Kahlig Growing our Generation

Growing our Generation: A balancing act

Lisa Kahlig from Mercer County is the editor of the June 4, 2018 edition of Growing our Generation, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.

Kahlig spring plantingHi, we’re the Kahligs, Doug and Lisa. We live on Doug’s family farm in western Mercer County with our daughter, Hannah (2). Doug and I farm alongside his dad and mom and his brother and his wife. We have around 700 head of cattle that we raise from start to finish. We get 116 calves in at a time and bottle feed them for 6 weeks, then finish them out. We have two finisher hog barns and do some crop farming as well. Our primary crop is corn, utilized to feed the cattle, and we also put out wheat and soybeans. I work for Cooper Farms as a swine service representative and Doug works for his dad’s custom manure pumping business.

A balancing act

Kahlig dairy calvesHaving a farm, full-time jobs and kids keeps us on our toes and finding a balance among all three has been crucial for us as a family, not only to find time for Hannah, but also to find time for us as a couple. One thing that we have found that seems to help balance things out is Sundays. Sunday for us is strictly reserved for family time. Minimal chores are done in the morning and evenings, because animals need to eat too, and the remainder of the day is spent together. During the spring and fall, having that one day dedicated to family has been extremely important, especially now that Hannah’s getting old enough to notice the absence during those times. All the time spent between the farm, jobs and Hannah leaves little to none left for us as a couple and investing in our relationship has been another way we keep our stability. We make a point once a month to have a
kid-free night out, it can be as simple as going out to eat and seeing a movie or other times it’s an overnight trip somewhere. Regardless of what we do, setting aside that time for each to invest in our marriage has made it stronger over the years. At the end of the day a farm is nothing without the family who takes care of it so putting aside time for family has been something we valued and in turn has made our farm more successful.

Creating a sustainable future

Working for Cooper Farms as a swine service rep has given me a different perspective of agriculture, and being a part of a company that offers families a way to sustain their farming operations has been a great experience. Having contract hog, turkey or chicken barns allows family farms to increase their cash flow so that the second or third generation can come back to the farm. As the agriculture industry changes, a unique strain has been put on the typical farming family. For most, the next generation must work off the farm for several years before they can come back, if they come back at all. The opportunity to have a contract livestock barn and provide a little extra income has been a huge game changer for many farming families. Contract barns not only provide income for existing farming families to grow, but also offer a great chance for those interested in farming who might not have an existing family farm to start with. Currently, starting a life as a farmer from scratch in Mercer County is virtually impossible due to land prices, and these barns offer a great opportunity to do just that. Keeping the younger generations interested in farming is the only way to secure the future of agriculture and keep families in the industry.

Traditional, non-GMO, organic . . . Oh my!

One of my most important roles is mom and part of that is being sure I feed my daughter the best I can. There is a lot of pressure from the public as to what is viewed as the “best” food to feed your children and with all the different food labels out there it can be confusing to navigate the grocery store aisles. I myself as a parent am educated on the different terminology because I am directly involved in farming, however, not all parents are as lucky. One thing that I have been very passionate about is helping bridge the gap between the consumer and the producer to provide education on how their food is responsibly sourced. As an industry we spend too much time throwing stones at each other, rather than helping the industry speak the truth of what it is farmers do.

Kahlig dairy cowsPresently, there absolutely is a place for all forms of agriculture, and what we need to be sure is that consumers are choosing those products based on educated decisions and not because there was a marketing campaign that bullied them into it. Unfortunately, the internet is no longer a reliable source of information and is more confusing than the grocery store aisle. Most farmers are proud of what they do, and they take it very seriously, so why has there been such a need to “close the barn doors” so to speak. If every person in agriculture talked to one person today about farming imagine the difference it could make; imagine the knowledge that could be spread. Remember that it’s okay to defend what you do, if you don’t tear someone else down while doing it.

I was asked an interesting question the other day from an individual looking to start a fight . . . “What’s your stance on traditional vs. organic vs. non-GMO?” My answer surprised them… I don’t have one! I have purchased the different labels available for several different reasons. When it comes to produce I buy traditional, because I know if I simply rinse off my apple before I eat it, it’s just as safe as the organic one. Dairy and eggs are the same — traditional because being in the agriculture industry I know there are specific regulations put into place to maintain the safety of the food I’m eating. Our protein sources are also traditional because that’s what’s in the back yard, another advantage to being a farmer. When I buy processed foods, I try to look for the ones that have less preservatives, added sugars, saturated fats, etc. and those tend to be the organic, non-GMO items.

Helping the public understand that the food we raise or grow as an industry in ALL the different varieties is safe to be eaten is the absolute best outcome and will help secure the future of agriculture.

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