• Holly Spangler

    The Beat Goes On and On

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on April 14, 2014

    A friend recently shared a photo of Main Street in her hometown and noted that when you go home, somehow you suddenly feel 17 again. That is truth for those of us who have moved away from the town in which we grew up. And though I now live in a rural Illinois town very similar to the one in which I grew up, visiting home brings back a torrent of memories. Most of them related to being 17: the cruising, the fair, the games, the practices, the band, the dinner theater. The dates and the mistakes…

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    The Friday Five: Food Edition

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on April 11, 2014

    When the Food Movement Does Not Move: 500 words on agriculture, GMOs and the food system, from someone far outside conventional Midwestern agriculture. It is worth a read to see what he thinks and how he arrived at those opinions. And we all need a little more information from outside our circles. Reader Comment: Change of Heart on Ag-Gag: Written by an activist who worked to stop the Bettencourt Dairy in Idaho but came to see that Mercy for Animals had another agenda entirely. Is Organic…

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    Life Beyond the Ring

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on April 10, 2014

    Confession: I have a tartan past. I was once the Illinois Shorthorn Lassie Queen. I wore a plaid kilt and black boots. It's true. Photographic evidence exists, but I will not provide it. I tried valiantly to become the National Shorthorn Lassie Queen. It was all just about as glamorous as you might imagine: show rings, essays, scrapbooks, ribbons, interviews and more. In truth, it was an early form of agricultural advocacy, even though we didn't call it that back then.   The…

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    Confessions of a Farm Wife: Vol. 8 | Guest Star Edition

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on April 8, 2014

    We're back again today with our first-ever guest star at Confessions of a Farm Wife! Joe Webel, husband of Emily, caretaker of cattle, stopped by the kitchen counter to talk about calving and cows and calves. And he coined my new favorite phrase in regard to cows, calves and the barn: "it's the roach motel - they keep moving in and I can't move them out!" You can listen by playing the little gizmo below. Or you can also click here and listen. Or you can download the…

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    Confessions of a Farm Wife: Vol. 7

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on April 7, 2014

    Well. Our schedules have been a little crazy lately. And so it is that we are now re-capping Emily's experience as a panelist for the Bayer Ag Issues Forum at Commodity Classic...which was back in late February. But she had a fascinating experience, fielding questions from agricultural media and more. And so here it is. A little talk about the travel, the speaking, the issues, and our random run-in at Gate B26 in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Proof positive, you have to leave…

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    The Friday Five: April Fool's Edition

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on April 4, 2014

    April Fool's Day came and went this week, and with little notice on our farm. Except for the children who tried to prank me by taping up the faucet sprayer. They only got themselves, when they forgot and flipped on the faucet. I'd like to say you have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool old mom, but really, it had nothing to do with me. They just forgot. And no fooling: here are five links to stories and information to catch you up on the week in food and agriculture. Big…

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    140 Characters for PETA

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on April 3, 2014

    It's been a big week for our local high school's biology department: they began their fetal pig dissection unit. My niece, Kaity, is a biology class member and she was pretty excited about this development. Excited enough to tweet about it. The next exciting development? PETA replied to her tweet. Technically speaking, it wasn't PETA, the radical animal rights organization, but "peta2," the youth arm of the radical animal rights organization. That should frighten you…

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    Swedes Take America (In the Nicest Way Possible)

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on April 2, 2014

    A lunch with friends. Conversation about farms and food, traveling and working, Broadway and the prairie. A delicious meal at DeStihl, complete with locally-sourced cheddar cheese curds, made by farmer friends at Ropp Jersey Cheese. A meal not soon to be forgotten because although the weather on the prairie blew wet and cold outside, the friendship around the table was warm, fanned by a deep love for agriculture and journalism that spans actual continents. It all began with my trip to Sweden…

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  • Holly Spangler

    The Friday Five: Ag Day Edition

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on March 28, 2014

    Tuesday was Ag Day and it was celebrated both far and wide across this country. In Washington, D.C., panels were convened, movies were shown and lawmakers were lobbied. On social media, every ag-related person shared the ag-related posts that spoke to them. On our farm, John hauled manure. I'm not sure whether he knew it was Ag Day or not. Regardless, here are five links to catch you up on this week in food and agriculture, with a whole lot of Borlaug and a little bit of Stine. Good Iowans…

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    'People Don't Come To Me Because Everyone Is Happy'

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on March 25, 2014

    Ron Hanson said a lot of great things Friday at the Women in Agriculture conference, held in the Quad Cities. In short, his message boils down to this: parents need to make a plan and communicate the plan. A will is not enough. Among my favorite Ron Hanson quotes of the day: On wills and plans: "There is a difference between a will and a succession plan: a will says who gets what. A succession plan guarantees the farm will be there and everyone knows what happens next." On the…

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    Confessions of a Farm Wife: Vol. 6

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on March 24, 2014

    Confessions of a Farm Wife took a road trip last week! Emily Webel, DeAnna Thomas and I headed north to the Quad Cities for the Women in Agriculture conference, which was headlined by Dr. Ron Hanson of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Hanson is a farm family relationship specialist whose spent his career counseling farm families in crisis, and speaking to farm groups all over the country. He's spoken in Illinois at the Farm Progress Show and at the Illinois Farm Bureau Young…

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  • Holly Spangler

    The Friday Five: Spring Edition

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on March 21, 2014

    It's supposed to be a glorious 67 degrees in central Illinois today and the people said Amen! With that, five things I've read this week that were both thought-provoking and share-worthy. General Mills Turns To 'Raja Of The Country Of World Peace' To Certify Its Costlier, Non-GMO Cheerios: This opinion piece from Forbes smartly and tightly dissects the unintended consequence when General Mills and Post slayed their flagship formulations of Cheerios and Post in favor of a…

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  • Holly Spangler

    Really, Really Clinging to Spring

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on March 17, 2014

    I am writing this on Sunday evening and it snowed today. On March 16. Not just a few flurries but actual blowing, heavy snow. It didn't amount to more than an inch but it was miserable going into church this morning. It was apparently a great day fro a calf to be born, because we had four. My husband was leading worship at church this morning and the best thing he could say about it was how nice it was to be warm inside with our church family. Way to make the best of it…

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    The Friday Five: Global Edition

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on March 14, 2014

    Well, if this isn't a mish-mash of topics, I'm not sure what is. We've got everything from an agricultural editor report straight from Ukraine to the results of a historically-anti-biotech magazine sending a writer to research GMOs. And it's mostly good news, at least on the biotech item. Plus a couple more items that you'll want to take a look at, too. Regardless, here are five links that are worth the read on your Friday. War is Just a Shot Away: This piece was written by…

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    Top 10 Facts About Biotech Crops

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on March 12, 2014

    Occasionally, tidbits of info cross my desk and I think to myself: well, there's something to save. Like this list. It's a roundup of the top 10 facts about biotech crops, as reported in a new article by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, a very reliable international group that's tracked biotech crops for years. Sidenote: are you on Pinterest? In the last few months, I've started a Pinterest board to keep track of some of these bits of…

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    The Friday Five: Misguided Intentions

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on March 7, 2014

    If there's a theme to this week's links, it's the idea that which seems like a good idea, sometimes isn't. Or in the case of these organizations, often isn't. Like selfies for HSUS. Or Chipotle, the burrito chain that continues to make news, this time in the business press for their lack of sustainability reporting. Some young men in Kansas try to make sense of Chipotle's business model. And I continue to ponder one of the greatest questions I've heard all week…

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  • Holly Spangler

    The Friday Five: Watch, Don't Read

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on February 28, 2014

    Live from the 2014 Commodity Classic, a short list of videos that are worth the watch. Take a look! Farmland: Remember Food, Inc? King Corn? Chipotle and their series? Farmland is agriculture's answer to the documentaries that have cast the industry in a certain (dark) light. Funded by USFRA and directed by Academy-Award-winning director James Moll, Farmland is set to be released later this spring. In the meantime, this link takes you to a trailer for the movie. And it's…

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  • Holly Spangler

    Hey, Remember Home Ec?

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on February 25, 2014

    Last Friday, I sat through a USFRA Food Dialogues panel, where they were asking and answering the question, "Who is shaping America's nutrition choices?" They talked about media and commercials. They talked about food production, specifically land, water and energy. They talked about our crazy-busy lifestyle and processed foods. They talked about a knowledge gap in food production, and about dieticians. And I had a crazy thought: what about the fact that (a lot of) Americans…

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  • Holly Spangler

    The Friday Five: Olympic Edition

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on February 20, 2014

    The Olympics are trucking onward, the snow is melting, the creeks are flooding, the calves are coming, and it's National FFA week. And so here we are, back again this week, with five links. If you've got the time to spare, these are worth the read. A Farmer's Challenge to Chipotle: Agriculturalist Ryan Goodman penned this opinion piece for CNN's Eatocracy blog. It's a well-thought out response to the Chipotle video series that's critical of modern food production. Side…

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    The Friday Five: Worth the Read

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on February 14, 2014

    It's been one of those weeks where I've seen a lot of good stuff float across the Internet. Granted, a lot was in response to bad stuff on the Internet, but alas, that is the way of agriculture these days. So if you have a few minutes to spare, these are worth the read. 1. Dr. Oz's GMO Global Conspiracy…Debunked:  Point-by-point, Katie Pratt offers up the facts that Dr. Oz (surprisingly missed during his show this week on "Stealth GMOs," designed to leave…

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  • Holly Spangler

    She Was a Good Farm Dog

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on February 12, 2014

    Our dog, Mandy, had to be put down yesterday. She was a border collie and she was nearly 15 years old. She was my gift to my husband on our first anniversary. We drove up to Galena for the weekend and I told him we needed to swing through Lanark on our way home, for his present. She was one of a half dozen roly-poly puppies raised by farmers on the edge of town. We brought her home and we loved her. Mandy loved to play in the water and she herded the barn cats, which annoyed them beyond all…

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    Confessions of a Farm Wife: Vol. 5

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on February 10, 2014

    It got a little more serious around the kitchen counter for this, our fifth podcast. We covered snow days and bored children and exasperated (and cold) husbands last time, but as I wrote in my February column, virtually every economist at virtually every farm meeting this winter has assured us that corn prices are settling in for a new (low) era. Ohio State University ag economist Matt Roberts assured farmers last month that while the last six years have been a time of unprecedented…

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  • Holly Spangler

    Calves in the House and Kids in the Barn

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on February 7, 2014

    It's funny the things that will catch people's attention. Last week, I did an interview with John Cody, a Chicago broadcaster with WBBM radio. He had read this blog post by Betsie Estes, a former Field Mom with the Illinois Farm Families program. Betsie blogs at Super Suburbs and is a fabulous young suburban mother I've gotten to know after meeting at Larson Farms a couple years ago. We've become social media friends, and after seeing one of my posts about caring for livestock…

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  • Holly Spangler

    The Promise of the Prairie

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on February 5, 2014

    Snow. Wind. Cold. Repeat. It's been a long winter in the Midwest, and it's only February 5. My children are home for yet another snow day. I'd like to say we're crafting and baking and getting along and being kind and good helpers and everything, but you all know if I said that, I'd be sitting on a throne of lies. At best, we are survivors, weathering another snow day and dreaming of planting corn. Outside, the livestock waterers have been frozen and unfrozen. And…

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  • Holly Spangler

    Confessions of a Farm Wife: Vol. 4

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on January 30, 2014

    Let me tell you about my friend, DeAnna. DeAnna Thomas is, without a doubt, the brains behind our podcasting adventure. Although she's working for LG Seeds these days, she's a broadcaster by trade which means she has the skills to move our little conversation along, and she has the equipment and the ability to produce it all into something you'd actually want to hear. Or in other words, she edits out the parts when Emily has to chase a small child or when I can't say my…

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  • Holly Spangler

    Three States, Two Panels, One Flu

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on January 26, 2014

    I had every intention of blogging last week. I had a plethora of information from AFBF to share, and mentioned as much when I last blogged…um, almost two weeks ago. Then, sickness. Which really messes with your plans. Also, snow days. To recap, I made it home from AFBF in Texas with something resembling respiratory flu. I got some drugs (yay, drugs!) and I left again the next weekend to speak at the South Dakota Young Farmers & Ranchers conference (sidenote: they are the nicest…

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  • Holly Spangler

    Lessons from the '80s: Your Most Important Assets

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on January 14, 2014

    I'm writing this while sitting at the American Farm Bureau Convention. I just attended an economic outlook workshop and I've sat through a panel where a handful of state Farm Bureau presidents are reflecting on the '80s. If there is one common theme here, it is that times are about to change. The message, especially to my generation, is a strong one. More than once I've heard that if you've been farming less than 10 years, you haven't yet experienced anything…

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  • Holly Spangler

    College: 'Congratulations! You're In!'

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on January 10, 2014

    You know how you used to fill in the blanks on a bunch of papers, agonize over an essay or two, send it off to the college of your choice and then anxiously await an acceptance letter in the mail? Yeah, it doesn't work that way anymore. Except for the essay part. There's still a lot of agonizing there. But there are no stamps; it's all digital. You submit your application online, and you learn your fate online. And that, as it turns out, is pretty exciting. Last month, my niece…

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  • Holly Spangler

    New Year: Weather, Combinations and Favorites

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on December 31, 2013

    Well. It's the end of 2013. And while many of my social media and blogger friends are posting fabulous lists highlighting the highs and lows of 2013 and all that they wish to happen in 2014, I have but two things I'd like to see happen in 2014: 1/ Normal weather. Seriously. Is it asking so much to plant in April, spray in June, have nice rainfall and heat units through the summer and a harvest that starts in September and ends in October, with a lovely November for tillage and tiling…

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    How Dairy Carrie Wrote a Viral Blog Post

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on December 27, 2013

    If you were anywhere near social media earlier this month, there's a good chance you saw a blog post by "Dairy Carrie" floating around. It was titled, "Sometimes we are mean to our cows," and it detailed all the reasons a bovine might go down, and what a farmer might have to do (and why) in order to help her back to her feet. Complete with photos. Along with about 300,000 other people who visited her blog to read about downed cows, I read it and thought it was so well…

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    Confessions of a Farmwife: Vol. 3

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on December 18, 2013

    In response to listener demand (Ok, in response to Emily's husband, who is, technically, a listener), we've made our podcasts shorter. Last week, I posted the first half of this podcast and here, without further ado, is the second half. Topics include but are not limited to: weather, normalcy, grief, weather, Christmas stockings, Andy Stanley, weather, cream sauce and fleece. So you know, lots of things that really go together. Here are a few links that may make what we talk about…

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    Confessions of a Farmwife: Vol. 2

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on December 11, 2013

    Well. Some eight weeks ago, we rolled out our first Confessions of a Farmwife podcast - a little chatfest between central Illinois farmwives DeAnna Thomas, Emily Webel and myself, as we gathered around Emily's kitchen counter. We had plans to make it a regular event. And then harvest happened. And a heartbreaking loss in the Webel family. And then Thanksgiving. And field work. And now Christmas is upon us. So, we decided we needed to get together if for no other reason than the…

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    The Next Peterson Farm Brothers?

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on December 5, 2013

    There's a fun contest going on right now, thanks to some folks in southern Illinois. The Edwards County Farm Bureau Women's Committee (that's my home county!) put together a "Braggin' on Ag" video contest in the fall. People around the county put together videos and submitted them, and as it turns out…they're really good. Good enough that the Farm Bureau decided to take the contest to the social media world. And they added a cash prize. This is where you…

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    Five Favorite Farm Photos

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 30, 2013

    Is it really Day 30 already? To round out our final day of the 30 Days|FIVE Things series, I'm sharing my five favorite photos. And let me just tell you, it was not easy. This list could've been ten times as long. But here they are, some taken a year ago and some taken 14 years ago. Scroll down to the gallery and click through. You can pause as needed, and advance to the next slide when you're ready. Thanks for following along this month! Five Things: The Series Day…

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    Five Things to Get a Farmer for Christmas

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 29, 2013

    1. Art. Illinois farm girl and "Keeping it Real" design guru extraordinaire Erin Ehnle is now selling prints and canvases of her most popular designs. I'm a fan of the canvas; they are beautifully done and the quality is excellent and you don't need a frame. You just hang them. She has an online gallery and the Christmas shopping has never been easier. 2. Smartphone protection. What farmer doesn't need an Otterbox to protect his or her smartphone? Their…

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    Five Things for Which I Am Thankful

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 28, 2013

    1.  I like turkey as much as the next beef producer, but I am grateful to have grown up in a house where Thanksgiving meant beef. And that it wasn't until I was a teenager when I began to wonder what these "turkey day" traditions were all about. But I am a major fan of the leftover turkey sandwich, and the turkey itself. So there's that. 2.  Thanksgivings with family around the table. I know; so obvious. But I will forever remember Thanksgiving 2011 as the last with…

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  • Holly Spangler

    Five Things I Want My Kids to Know Before They Leave My House

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 27, 2013

    1. How to appreciate good, wholesome food. That they know what a balanced meal looks like. Fruits, veggies, good meats, milk. Sweets in moderation. 2. How to cook. From scratch. That they will leave my house knowing what to do with a chuck roast. Or a sack of flour. Or a packet of yeast. 3. What our livestock mean. That they might understand not only the purpose for the livestock we raise but that through caring for them and giving them a comfortable life, they'd gain a real appreciation…

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    Five Things about GMOs

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 26, 2013

    Five resources for when you hear… 1. GMOs cause tumors. In rats. Special French rats. You know, I can see what this one has gotten traction. Rats with super giant GM-fueled tumors growing from their heads? Those are the kinds of phrases activists dream of. But even other French scientists couldn't get on board with it. The New York Times reported last year that France's six scientific academies issued a "rare joint statement" dismissing the rat study. The leader of the…

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    Five Things Farmers Need to Know about Consumers

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 25, 2013

    1. Consumers are concerned about the long-term health effects of biotechnology and pesticides. They're looking at down-the-road diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity, the "unknown." I sat and talked about some of those questions with a group of Chicago field moms during the Larson Farms tour earlier this fall. This is not based on any research and is completely anecdotal, but I shared with them that I really believe if pesticides and biotech were causing cancer we would see…

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    Five Favorite Verses from the Bible

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 24, 2013

    1. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11. This was a favorite in college, when it served as reminder that He had a plan when I didn't know past this semester. Fast forward a few years and actually study more of Jeremiah, and I find even more comfort in the next verse: "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." He…

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    Five Things We've Learned from Our Mothers-in-Law

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 22, 2013

    1. Help out. Christy Lee says her mother-in-law, Theta Lee taught her to get involved in the community. When Theta married and moved to their small town 40 years ago, she dove in and volunteered for good causes. So has Christy. Side benefit? If you're new to town, you get to know the people with whom you'll be working and living the rest of your life. 2. Be who you are. Amy Buhrow on Marjorie Buhrow: "My mother-in-law is the complete package: kind, selfless, giving, a model…

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    Five Chapters

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 21, 2013

    I am wary to share this as plans can (obviously) change but for now, here are five working chapter titles for the book at which I am pecking away. This is subject to change and they are not in order. And they may change. Did I mention that? 1. Carhartts and Diesels and Wranglers, Amen 2. Grit and Other Dirt-Like Substances 3. The End of a Long Road 4. What's Wrong with Modern Food Production (And It's Not the Production Part) 5. The Grouchy Princess and Other Tales from the…

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    Five Things Farmers Said

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 20, 2013

    One of the greater perks of being a farmer and of interviewing farmers for your job is that they will often say something that changes the way you think. Maybe about farming, or cattle, or family, or life. Here are five that come to mind, mentioned in the course of interviews or just plain-old good conversations. 1. David Erickson, on buying farmland: "There's never been a time in my farming career when we bought land and thought we could afford it. But we've always been glad we…

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    Five Things Parents Do in the Back of 4-H Meetings

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 19, 2013

    1.  Try to avoid saying things like, "When I was in 4-H…" Fail. 2.  Decline calls from the senile but lovely elderly woman in Galesburg who has mistaken my number for her daughter's. She's even taken to leaving me messages like, "I've lost something. And I don't even know who I'm talking to." Me either, ma'am. Me either. I feel like we're gonna be tight by Christmas, though. 3.  Text and/or Facebook with other parents who…

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    Five Places I'm Glad I've Been

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 18, 2013

    1. The Edwards County Fair. It feels like home. I'd go back in a heartbeat but a) it's the same week as my (new) home fair and b) it wouldn't be the same. And that's the way it should be. 2. Sweden. It was eye opening. It changed my perspective on the world. And on my country. All in a good way. 3. Banff National Park. As a naïve 18-year-old, I traveled to Canada as part of a world trade mission for Shorthorns. I kid. I was a Lassie queen and the Canadians invited us up…

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    Five Ways to Jazz Up a Field Lunch

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 16, 2013

        It is at this point in the season that I begin to lose my will to pack another lunch. Actually, I lie; I lost it about three weeks ago. Nonetheless, with so many of us so close to winding up harvest, here are a few lunch pail ideas, collected over the years. And please, comment away with your ideas below. It's November 16 and I need all the help I can get. 1. Kings Hawaiian Mini-Sub Rolls. Who doesn't love Hawaiian sweet bread? I found these mini-sub rolls at our local…

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    Five Things About Jenna

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 15, 2013

    1. At the end of my pregnancy with her, she would put her little feet against my lower ribs and push. Up. Hard. There was nothing to do but go lie down and take shallow breaths, because it was as if she were trying to stretch out and bust out. As if she had big things to do and no more time for this womb business. In literature, this is known as foreshadowing. 2. I have purchased and read no less than three books about strong-willed children, in my effort to understand and parent her…

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    Five Things to Love About 4-H

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 14, 2013

    1. Work today pays off tomorrow. Our county's adopted legislator, straight from the Chicago suburbs, visited our place a couple summers ago. We had a wonderful visit; she brought along her husband and her three teenage/pre-teenage children. Our kids had a ball. And she remarked that she couldn't believe our kids get up and feed bottle calves and show cattle, all before getting ready for school. It's true. But our kids wouldn't have it any other way. These are their animals and…

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    Five Misleading Food Labels

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 13, 2013

    1. "No high fructose corn syrup!" The question to ask here is whether the product had any high fructose corn syrup to start with. Because like any good marketing ploy, companies have been known to jump on the band wagon and declare their product free of something it never had to start with. Also, if you've been told HFCS is bad because of all the processing, consider this: sugar cubes do not grow on trees. It's all been processed, people. Incidentally, we may see less of this…

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    Five Things I've Learned About Grief

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 12, 2013

    1. When my former roommate was killed by a drunk driver in college, her family's car broadsided by a drunk driver in a quiet rural intersection, I sat dumbfounded for months by the idea that a half a second would've made all the difference. And that our lives are not by chance. And that's what makes them worth the living. 2. The heartbreak of grief lies in the small moments they're missing. The way I know my mom, a teacher, would've loved how Caroline not only loves…

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    Five Farm Blogs I Love

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 11, 2013

    A note: this is in no way comprehensive and would be a much lengthier list if not for the FIVE THINGS thing. I chose these five because they are written by farmers or by folks in transition to farm or ranch, and for their ability to tackle the tough subjects. There are many great agricultural blogs. Amen. 1. The Farmer's Life. Just the facts, straight from Brian Scott's Indiana farm. Plus some great visuals on transparency, like this post about the technology agreement he signs to grow…

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    Five Things I Like on My Desk

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 9, 2013

    1. Pencils. Yellow. Number 2. (I don't care if I write on a computer. I'm a writer, darnit, and I need pencils!) 2. Colored Sharpie pens. For the pretty. I'm maybe a little obsessed with them and they make my ridiculous handwriting look a little nicer. Actually, a lot nicer. (You know that line in Steel Magnolias where Clairee says, "You have the handwriting of a serial killer"? She was actually talking about me. My husband confirms.) 3. File folders. For the illusion of…

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    Five Things I Didn't Know When I Married a Farmer

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 8, 2013

    1. That I might awake in the night to John asking if I could handle the sprayer. And then panic because NO. And then he would fall back asleep and I would lie there wide awake, still panicked, but relieved he was talking in his sleep. 2. That it would become so easy to learn to roll with it. Maybe because I saw it play out time and again throughout my youth: Dad opened the back door and said, "Hey, Suz, you busy?" And just like that, my mother's morning disappeared. Or maybe her…

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    Five Tips for Better Photographs

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 7, 2013

    1. Depth of field. You know those beautiful portraits where the backgrounds are blurred out and the subjects virtually jump out of the photo? That's due to a shallow depth of field. You will not re-create the look of a professional portrait with a point-and-shoot camera, but you can make a snapshot portrait look better by paying attention to depth of field and by creating a shallow(er) depth of field. In short: zoom in, step backwards until it's framed properly, focus on your subject…

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    Five Things I've Learned as an Ag Journalist

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 6, 2013

    1. We take freedom of the press for granted in America. During our time in Sweden last year, I met journalists from countries where the press is either semi-free or recently free. Decades of reading only what the government sanctions or prints leads to a general distrust of virtually everyone and everything. Consider this as well: in countries where there's no free press, there's also hunger. It is no coincidence. Absolute power begets absolute corruption. Our press may not be perfect…

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    Five Things I'm Reading Now

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 5, 2013

    1. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen. It is a rare writer who can make you love her writing, even when you disagree with virtually all of her basic tenants on life. Quindlen communicates the human experience like no other writer of our time. In my opinion. 2. Tribes, by Seth Godin. Who do we follow and why? 3. How Michael Pollan Misuses Journalist Power. Enough said. But if anything has ever made you angry about the GMO debate, this may top it. 4. Little House on the Prairie…

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    Five Things an Honest Farmwife Admits

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 4, 2013

    In an age of social media and well-conceived status updates and our ability to feel bad about ourselves based on that enemy of comparison, my favorite new phrase is that you should never compare your background footage to someone else's highlight reel. With that in mind, here's my background footage. And you can bet there's more where that came from. 1.  My greatest fear is doing something completely ridiculous and plugging the grain leg and every fall my prayer is this…

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    Five Things Our Farm Boy Said

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 3, 2013

    1.  John and Nathan went to check out a used 318 John Deere lawnmower, with a hand throttle so Nathan could operate it. They looked it over. Nathan leaned in and said, "Dad. This is one sweet lawnmower." 2.  Jenna: "Someday, I'm gonna sing the Star Spangler Banner at the Super Bowl."     Nathan: "I'm gonna play football in college and in the Super Bowl."     Jenna: "Yeah, like that's gonna…

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    Five Things I Loved About Growing Up on a Farm

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 2, 2013

    1. The walking to check cows. Because Dad didn't believe in three-wheelers back then. 2. The banter in the barn. Chucking bales and sweating and talking. Accomplishing something together. Mom, Dad, my brother and me. 3. The Class A license my dad made me get when I was 16. I still feel (overly) prideful and (unnecessarily) cool that I have that. Never mind that I still can't drive a 13-gear manual transmission. 4. The chance to try. When my dad sent me out (with my new aforementioned…

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    30 Days: Five Things About Five Things

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on November 1, 2013

    Ok. It's November 1 and that means it's time for 30 Days! Without further ado: the series this year is 30 Days of Five Things. A different list every day. Of five things. A sampling: Five Things an Honest Farmwife Admits. Five Things I've Learned as an Ag Journalist. Five Things Our Farm Boy Said. Five Things I Like on My Desk. Five Farm Blogs I Love. Five Things You Need to Know at the Grocery Story. Five Biggest Misleading Labels. Five Things to Tell Your Friends About…

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    'For That Little Girl in Kansas'

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on October 28, 2013

    On Monday, a family in Kansas gathered in a church to remember their little girl. Her name was Brooklyn and I didn't know her. But I read her story, thanks to Kansas friends. I can't stop thinking about her. Those of you who have already heard her story probably agree. Brooklyn was five and was riding in the combine with her dad last Wednesday, as he cut beans. Reports are mixed, saying that she was either leaning against or sleeping against the windshield. They hit a bump. The…

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    One Week Till 30 Days!

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on October 23, 2013

    The countdown is on and November 1 is just a few short days away. Slightly over a week, if you're counting. And I am, because that's when I'll kick off 30 Days, where I blog every single day of November. Just like in 2010 and 2011 and 2012. And I have just one question: are you in with me? Maybe you're a long-time agriculture or farm blogger. Maybe you're just getting started. Maybe you've been skeptically thinking about this blogging thing for awhile now. Either and…

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    Confessions of a Farmwife: Vol. 1

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on October 18, 2013

    It is with fear and trepidation that I roll this out: our first farmwives podcast! I mentioned it yesterday and here she is, in all her glory. Beautiful, right?! This is me, Emily Webel and DeAnna Thomas - three central Illinois farmwives - just shooting the breeze. We're talking about harvest, corn prices, frozen ham, funerals, popcorn and the UPS man. And some other stuff. Because those are all things that totally make sense together. And if we have, purely by happenstance, managed…

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    The Word of the Day: Podcast

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on October 16, 2013

    It's a banner day on the Spangler Farm. Harvest is ticking along. Fall is in the air. Guess how I spent my day: a) Recording a podcast b) Presiding over an ag editors conference call c) Hobbling d) All of the above If you chose d) All of the above, you are correct! You win! And there's no prize. So sorry. But, I'm hobbling. That is the unfortunate result of falling down stairs when you're 37. And of course, I chose to do this not in the…

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    M&Ms and Nanograms and Beef

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on October 10, 2013

    Two years ago, I watched Mike Martz explain marbling and steak selection to the first class of Illinois Farm Families Field Moms and for two years, I told anyone who would listen that it was one of the best demonstrations I'd ever seen. Until this year. Mike outdid himself. Last time around, he talked about hormones in steak and how a 3 oz. steak from a steer not treated with growth promotants (hormones) had 1.3 nanograms of estrogen in it; how a 3 oz. steak from a steer treated…

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    CAFO: "The Auschwitz of Livestock?"

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on September 30, 2013

    It wasn't exactly what we expected to hear at a farm tour sponsored by the Illinois Farm Families program. What we expected when George Kalogridis, an Indiana-based organic certification manager, stepped in front of the crowd of Chicago Field Moms and downstate (cattle raising) farm moms a couple weekends ago during our tour of the Larson/Martz grain and cattle operation, was a few details on what's allowed and not allowed on certified organic farms. Maybe a little on the types…

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    Heck No, GMO!

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on September 23, 2013

    Hands down, this is the best story I've heard in a long time. Some of our farmer friends took a vacation out east this summer and part of their trip included a jaunt through Boston. Somewhere in that city, on a lovely summer afternoon, they came across a stand set up by Stonyfield Organic and offering up free yogurt. They thought, "Hey, free yogurt. Our kids love yogurt." As they approached, the plot thickened. The Stonyfield folks had placards that read, "Heck…

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    All the Weather, All the Time

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on September 19, 2013

    Among the folks I got to meet up with at the Farm Progress Show included a long-delayed meeting with Jeff Hamlin, of the Climate Corporation. I've known Jeff for some time, having covered Climate Corp's weather insurance for the past couple years, and Jeff and I had been trying to get together this summer so he could introduce me to their remote weather monitoring system. It was, in a word, cool. And worth the time and the wait. But that's eight words. Some history…

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    Weekend Wrap-Up: 10 Farm Things

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on September 9, 2013

    1. My little family attended Salute to Ag Day at the University of Illinois football game this weekend. The game was great, if a little toasty, but the College of ACES tailgate was the best. Good people. Good times. 2. Friday night, my niece, Kaity, and I attended the ACES College Connection event, where they handed out various awards. Among them: the ACES Family Spirit award, which went to the Wright family. They were a farm family of 10 boys in the early part of the century, and sent…

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    Monsanto Did Not Pay Me to Write This

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on August 30, 2013

    Among many lovely conversations with readers at the Farm Progress Show this week, one exchange has had me thinking, ever since. He began with a statement: "You have written a couple columns about biotechnology." I confirmed that as true. He followed up with a question: "So you have to tow the party line? Or do you believe what you wrote?" I asked him to clarify and he responded, "Someone's paying you to write that? You don't really believe that…

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    #FPS13: Scenes

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on August 28, 2013

    As I write this, a group of editors are gathered in our Farm Progress Show Editorial Camper Trailer, which is nearly as glamorous as it sounds. But it's air conditioned, so we will take that. And it's equipped with cookies from Bobbi Vogt, wife of Willie Vogt. They are frozen and they are delicious. It's the end of the day but there's still work to be done. We're sorting photos, writing up new products, filing market copy. And let's be real: soaking up air…

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    Bound for the Farm Progress Show

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on August 25, 2013

    Hey, it's a beautiful week to head to the Farm Progress Show! Wait. What? It's some sort of irony, isn't it? Can't buy the heat units we need all summer, to the point that our field demo corn isn't even mature enough to harvest. And now during the week of the show, temperatures are forecasted to soar to the mid-90s. I don't even want to think about the heat index. The good news: there are more than a dozen air conditioned exhibit tents. And lots of…

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    Caroline Spangler, Kindergartner

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on August 20, 2013

    Dear Caroline, Today is your first day of kindergarten. You were so excited; I was so relieved that you were excited. It's your nature to ease into a situation (usually in my arms) before throwing yourself into the excitement of something new. And so we've spent time over the past year warming up to kindergarten. Whenever we were in the school building, I asked if you'd like to visit kindergarten and Aunt Coco (because how many kids are so fortunate to have their very own…

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    When Chicago Moms Talk Back

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on August 12, 2013

    With Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair set to kick off today and with a Chicago mom blog making the news recently, it feels like a good time to talk a little about Illinois Farm Families. It was three years ago on this day that five Illinois farm and commodity groups announced they had banded together to form the Illinois Farm Families program. At that time, it was a first-ever coalition of farm groups: Illinois Pork, Illinois Beef, Illinois Corn, Illinois Soybean and Illinois Farm…

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    Cowgirls and Beef Producers

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on July 31, 2013

    Last week during our county fair, Jenna stood in the ring for junior showmanship. She was pretty pumped about the whole thing, having won last year's Sunrise Showmanship class for first year showmen. We tried to lower her expectations, given that she was now a 10-year-old competing in a class for 10-13 year olds. It didn't work; she was in it to win it. Obviously. Fifteen kids walked into the ring for showmanship - a hair too many for the ring size. So judge Adam Dryer narrowed…

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    What Gets Us Through: Frozen Fruit

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on July 25, 2013

    This is a little silly, but it's fair week and we live on this stuff when it's hot. Like, a cup of frozen fruit might just be enough for dinner some nights. And so I share it with you, in honor of fairs and heat everywhere. Frozen fruit may be my husband's actual love language.   Frozen Fruit (catchy name, no?)   2 cans crushed pineapple, undrained 2 pkgs frozen sweetened strawberries, thawed 1 can fruit cocktail, undrained 1 12-oz can…

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    Ode to the Fair Board Member

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on July 23, 2013

    It's county fair season. Amen. I could just end with that, but that would be cutting short the tale of a rural event near and dear to my heart. I grew up at the county fairs in southern Illinois, showing Shorthorns at a dozen different fairgrounds. (Don't tell my Dad, but I may have lapped the race track in his dually at any number of them.) We slept in the barns, we flung water from the washracks. We turned a simple cattle rinsing into a full-scale water war. Then we drenched…

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    Is the Customer Always Right?

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on July 18, 2013

    At last month's Food Dialogues (recap here and here), North Carolina farmer Bo Stone told the story of a group of non-ag folks visiting his farm. They'd finished the tour and were about to leave when one individual looked at him and said, "Ok. Now, I think I understand this: the white eggs come from the hens, and the brown eggs come from the roosters. Right?" Uh. No. The story drew a laugh from the largely agricultural crowd, as it has each time I've shared it…

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    Remembering

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on July 4, 2013

    Seems like we spent much of yesterday working and running. A busy day at our house. July 3rd has come to be that way; I think it's the Lord's way of keeping me moving. But still thinking. On July 3, 2005, my best friend went into labor and never woke up. Amniotic embolism, they said. Rare, they said. So rare, it's the kind of event doctors and nurses remember for their careers. Can eight years really have passed? Are the babies we had together that year really eight years…

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    Fluffy Cows Equal Ag Ed Opportunity

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on July 2, 2013

    My latest column in the July Prairie Farmer takes a look at fluffy cows, and how our show cattle kids are on the front lines of consumer education this show season. If you haven't gotten yours in the mailbox yet, here's a look at what they might need to know this summer! Click here for the link, or read below. And good luck in the show ring! Fluffy Cows: They're Still Beef When I was a kid and my family was showing and selling Shorthorn cattle, we exhibited at the…

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    A Storm Rolls Over the Prairie

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on June 26, 2013

    It was shortly after dinner last night when I looked out and observed a rare light falling on the corn field. A summer storm, no doubt. So I grabbed my camera and ran outside. The rain gently fell, and within minutes, a front rolled in. And within a few more minutes, it was black, save for lightning. Here, the shots I grabbed as it all went down here on the…

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    Culver's Gets Farms and Food Right

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on June 24, 2013

    It was a busy weekend at the Spangler household and one that culminated in a trip to Champaign after church for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to a Nabor House board meeting, Monsters University and a family photo shoot with my new favorite photographer. The trip also included a swing through Culver's for lunch, which, given their burgers and frozen custard, is already one of our favorite places. And then we looked at the kid's meal bag. It was awesome…

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    Who Are the Farmers, Anyway?

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on June 20, 2013

    You know what makes a great evening? Good food, good company and good conversation. And I found all three, in spades, Wednesday evening. I was invited to a dinner with a group of food and farm bloggers, following the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Food Dialogues in Chicago. We dined at the Little Market American Brasserie in Chicago and, gathered around a big hearty table, the food was delightful. And complex, if you spend much time thinking about how it got there. Which is exactly…

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    Strawberry Pie. Amen.

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on June 14, 2013

    It's a good week in Illinois: the strawberries are ready for picking! We've been out once already and brought home five gallons, which have already been stemmed and made into approximately four batches of freezer jam, two pies, one fruit salad and two loaves of strawberry bread. I feel some homemade strawberry ice cream coming on, too, I'm just saying. Illinois specialty growers are a good folks and patches like the one we go to, Gillam's in Canton, are run by…

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  • Holly Spangler

    Fifteen Years on the Farm

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on June 13, 2013

    Fifteen years ago today, the corn was planted. And so were the beans, but only barely. Fifteen years ago today, my husband and I married in a country church in southern Illinois. It was glorious, except for the planting season. John had finished beans on the Tuesday before, then drove to my parents' farm in Albion for our wedding a couple days later. Today, fifteen years later, we've finished planting everything - the first time - and are patching in some replant. But we…

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    What to Get a Farmer on Father's Day

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on June 12, 2013

    So you may have noticed, Father's Day is this Sunday. And if you're like me, you may have seen those random internet gift guides offering up ideas for Dad: ties! Golf stuff! Man jewelry! Tech gadgets! And then, if you're like me, you realize that none of that is appropriate for your farmer husband. Or farmer father. My dad doesn't golf, he doesn't do technology, he doesn't grill, and he really doesn't "need" anything. My husband doesn't golf…

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    Big Cattle Show Wins for the Little Cattle Girl

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on June 10, 2013

    Well. We had our first cattle show of the season last week. It was not terrible. In fact, it went pretty well, despite the craziness of trying to plant beans in the hours before and after. Jenna showed her heifer and won her class, which gave her a major boost of confidence. Her steer was up next, and apparently while the rest of us were at the show ring watching my niece, Kaity, show her heifer, the steer got a little, ahem, excited in the chute and my brother-in-law may or may not…

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    Show Day

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on June 7, 2013

    It's a big day at the Spangler house: our first cattle show of the season. Also, it's a little nuts around here. Yesterday, Jenna and I washed, brushed, blew out, bedded, packed, cleaned and loaded all afternoon. And bless her heart, she loved it. Then we flew in the house at 5:10 p.m. - utterly covered in sweat, dirt, hair and manure - and all four of us were showered and out the door to Vacation Bible School by 5:35. I feel like there should be some kind of award for that. And…

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    Farm Boy Friday

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on May 31, 2013

    Once upon a time, it stopped raining, and I was able to get in my car, drive to a farm, and shoot some photos. It was glorious. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, the clouds were fluffy. It was just two days ago. And a little farm boy named Chase got out of school early. Just in time for the Prairie Farmer photo shoot. And if you're feeling a bit down today - maybe you still have a lot to plant? And it's still raining? And there's no end in sight? Take a look at this little…

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    Soggy, Saturated, Soaked

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on May 27, 2013

    A disclaimer: I am not complaining. Really. These are just the facts. Since Saturday, we've gotten 6 inches of rain at our house. The gauge at the farm three miles up the road records 8 inches. Since Saturday. John planted 330 acres of beans on Friday. A personal best. But then it got pounded by 6-8 inches of rain. Not good. The Spoon River is out. Again. This is maybe three times this spring? Four? The National Weather Service reports the heaviest flooding this weekend…

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    The Late May Craziness

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on May 23, 2013

    A list, because: 1. It's the last full week of school. Which means we're running to town every day for class plays, assemblies, lunches, baseball, carnivals, and more. Actual school work is rapidly winding down. We're staying out too late in the evenings because it's nice and we don't want to come inside, which is fine and dandy except for the school bedtimes. The kids are so done. And so are we. But still, we have two more days this week, one full day next week…

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    Lotsa Corn Planting, Little Sleeping

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on May 20, 2013

    Wait. What Day Is It? I'm sitting at our 4-H meeting, which is really the only way I know it's Monday. The past week has been a blur. As of last Monday, May 13, we hadn't planted a seed. We'd had 14 inches of rain in the preceding month. Rivers had been out. Some of them twice. We'd been stuck in a three-week pattern of three decent days, then four rainy ones. Never enough time for anything to dry out. Temperaments were, shall we say, running a little ragged…

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  • Holly Spangler

    Farming: It's the Hard that Makes It Great

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on May 6, 2013

    As a writer and a farmer, there are some stories that will just never make it to print. Some are too personal; others can't be told without offending someone. If you farm with family, you surely know just what I mean about either case! Others would raise the ire of the farm safety folks, who do good work every single day but who would be astounded that some of us ever made it through our childhoods. Still others, I just never thought I would tell. That's the case with my…

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    Problem Solving 101 for Farm Kids

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on May 2, 2013

    Yesterday, I was in hammer-down mode to get my flower beds cleaned off, ornamental grasses cut down, roses, trimmed, etc., etc., before the impending cold and rain set in (again). After the kids got home from school, eight-year-old Nathan assessed the situation and sensed an opportunity. "Mom. Do you want me to hook up my wagon to my four-wheeler and haul this stuff off?" And just like that, it was as if eight years of food, water and shelter had finally paid off. I…

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    Flash Drives and Parts Runs

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on April 29, 2013

    Time was, when you had a breakdown in the field, somebody made a parts run. Like the time when I was a teenager and Dad sent me to town for a part, and I wound up back at McLean Implement three times because I came home with the wrong thing. But I learned the difference between male and female couplers. And that you really can't just guess. This morning, my husband went out to spray. First decent day back in the field in weeks. He ran in at lunch and chased me away from the computer…

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    GMO-No: Farmers Are Not Stupid

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on April 26, 2013

    You know, some days I just get tired. Tired of the accusations, tired of the misinformation, tired of the same old tired arguments. Monsanto's corporate agenda is driving takeover of the world's seed supplies. Farmers can no longer save seeds - and coincidentally the price of corn, soy and cotton seeds have skyrocketed. I personally hate anything treated with Pesticides or any other chemical and GMO foods of any kind. They stack more kinds of herbicides in sprays…

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  • Holly Spangler

    The Rain We Couldn't Buy Last Year

    My Generation

     by Holly Spangler
     on April 23, 2013

    Last Wednesday, I spent the better part of the day driving home from Kansas City, where I'd gone for a board meeting of the American Ag Editors Association. I sat with friends over breakfast chai that morning and we discussed the weather that was moving through, and I casually joked that I was probably going to wind up driving along with the front all the way home. As it turns out, that wasn't so funny when it actually happened. I drove with my wipers on high for a solid two…

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