CommonGround: Field to Fork Dinner

Common Ground. That is the goal of the CommonGround group…to find common ground around food and farming, and for everyone to walk away with a better understanding of farming and why farmers choose to farm the way they do.

This past week, I was able to be part of an amazing event – The first CommonGround Field to Fork Dinner held in Minnesota.

Field to Fork Dinner at Thallman Farms

Field to Fork Dinner at Thallman Farms

Planning for this event started many months ago with four of us working on the details, look and feel of the event, in preparation for a crowd that maybe was unfamiliar with agriculture, but eager to visit a farm, ask questions, and have a conversation about food.

Thallman’s have an absolutely gorgeous farm, and were so generous in hosting the event. It couldn’t have been more perfect…dining right next to the soybean field.

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We diligently planned things like signage, decorations, photographers, custom printed invitations…even down to what forks and style of plates we should use were discussed. Details were key in the Field to Fork dinner.

It was nice to meet consumers and just talk…what about food concerns them, what questions do they have, what are they passionate about? How can I help you as a farmer? What things do you enjoy doing? Even transportation in the cities versus rural areas was discussed at my table.

My friend Betsy from Jensen Farm and Seeds provided me with a large box with wheat, canola, dark red kidney beans, navy beans, barley, and pinto beans. She also provided us with some fun facts like this one about dark red kidney beans!

My friend Betsy from Jensen Farm and Seeds provided me with a large box with wheat, canola, dark red kidney beans, navy beans, barley, and pinto beans. She also provided us with some fun facts like this one about dark red kidney beans!

All of this conversation was accompanied by amazing food – with most ingredients grown in Minnesota. Caprese (which I think I’m going to now make with some fresh tomatoes from my garden), roasted sweet corn, a delicious vegetable medley and pork ribs. Dinner was complete with delicious pies including strawberry rhubarb, apple, and pecan to name a few. The pies were topped with the most amazing fresh whipped cream.

Sweet Cheeks Honey was given away as favors, which was a really awesome opportunity for me to talk about our bees and what we do on our farm. Martin County Magic Seasoning was also given as favors.

Sweet Cheeks Honey as favors

Sweet Cheeks Honey as favors

We finished off the night with a Q&A session from the crowd.  I was genuinely surprised by some of the questions, and intrigued as well. Sometimes I start to wonder if maybe we aren’t listening enough to our consumers. Many of those I talked to, just wanted to understand better what we did, or wanted to support local with their dollars, and they weren’t sure how to do that. Some of the questions were around regulations, the farm bill, and even technology.

The food was delicious and  beautifully prepared. The handcrafted tables came from Country Style Accents.  The weather proved to be perfect, even if it was a bit muggy while setting everything up. Lastly, the conversation and sharing what we do as farmers was so meaningful to everyone who attended.

My boss provided some of the wine grapes from his vineyard. He sells his grapes to Chankasa, a winery that was featured at our event.

My boss provided some of the wine grapes from his vineyard. He sells his grapes to Chankaska, a Minnesota winery that was featured at our event.

I am so grateful to be a part of this group of amazing women. This was my first major event with CommonGround, and I can’t wait for more. If you ever have questions about your food and farming, please reach out. If I can’t answer it, I will find someone who can…and the farm women of CommonGround have a wealth of knowledge to share. Join in the conversation.

The Women of CommonGround and the FFA Volunteers who assisted.

The Women of CommonGround and the FFA Volunteers who assisted.

-Sara

When Life Gets Crazy

How many of you sometimes feel like you are sinking? Surviving on coffee? Your hair has been dry shampooed for the 3rd time this week?

I’m raising my hand right there with you.

When Mark took his new job, we didn’t realize it would take him away from home so much, but with a company just breaking into the US market, his territory has been GIGANTIC. I mean, 4 states worth gigantic. It has been a daily, weekly, and monthly struggle with never knowing if he will be home one night or gone mid-morning for a week-long trip. It has been frustrating, challenging, and frankly, very lonely. It probably hit home the most when Mark wasn’t able to make it back for Easter. There are days where I feel like I’m barely surviving between chores, trying to renovate a house, pay bills for 2 places, take care of selling our other house, and making sure Harper’s needs are met, all while still being a solid employee at work. I am thankful for my boss who has been very understanding as my schedule has flexed to accommodate our crazy schedules.

Our house renovation has been as slow as traffic on 494 during rush hour. There are days where it feels like we will never get anywhere. We made the decision to box up all of our stuff and move to our camper to live until our renovations are complete. Camper living is a game changer that I’m not sure I can fully describe unless you have actually done it with a 1 year old. We have all the plumbing fixed thanks to one of Mark’s talented friends, the roof is done, walls are ready for new electrical, and waiting for drywall. Tile has been purchased, a new shower/tub unit is waiting, and the vanity top is ready to go on the cabinet. I have the paint color picked out for the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. Still working on paint colors for the rest of the house. Paintable wallpaper by the way, is my saving grace for some of this house. We have “new” to us appliances thanks to my Aunt and Uncle who graciously gave us their set waiting to go in the garage. We do have to do a modification to the ceiling in the kitchen, and are debating if we just try to refinish all the hardwood floors at once and pull up all the vinyl. I also still need to paint all of the kitchen cabinets and get new hardware…it never ends. If you know anyone that likes to paint, we pay in honey!

Speaking of which, we started a really awesome new Pollinators Superhero program with our honey! We  know not everyone is into keeping bees, and frankly, we all shouldn’t be due to lack of forage out there and disease, but we know people like to help pollinators and learn about honeybees, so in 2016, you can actually sponsor a hive. You will receive a photo of your hive, details about it, a 1lb jar of honey, and a chance to come visit us during extraction! There’s even an opportunity to be able to paint a hive the color of your choice and engrave it! What a unique gift idea for that hard to buy for person in your life! You can find out more here.

There have been plenty of days of craziness in our household. I have also realized that it is okay to go to bed at 8pm if you need it. Really. It won’t be the end of the world if the laundry stays on the couch for the week unfolded. I swear it. If you don’t have a chance to shower in the morning because your husband is on a fire call and the baby is up, just use the dry shampoo. No one will notice. If you have to wear boots covered in dirt and plaster dust into a restaurant to have a quick lunch because you forgot to pack sandwiches, just do it. No one minds. Don’t feel bad if you need a Dr. Pepper at 8 at night because you have to stay up late finishing your own homework. Be proud of yourself for continuing your schooling.

Hope anchors the Soul

At the end of the day, my prayers are often for strength. Strength to get through each day, and strength to be able to find contentment in what we are physically able to accomplish at the house, rather than the lack of what is getting done. I also try to pray for faith in my future and not fear of the unknown. Putting it all in God’s hand at the end of the day, but also knowing he has given me the ability to work and work hard, to provide for myself and my family, and with that comes hope. Hope for the kind of future we want for Harper, as well as for our personal farm plans. That things will come together, slowly but surely. It might not always look pretty, but we can say at the end of the day, we did it ourselves. We didn’t have anyone giving us it. Someday, we will probably look back on this time in our life and say, man did we survive on a shoestring. Surviving sometimes seems like all we do in the midst of chaos and living in a camper. In the meantime, I reflect on this verse…

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19

May you also find that hope anchors your soul in the midst of the chaos we call life. May we still find time for snuggles and bedtime stories, 8pm Dr. Pepper’s, and still be able to laugh at each other when all is said and done. Hope anchors the soul, and you were made to thrive…

-Sara

 

Farm Safety. All Day. Every Day. Even in Broad Daylight.

We often hear messages about road safety during planting and harvest season. But what about during the summer months when farmers are cutting and hauling hay? Or when sprayers are on the roads going field to field?

Ag safety is a huge thing for me. Many know, I lost my dad to a work related accident so prevention, and not what to do after an incident, is a big deal to me. I don’t want another family to go through what mine did. I want my husband and myself around for Harper, and I don’t want an incident to occur with Harper either. It is easy to point the finger at someone else when something happens on their farm, until it happens to you. Then it becomes a problem. Operating under the notion of “everyone does it” or “it won’t happen here” doesn’t  cut it.

Lately, I’ve noticed some area farmers becoming lax on one of the easiest farm incident prevention measures out there…your hazard lights.

Four-ways. Flashers. Hazards. Warning Lights. Call them what you do in whatever area of the county you live in.

But for Pete’s sake, TURN THEM ON. Even in broad daylight. Do not leave a yard, a field driveway, or a pasture without them on. I don’t care if it is 2pm in the afternoon or 6 at night. Turn them on.

It boggles my mind that I even have to type that. That there are farmers who aren’t turning them on. A simple flip of a switch, and you can prevent a car accident that could kill a neighbor or yourself.

The hubs and I recently made a 4 hour drive to pick up equipment. You can bet that the strobe light on top of the rollback was going the entire 4 hour drive home because we knew we would be moving slower, and that the equipment took up additional road space.

As farmers, we can blame people all the time for passing us on the roadways, giving us the finger, etc. and yes, sometimes it is the inability for a driver to be patient that an incident occurs, but if we can prevent it or make sure we are doing everything in our power with something as simple as a flip of a switch, then we should be doing it.

All the time. Every day. No excuses.

I’ll keep this post short. Getting home safe starts with us making the right choices. Turn your hazards on.

Simple safety tip - make sure your slow moving signs are cleaned off and visible before moving from field to field.

Simple safety tip – make sure your slow-moving signs are cleaned off and visible before moving from field to field.

-Sara

Renovation Update

If you didn’t know, Mark and I purchased a farm house back in February that had required a lot of work. This 1919 home has seen many layers of paint, wallpaper, and flooring as well as some questionable installs.

 

I'm thinking about writing a story about all the wallpaper.

I’m thinking about writing a story about all the wallpaper.

We are busy doing all sorts of renovations and plans, which you can follow my Instagram to check out our daily camper living post, and more photos of the renovation. One thing I have quickly found out, is Mark is definitely the Chip and I the Joanna in our farm house version of Fixer Upper. We’ve encountered our first load bearing wall…sorry honey, this wall just can’t come out and extreme questionable choices like carpeting under linoleum in the bathroom.

 

I have quickly found my forte is picking out paint colors and painting, envisioning  new cabinet colors, and choosing updated lighting fixtures, where as Mark is more of the, let me hang the drywall and smash plaster type. Oh by the way, the one thing those TV shows never show you is the MESS renovation makes! So much dust! I have paint colors confirmed for the downstairs and upstairs bathrooms. I also have a fairly good idea of what colors I’m going to go with for the living rooms. The one color I picked out for our bedroom was a total fail (thank goodness for paint samples) so I’m back to the drawing board on that one.

 

Today, I am asking for your help! I am currently in the stage of starting to pick out light fixtures and paint for the kitchen. So I’m going to show you what I’ve got going on for ideas in my head, and then let me hear your thoughts in the comments.

Kitchen Lighting Options
  1. This would be the simplest update option to what is already in the kitchen currently, and the cheapest. I’m not sure it is the long-term solution, but we have a complete kitchen re-do planned for year 5-6, so this might be the most economical route.
  2. This is a fancier version of the first one. I kind of like the idea of a slightly upscale fluorescent light if I have to stick with the similar 2 we have in there now.
  3.  I like the slightly rustic feel this fixture has. If we went this route, we would mount 2 of them in the kitchen.
  4. I really like the idea of this one, but worry about it casting funny shadows, and if there would be enough actual light. It definitely fits into a rustic country themed kitchen though. Again, I think we would need 2 mounted.
  5. Last but not least, this one has a slightly more modern feel to it, but I think it would mix in well with the other elements of our kitchen. Unlike #4, I think since it has complete glass sides, it would cast light very well.

 

Next is paint…I’m on the fence between a gray/stone color and more of a warm brown. Our cabinets will be an off-white color from the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations Kit. I’m leaning towards the quilters white, but might take the plunge with pure white.

 

We will be getting all of our paint from Diamond Vogel paints. If there has one thing we have learned about paint, is go to an actual paint store not a big box store. It will make a world of difference. I’m leaning towards hearthstone right now as I feel like the fireplace mantel may be too dark for a kitchen, but I like the  Smoky Tone too. Decisions are hard people!

Paint color choices

Paint color choices

 

A side note, we will be painting some of the paintable textured, wallpaper on the bulkhead of our cabinets, so we could potentially do a slightly darker color up there as an accent too.

 

I’m excited to get things moving a long in the next few weeks, and hopefully be out of a camper in Mid-July and moved into a house!

-Sara