Monday, August 31, 2020

No More Summer Fest at GFF

 
It is the end of August, and there was no Summer Festival at the Genuine Faux Farm.  An August gathering just prior to the start of school rapidly became a tradition for us at the farm and not because we were farming and selling produce and poultry.  The origin of this farm gathering actually came from our tendency to offer our place for a before-school starting gathering when we lived near Ridgeway and Decorah.  It was a natural extension for Tammy to invite her colleagues at Wartburg for something similar.  It just happened that some of our customers were some of the same people.

We began trying to hold annual Spring and Fall gatherings at the farm as early as 2006, but our first August gathering at the farm was in 2004 - it just was not billed as a 'farm function.'
 

 
One of the darnedest things about having gatherings is that you never quite know what is going to get the attention of the younger crowd.  This is actually important for a couple of reasons.  First, a farm has some dangerous places and dangerous things.  We worked very hard to try to identify anything that was both dangerous AND attractive to a kid so we could remove access and avoid any unfortunate accidents.  I am proud to say that we managed to accomplish this task for each and every event....  well, we think we did because no one was hurt at any of these events.

Second, there had to be ***something*** "farm-ish" that would be interesting for the kids at the farm.  We weren't always sure what would work, but we tried our hands at several things (with varying levels of success).  But, nothing... absolutely nothing... garnered as much attention as the green carts we used on the farm.  Not a single event (other than the couple that occurred when it was actively raining) went by without an opportunity to take a picture of kids finding all kinds of ways to make a green cart into something VERY fun.
 
Of course there was food.  Sometimes there was music.  We often made a grill accessible.  Later on, we would roast a turkey and provide the basics for sandwiches and ask everyone to supplement with a potluck style event.  There was a painted rock hunt, painting on a fence and doors, lawn games and even some tractor rides.
 
And who could forget the annual 'Scavenger Hunt?'  I would take a few moments away from trying to clean everything up and being prepared for guests and go take a batch of fifteen or twenty pictures.   I would then print sheets out for people to meander around the farm and see how many they could find.

Here's a whatsit!  Anyone know what it is and where it might be located on our farm?
 
 
 
And here is another one.  This one even stumped Tammy!

The painting thing got us into a little bit of trouble - even if we liked the results (see the door below).  You see, not everyone read about the painting in the gathering announcements.  And, once you arrive, how do you tell your child "no" when all of the other kids are painting.  I suspect there were some shoes and other items that were not used again after that little activity was over.  As you can tell from the first photo of this blog post, we moved to colored chalk and encouraged people to draw on our flair box and on other surfaces we provided.

 

Speaking of this door.  We still have it.  It sits in the corner of our garage at the moment - but we brought it out and put it on display each and every event after the one during which it was painted.  Oddly enough...  I still feel good when I see that thing.  I'm just trying to figure out how to put it somewhere so I can see it a bit more often.  No, do not suggest putting it IN the house.  This is a 'farm thing,'  not a 'house thing.' 

So... here we are.  August 31.  There was no Summer Festival this year.  In fact, there were no farm gatherings this year.  Yeah.  Pandemics do that to farm gatherings.  But, so do changes in what the farmers do.  Even if there had been no pandemic, there was a good chance we would have held no gatherings this year anyway.   It is sad to consider that possibility, because there was something very positive about these events.  

Yes, they were a good deal of work for us.  Yes, they could be a bit stressful for us to host them.  Yes, it took a few days to recover from them.  And, yes... we still miss them.

So, happy Summer Festival away from the Genuine Faux Farm this year.  Have a s'more.  Paint a door.  Push a cart around the lawn.  Maybe we'll throw a few tomatoes to the turkeys and record them running around - and it will be just like you're here.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Sharing More Of What I Enjoy

A few weeks ago, I shared a post where I talked about a hobby I very much enjoy, postal history.  The reactions I received were positive (thank you for that) and it made me want to share a bit more.  By now, you know I don't want to be overbearing and I try not to overwhelm people with what I put here regarding this topic.  But, I also make no apologies about my interest and the enjoyment I get out of learning all kinds of things as I explore the history surrounding items in my collection.

In fact, many people have some set of topics or areas of knowledge that they find more than interesting - for whatever reason.  I enjoy hearing people get excited about the things they enjoy.  Why?  Because I understand how good it feels when others take the time to try to understand why I like what I like.  And, it can be pretty amazing what you happen to learn in the process of listening.  Some obscure but interesting fact maybe?  Or perhaps you will learn something about the person that gives you more appreciation for who they are.  

Whatever it is - it's a good thing.

Why did Thurso have so many 'writers?'

I have had this item in my collection for some time now.  It is a very attractive envelope because it shows a pre-printed advertisement for the sender of this mail - Attorney James Mitchell in Milwaukee.  The first thing that makes this envelope interesting to me is that very few businesses were using pre-printed designs for their mail in 1864.

The second thing is that this letter was mailed to Scotland.  At the time I bought this item, that might have been my biggest reason for wanting to purchase it.  Well, that and it looked very nice.  As I learned more, I came to realize that Thurso is the northern most settlement of the main British Isle. 

Some time ago, I came across another item addressed to someone else in Thurso.  I did not buy it, but I noticed it was also sent to a person who was a "Writer".  So, let's back up a second...

The address reads: James Brims, Esq, Writer, Thurso, Caithness, Scotland, N.B.

My initial thought was: "hmm.  Was there some sort of artist gathering in Thurso since there were multiple writers at that location?"   Some quick searching blew that theory out of the water.  Instead, I ran across a directly of some sort from the 1860s in Scotland.  The directory had a note that said "Writers, see Solicitors."

Aha!  I said!  A solicitor in England is a lawyer or attorney.  Therefore, after a little more effort to confirm, I learned that the Scots referred to solicitors as 'writers.'  The idea that James Brims was an attorney in Thurso is further supported by the fact that a US attorney is sending him mail AND by the honorific "esquire" at the end of his name - typically an indicator that this person is a lawyer.

And, now you know.

Active Listening by Writing

We live in a world where we are often more worried about whether or not we are heard than we are about whether we are hearing/listening.

You see it in conversation.  People frequently interrupt each other to get their own opinion vocalized without really paying any attention to what was said.  All they really heard was the general topic area, which triggered some sort of response in their brain that they must now be sure they can press their opinions forward - even if it isn't appropriate for the given moment.

I fully recognize this same tendency in myself.  In fact, I suspect I was pretty bad at this at one time.  But, a strange thing happened - I grew up a little bit (even if I am still 10).  So, apparently we have a rash of 'not growing up' in this world. 

(note: I am still acutely aware that I fail to listen sometimes.  It's part of being human and continuously learning and trying to improve)

Lots and lots of words

Over time, I have written lots and lots of words.  In this blog alone, there are plenty of words (and pictures).  Just look at the illustration below taken from a couple of weeks ago from our blog.  As of this writing, we are sitting at 158 blog posts for 2020.  We are approaching 1400 posts with over one million words worth of writing.  NO... I did not (and will not) count them.  I know I said I liked numbers and counting - but not that much.  Really.

Who will read them?

I have broached this topic before - who actually reads these posts?  Remember, this comes from a person who did write a dissertation for his PhD - lots of words there again.  I suspect there *might* be one or two people in this world (other than myself) who read the entire dissertation.  But, in those cases, it was their job to read it.

I ask this same question when I write for Pesticide Action Network.  Who reads the things I write for PAN?  When they read these things, how WELL do they read them and how WELL do they end up understanding them?  Does it motivate them to think about something carefully?  Will it challenge them to learn a bit more and adjust their opinion even a tiny bit?  

I don't know.  And maybe it isn't important that I know this?  After all, am I writing so other people will read?  

The answer to that last question is my typical "yes and no" sort of answer.  I think you'll understand as you read more of this blog.

Writing reflects my listening and learning

I took the writing of my dissertation very seriously.  I realized at the time that very few people would ever read it.  Yes, I guess I did have a few fantasies that what I would write could become something bigger and more "important."  But, I knew these thoughts for what they were - fantasies.  Even with that knowledge, I still worked very hard to write what I felt was an excellent dissertation.

Why?  Because, by writing, I was exercising my listening and learning skills.  It was a process to put all that I had read, all that I had collected in research and all that I had assimilated into my knowledge base into a cohesive form.  In effect, it became a reflection of active listening and active awareness regarding things that I was trying very hard to understand as well as I possibly could.

And now for the dose of humility.

I was encouraged to submit an article in a professional journal.  Wow, get people to think about the results of my hard work?  Wonderful!  To do that I had to condense my 150+ page dissertation into .... five to seven pages.

First reaction?  "You've got to be kidding me!"

Then I actually accomplished that task - and got it published.

New reaction?  "Why did I write so much in the first place when I could get the point across in seven pages?"

The answer to that question after getting published?  "Because I thought that was what I needed to do - even if it wasn't what I actually needed to do."

My thoughts on it now?  "Writing the original piece was part of my growth and learning process.  The short article was the expression of the resulting mastery of the topic - evidence that I had listened and learned and could succinctly summarize all of that in hopes that others might build from there."

Doesn't that sound like a silly academic?  Alas for me.


So here I am, writing some more

I am still listening and learning - and I am still writing to try and make sense of it all.  I could certainly type all of this or hand-write it into a journal that I would not share with anyone else.  But, then, I would miss the potential opportunity to listen to others and learn more as they respond to my thoughts.  And, perhaps, because there is the potential for some interaction, I am encouraged to explore things I would not bother exploring if it were only for me.  

Maybe something I write will encourage someone else to speak so I can listen.  Perhaps something I write will bring about a new line of thought for another person who might then move forward and do something good.  And, I will freely admit that there are times I hope I can help someone to learn and there are other times I hope I can be a positive or useful influence for others.  I do still have the heart of a teacher and I do still care enough to try to get people to think harder about things.

How much longer will I write?  After all, I have gone through periods where I just did not want to....  I suspect I will go through similar times in the future.  If you take a stroll through the blog, you can probably take some guesses about what leads to more or less writing.  There are numerous periods where the content seems pretty obligatory - after all, this is a farm blog and it is used to inform our customers.  Then, there are times.. like this year since March or the prior year's January...  Times when I seem to have a lot to say.  But, maybe that's because I am in the mood to learn - and I hope I can infect others with the need to learn and grow as well?

That's my story for now and I'm sticking to it.  Until I hear something that makes me consider otherwise.  Then I might write about that.

Friday, August 28, 2020

We Should Walk There Again Too (Two)

A couple of weeks ago (I think - after all, I am not even certain what today is), we took a trip up to Decorah with the expressed purpose of visiting some beautiful places we used to walk through on a semi-regular basis when we were in college and when we lived in the country near the town of Ridgeway.  Not long after the trip, we wrote a blog featuring Twin Springs.   Now we get to show a little of our visit at Dunning's Springs.  

Of the two locations, I suspect Dunning's is the more popular and more frequently photographed.  After all, it does have a nice waterfall.  And, it is closer to downtown Decorah, just across the river. 

What pleases and annoys me (yes, both) about Dunning's is the fact that there is this nice paved road that runs fairly close to the stream.  It sure is easy to take a walk fairly close to the running water.  But, it does tend to detract from the 'wildness' of it all.  However, if you look at the photo above, you might swear that we were well away from roads and homes and...   well, you get the idea.  

Sometimes I take pictures like this because they depict something very real - but there is also an illusion to it.  An illusion of wilderness (of a sort) even though it lies feet away from a paved road.  It reminds me that people can be alarmingly good at making things seem very different than they are.  It also reminds me that you might find truth and beauty by just taking one step off of the beaten path.

The stone bridge wasn't there when we went to college, nor was it there when we lived nearby.  This bridge was completed in 2017 and appears to be a fine piece of work - some real skill was required in making it.  I guess I admit at some level that I wish there was less of the human made and more of nature here.  But, if it encourages people to stay on the paths and enjoy nature without causing damage, I can certainly be for it.  

I admit that I tended to favor Twin Springs because you walked through much less town before you could get to 'country' if you were leaving Luther's campus.  To get to Dunning's you had to walk through several blocks of town proper before you saw fewer houses and felt like you were entering the country.   But, I wonder if I might have come more often to Dunning's if the bridge and pathways were there.  They seem comfortable and inviting enough for a college student to read for a while.  Maybe we'll go back and try reading for while.  

A test drive, if you will.

It was required that we "climb" the falls.  Ok.  I have always found myself climbing up the falls when I have visited Dunning's and this was no exception to that rule.  To our dismay, the two of us found that neither of us was quite as flexible as we once were.  So, the climb up and down was a little more adventurous than we once found it.  However, I think we both found our balance fairly quickly and it wasn't that big of a deal once we got into it.

For some reason, I find the water pouring out of the rocks to be captivating.  Even on a warm day, the colder water keeps the temperatures down. 

Tammy and I have had the privilege of visiting many waterfalls over time.  I think it would be fair to say that Dunning's is one of the hardest to photograph - especially when there is sunshine.  The sun tends to bleach out the top area when you take the picture.  Over all, it is just hard to show the depth and scale of these falls.  

I guess we'll have to go back, take our camera and walk there again.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Caretaker

Norman Rockwell illustration

The artistry of Norman Rockwell has been something that has captured my attention since I first encountered it at my grandparent's house in an over-sized, coffee-table book.  Rockwell had a way of capturing people in a way that let you get lost in the layers of fine detail.  And yes, I mean detail in more than one way.

Obviously, the detail with respect to the content of the artwork is quite amazing.  In the piece shown above, it is absolutely amazing how things like the texture of the wood on the scythe and the roughness of the farmers' hands are so clear to see.  But, even more amazing is the depth and consistency of the detail of the work.  Other than the unlikely appearance of the flying bird in the panel in just that position, nothing really seems out of place.  Nothing rattles against the subconscious - telling us something isn't right.  Even that bird belongs.

It is perfectly clear that the clothing worn by this individual is something familiar and functional.  There is a wear pattern on the handle of the scythe that implies this is not the first time it has been used - just as the hands of the farmer who is wielding it are roughened and experienced in manual labor.  The details showing the difference between skin regularly exposed to the elements (face, hands and neck) versus those less frequently exposed (upper arm) shows an honest familiarity of what it means to work outside.  The hair is likely a little mussed under that hat and it isn't likely to get much better until the end of the work day and all of the chores are done.

This is one of my favorite Rockwell pieces as it portrays the farmer as a caretaker - one who works hard, but keeps an eye on the well-being of the world around him/her.  The farmer has an appreciation for hard work and fully understands that 'things don't get any dunner, if you don't do them!"  At the same time, there is a recognition of natural beauty and the fragility of life.  And - the farmer knows that there is time to observe these things, even while the work waits.

Those tough, thick-fingered hands don't blister much anymore because they are all callous - but they can still hold a small bird.  Gently.  Kindly.  With awe and wonder.

This is the image of farmer I wish we could see realized on a regular basis.  Caretakers.  Not businessmen.  Stewards.  Not commodity growers.  There are plenty out there who have the heart to be this kind of farmer.  It would be good if we could find a way to employ them and realize the depth of value, beauty and worth that this type of caretaker brings to the land.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

More or Less

 

It is not really all that big of a plot for our farm.  Maybe 30 feet by 100 feet in size, more or less.  There are three rows of green beans, two rows of potatoes and one row of flowers.   

The potato plants are done for the year, more or less.  There are few that have some greenery on them, but for the most part, the stems and leaves are brown and it is time for us to dig the potatoes.  Once again, the Colorado Potato Beetles were tough this season.  The early wet weather did not allow the beans to really flourish early, which meant any protection they might have given was pretty much a moot point by the time the beetles found the plants.  We got some much needed help picking the beetles off the plants, but that task can get mighty tedious!

Even so, the Adirondack Blue potatoes seemed to have less difficulty and early sampling shows that we'll have a decent crop of those, more or less.  The Adirondack Reds are likely to be less than more because the plants terminated before the tubers really bulked up.  Even so, we have some of those too.

After a slow start, the Provider green beans have done us proud.  Unlike most years where Providers give us one big harvest, this batch is behaving more like the Jades, giving us moderate sized picks nearly continuously.  We don't mind - until we can't manage to keep up with the harvest.  When that happens, more becomes less.

And, of course, we're happy to have flowers in this planting.  Perhaps the cosmos were the wrong choice for their location and the volunteer chleome required a little extra work.  So, we'll remember to put the cosmos at the ends of rows rather than the middles and we'll also remember that chleome actually seem to germinate better later and don't particularly care for us to try to start them early in trays.

And there you are - a blog post about one of our garden plots on the farm - more or less.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Tapped

 

 

What would you do if the Genuine Faux Farm blog had nothing posted on any given day?

You would go about your day and do what you do - minus maybe a couple of moments that some few of you use to read the blog.   

Today was very nearly such a day.  And, in fact, some of you might argue that today IS that day.  After all - a post with a giant tomato at the top that is published nearly two hours after most of our posts have been published on a nearly daily basis.  How in the world can this qualify?  How will the world cope with my tardy and imperfect offering?

It will cope the same way it copes on the days an on-time and slightly less imperfect offering from yours truly shows up here.  It's amazing how many things have more than one sharp edge to them.  It is both re-assuring and disconcerting that the appearance of a daily blog from one farmer in northeast Iowa is really not that important in the grand scheme.

On the other hand, a nice one and a half pound Gold Medal tomato from Eden's (one of our high tunnels) plants IS something of consequence.  We put a single Gold Medal plant into the high tunnel because we both love this variety.  It is one of the sweetest tomatoes and is excellent for sandwiches.  Because of the large size of the fruit, there tend to be very few of them per plant, which is part of the reason we do not typically put this particular variety into the high tunnel.  But, this year, we committed to growing nearly all of our tomatoes in the high tunnel after realizing our outdoor tomatoes were just going to be unable to fight through dicamba issues.

So there it is - the most perfect Gold Medal tomato we have seen in a few years.  Celebrate the tomato... and celebrate a daily blog from the Genuine Faux Farm.

Then go about your day.  I hope it is a good one.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Up-Mixed

It's only natural that we should err.  That we might offend.  That we will mislead.  Hopefully all without intending to do so and also hopefully with the desire to change and fix things when we do.

Someone shared the following with me.  For those who do not know.  JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy was published in 1954.   The first Harry Potter book was first published in 1997.  The people shown here are the actors/characters who starred in roles for the film adaptation of Lord of the Rings released beginning in 2001.


If you can not easily read the review, here is the beginning: "Overall, I like 'Lord of the Rings.' However, I do feel that Tolkien kind of rips off 'Harry Potter' in many ways...."  The commentary goes on to mention other things that make me wonder if the person writing this is just pulling everyone's leg here.  Even so, I have met or witnessed numerous cases where someone who CLEARLY does not know what they are talking about takes their partial knowledge and goes on a tear with it...

Just because YOU saw the Lord of the Rings movie after you saw a Harry Potter movie, it certainly does not mean that they were created in that order.  Yet, people often assume their experience of the world is the ONLY experience of the world.  Then, they make of facts and explanations that fit that experience and reject all others - and the natural response of those who might know better (even if they don't) is to respond by putting their head in their hands...

This is a reminder to me that we do not enter this world with immediate and complete knowledge of all that has gone before our time.  It is also a reminder to me that everyone has blind spots.  Everyone gets lazy sometimes and many people get lazy and still decide to make definitive statements that are flat out wrong.  What's worse is that other people take those statements as truth and.... away we go.

I still have some hope:

  • I hope that we can extend grace to those who need to learn more by finding a supportive way to help them to gather the knowledge they are missing and integrate it into what they know.
  • I hope that we can find ways to say 'no' and not ignore these instances because continued ignorance is certainly not bliss.
  • I hope that those who are told they have a hole in their knowledge will have the strength to explore, learn, and change what they understand.  It's called growing.  And it can be hard.
As a person who has been an educator, who has presented at conferences, who has been asked to speak at various events and who has written for various things over the years, I can tell you one thing for certain:

I am certain I have said or written numerous things that were inaccurate, faulty and probably down-right embarrassingly wrong.  With that knowledge, I put forth these hopeful thoughts.
  1. I hope that I did not cause any harm.
  2. I hope that I have learned better and made changes to do better since that moment and I hope I have done what I need to in order to make things right.
  3. It would be great if the people who witnessed me at my worst would give me a little feedback, grace and forgiveness.

What we think we know at any point in our lives is certainly not the whole truth.  If we believe that is the case, then we are mistaken.  Not only are we mistaken, but we are short-changing ourselves and the world we live in.  This world and its inhabitants are wonderfully complex and often beyond our complete understanding.  Instead of reacting as if you were a large, very bitey rattlesnake (as tempting as that may be) when someone points out that you might be mistaken, perhaps we could be a bit less "bitey" and a bit more reflective.  This is true EVEN IF it turns out you were correct in the first place. After all, someone reacted the way they did for some reason - and you may actually hold some of the fault for that.  Own it and adjust.

Be firm / Be kind:
I try to live by a two-side principle with varying amounts of success.  "Be harder on myself and be kinder to others."  

Before you go jumping to conclusions here, let me clarify.

When I say I should "be harder on myself" I am not saying I shouldn't forgive myself, nor am I saying that I should make myself suffer for perceived and real sins. What I am saying is that I need to force myself to expect more when it comes to figuring out what is true and what is the best course of action.  I do not want to tolerate being lazy when it comes to responding to criticism either.  If someone offers me criticism, there is a reason for it.  At the least, I should consider the criticism on its own merits - even if the actual words of the criticism don't accurately reflect the truth.  Perhaps the problem was in the delivery?  Maybe it was the word choice?  Is it possible I didn't look like I meant what I said?  It is entirely possible that there is another way to deliver what I was saying that will reach the person who responded badly?  And, you know what?  It is entirely likely the criticism holds some grain of truth I can incorporate in the whole of what I know - it is not required that I come away from the experience with a complete reversal of what I once new.  It is only required that I grow, learn and adapt for the better.

In short - I have responsibility for what I say or what I write.  It is important that I own up to how well I support my own learning and how carefully I consider the facts and circumstances and I how I interpret them.  And, as they say, the only good writing is re-writing.  Well, I am coming to believe that the only good combination of belief and knowledge is one that is constantly under revision.  And that, my friends, is also hard.

And as for that 'being kind to others' stuff?  It certainly doesn't mean you keep your mouth closed when someone is doing something or saying something that isn't right.  It means you give them to gift of constructive criticism and you give them the space to process rather than standing over them to achieve 'maximum shaming.'  Your job is to help someone grow and become better here.  To make things more difficult, there is also the idea that there are times when not engaging is the best answer.  Last I looked, finding ways to build resentment or destroy all self-esteem were two excellent ways to prevent improvement.

And yes, I need to be kinder to those that offer me criticism by not immediately responding as the 'bitey rattlesnake.' 

And I can tell you, a leash won't work.  It's really hard to find a neck on a snake.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Derecho, Pollinators and PACTPA

I would like to invite you to do some additional reading this time around.  This blog will feature links, photos and quotes from the blogs I have written for Pesticide Action Network's GroundTruth blog.

The biggest difference between what I write for PAN and what I write here is that I spend MUCH more time checking and double checking facts and resources.  But, that's not all that is different.  I put even more research into what I write for PAN and I have to pack more information into fewer words.  Here, at least, I can write a post for as long or short as I feel like writing!

But, the coolest difference?  I actually have people who read and edit what I write and give me feedback.  Oddly enough, I find that process affirming - so good for me.

I wanted to share what I have written since I took the job with PAN in April of this year.  What I will not include are the monthly Iowa Newsletters - instead I'll share links and small tidbits of the blogs.  I encourage you to take these links, enjoy reading - and then I'd like you to consider signing up to follow us as we try to make a difference in the world.  Be a part of the change process.


Gone with the wind: More uncertainty for rural Iowa

"We know recovery is still very much on our minds right now. If you are struggling, we hope you find the strength to ask for the help you need. If you were fortunate, then we hope you will find strength to provide that help."

The Anniversary we did not want

"I need you to learn how chemical-intensive agriculture has costs that we all, farmers included, must pay.  And I need you to understand enough of what it feels like so you are motivated to join PAN in building a food and farm system free of the negative impacts of pesticides. I want you to see how important this is without going through what we have experienced. 

The final stages of healing will come for me only when we make a real difference. We’ll know we made that difference when our food and farm system is characterized by respect, sustainability, diversity, and justice."

New GE corn would be a disservice to farmers

"Change requires us to climb new learning curves and it can make us feel uncomfortable. We make mistakes as we adjust and we certainly reserve the right to be unhappy about being forced to adapt. We even feel a bit of resentment that the ‘old methods’ no longer provide the same rewards. 

But, that doesn’t alter the fact that we must move on rather than cling to past success."

Cultivating a pollinator paradise

"Our farm sees pollinators as important employees, and we do what we can to pay them by providing food and habitat throughout the year. We maintain permanent wild areas and avoid disturbing the soil in parts of the farm so ground-nesting bees and other friendly critters can have a place to thrive."


PACTPA: Putting people before pesticides

This one represents a departure because it is the first "organizational voice" blog I have written for PAN.  All of the others are using my "farmer voice."  If you know me and my writing, you will see that it still sounds like me, but it is not intended to make that personal connection.  This is supposed to be PAN informing and encouraging you to consider something important.  Eventually, the "farmer voice" will also "speak" on this topic too.

"The proposed Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (full text here) addresses many of FIFRA’s shortcomings.  This bill provides significant protections for frontline communities that bear the brunt of pesticide exposure, prohibits the use of old stockpiles of banned pesticides, and requires listing of inert ingredients on all pesticide products."

I'd want more tools than just a hammer

"The idyllic picture of the traditional farm in the United States often features the sun coming up over a big red barn. A rooster crows in the background and a few cows walk their path to the pasture. There are all sorts of green in different shades and forms, implying a variety of healthy crops. Perhaps there is a hay bale or an old tractor in that picture as well. And the farmer, if visible at all, might be wearing a broad-brimmed hat, hiding their face from the sun and from your view."

 

I want to grow healthy food for you, here is what's stopping me

This blog is the one that introduced me to the Groundtruth blog.  But, to be honest, it wasn't until the second blog (the hammer blog shown above) that I felt I really hit the kind of writing I wanted to feature with PAN.  Still, I am not displeased with this one either.

"The continued over-use and off-target applications of pesticides are negatively impacting the environment in which we grow your food.  We have noticed spotty germination of many of our direct-seeded crops that cannot be attributed to the seed or natural causes, but are consistent with herbicide residual effects. We have observed inhibited plant growth in our peppers, tomatoes and squash, indicating the likelihood of dicamba drift damage. 

It seems that our only choice is to stop growing."

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I hope you enjoy taking a look at some of the writing I have produced for PAN.   Thus far, I am proud of what I have written - even if I look at a few things now and wonder if I should go back and adjust something here and there.  But, I consider that a positive sign - because I am continuing to learn and grow.

Another neat thing about this opportunity is that many of my farm photos are useful for the Ground Truth blog.  All but the photos in the 'Derecho' blog and the photo for the 'PACTPA' blog are mine.  It's a great opportunity and I hope that I can make a difference by using words and pictures - by encouraging you to do the little - and the big - things that will make change happen.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Local Foods Reality Check

editor's note: I started this post in January.  I am finishing it in August.  That tells you three things:
1. The post was going to require a great deal of energy to complete.
2. I felt it was worthwhile to find the energy to complete it.
3. While I may not have found the energy to complete it, I am going to do my best anyway!

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'Tis the season (January) that small farms, such as ours, begin to feel the pressure that is building for the coming year.  Seeds really do need to be ordered and supplies need to be acquired if we are actually going to 'enter the abyss' one more time.  Organic certification packets need to be completed, decisions need to be made regarding advertising.  At the same time, taxes and reporting for the prior year need completion. 

Meanwhile, the various local food and farming organizations fight for some of our attention before our season really gets going and we have none to spare.  There will be 'local foods' dinners and 'local foods' fairs/promotions.  Nice things will be said and implied promises will be made.

I don't get as excited about these events and all of the promise of a new season as I did at one point in time.  There really is no secret to it.  This is simply what happens over time when the good words are not followed by good action.  Or, when the good actions just don't line up and all of the positive feelings you had evaporate in the reality of what the current day brings.


Caveats for the Current Reality?
Here is where I give a nod to the current situation where we are facing a pandemic and (finally) facing up to the fact that we do not treat all segments in our population equitably.  These are both REALLY big deals and are deserving of our energy to make things better on all fronts for all people.

But, maybe we need to stop hiding behind the excuses that there is so much going on right now and seize the opportunity that is now - a time to become better in so many ways. 

The main theme?  Being and doing better for each other - despite our differences.  And, being and doing better for the earth's environment and the communities that live on it.

Questionable Priorities on all Sides
Small farms and businesses pursue the almighty dollar most effectively when they manage to hit the current convenience, entertainment or pleasure item.  In states where it is legal, food growers are looking to cannabis because the money looks like it will pay out for them better than if they grow the nutritious food they had previously grown.  Other growers chased the winery trend and still others chased or are chasing the hops phase.  In some ways, I have a hard time arguing with this because it is true - you can make more money with those crops (at the moment) than you can with produce and people ARE more likely to patronize you if you make things more convenient.  But, these things all shift and change - and it's not always so easy to completely overhaul a farm each time that happens.

We (the royal we) sell cookies, chocolate, sweet breads, pies and other pre-made, non-local and not necessarily all that good for us or our world items to raise money so our children can be involved in various activities.  Some of these activities make one wonder about what we value as well - especially when we opt not to fund so many worthwhile school activities that could benefit all students.  Instead, we fund-raise and support many who already have the means and opportunity to participate.

People will shell out money for a decorative, non-edible pumpkin, little haybales, shocks of corn stalks, but they question the price of a cucumber (or two).  All while holding a $5.75 latte' purchased at the chain coffee place down the street.

We put together and host 'local foods dinners or events' and seek out local foods for those events... once or twice a year.  Schools can be counted as part of a "successful" Farm to School program if they purchase local once a year.  A big deal is made by a grocery that they purchased cucumbers from a local farm after they pick up a fifty pound crate and sell it all quickly - but never order from that farm again.  In each case, everyone looks good to the general public.  Promotion accomplished.  On the other hand, the farmer begins to wonder why they even bother chasing these accounts for the once a year feel good fest.

Small, local farms, orchards, vinyards, etc. keep looking for agri-tourism ideas to put themselves in front of the public and hopefully have a successful face that drives people to continue to patronize them and buy their product.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with these events, there is something not quite right about a farm that is working very hard to produce high quality food having to ADD entertainment value to get you to buy their product.

We Do Not Value Food

Apparently, "food" is too easy for us and we do not value it - and I speak to us all individually and as a community and society.  And before you tell me that I am only saying this because our farm sells food and we want to be grumpy, allow me to point out that we have been scaling back and we have less of a personal stake in this game than we once did.  We will not return to the CSA program that our farm provided from 2005 to 2019.  We might continue to do the farm credit program that we're trialing this season.

And I STILL believe we do not value our food.  

We ALMOST started to value our food as the pandemic started putting some bumps in the misguided and poorly designed food supply chain that we have allowed to be developed over the past century.  I will admit that some people who were already paying some attention to where their food came from are re-dedicating themselves to that particular task - and I applaud them whole-heartedly.  This post should only be a re-affirmation for them.

Unfortunately, what I have written here is directed to those who won't read this post.  This is for the person who jumped on the CSA bandwagon this Spring, filling up my farmer peers' subscription lists and raising their hopes that maybe things will really get moving for local foods.  I have seen this before - this zeal and excitement.  And, I have watched it fade rapidly.  If past history is any indication, I predict that 75% of the new CSA subscribers that jumped on getting a share this year will not return for 2021.

Prove me wrong.  Prove me wrong without needing a pandemic or other disaster to encourage you.

Please.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Available at GFF August 19

 
We will have a slightly different schedule tomorrow, please read carefully.  We will ONLY be at St Andrew's during a slightly later time slot.  The "other" jobs are getting in the way tomorrow!  Also note, we are limiting egg orders to 1 doz per family this week.

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Waverly : Wednesday August 19  5:30-6:00 pm St Andrew's Church parking lot
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Delivery Method: Please maintain appropriate physical distancing.  We will place your order into a tray and put it on our table.  Once we step away, place your order in your bag/box you bring.  then set the tray in the 'dirty' pile next to the table.                                                  
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Available to members (order by 1pm today!):
    eggs - $3.50/dozen (limit 1 doz unless you order for two families)
    green beans $3/pound (lots of beans!)
   green bean FREEZING/CANNING special order 5 pounds or more - $2/pound!  We estimate we have 60 pounds currently picked and more coming in.
   garlic $2 head
   frozen broiler chicken $3.60/pound (avg 4-5 pounds)
   eggplant $1 each (only a few)
  snack/cherry tomatoes $3/pint
   tomato $3/pound
   cucumbers (Boothby's Blonde) - 2 for $1 (limited)
   zucchini - $1 ea (limited)
   Green bell peppers - 2 for $1
     
We will send out a gentle reminder after 1pm that will confirm orders so that you will know if we have what you wanted.
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THE GFF NEWS
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1. Upcoming Schedule
  • August 19 - Waverly (St Andrew's)
  • August 27 - Cedar Falls (Jorgensen Plaza)
  • Sept 2 - Waverly (St Andrew's and Yogi Life)
  • Sept 10 - Cedar Falls (Jorgensen Plaza)
  • Sept 15 (Tuesday)- Fresh Broiler Chicken delivery (anticipated - no egg/veg delivery this week)
  • Sept 22 (Tuesday) - Waverly (St Andrew's and Yogi Life)
2. Crop & Poultry Report
The potatoes are ready for harvest and we hope to be able to get to that in the coming week.  This year, we only have a couple hundred row feet of potatoes and they are the blue and red fleshed varieties (no yellow or white).  The other planting rotted in the ground with the early wet weather.  Green beans are going very well right now - which is one of our favorites to eat, so we are happy about that.  Tomatoes and peppers are just starting to show up and should be with us for the next month or two. 

The turkeys are learning to do what we call a 'crowd gobble,' which can be very amusing at times, but much less so if you have a headache!  Our flock was quite calm earlier in their lives but they are now showing much more spunk.  Whether that is good or not, it doesn't matter, because that's who they are right now! 

The new hens (they are graduating from the name henlet) have revealed that they do, in fact, have a rooster among them.  The new rooster is an Americauna breed and we have decided to name him Stu.  Welcome Stu, we hope you are a decent barnyard manager.

3. New blog material for you
We have MORE good posts in the past week plus.  We hope you enjoy at least some of them.
4. Update on the Farmers
We have had some cooler weather the past couple of days and we can't be blamed if we are starting to feel like it is Fall.  The daylight hours are rapidly changing, as are our expectations for the season.  On top of it all, the Wartburg school year is starting sooner than usual as part of their response to the pandemic.  Thus far, I think it would be fair to say that Tammy and I feel like 2020 has been a roller coaster ride on a rickety wood frame that is currently on fire.  There has been a fair amount of yelling, but we're still rolling!

Our current strategy is to try to prepare the farm as best as we can for 2021.  While we are starting some late, cold season crops, we are preferring to get some projects done that will allow us to be in a better position for future efforts.  This was, after all, the entire point of stepping back a bit in 2020 and it would be a poor payoff to ignore that decision.  Even with that decision, we are still a bit overwhelmed by the length of the things that reside on our 'to do' list.  But, you all know us by now - we're going to give it our best effort.

5. 2020 Pre-Paid Farm Credit Program
We will run the system in $50 increments.  In other words, you can purchase a minimum of $50 of farm credit at a time.  We will cap the maximum amount of credit at $200 and you can refill your farm credits at any point.

Like the CSA program, this gives you the advantage of not having to pull out money at each delivery.  Instead, we will have a ledger with tracking for your current credit balance.  This also provides us with some working capital to start the season.  Also, like the CSA program, we will give participants better pricing and opportunities than those who might prefer to 'pay as they go.'

A major difference this year is that farm credits can be used for ANY farm product the Genuine Faux Farm offers.  If you buy farm credits, you can apply them to purchasing meat chickens, vegetables, eggs or any other thing we offer this year.

We are accepting purchases of credits now and throughout the season.

6. Welcome!
If you are new to this email newsletter for the Genuine Faux Farm, we would like to welcome you.  If you are an 'old hand,' we want you to feel welcome too - but we were gently reminded that we need to introduce people a bit more to the system.

The basics are as follows:
  - we deliver once per week - alternating between Waverly and Cedar Falls locations.
  - Waverly is on Wednesdays
  - Cedar Falls is on Thursdays
  - anyone with farm credits can order from either location, you just have to arrange to get what you order.
  - to order, you only need to respond to this email - sent the day prior to the delivery.
  - a "gentle reminder" email is sent the day of the delivery.  This email confirms that we have received orders by listing those from whom we have received orders.
 - delivery instructions will be in this email each week.  Please pay attention as circumstances may require a change.

Be Well!
Rob & Tammy

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Cleaning Up After the Storm

On August 10, a massive storm of the type everyone in Iowa now knows is called a derecho (pronounced: dr ay cho) blew through our state with devastating effect.  Our blog had a post the next day that addressed the situation as we understood it at the time.  We were fortunate to be North of the wide band of destruction.  Our farm and home was spared from experiencing the difficulties so many others are dealing with right now.  

Starting in the late morning hours last Monday both of us were getting a bit nervous and edgy.  At first, we weren't quite sure why that was, but we found ourselves looking at the sky - over and over again.  We know, after many years of working outside at the farm, that our weather sense is sharper than many people.  There was a frightening energy that day, but we never did see the approach of an ominous sky on our horizon.  We soon learned that many other folks in the state did see such a thing - and then they experienced those storms as they rolled right over their homes, farms and communities.

We did take a trip to help family and people we know and brought supplies, some items for a meal and whatever meager help we could manage.  And we saw things we've seen before - but never thought we'd see so many times or so extensively in one trip.  There were multiple grain storage bins that were crushed like soda pop cans - it didn't seem to matter if they had grain in them or if they were empty.  We saw field after field of flattened crops.  Every town we drove through looked like a tornado had gone through and damaged pretty much EVERY property. 

As more pictures and videos came out, we also saw things we had not seen before.  Things like Harvestore silos looking like... well, this.

At about 5pm on Monday, the number of customers without electricity stood around a half million.  Over 1/3 of the customers tracked in Iowa.  At 3PM on August 17 - almost exactly one week later - there are still over 68,000 power outages in the state.  

Let's put this in perspective.  We were on the farm in February of 2007 when an ice storm hit Iowa (and surrounding states).  According to the National Weather Service summary I linked here, over 180,000 were left without power -some for a little more than a week.  We were among those without power for a few days.  The good news?  It was cold enough to keep freezers frozen and warm enough to allow us to use supplemental heat and keep our water pipes from freezing in the house.  But, we do know what it is like to be without water (we have a well) and to worry from moment to moment about how we would deal with all of the things that come about in these situations.

It isn't easy.

I admit that nature and its weather fascinates me, so it has been hard to not look at more information regarding this storm.  I also admit that I feel a need to justify for myself why so much damage occurred.  I saw much of it with my own eyes - yet I still need verification.  It doesn't make sense.  Yet it does.

 So, How Can We Help?

We recognize that our jobs probably will preclude our doing much more personally to help, though we will not rule that out.  But, there are other ways we (and you) could consider helping.

State Auditor Rob Sand recommends donating to the Iowa Community Action Agency for the region you wish to aid.  Similarly, he has suggested that a local United Way organization may also be a safe and effective way to help.

As with all disasters, other options may pop-up, but it can be hard to tell what is legitimate and what is not.  I've appreciated Sand's forthright approach to things and feel his recommendation can be trusted.  Now, of course, the focus here is on the Cedar Rapids area, where the bulk of the affected population is. 

Iowa Public Radio has published this article that illustrates ways you can seek help if you have lost work or need help with damage due to the storm.  The Iowa Department of Human Services also put together a Derecho Resources page that includes applications to apply for food loss relief if you meet income guidelines and a disaster assistance grant (with similar income restrictions).  KWWL also developed a page to help people figure out how they can help - including helping with cleanup.  

This is going to be a long haul problem in our state.  I tend to agree with Art Cullen that we're going to see larger derechos more often than we have in the past.  And, before I go on, I want to point out that we experience a derecho every couple of years on average in Iowa.  We just don't typically experience one that is this big.

Bigger Picture Problems

We are playing a losing game with our corporate agriculture approach that promotes only a couple of commodity crops in the state.  We're destroying our soil, which was once our strongest asset (and still could be).  Corn and soybean farmers were already farming at a loss this year unless, perhaps, they were certified organic.  Even if the insurance covers their crop damage, it still represents a loss.

We keep kicking the can down the road for various infrastructure services rather than taking an initial loss so we can be prepared for disaster.  Downed power lines in the Midwest are not new.  When will we bite the bullet and bury lines in areas where it makes sense to do so?  No - I am not one of those "bury them all" people.  It makes no sense to bury lines in flood zones, for example.  And, lines that carry heavier loads are probably not the best candidates.  But, we do have numerous lighter load lines in stable soil that is not prone to flooding AND that are in areas that have lost poles multiple times.  And, our prevailing storm winds are pretty well known in Iowa.  Why do we put poles on the side of a road where they'll block the road if they come down?  I agree that nothing is perfect - but we can do better than we are right now.

And while I am at it - as long as we do not make our Emergency Medical Services in Iowa a priority we run the risk of experiencing more loss during catastrophes such as the latest derecho.  

If we aren't learning from our current struggles, then we aren't paying enough attention.  And even if we pay attention, there is almost too much to learn if we are going to stay on top of it all.

 photo credit: Audrey Staples

Monday, August 17, 2020

So-Called Media Madness

I have long been a skeptic regarding social media and I admit that part of that skepticism comes as a result of my education background in Computer Science.  When you add in the fact that many desire to make money via social media, I get even more uneasy.  Top that with the fact that many otherwise decent people seem to think they can comport themselves like monsters via electronic communications methods and there you have it - a summary of most of what makes me uneasy with so-called social media.

And yet, our farm has been posting regularly on Facebook for many years and on Twitter for several months now.  If I feel as I profess, why do I even bother?

That's a great question with a much more complex answer than you might think!  Are you ready to go on a ride with me?  You might pick up some insights as to how social media works for a small business or farm like ours and you will certainly get some ideas as to how silly some of it is as well.  I promise, I'll do my best to keep it lively!

How Do You Reach People?

This is not a new question to small businesses.  Marketing has been a complex problem since the time Grog the Caveman opened up his "Used Stone Wheel Lot."  When I was growing up, the options to a small, local-sales business (or farm) would be local radio, local newspaper, the phone book, posters and signs, bulk mailing, phone or door-to-door soliciting, guest presentations and sponsoring local events.  Oh... and let's not forget word of mouth.

Unfortunately for small businesses, the phone book is gone and most local newspapers and radios have closed up shop.  My apologies, of course, to the local radio stations and newspapers that still exist - but a small business has to have enough of a budget to use those resources and you must admit that their reach has declined, making it difficult to put that down as an expense line item.  What has been moving in and trying to take their places are a myriad of online options.   Some are specialized for a certain kind of product and others, like Facebook and Twitter, cater to those who want to get a message out there... somewhere... sort of.  

For example, we had a listing for several years with Local Harvest.  Over that period, we had a total of five contacts for a total of two CSA shares as a result of our listings there.  We have an account on Iowa MarketMaker as well.  In fact, we were one of the first farms to list (three contacts total and no sales).  We've continued to put our names out there in the Cedar Valley's Buy Fresh Buy Local and maybe get a contact or two per year from that which may or may not pan out.  Part of the issue?  People have to know to go to these places first before they can (possibly) find our farm.  The advertising venue needs to advertise...

In other words, if the Genuine Faux Farm wants to reach people, it has to find a venue that reaches people.  The problem with that?  How do you keep track of what venue is currently attracting people and then move to that venue to reach potential customers?  

Well, in some ways, we gave up on that pursuit and simply went where there were people who were already our customers so we could stay in touch with them.  The theory is certainly not all bad as it is really just a version of the word-of-mouth approach.  Keep the people who already know you and support you informed.  If you need to reach more people to increase sales, you tell the people you already  know - and hopefully it works out.  In fact, the returns are usually higher for word of mouth than any other marketing approach we have tried over the years.

This is still a difficult proposition however.  You can never be quite sure that email is getting where it is supposed to go.  And, if it does, is it being read?  Generally speaking if 1/4 of those you send an email too actually OPEN it up, you are said to be doing quite well.  Huh.  And, those are the people who said they wanted to hear from you!

The Silliness That Is Social Media Metrics

Here you go people!  If you do not maintain a page for a small business or an organization, you are going to get a glimpse into the 'tools' that Facebook provides to 'help' you grow interest in your business.  

(Quick caveat - this is not a tutorial and I am NOT going into all of the details.  We're just going to have some fun with it - ok?)

First up - the "LIKE."  Our farm page has over 700 'likes' on Facebook.  I know other comparable farms that have much more than that and others that have less.  I'll just point out one thing about a 'like.'  It can come from anyone from anywhere.  If you sell product around Tripoli, IA and have 700 likes, then that would be something if all 700 come from the Tripoli area.  According to our metrics, we have more people who 'like' us that live in Canada than those that identify as being from Tripoli.  Oops.

Now, don't get me wrong - I appreciate remaining in contact with these people in Canada.  But, if my page is intended to help my business do better and I don't sell to Ontario....

Here is what set this whole blog post rolling:

Note the "Get More Likes, Comments and Shares - This post is performing BETTER than 95% of other posts on your page...."

Facebook wants me to pay them money to help get more people to see this post because it is already doing well... ok, it is doing "better than 95% of my posts."  At the bottom you can see 94 people "reached" and 25 "engagements."  In general, a "reach" is when someone has this post scroll by on their screen.  An "engagement" is anything from clicking the "like" button to taking the link to the blog or putting in a comment.  Please note that I suspect they will count one person three times if they do all three of those things, but I haven't worked to confirm that - 'cuz it's not that important to me.

Hooray!  94 people scrolled my little post from the bottom to the top of their screen faster than a banner tied to a rocket.  Oh.. and maybe 7 to 10 of them slowed down enough to visit the blog or hit the like button... and just maybe someone even typed a comment.  Shares count as an engagement too - but the 2 shares you see on this post are mine.  I shared them to my own Facebook page and the CSA Group page.  So, I count for two of those engagements...  Yay me!

Here is a post that the post above is doing "BETTER" than.

See!  There are only 230 people reached and 63 engagements.  THAT'S less than.... uh.  no.  It's not.  Hmmm.

Ok, let's try another:

 There.  See, only 2240 people reached.  That's.... um... no.

We actually had the 'boost this post because it's doing better than 95%" on the top two posts shown in the figure above.  I am trying to figure out where the 95% of my posts are that did less well than the two most recent posts.... hmmmm.

Ok.  So, I get a little annoyed with 'squishy' numbers in the first place.  The definition given by social media sites for their metrics are a bit imprecise to begin with because they don't want to 'give away' how they measure things.  What it really means is they don't really want people like me to hold them accountable if they fail to measure something properly.  That, and, well... they want to feed their clients some numbers so they think they are getting a return of some kind for their investment in time, effort and (maybe) money.  Look at the chart below:


 Ah....  This metric is "ESTIMATED."  I wonder how accurate their estimate is?  Who knows?  They estimated a number of somethings that have a definition that can be interpreted more than one way.  But, if you put it in a chart, then it looks official.  Yes sir!  We have an official estimate of people "reached" which is sort of like an ineffective subliminal message in most cases.  Unless, of course, Facebook changes its mind on the definition of what it means to 'reach' someone.  

Facebook: "We're guessing that fifty people thought they might see something you posted somewhere, so we counted that and made a nice chart.  If you gave us some money, we'll make a nicer chart that has better numbers.  We take all major credit cards and Paypal!"

Ok.  Let's try something in the metrics package that might actually help us out - assuming they have actual numbers to share with us.  When do people look at our posts on Facebook?


Heh.  Well, that helps me a great deal you know.  Because now I can tell you that people generally see our posts at some point from 6 AM to 8:30PM during the week....  Doesn't matter which day of the week.  What?  What's wrong with you people?  Our Facebook posts are more important than sleep, don't you know that?

These two charts also are begging that I ask a couple of questions!  Fun!

1. How does Facebook measure a user's presence on their site? The top bar chart essentially says about 600+ of our 700+ "followers" are online each day.  I guess that's not too hard to figure as they track log-ins.  The bottom chart indicates that during typical North American waking hours, about 300 of our followers are logged into Facebook at any given time.

2. What I really want to know is how many of THESE people are treated to our posts on their timelines since they are "our fans."  After all, if 600 of our most loyal fans are online each and every day, you would think they should each be given the privilege to scroll our post past their faces at light speed as they exercise the thumb muscles on their tiny screens.  But, we've already noticed that our reach typically lands at 150... about 25%.  Hey, that number sounds familiar, where have I heard that before?  Oh yeah.  Email open rates....

3. You know - what if Yo-Yo Ma visits our page  - will that count as 3 visits?  I am curious!  After all, I like Yo-Yo Ma.

I Can Learn A Few Things - I Guess

For example, if you look at the Total Reach Chart or the table showing the numbers for recent posts, you will find that most posts land in a fairly common area.  Most posts we put out will scroll by on a screen between 140 and 200 times.  We'll get between 20 and 50 'engagements' which probably means an average of 10 to 25 people slow down enough to scan the picture or text and click a like and maybe visit the blog or comment.

And you know what?  I am cool with that.  Why?  Because I feel like it is a way of staying connected - even if it is not quite what social media companies want you to feel it is.  

Our post that actually did so well was a comment regarding getting chicks from the US Postal Service.  That's currently a hot topic, so people ran with it.  Did they visit our blog?   Actually, they did not.  You would think that this blog post would have more visits than any other recent blog post.  In reality, it sits at number 10 for the past 30 days - decent, but not all that spectacular. 

"Reach" and "Engagement" numbers should never be construed to also be reflected by meaningful "action" from the perspective of the farm.

Is it possible that the short little blip of text with the photo of cute turklets will actually inspire someone to meaningful action - like contacting legislators to keep our necessary postal services running?  The post did get a number of 'shares' that give me some hope.  But, it is more likely that people saw something that they already agreed with (or at least they interpreted it that way) and it was paired with a cute baby animal or two. .... Awwww cute!  LIKE! Oh heck, really cute!  SHARE! Bye.  I need to find some cute kitten videos now.

One More Takeaway
This next piece of information says more, in my opinion, about social media companies than it does what I put out there.  If I share a post that features a photo, it gets more attention than one that has a link (even if that includes a photo in the link text).  I get around that often by featuring a photo and hope interested people see the link to the blog in the text.

What does this say?  Well, social media companies don't really want you leaving their site - especially if you are being driven somewhere with a post that is not PAYING them money to promote the post.  

Imagine that.

There you have it.  A glimpse into the wild and wacky world of my mind and how it sees social media and the metrics they feed us in an effort to get us to give them money so more people can scroll our posts from the bottom to top of their screens.  Maybe we'll even get a like or two.  If only I could exchange those likes for some meaningful actions.  Then I might be cut social media a bit of slack.

But not much.