Author Archive

Make Plans to Attend FarmWife Project Meeting

The first meeting of the FarmWife Project will be Saturday Jan. 15, 2011 at the Colorado Farm Bureau Center. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and run to 3 p.m.

The workshop-style meeting will focus on writing, becoming an agvocate, and building relationships with women across Colorado agriculture.

If mountains stand in your way, let me know and we will arrange to have you join us via technology. The FarmWife Project is growing and a great way to get a jump on your New Year’s Resolutions. If you would like more information, please visit us at http://vermillionfarms.wordpress.com or email Rachel Vermillion at rachel@lincolncountyfb.com

See you in January!

The Real Farmwives of Colorado

The Farmwife Project is beginning to take shape and it may very well be one of the coolest projects around.

In the upcoming weeks, a group of agvocates are coming together right here on this site. They raise hogs, cattle, potatoes, bees, and children. They are farmwives, daughters, sisters, and mothers. And they are one of the most interesting collective voices of Colorado agriculture.

We are the Real Farmwives of Colorado and we will each be writing periodic blog entries that will appear on the Vermillion Farms blog. We will be agvocating and telling the stories that we would share with our sisters or our girlfriends at the kitchen table.

We will also have the opportunity to get together soon and the day will include chocolate, a photo shoot, a discussion about the issues we wish to address and…well, more chocolate.

You’ll be hearing more soon from The Real Farmwives of Colorado! If you’re interested in being a part of the Farmwife Project, please email me at rachel@lincolncountyfb.com for more information.

Rental Pigs

As an agriculture teacher, I get a number of requests throughout the course of the day. Last night, I answered a phone call and heard the sweet and slightly desperate voice of Patty.

Patty, a middle school teacher in Colorado Springs, organized a food drive at her school and the main attraction at the all-school assembly was a Kiss a Pig contest. She told me she had no idea it would be so difficult to locate a pig for said contest and someone had given her our phone number after a string of odd and unproductive phone calls.
She was desperate and I tried not to chuckle when she offered to “pay the pig for his or her time”.

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AFBF Women’s Luncheon

The women of the Colorado delegation.

 The women of AFBF gathered Sunday for the Women’s Leadership Recognition Luncheon. AFBF President Stallman was in attendance. He commended the attendees on taking the first steps toward leadership roles and urged them to continue on their paths.

AFBF President Stallman models his paink ballcap.

Each state was recognized for their work in 2009. Colorado’s Angela Ryden accepted an award for Colorado’s Women’s Committee and the committee was recognized for their stellar fundraising during the silent auction at the State Annual meeting. Vice Chair Sherry Saylor was appreciative of the committee’s auctioning of Troy Bredenkamp, the Executive Workhorse.

Ron Nereson and Charles Ryden show that they are tough guys in pink.

All attendees were presented with pink Farm Bureau ballcaps to present to legislators in their home states and a photo was taken of all attendees showing their support by holding up the pink ballcaps in support of the Don’t Cap Our Future campaign.

Me and CFB

Nick Colglazier and I compete in the Final Four. Colglazier is an amazing speaker and a downright entertaining guy.

My dad, a lifelong businessman, has always said that ‘if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu’. This was part of my opening statement in the Final Four round of the YF&R Discussion Meet and this moment, this entire weekend, marked the beginning of an amazing journey.

When I first attended a CFB meeting last year, I had no idea the opportunities that would be available to me. Since then, I’ve developed amazing friendships with a number of other members including a mentor-like relationship with Susan Leach. Leach is not only one of the state’s most active and exceptional District Representatives, she’s a mentor and a great pal.

When I signed up to compete in the Discussion Meet, I knew I would meet other young members and maybe even forge a friendship or two. I had no idea that I would meet Nick Colglazier, who is so dynamic that I step my game up ten steps around him. Nathan Weathers, from Yuma County, is brilliant and brave. The Discussion Meet winner, Deanna Bartee, a fellow teacher, is headed to Seattle and I’m (courtesy of the Women’s Committee essay contest and YF&R) lucky enough to go too! She’s also gracious enough to use me as a resource while preparing and competing at the AFBF Discussion Meet and I’m looking forward to being her “person”.

CFB is filled with amazing individuals and opportunities and I’m so glad to be a part.

The Wheat Farmer’s Wife

Fall is finally here and at our place, that means there’s no rest for the wicked. Not even for the non-wicked. Even the dogs are tired.

The past days and weeks have been a dust-filled blur of feed cutting, drilling, baling, chicken butchering and hog synchronization for us as they have been for many producers around the state. This time of year, especially when I’m coughing and choking on bitter wheat dust, reminds me of the irony of my situation.

I married a wheat farmer and wheat seems to run deep through my family in all of its forms. My husband grows it, my step dad sells it in the form of flour to bakeries and eateries, and my sister’s family serves it up as a steaming hot plate of pasta at their Italian restaurant. I have Celiac disease so I avoid it like the plague. Ah, irony.

Celiac disease is an allergy to gluten, the protein in wheat that allows baked goods to not crumble into a pile or weigh twice what they should. It’s being more widely diagnosed these days but it’s still annoying and makes eating out a rather tricky and socially awkward ordeal.

They always say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach but in our case, it was the other way around. When we were dating, my husband gathered a variety of gluten free baking mixes and flours and over the course of a few weekends, learned how to bake a variety of foods that didn’t have the taste and consistency to double as wrecking balls. He had me at the big, salty baked pretzels.

I know the poor UPS man thinks it strange when he passes the wheat fields on his way to our house, drives past the wheat trucks and the bins of seed wheat to bring over 100 pounds of gluten free flours to our door. I like to keep him on his toes. He’s bringing hog semen to us Friday but we won’t tell him what’s in the little styrofoam cooler.

An Update from the Field

Things have been busy out here with the beginning of a new school year, late summer farming jobs and other commitments. Our hog operation continues to be busy and we’re so excited to be sending several hogs to the National Western Stock Show.

There are also a few other hog-related developments that are exciting. The Vermillion family was in the hog business for years long before Jason and I dove in. One uncle was forced out in the 1980s when the market collapsed and another uncle passed away unexpectedly nearly 10 years ago. When this particular uncle passed away, his two boys tried their hand at keeping the family business afloat. Between finishing school, attending college and working off the farm, it was no easy road.

There were a few hogs left out of the uncle’s original bloodlines and we had the opportunity to purchase them and we didn’t hesitate. We brought the sows and gilts down to our farm and started making plans. Jason’s uncle once sold to a number of youth showmen around this area and we’re glad to follow in those footsteps. The part that’s even better is that we’ll be breeding these females this fall and those litters will be keeping original family bloodlines alive. There is such strong heritage within the farming and ranching communities in this area, it’s such a blessing to be able to keep some of that heritage at the forefront of our operation.

Rachel the Showpig

DSC_0009Whew. The county fair season has concluded for us. The ribbons are home, the animals are sold and kids are beginning to look ahead to the start of school.

I tend to keep a mighty close eye on the hog show regardless, but this year there was one little girl and her pig I was keeping really close tabs on.

One of Jason’s littlest livestock judging kids is little Mikaela. This year, all of her show pigs were given names beginning with the letter R and her Duroc, the redhead, was named after another redhead in her life…me.

Rachel the Showpig has had my attention for several months because, afterall, it’s not every day you get a pig named after you, especially one that shares your hair color.

DSC_0099Miss Mikaela did a great job showing at the fair and was racking up the awards. When the dust cleared, she won Reserve Champion Goat, Champion Junior Master Showman, Champion Junior Goat Showman, Grand Champion Market Hog and Reserve Champion Market Hog. Did I mention that this is her first year in 4-H?

Rachel the Showpig won Reserve Champion honors and her red hair looks great in pictures. Congratulations to all of the 4-H and FFA showmen around the state
and good luck for a great school year.

Lessons from Mom

It’s County Fair time around these parts and I seem to be up to my ears in Fair time. I’ve been involved in 4-H as a participant, coach and judge for 23 years. Yikes.

One of the contests my sister and I always completed in was the Sheep Lead. We always enjoyed fitting our breeding ewes though I can’t admit that wearing a wool outfit in August was overly pleasant.

I traveled to Kiowa last week and had the opportunity to judge the Sheep Lead but the best part was having the opportunity to judge the show alongside my mom. We make an interesting judging team to say the least. I have a tendency to be a bit intimidating and my judging team members and students will attest to this fact though I’m baffled to why they feel this way. I was asking the girls questions about back fat, days on feed and phenotypic challenges.

My mom, on the other hand, called each of the girls by name when she gushed over them and made them feel special. We balance each other. In the end, the girls in the Elbert County Sheep Lead did a fantastic job and there is no doubt about the quality of the agriculturally involved youths growing up in this area.

Today, I’m off to the Lincoln County Fair on Hugo to judge the goat and sheep show and I’ll be taking some tips from my mom and how she makes the kids feel on show day.

Of course I’m serious…

DSC_0133My husband is readying his derby car for the County Fair next week. That means I’m spending long hours in the shop with him but please don’t make the mistake in assuming that I’m doing anything constructive. I can typically locate tools, nuts and bolts that are randomly scattered about the shop and that’s about where my mechanical skills end.

I am pretty good at making parts runs though I must admit that those poor guys at Witt Boys in Limon see me coming and must hope and pray that I have the necessary part names jotted down. Otherwise, I’m asking for the “yellow deal that goes on the thing with the valve that hooks on the gun whatchamacallit.” Bless those poor guys. They know I’m asking for a hose for the air compressor. They’re good.

We just returned home from a long evening in the shop working on the 1964 Mercury derby car. It’s green and yellow. That’s about all I know about it.

DSC_0131Our conversation consisted of phrases like, “Rachel, my darling bride…might you please hold the light a tad to my left?,” and “Rachel, fair, sweet, Rachel…it appears that the gas line is leaking. Might you be able to locate the drip?,” and “Shucky darn, Rach…might you be able to sidle up to the bench and fetch the electrical tape?”

All of these phrases were nearly sung to me in the sweetest of tones. The wiring never smoked, no wires were tightened into nuts, the fuel pump worked the first time, the headers bolted right to the engine and the manifold weren’t bent. A tear came to my eye when it was time to leave though I’m sure I’ll skip to the shop again tomorrow. Whee!

One Hot Harvest

round bale fireHere in eastern Colorado, we’re nearing the end of wheat harvest and there is hay laying in windrows all over the place. Yesterday there was some excitement that we certainly could have done without.

One of our neighbors was swathing a field of grass when he realized his self propelled swather was in flames around him. He made a bee line to the dirt road to get out of the field and he was able to get out of the swather without injury. While the swather burned, he began fighting the fire with the tractor but the round baler also caught on fire. He was able to unhook the tractor and move it to safety.

Jason and I were hooking up our own swather when he spotted the smoke and we jumped in the pickup to check it out. We arrived only 15 or 20 minutes into the fire and were able to help contain the edge of the fire with shovels while waiting on the fire trucks. We’re a 40-minute drive from town so we knew the fire containment was on our shoulders.

A number of neighbors rolled in to help including a neighbor who works for the county running a maintainer. He was able to run his blade on the south side of the fire, containing it where it was too hot for men with shovels to work.

The fire departments arrived and Jason and I brought a tractor over to unroll the burning round bales. It was a big help to unroll the smoldering bales so they could burn out and be contained even though it was unnerving to watch Jason crash into the flaming bales with the grapple hook amid flames.

Once the situation was under control, the neighbors gathered on the north side of the burned field, visiting about harvest and remembering fires from previous years. It was nice to have everyone together even though the circumstances were terrible.

A number of the neighbors commented on how happy they are to see that Jason and I, the youngest in the group by at least 25 years, returned to the farm. It was an easy decision for us.

No Hog Left Behind

My husband and I raise hogs and our herd is steadily growing one litter at a time. I typically take farrowing duties, especially in the summer when I’m not teaching, and serve as his farm hand. I worked on a farrowing floor in college at FClose_Up_of_Garage_Pigort Hays State, but the main advantage I have is that my hands and arms are smaller than my husband’s. This summer, we farrowed a number of litters bound for winter livestock shows and also for fat hogs.

One of our litters is out of a great Hampshire sow bred to the boar Ball and Chain. Her pigs are everything we look for in terms of base width, growth, style and structure and a few are likely headed to Denver this winter for the National Western. But there is one pig in her litter that will probably not show like his siblings. Garage Pig.

Garage Pig suffered some injuries in the first week or so that are hard to avoid in our business, despite our best efforts. He began to slow in his growth and it was apparent he needed some extra care so we moved him to a dog carrier in our garage.

We began feeding milk replacer by the syringe full and he began to perk up and gain weight. At three weeks, he’s less than a third of the size of his siblings so weight gain is good news.

Last Saturday, Jason and I traveled to Fort Collins to CSU’s ARDEC facility to participate in an artificial insemination clinic hosted by Lean Value Sires Friendsand Garage Pig couldn’t attend. Typically, he sleeps under an apple tree while we work in the shop but he snores, so they would have been wise to me had I snuck him into class in my purse. Luckily, we have neighbors with two daughters who are on Jason’s county livestock judging team and they do love a good pig. We dropped Garage Pig at their house and in a 24-hour period, he had a bath in the kitchen sink, lived in their house, slept in the grass snuggled up to one of the girls and generally was spoiled. I think everyone enjoyed it with the possible exception of the girls’ dad who wondered why there was a pig in the living room.

Our 8-year old son, Caden, returned home from Missouri Sunday evening and now Garage Pig is following him around and I expect him to be taught to lead on a leash shortly. Things may have been tough right off the bat for Garage Pig, but I think things are looking up for the little guy.

Farm Wife 101

There is a poem I read a number of years ago that now speaks to me with a great deal of levity. Joan Hoffman, a ranch wife since the 1940s, writes about a ranch wife who walks into her new life “love first,’ and “in the evening listens to unfamiliar talk concerning post-hole diggers, pump-leathers, and rake teeth.” She misses her old life with her father’s charge card, her mother’s perfume, skipping out on the dishes and parking on the way home but “she squares her shoulders, burns the toast again and settles in.”

In the days in which this poem meant less to me, I was not yet a member of the largest sorority in rural America, a farm wife. My husband, a fifth generation farmer, has taught me a plethora of new skills and I have not yet caused any major injuries to either of us. When I visit with other farm wives around Lincoln County and eastern Colorado, they all have stories about learning to be farm wives. Many of the stories reflect the similar experiences we have.

I was relaying the story about my husband trying to teach me to drive the old Case tractor and disc to my friend, Larra, and how close I had come to throwing him from the cab. We laughed reliving the story, especially since Jason stood there, without injury, following my driving lesson. Larra’s husband cuts acres and acres of hay and often has Larra run the swather. She said he never really complained as long as the swathing was done until she cut a windrow in a field near a road. He finally told her that if she was going to cut near the road she was going to have to do it straight so no one who drove by thought he had swathed that crooked windrow.

No matter whether we are farm wives in Lincoln County, ranch wives on the western slope, the wives of dairymen, poultry producers, potato growers, honeybee kings or otherwise, we share a common thread and bond. We are all certainly lucky to live where we live and to make a living the ways we do. We are lucky enough.

I would love to hear your stories, email me at  rachelchappelle@gmail.com

The Pulse Welcomes New Contributor

It is probably fair to say that Colorado Farm Bureau is darned important to me.  I met my husband through the Extension Office in Lincoln County and our first date was the Colorado Farm Bureau annual meeting. Really. We were married months later and the Lincoln County Farm Bureau Board members made me feel right at home.spencer

My husband, Jason Vermillion, is a fifth generation farmer and is a Lincoln County Farm Bureau Board Member, Young Farmer and Rancher Rep. and Scholarship Committee Chair. We live near Hall Station, just south of the family farm. We are building a show pig business in addition to raising cattle, hay, crops and the occasional derby car.

I grew up south of Castle Rock and my mom kept me busy with 4-H projects ranging from livestock judging to market lambs in an attempt to keep me busy. I went on to graduate from Fort Hays State University with a degree in Animal Science where I developed farrowing skills I seem to put to good use frequently. I currently teach at Genoa Hugo High School where our son, Caden, is going to be a third grader in the fall.

I will be contributing stories to The Pulse when I can and you may also see my writing in Colorado Way of Life. I’m looking forward to writing about life way out here and about the stories we all share and the people we all know. We’re certainly in good company.

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