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If you really want to learn how to trust God: try agriculture.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck that which is planted.

— Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

If you really want to learn how to trust God: try agriculture. Nothing has humbled me more or tested my faith more greatly than these last two years — loving a farmer and working the family trade.

Here’s the thing about agriculture: I don’t care what kind of money you have, what kind of skills you possess, or the number of years under your belt. When it comes to raising crops or raising livestock, you’re at the mercy of God.

Diseases, droughts, predators and pests, wind storms, hail storms, flooding, and piss-poor yields… the list never ends. And I have seen the very best fall and fail to these acts of God.

When your entire livelihood is tied up in the ground and your prayers, you have to lean in hard to God. You have to hit your knees and trust He’ll bring you through it. You have to trust the sick calves and the abandoned fields and the frozen blossoms won’t be your end. That even if you lose it all, He will provide.

And if you really want to learn how to trust God: try agriculture. Because nothing has brought me more joy or greater faith than these last two years– loving a farmer and working the family trade.

Here’s the thing about agriculture: I don’t care how broke you are, how clueless you are about what you’re doing, or how new you are to playing the game. When it comes to raising crops or raising livestock, you’re fully in the grace of God.

That first tinge of green, newborn calves on wobbly legs, nurturing rains, corn taller than you can reach, dewy mountain pastures, rolling fields of grain, heavy boughs laden with fruit… the list never ends. I’ve seen the least of us blessed beyond measure by acts of God.

When your livelihood is tied up in the ground and your prayers, you have to thank God, hard. You have to raise up your hands and sing your praises. You have appreciate the bumper crops and fattened livestock and know they’re each such a blessing. You have to trust that what you gave to Him in faith, He will continue to multiply.

If you really want to learn how to trust God: try agriculture.

Harvest and Honeymoons

September has been a month full of many seasons and changes. At the tail end of our busy season, the first few days of the month resembled all the craziness of July and August’s spray rush. However, it didn’t take long for the last of the sweet corn to be ready for picking, and the beans and the corn to start drying down. By the second week of this month, my handsome farmer was no longer home alone while I chased yellow planes around the valley. It was time for me to come home and start in on a new kind of busy — harvesting the riches out of our garden. We roasted and froze green chiles, harvested tomatoes and peppers for salsa, shredded the cabbage into the crocks to start fermenting kraut, and put up several boxes of sweet corn.

As we wrapped up putting away food for the winter months, a whole new kind of preparation fell into place. This last weekend I married that handsome farmer, and took the last name that now adorns this farm we are working so hard to get going. We used the clearing at the bottom of the forest on our place to set up tents and have a reception. We had a long-time family friend bring his draft horses and a wagon, and the team gave our guests rides around the farm.

Now its Monday, and my brand-new husband is headed in to start harvest at his work. He works a day job managing a hemp farm, then comes home to farm his own ground in the evenings. The hemp buds are ready to be picked and dried, so instead of heading off to a honeymoon he is headed into a harvester. It will be a long few weeks for him, followed by harvest of our own crops as soon as the hemp is wrapped up. A final cutting of hay, sweet corn seed, soybeans, and picking corn will be not-so-patiently waiting for him as he battles the clock and the ever-looming freezes.

Our honeymoon will come in time, maybe this January or February when the ground is frozen and the days are short, and theres nothing left for a farmer and his wife to do besides run away to the beach. Until then, we will be in the cabs of tractors and combines and grain trucks, starting our marriage off chasing harvest season. As I walked through the garden tonight looking over our pumpkins (yet another looming harvest), I couldn’t help but smile at this life I signed up for. Chasing planes and combining corn, what a life it is indeed.

Growth, and a Long Road to Hoe

The year of 2020 has truly been a ride, and we have only made it through July. Amongst global pandemics and food shortages, increasing political tensions and conspiracy theories, there hardly seems any time to encounter other stressors and concerns. Unless, of course, you work in agriculture.

Here in my small part of the world, we also get to add the weight of drought, unbearable winds, and record-breaking heat to the mix. The crops are stressed, the pests are abundant, and of course our crop dusting season is in full-swing. I have become so overwhelmed on these long, hot days worrying about the outlook for my business; not to mention the fate of our new farm. This is our first year in production with it and of course it is laden with struggles.

It is nice, however, to have something to pour yourself into. There is so much peace to be found as your sweat pours into the ground and your hands begin to blister working towards your dream. I have always felt like God is closest when I toil hardest, that when all the distractions are cut loose and you’re left alone with the earth, a shovel, and your internal struggle against your physical form, thats where He meets you.

We planted just shy of two acres into a garden, with tomatoes and squash and cabbage galore. Below you’ll see a row of tomatoes, fresh and young and succulent against the hard and dry dirt. Somedays I am the dirt, somedays the tomato.

We also planted nearly thirty acres of sunflowers this spring, and some sweet corn seed. The sunflowers are a new crop for me and my honey, starting with a new contract he struck with the local ag center and ending in a new set of growing pains for us. We no more than got these beauties to germinate than an awful hail storm came through and broke off the majority of them and turned our soil into a six inch slab of cement the late-bloomers stood no chance of coming through.

Time after time this year we have come face-to-face with another road block, another problem, another struggle. Our faith has been tested, our patience waned, and our optimism crushed. This farm has cried for more hard work than either of us thought we had to give — but hey, thats where Gods found!

Through these trials and tribulations our faith is growing deeper and stronger. It isn’t bold and outspoken, and you wouldn’t see it just from looking at us. But working this hard, pouring this much out, and trusting the impossible outcomes time and time again have changed us both internally. Little by little the roots grow deeper and more steadfast, and although you can’t see that cottonwood’s roots, you can be sure they’re deep enough and strong enough to weather the storm.

And hey, when at the end of it all the flowers still bloom, you’ll know it was all worth it. Its a long row to hoe, but the growth is ever evident.

Hemp Bugs: The Truth About Pests and Pesticides

There’s no denying it, hemp is on a roll across the country. However, reading through various articles about the new miracle crop, I keep coming across a false claim — no, an outright LIE — regarding hemp and pesticides. Over and over I have read something to the effect of:

  • Hemp is resistant to pesticides!

OR

  • Hemp is resistant to pests and therefore needs no pesticides!

And let me be the first to tell you, this is absolute bullcrap. This is false information being spread to consumers. Not only does it come from a place of ignorance and prejudice, but I have concerns that consumers who are anti-pesticide are being exposed to pesticides in their hemp products due to misinformation.

Lets start with what I know, what my experience in the field is, and why you should believe me. I work for an aerial applicator company. I am pro-pesticide when used safely, efficiently, and with education — but I also understand there are people who are not comfortable with pesticides in any form, and thats fine! I also work with organic pesticides for about 1/3 of all my applications and can testify that there are organic products which work well, and in fact I rely on some of them more heavily than synthetic prodcts. You need to understand, I am not pushing an agenda here nor am I biased. Although my personal stance may differ, I respect an individual’s choice to choose organic and naturally grown products. However I also believe that consumers deserve to know what they are buying, applying, and consuming, and this lie that hemp is pesticide free violates this belief of mine and really stirs me up.

Now there is a lot to unpack here, and I want to cover as many sides to it as I can. There are four points which I would like to address from my first-hand experience this past year.

  1. Hemp is susceptible to a wide variety of pests.
  2. Hemp is not “resistant” to pesticides – they work very well on it!
  3. What is legal to put on hemp, and the secretive (and illegal) applications being made to it.
  4. Residual pesticides in the ground.

Hemp is susceptible to a wide variety of pests.

This past growing season, I personally saw a variety of harmful pests actively causing crop damages within hemp fields. These included beet webworms, aphids, thrip, and corn earworm. Now these were only the ones I saw within our valley, and did not include other CONFIRMED pests in hemp elsewhere in the country. I have also heard accounts of stem/stalk borers, mites, and gnats, amongst others.* Of course these pests will vary regionally, but make no mistake: there are confirmed pests in hemp, which are known to cause damage to the product. I suspect that as more and more acres are grown across the country, there will be even more pests emerge within or adapt to hemp fields and green houses. I predict corn earworm, aphids, and mites to be the greatest threats across the board, but time will tell.

Damage to a hemp plant from a beet web worm. This was one of the first pests I confirmed in the crop this year. Note the worm towards the top of the picture.
Aphids on a hemp plant. I did not send these in for lab verification as with the beet web worm, but I believe these to be Cannabis aphids.

Hemp is not “resistant” to pesticides – they work very well on it!

There are three primary classes of pesticides: 1) herbicides to control plants, 2) insecticides/miticides to control insects and arachnids, and 3) fungicides to control various fungi and bacterial diseases. This claim that hemp is resitant to pesticides can go one of two ways.

The first is that hemp is not affected by herbicides, or has a tolerance or resistance to products designed to damage it. Following last year’s planting, there were many people in my area who had issues with volunteer hemp returning from dropped seeds which they needed to eradicate. To do this, they applied herbicides which killed the hemp, thus cleaning out the field for another crop. Because the herbicides eradicated the hemp, one cannot say that hemp is resistant to herbicides.

The second option here is that hemp is resistant to pesticides applied to treat insects, mites, or disease. Because we have already established that hemp does in fact take damage from these insects, you can understand why a grower would apply these products to their hemp field (that is, to control pest populations and mitigate damage to yields and therefore profit). Now, luckily for growers, hemp is NOT resistant to these products either! In fact, I applied a variety of insecticides this past growing season (more on that in a minute), and they worked on the insects they were applied for! I saw reduced populations as well as a reduction in damage to the hemp, indicating that these pesticides worked as intended on the hemp plant.

What is legal to put on hemp, and the secretive (and illegal) applications being made to it.

In my state, there is a relatively short list of pesticides legally approved to apply to hemp crops. Most of these are organic or natural products, and primarily oil-based. Although these essential oils can be incredibly effective, I offer one word of advice to those planning on oiling up their crop to prevent pest: Oils can act as a magnifying glass, eventually burning and killing your hemp plants (aka phytotoxicity). Disclaimer aside, there are next to no products available to treat all the conditions that can afflict this crop. Those that are available work marginally well, but cannot be relied upon for heavy infestations. There are also no herbicides labeled to control the weeds in hemp crops, aside from oil herbicides which, again, work by burning the weeds back.

So instead, what I have observed happening is a massive amount of illegal applications to hemp fields using products not labeled on the crop. Herbicides to combat weeds, insecticides and fungicides to combat pests and disease, and a whole slew of fertilizers which I am certain are not approved for crop use (RAW SEWAGE, anyone?).

The Department of Agriculture in my state is calling this hemp rush the Wild West, in that the number of off-label, illegal applications being made by growers-run-amuck and immeasurable. And if they are already making an illegal application in terms of product, what moral obligation is there to hold true to the approved rates of application? Who is to say these growers aren’t doubling or even tripling the approved rates of product per acre? All I can say on the matter is that illegal and off-label applications are happening, regularly. And if you have concerns about pesticides in your products, I would be certain to buy only from a source who you can confirm isn’t up to these shady self-treatments.

Residual pesticides in the ground.

I’ll only touch briefly on this, because his is more of a labeling strategy than anything. Organic product labeling is overseen by the U.S.D.A, who sets the requirements deciding what is or is not organic. All the information on this can be found in a handy bulletin on the U.S.D.A. website, but the part I want to focus on refers to the ground hemp is grown in.

In order to be certified organic, your organic crop must have been grown in ground for which no pesticides have been used in three or more years. This is because many pesticides (specifically herbicides) can tie up in the ground and persist for a while. Now, I don’t know about your region, but in mine the hemp being grown is primarily going into farm ground…which has previously had pesticides applied to it. This means that very little hemp can truly be labeled “certified organic.” It may have been “organically grown,” which is to say no pesticides were applied to the crop as it grew, but if it is contaminated ground then it cannot be truly organic. Please pay special attention to any “organic” hemp products you may be purchasing, and if in doubt, ask!

* If you’d like me to do another more detailed post regarding pests in hemp and their management options, let me know!

Give Love, Get Love

I love “projects,” and always have since I was little. It all started with a crop duster dad who loved animals, and dedicated time not to just to his pets but also to teaching me about them. How to hold them, how to show them affection, how to read their expressions, how to doctor them. My childhood was filled with helpful tips and tricks to make catching and domesticating even the wildest of critters possible — a Steve Irwin of his own kind, with a heart that couldn’t say no and a love towards those creatures the Lord gave to us that I couldn’t begin to comprehend until I was much older.

Now, as an adult, I find myself constantly bringing home strays, rescuing lost and orphaned babies of all species, and attempting to doctor and save even those which are most unlikely to recover. My track record so far, for 2019?

  • 2 bottle baby calves
  • 2 adopted stray cats, which turned into —->
  • 11 fostered kittens
  • 2 juvenile, 1 infant chipmunks
  • 1 calf with a broken leg
  • 2 baby birds
  • 1 cross-beak rooster
  • 2 more foster kittens (currently)

I simply cannot say no! I will spend hundreds of dollars and countless hours trying to love a critter which I will end up rehoming or releasing, or which I know cannot recover and will lead to heartbreak. Tonight, doctoring my two newest kittens (ridden with eye and respiratory infections and nearly starved to death when I found them) it hit me — I love to love.

All of the sudden I was overwhelmed with this realization that God gave me a heart which needs to give love. When He gave us this Earth and every creature on it to reign over (Genesis 1:28), he molded my heart with a tenderness and passion for those creatures, knowing I would walk a path dedicated to reigning over them with a love I cold not withhold. I love to love, because God crafted me to do so. I love my “projects” so greatly, because they fulfill a portion of what my divine purpose here is. What a beautiful thing it is to realize a calling that God has placed on your life, and for that calling to be such a fulfilling one.

Here’s the thing, however: sometimes, this calling is hard. Sometimes loving this much hurts me more than it fulfills me, and sometimes the only reward is heartbreak. Visiting with God tonight, he helped me understand not just that this was my calling, but what I needed to do to be good at it. When there are days that the chores stack up endlessly, when there are too many messes to clean up, when I lose sleep for feedings and doctoring, when all my hard work means nothing and an animal passes away… when I give so much love that I have no more to give, that is when I need to receive love.

When I pour myself out until there is no more, I need to be refilled and renewed and restrengthened with love — and where else can one receive an unending supply of love than through Jesus? When I have given too much, when I have loved too hard, when my heart has been broken, I can fall back into God’s love and mercy and grace and be revitalized. You see, God never runs out of love, his well cannot run dry and he can know no end. This is what I draw on when I each the end of my rope.

I love each and every critter God has given to us with uncontainable love. I cannot stop trying, no matter how bad the outcome may be. I encourage you to take another look at the calling God has put on your life, with different lenses and perspectives. Pray about it, have conversation about it. God put this passion in you for a reason! To teach you something, to use you for something great, to teach others something with you!

You see, my actions and my passion are just a reflection of God. I do his works through loving animals, and at the end of the day the bottom line is my calling is to love like Jesus does… and I bet if you look hard enough, in one way or another thats your calling too.

The Backstory

I was born into a family of crop dusters. My grandfather started his business over 50 years ago, and still performs aerial applications today. Two of his three sons returned home to join the business as pilots, and last year I made my debut as the representative for third generation — doing field work, not flying.

I have been around agricultural aviation for 22 years now, and the excitement and adrenaline of watching those yellow planes dip under power lines and fly just ten feet above a crop still hits me with full impact every summer. The speed, the precision, and the accuracy is mind boggling, even nine years into the trade.

You see, this was my first job. I started at thirteen, washing airplanes and observation vehicles every day in the summer to earn a little spending money. I eventually left and got a degree in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, returning home on summer break to chase planes and earn next years’ tuition. When it came time to graduate, I had no idea where to leap in terms of a career. It was with open arms and one heck of a job opportunity that I walked off the graduation stage and into a sweet corn field, signing on to the family’s trade.

I also fell in love with a farmer, born and raised here and just as tied to the soil as I am to the air. We recently became engaged and bought a farm, and are beginning a life together. He’ll plant and raise the crop, I will protect them from pests, and together we will bring in the harvest of a healthy crop.

This blog will be a diary of sorts, full of stories from both my farm at home and the airshow I watch daily at work. I hope to convey a unique and rare perspective about farming, flying, pesticides and crop production, faith and determination, love and growth. If you’re joining me for the ride- hold on. This life flies by about like an air tractor — that is to say, it dives and dips and turns and rolls, and is a roller coaster from start to finish!

I appreciate you being here, and I hope you find as much excitement and wonder as I do in this agricultural world you’re diving into. Oh, and if you’re curious, don’t hesitate to ask! I promise I’ll do my best to explain this world to you, and to teach you all I can about Flying, Farming, and Faith, and the ways in which they intertwine.