So You’re Considering a Run for Office.

shaking hands elected officialI couldn’t be more proud of you. That’s an excellent decision. But before you make any others yet, I want you to stop and think about this one question first.

Why?

If you can’t articulate the reason why you’ve decided to run, then you’ve already got a problem. You need a platform, a specific intention for why you want to hold public office. Don’t be vague. Know what it is you want to achieve and express it in a clear and straightforward manner. Once you have the answer to that question you’ll find a lot more success in pursuing your goals. [Read more…]

The Road to Good Government is Traveled by All

good government“Good government” is a cliche that gets thrown around way too often these days by folks who don’t appear to know just what it really means. It’s become nothing more than a political slogan to some, without the basis of their actions to back it up. While there are no hard and fast rules to achieving the right balance between community engagement and accountability, there are a few necessities that must be considered to provide a solid blueprint for improving the commonwealth. [Read more…]

What You Need For a Life on the Farm

farmIf your only experience of farm life is watch Green Gables, then you’ve got a long way to go before you’ll make on a farm. Farm work is tough and it’s a lot more than pitching some hay and wearing overalls. When you live on a farm you’re up before first light and usually sleeping shortly after it gets dark. You’re spending long hours under an intense sun doing hard physical labor. It’s a lot more than riding around in a tractor with a piece of buckwheat between your teeth.

So, hopefully I’ve gotten the message through that life on a farm or ranch is tough and not for the feint of heart. If you’re considering making a move from the City to the country, here are some things I recommend to everyone:

  • Buy a good pair of boots. You’re going to be on your feet a lot. Probably more than ever before in your life. I’m talking 12+ hours a day. And you’re going to be lifting heavy things that could accidentally fall on your toes. A good pair of leather boots with a reinforced toe is a must. They’ll need to be comfortable too so make sure to take a walk around the block before committing.
  • Gloves. Protecting your hands is a must. You’ll handling wire, tools, and all sorts of other heavy things that can result in cuts or blisters. Until your hands have had a chance to develop some good callouses you’ll want to make sure they stay covered to prevent injuries.
  • Wide Brimmed Hat. Skin cancer is very prevalent in farmers all over the world. Most have enough sense to wear a baseball type cap but I’d take it a step further and go with the wide brimmed variety. Wide brimmed hats provide more shade for you face AND cover your ears. Definitely a worthy investment.
  • A Good Watch. It can be tough to keep track of time when you’re out in the fields. While the sun will tell you the approximate time, if you have a new calf that has to be nursed every two hours you need to be a little more specific. As my personal preference, I go with tactical watches because they’re extremely tough and rugged and I never have to worry about them breaking.

There’s a ton of other stuff you could and probably will buy when getting going with farming but this list will start you off on the right foot. Good luck!

Tragedy on the Farm

grain silosGrowing up on a farm as I did, you worked and you learned a lot. It was hard work but rewarding. I would argue you learned a lot of life’s most important lessons at a young age. It was a very particular upbringing that you could only understand if you actually lived it. Every kid who was raised on a farm has great stories and saw some things, both good and bad, that stay with you for your lifetime. There’s no denying it was a lifestyle that many other kids couldn’t understand, yet were very curious to learn more about.

As I’ve stated before, our farm was in our family for generations and though I left to pursue a career in politics, I’ll never forget the one-of-a-kind experiences I had there. Living on a farm taught us responsibility, it taught us about life and death. If you didn’t work, you didn’t eat. That’s not to suggest our parents were slave drivers who forced us into manual labor for table scraps, but we were taught the power of hard work, of chores that needed to be done, and that an honest day’s work was how you sustained oneself, to live.

Were we sent to our rooms without dinner if we didn’t get our chores done or if we misbehaved? Of course. That was discipline, but my Mother always made sure we understood what we did wrong before sneaking up a piece of chicken, some potatoes and a glass of milk so we wouldn’t go to bed hungry. But we always learned our lesson and it shaped us into good people.

Our family grew corn and my parents were very dedicated to it. One of the most crucial warnings our parents had to knock into our heads was never to play in or around the grain elevator or a silo. These were hazardous areas where even the most skilled farmers could find themselves in trouble or worse.

My Father always warned us, even as we grew older and more experienced, never to be complacent around any of our machines. But the bins were especially important, because one bad move could easily result in your getting sucked into a sinkhole and literally drowning in corn. That’s a horrible thing to happen to someone, and I’m reminded of these portions of my childhood having read about 73-year-old Leon Madey of Genoa, Illinois.

Mr. Madey was a corn farmer just like myself, just like my parents and their parents before them. He had been reported missing on the morning of May 5th when his family couldn’t find him but his truck was parked near their silo, which 10,000 bushels of corn. That much can fill up twelve semi-trucks. Mr. Madey’s family said that corn had hardened in the bin and they had to dislodge it. This is an all too common occurrence in the harvesting of grains and corn is no different. It often requires someone to go into the bin to loosen the clumps so that the contents can move freely. There are all kinds of safety precautions in place to avoid accidents but people, even the most seasoned veterans, can get complacent or hurried for time and that’s when bad things can happen to good people.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Madey family in this difficult time.

One Person Can…and Often Does…Make a Difference

volunteerIt’s all too easy to tell ourselves that one person can’t be the difference maker when it comes to large-scale issues. But the truth of the matter is this; each and every one of us can play a part in making our community a better place and there’s no greater avenue towards achieving our collective long-term goals than through volunteering. It couldn’t be easier to do, you just need to decide where to best focus your individual strengths to help others. We all have something we’re particularly good at doing, why not use that to help others unlock their own potential?
Volunteering is a broad term that can apply to almost anything and there are so many sectors that could use your help. There are a myriad of organizations that help out the less fortunate, the infirm, the elderly, the physically and/or mentally challenged, or even the animal population. All of these areas could use help year round, just apply your particular skills where they’re most beneficial.

For example, those who have exceptional organizational skills can start a clothing or food drive with a local church or community center to gather items for those who will suffer another harsh winter without a home to call their own. Organizational skills are also well-suited for starting a community garden or you can wrangle a group of other volunteers to help clean up your city, by picking up litter from the side of the road.

Perhaps you’re pretty handy in the kitchen, then you could donate your time in preparing food at a soup kitchen. Offer to cook, serve food, even come up with new recipes to make each meal something special for people who don’t have much to eat and might enjoy some new and interesting cuisine. Animals are also a very important part of the community we live in; showing us unconditional love, companionship, and a better understanding of our world through nature.

Whether you’re a dog or cat person, the local shelters welcome outside volunteers to help feed and care for the animals who have been brought there, usually out of no fault of their own. These environments can be loud and frightening for some animals and having a human reassure them that they are safe and well cared for can put them at ease in such a tumultuous time.

If you have the room in your home, you may even offer to foster a pet. These animals may be too young to live in a pound, recovering from surgery, or just showing unhealthy signs of stress in a shelter environment. Sometimes service members who have been called to duty need someone to watch their beloved pet while they’re gone and don’t want to give their animal away to a shelter.

If you think you have what it takes to work with children, local schools are always short-handed and looking for volunteers to read to classes and chaperone field trips. You could even offer to mentor a young child who doesn’t have a traditional home or may live in foster care. The amount of time you spend with them, no matter how small, makes a big difference in their lives, and organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters or the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs of America are always seeking out new volunteers.

Children are such an important part of every community and helping to shape their lives for a better future benefits all of us. The elderly and the sick are perhaps the most vulnerable of all, and need a great amount of care to help live their lives to the fullest. Hospitals and hospice care centers thrive when compassionate members of the community offer to donate some of their time in the places where they are often needed the most.

Whether it’s simple administrative work or just visiting with some of the patients so they have someone to talk to during the day; you’re helping to make someone’s life a little bit better than it was yesterday. Chances are you’ll feel the same way.