Agriculture, Career/Professional, Photography

North Dakota Spring Wheat Tour

Last week I took a break from my normal office views and headed to North Dakota for the annual hard red spring wheat and durum quality tour. Every year around this time, folks from around the wheat industry (millers, traders, farmers, researchers, government officials and media) spend three days driving different routes around the state surveying this year’s crop and estimating the yield. There is a similar tour for winter wheat in Kansas that I went to back in 2015, but this was the first time I was able to join the tour in North Dakota. You can read the summary I wrote about the tour here.

Considering I’ve spent quite a few of my weekends this summer inside at work preparing to launch our new website, getting to spend a week in my jeans and boots, walking through wheat fields and enjoying being away from the city was EXACTLY what I needed.

By far, the highlight of the trip was visiting two of my favorite farmers, David and Aileen Clough, who hosted lunch on their farm for some of the cars on the tour. David spent twelve years serving on the North Dakota Wheat Commission and was one its representatives on the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Board of Directors (my organization). Aileen traveled to most of USW’s events with David, so I’ve gotten to know them during my time here. David recently retired off of the board earlier this summer so I was so excited for the chance to see them again and visit their farm. David and Aileen are two of the kindest people I’ve ever met and just another reason why I personally think working for farmers is one of the most rewarding jobs there is.

I had only been to North Dakota one other time, and when I did, I spent most of my time in conference rooms in Fargo. One of the perks of going on a work trip like this is that you really get a chance to see a lot of the state. One evening during our stay in Bismarck, we had some time to explore Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park and enjoy some beautiful views.

And of course, I couldn’t visit North Dakota at this time of year with my camera and NOT request that we stop so I could take some pictures of the sunflowers. They just make me so happy!

Thanks for a great week North Dakota!

Oregon, Photography, Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Just Living – Golden Hour on the Farm

“I am tired.”

If you’ve spoken to me at all in the last two months, my bet is that this was said early on in the conversation. Usually I try to stay away from default answers like “I’m tired” or “I’m busy” when I’m catching up with someone, because the reality is we are all busy and tired, and we all measure those differently. Personally, I think we are all capable of being better conversationalists.

But the truth is in this case, when I finally made it home to Oregon for my vacation at home with my family, this was all I could muster up when my Grampy asked how my work meeting in Seattle, (that I had just traveled from) went.

My body was tired, my brain was tired and I’d even say my soul was tired.

Both professionally and personally, this season of life over of the past six months or so has really pushed me. Its tested me and even broke me a couple of times. And that’s all OK. These seasons come and go, and I think it’s important to keep that in mind. I believe that sometimes you just have to put your head down and work, and do what you have to do to get by.

That first evening when I got home I immediately jumped on my laptop to knock out a few things related to the meeting I had just traveled from. But the sun was starting to set and the scene I could see through my parent’s big kitchen window could not be ignored.

So I grabbed my camera and headed out to sit in the yard with our old family dog Jack and just paused for a bit.

It’s amazing how little things like that can refocus things for you.

It’s a beautiful world sometimes I don’t see so clear
Some days you just breath in
Just try to break even
Sometimes your heart’s poundin’ out of your chest
Sometimes it’s just beatin’
Some days you just forget
What all you’ve been given
Some days you just get back
And some days you’re just alive
Some days you’re livin’
Some days you’re livin’

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 23

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my not-so-glam 20-something life. See past posts HERE}

New Blog Look

If you haven’t noticed, things are looking a bit different around here. Recently I have been wanting to freshen up my blog with a white-based background and decided to follow that with a bit of a simpler overall look. I am making a few other updates here and there… but I tend to be a bit indecisive so those are happening as I go.

While I love blogging, it often takes the back burner when life gets a bit busy, which makes habit building a bit of a challenge. But I am doing some planning for some posts and series that are not just focused on my “So There’s That” series or my travel (which is all I’ve blogged about for most of 2017) so stay tuned!

Promotion

I’m not shy about sharing that I love my job working for U.S. wheat farmers, so it was nice to receive a promotion!

You can read about it here… unless you are my Mom and in case, I’m pretty sure I’ve already made the fridge 🙂

 4th of July Holiday Weekend

Independence Day is my favorite holiday and this year my (4-day!!!) holiday weekend did not disappoint.


On Friday, I headed out to Mt. Vernon with some Kansas friends. This ticketed event had all sorts of colonial demonstrations, including dancing, which we all somehow got sucked into trying. There was also foods and drinks to purchase, a live band and of course fireworks!

I’m pretty sure there are few things more American than watching fireworks on the back lawn of George Washington’s crib. I would highly recommend this to people next year. Tickets were $30 dollars, which is actually pretty reasonable for events in this area.

Saturday morning was spent at brunch at SEI in Chinatown, where I failed to take any group photos, partially because I was drooling over these quinoa french toast that I ordered. Don’t worry, they still were made with wheat, but the quinoa added a great crunch! Brunch may have turned into a mini-wheat lesson for the group after I asked the manager about the french toast… #sorrynotsorry #wheatie

Saturday night was spent back with the Kansan’s at Red, White and Brew, a drinking festival down by the waterfront.

This guy had to work all weekend so Monday was spent relaxing.


I wrapped up the weekend on Tuesday with BBQ with friends and sparklers.

Annapolis

This past weekend I had to travel to my work summer board meeting, but instead of hoping on a plane, I just had to make a short drive to Annapolis. Visiting here has been toward the top of my to-do list since moving to the area so I head over early to check things out, and I may have had a tag along 🙂


Not that I thought it was going to be anything otherwise, but the main downtown area near the harbor is adorable!

We explored, walked down by the harbor and the U.S. Naval Academy (I need to visit again so I can go on a tour) and tried out a few stops.



The Maryland State House was just a block or two over from where we were so we swung by. There is SO MUCH U.S. history associated with this little building and it’s so pretty!



We rounded out the day with crabs #wheninmaryland! This guy grew up on “picking” crabs (taking them a part), so he (patiently I would add) taught me how to do it myself.

Summer Board Meeting

It’s rare that our staff stops and takes a picture like this. Although our team is MUCH bigger than this (and stretches around the globe), I am thankful to work alongside these people.

This gentleman below represents everything that makes me passionate about agriculture and the reason why I never want to work for anyone but farmers. Leonard has actively served on the USW Board of Directors for 21 years and this summer board meeting marked the end. I remember before my first board meeting 2.5 years ago, my boss was chatting about some of the farmer board members I would be meeting, and finally he said, “and then there is Uncle Leonard.”

Leonard has a one of kind personality that makes you feel like you’ve known him your whole life. In just two words I would describe him as funny and kind, two of the things that I respect most in people. But what has stuck out to me about Leonard, is his ability really listen and take in the discussions around him, while so many others are only focused on what they are going to say next. When Leonard does respond, it tends to be with more patience and thought.

At the end of the meeting, Leonard reflected on his year’s on the farm and on the board. I considered sharing the whole thing (I take the meeting minutes so I do have it!) but here is the bit of it that stood out to me:

“In our world of farming, we take over some land or lose some land, but our main goal whenever we take over new land is to make it better than when we got it. That’s how we gauge ourselves on whether or not we are successful … I have said yes to four different governors to sit on this board, and it has allowed me to discover this passion I have for wheat. It has helped me define who I am back at home to my neighbors, because I am Mr. Wheat back home. I think it is very rare how other people’s choices allow you to discover your passion.”

Thanks Leonard, we sure are going to miss you!

Big 12 Schools as Harry Potter Characters

I’d say most of these are pretty darn accurate and the descriptions are pretty funny.

https://www.cowboysrideforfree.com/2017/6/28/15883470/big-12-schools-as-harry-potter-characters

My People

This little note speaks to me in leaps and bounds, and after sharing it on social media and receiving quite a few comments, apparently it does for a lot of people. I think I have learned many times over that you just can’t be everything for everyone and on the flip side, some people are only in your life a “season” and that’s completely OK. But that makes it so much more important to INVEST in those core people around you who just really “get it” and let your crazy fly, whether they are near, or in my case for most, are far away.

Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.


Why does it all of a sudden look like baby Wes is NOT a baby anymore?!

My Life in Memes

Memes that are speaking to me right now… both thought provoking and just plain funny.


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So, There’s That.

Cheers!

Agriculture, Kansas, Photography

{2017} Kansas Wheat Harvest

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” -Thomas Jefferson

I have heard this quote many times before, but since I came across it again a few weeks ago, it has really stuck with me.

Happiness, yes. Tom was certainly right about that one.

No matter what is going on during my day, month or season, so much of who I am is rooted in agriculture and the happiness that it brings me is an anchor that I can rely on. I know I probably sound like a broken record, but I strongly believe that a job and your life’s work shouldn’t just be an 8 to 5 that pays the bills.

Over the past couple of days I have been back in Kansas to attend the National Festival of Breads (more on that in a future blogpost), and I had the chance to accompany the Kansas Wheat Commission and their baking contest finalists on a farm tour during the start of wheat harvest.

Everyone knows my happy place is in the Blue Mountains, but I think a Kansas farm with dirt beneath me and blue skies above comes in close second.

In my mind there are few things more beautiful than amber waves of grain, and that afternoon was just the medicine that I didn’t know I needed.

Thanks to the Kejr family for hosting us.

Enjoy!

Cheers!

Career/Professional, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Sawasdee Ka!

(Hello!)

If you know me personally or follow along on social media, you know that I just returned from three weeks in Thailand and the Philippines!

The initial reason for the trip was for work, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tack on a vacation to the end.

Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (my employer) invites farmers (selected by state wheat commissions) to participate in teams that travel overseas to follow their wheat and offer the opportunity to learn from customers about the wheat quality characteristics needed in those markets. I served as the staff team leader for three great farmers: Denise from Montana, Clint from South Dakota and Dustin from North Dakota. Once we were over there we were joined by various members of our overseas staff as we visited multiple flour mills and end-product manufacturers, as well as a baking school and bakery fair.

Overall, I am incredibly thankful and excited that it was (FINALLY) my turn to lead a team. The wheat industry is complex and fascinating, and in the almost two years that I have been in this job, it has become an industry that I am proud to represent. And while I am continually learning new things everyday, nothing beats getting out of the office and learning by seeing and experiencing the industry from the perspective of the customers who buy and use U.S. wheat.

I am also thankful for the time I had getting to know my team of farmers. I have said many times (especially here on the blog) that I firmly believe that farming is one of the most honorable professions there is and that I consider it a privilege to have a career in agriculture and use my words on their behalf. When the day-to-day of my job gets stressful or I get discouraged, it is the farmers that I get to know and their stories that help bring things back into perspective for me. Denise, Clint and Dustin were wonderful representatives for their fellow U.S. wheat farmers and I enjoyed getting to share this experience with them.

To read the full story on my work trip visit HERE —> “U.S. Wheat Farmers Get the Chance to See How Overseas Customers Value Their Crop.”

AND if you want to see more pictures than what I’ve included here on my blog, you can find those on the USW Facebook page HERE.

I took A LOT of pictures that I want to share from the entire trip, so today I am featuring the time I spent with the board team and then over the course of the next week I am going to share posts on my vacation with my grandparents and great aunt.

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Before heading over to Asia, the team met for a briefing that USW West Coast Office in Portland, OR, where they also visited the Wheat Marking Center and  the United Grains terminal.

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We arrived in Bangkok late on Saturday night and had most of the day Sunday to adjust to the time change a bit and be tourists.

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We visited two temples, Wat Pho, which is home to the “Reclining Buddha”, and Wat Arun. I did take a lot of photos around the temples but since I also visited the temples again with my family, I am going to share those in a separate upcoming blog post.

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On Monday, we visited the United Flour Mills (UFM) Baking School. USW has had a collaborative relationship with the school since 1982, where we host preeminent bakery training courses every year. I have heard so much about the work that happens there so I was excited to be visiting.

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UFM also has grocery stores, so after visiting the baking school we swung by. For the most part it was your typical grocery store, with the exception of a few things that I didn’t recognize, but I was amazed by the produce! There was quite a bit more packaging, versus fruit and veggies being just out in the open air and it was all amazing quality. And these were hands down the most beautiful strawberries I have ever seen!

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Japanese noodles… which I loved so much that I took my family back to the  same spot a week later and ordered the same thing.

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On the second day, the team visited a cookie and cracker manufacturer. I was excited to learn a little more about the marketing side of the business and about consumer trends. This visit was also a great example of the technical service that USW does. One of our baking consultants actually worked with the company on developing two of the products above that got to try.

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We also had a tour through their plant. All of the different assembly lines and processes were so cool!

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We were visiting on Valentine’s Day, so one of the companies gave us these small cakes. And I ate the whole thing for dinner. #noshame

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Before we had to leave for the airport in Bangkok we made a impromptu side visit to this world market grocery store which is touted as “one of the 25 grocery stores you should visit before you die.” Tally for the bucket list that I didn’t even know I needed. It was a pretty cool.

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We then traveled to Manila in the Republic of the Philippines. Our first day we traveled two hours down to Botangas to visit the country’s #1 flour mill and were privy to this amazing view. The drive there and back was obviously long, but it gave us a great opportunity to really see the countryside.

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The final day in Philippines and on the trip was spent at the 9th International Exhibition of Bakery, Confectionery and Foodservice Equipment, known as “Bakery Fair 2017.”

Bottomline: It was seriously cool.

And the party started early in the morning before I had a cup of coffee.

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USW’s booth got a lot of great attention. This piece was amazing!

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As was all of the “cakes” on display. You know there are times when I think of myself as artistic… this was not one of those moments.

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These are my co-workers, Matt, Joe and Roy that work overseas in South Asia. I was so thankful to get to know them a bit better. They are my colleagues but they are also mentors, friends and examples of hard work. Most importantly they LOVE their jobs and it shows in a every way.
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In the afternoon we had just a little bit of time to play tourist so Joe took us to Intramuros or the “Walled City” in the heart of Manila.

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Sometimes I struggle to explain all that my organization does (because sometimes I don’t see the entire scope of it) so hopefully this shares a bit of insight into wheat export market promotion.

Stay tuned throughout the next week for temples, elephants and postcard worthy beach scenes…. the picture sharing has just begun.

Cheers!

Agriculture, Oregon, Photography

Feeding Cows with Dad

There are fewer things that I love more than being home with my family in Oregon doing everyday things, and there are even fewer things that I love more than seeing my family happy.

My parents have always dreamed of having property and cows, and of a farmhouse that they could call their forever home.

Once they found what they wanted there were a few frustrating years before it all came together, so when it finally happened it was that much sweeter.

It was a bit overwhelming at first when I came home. I was walking into a completely different place than where I grew up, but with every room and little detail that they showed me, it became more and more clear to me. This home is perfect for them.

I might take pictures someday of the house, maybe even on this trip.

But I knew even before I came home, that the first thing my camera lens would focus on were my dad and those beloved cows.

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In case you are wondering, these “Oreo” cows are the breed “Bue Lingo.”

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Breakfast time.

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I am only slightly upset that my family finally got cows AFTER I left home…

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This barn cat came with the property. My dad has renamed it “Talks a Lot.” It follows him EVERYWHERE, and well, never stops talking.

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This is what a very happy, new farmer looks like.

Cheers!

Agriculture, Career/Professional, Kansas

In The Eye of the Beholder…

This summer, as I have started my full time role at my new job, I have hit the ground running, offering support on a really cool project.

Yes, jumping from bale to bale is as much fun as it looks.
Yes, jumping from bale to bale is as much fun as it looks.

We are waiting until National Pork Month in October to share the full details, but many do know that it involves some on-site farm video shoots. I am having a blast traveling around the state, meeting some wonderful farm families and spending some time with my favorite critters. Each family and their farm have their own personality and unique story to share, and I have walked away from each one with boosted sense of purpose for my job and respect for those that I represent.

We are working with a fun-loving, positive thinking and insanely creative, agency team, whom I have really enjoyed getting to know. They are not a agriculture based agency, and really, I think they’d appreciate me saying that “traditional” and “typical” aren’t in their vocabulary either. But they understand consumers and people, and in turn, I have really appreciated their eagerness to learn more about agriculture and their respect for farmers. My job throughout this project, aside from providing direction and support wherever needed, is to photograph and capture the ‘behind the scenes.’ Now I’ll be the first to admit that photography is not the skill that makes me a communicator, but I do enjoy it and even more so, enjoy being the viewer,  especially when its a simple country scene or anything that represents the agricultural life. I believe that agriculture is beautiful, but I also understand that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ which is why something that a member of the agency team said caught me by surprise.

At each of the shoots, we often lost track of the two main camera men and when we would find them someone would inquire about what they could possibly be taking a picture of. Another member of their team would then explain that they could see the opportunity for a good picture when we might not be able to. Understanding this a bit, I was curious of what they thought of their surroundings so I asked one of them later what he thought. His response?

“I could spend all night and day out here. This right here, this is the good stuff.”

It took every bit of self control to not let my jaw drop. He could not have responded better, if I had scripted it myself. Then, to top it off, later that evening the team showed us some of the footage and stills that they have started to work on and instantly I knew, this guy gets it.

My theory is that The Good Stuff is different for everyone and that’s the beauty of it. I have no doubt that this guy’s version of the good stuff is very different than mine, but his comment and the fact that we had this bit in common made me smile. If I wasn’t excited to share this project with you before, I definitely am now!

Here are a few favorite “details” from one of our visits. I honestly could have taken a million and two pictures of just the pigs if I had been there all day!

Enjoy!

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“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” – Margaret Wolfe Hungerford