Wednesday, April 1, 2015

30 Day Protein Challenge

Every once in a while it's a good idea to take a step back and look at and think about what you're eating. About thirty minutes ago I learned about the Beef It's What's For Dinner 30 Day Protein Challenge and I decided rather spur of the moment to do it. This is not an April Fool's Day Joke.


Even though the challenge is being put on by Beef It's What's For Dinner, the challenge itself is not beef-specific. Rather, it's about simply eating a balanced diet that includes 25-30 grams of lean protein in each meal. I decided to do it for a few reasons. First, I really don't actually have an idea of how much protein I eat in a day, so it will be nice to simply learn more about my eating habits as they currently stand. Maybe I'll learn something and be able to make a smarter shift in my diet. Second, my family ranches, so I'm all about learning to find new ways to eat beef as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Third, I think it's a good idea to be mindful of what we are eating, so journaling on and off for a month will likely help with that.

I've already taken the first step toward completing the challenge. I printed off the calendar they have on their website and I'm starting this first week with simply journaling about what I'm eating, noting how much protein, and noting how I feel after I eat what I eat.  Since I also love fitness, and fitness and fuel go hand in hand, I'm also going to journal about my fitness activities and how/if they are being affected by what I am eating.
Throughout the challenge, I'll be blogging about my progress and what I've learned, as well as hopefully posting some images of protein-rich balanced meals I'm eating, and how I'm fueling my fitness and recovery. You can follow along here on the blog, or on my FB page, or on my Instagram, which is (at)katie(dot)r(dot)bangs. I'm excited to give this challenge a try and to share what I'm learning with each of you!

Think you're interested in participating in the 30 Day Protein Challenge, too? Click on over to Beef It's What's For Dinner to get started! There's no cost to participate. Just like anything else, you'll get out of it what you put into it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Family 5K!

For the third time this year, our family is participating in Shape Up Montana. Each week with SUM, there is a new Weekly Challenge that either focuses on improving your eating habits, mental calmness or fortitude, or physical fitness. This past week, the Weekly Challenge was to participate in the SUM Virtual 5K. We were to print off our race bibs from the SUM website, and just cover the distance at some point during the week by walking, jogging, or running. Since four of our family member teammates live close to one another, we decided to do it together as if we were actually holding a 5K. My friend Stephanie decided to join us, too, so that brought the participants of our 5K up to a total of five people- me, Jeff, Tom, Carol, and Stephanie! Yay!
Group photo before the run.
Not pictured: Stephanie and Harvey.
Even though it was a casual family event, I wanted to run it as if I were racing. It's really a challenge for me to participate in races this time of year, mostly due to being busy with track season. Many races are on Saturdays but so are track meets. I do have one race potentially on my docket for late in April in Kalispell, and another late in May near Ulm, MT, but I still wanted to get a benchmark time to see where I'm at. I've been sort of maintaining fitness over the winter months, and I really wanted to just see where I'm at, so I tried to run it hard.

Our route was an out-and-back from Tom and Carol's house. Around here, roads and fields are easy gauges of distance, so we knew exactly where a mile and a half from the house was for our turnaround spot, then we just added an extra 100 meters or so at the end to make it 3.1 miles. The route was pretty flat with kind of a low-grade gradual hump in the middle of the first mile and last mile.

Even though this was just for fun, I still wanted to run hard and this "race" did have some challenges.

It was difficult to try to race with only four other participants. Part of what keeps me motivated to challenge myself in a race is picking off people ahead of me one by one and "reeling them in." That was a challenge with so few people in this event.

Another challenge was the course itself. Yes, we knew the exact distances and where we were at all times, but the fact that it was out and back and really flat meant you could see every other point of the course from just about anywhere on the course. It felt like the turnaround was never getting any closer, even though I could see it from pretty much the start line. Same thing with the finish. I felt like I had to be really mentally tough.

Lastly, the weather was extremely windy and it was also the warmest day we had so far this spring. The wind was a headwind the whole first half of the race and really tough to buck. I just kept reminding myself that I'd be flying when I turned around! I was faster in the second half, but then I noticed the heat more, which was also unpleasant. Again, mentally challenging!

Despite all of the mental challenges of this race, I still ran a time of 27:01 over 3.1 miles. For me, this is about 30 seconds off of my "new" PR. I ran a 5K in about 24:30 in college but then got away from running for several years; my PR for more recent years is 26:32. I feel really good about my time. The conditions were not great and this was the first "race" of the season for me, so to be only about 30 seconds off my PR is pretty good to me. I'll take it!

Everyone seemed to enjoy getting outside and being active, even if it was windy. Tom and Carol both walked the course and Jeff and Stephanie ran it. This was actually Stephanie's first 5K in which she ran the majority of the race. I'm glad we could make it a positive experience for her! Oh, and Harvey and Abby (dogs) participated as well. Harvey was really confused when we all ended up going at different paces. He also waited by the turnaround to make sure everyone turned around and headed back toward home. He was NOT leaving anyone behind!
Not pictured: Stephanie, Harvey, Abby.
Most of all, I just loved that this was a little event we could do together as a family. I'd love it if we can make it bigger and have more people or more of our family members present at the very least. I do have a wild hair of an idea to host a bigger 5K event out here called 5k on the Farm and have been tossing the possibility around with Jeff and the fam around here. The concept in my mind is that people would come out to our farm and participate in the 5K (and we'd also likely have a one mile fun run for kids), then people can stick around for a grilled hamburger and tour the farm. I believe that fitness and farming can go together and this is an event that can solidify that idea.

Everyone is excited about the idea, so now I just need to put my organizational hat on and see about getting it done! One of the biggest obstacles I see is simply getting people to come out to our very remote farm. We live about 30 minute's drive from the nearest (teeny tiny) town. If you heard of an event like this in your area, would you be willing to drive out and participate? If you live near here, would you want to do it? What do you think about the 5k on the Farm concept?

Lastly, as a member of Team Beef Montana, I have to share this article from Runners World on the topic of Healthy Meets for Runners. That's right- BEEF is right on top of the list as a healthy, lean protein source to help fuel your race and recovery!
Media: Meaty Issues
Image by Dick Patrick of www.runenrsworld.com.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

From Track Meets to Food Tasting!

Yesterday was a jam-packed day for me. My day began with the track team at our first meet of the season, and ended with hundreds of Hi-Line friends and family at a local event called Men Who Cook for Women who "Wine." Long, busy day, but so fun! Read on!

Track Meet: Cut Bank Booster Club Invitational
Yesterday was our first track meet of the season. We woke up really early (for me, the alarm went off at 4:15 a.m.) and drove on the team bus to Cut Bank, MT for the meet. The North Star contingency included 16 student-athletes, three coaches, and one bus driver. Believe it or not, we are actually a large team for Class C in Montana. We were actually missing four athletes yesterday, too, including three seniors. We got to Cut Bank at about 7:30 a.m., got camp set up, and got the team warmed up, then pretty soon the meet was underway.
The wind was blowing when we got camp set up, but not nearly like it was blowing when we took it down later!
When we began competition, there was a steady wind but it wasn't too bad. By about noon, the wind had picked up considerably to about a constant 40 mph with gusts up to about 60 mph (I learned this from watching the news later. I don't just innately have a feel for wind speeds....)  We ended up leaving the meet early around 1:15, with several events still left. Our head coach decided it was just too windy and no one was likely to have a good performance in those conditions. We all agreed and packed up as quickly as we could.
Team warmup. :)
Even though the conditions were not ideal all day long, and we ended up leaving early, I think it was still definitely worth the trip. We had some really great performances, and even some All-Time-Bests for a few kids. I really have to commend our athletes for their positive attitudes all day long, too. I didn't hear much complaining at all. In fact, several people were so excited about some of their successes, they wanted to keep the success rolling and they were disappointed that they were not able to compete in some of their later-on events. It's a pretty good group of kids. One that I am inspired by every day. Next meet is in Cut Bank (again) on Thursday, if the weather is good.
Sweet swishy-sweats!! 

Men Who Cook for Women Who "Wine"
Typically referred to simply as Men Who Cook. This is a unique annual fundraiser wherein groups of men have booths of food they have cooked themselves, and wine and beer are also served. The cooks are all locals to the area and are competing against one another. Attendees sample food from each booth and can vote on their favorites. There are also games such as Bingo and Heads or Tails, door prizes, raffles, and live and silent auctions, with all the prizes and auction items donated by local people or businesses. The event is held in the Hingham Gym and typically draws a big crowd. I think last night there was probably at least 500 people, but that's just a guess. The money raised goes into a fund to help cover costs for families and individuals who have to travel for cancer treatments.

Jeff and I go to this nearly every year, as do Tom and Carol, and many, many, many of our Hi-Line friends. Stephanie joined us this year, too. It's a fun, social event that brings many people together each year for a good cause. And the food is really good, too! Even though I was pretty tired from getting up so early and being out in the wind a track meet all day, I was able to rally and put on my game face for Men Who Cook. There was some really great food this year and nice auction items. It was fun to see so many people! And this is an even that is so unique, I feel. We had a great time!
Photo by Stephanie. This plate is showing two different kids of mac and cheese, the cucumber and tomato items I described above, something that was sort of like a smokey jambalaya, a lemon souffle, and a coconut almond item...The Chinese takeout box had some fried rice and a sesame chicken wing.
 We had to get two plates FULL in order to try everything!!!
Featuring another type of chicken wing, stuffed chicken and pork roll-ups, a few types of bbq/smoked meat dishes, and a sausage and grapes soup-like dish, shrimp cocktail, stuffed mushroom caps... more items that weren't even in this picture! Sooo much food!!!
In my opinion, some of the best food items this year were the small bites that Justin Miller's group made, including a cucumber-smoked salmon bite, a tiny caprese salad tomato bite, and a Moose Drool (beer) chocolate truffle. I also really enjoyed the prosciutto wrapped pork tenderloin with apple chutney, and some of the many smoked and bbq meat options. 

Even though it was a long day, it was a good day. Also, on Friday, Jeff, Tom, Carol, Stephanie, and I ran in a little Family 5K. I'll do a separate post on that soon! Stay tuned!!! 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Thankful Thursday ~ I love Track!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Yes, for the second straight week, I'm delayed in getting my Thankful Thursday post up on the blog. But, you'll live, right?

In case some of you didn't already know this, I am an Assistant Track & Field Coach here at our local high school. Track season officially began on March 9. I had a few days of practice before whisking off to Wichita. This week has been really great for getting into the rhythm of track practice as a part of my day.

With the track season upon us, I am super busy and my days are lengthened by about two hours each day for practice. It would be easy to look at practice as another commitment, another thing I have to do that takes time away from being home. But that's not how I see it. I love running and I love track. But more importantly, I love spending time with the wonderful young adults I have the privilege of coaching. I try to find some time each practice to tell at least one athlete that I'm glad they're there, thank them for being on the team, and tell them something specific that they do or say that brightens my day.

I think this positive energy returns back to me, and to all of us on the team.

Last Wednesday, when I arrived back from Wichita, my flight had landed at 1:30 p.m. and I was tasked with driving back to Rudyard (about a two hour drive) and hopefully making it in time for track practice. I found out via email earlier that day that our Head Coach and another Assistant Coach were both unable to be at practice that day, and that our third Assistant had a meeting after school and wasn't sure if he'd be there either. Our Junior High Head Coach had said he was going to be there, but then within minutes of practice beginning, called me and said he probably wasn't going to make it either.

So there I was, after a long day of travel, feeling tired, grumpy, and let's be honest, really kind of just wanting to go home, but knowing that I couldn't skip practice. I was the only coach who could be there.

I walked into the school, and immediately bumped into about three of our track athletes. Right away they called out to me, "Hey Coach Bangs!" "We missed you!" and "Are we doing yoga today? I hope we're doing yoga today!"  I couldn't help smiling and immediately my grumpiness and sleepiness waned. Their friendly hellos reminded me that I was there for them.

Not a practice has gone by since that day when at least one athlete hasn't specifically smiled at me, or asked me how I  was doing that day. One girl seems to have made it her goal to specifically give me a huge smile and wave right when I walk into practice each day. It truly makes my day every time.

These kids are so, so friendly and they work so, so hard during practice. As their coach, I'm proud and honored to be part of the team and to get to spend time with each of them for a few hours each day. I think having a good, positive, healthy coach-to-athlete relationship benefits all of us and the team as a whole. If we're invested in the coach/athlete relationships we have and if the athletes are invested in the relationships they have with their teammates, they'll continue to want to work hard for each other, and for their coaches. In turn, I continue to want to work harder to be a better coach for them.

We have our first track meet tomorrow in Cut Bank, MT. The weather is supposed to be iffy but the kids and the coaches are excited and ready to start competing! Wish us luck. Today we handed out our team uniforms. I was reminded of this quote from a fierce female runner that I love, Kate Grace:

A team is more than a uniform. It's encouragement and support before and after competition. It's frequent interaction, about running, but also just about the daily grind. It's friendly competition - pushing each other to the next level in workouts. It's running together, cheering on friends together at the water-stop. - See more at: http://www.oiselle.com/blog/open-letter-flock#sthash.rFwCPCm1.dpuf

Those few sentences sum up our track team pretty well, and I couldn't be more excited or thankful to be part of this group now for my third season of coaching.
Taking a stretch break after running timed 400s. 
Even though track season is a long season and huge time commitment, especially when one lives as far away from town as I do, it's something I look forward to each year. I'm grateful for the people I get to spend my time with after school at practice, on long bus rides, and at some of our marathon meets. These kids have a positive effect on my outlook and they teach me something every day. If you're a past or present track athlete that I've worked with, thank you for being you! Keep being awesome!

Who are some people who have a positive impact on your daily outlook? Who inspires you to work harder? Who can brighten your day with a smile and a wave?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Calving 2015 Update

I feel like I've barely been home lately between going to Chico for the MFU Women's Conference and then on to Wichita for the NFU Convention. This past weekend I was ACTUALLY HOME. Aside from heading to town Saturday morning for track practice, I didn't leave the farm. It was nice to spend some time with my husband, get some housework done, and spend some time with the cows and calves. Today's post is going to be pretty photo oriented, with lots of images of cute animals, including Harvey the vizsla, and lots of cows and calves. I hope you can handle this!
Benjamin!
Let's start with this guy and just get him right out there. He's a gorgeous, throwback Simmental calf- splotchy red and white. He's actually pretty big for being only a few days old, too. Now's the test to see how observant you are. It's hard to see, but he actually has a cast on his back left leg. In the first day of his life, he accidentally got stepped on by a cow and his lower leg broke. Tom took him to the vet in Havre where they gave him a cast. Then, to keep it waterproof, Tom and Jeff improvised by covering it with a plastic grocery sack and securing it into place with electrical tape.

While at the vet, the vet assistant thought the calf was pretty darn cute, which he is, and decided that his name should be Benjamin. Needless to say, it stuck. He's already pretty used to people and loves to be scratched on his neck. He's our pal. He's doing great and we expect that his broken leg will heal quickly. He already hops around pretty well, just like a normal, healthy calf.
Here's a cute, healthy little guy!

With the weather as nice as it has been pretty much all throughout calving, the process has been going very well. Everyone is staying healthy, and cows and calves are all happy. They are really loving basking in the warm sunshine! 

The calves are particularly curious and really can't figure out what to make of Harvey. They love to get close to him and try to see what he's all about. Harvey, for his part, is cautious around the larger animals but feels safer around calves, for the most part. Here, you can see him close to Carol, with another calf getting close to check him out. 
Harvey sticks close to Carol, while she takes a photo. 
This is a photo Carol took of the calf coming up to get a look at Harv. 
 Harvey definitely feels safer when he's near a human...
Another calf comes up to check out Harvey, while a cow looks on from behind Carol.

Here, Harvey is anchored to my knee.
 As of this morning, we had 67 calves born and about thirty cows yet to calve. At this point, they'll continue to sort of taper off. Today and tomorrow the weather is supposed to be cooler and rainy, so we'll see if the pressure change causes more cows to go into labor, as sometimes happens.
Here's Jeff and Harvey kneeling down to let some calves approach.

More calves! The little one curled up on the left side of the image was so content to lay in the sunshine! 
 When we had walked out to check out the cows and calves, we noticed right away that one cow was in the beginning stages of labor. We left her alone for a little while, and when we checked back later, it looked like she was struggling. Sometimes the hips of the calf sort of get stuck inside and the mama needs a little assistance. At this point, if the calf is still encased in fluid, he can actually suffocate. Jeff watched pretty close and at one point helped pull the calf just a little bit with his bare hands. The mama took a short rest and then gave one last push and the calf was freed. Just in time. But, Jeff was prepared with the pulling straps, if they were needed.

It's pretty cool to watch the miracle of birth. I know that it may not be for everyone, but I think it's pretty neat. Carol actually took video of the whole thing, but we agreed that it may be too graphic to post on the blog. What do you think, readers? Is that a video you'd like to see, or would it be too much?

We left the new pair alone for a while more so they could bond and the mama could clean her calf.  Below was the scene a little while later:
Cows bond initially with their calves by licking and cleaning them. 

I know I've said this before, but it's so great to live and work on a family ranch. Jeff and I are so lucky to contribute to agriculture in this way and to carry on a family tradition. There's nothing like calving time to feel the rewards of hard work.
Thanks to Carol for the photo!
 I've always wanted to do a sort of tongue-in-cheek Farm Girl Fashion post on the blog. It would be modeled after a high fashion post that fashion divas do on their fashion blogs, only it'd be about what we farm girls wear to be practical when working outside. I think my outfit above embodies that spirit! haha! You just have to love the Carhartt Jacket, old jeans, and mucky overshoes look!

Photo by Carol.
 And now a short infographic on beef, thanks to Ryan Goodman at Agriculture Proud.  He has a pretty well-written blog and an interesting point of view on agriculture and particularly on ranching. If you like ag blogs, definitely stop by. He actually had this image posted on his Agriculture Proud FB page the other day. He and I are both members of Team Beef Montana (although we've never run in the same race. Montana is a big state), which is a group of ranchers and beef producers who also run and race as a way to stay in shape. As a Team Beef member, I am enthusiastic that lean beef is a quality energy source that helps fuel my run and recovery. When Ryan posted this graphic, I wanted to share it with my readers.
On our ranch, we sell our calves in the fall and they are typically finished on grain. The animals that we keep to finish for ourselves are also finished on grain. There is a growing market for grass fed and I would be interested in pursuing this. I'd also love to pursue more direct marketing of our beef, or selling directly to consumers. Lots to think about for the future on that topic. 

Regardless, our animals are treated very well and we really do love our cows and calves. They have unlimited pasture to graze on and always have access to clean, fresh running water. I'm proud of the work we do with our small herd of cattle. 

I'm also proud of our dog, and he is quite pleased to be himself, as you can see below...
Harvey is guarding the porch! You may not cross unless you pet him first!
I hope you enjoyed the photos! Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Where to Run in Wichita, KS!

Seems like I am travelling more and more these days, all over the country! As a fitness enthusiast and a runner, sometimes it's very difficult to fit in a run or a workout while travelling, especially to conventions and meetings. Not so at my most recent convention, the National Farmers Union Convention in Wichita, KS. I was in Wichita for four days and sneaked in runs and walks outside every day. When I recently saw that Jessie over on The Right Fits started a series called Where Should I Run? on her blog, I knew I could contribute a post about where to run in Wichita!
River Walk Trail in Wichita, KS! 
The convention I attended was held at the Hyatt Regency Wichita. It was a very, very nice, brand new hotel situated right on the Arkansas River, which bisects the city of Wichita. I know I would not have had the opportunity to get nearly as much outdoor fitness into my trip if it weren't for staying at this hotel. Even before leaving, I had scoped the hotel website for the availability of a fitness center. They had a nice gym on site, but they also advertised right on the website that the Arkansas River has a really nice paved walking and jogging trail along its banks. They even post a map of the pathway system right on their website, and you can view by clicking here.  It's a PDF you can even download onto your phone and take with you on your run. The small portion they show on their map is 7 miles, but I know there are many, many offshoots from what is depicted. (I have an old, not-so-smart phone, so I don't have any fancy apps that map my run, and I can't seem to figure out how to get the PDF to actually copy and paste onto my blog, so you'll have to live with clicking on the link. Sorry... :/)
These steps lead directly to the River Walk from the Hyatt Regency, which was my home for the time I was in Wichita.
I began each of my runs from my hotel, but if you're looking for a place to park, I'd suggest starting off at the science museum along the west bank of the river.  It's called Exploration Place and it looked like a nice science museum and planetarium. It also looked like they had free parking and it puts you right at a bridge and trail access. Easy.
That building with awesome architecture that's sort of centered in this picture, right on the river, is the science museum. There is parking adjacent to the building, with easy access to the path.
Sunday afternoon was the most wide-open my schedule was during the convention so I decided this would be the best day to head out for a run. With the hotel literally steps away from the River Trail, it was so easy to walk right out the door and get started. I did about four miles, running up one side of the river, to the Keeper of the Plains Statue, crossing, then heading farther north a bit. Then I turned around and headed south on the west bank of the river and back to the hotel.
Keeper of the Plains Statue, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon!
This trail is a pretty great place to run! I was very impressed with the excellent signage and maps along both sides. The trail linked several monuments and museums so that a person could walk (or run!) among them and get quite a tour and taste of the area. I passed the Veteran's Memorial, a really neat looking science museum, and of course, the Keeper of the Plains statue. If a person had more time or was staying in Wichita longer, it would be great to explore some of the many offshoots of the river trail system. A quick internet search showed several area running stores, and I'm sure any of them would be able to point people in the right direction. Alas, I did not have time to visit them myself.
Some of the signage along the path.
There was also a great abundance of people using the path on this nice Sunday. From people walking their dogs to riding bikes, enjoying picnics, and checking out the statue, this was the place to be.
One of the many bridges that cross the rivers. I love the bridge design!
The wildlife was definitely NOT afraid of humans!
Speaking of the statue... it was really cool! It is a 44 foot tall metal statue located at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. It was about a mile from my hotel, and accessed by bridges from either bank of the river. The statue was erected in 1974 to commemorate the nation's bicentennial, and was designed by a Native American artist. There were little paths all around it and information about Native American culture. Definitely worth a minute or two to stop and look around! If nothing else, the statue is very striking! I took several photos.
More views of Keeper of the Plains.
It was so great to get my legs stretched and moving during a long week of convention activities, which is mostly a lot of sitting. Monday afternoon, my friend Joellyn and I went out for another short run again, enjoying the nice weather. We ran a short two-mile loop up to the Keeper of the Plains, across the river, and back. It was definitely windier on Monday, but the sunshine was warm and the passers-by friendly. We had a great time and it was nice to catch up a little bit, while being active! I so rarely get to run with another person that it was great just to have some company!
Me and Joellyn, along the Arkansas River!
So, I know that this isn't the most in-depth post ever for where to run in Wichita, but it definitely gives a starting point for anyone who is looking for a place to begin.  I highly recommend the river trail. It was clean, organized, well-trafficked during the day, and comfortable. Great to be on the river and not to have to worry about cars and traffic, and lovely to enjoy the people watching and animal watching. If you're ever in Wichita, take a jog on this path!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

NFU Convention in Wichita, KS

Did you have to take U.S. Government when you were in high school? I distinctly remember struggling to sit through that class my senior year, interjecting the occasional eyeroll into my teacher's boring spiel about different branches of government or whatever the topic of the day may have been. I was probably thinking ahead to my next track meet, or what I would be doing with friends over the weekend. Anything but considering how our government operated. I didn't enjoy that class and I struggled to see how I fit in to the success of the American political system as a seventeen year old in Iowa. 

Now, I wish I could go back to high school government class and re-learn everything I've forgotten! Now, I'm witnessing how government and political process works first-hand. 

For about four days earlier this week, I was in Wichita, KS at the National Farmers Union Convention. I was representing Montana Farmers Union as a Delegate, elected at our own state convention last fall. If you want to read the speech I delivered at our State convention, you can read it HERE.   I gave the speech as sort of a wrap up to the experience Jeff and I had with the FUE program we participated in, but it had the unintended result of working as somewhat of a campaign speech that got me elected as a Delegate to the National convention. 

In fact, our chief lobbyist for Montana Farmers Union had approached my husband to ask if he would consider being a delegate. He declined, as the trip is always in the middle of calving, and said that I would probably be interested, which I was. So that's how I got my name in the ring. There were five of us who ran and we each stood up and told a bit about ourselves and why we thought we would be a good Delegate. Out of the five of us who ran, three of us were elected to attend National along with two of our MFU Board members, our State President, and a Youth Delegate. Our State Membership Director was also present for the trip. It was an awesome group! 
Group photo of the Montana Delegation, taken at the Evening for Education Gala.
Pretty good looking bunch!
I had attended the previous year's NFU Convention in Santa Fe as part of the FUE Leadership Training agenda, but it was completely different to attend as a Delegate. The main responsibility I held as a Delegate was to participate in the adoption of National Farmers Union Policy. The Montana Delegation as a whole, held the task of ensuring our state policies were concurrent with national policy and recommend changes if need be. We were able to stand up to the microphone and voice our own opinions as we saw fit, and also voted on key issues throughout the proceedings. 
Laura Ginsburg was a member of the Rules and Credentials Committee in addition to serving as a Delegate.
Several of our Montana Delegation approached the mike and stated a few words here and there, whether in favor or opposition of a particular change or section of policy. It was really cool to be part of democracy happening, and truly from a grassroots level. I also found that I really enjoyed utilizing Parliamentary Procedure, and observing how that works. 
My dear friend, Bryan Klabunde of Minnesota, takes to the mic to discuss issues pertaining to raw and unpasteurized milk.
Way to go, Bryan!
Another Montanan, Jake Fagan, and I also met with the Next Generation Advisory Council for the first time while in Whichita. We were both selected to be on this national committee that will advise the NFU board on how to attract new, young, and beginning farmers to Farmers Union, train them for leadership, and keep them involved, etc. It was the very first meeting of a brand new committee, so the first meeting was spent largely going over logistics. We are still refining exactly what we as a committee will do and we're even planning on changing the name of the group. Nevertheless, it was so exciting to be in a room of creative, passionate people who really have a thing for farming and working together! Totally inspiring. I can't wait for this group to continue moving forward. 

The biggest takeaway I had from this past week was simply that when focusing on what we all have in common, we can do great things. Bringing people together who are passionate about agriculture and Rural America is a good thing.  It was also simply wonderful to see some of the people who I have gotten to know through FUE and Farmers Union, who have become very dear friends, and also to get to know some new friends even better- Laura and Jake, for example. I literally have not laughed so much in a long, long time as I did while in Wichita, and that's due to spending quality time with some funny, amazing, intelligent people. I returned home feeling charged up and empowered to continue moving forward within this organization, and knowing that I have a strong network of friends throughout the country who feel the same way. 
NFU President Roger Johnson addresses the Delegation before proceedings began.
The other people are members of the National Policy Committee.
The Montana Delegation was seated in the front row, so this was my view for the entirety of policy debate! Awesome to be right in the action!!
When I got back to school on Wednesday afternoon, just in time for track practice, I was feeling excited about how the previous four days had gone but also very tired from travel. It also turned out that I would be the only coach available to coach about 20 high school kids at practice that day. I began practice by apologizing for having missed so many days of practice and explained where I had been. One kid asked me, incredulously, "You mean you were, like, doing government stuff?" And I replied by explaining that at the time, Government was not a class I enjoyed, but now I was sure glad I had that background because it gave me the framework to make this convention the success that it was. 
What can I say-- I'm kind of a big deal. ;)