Off the Path in Oliver County

Because we have such a talented group of people on our staff, and they get into all kinds of fun adventures, My NDFB Life is expanding to include posts from other staff members. Aryel Smith is the Southwest Field Representative and had an opportunity to visit an elk farm not too long ago. Enjoy! – Dawn

Most adventures are better when you go off the beaten path. Luckily for those interested in visiting the Red Butte Wapiti Ranch, GPS programs often struggle to get you there on the first try. This is only fitting when you are stopping in to see one of the few elk ranches left in North Dakota.

Located in Oliver County, Dwight and Roberta Grosz’s herd alone is about 10% of all the elk raised in the Peace Garden State. However, the size of his operation does not stop the Grosz Family from knowing each one of their elk personally. Dwight can tell you if a bull or cow, male and female elk, respectively, has a scar or mark on their body. He can explain why it happened and how they cared for the elk.

Dwight Grosz

This cow was bottle fed as a calf by one of the Grosz children and endearingly named Sapphire. She is a lover of hugs, rubs, attention and selfies. I met and spent time with her and a few of the other cows holding a special place in this family’s heart.

Elk Selfie

So, the next time you find yourself lost in the Southwestern part of the state, flustered that you cannot seem to find your way, take a breath and look around. If you are lucky, you might just stumble upon something pretty unique, like and elk that poses for a selfie.

Dog smiles

Oh the jewels you find when you go out on interviews! Yesterday, my colleague Lisa and I interviewed Sara Hatlewick about being a finalist in the Miss American Angus competition. After the interview, we followed her around a little while she did chores.

Today, while sorting through the footage, I came across this gem: Sarah’s dog smiling for the camera.

I was laughing about the fact that the dog’s tail hit the camera, not about the smile. I didn’t realize she smiled until I reviewed the footage.

I laughed out loud when I saw it, and knew I just had to share it with you! I hope it brings a smile to your face too!


New look, same dedication

NDFB has a new look, but our commitment to North Dakota and agriculture have never been stronger.

I love North Dakota and  I deeply appreciate the never-give-up spirit of those who belong to and volunteer their time to NDFB. I am thankful that so many great people share the values that NDFB holds dear: Freedom, responsibility, opportunity and self-reliance. These values are what made our country great. And standing up for these values makes NDFB a shining example for our state’s future. NDFB is doing what needs to be done to ensure my children and yours will have opportunities to stay — and prosper —  in this beautiful state we call home.

What can you get for $5.61?

Click the shopping tab in Google and search for “things that cost $5.61.” What do you get?

How ’bout a 2 oz. promotional heaven carabiner bottle?  (I didn’t even know what a carabiner was! Had to look it up!)

What about a 50-count bottle of vegetarian B-12 tablets?

Or a “geo recycled notebook?”

One of many books, (I counted seven $5.61 books in a row on page two of my search.)

All fine choices, but quite frankly, I’m putting my $5.61 on an all-American Independence Day meal. And we’re talking a hamburger, pork spare ribs, a hotdog, potato salad, baked beans, corn chips, lemonade, chocolate milk, watermelon, ketchup, mustard and American cheese.

Yep. You read that right. American Farm Bureau did a July 4th Cookout survey and that meal for 10 people comes to $5.61 per person.

CS15_075 July 4th Marketbasket Survey_2015It’s amazing, really, when you think about it. We can buy a book. Or eat a whole meal with family and friends.

Food is so affordable in this country, it has allowed most of us to think about everything BUT how fortunate we are to have the amazing food system — starting with our farmers and ranchers — that we have.

So this year, instead of succumbing to the food scare of the week that is fueled by people looking to make a buck or two on fear, ask a farmer why they do what they do and how they are continually looking for ways to improve and provide us all with the bountiful food we have become accustomed to.

And enjoy that burger, hotdog, spare ribs and potato salad with your friends and family.

Happy eating! And happy Independence Day!

Sunburst tip from an award-winning photographer

Photographers seldom think about what it’s like to be in front of the camera, so when I asked Katherine Plessner of Verona if she’d be willing to do an interview for our publication Focus, and for NDFB’s YouTube channel, she was a little hesitant.

What would she possibly have to say? Well, turns out there was so much, we couldn’t fit it all into a two-minute video. We talked about photography in general. About her involvement in Pride of Dakota for many years. About the lovely park in Verona that she spearheaded. She even shared a few photography tips! It became clear pretty quickly that this multi-talented lady needed a little more “media” time. So expect to see a couple of video clips from Katherine over the next few months.

Katherine recently won second place in the technology division of the 2015 American Farm Bureau Federation’s Photo Contest, and the story of how she got that photo appeared in NDFB’s newsletter Focus in print and online.

And here’s one of those bonus features: Katherine explains how to create “sunbursts” in your photos. You won’t believe how easy it is.



Smells like…

I grew up on a farm. Usually about this time of year, I start getting wistful. And the older I get, the more intense those feelings seem to get. There is just something about smells on the farm that soothe my soul and YES, I’m even talking about the smell of cow poop!

I remember once my dad said, after we had moved out to our 2.3 acres, “You know, when the wind comes from the south, you might smell the cattle from that farm. I just looked at him and said, “Yeah. Isn’t it great?”

But you know what? There have been plenty of south winds in the last 15 years and I smell our own neighborhood septic systems MUCH more frequently than I ever smell the cattle. Quite frankly, it’s a tad disappointing.

Of all the smells I remember from my childhood, my favorite is the smell of dirt. I smell dirt, and I feel calmer, more at peace. And did you know there is actually a perfume from Demeter called Dirt? I might have to get me some so I can be at peace more regularly ; )

The smell of the milk replacer for the calves also brings back a lot of fond memories. And if you have never experienced the smell of harvest, it’s worth a sniff!

That’s why the field directly west of the development I have called home since 2000 has so much appeal to me. A lot of houses have sprung up around us, but that field remains, for the time being anyway, and it is probably the most photographed, videoed and sniffed field in the state. Well, at least by me.

It was planted to soybeans last year. I must have visited that field 20 times last summer.

I took pictures from under the beans when I wanted to get a unique perspective for an Instagram series. And took a deep breath.























I took pictures when the sun was setting over the soybean field. And took a deep breath.

I took pictures when the storm clouds passed over the field. And took a deep breath.

I took pictures when the field was harvested. And took a deep breath.

soybean harvest

And sometimes I just sat there, watched as the clouds rolled by. And took a deep breath.

I don’t actually understand why someone would move to the country and then expect it to be like being in town just with more distance between you and your neighbors.

Rural living isn’t pristine living. It’s messy. It’s dusty.  Sometimes it’s really noisy. And sometimes it smells.

Take a deep breath. It’s all good.



Like an elephant. Or a single white otter tail?

They say an elephant never forgets. I wasn’t really sure who “they” were.

So I did a little research.

Turns out “they” is a lot of people.

Like Dr. Orville Jenkins. And James Ritchie in an article in Scientific American. There are more too, but at this point you are probably wondering what elephants have to do with My NDFB Life.

Nothing really. Except that’s how my mind works.

I know. Scary.

Why am I thinking about elephants? Because I just finished putting together the April/May issue of Focus, NDFB’s official publication. I haven’t been the editor/writer/layout person for Focus in a long time. But my coworker, Lisa, just had a beautiful baby boy and is on maternity leave, so I said I’d git ‘er done and to the printer.

As I was writing and editing and placing photos, it all came rushing back. Ahhh, the memories!! Deadlines! What should stay? What should go? Did I spell everything right? Did I use it’s instead of its? Do I know what the acronym SWOT stands for?

Well, I sure do now. But back in 1992, I didn’t. So being of  unsound mind, I put in parenthesis (Single White Otter Tail) because of COURSE I would see that and remind myself to find out what it actually meant when I had more time.

Here’s the photographic proof.

My greatest gaffe

From the September 1992 issue of NDFB’s official publication. In the Summary of the State Board Minutes article, for cryin’ out loud! That went to about 25,000 Farm Bureau members.

I even remember WHY it happened. I had recently watched the movie Single White Female. Notice the “West Side. SWF seeks female to share apartment.”

SWOT reminded me of SWF.


But why “Otter Tail?” That I don’t remember.

I just remember the moment John McGauvran, who was the Executive Vice President at the time, told me about the error. He laughed. I thought I was going to get fired.

Still, to this day, I can’t believe I actually did that.

And for those of you who don’t know what SWOT stands for, it’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

It’s something I will never — like an elephant — forget!


If you give a Farm Bureau staffer a webcam…

They will realize that, when they open their video editing software, that suddenly, the Stop Motion feature works.

Then they find out tomorrow is National Pig Day.

And they just happen to have a squishy, stress pig sitting on the desk.

So they surmise that knowing how and  if this really works would be advantageous for future projects.

They do a video using the squishy pig.

Then they will think about the bendable cow figures in a drawer and think about making another video with the bendable cows.

They pull out the bendable cows and start thinking about the funny things they could do with the cows.

But then they look at the time and realize there are many other tasks yet to accomplish on this spare day at the end February.

So the cows get put on a green screen and the whole series gets entitled: Ma! The cows got out again!