Before we got ready to move to Arizona, I joined the local Arizona Blogger group. I was mostly lurking on there, but I figured it was a good place to sign up so that I could get a sense of what was going on in my local blogger scene. The South African blogging groups are usually filled with daily promo threads, which helped me find other bloggers when I was in Joburg, and I thought the same would be true with the AZ group. I was wrong.
The group is generally pretty quiet. People aren’t allowed to drop their blog links, so the only time anyone shares anything is if they have a giveaway, or if they’re looking for people who are interested in an event or some such. Which is how I found out that the Arizona Agricultural Board was looking for bloggers to join in on a farm tour. Of course, I said I wanted to be there! So here are the 4 things I learned about Arizona agriculture, bloggers and myself over the course of Arizona Farm Tour 2018.
Arizona Farm Tour 2018 – Meat and dairy farming is a lot more efficient and technical than I thought
Back in SA, I fell in love with a local organic butcher, and Dean and I even went for a couple weekends away on their farm. We saw the cows in the fields and got to understand how they raised their animals and then eventually slaughtered them. But my only recent images of traditional farming came from all those awful Netflix documentaries designed to make us all become vegans. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw at the meat and dairy farms in Buckeye, Arizona.
First of all, they are way cleaner than I remember previous farms I visited as a kid. None of that intense farm smell and the animals looked clean and happy. At the feedlot, the animals weren’t force-fed, but the farmer explained how they develop the feed to precisely meet the needs of the steers. They use a specific mixture of grains and by-products to help the animals thrive.
But it’s so much more than that. At the dairy farm, the farmer explained that they want to keep the cows happy. That as long as they are relaxed, chewing their cud and napping, they will be super productive. I kept cracking jokes about how I was the same when I was breastfeeding, but it was clear to see how much he cared for the animals. It was also interesting to learn how much more efficient dairy farming is now. They follow special breeding programs to produce cows that will make more milk, and they have better milking devices to make the pumping process easier and faster, with the cows getting in and out of the milking station within 8 minutes.
As much as people might talk about wanting to return to the “good old days” of farming, the reality is that the carbon footprint of your glass of milk is 2/3rds of what it was back in the 1940s. That’s pretty cool, I must say.
Arizona Farm Tour 2018 – Organic farming is still big farming
All the organic farms I’ve had contact with with small scale. You know, the people who grow some greens or some butternut and sell it at the local farmer’s market. But when we visited the Duncan farm, I saw just how massive the fields were, turning huge amounts of baby spinach, salad greens and other gorgeous produce. This isn’t a farmer with a small patch of spinach, this is miles and miles of farm land, growing pre-ordered stocks of specific products.
That part particularly blew my mind. They need to be able to fill orders for spinach or lettuce or whatever else on a given week, with accuracy pretty much to the day. Obviously, they know how long it takes for spinach to grow in normal conditions, but with climate change, there is no way to predict weather patterns. Lots of rain or sun could change the growth rate, and mean that their spinach is ready too soon or too late. There’s a lot of calculation, weather modeling and bunch of other awesome tech that goes into running even a fully organic farm to ensure they are productive and meet all their orders.
There’s a wide range of other Arizona bloggers
I always enjoy meeting other bloggers. It takes a particular kind of person to be willing to share your life with the world of people online. It’s a kind of tribe of people who blog, and when we are together, it can feel like you’re on a similar wave length. Of course we help each other take good pictures. Of course we help each other make fun content. We are there to tell stories, to share, to engage. As different as we might be, as people or as bloggers, it still feels like we’re part of the same general tribe.
I had such an incredible time on the #2018azfarmtour yesterday! It was great for me to learn all about #azagriculture, plus to learn cool facts about how much more efficient farming is now. Like how a glass of milk has 2/3rds of the carbon footprint now than it did in 1940. But it was also so wonderful to hang out with some awesome local bloggers. Huge thanks to the Arizona Farm Bureau for inviting me along, and for all the spoils in the goodie bag!
My imposter syndrome never goes away, but it can be silenced
In the days before the event, I had a bit of a panic. One of the other bloggers wrote in that same Facebook group, asking who was going to be attending the farm tour. I wrote back, of course, as did a few of the other bloggers. They all had HUGE followings on social media compared to me. I began to worry if they would take me seriously, if I was like the smallest fish ever jumping into this giant pond.
But then I went to the event and had a great time. I was cracking jokes, hanging out and having fun. Some of those bloggers have been doing this for years longer than me. Others have cleared invested a lot of money into growing their platforms. They have different niches, different stories to tell. (Speaking of stories, go check out my Instagram story from the day – I shared a lot of the silly moments)
And I remembered, I didn’t get into this blogging thing to compete. I got into it because I had a story to tell. I wanted to talk about being a gamer, a geek, and a mom. I wanted to figure out how to combine those things because I found so few resources online to help. I wanted to share my journey – in part so that I didn’t feel so alone, and in part to help other people who might also be feeling as lonely as I do sometimes. I have a unique voice, a unique perspective on things. Those of you who are reading my words are following along because of who I am, not because of some popularity contest. So thank you, to each and every one of you. You help me realize that I do have a reason to share, that I do have something worth saying, and that I don’t need to tell my story to thousands of people to still be of value. My value is inherent – as is yours. Thank you for being you, and I’ll keep on being me.
Have you been to a farm in recent years? Did you know that they are actually super technical now? And if you know any awesome people in Arizona I should be following or chatting to, let me know – I’m on a hunt now for other awesome blogger tribemates.