What’s your name? What’s your story?

This weekend was Homecoming at my university and I had the opportunity of being one of five women to stand on the 2016 Homecoming court. The day was so special because I had the opportunity to represent ATU and the Department of Agriculture.

My highlight of the event was my grandpa agreed to be my escort. This was a pretty big deal because he hardly ever leaves the farm and a college sporting event is not really his scene.

Despite his reservations, however, he shaved, got a haircut and wore a suit and tie, just so he could walk me down the football field.

14900346_10209865067957860_15354062348453259_n

There’s no denying he cleans up well for an ol’ dairy farmer. 🙂

While I could go on and on about why this was so special, a funny and seemingly insignificant moment from the day stood out to me. We were standing on the field, waiting for our turn to be introduced when another girl’s escort asked my grandpa what his name was.

Papaw’s response was:

“MeGee. Jimmie MeGee. I’m from Damascus. I’m a 30-year retired dairy farmer.”

To me, it was as powerful as, “Bond. James Bond.”

The man hadn’t asked my grandpa where he was from or what his profession was. He had only asked him his name.

The reason Papaw went on to add the other details was because those two things are part of his identity. To him, they make up who he is as a person even more so than his name.

So why was this moment so fascinating to me?

It’s because I’ve seen this moment in so many farmers and agriculturists. The ground they own, the animals they raise, the crops they grow – that is what makes them who they are. Those things are what they take the most pride in.

agriculture-is-the-most-healthful-most-useful-and-most-noble-employment-of-man

There’s a saying that goes,

“Once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher, but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.”

When you can go to bed every night knowing you help feed and clothe the world, it’s pretty easy to take pride in your profession. It’s no wonder my grandpa takes the opportunity to proudly share his story.

As agriculturists, we should be more apt to help the public understand what makes our farmers special.

So I’ll leave you with this,

Triplett. Lindsey Triplett. I’m from Damascus, Arkansas. I grew up on a beef cattle farm and I work to tell the story of agriculture.

What’s your name and what’s your story?

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The Proof is in the Poultry

How poultry evaluation taught me about life.

It’s no secret that I’m a big supporter of FFA. I credit a lot of who I am thanks to the organization and the various contests I competed in and leadership roles I held.

While most of my “has-been” FFA talk usually surfaces around public speaking and being a state officer – I rarely give my career development event (CDE) the recognition it deserves.

Competing in poultry evaluation my junior year of high school. I was clearly focused.

Competing in poultry evaluation my junior year of high school. I was clearly focused. My bangs were also on point.

To me, poultry evaluation was more than just staring at dead (and live) birds. It was more than getting on a cold bus early in the morning to travel to a contest and get out of school, learning how to properly hold a chicken, or knowing how to identify what’s wrong with nuggets.

As we held the Northwest district CDE contests at Tech today, it made me realize that I got more out of poultry judging than just being critical of the eggs I purchase at Walmart.

Whether you competed in poultry or another CDE, I believe the lessons I learned apply to other FFA members aside from just me.


 1. I WAS CONDITIONED TO BE ON TIME.

My ag teacher, Mr. Evans, was always easy to work with on most things, but he did believe in punctuality. When we were told the bus was leaving the school at 8:00 a.m. – it was leaving at 8 a.m. Whether it was arriving at the school before the bus pulled out or arriving to your contest before it started, you were shown that if you’re late, you’re left. 

2. I LEARNED HOW TO LEAD A TEAM.

Mr. Evans knows a lot about a lot of things – like livestock and parliamentary procedures. Poultry, however, is not one of those things. When a few girls from my chapter and I decided we wanted to judge poultry, Mr. Evans basically warned us that we would have to learn it on our own. I spent hours studying the information we needed to know for the contest and putting together materials to help the other girls on our team. By teaching back what I had learned and through organizing practices, I discovered what worked as a leader and what didn’t. 

3. IT PUSHED ME TO ENCOURAGE OTHERS.

I’ll be the first to admit I can be bossy. I know if Mady and Savannah read this, they’ll laugh thinking about all the times I harped on them and got frustrated because I didn’t think we were doing our absolute best. What can I say? I’m competitive. I quickly learned that my controlling motivational methods weren’t the type of encouragement the other girls needed. I had to learn to tell them what they were doing right, rather than focusing on what needed to be improved.  

4. MY EYES WERE OPENED TO REAL-WORLD JOBS IN AGRICULTURE.

I loved poultry evaluation. Why? I’m not totally sure. The room always smelled weird, the contest seemed to take way longer than others, and a lot of the times we were stuck outside in the freezing cold or blistering heat while wearing official dress. That being said, helping with the contest today made me realize how badly I wanted to compete again. While I may have not found my calling working with poultry, it opened my eyes to the career possibilities with this commodity. It also gave me a newfound respect for those who are involved in the poultry industry: farmers, poultry scientists, geneticists, processors, inspectors, etc. 

5. IT SHOWED ME THAT HARD WORK HAS ITS REWARDS.

As I said before, my team and I went into poultry evaluation completely blind. We spent hours during practices looking at birds, eggs, further processed products, carcasses, and more. We may have never won the state contest, but through hard work and studying, we went from being the team whose school never made it past district, to being one of the top teams in the state. In the words of B.J. Gupta, ““Hard work doesn’t guarantee success, but improves its chances.”

6. I WAS GIVEN CONFIDENT SPEAKING AND CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS.

Reasons. If you ever competed in a CDE, you know the fear commonly associated with that word. For those of you who may not know, reasons are an oral explanation for why you made the judgement you did. In poultry, you’re presented with four turkey carcasses and asked to rank them from best to worst. You then have to give them a USDA grade and state why. This is all done in a short period of time and your oral reasons must be given to a judge one on one. This taught me to be able to think through a problem quickly and then be confident in my judgement.

7. IT TAUGHT ME TO BE AN ACCOUNTABLE TEAM MEMBER.

In most CDE contests, you’re on a team of four. If you don’t study or do well, it affects your entire team. Like in a sport or other competitive events, your performance doesn’t only affect you – it impacts  your entire team. 

8. I WAS SHOW THE VALUE OF HELP FROM OTHERS.

I have a love-hate relationship with criticism, I always have. I’m aware of how much I improve after others tell me what I’m doing wrong and how to fix it, but it’s always hard for me to swallow my pride. One of the most influential people I met in FFA was from judging poultry. Mr. Loupe, an ag teacher from Cabot, helped train my school’s poultry team (despite being the advisor for a competing school). Mr. Loupe taught me an important lesson: although I had learned a lot about poultry on my own, I need someone else’s help. Not only did my team’s scores drastically improve, but I realized that it’s okay to humble yourself and ask for help when you need it. 


While I may not have found my calling in a career directly related to poultry, the lessons I learned from this career development event are ones that I will carry with me the rest of my life. FFA taught me a lot of life lessons and it’s clear to me that this CDE taught me a lot more than which bird looks best – the proof is in the poultry. 

Students competing in poultry evaluation today during Arkansas FFA’s Northwest District CDE competition at Arkansas Tech.

7 Reasons I’m Thankful I Grew Up On A Farm

I love college. I love having my own apartment with my own kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. I love my classes and professors. And I especially love seeing my friends every day.

As much as I love college though, I still enjoy coming home.
My favorite part of going home would have to be seeing my grandpa and spending time on the farm where I grew up.

Over Christmas break, I rode the four wheeler with Papaw as he fed his cattle and I was reminded how blessed I am to have grown up in such an amazing place. Here are a few of the reasons I’m glad I grew up on a farm.

 

1. Wide open spaces.

With acres and acres of cow pasture and hay meadows surrounding our place, I was never cooped up. My sister and I had plenty of room to run, yell and show out like kids. Inside, we had to behave our manners. But outside, we could act as wild as we wanted. 

 

2. I learned the value of hard work.

Coming from a family of mostly girls, my Papaw was blessed (stuck) with only granddaughters. However, this didn’t stop him from working us like boys. I was expected to do physical labor, but it made me appreciate the result of my efforts. 

 

3. I know where my food comes from.

As an ag major, I’m often baffled by how many people don’t know where their food comes from or don’t understand many of the misconceptions behind the food we eat every day. By growing up on a farm, it’s helped me understand what it takes to produce our food, that it’s safe and it’s given me a deep appreciation for farmers. 

 

4. Pets were never hard to come by.

Aside from cattle, I’ve also been the proud owner of numerous dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, sheep, goats, turtles, guineas, turkeys, a few donkeys and once, even a pet mole (yes I know, they’re weird creatures).  

 

5. My imagination was put to the test.

From mud pies and climbing trees to playing veterinarian with my stuffed animals – there was always better things to do than sit inside and watch TV.

 

6. I had to learn to be responsible.

Growing up, I was always given my own set of responsibilities. When I was younger, it was helping my grandma cook, clean or feed the animals. As I got older, I was solely responsible for my show animals and bigger tasks like cooking full meals. I knew what my responsibilities were and that they wouldn’t get done if I wasn’t the one who did them.

 

7. I was shown unwavering faith.

Farming is hard. It’s full of the unexpected and surprises. Because of this, there are times when you’re not strong enough to face trials on your own. I was blessed with a family who turned their eyes to God when times got hard, rather than getting discouraged. They taught me that despite the uncertainty and challenging problems we face, that The Lord will help see you through it, even if it’s in ways you don’t expect.  

 

You either lived on a farm or wished you did. -Luke Bryan

Lessons Learned From Showing Livestock

This weekend I went to help my younger cousin work with her show lamb, and let me say I’ve still got it. 😉 Okay, maybe not completely but I still remember quite a bit about showing livestock. I might not be the best showman, but the lessons I learned from being one still stick with me today.


1. You will never know it all. 

Kelly smartMy aunt tried to sign my cousin up for a showmanship clinic to help her improve her skills. Instead of going for it, she said, “I don’t need help. I already know how to do it.” Just like in life, you never know everything there is to know about showing animals. The best showmen are the ones who are always eager to learn more and crave feedback about what they can improve.

 

2. How to keep records and manage money.

635727508085770797-585229263_no-moneyI’m not going to lie, showing livestock is expensive. It takes a lot of investment to be competitive. Aside from buying the animal, you have to pay for feed, supplements, halters, shelter, and many other things your animals need. When I had my show animals, I kept notebooks full of every expense I had, how much they ate, how much they weighed, and any profits I had.

 

3. How to be responsible of taking care of something other than myself.

responsible adultIt seems like most teenagers today spend their summers inside watching Netflix or on their phones. By having animals, I had to get up in the mornings and feed them, exercise them regularly, feed them in the afternoons and make sure they were healthy. If I didn’t take care of them, no one would.

 

4. Sometimes it’s my own fault. You can’t blame your problems on someone else.

I-think-i-have-a-problemMy first two years I showed a lamb, I wasn’t very good. I never made sale and it always seemed like I was placed towards the end of my class. I was so frustrated by this because every time I would come to a fair, people would look at my sheep in her pen and tell me how good she looked! So why wasn’t she placing higher? Because of me. It was a very humbling experience to realize that I wasn’t a great showman and something needed to change. I watched videos, asked for advice, went to other livestock shows to get the help I needed. When I finally swallowed my pride, I was able to eventually improve my skills enough to win the showmanship award a couple of times.

 

5. Hard work pays off and stands out.

hard workEnduring 100+ degree weather isn’t fun. Getting up early and going to bed late isn’t ideal. But when you step into that show ring and your animal does exactly what you want it to and what you have been teaching it all summer, it’s extremely gratifying.

 

6. Complaining will not help.

1362753253_cm-21545-650528a3316409Saying how hot it is outside doesn’t cool down the temperature. Just like whining about how the judge should have picked me instead of someone else, doesn’t win a belt buckle.

 

7. Smiles, eye contact and handshakes go a long way.

smileBeing polite to a judge and keeping eye contact can really change the way they look at you as a showman and can ultimately affect the way they place your animal. In the real world, this applies to everyone you meet. Politeness and respect leaves a lasting impression.

 

8. It’s important to manage your time.

lateNot only did I show animals, but I was also extremely involved in FFA, FBLA, FCA, yearbook, student council, and church. I held officer positions, went to camps and also carved out time for my family. Balancing time between lots of different activities requires serious self-discipline.

 

9. Winning isn’t everything.

winningAt the time, purple grand champion ribbons and belt buckles were what I had my sights set on. Now, my ribbons collect dust and I never wear the belt buckles. The lessons I learned from showing livestock, though, will stick with me forever.

 

10. You represent more than yourself.

people lookingEvery time I stepped into a show ring, I was not just representing Lindsey. I was a reflection of my county, district, state, chapter, the FFA and my family. If I showed bad sportsmanship and a negative attitude, it made those I was representing look bad. If I kept a good attitude, was nice and helped others, it gave those I was representing a good image.


Did I leave anything out? Comment and let me know what showing livestock taught you! 


Not Your Average Urban Garden

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re thousands of miles away from the corn field.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower.

With dirty hands, glistening skin, and dusty, tousled hair, Damian reaches to pull another squash off the stem before it’s too hard to eat. Damian works for an urban farm in the heart of inner-city Little Rock called Dunbar Garden.

Dunbar Garden sits on a two-acre plot, wedged between a library, school, and houses that sit side by side. It’s a flourishing garden, home to livestock, popular place to volunteer and an outdoor classroom. During the school year, students ranging from preschool to eighth grade gather around Damian with wide eyes as he brings to life topics that they have only seen in science textbooks.

Topics like plant reproduction, the worm’s digestive system, bee pollination and how food goes from the farm to the store are covered in their gardening and environmental education classes. (They teach over 150 classes a year!)

“Can we eat this?” is a question that Damian hears frequently from students touring the garden.  He said, “It’s interesting to watch kids wrap their head around the fact that their food doesn’t have to come from a store. That it actually does come from a thing that is often times stinky, dirty, sharp, pointy or itchy. It’s hard work. It doesn’t just happen.”

Learning does not stop with elementary students, as teenagers and adults alike come to see all Dunbar has to offer. Some come with eager hearts and working hands to volunteer their time and physical labor in the garden. Others, like Chef Chris McMillan from Boulevard Bistro in Little Rock, come to purchase the farm’s harvest.

What may be the most impressive stat about Dunbar Garden, is its self-sustainability.

While donations are a big part of the garden’s success and are greatly appreciated, the majority of the farm’s profits comes from selling their products. The farm’s energy is powered by a three-blade windmill that sits off to one side, towering over the garden. Aside from two paid employees, all of the planting, maintenance, and harvesting is graciously done by volunteers who randomly show up each day.

There’s a clear passion and dedication for Dunbar in the hearts of everyone who is involved with its success.

“Unity.”

A simple word that volunteer Lorraine uses to describe Dunbar Garden. It didn’t take elaborate sentences or an extensive vocabulary to show what the garden means to her. It’s become a home, a place of solitude and relaxation. Dunbar has created a family. One that is unique and full of passion, one that is working to change the way urban citizens view agriculture, one that brings a community together creating that rare unity.


 For more information about Dunbar Garden, click here.

My Trip to Washington D.C.

Last week I had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. with Arkansas Farm Bureau as part of my internship. D.C is a place I’ve dreamed of going since high school, but it seems like every time I’ve had the chance, something just didn’t work out. The trip was incredible. I had the opportunity to meet all of Arkansas’ delegation, toured the monuments, and went to the Newseum. The three days I was there were filled with fast paced visits, cab rides, and lots and lots of walking.

“So what did you learn?” is the first thing Mr. Eddington asks me when I go on a Farm Bureau trip. So, I made of list of 10 things I learned in D.C. that stand out in my mind. Some are serious, some are for laughs, but I look forward to going to D.C. again one day!

 

1. Always take your camera with you. 

After debating on whether or not to take my beloved Canon with me to D.C., I decided against it and told myself that my phone would be satisfactory. It wasn’t. I spend the three days wishing I could get better photos than the grainy ones my iPhone 5s (that has been dropped too many times) takes.

2. Agriculture is everywhere. 

I knew this one before I went on the trip, but I am always amazed at the diversity of this industry. In the airports, I saw signs proudly boasting farmers and their hard work. As we flew, I was able to see beautiful patchwork fields. Chicago’s airport even had a small urban garden inside of it! A passion for agriculture was evident in every congressman and senator we spoke to. Agriculture is not just important in rural Arkansas, it’s important everywhere.

3. D.C. is very fast paced. 

We were able to snap a picture with Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton while in D.C.

We were able to snap a picture with Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton while in D.C.

Conversations with our politicians were much quicker than I expected them to be. While we spent around an hour with a two of them (one at dinner and one at breakfast), our conversations with others only lasted a few minutes each. I was amazed at how well our Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach was able to talk about multiple topics in such a short time. I saw a care and passion for Arkansas agriculture in each of the representatives we met, even if they were rushed.
Also, male politicians wear makeup sometimes, but that’s a story for another day. 😉

4. Traffic laws obviously don’t apply in D.C.

Cab drivers WILL pull a U-turn in the middle of the street, cut people off, and get honked at while you are riding with them. Talk about scary.

5. I love the South. 

I had to get a picture with my state's name at the World War II Memorial monument.

I had to get a picture with my state’s name at the World War II Memorial monument.

D.C. was great and I would definitely go back again, but I quickly learned how much friendlier people are back home. I’ve noticed this before when traveling north, but it always makes me appreciate the door-holding, direction-giving, sir and ma’am saying and overwhelming southern hospitality we have here. Also, I’m thankful for sweet tea.

6. Poverty is real.

I never imagined that in a place with so much wealth and important people that there would still be intense poverty. Our first night there, the other intern and I took a night tour of the monuments. As soon as we stepped off the bus to see the White House, there was a homeless man laying in the grass, under a blanket, surrounded by bags that held his few worldly possessions. My heart aches for these people and it was a huge reminder of how blessed I am.

7. If you walk long enough, all shoes are uncomfortable, not just heels.

I was smarter than to try and wear heels the whole trip with as much walking as we did. But even with flats most of the time, it was painful to walk by the end of the trip. Next time I’m bringing tennis shoes.

8. I am proud to be an American. 

One of my favorite monuments, the Marine Corps War Memorial. Such an awesome reminder of the men and women who have served our country.

One of my favorite monuments, the Marine Corps War Memorial. Such an awesome reminder of the men and women who have served our country.

I love our country and I am so proud to be an American. But as we toured the monuments the first night, I felt an overwhelming pride for our country much more intense than before. Seeing those reminders of the sacrifice so many men and women have given for us to be here today was astounding.

9. Four hour layovers are the bane of my existence.

On our way home, we flew from Washington D.C. to Chicago to Little Rock. The problem with this, was we landed in Chicago at 4:20 and our flight to Little Rock did not leave until 8:20. There are only so many things to see in an airport and when their “complementary” WiFi expires in 30 minutes, you are limited on the amount of Netflix you can watch.

10. Our God is great. 

Yes, the layover was miserable. However because we left late, we were able to watch the sun set from the air. Flying during the day is beautiful, but there’s something about seeing the city lit from above that has a magical feeling to it. As the sun set and colors filled the sky, I couldn’t help but think of what a beautiful painting The Lord had provided us with for our flight home.


Before I left Arkansas for D.C. my grandpa told me, “You know, I’m 76 years old and you’re doing something that I’ve never had the opportunity to do before.” Without Arkansas Farm Bureau, I may have never had this experience either. Thank you ArFB for this incredible trip and so many others that I have had this summer.

 

Food Label EGG-citement

When taking a news writing class last semester, we were asked to choose a topic, interview people, and ultimately report it. The topic I chose was my University’s food supplier only uses cage-free eggs. I see this as a problem. Not only does it drive up the cost to the food supplier and ultimately students, but we do not have a say in the matter and many are misinformed about it. When asking one student on whether or not she cared if we used cage-free eggs she said, “Yeah I do. It’s healthier, right?”

No, it’s not healthier but the problem is many people do not know what to believe anymore. The truth is, the conditions the bird was raised in does not affect the nutritional quality of food. “Cage-free” birds may never even go outside.

So while many buy “cage-free” and “free-range” eggs with this image in mind…

it’s not possible to produce enough food that way to feed everyone on God’s green earth.

Below is my story I wrote for class. Free of my personal opinions, I hope it tells both sides of the story and give an insight to the truth.


Over 280 dozen eggs are cracked open a week in Arkansas Tech’s Chamber’s Cafeteria. In order for these eggs to be used by Tech’s food supplier, Chartwells, they must first pass a set of regulations. For over 10 years Chartwells has used cage-free shell eggs, according to director of dining services, Todd Nixon.

The United States Department of Agriculture defines cage-free eggs as indicating “the flock was able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.”

The decision on whether or not these cage-free eggs are best can become a conflicting topic.

Nixon said he believes that Chartwells using cage-free eggs is more humane and even purchases them to use in his own home. He said he believes that students are not as concerned with the topic as older adults are, however, as a corporation Chartwells tries to look at the big picture of the humane treatment of animals, using sustainable fish, reduced antibiotic and hormone free milk and meat, and use local food as often as possible.

A sign hung in the Arkansas Tech cafeteria, proclaiming their use of cage-free eggs.

A sign hung in the Arkansas Tech cafeteria, proclaiming their use of cage-free eggs.

New marketing schemes used in the cafeteria, such as signs hung in the hallway, have added to students realizing the food requirements Chartwells uses. Freshmen undeclared major, Marissa Pacheco, who is a vegetarian said she noticed the newly hung posters and signs.
When it comes to whether of not the cafeteria uses cage-free eggs she said, “I don’t really see a difference, honestly.” Junior math major, Nicholas Harvey, also said he does not see a difference, stating that he has not put much thought into the matter.

Despite these students’ answers, Cass Capen-Housley, event coordinator for the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Hospitality Administration, said she believes that students do care about the way their food was raised on the farm before it reaches the table. In her own home, Capen-Housley said her family chooses to use locally grown meat and eggs and believes students prefer this as well.
“They want this connection to where their food is coming from,” she said. Capen-Houseley added that she has witnessed her students asking more questions and wanting to be more informed about food production practices.

Using cage-free eggs does have its disadvantages, according to head of the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Malcolm Rainey Jr.

“I understand the rational in why people feel it’s a good thing,” Rainey said, “but on the other side of that, ultimately this pushes up food costs to our consumers.” He said while he recognizes the public’s concerns for animal rights and welfare, there is research showing that the birds are not harmed by the use of cages and ultimately consumers can benefit from the low-cost of food.

Rainey said he believes that there is not a good public understanding of antibiotics and hormones within our food supply. He stated that when antibiotics are required in animals, there is a period of waiting time for it to leave the animal’s system before it can enter our food supply. He also said that the level of hormones used in animals is very low and tested for the safety of consumers, if they are used at all. “In chicken,” Rainey said, “there’s no such thing as that happening anymore, that’s against the law.”

Both Rainey and Capen-Housley offer similar advice to consumers: to educate themselves when making food choices.They both agree farmers or local extension agents are reliable sources to obtain facts about which type of food or label to purchase.

Rainey concluded saying, “Our consumers should be aware and work to be educated by obtaining their information from legitimate sources before they make decisions on what they should be concerned about.”

Don’t Let Your Food Outsmart You

After pilfering through the snack shelf at my house the other day and successfully finding chips to scarf down guacamole with, I began to shut the drawer when something caught my eye…
It was a bright yellow bag with giant words on it that said “GMO FREE” and “GLUTEN FREE.”


I slung the drawer back open, grabbed the bag and stood there in shock as I read it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A bag of popcorn was boasting claims of being GMO (genetically modified organism) and gluten free.
Just in case you don’t understand why I was so surprised, as we say in the south, “There ain’t no such thing.” 

1. GMO popcorn is not a product.

Field corn and sweet corn both have strains that are genetically modified, however, genetically modified popcorn does not exist. It is not available to farmers, they do not produce it, and it is not found on shelves.

2. All types of corn are gluten free.

What is gluten you ask? It’s a protein found in whole-grain foods like wheat and barley. It’s what makes dough elastic and bread chewy. While some popcorn you get in the movies or can purchase may have gluten in it due to the oils, flavorings, or seasonings used, the corn itself has no gluten.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this bag bragging about facts that are actually  true of all popcorn produced.
I was so surprised, in fact, that I decided to point it out via Twitter. Even Skinny Pop knows that popcorn contains neither gluten or GMOs, and yet, they still choose to proclaim it on their golden bag.

I get it. I mean, how else are they supposed to compete with Orville Redenbacher? It’s a smart strategy from a marketing standpoint and it catches buyers eyes in the store, just like it caught mine when I pulled it out of the snack drawer.
What bothers me is how trigger words like “GMO free” and “gluten free” spark emotion in consumers. Suddenly, many average people see these words and are compelled to think that this somehow means it’s better for them. That GMOs and gluten are bad.

 

 
But that’s not true.  

 

 
Genetic modification is a breeding technique that allows plant breeders to take individual traits from one plant or organism and transfer them to the plant they want to improve. It can also be used to make a change to an existing trait in plants. Thanks to GMOs, we’re able to produce more food on less land. They also can be developed to use less pesticides than conventional farming and have been tested for safety. In order for a genetically modified organism to enter the market, it first goes through approximately 13 years and $136 million of testing. Want to know more about genetic modification? Click here.

Gluten, as I said before, is a protein found in whole-grain foods. Some people have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, and therefore should stay away from gluten. But, in the past couple of years, more and more people have adopted the trend of becoming gluten free. The truth is that having a gluten free diet is not healthier and will not help you loose weight. In fact, foods that are gluten free can contain more sugars and fats to try and make up for the loss of taste. Gluten free also tends to be low in a wide range of important nutrients (vitamin B, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber.) Learn more about gluten free by watching this video.

A lot of people try to avoid gluten and GMO products, without actually knowing what they are. Check out these videos:

In the end, if you want to buy products like Skinny Pop that use labels like “GMO free” or “gluten free,” that’s your choice. That’s the great thing about our food supply here in America, you have options.  You should, however, know why you are buying the products you prefer. Don’t choose your products because you think the label means it’s healthier or better for you.

Don’t let your food (or your food packaging) outsmart you.

bees travel across frame

My Day With “The Bee Man”

James Rhein’s phone rings again as he walks away to answer a call from a fellow beekeeper in need of advice. On an average day, “The Bee Man,” will receive anywhere from two to 10 calls from beekeepers across the state, never turning anyone away.

James is 72-years old and has had bees for 39 years at his home in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting James and getting a glimpse into the life of a beekeeper. Even at 72, James strolled around the room and showed his wit with feisty one-liners and countless bee facts.

My adventure began in the garage of James’s mother’s home, where he and his wife, Linda, brought a hive to show how honey is extracted. Taking a heated knife, James and Linda took turns removing the cappings (wax that covers cells full of honey) on each side of the frame. After the cappings had been removed, the frames of honey were placed into an extractor, a machine which spins to remove honey from the cells of a comb. After the honey was pulled from the cells and emptied into a bucket, James poured the honey through a strainer, to remove any impurities. When the process is over, the honey is able to be sold as “raw honey.”

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During this process, James and Linda, buzzed around the room at work. “Busy bees” is a fitting description for the frenzied lives they both lead. Although they are both retired, they manage a cattle farm, are active supporters of the local FFA chapter, hold positions in their county Farm Bureau and are active in their church. James teaches beekeeping classes throughout the year for free and both he and Linda serve as officers for the Arkansas Bee Keepers Association. Aside from these commitments, they maintain between 40-50 hives.

James also gave me the opportunity to see the inside of a hive. As he pulled out frames with bees on them, I was shocked to see they didn’t acknowledged us. Instead, the bees shuffled across the comb without losing focus of the task at hand, and (thankfully) without stinging us. Much like James and Linda, the bees never stopped moving.

I was surprised to learn each bee has a specific task they focus on.
Worker bees are females with undeveloped reproductive organs. Aside from laying eggs, they do all the work in the colony and feed and clean the queen. A worker bee only lives to be six weeks old, but can live longer during the winter months when it’s not as active.
The queen bee’s primary purpose is to lay eggs and will lay anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 eggs a day. Queen bees can live for five to six years in the wild, but commercial bee keepers usually have a new queen every year.
Drones are male bees. Their only job is to mate virgin queens. This only happens once (drones die after mating), and then the queen bee is mated for life. Drones are found in hives during the warm months, but are evicted from the hive in the winter because they no longer serve a purpose.
According to James, a single hive contains 50,000 to 60,000 worker bees, 200 to 500 drones, and one queen.

Bees are remarkable creatures, responsible for about 1/3 of all the food Americans eat.

I now have a newfound respect and appreciation for honeybees and James Rhein, “The Bee Man.”

James Rhein & Lindsey

“The Bee Man” and I

 

Local Love

Today I went to my first farmers market in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It was interesting to interact with local small-scale farmers and hear about their different businesses. There were vendors with vegetables, cheese, meats, honey, flowers, and craft projects (like soaps and woodwork).

Did you know that buying at farmers markets can help the local economy? It’s also a great way to know where your food is coming from and how it’s produced.

Today I met a lady who has been shopping at the Fayetteville Farmers Market for many years. She talked about how much she loved visiting with farmers and buying her food fresh.
A farmer I talked to told me he worked for three different farms and also farmed on his own. Two days a week he sells at different farmers markets. He said, “It doesn’t even feel like work. Even if it wasn’t my job, I would still be doing it.”

The best part about the visit to the Fayetteville Farmers Market was seeing the passion producers have for their products and customers, as well as seeing the trust customers have with the farmers they’re buying from.

Here are some pictures from my trip to Fayetteville today:

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To find a farmers market near you, click here.