Thursday, September 25, 2014

Goodbye, Girl Friday

Our harvest and seeding help this year was my dear friend Stephanie, or Stennie. If you don't remember my introductory post about her, check it out HERE.  She was truly our Girl Friday while she was here- helping us out with a variety of tasks, and always with a cheerful smile. Tonight is her last night on the Hi-Line. Tomorrow, we're driving down to Bozeman, then sending her on the plane back to Iowa on an early Saturday morning flight. Stennie was kind enough to write a reflection on her time working and playing with us over the past two months. So, it's Goodbye, Girl Friday, Harvest Help, Dear Friend... Goodbye, Stennie (for now!) Read on... 

“Take corners in 2nd gear with a load. A slow idle in 3rd is ok if the truck’s empty. Take the Goldstone Road intersection in 3rd whether empty or full.” I repeated to myself Jeff’s suggestions as I drove the red truck back to Katie and Jeff’s yard from their spring wheat fields north of the correction line. The truck was full: I was hauling about 24,000 pounds of wheat, just harvested. It was up to me to know how to stop the truck with that load, not putting too much faith in the brakes, needing to know when to downshift for the engine to help slow the momentum. Shifting gears in these trucks has been a full upper body movement for me. In the red truck I had to lean forward to shove the gear into 2nd, feeling for it to click a few times as it settles into place.  
Happily now, almost two months later, driving the red truck has become much more intuitive. I do still struggle to find 1st gear in Esther and only yesterday did I finally beat my previously max speed of 17 mph in the tandem. Though I can be hard on myself, I want to celebrate what I have learned. At first, each truck’s idiosyncrasies were overwhelming. The red truck was simple: start and stop with a turn of the key. Add a step in Esther: make sure the “engine stop” knob is pushed in before turning the key to start; pull that knob to shut off the engine when done. As for the tandem… start by turning the key, then pushing the black button, then let the air build, then push in the yellow knob to turn off the air brakes … At least now I can successfully move any one of them to where they need to be, albeit some more quickly than others.
This truck is named Esther. 
I’ve enjoyed driving truck for both harvest and seeding. I appreciated the rhythm of a harvest day, from washing combine windows first thing in the morning to learning to anticipate when the combine driver would have cut enough wheat or barley to need to dump into my truck. I was excited and intimidated to “unload on the go,” which means drive alongside the combine so they could continue cutting while unloading into my truck, but I managed it. Then, once my truck was full, I would have to find my way to whichever bin I was supposed to unload into, driving carefully, gaining confidence in my truck driving skills and mental map of the area with each trip.
Once I reached the grain bin, I would back the truck up to the auger. (I remember one of my first days here I asked Katie what an auger was when she told me we had to help Tom move one. I’m pretty sure her answer was “Oh, you’ll see.” During harvest I’d see them in my sleep, just about.) Once the truck was the proper distance from the auger, I’d turn on the truck’s PTO to tilt its box up. Next, I would turn on the tractor, which powered the auger. Then I’d let the grain flow out of the truck into the auger, whispering up its length and into the bin (see photo). Once the truck was empty, I would head back out to the field for the next load. This cycle would repeat maybe ten times in a full harvest day. Though the tasks were repetitive, it was critical to stay focused and in full awareness, listening for different engine noises and noticing different smells (like from a hot engine) which might indicate a problem.
Dumping the red truck into the auger. 
And how can I discuss harvest without mentioning the harvest meals? I looked forward to the camaraderie of the whole crew pausing to eat dinner in the field, or pushing til dusk (or darker) and eating late in the house, with huge thanks to Carol and Katie for cooking such delicious feasts. Though we worked some long days, the feeling of support and caring that subtly permeated each day seemed to coalesce into the sharing of the evening meal.
Just about as soon as harvest was wrapping up, winter wheat seeding began. It’s been funny to drive full trucks of seed wheat to the field and empty trucks back to the yard, just the opposite of harvest. I recognize how much more comfortable I am driving the trucks now and how I’ve learned the roads up here in Goldstone country, knowing when to slow down or stay to one side to avoid the biggest potholes and rocks.
Combine unloading wheat onto the red truck. 
I also have a much greater appreciation for all the rock piles I’ve been driving by all this time, since I’ve done some rock picking now too, moving the biggest rocks that could pose a hazard to the equipment that will be used in the field. Mostly I enjoyed the task, in small doses. When a field seemed never-ending, I tried to remind myself that the rocks are a legacy of the glaciers, which deposited them as they formed this topography and started this soil: the foundation allowing this land to be farmed. Rock picking is also a satisfying job for many reasons. I got to drive the tractor (still an exciting novelty for me!), cruising around the fields and singing along to the radio. I would gauge the relative sizes of the rocks I would pass, trying not to ignore a big one when a good song was playing. When I spotted an especially large one, I practiced maneuvering the bucket of the tractor into place so I could more easily tilt the rock into it. I’d hop down off the tractor and muscle the rock into the bucket. Nothing like some heavy lifting to feel like a good job done, plus, countless rocks later, the satisfaction of dumping the tractor’s full bucket into a pile at the edge of the field and hearing the clatter of the rocks tumble out.
Throughout all my varied jobs here, Tom and Jeff have been excellent teachers. Their patience, trust, and good humor made the work enjoyable. I always appreciated their willingness to take some extra time to answer my questions, telling me why a task is done a certain way or how a tool or machine works.
The tandem. 
So far it sounds like I’ve only been working, which is not the case. I also had some fun weekend excursions while here in Montana. I was in Glacier twice, simply a magical place. Katie and I spent an enjoyable (if rainy) weekend in Great Falls; we walked along the river trail, visited Giant Springs and, of course, had a beer at the Sip and Dip (though Piano Pat was gone, so I’m not sure my visit there counts). Brett took me to explore two gems of the Hi-Line: we hiked in the Sweet Grass Hills and floated a stretch of the Marias River. We also squeezed in a quick visit to the Milk River, where I heard elks bugling for the first time!
Another first was the faint whisper of the Northern Lights one evening after a long harvest day. I also loved that the Milky Way was visible on every clear night. Harvey and I (and sometimes Iggy) enjoyed sunset walks most evenings, soaking up the calming vastness of the Hi-Line horizon, reveling in the sound of an exuberant coyote party that would occasionally punctuate the cricket-quiet near dusk. If only the mosquitoes hadn’t just kept coming, even after that snow! There’s that saying about Montana farmers being able to grow excellent wheat on two dews and a mist, which apparently yields a bumper crop of mosquitoes too!
Pesky bugs aside, I have loved my time here staying with Katie and Jeff. I’m so grateful for their generosity and friendship. I have also felt warmly welcomed by everyone I’ve met, each conversation building on to my sense of the beauty of this place, but also making me that much more sad to leave. I will  definitely be back to visit… I hear calving season is even more fun than harvest time!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall Seeding and Winter Wheat 101

The official beginning of Fall is upon us and with that, we are still busy on the farm. Even though it snowed right as we were arriving home from Washington D.C. (You can read about the trip in the three previous posts), we have had Indian Summer since then. Temperatures have been in the 70s and 80s for the past ten days or so now. Warm weather on top of the very wet August we had is making the ground ideally temperate for winter wheat seeding, which Tom, Jeff, and Stennie have been busy with over the past few weeks.
The air-drill, or seeder, was parked in our yard for a few days in between seeding Tom and Carol's land and seeding our land. It is a behemoth.
Tom's land was seeded first, and now Jeff and Stennie have moved on to seeding our land. Between the two farms, we'll have 1350 acres seeded to winter wheat. Everything has been going great so far-- minimal equipment breakdowns, good weather, etc. (I probably shouldn't even write that, for fear of jinxing things!) If everything continues to go well, we should be finished seeding within the next few days. Just in time for the rain that's supposed to come on Saturday!

In case you're not familiar with winter wheat, it is seeded in the fall. In good conditions, it germinates and sprouts in the fall, then sort of dies off when heavy frost and/or snow hits. It's not actually dead, though. The plants lie dormant throughout the winter, then sprout again in the spring and grow over the summer for harvest in late July or early August. It has a pretty interesting life cycle.

If the seed never germinates in the fall, then it won't come up in the spring at all. Another problem that can sometimes happen is if the top of the ground gets covered with a layer of ice over the winter, the seed can actually die. In that case, nothing comes up in the spring, either. This scenario happens if, for example, we get a snow or sleet event, then it warms up and melts, then we get a hard, sudden freeze, creating that layer of ice. A lot of weather phenomena stringed together has to happen in order to winter kill in that way, but it does happen sometimes.

We use winter wheat in our rotation, but not usually as the sole crop on our farm. Typically, we rotate spring wheat, a pulse crop and/or barley, and winter wheat, with a year of fallow in there somewhere, too. Although, since we really have only been farming for a few years, we are truly still establishing our rotation.   Last year, Jeff and I only seeded spring wheat on our land. This year, we are seeding quite a bit of winter wheat, because the fall conditions are so good. But, we won't seed all of our plantable acres to winter wheat this fall. We will save some for spring seeding of peas and spring wheat. We're also thinking about possibly some durum in the spring, too.

One question we get sometimes is-- what is fallow? I'll admit that, not being from a farming background myself, I didn't understand the word or what it meant in a farming sense. Lying fallow means that a piece of ground has nothing planted on it at all for a season. It's just left alone. Around here, we have to do that because we are dryland farmers, meaning we do not irrigate our fields, and we have so little rain. Leaving ground fallow every other year or every third year helps conserve moisture in the soil. Right now, we are seeding winter wheat, for the most part, on fields that were fallow during this year's growing season.

Not every farmer incorporates fallow in their rotation, even up here in the dryland country. Where I grew up in Iowa, most farmers seed every acre of their land every year. This concept is called continuous crop. Sometimes, if we do seed the same acres in back-to-back farm years, we also refer to those acres as re-crop.
Fall sunrises are so beautiful!
So there you have it! A winter wheat and crop rotation primer. Please leave comments if you have any questions or want to know more. Wish us luck as we wrap up fall seeding!
Sunrise behind our happy barn. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

D.C. Fly-In, Part Three: Art and Design Experience

The re-cap blog posts I have done on our Washington D.C. trip have been really popular. Thanks everyone for reading! The third and final installment of my Washington D.C. Re-caps will focus on art and design that I experienced in the city. I was actually an Apparel Design major in college, and love art and design in general. Cities are really great for me to fill the art and design void that sometimes is a little harder to fill living where I do. Thanks to my husband for indulging my want/need to visit art museums every time we go to large cities!

We did spend a very brief hour or so in the National Gallery while in Washington. I had been there once before, but was again impressed with the scope of works we as a nation own. So cool to be able to see priceless masterpieces for FREE!! Two paintings that I really loved on this trip were this harbor/boat scene by Joseph Mallord and William Turner, and of course, the Van Gogh.

The Van Gogh has really lovely colors and movement, as many of his paintings do, and is actually an impression of a wheat field. As a wheat farmer, this was appealing to me, too. This painting was a recent acquisition by the gallery, and a really lovely one at that.

Photos of paintings are somewhat pointless-- simply don't do justice to a masterpiece. 

I also love modern sculpture, and DC had a lot of it. The spiky tower thingy (probably not the actual name of this work... sorry!) in front of the Air and Space museum is really great, and also a nice meeting point if you're meeting up with friends or a group. 

Can you spot Jeff? 
I also wrote in the last post that I really, really enjoyed the Air Force Memorial. I just think it is such a graceful, beautiful structure. Again, photos don't do justice. And, it's maybe harder to see at night? In person, I actually thought the way it was lit up at night made it look even more beautiful.
Something about this giant monument was very tactile, too, even though it was huge. I just kept feeling the want to touch it. It's made of a very, very smooth metal of some sort.
I also took a lot of photos of landscaping and plants. Many of the public sidewalks and right-of-ways were landscaped beautifully and thoughtfully, and maintained very well. I color combination I saw a lot of was reds and greens together, in various iterations.

Our return trip from DC went well, too, even though we had a very, very tight layover in Salt Lake. For the second time in my life, I found myself literally running through the airport in order to make the flight. Jeff got to the gate ahead of me and let them know we were there. Our flight from DC to SLC had arrived late, and thankfully the good people of Delta at the Salt Lake airport, actually held the plane from SLC to Great Falls just for us! Even so, we barely made it on time. Pretty glad it worked out.

We landed in Great Falls at about 10:00 p.m. and were greated by... SNOW! Some welcome back to Montana, huh?! We drove home in a wintry mix for the next 2.5 hours. The next morning I snapped this photo of the Sweetgrass Hills:
Hard to believe just a few days prior to this photo being taken, we were sweating it out in 95 degree heat and humidity!

It's always so great to get a city fix when traveling, but it's also always so wonderful to be home. Montana is so beautiful, in every season.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

D.C. Fly-In, Part Two: The Tourist Experience

For this second installment of D.C. Fly-In re-caps, I'll write about the Tourist Experience.

The Legislative side of the trip was great and super educational, but we did have a bit of time to take in some tourist attractions as well. I'm also lumping restaurant experiences into this post. There are many several photos included throughout.

Because Jeff and I arrived in DC about 24 hours ahead of when our first meeting was, we had about one evening and one long morning to take in a few sights before meeting up with the rest of our group for business. There was one other couple out of our FUE group that also had arrived early, so we spent much of our time with them. It was great to be free to experience the city.

The first night we ate a really delicious upscale seafood restaurant called Oceanaire. Apparently it is a chain restaurant or at least has locations in several large cities in the US, but when you live where we live, even chain restaurants are exotic. Our friends are from Minnesota and had eaten at Oceanaire in the Cities and recommended we try it out. We were not disappointed. They had excellent wine, which was a must for me! The seafood dishes we tried were great. I actually liked the seafood salad we all shared even better than my main entree, even though both were really yummy. The best part of the meal, however, was the OYSTERS!!! I have found in recent years that I absolutely love oysters on the half-shell. What better place for fresh oysters than Washington D.C.? Right on the Chesapeake Bay, near the coast... fresh as can be! Too bad I forgot to take any photos at Oceanaire. The food and company was awesome!

Our hotel was located just a block off the National Mall, convenient to many museums and monuments. The next morning was when I did the Beat the Deadline 5k, which was awesome. I snapped these two photos as I walked across the mall to the start of the race, about a mile and a half away.

The next morning before our meetings we had just a little time to check out a few of the Smithsonian museums, including the Air and Space museum, and the National Gallery. I'll post a few photos from the Gallery in my third DC post on Art and Design in the city. I didn't take a ton of photos in the Air and Space museum, but I did snap one of moon-landing unit I believe from the Apollo space missions. I'm always amazed at how much these things look like they're held together by nothing more than tinfoil, cardboard and tape. I've seen parade floats that look more impressive!  All the same, these are feats of engineering I couldn't even begin to conjure up on my own.
Inside the Air and Space Museum.
After Saturday's meetings, we had a group dinner at Founding Farmers, which is a restaurant owned by North Dakota Farmers Union, featuring an agrarian farm-to-table menu and decor. The restuarant was located right on Pennsylvania Ave and it was PACKED with people. I guess if you want to eat there you have to book your reservation way in advance. I can see why, too. The food was excellent, as was the drink menu. I had a cantaloupe-ginger-cucumber coctail made with local indredients, which was outstanding. For entree, I had braised beef short ribs with some really great sides. Delicious!

Jeff and Bryan tasting some high-class whiskey at Founding Farmers.
Was it worth it? ;)
Sunday-day was spent in meetings most of the day. Then we had another group dinner at yet another restaurant owned by North Dakota Farmes Union, sort of the sister restaurant to Founding Farmers, called Farmers, Fishers, and Bakers. Same story here- farm-to-table menu, local ingredients, but here they had an emphasis more on seafood. I had one of my favorite dishes-- cioppino. It was excellent! Another great restaurant!
Outside Farmers, Fishers, and Bakers. 
Patio seating and Entrance to Farmers, Fishers, Bakers.
Apparently it's hip and trendy to display your canned goods with back-lighting on a shelf in plain view.
Guess I'll have to dig mine out of the back of the cupboard! 
After dinner, we had a private tour of the city's monuments. This vehicle was our mode of transportation--
Pretty fancy van, right?!
(Sorry, Bryan, for the bad photo!)
We stopped at all the major monuments in DC, and even some that were not right on the Mall. The tour began right as the sun set on the National Cathedral. It was so, so beautiful lit up with the red glow of sunset!
Gothic Revival by the glow of sunset!
Who doesn't love flying buttresses?! 
Truly, the way to see D.C.'s monuments is at night. The crowds are somewhat less, it's not as HOT, and they just look even more striking when lit up.
Washington Monument with the Capitol Dome behind it.

Approaching the Lincoln Memorial.

Memorial of Thomas Jefferson, or as I like to call him, TJ. 
Iwo Jima Marine WWII Monument

Airforce Memorial
I really enjoyed the Air Force Memorial. This was the first time I had been to this memorial, actually in Arlington. It's so hard to get a sense of how striking it is in my photos, or of the scale. I thought it was really, really beautiful. Expect to see a few more photos of this in the Art and Design post.

The next day after our meetings for the day got out a little early, some of us trekked back out to Arlington to visit Arlington National Cemetary. We didn't have much time to look around- by the time we got there, they were only open for another hour- and we wanted to be sure to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown. It was really cool to watch the changing of the guard ceremony. I was very impressed by the precision of their movements and the obvious reverence with which they treated their job.
Fresh flowers against a grave at Arlington National Cemetery.
Very impressive to watch these guards. 
They also did a special wreath-laying ceremony that night, which was clearly above and beyond the normal changing of the guard routine. A military officer of some sort who was clearly very highly decorated escorted this woman to the tomb, apparently to pay respects. I really wish there had been some sort of explanation as to what the purpose of this was, but it was still very, very cool to see.
These three walked down toward the tomb together.
Another man placed the wreath. 
Then there was a salute, and another guard played the military funeral song. 
After Arlington, we had our last dinner as an FUE couples group at a place our friends Bryan and Jennifer knew of called Old Ebbit Grill. Apparently it's a pretty popular place and well-known in D.C. It had some great old-time character and charm that was really delightful.

The food at Old Ebbit Grill was also fantastic. Again, I took advantage of being on the coast and enjoyed oysters before our meal. I confirmed that I actually like a briny oyster better than a sweet oyster. I think they're more complex tasting and so delicious.

Mid slurp! YUM!
That night I also had a first for me and ordered lobster. I'm not a picky eater at all and I'm very, very seldom grossed out by food, so I had a little fun with my lobster waving to the camera prior to being eaten! And yes, I wore the totally hokey lobster bib with pride!
The lobster tasted very fresh and delicious! 
On our last morning in D.C., we attended a Montana Coffee wherein the two Senators and one Representative from Montana, and their staff, hold a weekly gathering for anyone who wants to come with coffee and donuts. It's sort of a mix and mingle event and it's a great opportunity for anyone from Montana who is in the city to meet or visit with their elected officials. Jeff and I spoke with all three-- Senators Tester and Walsh, and Representative Daines. We have definite opinions about each, but since this blog is not about politics, I'm not going there.

In addition to visiting with those three gentlemen, we also had the great pleasure of meeting up with a few old friends. One is a longtime friend of Jeff's, named Mark, who is on staff for Senator Walsh...
Me and Jeff with Mark Hybner.
The other people we bumped into happened to be Jeff's family who just so happened to be in Washington D.C. on vacation! So cool to bump into them unexpectedly. They definitely did a double take when they saw us! Not sure if it was out of surprise or because they didn't recognize us all dressed up... maybe both?! 
Me and Jeff with Jan and Gary Holmes! What a crazy coincidence.
The rest of our time in the city was pretty busy with meetings and lobbying, but I do want to point out that as our nation's capitol, I think Washington is really great at "hosting" people from all over the country and the world. Everywhere we went, people asked where we were from and seemed genuinely interested in hearing our response. I thought it was a very friendly city, easy to get around, and had an almost European feel thanks to the architecture, walkability, and relative absence of skyscrapers.

To conclude, I'll leave you with a few example photos of the city embracing people from all over the country. The Newseum (a museum I highly recommend, even though it's not free to attend/not in the Smithsonian complex) posts the front page of a newspaper from every state in the Union, every day. Had to get my picture with that. And later, I got to put a pin in a Montana map on the location of our farm when we were in the office of a certain Senator. Even though it seems like wherever you go in this world, you bump into someone from Montana, or someone who has Montana connections, there were no other pins from 20 miles north of Inverness, MT on the map. Glad we can represent rural Montana, and glad for the city of D.C. being so welcoming and fun!
Next to the posting of the Great Falls Tribune, outside the Newseum.

Placing a pin in the map for our farm! Can you find it? 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

D.C. Fly-In, Part One: The Legislative Experience

I have a lot of photos and a lot to process and write about our Washington D.C. trip. I'm going to have to break it down into several posts. After going through my photos, I think the best way to organize the trip into blog posts is into three segments: Legislative Experience, Tourist Experience, and Art and Design Experience.

I'll start with the Legislative Experience.

But first, let me back up a bit and remind everyone why we came to be in D.C. in the first place!

The D.C. Fly-In was the culmination of our Farmers Union Enterprises (FUE) Leadership Couples training experience that has lasted for about the past 18 months. If you can't remember what FUE or the program we were participating in was all about, check out THIS POST. Basically, we spent the past year or so attending Farmers Union conferences and events and participating in leadership training seminars along with three other couples-- one each from Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Walking in front of the Department of Agriculture building with some of our FUE friends.
The Department of Agriculture is a HUGE building.
I liked that they had corn planted out front! 
The Fly-In itself was National Farmers Union's annual lobbying event in Washington D.C. Farmers Union members and representatives from all 28 states where Farmers Union has a presence were in Washington for the Fly-In. Our group arrived a few days early for about a day and a half of more leadership training and informational meetings. Then, the last two and a half days were dedicated to the legislative process and how it pertains to agriculture and Farmers Union issues. The last day and a half specifically were spent actually meeting with representatives of Congress and the Senate (or their staff!) to advocate directly for issues affecting family farms across the country.

On the in-between-day on the Hill, as I'll call it, we as an entire National Farmers Union group, were addressed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy, and a woman named Ann Alonzo, who is the head of the Agriculture Marketing Service, as well as by National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson.  President Johnson and his staff outlined the four main issues we'd be discussing in our lobbying efforts the next day before we heard from the other three. I found Secretary Vilsack's remarks to be appropriate and well-thought-out, and I enjoyed hearing him speak most of all. He's great. Administrator McCarthy was an engaging speaker as well.
NFU President Roger Johnson
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
Administrator McCarthy of the EPA
Ann Alonzo of the USDA
Moving on to the actual lobbying experience. Everyone with Farmers Union who was present for the Fly-In was divided into teams of 5 or so people, with each team assigned to several Senate/Congressional offices. We were to visit the offices and speak to the government official (or their staff) about our key issues, or drop off an informational hand-out if no one was available to meet with us.
We became very familiar with the Congress and Senate office buildings.
Jeff and I were in a small group with three other people from Montana including the Montana Farmers Union President, another Montana Farmers Union member from Great Falls, and a member of the Montana press (who was not a member of Farmers Union, just there to cover the story of our time in Washington.) We ended up visiting the offices of five different individuals-- a mix of Representatives and Senators. Of those five offices, the only time we met with an actual government official was when we visited the office of Senator Walsh of Montana. The rest of the time we spoke with office staff, usually the staffer responsible for Agriculture issues.
Jeff and I in the rotunda of the Longworth office building.
The issues we spoke about were identified and decided upon by the National Farmers Union board and included:
  • COOL (Country of Origin Labeling)-- NFU is for keeping COOL laws as-is.
  • RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard)-- NFU Is for maintaining status quo with RFS.
  • TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership)-- NFU is skeptical of TPP in its current form.
  • Rail Issues-- NFU is advocating on behalf of farmers for increased rail traffic for grain and for increased oversight from the STB (Surface Transportation Board) on the railroad. 
Throughout the process of meeting with the various offices and staff, and the Senator, it became apparent that Jeff has a real gift for leadership in these types of situations. He was very well-spoken and seemed really comfortable discussing the issues with anyone. As for myself, I was a little out of my comfort level, but with practice got better. I think my future with Farmers Union probably will not involve extensive lobbying in that form. Jeff rocked it though. 
Senate Hart Office Building.
Montana Senators Tester and Walsh both have their offices here.
Since we had a member of the local Montana Ag media in our group, Jeff and I did give a brief interview that was included in a few radio spots. Jeff was also interviewed by another person of the media and that story was released right after we got back. Hopefully everyone is happy with how we both answered our questions! I was a little nervous for the interview I did, even though it was brief! Did anyone catch any of our radio spots or the print interview anywhere?

One of the highlights for the business-side of the trip for me was attending the Golden Triangle Awards Ceremony on Tuesday evening of our trip. The Golden Triangle Awards are given by National Farmers Union to government officials who have done well to serve the Ag community in the past year. Many of the awards were handed out in person at the event. This meant we had a very front row view of many members of Congress and the Senate as they stopped by the party to receive their awards. I was most impressed with Nancy Pelosi (California), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), and of course, John Tester (Montana), our friend and neighbor. Jeff and I were also impressed with John Walsh (Montana) for the fact that he stayed at the party after giving his short acceptance speech and actually took some time to visit with people in the audience-- no one else had done that. Politics aside, he seemed like a nice and genuine man in-person.
Nancy Pelosi receives her Golden Triangle service award from NFU President Roger Johnson.
Sherrod Brown of Ohio about to receive his award.
Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota addresses the group.
There's so much more detail I could write about this trip and specifically about the legislative experience we had. I truly learned A LOT in-person about how government works. It was cool to be actively participating in democracy, advocating for family farms, and attempting to let our voices be heard. Even if I don't have a future in lobbying in this form, it was definitely worth the experience on many, many levels. I think Jeff and I both realized the potential for leadership that we have within this organization, which is overall, the ultimate goal of the entire experience.

Will either of us have a future in politics?!