Lessons from the sandbox…
We don’t always get our way, or need to.
Relationships matter more than who wins.
Polite and respectful communication goes the distance.
If we each give a little we gain a lot.
As a farmer who is truly interested in the discussions going on about food I tend to run into a lot of conversations I label as “he said, she said convos”. We all know this kind of conversation where there are two distinct sides both trying to do what they can to “win” the discussion by convincing the other they are wrong and in the end the only thing accomplished is the chasm between the two sides grows into an immense canyon of finger-pointing and name calling. What I am looking for is truly a two-way open honest conversation where in the end the differences are merely an insignificant dip and both “sides” of the discussion understand the other. Personally I have had a long road to get where I am in conversational skills, I was one of those who tried the “shouting louder” theory in hopes I would drown out the opposition and all that was gained in the end was a lot of work for no reward. I firmly believe that because we have twice as many listening devices attached to our heads than speaking devices we should spend a bit more time listening than talking. Amazingly when we do listen more we can respond more effectively to the honest concerns and questions from others.
Just last week I had the pleasure of a food conversation I enjoyed. My seatmate on a flight to Chicago from San Francisco had a great discussion that lasted nearly the full length of the three and a half hour flight. The conversation started with my seatmate announcing she definitely was in tune personally with “The Omnivore’s Dilemma“. At first I had the thought “oh no here we go again” however decided lets see where it goes. We talked antibiotics, hormones, fast food, food portions and regulations, all fighting topics in many of today’s food conversations. However our conversation was different, it was heartfelt and honest, we both had similar yet different passions and in the end parted both better off having met the other. I learned that she truly was passionate about food and how it comes to our plates however she also understands the farmers perspective of having to make a profit to survive. I understood her passion for healthy food and together we believe strongly in choice and that more often than not the healthy choices truly are not proliferate enough.
This week I have the privilege of heading to New York City for the first time in my life. My mission is to attend the NYC portion of the “Food Dialogues” being put together by the US Farmers and Rancher’s Alliance. I am excited that there is something being done to allow for more open conversations in the discussions about food. Is it perfect? Probably not, and truly perfection is somewhat unattainable this early in the conversation. Have mistakes and miscues happened in the past? Yes however that milk was spilled a long time ago and I honestly think we really need to focus all of our energy on moving forward together and not moving backwards apart. So together let’s keep an open mind going in and have a great conversation about the food we eat and all the things that come up from fork to farm.Disclaimer: I am attending the town hall on behalf of the Agchat Foundation in partnership with USFRA to report on the townhall live using Twitter. Follow my updates using the #FoodD hash tag.
Washington D.C. first grader Aidan Kohn Murphy from Lafayette elementary does an awesome job explaining why he and other children are actually better off keeping chocolate milk in schools.
This young man did hid homework and polled fellow students and a doctor. His conclusion, the nutrients available in chocolate milk are “real food” and even with a little sugar are better than a soda.
I commend this young man for standing up for choices.
Currently there is a large movement to ban flavored milk such as chocolate or strawberry milk in schools. The evict flavored milk from school’s movement is based on the obesity epidemic we’re faced with in today’s youth. Personally as a parent and a school board member I do not agree with regulating away products and services just because good eating and exercise habits are not being taught to children at home.
First and foremost children should be taught good eating habits at home so they can use those skills later in life. Second children need to be taught good exercise habits so they know how to work with their diet choices to live a healthy life. Schools have a responsibility to augment the skills learned at home however too often I see the school replacing the home learning in the area of life skills development. What has happened to self accountability and parental responsibility? I firmly believe that if kids look to physical activity before they pick up the Nintendo DS‘s, Television Remote, or Video Game Controllers along with healthier eating habits the road to healthy children will get shorter.
As parents my wife and I watch what our children eat very closely, are we perfect, no, however we do our best to teach them good choices. We limit the soda’s they have to very few and use them as a treat just like the occasional candy or cookie. The dairy farmer in me tends to err on the side of the 9 essential nutrients the milk has , such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D, B12, riboflavin and niacin (niacin equivalents), and not focus on the 1 negative, minimal added sugar in flavored milk. The most consist beverage in our children’s lunch is water, however on occasion our son and daughter like to enjoy a milk at school. They sometimes choose white milk and sometimes chocolate milk. Because of challenges keeping milk cold we prefer milk from school because it is kept refrigerated right up to consumption. There is nothing worse than having a cooling issue with milk in a lunch and ending up with sour milk. If schools remove flavored milk my right to let my children enjoy flavored milk is taken away.
As this diagram below shows very few beverages including juices contain as much nutrition as flavored milk.
I feel offended that my parental right to let my children enjoy food and have some fun while still receiving nutrients can be legislated away because of a small negative when weighed against the positives. I am a firm believer that if the good outweighs the bad then something should not be labeled as evil. Do we need to look at reducing sugar in flavored milk, yes we do, and I as a dairy farmer feel it is long overdue. There are low calorie non sugar sweeteners available that can be used such as stevia.
My mother has worked in food service at a local large school district and witnessed the tremendous increase in milk consumption at the Jr. High School level when flavored milk was introduced in the school instead of white milk as the only choice. White milk is great and nutritious but how fun is just plain white add a little color and flavor and you create a masterpiece of flavor and nutrition that is second to none!
So as parents, school leaders and society let’s advocate for a little fun and make school a more enjoyable experience for our kids to achieve the maximum learning possible!
When cows injure themselves we use this tank to help them recover. The water allows the cow to float and stand without having to support her own weight.
I wonder if Oprah read this before taking on her Vegan challenge where her and her staff try a vegan diet for a week:
Vegans’ elevated heart risk requires omega-3s and B12, study suggests.
ScienceDaily (2011-02-02) — People who follow a vegan lifestyle — strict vegetarians who try to eat no meat or animal products of any kind — may increase their risk of developing blood clots and atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries,” which are conditions that can lead to heart attacks and stroke, study suggests.
I also am hoping Oprah takes up the offer a great friend of mine Mike Haley made by inviting her to his farm in his blog post “Oprah’s one week chalenge”.