Author Archives: Rae

When things heat up, be nice or take a break


So here we are at the halfway point of summer, and things continue to heat up – not only outdoors, but in politics and on social media. International trade, tariff discussions with China and the possible renegotiation of NAFTA are all hot topics.

In tense situations, temperatures run hot, too, and it is important to keep your cool. My granddaddy used to say “be like a duck, calm on the surface and paddling like the dickens underneath,” and I think that’s good advice. When we’re stressed out, it’s easy to pop off and say (or post or Tweet) things that we shouldn’t. Even if we have second thoughts and go back to the “delete” button later, the damage may be done.

One of the things that I find most interesting about social media is the number of “lurkers” in the community. Whether on Facebook or Twitter, there are the few people with whom we interact, then there is the silent majority. They don’t “like and share,” they don’t “favorite or retweet,” but they are always there…reading what we write and watching how we interact with others.

Many of these lurkers are in what is known as “the moveable middle,” and they are an incredibly important sector of the social media audience. Those are the people who may not have strong opinions either way on the subjects of GMOs, international trade, the use of chemicals in modern agriculture or antibiotic use in poultry and livestock. They’re probably looking to those of us who are in agriculture for information, and they acknowledge us as the authority on these subjects because we deal with them daily.

So, who are YOU more likely to believe, “Levelheaded Larry” or “Bobby Blowhard?” Seriously. Many of these lurkers are friends of friends on Facebook, or they see a retweet of what you said on Twitter. They don’t know you, and their only impression as to your credibility may be seeing what you write on social media and how you write it. Do you approach a subject in a calm, factual manner, or do you just “let it fly” and refer to consumers with derogatory language

It’s true that consumers sometimes “don’t know what they’re talking about” when it comes to modern agriculture, whether it be row crop production or the raising of livestock and poultry, but the conversations in which their lack of knowledge becomes clear is the perfect time to share what you know instead of brushing off their concerns. We don’t know it all, either. What is a common practice in one part of the country may be unheard of in another, so it’s important that we speak to what we do know.

And, if you find that you can’t be positive and civil on social media, it is perfectly OK to take a break. An unknown wise person once said, “you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” If social media has stopped being a place where you share farm pictures and compliment your friend’s grandchildren, if you find yourself getting upset or angry when you log on, step away for a while, cool down, and come back in a week. If you keep engaging when you are in a poor mental state to do so, that will come through loud and clear in your posts and tweets.

No. No, Darlin’, you didn’t.


OK so I’m a Southern girl, and aaallll that that implies ( bonus points for those of you who got the Urban Cowboy reference). I’m also a Southern cook, and – yes – Southern gets a capital S. Being a Southern cook, I don’t always use a recipe. When Mama and Granny taught me to cook, they used measurements like “a little of this” and “a dab of that,” and I either understood or figured it out right quick.

And, as I’ve grown older and cooked more, I have modified some of their dishes to suit my taste and that of the DH. But here lately, I’ve been spending some time on the Pinterest, and I’ve found some good recipes. Like with any other social media platform, though, people can’t just read something and leave well enough alone. Nooooooooo. And my silly self read the comments on some of the recipes.

Bad idea, Darlin’.

Because many of them say “I made this…. but” and that’s where things get ugly. “I made this, but instead of potatoes, I used riced cauliflower.” “I made this, but instead of grilled chicken breast, I used me some fatback pork.” “I made this, but I didn’t like ANY of the seasonings you listed, so I used something completely different instead.” And they wonder why it didn’t turn out.’

So, no darlin’, you DIDN’T “make this.” If you were inspired by a recipe to come up with your own, go for it! If you changed half the ingredients so that your dish IN NO WAY resembled the recipe, a knock yourself slick out doing so. But do not go on to someone’s pin or blog or FacePage and tell them “I made this” if you didn’t.

(Yes, I might be cooking supper using a new recipe and blogging at the same time. Go, me!)

Disclaimer: yes, I believe in tweaking recipes, and yes, I do it ALL THE TIME. This is about commenting on some poor chick’s hard-fought attempt at sharing her recipe, and basically telling her how YOU could have done it better. And yes, it’s most always ok to add a dab of bacon grease, unless you’re bakin’ a cake or makin’ a pie.

OH. My. LANTA, Darlin’!


So it popped up in my planner (yes, I have a paper one in addition to my iCalendar – don’t judge me!) that yesterday was FIVE YEARS in the Redneck Girl’s Dream Job (RGDJ). FIVE YEARS!

Yes, I loved my job when I worked at the newspaper… until it became all about revenue forecasts and page count projections, and doing everything on a shoestring stretched way too tightly. I still loved the community and the writing and photography, and the people I worked with, but this opportunity came along and I am so very thankful, grateful and blessed that it did.

Yes, I have an awesome job. As communication director for the Kentucky Soybean Board and Kentucky Soybean Association, I STILL get to take pictures and write stories, but I am part of a much larger community than just Lyon County, Kentucky. I get to work with and for some of the best people I’ve ever known, and that makes my heart happy. I’m part of a family – truly. And the branches of that family extend far beyond the state line.

Through my career path and my AGvocacy efforts online, I have gotten to know people across the country, many of them well. There’s a certain young lady in Kansas (Hi Jancey!) without whom my life would be a little dimmer, a soon-to-be-ex pig farmer in Indiana who is surely my sister from another mister, and numerous other people who mean the world to me.

SO. Bear in mind that (the calendar says) I’m 50, so I changed careers completely at age 45, after being a member of the PMG staff for more than 20 years. I had thought I’d retire from there, but GOD HAD SOMETHING BETTER for me. When a great opportunity lands in your lap, Darlin’, examine it, pray about it, do the math, and TAKE IT.


SQUEEEEEEE! #GarthBrooks


I have never been a literal Bucket List kind of girl. I am more a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. Shocking, I know.

But. If I HAD a written bucket list, seeing Garth Brooks in concert would have been on it. And I saw him. And Miss Yearwood. And it was all I could have ever wanted and more.


I have loved this man since 1989, and I might have even married a guy who bore more than a passing resemblance to this man. He speaks to me. From “In Another’s Eyes” to “Callin’ Baton Rouge” to “Friends in Low Places,” he just gets me. My funeral instructions include the playing of his “If Tomorrow Never Comes.”  Goes like this:

Sometimes late at night 
I lie awake and watch her sleeping 
She’s lost in peaceful dreams 
So I turn out the lights and lay there in the dark 
And the thought crosses my mind 
If I never wake up in the morning 
Would she ever doubt the way I feel 
About her in my heart 

If tomorrow never comes 
Will she know how much I loved her 
Did I try in every way to show her every day 
That she’s my only one 
And if my time on earth were through 
And she must face this world without me 
Is the love I gave her in the past 
Gonna be enough to last 
If tomorrow never comes 

‘Cause I’ve lost loved ones in my life 
Who never knew how much I loved them 
Now I live with the regret 
That my true feelings for them never were revealed 
So I made a promise to myself 
To say each day how much she means to me 
And avoid that circumstance 
Where there’s no second chance to tell her how I feel 

If tomorrow never comes 
Will she know how much I loved her 
Did I try in every way to show her every day 
That she’s my only one 
And if my time on earth were through 
And she must face this world without me 
Is the love I gave her in the past 
Gonna be enough to last 
If tomorrow never comes 

So tell that someone that you love 
Just what you’re thinking of 
If tomorrow never comes

The fellas who wrote that song are really onto something. I am sure I wasn’t the only one in Bridgestone Arena with tears streaming when he played this song – because I know there are people in MY life who may not know how much I care about them, and that, my friends, is all on me.

Let ’em know. Because someday tomorrow won’t come.

Rae-Wagoner-Celebration-Of-Life attendees will also hear The Dance, written by the great Tony Arata:

Looking back on the memory of 
The dance we shared beneath the stars above 
For a moment all the world was right 
How could I have known you’d ever say goodbye 
And now I’m glad I didn’t know 
The way it all would end the way it all would go 
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain 
But I’d have had to miss the dance 
Holding you I held everything 
For a moment wasn’t I the king 
But if I’d only known how the king would fall 
Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all 
And now I’m glad I didn’t know 
The way it all would end the way it all would go 
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain 
But I’d have had to miss the dance 
Yes my life is better left to chance 
I could have missed the pain but I’d have had to miss the dance

Wow. Don’t miss The Dance that we call Life, friends. I know this talk of Bucket Lists and funeral songs is sad, but as I have achieved a “certain age,” I think about these things from time to time. I don’t want to hand God my one talent and say “here – I hid it and kept it safe.” Matthew 25:14-30  I want to slide up to the Pearly Gates sideways, comin in hot, having LIVED and LOVED and sucked every bit of joy from the gift of this life I have been given.

I encourage you to do the same.

So, the Cosmos has SPOKEN, Darlin’


Well, SOMETHING has spoken. Maybe the planets aligned, maybe my inner overachiever has woken up, perhaps it’s simply meant to be. I was on #AgChat last night (if you don’t #AgChat and you are an ag person, you totally should! It’s a Twitter Chat held on Tuesday evenings at 8 eastern, 7 central and will totally connect you with other aggies. Subject is outlined prior, Questions are submitted ahead of time. Check it out.) and those of us who blog were either sharing #AgBrags or (this would be me) bemoaning our lack of performance for the year 2017 and PROMISING to do better in 2018.

Resolutions are like that, right? You get a brand new shiny year, with no screw-ups, and it’s like a kid with fresh school supplies! (My name is Rae, and I have a school/office supply “problem.”)  So the Fates collided (or colluded?) and as my every-Wednesday-morning-9-a.m. alarm went off on my computer, the one that reminds me to post here, I opened my personal email. The email came from National Day Calendar, proclaiming today as National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day.

choc covered cherry day

That might not be a sign to you, but seeing as how I have had this image:

choc covered cherries

on my desktop since late November, it was a real “AHA!” moment for me. You see, I had been meaning to write a blog post about chocolate covered cherries and the memories they evoke for me. Do not misunderstand – I don’t LIKE them, but my Granny LOVED them, and I loved her, so I ate one when she’d offer it to me when I was a kid.

Isn’t it funny how seeing these on an end cap (this was even her preferred BRAND!) at WalMart can reduce a grown woman to tears?

So. Soak up all that your Granny or your Grandma or your whoever has to give you. Listen to her stories. Learn about the ole days, when they had to walk 10 miles to school, uphill both ways and barefoot. Let her teach you how to cook using measurements like “a little dab” or “about a handful,” or – my personal favorite from MY Granny, “well, till it looks right…”  There will come a time that you, like me, will only have memories. Store up as many as you can.

And for those of you who subscribe to my blog, thank you. I know I have let you down over and over, and I’ve really let myself down more than I have you… I intend to do better with content frequency in this bright shiny new year.

We are more alike than we are not alike, Darlin!


For the first time in a long time, I found myself with a column deadline looming, and I didn’t immediately know what I was going to write about. Oh, sure, I had some ideas, some subjects, and any of them would have been “fine” for a column.

But you know what? I think that people who take the time to read what I write deserve a lot better than “fine,” so I was in a quandary. As I watched the 2017 Country Music Association Awards, I had an “AHA!” moment and my quandary disappeared. It was on that program that Tyler Perry, an African-American director and actor known for his portrayal of Madea in a number of movies, said these words: “Now it has never been more important, that we all come together, find some common ground, spend some time listening to each other, and realize that we are more alike than we are not alike.”

And he’s right. His remarks were directed at getting people from a variety of backgrounds to come together to make the world a better place, and that’s certainly something we need to do. But I‘m thinking about how very applicable his words are for those of us in agriculture who share our stories about food and farming with the other 98 percent of the population. It’s not always an easy task, often because we know that the non-farm public (by and large) doesn’t “get it,” and they’re different from those of us in agriculture who do.

Really, though, we are all alike in a number of ways. That new first-time mom who is terrified of feeding her baby soy-based formula because she doesn’t understand the science behind GMO plant breeding? She’s not that much different than the farm mom who wants what’s best for her baby, too. The cancer patient who is afraid and hurting, and rants endlessly about glyphosate? He saw something on Facebook relating that chemistry to his disease, and in his condition, he wants some answers… and he’s not going to know if the ones he finds are factual or not.

The vegans who think that, by avoiding animal protein, they’re saving the planet? As farmers, we tout our sustainability practices as doing the right thing for the planet. See? More alike than different.

I’m not a mom, so I’ve never had that new-mom fear of everything, but I can imagine that the responsibility that comes with bringing a little one home from the hospital and being on your own for decision-making is cripplingly overwhelming. I’ve lost loved ones to cancer, as we all have, and yes – I want to know WHY. I like to believe that we all want to do the right thing – the best thing, the thing that is good and healthy for our loved ones. Unfortunately, farmers wrongly get a lot of bad press, when you and I both know that farmers are unmatched when it comes to being good stewards of the land.

It’s part of our job as agriculturalists to be open, accessible, transparent and truthful about modern ag practices. I know, sometimes it’s hard not to respond to a question with “that’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard,” but we have to try, and we have to tell our stories over and over, in person, on social media and at gatherings where we can be heard.

So the next time you hear an all-time contender for “stupidest question ever,” remember that the person asking it is coming from a place of simply not knowing and, maybe, of fear. Remember that we’re more alike than we are different, and do what you can to answer the questions and get rid of the fear.


Walkin the walk, Darlin’


So I have a friend (don’t we all that THAT friend?) who swears by “clean” eating. She has a Himalayan Pink Salt Lamp by her bed and one in her office, she makes noodles out of organic zucchini, and many of her food-related Facebook posts make my eyes roll so hard that there is danger of falling over.

And this struggle, friends, is very real. She’s a wonderful person. I’ve known her for a long time, and she’s a good Christian woman, a great mother and a loving wife. She’s not woo-crazy on the workout train, but she is concerned about her health and the health of her family, as good mothers should be.

As you can probably guess, we have some fundamental disagreements about food, food safety, animal care standards (she’s a sometimes-vegetarian, which I find to be a huge “missed steak,”) and – of course – big, bad GMOs.

This may come as a shock to some, but I am pretty blunt. (I KNOW! Who’d have thought?) I have learned to dial back the bluntness and ask questions about her fears and beliefs before jumping in with a pile of irrefutable scientific data that makes her feel defensive. That’s hard for me, but I am learning. Nobody wants to be wrong, much less be wrong because they listened to some woo-peddling crackpot wanna-be celebrity… so we often simply agree to disagree.

That said, fellow AGvocates, science is on our side! The National Academy of Sciences, one of the country’s most prestigious scientific groups, looked at more than 90 studies and a large amount of disease data. The conclusion remains that there has been no increase in health risks related to the consumption of food from genetically engineered (GE) plants.


The World Health Organization had the same findings, as did The International Council for Science, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, and a whole long list (that I keep handy) of reputable scientific organizations from around the world.

But the Non-GMO Verified Project (they’re the ones with the butterfly label that companies PAY to put on their packaging) is still doing a better job than the agriculture community, swaying people into believing that food from GE plants is bad in a number of ways. I generally refuse to buy anything with that label on it, and I’m sure that one person’s purchasing decisions won’t make a bit of difference in the fearmongering marketing strategy of those companies. As those of us involved in agriculture comprise only two percent of the population, ALL of our purchasing decisions put together won’t move that needle.

But I have made it a point, when I change brands because of fearmongering or anti-GMO or animal housing sentiment, to contact the company I can no longer support with my food dollars and tell them WHY. Again, I’m not what my Granny would call “ugly” about it, just very matter-of-fact. I then also contact the company that has GAINED my business because they don’t hold that same position, and tell them WHY I am a new customer.

Sending these emails and making these contacts is tiring, (Pro Tip: keep a fill-in-the-blanks copy on your desktop – Copy and Paste is your friend), and sometimes I feel as if I am wasting my time. But then I remember a great quote from author Max Lucado that applies to so many aspects of life: “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”

I am someone, and I can do something. You are also someone, and you can do something. Evaluate your purchases. Are you growing perfectly safe GE crops on your farm but buying things with that goofy butterfly on the label? Are you a proponent of renewable fuels who is burning petroleum-based gas and diesel on the farm?

Back to my friend from the beginning: I think she’s misguided and mistaken in her food beliefs and choices, but she is firm in her beliefs and she’s walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Can we in agriculture say the same?