New website means limitless opportunities for rural entrepreneurs

Elaine Bristol:

The American Farm Bureau Federation and Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative have announced a new online business training resource for rural entrepreneurs and Farm Bureau members.

Originally posted on Rural Community Building:

By Morgan Slaven, American Farm Bureau Federation Program Assistant – Membership and Program Development

REI website1 - website blog

American Farm Bureau and the Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business have joined forces to provide resources for entrepreneurs in rural communities. The partnership website, strongruralamerica.com, was launched on Monday, July 21.

Technology, market prices, and consumer trends are among the thousands of variables that can make or break a business in today’s world. Overcoming these obstacles can be hard for any entrepreneur, but proves especially difficult for those living in rural America where resources can often be limited. Giving rural businesses the opportunity to succeed is the driving motivation behind the Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative, a partnership between American Farm Bureau Federation and Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative. Both groups are proud to present a new program website, strongruralamerica.com, which was launched early this…

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Learning is a Treasure

   Learning is a Treasure
By Joan Myers, AFBF Women’s Leadership Committee NE Region Representative

Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.
Vernon Howard

I have been around farm animals all my life! I was raised on a small dairy farm in Pennsylvania and was active in 4-H Dairy Club. My father and mother farmed 150 acres and milked 60 Holstein cows. My parents also had chickens and it was my job to gather the eggs. To this day I do not like chickens! Nothing against the chicken farmers because I am thankful for the eggs and meat you produce; but my memories of chickens are not pleasant.

When my husband and I married in August 1971, he moved me to the other end of the county and broadened my horizon in the field of “farm animals”. At the time, he and his father were farming 650 acres and feeding 600 grain fed Holstein bulls and had a farrowing operation. Over the course of our first 9 years of marriage we had veal calves and a feeder to finished swine operation. My in-laws lived in the farm house, which was a double house and they lived in the one end and my husbands’ grandparents the other end. Grandfather raised chickens and when he decided he was going to quite raising chickens my husband had the nerve to say to me, I think you should take over raising the chickens. With much determination I told him that was not happening! In 1980, we decided to return to dairy farming and remained dairy farmers for 25 years. Presently, we are raising grass fed beef.

So, up until now my exposure to “farm animals” has been what people normally picture on the farm: dairy cows, pigs, chickens, beef cattle and veal calves. This all changed three weeks ago when I met my new “farm animal” obsession……ALPACAS!
At the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, various tours were available; so I decided I would like to visit an Alpaca Ranch. It was time to experience another kind of “farm animal” in my life. We arrived at the Quarry Critters Alpacas Ranch (www.quarrycrittersalpacas.com) located in Littlestown, Pennsylvania. This is home to an adorable and high-quality herd of ARI registered alpacas. Owners Julie and David Wysong started their alpaca farm in 2005, as a fun and profitable way to enjoy their retirement together. They were new to farming as Julie taught first grade and David is a construction project manager. The Wysongs breed and raise alpacas for resale and for their fantastic fleece.

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Alpacas were a cherished treasure of the ancient Incan civilization and played a central role in the Incan culture that was located on the high Andean Plateau and mountains of South America. Alpacas were first imported to the United States in 1984. There are two types of alpacas – the Huacaya and the Suri. The life span of the alpaca is about 20 years and gestation is 11.5 months. Alpacas eat grasses and chew a cud like a cow. They are about 36 inches tall at the withers and weigh 150 pounds.

alpacapic8The alpacas are gentle and easy to handle animals. Alpacas can be raised on relatively small acreage and they are a clean, safe, quiet, intelligent and disease resistant animals. Alpacas are safe as they don’t bite or butt. Little harm can be done because the alpacas don’t have incisors, horns, hoofs or claws.

From the Alpaca to our backs….

Shearing… Alpacas are prized for their fleece that is shorn annually in a manner that does not harm the animals. The fleece is extremely soft, comparable to angora and yet very strong and extraordinarily warm. The US navy has used alpaca garments as insulation under wet suits. Its inflammable nature makes alpaca products safe to wear. Alpaca is popular to everyone in the fiber industry from hand-spinners and knitters to the high fashion industry in Europe.

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Skirting…The freshly shorn fiber is spread out over a mesh table. The grass clippings, dirt, twigs and any other matter is removed from the fleece. The mesh table will allow all the matter to fall through the mesh while the imperfections are picked out of the fiber. A fiber tumbler works in the same manner.

Washing…After the skirting the fiber gets washed. The alpaca’s fiber is not greasy like other wools. The fiber is gently put into mesh bags, keeping them loose and using enough water so the fibers are thoroughly cleaned. If the fiber is mixed or agitated in the water too much, the fiber will interlock and become one large matted fur ball that is useless.
Drying…The fiber is taken out of the mesh bags and put on the skirting table to dry. The fiber is fluffed so that it can breathe and the air can circulate through the fiber.

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Carding the Fiber…To make the fiber usable the fiber now has to be carded. The carder basically takes the fiber and faces all of the fiber in one direction.

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Plying…This process takes several strands of yarn and twists them together into a multi-ply yarn which will be much stronger and more durable than a single twisted spin.

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Spinning…The fiber is ready to be spun into yarn. An alpaca produces fleece each year to create several beautiful soft, warm sweaters for its owners comfort.

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Felting…Alpaca’s fiber is needled with felting needles which have barbs that tangle the fibers together. This is another way of using the alpaca’s fleece.

Do you know that alpacas are environmentally friendly? The alpaca’s feet are padded and they leave even the most delicate terrain undamaged as it browses on native gasses. The dung of the alpacas is used for fuel and gardeners find the it a rich fertilizer perfect for growing fruits and vegetables.

I became captivated with these interesting, unique, gentle, cute, adorable stuffed-liked animals. The alpaca is becoming my new “farm animal”. Just as my daughter feared when she found out I was going to the Quarry Critters Alpaca Ranch, I fell in love with the alpaca and I really want to see them be a part of the Myers Family.     I think I see a new type of farming coming to the Myers Homestead….ALPACA Farming (as soon as I can convince my husband)!

Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.
Anthony J. D’Angelo

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Changing the World

Changing the World

by Joan Myers, AFBF Women’s Leadership Committee NE Region Representative

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Nelson Mandela

Pennsylvania’s Mobile Agriculture Education Science Lab is a powerful weapon being used in Pennsylvania, to educate elementary and middle schools students about how agriculture plays a large role in their daily lives.

Ag Lab outside

A few decades ago, most people grew up on or around farms. Unfortunately, many students today don’t understand where their food on their table comes from. Everyone needs educated! If the students are educated about how agriculture is part of their life from dusk to dawn, they will then educate their parents!

The PA Friends of Ag Foundation, a charitable organization supported by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, created the Mobile Ag Ed Science Lab program in September 2003 as a way to address and correct the disconnect between the consumer and the source of their food. At present there are six 32 foot mobile “lab” classrooms that travels across the state of Pennsylvania to schools for students to do hands-on science experiments related to agriculture.

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Students come out to the lab and work in groups at the 12 lab stations to solve a problem as they form a hypothesis, collect data and draw conclusions. Six 50-minute classes are held daily with students completing one of over 30 lessons available. On any given day, you may find students making glue from milk, plastic from corn, crayons from soybeans or completing one of many other captivating experiments.

With the end of another school year, all six of the Mobile Ag Ed Science Labs are presently being inventoried, cleaned and restocked; so the labs are ready in the fall to go to the schools. While I am not a certified teacher, my passion about agricultural education is strong, and as my daughter, Tonya Wible, is the program director, I have been able to become involved with this program.

STEM conference

In addition to working for the program as the Materials and Supplies Consultant and assisting with the inventory, cleaning and restocking of the program, I am sometimes able to work in the lab at events where we teach the public about agriculture.   In April I traveled to Washington, DC to participate with the Mobile Ag Ed Science Lab and American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture at the USA Science and Engineering Festival.  Here we were able to provide the over 500,000 attendees with the opportunity to learn where their food comes from and the ways in which agriculture provides for them daily.

The Mobile Ag Ed Science Lab program had its best year yet, with a record of 170 school visits reaching over 106,000 students in Pennsylvania. In the past 11 years, 766,000 students have learned about the impact of agriculture on their daily lives. The students we are reaching are the consumers, voters and decision makers of tomorrow.

Our hope is that future generations will have an increase of awareness, understanding, perception and appreciation for the field of agriculture through education.

The Mobile Agriculture Education Science Lab (http://www.pfb.com/aglab) has and will continue to tell the true story of agriculture.

Change is the end result of all true learning.

Leo Buscaglia

“The Sweet Story of Agriculture

“The Sweet Story of Agriculture”

Greetings from the gently rolling hills of south central Pennsylvania where my husband, Charles and I live in Franklin County on a farm that has been in the Myers family for five generations.

“God grants liberty to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.”                  Daniel Webster

July is the month we celebrate our freedom. I am so blessed and thankful for the liberty I have because of the courage and faith brave men and women have shown to guard and defend our country, America!

Our freedom as farmers to till the soil, plant the seed and harvest the crops has been challenged over the years and the challenges continues to face us as farmers. American Farm Bureau Federation is the unified national voice of agriculture, working through our grassroots organization with membership exceeding 5,000,000 to enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans and to build strong, prosperous agricultural communities. Many individuals have sacrificed their time and energy in stepping up to the plate and speaking up for agriculture. If we as farmers are going to have freedom in farming; we need to belong to organizations like Farm Bureau who is our Voice in Agriculture. Thank you Farm Bureau! I am Farm Bureau Proud!

We were recently blessed with this beautiful spacious sky. God is the perfect artist.

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Picture of the Franklin Co Sky
(Franklin County, Pa Storm Chasers Weather Imagery’s)

“O Beautiful for Spacious Skies” is one of my favorite patriotic songs. O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed His grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

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Amber waves of grain —the harvest of the grain is happening right now in Pennsylvania! There are different kinds of grain …rye, wheat, barley and oats. When the grain is ready for harvest the grain turns a beautiful color of golden yellow amber. Harvest occurs when the grain is fully developed and matured and is ready to be taken off of the stalk by a machine called a combine.

 

 

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The grain which is in the head of the stalk is collected into the bin of the combine and then taken to a grain bin to dry so it does not heat and mold. The grain is used to feed cattle and to produce food for you and me. Grain helps feed the world!grain bin

If we listen to the words of songs we may see the teaching that is available to us to tell our farm story.

As our population continues to rapidly increase; the knowledge of where our food come from is rapidly decreasing with more and more people becoming further removed from firsthand knowledge about agriculture. The need is great to educate and connect citizens to agriculture. As a farmer, and producer of our food; I do not want citizens young or old to be ignorant about where their food, fiber and fuel come from!

At the birth of our nation, Pennsylvania, the Keystone State was one of the 13 original colonies and agriculture has always played an important role in our development and economy. Agriculture is the number one industry in Pennsylvania. Recently, I had the privilege to be part of The National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference; where 494 educators and people with a passion for educating like myself, came from across the nation to Hershey, Pennsylvania, the chocolate town of the world to learn “The Sweet Story of Agriculture”.

Excitement and anticipation was in the air as The National Ag in the Classroom Conference got into full action with over 100 exciting, engaging and interactive workshops covering a multitude of topics like nutrition, ecology, agriculture’s place in civilization, food uses, the use of integrated pest management and the relationship between our food production and the environment.

 

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Visit http://pfbphotographers.zenfolio.com/2014naitc for more photos from the conference.

One of the award teachers shared that he did not feel it was necessary to bring the story of farming into his classroom because their area was rural; until the day a student commented that “farm food is gross”. The student stated that his food came from the grocery store and his food never looked like “farm food being in the ground and covered with all that dirt; farm food is gross.” The teacher’s eyes were opened in seeing the need of telling his students about farming and where their food comes from…field and farm to home and table.

This conference served as an excellent venue for sharing the need to teach, learn and share the role that agriculture plays in our daily lives. The National Ag in the Classroom encourages K-12 educators to learn the farming story to take back to the classroom or to friends and neighbors. Visit www.agclassroom.org where a variety of resources are available. Choose one that is your passion and start telling “The Sweet Story of Agriculture”.

Start telling your friends, family and neighbors and make plans to attend The National Ag in the Classroom, June 16-20, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. Stay tuned to www.agclassroom.org/2015conference for more exciting news about the upcoming 2015 conference.

Agriculture in the Classroom is a great way to generate excitement among students of all ages by offering opportunities for hands-on learning experiences using real-life instructional materials, everyday situations and current issues in agriculture.

Let FREEDOM ring and start sharing “The Sweet Story of Agriculture”.

Semi-Wordless Wednesday: Patriotic afterglow

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July 4th may be over, but the afterglow of America’s pride rings true across the nation. I’d say that cowboys and other rural citizens are some of the most patriotic folks!

“Only 17 percent of the U.S. population calls rural communities home, yet 44 percent of military recruits come from rural America.” (source: American Farm Bureau Federation)

Honoring our farm dog

I have written about our sheep dog before.

When we worked outdoors, Nike was never too far from your elbow (if you were sitting or tying your boots) or your heels.

When we worked outdoors, Nike was never too far from your elbow (if you were sitting or tying your boots) or your heels.

Nike developed arthritis in his hips and could no longer come sit on the porch to be pet.

Nike developed arthritis in his hips and could no longer come sit on the porch to be pet this spring.

This winter was a cold one, as many farmers have shared. While that does mean that we take extra care of our animals, the combined old-age and cold-weather did a toll to the hearing and hips of our four-legged shepherd. Some may consider their pets to be part of the family, whereas we considered our dog to be much more than that – he was a part of our family business.

I’m sad to say that Nike has found a final resting place on the farm. He really enjoyed herding the sheep (and even visitors the way HE wanted them to come in the house) and taking walks down the dead end dirt road all the way through his last week. I cannot help but think how happy he must be to be at rest in his favorite place.