4H in the city

Today our 4H club had a couple of calves on display at the Douglas County Nebraska fair which is in the heart of Omaha, a good size city.

The bad part was it really does show how many city kids have little to no exposure to the agriculture community. A few times we were asked if those were deer, a few people made comments that they didn’t think they were cows because they thought cows were black and white referring to dairy cattle they had seen on TV. A few kids mentioned that today was the first time they had actually seen a cow in person.

Now for the good part, as I spoke to the kids and answered their questions it was fascinating to see how intrigued they were about learning more about the calves. Their eyes would light up when you asked them if they wanted to pet the calf. The most common question was how old were the calves, both of the calves on display today were born in April.

Today really reinforced the idea that we really need to do more to bring the farm to the city, to help bridge that gap between rural and city people. Today became the perfect opportunity to plant the seed in the minds of the kids that agriculture is not bad or scary. The kids really do want to learn, we just need to continue to work at providing that opportunity for them.

The fact of the matter is that we can’t wait around for the city people to seek out the agriculture community, the agriculture community will need to think outside of the box on how to get in front of these kids, bring the farm to them. I look forward to the next county fair where we can once again showcase agriculture to inquiring young minds.

College Planning & Mental Health

Pursuing higher education can be stressful for any college-bound student, but it can be more challenging for those with mental illness. According to a 2020 report by the CDC, people between 18 and 24 are more likely to experience anxiety and depression compared to other adult age groups making it more important to pick the right university.

Intelligent.com has created an extensive guide to help students navigate the programs and policies supporting mental health. The guide covers topics from understanding your rights to potential accommodations, tips on accessing mental health services, and scholarships available specifically to students.

You can view our guide here: https://www.intelligent.com/online-college-guide-for-students-with-mental-health-disorders/.

Earth Day 2022 Graphics

Here are some new graphics you can share for Earth Day which is on April 22nd, 2022. The graphics talk about beef and some of the benefits they provide for earth and the environment. These graphics have been provided by the Beef Check Off Program, more images like this can be found at https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/resources/infographic-library .

I have posted similar graphics located here https://hankwade.com/agriculture-education-center/beef-education/

Our first year in 4-H

Well the end of this year’s 4-H season is just a few weeks away for the club that we belong to and as I reflect back on the past year of our 4-H experience it has been a lot of fun, we learned a lot, we know what we need to work on next year and I would not have changed anything.

The wife and I have 6 kids, our youngest child just turned 9 years old this year, out of the 6 kids he is the only child that does not have any athletic ability whatsoever, playing sports is just not his thing. The wife and I talked and we agreed that we needed something for our son to do otherwise he would sit on the couch all day and play on his tablet. So last fall he showed an interest in horses and we got him signed up for riding lessons and he loved it. As spring time rolled around we asked him what he thought about doing some sort of 4-H program, neither my wife nor I have ever been in 4-H so we really had no idea what to expect. We did our research and made some phone calls and we found a bucket calf club that we could enroll our son in.

The club we belong to houses the calves on some property that is owned by the 4-H club leader, see we live in the city and putting a calf in our backyard just won’t work, in fact I am sure it probably violates some sort of city ordinance were we live. So each family in the club is assigned a day or time that they are responsible to go out and feed and water the calves. In addition to tending to the animals you need to go out a few times a week and work with your animal. You need to get it comfortable with wearing a halter, train it to walk next to you, and learn about overall showman ship and care of the animals. It is a great program that is tailored for city kids to get exposed to the agriculture industry.

Now I have been studying agriculture for the past couple of years, I have obtained my masters of beef advocacy from the beef checkoff, and I have a few friends now that own cattle operations, so I was really excited about finally being able to put all that I have learned into practice. I was also excited because this was going to be a project that my wife and I and our son could do together, it was a project that got us out of the house and created some good bonding time.

When I talk to college age kids and even some adults about their experience in 4-H the number one response I hear is that they all were appreciative of how being in 4-H taught them about public speaking. This intrigued me as to why so many people typically told me that their biggest take away was learning to speak to people. When the county fair arrived I got a glimpse of what these older kids were talking about. My wife and I saw a side of our son we had never seen before, even other parents in the club mentioned it to us as well, it was that our son had broken out of his little shy nervous high anxiety shell and was talking to anyone and everyone that would listen to him talk about his calf. We saw a joy in our son we had never seen before, he really loved talking about the animal, it was such a heartwarming experience for his mother and I, and that was the moment it all made sense to me why so many people attribute their ability to speak publicly to their experience from being in 4-H.

As far as showing the calf at the fair, our son came home with a blue ribbon, out of all the calves in his group my son scored the lowest points, he scored a 77 out of 100, but the best part about the entire event was when they handed my son that blue ribbon, he ran up to his mother with the biggest smile on his face, and he gave his mother the biggest hug he could give her. You see he had no idea that he came in dead last, he was just so thrilled he got a ribbon that day, it didn’t matter what color it was to him, he was on cloud 9 the rest of the day. His mother and I could not have been any more proud of him for working so hard to overcome his fears and anxiety of learning something new in a world that is fairly new to us.

In closing we are excited to see what next season holds for us. It was such a great way to for us city folks to learn about where our food comes from, it also exposed us to just how warm, loving and welcoming people in the agriculture community are. Not one time did anyone ever treat us poorly or look down upon us, in fact when they learned this was our first year they seemed to go above and beyond to make sure we got all the help we needed. If you have a child that does not fit in to a certain crowd or they show interest in wanting to learn about animals or agriculture look into 4-H, they have so much to offer kids from all walks of life.

Space Travel and Agriculture

I am often glutton for punishment so every now and then I venture over to Facebook and after a few short minutes I remember why I don’t go on that site all that often anymore. I ran across one of the “Agvocates” (those people who advocate for agriculture) who was on a rant about the recent space travel adventures by a few of the super-rich dudes who own space travel companies, her rant was about how space travel is not carbon neutral. The rant appeared to be a retaliation about the comments toward parts of the agriculture community that are not thought of as being so carbon friendly by the same people who travel into space. That rant is not really a rabbit hole I care to venture down about who is more right or wrong that the other, but none the less it got me thinking about what kind of things in agriculture have benefited from space travel and space exploration.

I went online and started to search for things in agriculture that have benefited from technology that was developed in support of space travel. One of the first things I ran across was the use of satellite technology in farming. Satellite data is used to monitor weather, monitor snow cover, rain fall, moisture content, climate change and its effects on the health of crops, studying floods and how they threaten food security, satellite data is also used in conjunction with ground data to build models that help scientists study areas that may be at risk of a landslide after a natural disaster, as well as drought forecasting and early detection data which relies heavily on satellite imaging.

If you use GPS on a tractor to plant or harvest your crops, then you are benefiting from space exploration, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. When John Deere was developing their tractors to be able to drive through a field autonomously they turned to NASA. John Deere used data from NASA’s global network of ground stations and incorporate JPL’s software to create a more accurate navigation system for their tractors. With the use of this NASA based technology John Deere was able to offer a self-driving tractor that was accurate within inches verses only feet which was the case with the older technology. By 2015 about a third of the crop acreage in North America was being farmed using self-guidance systems.[1]

Lindsay Manufacturing Company from Lindsay Nebraska builds the Zimmatic Center pivot irrigation system, they use technology provided by NASA in the gear boxes that drive the wheels on the towers that move the irrigation system through the field. Midwest Research Institute was under a contract with Marshall Space Flight Center to compile a handbook with details of chemical and physical properties of 500 liquid and solid lubricants used by companies in the aerospace industry. The engineers of Lindsay manufacturing were able to use the information provided by NASA in the design of their gear boxes, this information helped reduce the amount of lubricant required and allowed them to use less expensive lubricants than they had previously used.[2]

The streamlined livestock trailer was developed based on technology from a NASA Research Program which investigated the aerodynamic characteristics of trailer/tractor combinations and suggested ways of reducing air resistance. NASA’s aerodynamic research technology was applied to the bull nose trailer manufactured by American Trailer Incorporated out of Oklahoma City OK, and it resulted in a 10 percent reduction in air drag, the reduction in air drag helps to reduce the amount of fuel needed to drag a trailer full of livestock down the road. [3]

In late 70’s and into the early 80’s McDonnell Douglas was using large vacuum chambers to test spacecraft components, the vacuum chambers also used microwave energy to produce heat in the chamber, this technology was found to be very useful and more cost efficient for drying agriculture grains. The conventional way of drying grains of rice caused the shell of the grain to crack, but with the new technology from McConnell Douglas the grain of rice could be dried faster, more evenly and did not cause damage to the shell of the rice grain. The technology was later used to dry soybeans that were being processed into high protein animal feed as well as vegetable oil, all thanks to the space exploration efforts.

An Illinois based company by the name of Spectrum has used NASA derived technology to create a hand held plant chlorophyll meter, the meter can be used to determine a plants chlorophyll content. This technology can help reveal plant stress which can be caused by factors like heat, insects, disease and lack of water or nutrients, this technology allows for these signs to be seen up to 16 days before visible signs emerge.[4]

Anyone use a Cummins Diesel engine in their operation? When Cummins was designing a turbo to add to their diesel engine, they used computer software designed by NASA that aided engineers in testing and developing turbine rotor designs to help make the turbo become more efficient and help to create more horsepower out of the Cummins diesel engine.

A company that was helping develop technology to be able to fly a drone on Mars has built a drone named Quantix. The drone can be used by farmers to scan crops with two high resolution cameras to help identify different plant health issues. Here is one success story from a farmer in California:[5]

“One walnut farmer in central California, who grows some 2,500 trees across 40 acres, scanned his orchard and saw that the trees on the northern end were not thriving as well as the ones on the southern part of the orchard. He knew the soil there was sandier, but the images and data showed him the sandy soil was more extensive than he had thought. “Based on the data, the farmer made some changes to how that area was irrigated, how nutrients were delivered, and even how the fruits were protected from the sun.” The impact was clear, Gitlin says. “The next growing season, he was able to increase yield by over $50,000—in one season.”

You ever hop in the pickup to head out and feed the animals or check on the crops and a warning on the dash comes on warning you of a tire that is low on air? That technology came from NASA, they developed the technology to monitor the tire pressure on the space shuttle. Today, U.S. law mandates a pressure gauge on every car tire because of the increased safety the pressure sensor technology provides to the automobile.[6]

Lastly a company in Colorado is working with technology derived from NASA in their studies of growing food in space to develop a sensor a farmer can attach to the leaf of a plant. That sensor will collect data on how much water the plant has received, either from rain or from irrigation. The sensor will also be able to provide information on the health of the plant. All of this information will be fed into a computer that will analyze the data and then can text the farmer if a portion of the field needs attention.[7]

These are just a few of the numerous advancements in technology the agriculture industry has benefited from by the space travel and exploration world. The future of agriculture will continue to benefit from more advanced technology as we continue to travel and learn about Space, the final frontier.

[1] https://www.nasa.gov/feature/directorates/spacetech/spinoff/john_deere

[2] https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/20020091946/downloads/20020091946.pdf

[3] https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20030004755

[4] https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2009/er_10.html

[5] https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2020/ee_4.html

[6] https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2019/t_2.html

[7] https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2012/ee_2.html

Has the meaning of showmanship been blurred in the show cattle world?

Back in the late 1800’s researchers discovered that adults in the farming community were not receptive to new agriculture developments that were created by university campuses. Researchers also discovered that young people were open to new thinking and were more willing to experiment with new ideas and then they would share their experiences with adults. Thus began the ideology and foundations of the 4-H youth clubs, the need to be able to get information of new technologies and new methods of farming and caring for animals out to the rural communities.

This past week I was able to travel down to southern Missouri and experience some real humidity and I was also able to spend some time with a good friend of mine while his kids were showing a couple of steers and heifers at their local county fair. I was excited for this opportunity to get a glimpse of what it is like to show an animal that is bigger than the bucket calf my son is showing this year with his 4-H club.

However after watching the animals be judged I didn’t really have a warm and fuzzy feeling anymore about showing a show calf. My preconceived notion was that the kids would be judged on their showmanship and how they handled themselves, how they handled their animal, what kind of effort they put into prepping that animal for the show and lastly how well they cared for that animal over the past year or two. These are all things that can be controlled by the contestant, the harder you work, the better you will do in the competition. Sadly that’s not what these kids were judged on, the judge at this event seemed to only focus on the structure of the animal, the judge seemed to be more concerned with the bone structure and the muscle development of the animal. Now I understand those things are important if you are selecting an animal to start building yourself a herd that you would like to maybe someday earn you some money, but those are things that are not controlled by a young person who is caring for that animal.

You can be the best there is at raising an animal, you can give it the best feed, the best care, the most attention, but if that animal had some structural flaws or defects in its bone or muscle mass, then nothing you do will be able to overcome science and how that animal grows or how it metabolizes the feed it is given.

Now I am not one of those parents that feels every kid deserves a ribbon or a medal for just showing up to an event, I believe it is good for kids to be competitive and learn that you may not always be the first place winner, life is full of ups and down, you win some and lose some, showing an animal at your local county fair is a great way for a kid to learn those life lessons. However I feel that if a kid is to be competitive or to be judged it should be something within their control, otherwise each competition will boil down to who has the most money to be able to afford the most perfect animal for the judge to see and base his suggestions on who he thinks should be a grand champion.

I realize I am new to this industry, and I have a lot to learn, but I have to wonder has the lines become blurred on what showmanship is? I look to the 1800’s and the reason why 4-H clubs were invented, and I look at today, is showing an animal still about teaching the kids something new, teaching them about how to care for an animal and teaching them responsibility, or are we teaching them it’s more about who spends the most money to get a calf with perfect form and structure so a judge will name you the winner?

I don’t have a problem with some friendly competition, but the ultimate goal of the completion should be more about rewarding the kids who put in the effort to try and be the best at showing their animal. Anyways I still look forward to watching my kid show his animal this year in a few weeks at our local county fair, I just hope the judge will base his recommendation more on true original showmanship and less on what he thinks he can sell that calf for based on how well its bone structure has formed.

Stop Blaming Beef Growth Hormones:

I came across an interesting conversation on Facebook the other day of people arguing about beef and the dangers of (as they called it) using growth hormones in the beef that we eat. One of the people engaged in this painful social media conversation that was filled of opinions and false truths was blaming beef growth hormones for the cause of problems in today’s children in regards to things like early development issues and a whole host of other problems. One of the few people to actually present a non-emotionally charged response offered up a good point about the amount of estrogen that naturally occurs in many types of food that are much higher than beef and a lot of us consume daily.

So I set out on another adventure to seek out the actual facts about just how much estrogen there is in a chunk of beef verse what I would get from eating non beef items. Here is what I found.

First off you might say what is estrogen, well estrogen is a hormone that promotes sexual and reproductive development, it is found in the human body in both females and yes even men, maybe even a little more in some men than we care to admit, hey, maybe that’s why I love to cook so much… well that’s for another day’s discussion….

Below I have listed several types of food and how many nanograms of estrogen each of them have per a 3 ounce serving.

  • Soybean Oil 168,000,000
  • Pinto Beans 153,087
  • Eggs 94
  • Milk 11
  • Potatoes 225
  • Peas 340
  • Ice Cream 520
  • Wheat Germ 3,400
  • Beef with hormone Implant 1.9
  • Beef with no growth hormones 1.3

Data collected from https://www.meatinstitute.org/index.php?ht=a/GetDocumentAction/i/82078

Basically if you eat 3 ounces of organic grass fed beef you will ingest 1.3 nanograms of estrogen, if you consume 3 ounces of traditional raised beef that had been given a growth hormone you will ingest a mere 1.9 nanograms of estrogen. What if you are not in the mood for a steak and want some ice cream, well you will intake 520 ng’s of estrogen.

So all in all if you are worried about the amount of estrogen you or your child is getting from a piece of beef that may have been raised with a growth hormone, chances are it has way less effect on you than eating something made with soybean oil which contains 168 million ng’s of estrogen. Oh, and watch out for fruits and vegetables, many of them also offer significantly higher amounts of estrogen that a good old fashion steak or hamburger. The point here is stop using beef as the scapegoat… it’s not the source of the problem that is causing early development problems in today’s children.

Below I have added a few info graphics that I found while researching estrogen in our food systems.

Hot Dogs and the 4th of July

With the 4th of July just around the corner I thought it would be fun to do a little research on the hot dog, being that millions of Americans will be doing their annual 4th of July celebration which often includes indulging themselves with hot dogs.

Like many foods, the exact origin of the hot dog is often debated about who truly was the inventor of the hot dog. One of the theories is that the hot dog was derived from its predecessor the frankfurter which was developed in 1487 in Germany, just 5 short years before Christopher Columbus was to set sail for the new world. Many others feel that the American hot dog came from butchers of several nationalities that had traveled to America from Europe bringing along with them the traditions they had learned before leaving their mother land.  

1893 was the year that baseball parks began to sell sausages, it is believed that the tradition was started in St. Louis by a German immigrant who was the owner of the St. Louis Brown major league baseball team.[1]

The hot dog often goes by several different names, you will hear some people refer to hot dogs and franks or wieners. Traditionally a frank typically refers to an all-beef product while a wiener usually contains pork.

The U.S. Government defines a hot dog as being cooked, it is prepared from one or more kinds of muscle meat or poultry. Water and or ice, may be used to help mix the seasonings that are used to flavor the hot dog. Hot dogs may contain more than 30% fat or 10% water. Up to 3.5% of the hot dog can be a non-meat binder like not fat dry milk, cereal or dried whole milk, or it can be made up of 2% isolated soy protein. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that whatever ingredients are used in making the hot dog they must appear in the ingredient statement of the product. [2]

In 2020 consumers spent more than $7.68 billion on hot dogs and sausages in U.S. supermarkets.[3] Another fun fact, Mickey Mouse’s first on screen words were “Hot Dog” marking his transition from the silent screen. Residents of Los Angeles consume more hot dogs than any other city, in 2020 they consumed about 30 million pounds of hot dogs. On the 4th of July Americans will consume 150 million hot dogs, which is enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times.[4]

The peak season for hot dogs runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, during that time Americans will typically consume 7 billion hot dogs. That comes out to 818 hot dogs being consumer every second during that time frame.

Larger households that are made up of older children in the Midwest and south tend to be the highest consumers of refrigerated packaged meat products. A recent survey showed that sixty percent, which was mostly older consumers, stated they preferred all beef hot dogs, and the younger consumers preferred other products such as pork and chicken. [5]

So there is a little history and some facts about the American Hot Dog, Happy 4th of July, stay safe and go celebrate your freedom.

[1] https://www.hot-dog.org/culture/hot-dog-history

[2] http://hot-dog.org/sites/default/files/pdf/Hotdog-Facts-Figures-Folklore-Brochure.pdf

[3] http://hot-dog.org/media/consumption-stats

[4] http://hot-dog.org/media/consumption-stats

[5] http://hot-dog.org/media/consumption-stats

Grocery stores are not just for city folks

Agriculture Influencers, or “Agvocates” as they often refer to themselves, need to stop doing this “us vs them” mentality style of social media posts. When an agriculture influencer eludes to the thought that only city people use grocery stores it only helps further the divide between the rural communities and the people who live in the city.

I saw an Instagram post from a young female farmer that said “food does not come from grocery stores, it comes from farmers.” I understand the young farmer is trying to raise awareness about who grows the food that is sold in grocery stores, yet at the same time, that young farmer just lost a lot of credibility with me about her ability to be an advocate because food does in fact come from grocery stores. Let me explain why.

Chances are that same young farmer uses a grocery store just like the rest of us. It’s not just the city people who use grocery stores, many farmers use them as well. Now sure I know that many farmers may raise their own beef, or pork and maybe their own milk and eggs to name a few things that are commonly grown on a farm, but chances are there are many items they still have to get from the grocery store that they are not producing themselves.

Let me paint a picture of what happens if we cut out the grocery store and the factories that produce food and we just buy everything from the farmer, or the person growing or producing the food.

I live in Nebraska, I will be really hard pressed to find someone local who will be able to sell me all of the ingredients to make homemade tacos. Living in the beef state, I am confident I can find someone locally who can sell me a couple pounds of ground beef that they raised and harvested themselves. But…. What about a jar of salsa, some tortillas, cilantro, an avocado, oh and my one child does not want tacos, so I will need a loaf of bread, some lunch meat, a slice of cheese, and a little mayo and mustard to top it off. Can one farmer sell me all of that? I am most likely going to have to venture around to several different farms to find all of these items, and good luck finding someone around here actually growing an avocado. After supper, my kids have asked for a piece of cake and some ice cream, I don’t even want to go down the road of where I am going to find someone to sell me all of the ingredients for that stuff.

Most of the items I mentioned before can all be made at home, if you have all of the raw ingredients. But that’s not what the city people want to do. Farmers are just as busy as the city people, do the farmers today have the time to make everything from scratch, or are they also more inclined to just grab items from the grocery store once a month, or once a week or however they do their grocery shopping?

Grocery stores are not the problem, they are not the enemy, they have evolved from people wanting to simply things in their life, and they have given the consumers what they have asked for. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the need to educate the common person about where the food comes from and that it is not just some big corporate farm producing all of this food, but we need to find a way to educate the masses without being so condescending or creating a division and stigma that grocery stores are only for the uneducated city dwellers. We need to stop painting a picture that the farmers are so different that those of us in the city, where in fact we really all do have a lot in common, often more things in common than some people are willing to admit.


I just finished listening to the Ag State of Mind latest podcast, in this latest podcast Jason talks with his guest Michelle Bufkin Horton about the necessity of hobbies being incorporated into your life. What the both of them had to say really hit close to home for me.

Overall my life is pretty routine, I go to work 40 hours a week, my job brings me some satisfaction because my job is centered on helping to protect our nation and provide aid to our allies around the world. When I am not at work I am usually cooking something to eat for my wife or kids, when I am not cooking food and cleaning the kitchen, I am typically running my kids around to their events or working on some to do list item that the wife needs done immediately if not sooner.

For a majority of my life firefighting was my hobby, it was the thing I got to do that brought me excitement and joy, it was that thing that was not just going to work and doing the same thing over and over day in and day out. My life was balanced, I had work, family, and play, until the day came and I could no longer be a firefighter.

After a few years of being miserable and nearing the end of my rope, I had that epiphany moment where I realized I needed to find a new hobby, I needed something to focus my mind on that was positive, something to fill that void of no longer being a firefighter.

Wood working became my hobby that I used to bring back joy into my life, it gave me something to focus my energy on. It also helped me to build back up my self-confidence, and it gave me joy to make something with my own hands that I could give to someone that hopefully gave them joy as well. It’s also what led me into learning about the agriculture industry which became another hobby of mine. Wood working and learning about agriculture, and eventually speaking out about mental health awareness became my hobbies, it made me feel like I finally had balance in my life again. Finding that balance has really been key to maintaining a healthy mental health lifestyle.

If you have a few minutes go check out the Ag State of Mind podcast and see if maybe a hobby is something you need to incorporate into your life.

Here is a link to podcast, you can also find the Ag State of Mind on many other platforms as well.