legendary stories which pass between classes, I've heard he tracked his low and high temperatures in his office and ran SAS on it to prove that it was not being regulated properly. A man of great intelligence and obvious interest in the education of students and the learning experience, I've very excited to have class with him in the spring.

I encourage you to read his commentary on the "natural" label too many Westerners are trying to pursue in their meals. Also of interest would be some of the moronic comments underneath by the typical anonymi. Enjoy and happy Saturday!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Oprah goes Vegan

News that that will lead to weight loss before anemia probably didn't bother her too much in the short run, but what is important is the big way in which Oprah really hit hard and honest the fact that unhealthy diets are a part of American culture today.

Frankly, when I watched the Oprah Vegan videos, I expected to be more angry. They got in on a Cargill processing plant and didn't sit there trying to portray it for anything other than what it really is. Does everyone have the stomach for killing animals for food consumption, no, they don't, but that doesn't mean that killing animals for food is wrong and Oprah's filming of the Cargill plant didn't try to push the issue one way or the other. If you haven't seen a processing plant in video before, this was a great example of how the process works.

Then there is the video link of Oprah's interview with Michael Pollan. Of course, I have a slightly more liberal view of Michael Pollan than many of my agricultural counterparts, but I again found little fault with his critical take on the processed foods which make our trips to the grocery and fast food so cheap every day. I agree that cheap food is a curse, but without it, many people would simply go hungry from lack of ability to feed themselves. So then we end up in the current situation where elitists call for "higher quality" food which costs them more money claiming that everyone should have this because it's a factor in one's quality of life. Well, news flash, but not everyone can afford organic or health foods (note, not one and the same).

Where Michael Pollan then really still gets it wrong is by saying that he only buys meat from small farms. That's great, but that also gets back to a huge problem of whether or not we try to feed the rest of the world. The world is going hungry, and small farms aren't going to do it. He needs to wise up to that or stop making money from his controversial books so that real life can hit him in the face and remind him of just why we still need cheap food. Would farmers love to be paid more for food products? Sure they would, but they also want to make sure that people get fed. I think making more money for their labor is the attitude you see reflected in the few farmers quoted as saying they'll be ready with a higher quality product when consumers demand it in the Food INC trailer, but of course they misused these quotes as well.

Of course, there was some other crap on Oprah's show about how all meat comes from terrible places, yadayadayada, cough vegan cough propaganda cough cough. But again, Oprah was trying to show both sides of the coin, even if one side did get most of the face time. Americans are provided a safe, wholesome product every day, 24/7/365 and there are a lot of people who just don't seem to appreciate how good they have it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Light at the end of Winter's Tunnel

It's finally February and I don't know about the rest of you but January seemed to both take forever and to filled with busy days from New Year's to yesterday. And just as the weather seemed to break and lighten up, and Betsy finally got to see the ground at our house for the first time since she's come home, we got the ice coating last night.

I think if there's one thing I hate about living in C. Ohio compared with my time spent at MSU, it's definitely the ice. Up there we got much more snow and I can deal with all the snow in the world just so long as I don't have to slide my way around the backyard or hammer at the car windshield trying to get the cracking/scraping process started.

Well, despite the wintry conditions, lambing is in full swing now out at the family farm. With 13 lambs down, we're about halfway through the process and these little bundles of joy are the inspirational reminder that winter really does have expiration date. Lots of people like to wait until spring to drop lambs, but with ours lambing indoors, we can afford to lamb early and it's days like today that I'm grateful for that. If the weather gets ugly tonight and meetings get cancelled, you'll find me out on the farm with my mom moving fencing as we prepare to welcome more lives into this world. Pictures to follow, but for now I've included one from a couple years ago.