Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 1 & 1/2 in Berlin

Had a good nacht sleep after walking a few miles last night and started the day at 5am. By 5:30 I was out the door to take some pictures and see some sights before the other three McCloy Fellows showed up.

The sky was clear and a full moon was beautiful as I hit the avenue leading to the Brandenburg Gate. It was nice not have crowds of people there (a marathon is going on this weekend) and the moon was directly over the gate.

After that I followed the map from an app called EveryTrail. It had a pre-programmed map of sights to see and my next stop was the Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. It is between the U.S. Embassy and the sight of the Fuhrerbunker. 

I walked into the middle of the memorial and the path I was on was leading down. With the time of day (early morning and little light) it was eiree, like walking into one of the ditches that were used for body disposal.

My next stop was a watchtower left over from the Berlin Wall. It was very humbling to be underneath it. I was trying to imagine what it would have been like to live in East Berlin with towers everywhere looking down at you and guards waiting to shoot people if need be.

From there I walked to a remaining section of the Berlin Wall. I just can't imagine how the people on either side of it felt, knowing that you couldn't move freely about. 

Next stop was Checkpoint Charlie. Need I say more?

That was were I ended my journey following my app map. I headed back to the hotel to grab breakfast and get ready to meet my other Fellows. Also, I needed to repack my things to change rooms so I had internet. What a slave I am to all this technology stuff.

I made it back to the hotel and met up with my first Fellow, Garrick Hall from Utah. His room wasn't ready so we went up to my room and I worked on getting picts off of the camera and ready for posting.

After doing that and me repacking my bags we headed downstairs to get onto the internet. Just as we were getting ready my new room was made available. We headed to that and I was able to post my pictures from yesterday and this morning while he took a nap.

We headed downstairs around 1:45 to meet our host and hopefully or next Fellow. Udo from the DBV (sister organization of American Farm Bureau) met us and him and I had a beir. As we were tossing that back Raquel from Louisiana showed up and joined.

We headed out to take a tour of the area killing time until our official tour. We headed up river and then met our official guide. She took us on a tour of the Jewish area of Berlin (ghetto). We went off the beaten track through openings in buildings for carriages to nice courtyards (and some not so nice but very interesting).

It was very sobering to see buildings that had not been renovated with bullet marks from WWII (67 years) or patched up from bomb damage. The Socialist/Communist system didn't do a good job of trying to build up the economy. It makes me wonder where our country is heading?

During our walk-about we had a good discussion with our guide (who is atheist) about religion. Imagine me being the one to ask the question that is controversial and combative. I really wanted to know because religion was one of the things that I identified during my Eisenhower Fellowship.

In Germany they are taxed at 9% just for belonging to a religion and it is tied to the government because of medical and educational reasons. Another reason for the decline of religion was due to the communist side of Germany (and eastern Europe). If a person belonged to a religion they  or their children could not attend university.

The last reason was family lifestyle. If the parents didn't belong to a religion and brought up their children that way their kids wouldn't be religious. It is amazing how government policy and bias brought that about, especially since it was started under the Nazis.

I don't care what our media or activists say, religion is a major component to the success of the United States. We were founded by people who did not want a governmental religion (Church of England).

Because of this ideal, religious tolerance was a key building block. Each colony had its own religion. From that the people that formed the Constitution realized religious freedom was a key component for a successful nation. Boy were they correct.

We did a little more touring and then parted ways. We covered quite a bit of territory (not as much as I did on my own), but we had a great insight into the history of Germany, yesterday and today!

The time schedule we were on (imagine Germans trying to be punctual) led us catching the train to the station close to our hotel. We arrived there and met the final Fellow, Paul from Arizona.

After we put a few things away in our rooms and freshened up we headed out to do a boat tour on the Spree river. It was only an hour long ride but it showed many of the beautiful building, new and old that I want to know more about and take pictures of .

When we docked at the end of our tour our host suggested a restaurant that we should try. It was started after unification (after the Berlin Wall came down) as a way of making the West German officials feel at home in the new/old capitol.

Our host recommended that we try a local cuisine, currywurst. During my jaunts through Berlin I saw restaurants and small food vendors offering it. It was good but the calf liver our host had looked even better. Next time.

We ended the meal with some awesome schnapps. This made me feel at home because the area I live in is German and I grew up with this. However, that tradition ended with my Great Aunt passing away last year.

All things have to end and we headed to the hotel to give our host gifts and head to bed for a big day tomorrow. I don't know if I will have time to reflect and post tomorrow, but I will definitely get my travels into this blog.

Prost and Gott Nacht!


I have been truly blessed! When I look at my life and all potential possibilities that could have been I count my blessings every single day!

Today I am headed on another journey that the final destination is unknown. What I mean by that is I don't know what opportunities await after this adventure.

This spring I applied for a McCloy Agriculture Fellowship and was successful enough to be one of four people going to Germany. This is similar to my Eisenhower Fellowship except I don't choose the destination or program.

What makes this blessed are a few things. First and foremost is my family. Without them and their support and help this would not be possible. Second is my hired man Dean King being there to pick up the slack. Finally my parents for giving me structure and confidence to try things that others said I couldn't do.

While I will be in Germany for three weeks my life's journey doesn't end there. I hope that the knowledge that I gain from this wonderful experience can help me and others in the future, especially Dillon and Logan.

God has given each of us the tools to accomplish amazing things but fear of one kind or another (failure, ridicule, peer pressure, etc.) keeps most people from going beyond points where most people quit.

When I look at myself I am truly blessed. I was adopted and God found a special place and parents for me. At times I wonder what my life would have been had things gone differently.

My life's journey has been driven by trying to live life to the fullest. When my body started to give out my competitive nature turned to learning. I want to learn new things so I can pass that knowledge on to future generations.

This is what life is about, the journey for knowledge and I don't want to miss the train!

Monday, September 3, 2012


Harvest is one of those times that are demanding, causing one to lose sleep. On the other hand it is also one of the most rewarding times. This is when a years worth of work and worry come to fruition. To me it was more than a years growing time I am talking about.

Having worked every harvest since 1977, I would have to say that this has been by far the most fun. While driving a truck for the first time in a field and having that responsibility was good nothing beats this year.

Most harvest memories revolve around what I was able to accomplish or certain highlights. This year was different because of being a parent...and a proud one at that.

The way my two boys stepped up this year and met the obligations and responsibilities head on will always be at the top of the list (unless it might be grandchildren in the future). 

Dillon ended up getting strep twice this summer and Logan stepped up to fill his spot with mowing, weedeating, and helping dad with jobs in the shop. Dillon was well enough to finish swathing a late first cutting alfalfa while I went to a meeting.

While I view these things as something most kids their age should be doing, not necessarily swathing, but helping out around the house without backtalk or complaining, their growth was more.

Dillon ran combine by himself for the first time and Logan was in charge of the bill of ladings and dumping the wagons. Both jobs were challenges I set out for them and they met them head on. 

I vividly remember some of my firsts on the farm and how nervous I was. I didn't quite see fear in their eyes but there were drops of sweat on their foreheads.

So why was this my most fun and memorable harvest? As a father you want to see your children grow and progress, not only in school but with life skills. I new they were nervous of making a big mistake but after the jitters went away their faces lit up every day.

Farming is a unique profession where a family can do most work together. Now I am not saying that everyone will be talking with each other at the end of the day (hasn't happened yet) but there is a bond between "teammates" that is created that makes the family bond stronger.

Looking back at this year we are fortunate to keep this tradition going of teaching our young farmers and ranchers responsibility and fun. If it were in the hands of the Department of Labor and the Obama appointees this year could not have happened.

While there are many years ahead for Dillon and Logan to grow, learn, and make mistakes I am certain that this year will be one of their most memorable because there is nothing like meeting a challenge head on and looking back with satisfaction at the end of a day with a job well done.

I guess that is why this is my most memorable is I feel that looking back on being a parent and how Dillon and Logan have grown makes me look at them with satisfaction. 

Oh, I had better mention the glue that keeps all of us together, Rhonda. If it wasn't for her being a great mother, wife, and farmer this year could not take place. Her understanding (and cooking) keeps everyone going.

And me, I hope that I am a good father and manager. My job as both is to set people up to be successful. I hope to give them the tools to (physical or mental) to perform and challenge them enough to grow.

This harvest I believe that we all grew in different ways. Me, trusting young adults with their jobs, Rhonda probably trusting that I knew what I was doing, and the boys, smiles after harvest for becoming young men. What father could be prouder?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I know it has been awhile, but life does get in the way. I have been to D.C. three times, London, Holland, Philadelphia and places in between. Somewhere in there I was able to poke seeds in the ground. The weather has been too wet and there are jobs that need to be done on the farm that should have been finished by now. BUT IT’S NOT MY FAULT!

How many times do we hear and see this during a day that we are not to be blamed? If only my parents were better or if the coach would just put me in or corporations are keeping me down are common themes on Facebook, the media, and in communities. It is the fault of the previous administration!

There is a pattern I believe that develops…the more people complain that someone else is at fault the less successful people are. Being a farmer I am able to see a group of people that might complain about the weather or the government, but at the end of the day they are still successful and get their jobs done. No one is there to take up the slack to bail them out.

Another pattern has developed that rewards bad behavior. Charlie Sheen comes to mind. Drugs, prostitutes, and other bad behavior are now being rewarded with money from an influx of commercial spots. Society also seems to reward those with bad behavior while people that stay steady and keep their nose to the grindstone are looked down upon.

We all have to make choices in life, one way or the other… and not doing something is a choice. I can either stay home and watch TV, work on the farm, or spend time with my family at sporting events. Whichever I choose something else has to lose out. I either get work done or I don’t. No one else is going to do it for me.

I am not looking for sympathy, as a matter of fact I believe it is overrated in most cases. Most of the time sympathy is given by enablers. “Oh you poor thing, it’s not your fault it is the fault of (Fill in the blank).” The choices we make every day effects our future outcomes and there are people out there that are a bad influence.

Food stamps also come to mind. While I do believe in helping others we ultimately have to help ourselves. Being dependent on the government, parents, or a sugar daddy is no way to live. They are enablers of bad behavior as well.

Food stamp expenditures have double since the last Farm Bill and the media is having a field day putting blame on everyone except those that want to be dependent. Go one step further and look at where our government’s largest expenditures are outside of military…dependency payments (Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, etc.)

The solution lies within each of us. Instead of placing blame for a failure or an outcome that is not wanted the problem needs to be defined and a solution (or solutions) needs to be made. Attitude and outlook on life is everything and if a person has a goal in mind they can be successful.

If life was easy and without hurdles how fun would it be? We wouldn’t be overjoyed by our successes that keep us going. These little steps to success in reaching out goal are an important part for an individual and for those that look to us as a role model.

The world’s greatest basketball player said it best: “Some people want it to happen, some wish it to happen, others make it happen.” ~ Michael Jordan. His six championships didn’t come easy and they came towards the end of his career. He didn’t blame anyone but worked harder to achieve his goal.

It is ultimately ours to take or give away. To be or not to be, to do or not to do. Society needs to quit blaming everyone else and do some self analysis. Which reminds me, the equipment didn’t get fixed today but it’s not my fault. It is yours! If I didn’t think you wanted me to write this I would have had my jobs done.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I am writing this from the Amsterdam, Netherlands airport. Bags were packed early this morning, breakfast eaten not long after. When we were finished it was time to load luggage onto the bus. It took awhile with 70+ people traveling.

Even though this is the last day in Holland meetings were not finished. We traveled to Koeppert Cress Monster. My initial thought was it might be a cousin to the Loch Ness Monster. However, "Monster" means sample.

This business is a greenhouse that sells high end plants for cooking. They grow them right there and have a kitchen that is also set up as a studio. Top chefs come there to learn how to use these plants and how special they can be for culinary masterpieces.

Our time there started with a speaker talking about marketing agriculture products to the public. His presentation was pure gold for a farmer to utilize if they want to market their crops directly.

After that it was time for lunch. I skipped out on the question portion to take pictures of a meal that you would pay a fortune for in a restaurant. Each item was centered around a plant that was grown in the greenhouse. 

The meal was started off by being handed a test tube of a lemon grass drink. Even though it looked nasty it was very refreshing and delicious. Then we had a free for included.

During lunch a person showed up that looked kind of suspect. However he was very interesting to talk to and his profession was a plant explorer. He travels around the world searching for plants that are rare and for ones that have unique characteristics for cooking.

He was a virtual encyclopedia of plants. It was amazing at his memory of the scientific name of plants, where seeds can be obtained, and who the contact for a certain plant was. Interestingly enough he has been to Moscow, Idaho.

Then we listened to the owner of Koeppert Cress, Rob Baan. He owns a movie studio and is also a farmer. He talked to us about his business and were given different plants to sample. One tasted like oysters. That was very interesting.

Rob then took us on a tour through his green house operation that is state of the art. What he has been able to do is find the light spectrum to make them grow the best and then they are shipped all over the world.

After that we headed directly to Amsterdam and the airport. Checked my luggage in without any overweight fees and got through customs fine. I finally was able to find power to charge my laptop to take pictures off the camera card .

Had a Big Mac, fries, and a coke and went through security. The plane ride was good and I was able to catch a cat nap to take the edge off. 

Made it through customs at London Heathrow (it is huge) and onto the bus. I am finishing the blog at a Holiday Inn with my same roommate. I gained an hour so there is only an 8 hour difference. It is now 1:30am and the alarm is set for 5:30...going to be a long day tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Dang 5am comes early when only having minimal sleep the day before. Wake up call was 5am to be on the bus by 6. We grabbed out box breakfast and headed out to the flower auction. It is dark when we arrive at Flora Holland, the larges flower auction in the world.

We drive around for awhile and then disembark the bus. We head upstairs for some coffee, chatting, and dividing into groups to go on the tour. I could not believe how insainly large this auction was. We are given headphones and a power pack to listen to our guide and head out.

We go onto a walkway above the working part of the flower warehouse. I can't believe how many flowers there are and the variety. The floor looks like an anthill that someone stuck a stick into. Things are moving everywhere.

We do the tour and then head into the conference room to listen to a board member of the Flora Holland Co-op. This is the 100th anniversary of the first flower auction in the world. We spent most of the day in the conference room listening to experts talk about co-ops and then doing a couple group exercises.

From there we get back on the bus and make our way to the Port of Rotterdam for a dinner cruise. What a great time being with the Nuffield Scholars and seeing the sights of one of the busiest ports in the world. We also saw the largest dry dock in the world as well. There are cranes there that look like an erector set on major steroids.

All of the ships, tugs, and containers is something of the likes I have never seen. I can't imagine how much money is in the infrastructure let alone all of the containers and products that are waiting to be loaded or unloaded.

Well, we got back to the hotel around 10pm after starting at long day. It almost felt like it was harvest time with those hours. I am finishing up my picture processing and getting ready to head for bed for another early cock-a-doodle-doo. I will try my best to keep up with the posts.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New World Travels to the Old World

I know that it has been awhile since last writing. I have traveled to Chicago, Boise (3 times) and Washington, D.C. along with getting things done. Oh, Christmas and New Years was in there as well.

Right now I am on another adventure in my Fellowship life. I and the other 2011 Eisenhower Ag Fellow (Rhett Proctor) were invited to attend the Nuffield Scholars Contemporary Scholars Conference in Holland and the UK.

I left home Friday morning from Lewiston (5:30am flight) via Salt Lake, Detroit, and then Amsterdam, Netherlands (Holland). I arrived at 6am (9 pm home) and sailed through customs. I was also lucky enough to have my suitcase be one of the first 10 onto the carousel.

Schipol airport is home to the largest Burger King in the world. I also knew I was in Holland when I saw a large bronze sculpture of a clog. From he airport I took the train to Rotterdam and a cab to the hotel. I checked in, unpacked some, Skyped home, and tried to sleep. It felt good to get horizontal for a little. I was just getting to sleep when my roomate from Tasmania walked in.

We chatted for awhile and got to know each other a little. We both changed to get ready for our tour of Holland with the other Scholars from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, and Holland. We hopped on the bus and headed to the aiport to pick up the ones that were coming in at noon.

After picking them up we toured through Holland and stopped at a little fishing/tourist village for some pickled herring. I was able to take some good picts and see a shop where you stick your feet into a tank and have fish "kiss" them.

From there we went to a 150 head dairy. It also produces energy with large windmills and biofuel from dairy waste. A housed generator produced the energy for the dairy. They also had a settling pond and extracted the water from the solids, which were dropped into a pile for future use as compost.

That night we had a dinner with all sitting at tables. It was informal, but a good chance to get to know each other. I left there around 9:30 (been up 33 hours with just a 1/2 hour of nap in that time) and went to bed.

With our schedule I don't know when I can write again and have to cut this short to head for lunch and today's functions. Take care and keep it in the fence rows!