Sunday, November 27, 2016

Veg Variety Winners for 2016

Every year we attempt to identify the top varieties that were grown on the farm during the year.  Criteria include production, quality of fruit, taste and plant health.  Additional factors that may increase the rating for a variety might be performance as compared other varieties of the same type or one that surprised us by doing far better than anticipated.  You might also note that we will give a tie break to a variety that has not been awarded a top slot over one that has.

 For those who want to see what has gone before:
About 2016's Growing Season
We had a reasonably good start to our growing season, but wetter than usual conditions starting in late July, through August and into the Fall challenged many of our crops.  If you spent much time outdoors this year, you might have noticed that a high percentage of mornings during this period had foggy conditions and nearly all of them had a heavy dew on the ground.  This situation was perfect for a number of blights and fungal conditions that limited production for a wide range of things.  The weather conditions also promoted heavier weed pressures that needed attention - preempting some of our normal late Summer/early Fall planting.  Add to it some suspicions about other factors and our final result is that our overall production was about 2/3 of what we had last year at this time.

In the end, we had a very diverse set of crops do well enough that we were able to provide yet another fine CSA season for our customers.  This could be our most balanced shares to date, giving our customers the appearance of a year of bounty.  And, for their part, it was that - and we are pleased by this.  On the other hand, the ability to sell surplus was down this season, though we do still have garlic, onions and potatoes that will help us at the tail end of the year.

But, even if the over-all production levels were down, there were still outstanding producers on the farm - and that is what we want to focus on - the stars of the 2016 GFF growing season!

15. Komatsuna
There probably hasn't been a season where we haven't tried something new to us.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  This is one of the years where the trial worked out pretty darned well.  We liked how komatsuna did in the Fall a bit better than the Spring, but I don't think it will stop us from doing a bit more with it during either period.  We are thinking we might do a bit more of the komatsuna and a bit less of the pok choi in the future, especially in the high tunnels.  This isn't a knock on the choi mind you.  It's just that these are a bit less bulky, a little sweeter and people are reporting that they have been able to eat these up a bit better than some of the nice big choi we grow.
photo from Evergreen Seeds

14. Thelma Sanders Acorn Squash
We have been telling people about Thelma for many years (both growers and consumers).  In our opinion, we think the quality of this tan acorn squash is better than most green acorns and Tammy and I prefer the less stringy texture.  Even better, the production numbers are quite favorable.  This past season we had 285 marketable fruit from 120 row feet of plants (approx one plant per row foot at transplant).  This happened even though we were late getting them in this season.  What's not to like about that?
Thelma Sanders is showing up in more seed catalogs!
We have had a difficult time having consistent winter squash production on our farm over the years.  The two most prominent issues have been excessive moisture in the Spring preventing us from getting the plants in the ground and excessive moisture later in the year preventing us from cultivating and keeping weeds down.  This year, the excess came late and we were able to address issues to give Thelma a pretty good situation for 2016.  But, even in the difficult years, Thelma gives us some production.

13. Pride of Wisconsin
This wasn't the melon year that last year was.  We can link it to the field, to the time of planting and to the timing of the wet weather in late July through August.  On the other hand, production levels for all melons were actually reasonably good.  It's just that you can't help but compare the current year against the record setting season that came just prior.
Pride of Wisconsin landed at #15 in 2015
It is interesting to note that Pride of Wisconsin was on our list last year as well, something that actually doesn't happen all that often.  That's likely in part to some handicapping that occurs since we don't want to give you the same top varieties every season.  But, it is also a testament to how different every year is for us as growers of produce.  Pride of Wisconsin's main competitors on our farm for melon superiority are Minnesota Midget and Eden's Gem.  The former produced at half the levels we saw last season and Eden's Gem was similar to last year, just not enough to dethrone Pride.

12. Marconi Red
This is a variety that we have been growing since our first years in Tripoli as the Genuine Faux Farm.  Early on, we only got a few peppers off of our Marconi plants - proof positive that sometimes you need to learn your variety in order to get production out of it. 
A Marconi plant before the fruit is um... red.
Marconi Red reminds me of a stretched out bell pepper in shape since it does have lobes, unlike some of our other sweet peppers (see Chervena Chushka later in this list).  You can certainly eat them green, but if you do, I might suggest that you are missing out on a real treat since the taste matures when they are red.  Great taste and excellent texture are the norm and we have had consistent production since 2012.  But, this year, Marconi set a record for it's best production levels on the farm.  That's enough for us to give it a GFF Veg Variety Winner showing in 2016.

11. White Wing
Once again, it was hard to feel great about the onion production because our expectations have increased dramatically over the last three years.
Early onions in your shares courtesy of White Wing
White Wing showed up in the end of year awards in 2014 and did equally well in 2015.  This year, they continued to be consistent, earning a slot here.  We don't know how well these onions store because they never stick around all that long.  We've found them to be a good addition to the high tunnel as well as in the field.

10. Bronze Arrowhead
I tell you we tend to favor veg varieties that haven't appeared here before and now I show you Bronze Arrowhead.  It has been at the top of the list in 2010, in the top five the year after that and in the top ten in 2013 with an 'Honorable Mention' in 2014.
One of our favorite varieties to grow - period.
Well, we had better have a good reason then, hadn't we?  First, we can grow Bronze Arrowhead very early, very late and in the middle of Summer.  We can pick them small and we can pick them at full size.  They are easier than many lettuces to clean when you do full head harvest like we do.  We like the taste and texture and our CSA members agree.  Over the last five seasons, we have harvested twice as many of the Bronze Arrowhead as any other lettuce variety we favor at the Genuine Faux Farm.  Reason enough to be in the top ten.

9. Helios
Helios is a new entry into the list even though we have grown it for many years.  A quick look shows it on our grow list in 2009, but I seem to recall we might have had it even earlier than that. 
A handful of Helios is a radish lover's delight.
Helios can be picked at normal radish size, but we tend to favor letting them get a little bigger.  They can hold a bit longer in the field than most radish and they don't get pithy.  Helios can handle warmer weather when most other short season radish quit and Tammy favors them for taste over French Breakfast.  We got a nice batch in the last Spring and in the Fall this year.

8. Touchstone Gold
This is another repeat from 2015.  But, unlike Pride of Wisconsin and White Wing, Touchstone Gold exceeded last year's production.  In a year where most crops ran at levels under prior year production numbers, a crop that exceeds the prior year needs to be rewarded by showing up on the list.
Last year's photo, but better results in 2016.
We had a similar root count for our high tunnel production of Touchstone gold this year, but the harvest weight (without greens) nearly doubled.  We attribute this to how we harvested this time around, but you still can't help but be impressed with these great tasting beets.  A great treat this summer was sauteed golden beets with the greens added at the end.  That meal included some steamed green beans, so the farmers were pretty darned happy.

7. Black Cherry
We will grant that our Black Cherry production per plant this year did NOT match last year.  On the other hand, we had more plants and production amounts were double last year.
There are no Black Cherry tomatoes here, the taste testers ate them all!
As a result, they appeared as an option for our CSA members frequently - which meant we had some pretty happy people.  We really can't argue about the health of the plants and the production levels were just fine.  But, with Black Cherry it is really only about the taste.  And, for our farm, it is about the ability to pick them fairly quickly without a significant number of split fruit.  Black Cherry is a winner at GFF.

6. Chervena Chushka
Chervena was number five last year and takes a tiny step back to number six this season.  Production numbers were down a tiny bit, but it seemed to us that the taste was actually better.  There isn't much we can do to verify our taste perception from year to year, but we can say that Chervena Chushka got more positive reviews from our CSA members this year than most of our peppers.
One of our prettiest peppers too!
We are wondering if some of this season's growing conditions led to higher sugar content for many of our crops even if it reduced production levels and storage times.  Whatever the case may be, this pepper has been solid since we gave it full production status in 2014.

5. Marketmore 76
What more can we say about this vegetable variety?  It is a consistent producer on the farm each season.  We normally harvest them when they are 3/4lb to 1 lb in size.  They typically have a nice straight barrel shape that is attractive on the table.  The spines are easy to rub off and the quality remains good even if the fruit exceeds a pound in size.
I should have picked one more for an even 1000 this season.
I am actually shocked that Marketmore has never cracked our top five.  Perhaps I just haven't wanted to 'jinx it' by putting it here?  No, I think it will do just fine next year, even after it's appearance at number five.

4.  Bunte Forellenschus
Larger quantities of seed for Bunte Forellenschus other than gardener packets have not been consistently available, so it should not be a surprise that it hasn't made our list before.  Add to that the slightly limited peak production window and you don't typically have a recipe for a top veggie variety on our farm.
I'm ready for a BLT right now!
But, what happens when you hit the production window perfectly?  Well, then you harvest beautiful heads of lettuce that you almost feel you want to play a fanfare for as you set it out for your CSA customers.  It is no secret by now that I favor some of the smoother/softer textures for lettuce and this one fits the bill.  But, feedback from all lovers of lettuce was positive for Bunte this season.

3. Rio Grande
It has been FAR too long since a potato made it to our top vegetable variety list (2012).  We like our taters and it is always disappointing when they don't do as well as we would like.  We tend to set our goals pretty high, which often means we are disappointed - even if the yields were reasonable.
Rio Grande in the center
Rio Grande was not available in 2015, much to our dismay since it has been a consistent producer of Russet potatoes on our farm.  It returned to the seed availability list this season and we immediately reinserted it into the lineup.  Production exceeded any prior year (458 lbs) for Rio Grande on our farm and the taste/texture combination was fantastic.  Tammy tends to favor the Mountain Rose, Purple Majesty and Carola, but she has also been enjoying Rio Grande this year.  We did note some issues with hollow heart in the very large tubers, but it really isn't hard to deal with, so we didn't hold it against it.

2. Waltham Butternut
We realize many growers are turning their heads for some newer butternut cultivars, but we are happy to stick with Waltham.  This year, we had over one fruit per row foot of production and an average size around three pounds.
Waltham Butternut
The solid vine of a c.moschata squash, of which butternuts are one, helps these vines to survive vine borer attacks far better than many other winter squash.  Hence the reason organic producers find it easier to produce them than other cultivars of winter squash.  This season, the taste of our butternuts have been sweeter than we've ever encountered - just amazing eating!  On the other hand, the high sugar levels are reducing the storability of the crop.  I guess that's not a horrible issue because people are going to want to east them up as fast as they are able anyway!

1. Gold of Bacau romano bean
One would think that the farmer would manage to get a picture of the number one crop for the season.  He didn't, so you all have to deal with a field picture that has the bean plants in it.

Gold of Bacau beans climbing the fence on the right.
We tried Gold of Bacau in the past on a trial basis and we (and others we got to try it) enjoyed the taste of these romanos very much.  We put the production at 90 feet last year and failed to get them weeded.  Not to be daunted by failure, we tried 90 feet of production this year and got 130 pounds of beans for our efforts.  Everyone in the CSA was given a nice batch of them to try and we have to admit we had to do a fair amount of encouraging.  After all, Gold of Bacau is... gold colored.  And, the beans are harvested fairly large, with the beans clearly showing in the pod.  If you are looking at green beans this size, you typically say they are past peak.

We were persuasive enough to get people to try them and now we have a large number of fans for Gold of Bacau in our CSA.

We hope you enjoyed our 2016 Veg Variety Winner blog post.  Please feel free to ask questions or make comments regarding these varieties in the comment section and we will happily engage you in discussion if you wish.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Trials, Tribulations and Thanks

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and our wish is that you may all celebrate the holiday season in a way that seems right to you and helps you to see the good things around you.

Tammy and I agree that Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. To us, Thanksgiving is actually a 'literal' holiday.  We believe that we should spend some time giving thanks, even when it feels difficult and, perhaps, even impossible.  This Fall has been harder than usual for us.  Some of the issues might be of our own doing, some might be as a result of other forces and some just simply happened.  We are aware that everyone has their issues and we know our problems are nothing compared to so many other people out there who struggle just to get through each day.  I do not say this to belittle how we (or you) feel when we're down.  Instead, it is a reminder to me that I am not unique to having periods of difficulty and that I am blessed to be able to do something about so much of what faces me.

One of my traditions for Thanksgiving is to write statements of gratitude and I thought I would share some of them with you.

- I am frequently humbled by the many people who trust us to provide them with vegetables, poultry and eggs for their consumption.  In fact, we sometimes work so hard at trying to do the things we think are right and necessary to fulfill that trust that we may not be transmitting to you how honored we are to be able to work for you.  We give thanks for all of the fine people who support our farm by buying our products.  Thank you for being understanding when things don't go quite as we planned and thank you for telling us when you are pleased.  Those little nuggets are fuel that burns for days, weeks, months and years on our farm.

- Neither Tammy nor I are terribly comfortable with self-promotion - even though we find ourselves in a situation where we have to promote what we do in order to make sales for the farm or to advocate for other things that matter.  But, that's not going to stop me from saying good things about my spouse.  I know she doesn't think some of these things are a big deal - but I do.  We actually braved some of the Friday shopping madness in order to acquire some fleece that will be made into fleece blankets for the Wartburg Social Work Holiday Shoppe (local families with financial challenges are able to get gifts for their children at Christmas through this program).  Each year since she started at Wartburg, she and her students have tied several blankets to be given away.  This year, Tammy made sure to invite some students who were remaining on campus to join us for a full Thanksgiving dinner.  In addition to that, she cooked up a ham to take to a community dinner and made pumpkin muffins for students in her Wednesday classes.  This isn't a contest, she's not trying to win a prize.  She does this out of kindness and a desire to help make things better where she can.  I am proud of her and I am eternally grateful that she is willing to be my friend.

- Sometimes, we have the good fortune to get help on the farm.  Sometimes it is negotiated and sometimes it is offered with no strings attached.  Suffice it to say, there is a list of fine people for whom we give thanks on a regular basis.  Rather than list people and risk omission, I'll give a couple of examples without names.  When I walk by our Northeast asparagus patch, I remember help received to plant the crowns out there several years ago.  Each time I enter the new walk-in cooler, I think of the persons who worked hard to make that construction project happen.  I see the new plastic on our smaller high tunnel building and I am reminded of all of the great folks who came early in the morning to help.  I remember the time our old truck was crushed under a building and someone immediately loaned us a truck so we could make deliveries.  We cannot repay, we can only give thanks.

I am hopeful that you will all receive this email.  Recent email issues have made communication difficult with many emails sent to me apparently lost permanently in the ether.  Even so, I am grateful that we do have access to electronic communication.  And, I am also thankful that I have the ability to address problems we might be having.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Rob & Tammy Faux
Genuine Faux Farm

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Half Full / Half Empty

What do you see when you look at a list of your accomplishments for a period of time?
a) a bunch of things you did that you feel pretty good about
b) a bunch of things you still need to do and you regret not getting them done too
c) a bunch of things that are "done enough" so you can continue with other tasks
d) all of the above

Well, if you run a diversified small farm such as ours, I will make a wager that your answer is going to be d) every time.

New Perennial Fruit/Veggie Area
When Valhalla (our new high tunnel) went up last year, we made sure to leave some space between it and the bush line to its North.  The main issue we were trying to avoid was the possibility of drifts accumulating and pressing on the North wall of the building.  We managed to handle that - but we were left with this odd sized area and we trying to figure out the best things we could do with it.

We got most of the rhubarb transplanted!
Our intended solution was to expand our asparagus bed in that area and add some rhubarb and grapes to our production.  Of course, we intended to 'get right to it' last year.  But, when push came to shove, it just didn't hit the top of the priority list.  This year, we spent time working to discourage the Canadian Thistle in that area.  Then, we actually managed to hill out two areas and transplant our year-old rhubarb starts, using some of our nice compost to encourage them to do well.

Now, as long as we only look at the South bed, we're good.  But, sadly, the North bed is still awaiting it's asparagus and grapes.  Alas!

Valhalla at Work
The new high tunnel did reasonably well for us this season.  We are still fighting some soil compaction issues that were a result of the build last year, but we figure that will work out over time.

Do I see lima beans?!?
Lima beans have long been one of Rob's favorite veggies that he gets only rarely.  So, we thought we'd do a trial of some limas in the high tunnel.  After all, they like warmer seasons and they need a bit more time than many crops.  The results were positive from our perspective.  But, they are not likely going to be expanded to production levels that will allow us to have limas for our CSA or for sale.  The returns just don't seem to be that great.  But, it sure was nice to have some fresh limas this Fall!

Taking a Moment to Appreciate Fall Color
I even managed to enforce a ten minute break when the sun was showing off the Fall colors in the tree lines to our North and East.  I'll take that as an accomplishment as well.  Of course, I wish I could have done this more often over the past year, but I'll admit that I did this enough so that I could continue to do what I needed to do!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Keep On Keeping On

I have been in need of some humor lately and I am guessing others might as well.

Please check your worries at the door and set aside sorrow, anger and fear.  If only for a few moments, let yourself chuckle... or groan at the puns if that's your style.  In a future post, I'll take on weightier things.  For now, I give you this:

The Computer Scientist Strikes!
Many of you might know (or maybe you don't) that I actually have a degree in Computer Science.  In fact, I am fond of pointing out that I have a PhD in Computer Science and Adult Education - therefore I farm.  For a short time, I worked for Rockwell International in Cedar Rapids and had a phone conversation with a guy in a Rockwell office located in Australia.  He told me about their Local Area Network setup that he was in charge of.  Of course, they called it the LAN down under.

For the Birds
The chickens were really active today on the farm.  It wasn't too windy and the temperature was pretty nice.  I guess I encouraged it a bit when I gave them some veggie scraps.  That's me, I enjoy all kinds of art - including poultry in motion.

So, You Want a Salad?
I give you Baxter Black and his Vegetarian's Nightmare as presented on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  You just have to appreciate the twinkle in his eye as he does this one.

Star Trek II?
So, when we lived in Madison, Wisconsin, we would often drive by this small 'hole-in-the-wall' business by lake Monona that advertised palm reading and other such stuff.  The owner, a short, slightly built fellow, had no employees and it was hard to see how he could possibly be making a go of it.  Some time ago, we heard that the proprietor had been arrested for some "improper business practices" and had been found guilty and sent to a minimum security prison.  More recently, we read an article that said he had managed to escape from prison.  The headline read:
"Short Fortuneteller Escapes Prison: Small Medium At-Large!"

I wondered if any of the people who had put him in prison were worried about the "wrath of con?"  No?  Ok, that was stretching a bit.

Ah, Tim Conway, You Make Me Cry
The Carol Burnett Show has so many wonderful nuggets like this.  Is it what he says, or is it the fact that no one can stop laughing to continue with their skit?  I don't care - when I need a laugh, this always gets me.

Music Festival
Tammy and I used to go to a music festival in the Summer.  Needless to say, the farm put a stop to that.  Well, actually, we moved so far away from the music festival it became a non-issue, then the festival ceased to be - which made it more of a non-issue.  In any event, it was a festival that included a campground area, so thousands of people would pitch tents and go to various concerts held throughout the grounds.

What struck me about the whole thing is that people would sang whenever they wanted, but they never did sing.  Kids ran all over the place, but they would never run.  People would spoke with each other, but they never did speak.  After all any where people went in the camping area, it was past tents.

String You Along?
Haven't laughed enough? - time for Monty Python. 
Some day we'll tell you about the "hosettes" we now have at our farm.

In Closing
Well, I suppose I must be going now.  You know what "they" say.  Time flies like an arrow.  Fruit flies like a banana.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Chickens, Dry Beans and Fall Crops, Oh My!

Here we are, in the month of November and it feels like September.  I won't complain too much since this weather is giving me many more opportunities than usual to get things done without wearing as many layers of clothing as has often been the case in the past.  Besides, I am positive I will still have plenty to do once Mother Nature decides to turn on the A/C unit and I am also quite sure I'll be frantically trying to do a large number of things on the day(s) just prior to the "big freeze" that typically comes right before Thanksgiving every year.

Portable Fertilizer Units
Once again, we are making use of our portable fertilizer units who double up as a clean up crew.  Our third (and final) batch of broiler chickens for the year are cleaning up the Western 2/3 of our tomato/basil plot this year.  They've done a nice job kicking the straw mulch around and exposing the drip tape so it will be easier to remove.

These boys go to the park on Sunday!  Who wants some chicken on Monday?
We will be taking the broilers to the park on Sunday night and we would love it if a bunch of people told us they wanted some unfrozen chickens for eating.  We will arrange delivery points in both Waverly and Cedar Falls if we can get enough orders.

Four Leaf Clovers Are In There!
Take note of the nice clover in the path by the bush line.
I know the 4 leaf clovers are there - they told me so.

Beans, Beans, the Miracle Fruit
The dry bean harvest is one of those that always gets put off.  And put off.  And put off.  We grow bush dry beans and pole dry beans.  The bush dry beans are much harder to pick usually.  At least this year, we kept them weeded so it won't be a treasure hunt in addition to a harvest task.
Ok, I took a picture of the wrong section of fence....
The pole beans on the other hand, haven't been a consistent success for us because we don't always get the fencing up in time.  It's a time thing and just the way things go.  This year, we had a wonderful crew of Wartburg students come out for a "Work for your Supper" event today and we got all of the dry pole beans done.  Looking forward to some excellent eating with the True Red Cranberry and Cherokee Trail of Tears we grew this season.  The vines weren't as heavy as they have been some years, but I would call it at least an average harvest - which is fine with me.

Bucket List
My bucket list is different than most peoples' bucket list.

Give me some nice paint buckets and the bucket on the tractor.
Hey, I TRY to Tell You We're Still Growing Crops
This time of year I get the comment from numerous people that goes something like this:  "Well, I guess you're winding down now.  Surely everything must be in by now."

Nope.  And, the deer know it.
The deer were giving our daikon radish too much TLC, so we thought we'd make it much less of a positive experience.  Also in the picture are watermelon radish, mustard greens, arugula, spinach, turnips and short season radish.  We may need to add some row cover in a bit, but here's hoping we can get what we want out of most of this before that point.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

We, The People

You know, Lafou, I've been thinking.  A dangerous pastime... I know.

You may have noticed that we tend not to use our farm blog or Facebook to attempt to sway others to vote one way or another.  However, there are some things I do wish to say regarding the upcoming elections and I hope you will take them in the spirit they are intended.

Friends Are Always Friends
I have friends that identify at various points in the "political spectrum" and because of this, I try to remind myself to avoid belittling any opinion that I do not agree with.  First, I know I am far from perfect, so it is not my place to sit in judgement of others.  Second, I am fully aware that there is NO SUCH THING as an easy answer.  Every solution put forth, whether if favors conservative, liberal or other viewpoints, has shortcomings and advantages that requires hard thought.  Third, I suspect many of you are like me, we tend to grow tired in conflict and sadly, we often do not take the time to really check our facts.  I also believe that the majority of us don't even know how to find the facts necessary to make a truly informed decision.  And, yet, we seem to think it is ok to take a position without any consideration for other options.  We happily glom on to anything that already agrees with our initial opinion.  And we tend to let the simple (and incomplete and often inaccurate) answer be enough.

In the end, I am comforted by the fact that friends are simply my friends.  This is true regardless of whether we agree politically, religiously or otherwisely.  And, because I value my friends, I remind myself constantly to be respectful and to remember that the reason we might disagree on things so strongly is because we care.  And, that's usually one of the main reasons I like my friends in the first place.

Those People We Like to Gripe About - Well, They're Us
It's so easy to say things like - "That @$%* government messes everything up.  They need to just leave me alone and let me do my thing."  After all, in our own eyes, we are never the problem.  It's always someone else, isn't it?  And, the government is so big, it's pretty easy to pretend it isn't made up of a large group of people who have dreams, aspirations and abilities that run the gamut  - just like you and I.  In fact, I bet each of us has friends who are employed directly or indirectly in government-funded positions.  When you make a blanket statement about the organization, you make a statement about your friend.  Is that really what you wanted to do?  And, if somehow, you try to say, "Well they're the exception."  Just remember that all of the other government employed are someone else's friend or relative.  They can't all be the exception.

And guess what?  Those folks running for the various offices are also people.  While I won't make any claims about those who like the big stage, I will tell you that most who run for state and local offices are people who are generally running for office because they wish to serve.

And yet, all we hear about them are the general negatives that apply to anyone who is a (fill in a political party).  Clearly, because they identify a certain way - they are clearly evil. And, apparently we respond pretty well to all of the general negative ads that are out there now that have very little basis in fact and are usually not specific to the candidate in question.

How terribly sad for us.

If We Really Care - We'll Simmer Down and Think Harder, Be Kinder
As I said earlier - I believe that many of our ideological disagreements come because we care.  But, when we fail to respect others' ideas/ideals and we fail to consider alternatives and we fail to thoroughly check out what is true then I have to conclude that we do not care enough.

I'd like to believe that we are all better than this. I'd like to challenge myself and anyone who reads this to work to improve.  After all, the real strength of the United States of America is...  us.  We can demand integrity.  We can encourage conversation and compromise.  We can overcome our tendency to respond to sensational advertising and emotional appeals when some careful thought and investigation would be better.

Frankly, I would rather require that ads for each candidate only feature the candidate discussing policy options they currently favor and discuss how they see the role they would have as our representatives in government.  What do you think about that? 

Here is Where I Make An Exception
I stated at the beginning that we try not to use our blog to encourage certain votes.  I will say that I DO want to encourage you to vote.  Our country needs us to participate in the process and it needs us to honor the process.  By honoring and respecting how things are done in our democracy and using civil discourse we build ourselves up rather than tear everything down.

An example of this is this past year's efforts to encourage change in the state of Iowa that would help farms such as ours deal with chemical misapplication.  Brian Schoenjahn of the Iowa Senate (12th district) is my representative and the representative for many who read this blog.  He was willing to hear what I (and others) had to say about the problem.  He allowed us to educate him with some of the necessary details.  He and his staff went to others to learn more about the issue and then he was responsive as we lobbied for change.  We were able to convince him to advocate on our behalf.  Perhaps we didn't get everything to happen that we wanted in 'our perfect world.'  Perhaps Mr. Schoenjahn doesn't see all of what we want in the same light we do.  And that is fine.

Why?  Because what matters is Mr. Schoenjahn did what a public servant is supposed to do.  He responded when his constituents asked for something.  He listened respectfully while a case was made and requested additional information in hopes that he could learn enough to properly advocate for a solution - or perhaps decide there wasn't enough cause to go looking for a solution.  During the process, I felt as if I actually had a say in how things happen in our government.  Isn't that how I am supposed to feel?

We don't necessarily need more Democrats or more Republicans or more Libertarians or more Green Party members.  We need representatives in our government who know what it means to be a responsive and responsible lawmaker.  We need people who won't shut down or begin to sneer at you because you are not in agreement with them.  We need problem solvers, not problem makers.

Because I have had some direct interaction with Brian Schoenjahn, I have come to see him as a problem solver.  Therefore, I will endorse him for the Iowa Senate, realizing that my endorsement will likely do little to convince anyone else to vote for him.

What I am MOST hopeful for is that each person who does read this blog will become more involved in the day to day governing of our nation so that they too, can become problem solvers.  And, in so doing, they can also identify our public servants who are more a positive part of the government that is made up of us.

We, the People.
Go vote! I, the Sandman, have spoken.