Sunday, February 3, 2013


Again, it's been awhile since I have written in the blog and I need to do better. Life gets in the way, I have other things to do, and a million other excuses that I can think of. However I believe I have found inspiration.

Don't get me wrong, there have  been many things that I could have written about such as continuing to talk about my McCloy Fellowship in Germany, my hired man being diagnosed with cancer (he is doing well btw), Dillon breaking his ankle in hoops, or ag group meetings and life on the farm.

However my inspiration has come from spending a week away from home at the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) winter meeting in D.C. and catching up with an Eisenhower Fellow and friend in the North Carolina Research Triangle area.

The week started out by going through WOLF (Wheat Organization Leaders of the Future) training. This start to my time in D.C. was great, especially being at the dinner table with Jay Byrne of V-fluence. Listening to his stories and facts about environmental activists was fabulous, eye opening, and shocking. Horror stories on the battle front of agriculture.

Jay also was one of the presenters at our meeting talking about crisis management. He had worked in the Clinton administration and did communications work for a few Democrats previously. He talked about how agriculture needs to change and embrace questions about our industry, who better to answer them than us.

What really hit home was the amount of money spent world wide on environmental advocacy, both sides of the issue included. Can you believe that $2.2 trillion is spent annually? Yes that number is correct making it the 5th largest economic sector worldwide. While pro agriculture and industry money is included, they don't hold a candle to the deep pockets of the other side. How can we compete? My conclusion is we can't outspend them, but we can speak up; we need to speak up!

Next was committee meetings, I am on three. I am on the U.S. Wheat/NAWG Joint Biotech Committee, Vice Chair of the Research & Technology Committee which puts me on the Operations & Planning Committee. The future of agriculture and wheat was discussed in all of these and biotech was center stage. Simply put, we need biotech.

After my meetings in D.C. and trying to identify issues, find solutions, and develop policy I flew into the Raleigh-Durham area to meet my friend and Eisenhower Fellow Rob Burns. I hadn't seen him since the opening session for the 2011 EF program in Philadelphia.

Rob  and I spent the day talking about the world's problems, how being an Eisenhower Fellow benefited us, and just life in general. After a day of seeing the area, a couple of meetings, and meeting his family we went to dinner...and then the fun started.
A quick background before proceeding. When Rob and I partook in the opening session of the 2011 Eisenhower Fellows, all the 2011 Fellows did a personality profile. A couple of things came out of it: We are energetic, we want to learn, we don't care for big social gatherings unless we really want to be there, and we look at things differently than most people.

So here we are at a five start restaurant for dinner...and that uncomfortable feeling sets in when someone else pushes my chair in for me. The very formal antics by the staff, while good for the elites who want that pampering, was a subject of conversation for us. But that is not why we went there. 

We learned that we could have our meal paired with a wine, but both of us are beer kind of guys. We are not uncouth (well that might be questioned in my circle of friends) but being pretentious is not in our being. Then comes time to order and I missed my first opportunity (will explain later). I ordered the Farm Lettuce Salad to start the meal and the Meyers Beef Two Ways (see the menu and try to guess where this is going).

We grabbed our beers and went outside on the deck to chat and to see the facilities. Impressive to say the least. It's always fun to see how the other people live that are in the upper echelon of the income brackets. So we return and ordered another beer (I had the local  hefeweizen) and I was asked if I wanted a different glass and I said "I can't see dirtying another glass, especially when I would be happy to just drink straight from the bottle." I bit my tongue from saying "I care for the environment and don't want to waste the water" but I wasn't feeling "That" confrontational. Too much time in D.C. with discussions about environmental activism made me hyper sensitive.

Our salads came and it was good, not that I could make one like it at home to feed an army for the price, but in the setting is was good and the price really wasn't out of line. The pears were good, the blue cheese not overpowering, and the bacon vinaigrette was delicious.

Then came our main course...and the fun is about to begin. As the waiter places the dish in front of me he goes into the explanation of what's on my plate (I am feeling like a judge on Chopped, Iron Chef, or Top Chef). When he said "Farm Carrots" my head came up, eyes popped out, and my ears became tuned on every word he said.

When I did that I looked at Rob out of the corner of my eyes and a smile came to his face. He KNEW what was coming next. Not exactly what I was going to say, but where I was going to go. I am still chuckling about our "man" communication without saying words, the "Oceans" movies had that part correct.

If you have guessed, it had to do with "Farm Carrots." I asked the waiter with a straight face, lined with concern, and puppy dog eyes "What is a Farm Carrot?" The waiter obviously had never been asked that question and bumbled around trying to answer it. I don't remember any of the words or descriptions he said but I started to feel sorry for him and told him I was a farmer.

I gave him a pass because I found out what I wanted with that simple question, there is no difference from any other carrot or what was on my plate at all, they were all raised on a farm to get there. I really could have been cynical, and I am sure that you are amazed at my restraint, by not saying something like "were they space raised carrots" or "government raised carrots."

This gave Rob and I something more to talk about over dinner. Rob is not a farmer or even a country boy in the sense most of us would use the term, he grew up in New York and in a more urban area. However, his view of reality is there and he understands why I asked the question I did to the waiter, he has done similar in other settings. We do this for our own satisfaction and to hopefully educate someone by asking them a question that they have no answer for. Most people take the drivel our media continually spouts as truth without thinking for themselves.

After a week of talking about biotech, the challenge agriculture has to feed the world responsibly, and the work of environmental activists I had hit the tipping point of being too serious for too long and had to get it out of my system. What I am really upset about though is missing the Farm Lettuce Salad when I ordered it.