My Glass is Half Full of Cow’s Milk!

Was September really the last time I blogged? I have truly missed writing! I am hoping the holidays help me slow down and free up my time because I have a couple of blog topics I would like to get posted in the next couple of weeks and I hate going months without sharing stories about the farm!

Today’s post is not about our farm but it is about an agriculture topic I am very passionate about! I just uploaded a post on our Linn County Farm Bureau Education Outreach blog called Prairie Point Students Explore Milk and Milk Substitutes but I wanted to jump on my personal blog Picking Wildflowers and discuss the topic in greater detail.

milk 1

“To begin the lesson, we asked the following questions; where does milk come from, what is the definition of milk, what products are made with milk, and what kinds of milk can we buy from the grocery store? Students then had the opportunity to compare and contrast five samples of milk (whole, rice, almond, coconut, and soy milk) based on taste, nutritional value and route from farm-to-plate. Students discovered that there are many milk substitutes for those who have a milk allergy, don’t like the taste or choose not to consume dairy products but they also learned that the nutrition value varies from milk to milk meaning they can’t be 100% interchangeable” (Straight from LCFB post).


So what is all this hype and how can we know what nutritional value we are getting from milk and milk substitutes? I personally love cow’s milk! I love the taste and I love how it fuels my body. I bet most people believe I am biased being that I am so passionate about the agriculture industry but guess what? Almonds, soybeans, coconuts and rice are all agriculture crops! Meaning how can I be biased towards dairy cows when all of the others come from agriculture too? Now I am a strong believer that even though all five beverages belong on our grocery shelf, I do not believe they stack up in nutrition. Let’s look at the facts:







Vitamins and Minerals

vitamins.PNGConsumer trends show increased sales of plant-based milk substitutes between 2009 and 2015. Students discussed the possible reasons for the increase. We wrapped up the lesson with a question to ponder; does the word milk, a white fluid rich in fat and protein secreted by female mammals, mislead consumers if labeled on a plant-based substitute? And would we view the drink differently if it was labeled juice or beverage? #FoodForThought!

2018 Farm Progress Show Favorites

Dad mentioned he was going to the Farm Progress Show with Bruce and I jumped at the opportunity to tag along. I was even able to convince Tyler to take a day off work and I am sure glad he did! We had a blast learning about the newest innovations in agriculture.


It was a beautiful sweatshirt weather type of day with temperatures ranging in the high 60s, my favorite! My curiosity and interest peaked with each exhibit! Agriculture is a industry that is always changing and evolving to meet the needs of our growing population and consumer needs/wants.


My favorite exhibit was the bioreactor! I have been wanting to see one in person for a few years now! A bioreactor is a trench in the ground packed with material such as wood chips that allow colonization of soil bacteria that convert nitrate in drainage water to nitrogen gas. A bioreactor is just one conservation practice available to help improve water quality!


A few other highlights included the self-propelled hay baler, Tribine (a combine with a grain cart), Fendt Combine and the cattle handling presentations.

And the cherry on top…taking a photo at the Iowa State tent! First time visiting the Farm Progress Show as an Iowa State University graduate.


Hope to see you at the 2020 Farm Progress Show in Boone Iowa! Goodnight Picking Wild Flowers! I hope you get lots of zzzz’s!



My 4-H Experience

Hey everyone! I thought I would jump on here and write a response to Vegan News “4-H is a Terrorist Organization” video. I re-watched the video, this time taking notes. The number of false claims in this video is ridiculous! They begin the video by saying 4-H is a program put on by FFA. First off, they are two separate organizations. Then they go on to say that 4-H teaches us to lose our compassion for animals…which is just laughable because 4-H taught me to have more compassion for animals, people and the community! In Genesis 28 God gives to man authority over all that was created on earth. Man is to take care of and use the earth. Man is to have the authority over all that was created. This means that man is to assume the control and protection of all that God had created. We are to care for animals but ultimately they have been put on this earth to help meet our essential needs, just like vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc. That being said, let me share with you the life lessons 4-H has taught me. 40191_1478674540542_4796954_nI patiently (okay maybe impatiently) awaited for my 9th birthday! The year I could finally join 4-H! I participated by showing cattle, pigs and sheep. I also enjoyed working exhibits, photography and home improvement projects. My love and passion for agriculture is credited to my 4-H years. I discovered who I wanted to be when I grew up and 4-H is what led me to my interest in agriculture communications. 40103_1478688700896_258161_nShowing livestock opened my eyes to a whole new sport. All of the hard work, dedication and sweat was proof of my love and compassion towards my 4-H livestock. Yes, we do get close to the animals and yes it does get easier to sell them every year but no we do not lose our compassion. I would argue that 4-Her’s grow is understanding and respect year after year. Life is not easy and it comes with sorrow, 4-H teaches real life-lessons! 40191_1478674500541_3445617_nAnd it is not about the monetary value that the video describes. Showing livestock does teach youth about financial responsibility but the reward is not the check at the end. It is a added bonus if you have money to save but for most, it is paying for feed, paying for the initial investment or using the money to purchase an animal for the next year. The life lessons I learned about finances was tremendously helpful leading into college and adult life. 40191_1478674580543_5634249_nShowing livestock taught me responsibility. Waking up at 5:30 a.m. every morning during summer break is not a typical high school student’s routine but for us it wasn’t out of the norm. Our livestock needed fed, rinsed and walked twice a day. Show animals lead a very good life. In fact all of the animals on our farm are well taken cared of. 1914804_1417869820462_1672163_nBesides animal exhibits, 4-H taught me professional and communication skills through presentations and working exhibits. Unlike the video posted yesterday, I will stay on topic and not jab fingers. I will not put down veganism and I will not state judgement about another’s life-style.  18238776_10211760114472042_645110906933292167_o4-H youth are future farmers, doctors, teachers, engineers, designers, and innovators! My career journey started at age 9 when I signed up to show my first heifer “Carmel.” Yes I know how to spell caramel but my 9 year old self did not and that is okay! It is okay to be ourselves and that is exactly what 4-H taught me. 22008153_10213093511406132_8361227081800395016_nI now have the opportunity to work with youth everyday! Our Linn County Farm Bureau mission is to increase youth awareness on the importance of agriculture, agriculture careers and the benefits of agriculture throughout an individual’s life. 15027369_10210150646676353_5271233570585909426_nStay Farm Strong 4-Hers! Remember to be a leader in your community and don’t let what others say knock you down.  All thoughts are my own!



Here is the link to the original video:


Prepping for #HappilyEverHibbs

We are in the double digits people! The realization sunk in when I received an invite to my own bridal shower. I was like…wait this is for me! OMG I am getting married!!!


Wedding plans have taken over my life! This week was CRAZY!!! I am having so much fun planning and I wanted to give you a little sneak peak. 😉


Invites won’t be sent until September but last weekend Mom, Deb, Megan, Morgan and I all got together to hand write and assemble 160 cards. I can’t wait for you to see the design. I love them!!! Now to only get them to you!


Man I look sleepy in the photo below and we were only half-way done with invites!


Okay here comes the fun part! Tyler and I met with the cater on Wednesday to finalize our menu and boy does it sound delicious! I’ll give you a hint…what is cheesy, fattening and at almost every party? Heck yes!! PARTY POTATOES! And while we were meeting with the cater, we walked around South Slope and took note on how to decorate.


I even had my first hair trial this week! It was so much fun and I loved the end result. Of course I can’t let you see it but just know Chelsea kept describing the up-do as romantic and elegant <3!


Decorations are off to a great start! A couple weekends ago I transformed our garage into a paint studio and painted our card box and a few window panes. I am not sure if Dad even noticed the milk jug missing from his front porch haha.


And Papa! Papa has done a wonderful job with wedding decorations. I can’t wait to show you everything he has made from bushel baskets to a welcome sign and easel.


There is a lot going on and don’t let me fool you, it is certainly stressful at times. It is easy to get wrapped up in the details but I am trying to remember that ultimately it is a celebration of our marriage (uniting as one) and not a celebration of our wedding day. That being said, to say I wasn’t excited about our wedding day would be a lie but I am even more excited to start a life with my best friend!


Facing my Fears

Hello Hump Day! Do you know what that means? I go to the FAIR tomorrow!!! I am beyond excited for Youth and Farm Bureau Day. Be sure to stop and say hi if you find yourself in Central City! Getting ready for our two days at the fair has been no small task but before I began planning for the fair I prepped for my first public speaking engagement. Working with youth is within my comfort zone but presenting to adults had me facing my fears.


When Barb Lemmer, Linn-Mar Agriculture Educator, first asked me to speak during the National Association of Agriculture Educators (NAAE) luncheon I jumped for joy! What a great opportunity to speak with 60+ agriculture educators about our Linn County Farm Bureau Education Outreach Program. I saw it as a chance to encourage others to implement agriculture efforts within their own elementary classrooms. But soon the nerves sank in. I was going to be standing by myself in front of 60+ high school agriculture educators from Iowa and surrounding states.


Fears can distract us from reaching our goals and I don’t want my nerves to be my limit so I gulped down the butterflies and got to work creating my speech and PowerPoint.


Barb Lemmer sent me a note following the event that read, “agriculture educators had many positive comments and were energized to reach out to their local Farm Bureau to improve agriculture literacy efforts in their area.” I feel very honored to have been apart of such a great event! And who knows…I may have just sparked the start of another great Ag in the Classroom program. Facing my fears taught me to look at new opportunities with excitement and momentum. Besides the support of a great boss! I had the support of God behind me. It is in this verse that I found confidence.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear with signature

Who knows…maybe I will give public speaking another try 😉 Thank you for reading!

All thoughts on “Picking Wild Flowers” are my own and do not reflect Linn County Farm Bureau views.

3rd Annual Farm Clean-up Day!

Hello friends! It has been crazy over here! Between wedding plans and summer festivities it has been hard to keep up with my personal blog but tonight I want to spend a little time sharing the story of our 3rd annual farm clean-up day with you. 


Above is a photo we took this past weekend in Amana. We surprised Grandma Carol with t-shirts that say CJ’s (Carol Jean’s) Crew. Please keep her and our family in your prayers!

Okay back to the clean-up day! My oh, My! We accomplished a lot. Our farm dates back to 1913. We celebrated our Farm’s 100th birthday, the year I graduated from high school. Needless to say, there is some clean-up to do.


Megan and I began farm clean up days informally 5 years ago or so. We would come home for the summer and spend a few days cleaning the farm before our summer positions started. These short clean-up days made a difference but we wanted to do more.


And with the dream of doing more, the annual farm clean-up day was born! We dedicate a whole day to one or two major projects. Our first year, was also the first summer Tyler and I began to hangout. I didn’t scare him away…he must be a keeper ;)!


Most of you know we have cattle but did you know Grandpa Richard and Dad once had hogs? We have 1 large pig barn left standing but I can’t say the same for the one to the North. It went down in a storm a while ago and this year we picked this barn as our major project. It is so neat to learn about the history of the Ball farm!


For me, it is always emotional to take down one of the barns but I know it will keep our farm more productive.We worked out a pretty slick deal! We rented a large container for all of the metal and they dropped it off and picked it up. A huge shout out to Dad, Megan, Tyler, Jake and Grandma Pat for helping with our 3rd annual farm clean up day.


A couple weeks later we surprised Grandma Pat, with a new rock bed!


Welcome to the Ball Family Farm!


I want to wish Michael good luck at state this weekend! Can’t wait to cheer you on! ❤

Braving the Cold for Calving Season

By now I imagined I would be singing April showers bring May flowers but instead I am shouting April snow storms go away! But as much as I would like to curl up next to our fireplace…time doesn’t stand still and we have spring babies arriving!


It is important that farmers take good care of their livestock rain or shine! I feel very blessed to live only a few miles away from our farm. We try to help out as much as we can and it has been very busy keeping watch over our herd.


We have 18 bred cows and 7 have calved so we are patiently waiting for the other babies to arrive. During the cold and windy nights we give the cows and calves a cornstalk bale to lay on. We also have a wonderful old hay barn that we open up for the cows to use as shelter.

Once the calves are born we tag and band. Read a previous post about preconditioning to learn about the care we provide the calf when they are born.


Each cow is unique and we need to be cautious when handling their babies. The cows can be protective. It took a few of us to precondition the calf in the photo below due to the ma’ma’s concern, but we took care of tagging and banding him and he was soon reunited with the cow.


Do you have questions regarding calving season? Comment below!

What is Bio-security?

Hello Picking Wild Flowers. Has is really been 3 months since my last post? Where has the time gone? Hey, at least I am writing you on the 2nd day of spring. We are inching closer and closer to warm summer days! Humm… what have I been up to? Well my wedding dress is in! I went to Missouri last week. We are preparing for calving season! Megan and I joined a bible study, and Tyler and I booked our honeymoon… so as you can see … just hanging out haha.


Now on the work front. We have so many cool activities planned! Our hatching unit begins on April 1. Wish me luck as I hatch my first batch of chickens. We are also meeting today to discuss Ag in the Park! Eeek! I am so excited to experience my first Ag in the Park event! I have my monthly classroom visits in which I can begin discussing planting season! Speaking of… stay tune for a garden blog update. I have been neglecting my duties to inform you about my second year planting cut flowers! Now back to the topic on hand.

Pork farmchat promotion

Last week we conducted a Pork and Manure Management FarmChat® with Matt Ditch, a farmer from Center Point. He mentioned the word bio-security and I want to take a minute to dive a little deeper into what bio-security is and why it is important. Here is the link to our FarmChat® if you missed it.

Bio-security- procedures intended to protect humans or animals against disease or harmful biological agents.

Bio-security polices are a set of rules that one needs to follow when interacting with the livestock at a particular farm. For example, Matt mentioned he had a shower in- shower out policy. To see the pigs, we would have had to take a complete shower and put on new clothes and boots. This is for the safety of the pigs as well as for food safety. Pigs at that age or any age are susceptible to diseases. Our goal is to keep them healthy and happy. A healthy pig = safe food.

Washing off potential diseases and harmful agents is particularly important for those that have been at a different site. This could be a vet, truck diver, etc. Those who visit many pig farms in a month need to be extra careful. If a group of pigs does get a disease, bio-security allows us to contain it so we can treat it.

Matt receives his pigs between 20 and 22 days old. Piglets thrive in warm temperatures. Today’s modern day pigs barns regulate the temperature to meet the piglets needs. The barn is roughly 83 degrees Fahrenheit at that stage.  Not only does the barn keep the pigs comfortable but it can also keep them away from birds and wild fowl that may be carrying diseases.


Here are additional ways farmers implement bio-security.

Every farm looks a little different. Some farms have different bio-security rules than others and it all depends on how many people visit your farm, how updated the barn is, and location.

If you have any questions about bio-security please don’t hesitate to ask.

GMO Decisions

Side Note: WOW! I can not believe Monday is Christmas. Where has this year gone? I Have many things to thank God for. We have had a few health concerns on both sides of the family but with those scares we have hope. The lord is watching over us. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas.

Good afternoon Picking Wild Flowers! A couple months ago I wrote a blog post about “Lets Talk Organic.” My love for agriculture has made me passionate about the issues that surround us all. FOOD!! We all eat. We all need food. We all have an opinion. I tried to stay pretty neutral last time but I received a note from a reader indicating that I just made things more confusing. I honestly believe in all types of agriculture. Diversity drives our world. Diversity of businesses drive the economy, diversity of schools/colleges drive education, diversity of people drive society, and diversity of farming methods drive agriculture. But because I want to be clear and concise, I will write this post with personal thoughts and opinions.


Monday I presented a lesson called GMO Decisions to a class of Linn-Mar high school students. The purpose was to expose students to modern agriculture issues, scientific solutions, and the outcomes of those decisions, while discussing the sciences of biology and biotechnology.

I approached the students with the question- If you could solve any food problem what would it be? So I will ask you the same question. If you could solve any food issue what would it be?

Okay let’s start with the basics. What is a GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organism. GMO is not a thing but rather is process. There are only 9 GMO crops currently on our grocery shelves. Arctic Apples (non-browning) have been approved but they are not commercially available yet.


I view GMOs as the modern form of plant/animal breeding. Think back to the very beginning of domestication. Dog breeds are a product of selective breeding. Growing up we had Missy and Duke. Missy was an Australian Shepherd+ Blue Healer. Duke is a Yellow Lab+ Husky mix. Both of our dogs are a product of crossbreeding.

Lets step forward in time. We now have advanced breeding. Identifying traits on the gene level that are desired. For example, artificially inseminating cattle. We pick out a bull based on the pedigree. Will the bull be easy calving? Will the calf have horns? etc.

Is seedless watermelon a GMO? No, seedless watermelon is produced through crossbreeding + Colchicine. Colchicine is a naturally occurring flower chemical that intervenes with normal cell division. When added to seeds the female eggs produce twice as many sets of chromosomes. When we pollinate the new flower with an original flower we get a watermelon with three sets of chromosomes resulting in a seedless watermelon. Seedless grapes and bananas are the result of cloning and that may sound scary too but cloning plants is pretty easy. Many plants can be propagated by taking a cutting or by growing an offshoot.


Grafting is another form of selectively growing food. Grafting is the process of transplanting a scion (desired fruit) to a stock plant (desired trunk/size). One student stayed after to ask me a few questions about grafting. Why do we graft? I answered with, “It takes years to grow a tree and trees grow to be very tall. By grafting we can decrease the height, thicken the trunk, or grow certain trees in climates they might not be native to (palm trees in Utah).” She also asked why people seem to fear GMOs but they don’t fear grafting. Grafting is similar to selective breeding. Joining two physical things. We fear things we can’t see and we can’t see GMOs but we can see a graft on a tree trunk.


There are many benefits to genetically modifying-

  1. Disease resistance
  2. Increase in production
  3. Less food waste
  4. Environment tolerant
  5. No nutritional difference
  6. Insect tolerance (resulting in less pesticides)

Three ways to genetically modify-

  1. Silence a gene (turning off the light)
  2. Moving a gene (transporting a gene to a different spot on the chromosome)
  3. Adding a new trait to the gene sequence


Now lets debate- LABELS

I am in favor of labels. I believe we have the right to choice but I only believe in labels if they are going to create clarification. Labels that are misleading make me so mad!! For example, diet pop! Diet pop is not healthy!

I have added a photo of Himalania Fine Pink Salt to this post. Why do you think I might be a little mad about this NON-GMO label? Salt does not have DNA meaning it can not be genetically modified. Every fine pink salt product you pick up is GMO free so why add the label? We are creating a fearful society!

This might be my longest post yet but stay with me! I have one more label to share with you. Take a look at this photo. It also has a NON-GMO label. Why might I be frustrated with this label? And it is not just because we raise cattle 😛


Here is my frustration… How do we breed? Lets talk about the birds and bees. Meiosis is the process of cell division that creates eggs and sperm. We need both sets of chromosomes to create an offspring. Now tell me, how do we digest food? The DNA in our food is digested into 4 nucleotides and the protein breaks down into 21 amino-acids. Does our set of personal traits change when we eat a salad? No! Genes are passed down from our parents. GM food will be digested the same way Non-GM food is digested. Same goes for livestock. Just because a cow eats GM corn or soybeans does not mean it now becomes a GMO. Animals digest and breakdown food similar to us. Genetic makeups do not change by digesting food. Do you see livestock listed above as a GMO product? I don’t… so I don’t think meat/animal products should be labeled unless it contains a direct GMO food ingredient.

I am a christian. I believe whole heartily that God is leading my path and he has chosen me to teach agriculture. Want to know my honest opinion? GMOs are so cool! Science is cool! It is amazing the things we can do! God has provided us with the tools, motivation, and curiosity to explore his master piece. It is with his help that we even grow food! It is with Gods help that we have advancements in medicine! It is with Gods guidance that we trust in him with all that we do. I have experienced Gods love greatly this year.

Thank you for reading! Opinions are my own and do not represent the opinions of Linn County Farm Bureau.

Merry Christmas!


Meal Prep Fun!

You guys!! Do you want to make life easier? Do you like wine? and Do you want to have a festive girls night? Swap meals!

I am set for winter!! I literally have some of the most creative friends. What a fun way to meal prep! I am now stocked with country casserole, enchilada bake, manicotti, and shepherds pie. Food to fuel my body and soul through cold and snowy days!


Kendra posed this idea to us and to be honest I jumped out of my seat with excitement! I am always trying to get on the meal prep wagon but life gets in the way! Am I right!?!? So this was a super fun and easy way to get meals on the table all winter long!

Food is such a precious thing but it can be confusing. Picking Wild Flowers has been my outlet for sharing my personal story about food and agriculture.


Yesterday I attended a Women in Agriculture Leadership Conference and I left with inspiration beyond words! I am so blessed to work in an industry that is so passionate about where our food comes from. We are all eaters and we care about how our food is grown and farmers do too. How awesome is it that we live in a country where we have freedom to do so?


Everyone has different values but those values are what make us who we are. Some of us have the opportunity to choose foods and others have certain diets due to allergies, diseases, food intolerance, and values.


Conversations have become one way! We often listen to respond and not to ask questions. We need to listen, ask, listen, ask, listen, ask, share.


So what are your feelings about food?