Tag Archives: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Women in Agriculture

November 21, 2018 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A farmer driving a tractor is a common sight in Nebraska. According to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Nebraska’s farms and ranches utilize 45.2 million acres—91 percent of the state’s total land area.

It is often a man driving the tractor, but certainly not always. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 census (the latest available statistic), 14 percent of the nation’s 2.1 million farms had a female principal operator. In total, the 2012 census stated that women account for about 30 percent of farm operators, often as the co-owner of a family-run farm.

These women are working hard to make a difference in their fields, and their field. Hilary Maricle is part of that 30 percent. Maricle has farmed most of her life, currently alongside husband Brian on their sixth-generation-owned family farm. She also teaches agriculture, and was a teacher and assistant dean of agriculture at Northeast Community College in Norfolk. As an agriculture teacher at NCC, she taught young agrarians, who often came from farming backgrounds, ways of improving their businesses.

“To see their eyes light up when they took in a new idea was the best,” Maricle says.

She taught courses such as international agriculture and ag law. She coordinated summer internships and worked with the agriculture department’s college transfer program, which has agreements with University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Wayne State College, and South Dakota State University-Brookings, including developing and implementing online courses.

Beyond teaching agriculture, Maricle is on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s promotion and education committee, working alongside committee members from Utah to Pennsylvania to assist and support state Farm Bureau efforts. She is also the Boone County Commissioner, and answers questions for interested persons, teaching them about the source of their food and how it affects them.

“I am most excited that people care where their food comes from,” Maricle says. “Ten years ago, we didn’t have this interest in where our food comes from. Moms in particular want to know what they are feeding their kids. We need to change our perspective to building relationships perhaps more than just going out and educating. People want to understand agriculture, and to do that, they need to know there’s people behind it.”

Sustainable, local food production is in vogue, and with this movement comes the natural rethinking of how people think about food production. Charuth Van Beuzekom is a local farmer who operates Dutch Girl Creamery and grows a variety of specialty crops on Shadow Brook Farm near Lincoln. She owns the farm with her husband and is also a mother, which she says makes her aware of people’s increased desire for organic food.

“My children grew up right next to me, either strapped to my back or waddling alongside,” Van Beuzekom says. “If you’re in that position, you can’t have pesticides around, you know, because you have little babies right there.”

Jaclyn Wilson is the fifth generation to work a cow-calf operation near Lakeside, Nebraska, that began in the 1880s. In 2013, Wilson began Flying Diamond Genetics as a project of her own while helping on the ranch currently owned by her father and uncle. 

Flying Diamond Genetics is essentially a bovine surrogate business. Her clients send embryos, which Wilson calves out, taking the young animals from embryos to birth to weaned calves before sending them back to the client.

She has overseen nearly 400 embryo-transfer calves over five years, which is successful enough that she dropped from nine clients to two large clients, a large genetics company (which she could not name due to a non-disclosure agreement) and McCormick Beef of Caledonia, Minnesota.

Along with working on the ranch and running her company, Wilson is passionate about politics, especially as it relates to agriculture. She was appointed by Gov. Pete Ricketts to serve on the Brand Committee, a state organization that oversees cattle branding in Nebraska, and has worked with Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association and other organizations. The 38-year-old discovered that while these organizations were sometimes male-dominated, they were more noticeably populated with people older than her.

“Usually I would find out that I’m the youngest,” Wilson says. “Sometimes I’d be the youngest and the only female, but it’s not as novel now as it used to be.”

Through her civic involvement, Wilson has discovered another passion, which is international travel. In 2005, she graduated from the University of Nebraska Extension’s Leadership Education/Action Development program, for which she traveled to Russia, Ukraine, and Poland.

“That opened things up for me,” Wilson says. Because of that trip, I was able to go to Brazil with Rotary.”

Even while traveling, she maintains an eye towards agriculture. She has seen a combination beef/hog plant in Brazil, a poultry plant in China, a small wild-game processing operation Wilson described as “very mom-and-pop” in South Africa, sheep and beef operations in New Zealand, and a beef operation in Australia.

“People always laugh when I travel,” Wilson says. “I’ve been to packing plants in six different countries. It not only helps my business, but it helps you see a different picture. About half of the trips have been because of something that comes up in the industry, and half of them have been because of my love of travel.”

Because of her passionate work in agriculture, in June 2016, she was named in Farm Journal Media’s 40 under 40 list.

As traditional farming practices are being questioned and looked at in a different light, and consumers are taking more charge of where their food comes from, women continue to take charge and build themselves into the framework of agriculture.

Correction: The online version of this article has been modified from the print edition. Maricle’s husband’s name is Brian. The print edition identified him as Keith.


Visit @mariclefamilyfarms on Facebook or flyingdiamondgenetics.com for more information about the women featured in this article.

This article was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Hilary Maricle

Maker of Chefs, Feeder of Children

October 13, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In a culture where top chefs enjoy celebrity status, Omaha Salvation Army Kroc Center executive chef Kevin Newlin manages to stay humble and grounded. In fact, Newlin was confused as to why anyone would want to write a profile about him.

Don’t be fooled by his modesty. Newlin has trained some of Omaha’s top chefs during his tenure at Metropolitan Community College, and he is doing crucially important culinary work for the community. His Kroc Center programs have introduced countless kids to fresh foods that they might not otherwise eat.

“Sometimes kids will see blueberries or cucumbers or mushrooms, and they seriously will not know what it is because they’ve never seen it fresh before,” says Newlin. One of his favorite tricks is to first give kids cucumber slices, and then a couple days later give them pickles and explain the correlation. “To see the looks on their faces when they realize the pickle used to be a cucumber is fascinating, and it’s really something that drives me in my career where I am right now,” he says.

The summer feeding program offered by the Kroc Center (funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture) has grown exponentially. “We served just under 10,000 fresh, hot meals from May 23 to Aug. 12,” says Newlin. He’s responsible for rallying the food donations that help make this program possible, and he also plans and prepares the meals. “The kids get fresh food every day. We try to use fresh food as much as possible, but we’re restricted by budget.”

“Sometimes kids will see blueberries or cucumbers or mushrooms, and they seriously will not know what it is because they’ve never seen it fresh before,” says Newlin.

In September, Newlin was responsible for coordinating the celebrated Omaha chefs who participated in the fourth annual Kroc Center’s BaconFest, a local scholarship fundraiser.

His attraction to the Kroc Center was largely due to his desire to spend more time with his children. “I’ve been here since the beginning,” says Newlin, noting that before he accepted the role at the Kroc Center he was chief of operations at Metropolitan Community College’s Culinary Arts Program. His love for teaching compelled him to retain his position as an adjunct professor with MCC until last year. “I miss it because I miss the teaching aspect,” he says, adding that he also misses working with some of the people there.

His love for food is the reason why he also works at The Grey Plume three nights a week. “Cooking, for me, is a lifelong process,” he says. “Nobody knows it all and you’re never done learning, and if you think you are, then you probably don’t have food in your soul.”

Newlin says he noticed that his role at the Kroc Center has changed his own perspective when it comes to helping the community. “Since I came here, I notice that my willingness to help people has increased. I’ve always volunteered, but it’s more now.” Whether he’s conducting a cooking class for kids or running the Kroc Center Program designed to help people learn the skills necessary to obtain a Douglas County food handlers card, Newlin is busy helping others.

“I love to feed people,” says Newlin with a shrug, trying to sum up everything he does in simple terms. He isn’t looking for praise. He simply wants to share his love for food with others.

Visit omahakroc.org for more information.

kevinnewlin1

Fighting Childhood Obesity

July 22, 2013 by

Loving, affectionate, intelligent, and a bookworm—that’s how parents described their young teenage daughter. Weighing more than 200 pounds, she often hid behind her books because it helped her feel invisible, a feeling she preferred to the teasing she endured for her acne and weight.

When she first came to the Healthy Eating with Resources, Options, and Everyday Strategies (HEROES) program at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, staff saw a shy, withdrawn, and sad young lady who stayed mostly in the background. Slowly but surely, however, she began to emerge as a leader in the group. She lost more than 30 pounds and started to incorporate fitness into her daily life. She soon discovered a love for running. After completing six months with the program, this young lady had become an intricate part of the group. She talked about the newness of having boys notice her—something that had never happened before—and she gradually began to regain her self-esteem.

The staff at HEROES says scenarios like this are quite common among obese children, and, many times, parents don’t know how to help or change the situation.

These children are often caught in a vicious cycle, notes Cristina Fernandez, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of the HEROES program. “They are bullied and made fun of, which lowers their self-esteem and makes them depressed,” she says. “This then feeds into their eating and weight problem. One of our teenage girls told us her classmates were throwing food at her like they were feeding an elephant.

Cristina Fernandez, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of HEROES

Cristina Fernandez, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of HEROES. Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

“We can turn their lives around. These children need to know they can change, they can do better, and they can do it every day. We teach them how. The quality of life for these children improves significantly once they have been in our program for a while.”

Obesity is a growing problem in this country. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 20 percent of children in this country are overweight or obese. The problem may be even worse in the Omaha metropolitan area. A 2012 survey conducted by Children’s Hospital and Boys Town National Research Hospital found that 30 percent of children aged 5 to 17 years old were overweight or obese.

Obesity is a multi-factorial disease, says Fernandez. While genetics may play a role, the majority of children are overweight due to their environment and an unhealthy lifestyle. Lack of exercise, extra-large portion sizes, excessive snacking, and overconsumption of fast foods, as well as excessive time spent in front of computers and video games, are all taking a toll.

Minorities like Latinos and African-Americans have a higher rate of obesity than the Caucasian population, and this appears to be in large part due to their environment, notes Fernandez.

But obesity is about more than being overweight. It is a chronic disease and serious health problem that can lead to numerous health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, chronic headaches, venous stasis disease, urinary incontinence, liver disease, and cancer.

If the situation is not turned around, these children will begin having the types of health problems in their 20s and 30s that we normally see in people in their 60s and 70s, explains Fernandez.

Losing weight and maintaining an ideal body weight often requires a multi-faceted approach that includes medical management, nutrition counseling and education, exercise, behavior modification, and behavior therapy.

“Our goal is to help them work through their barriers,” says Martha Nepper, MS, RD, LMNT, certified diabetes educator and certified childhood and adolescent weight manager with Nebraska Methodist Health System. “It’s about getting accurate information about diet and nutrition and the proper support. For some children, that might be individual counseling, while others might benefit more from group classes and support.”

Martha Nepper, MS, RD, LMNT, Nebraska Methodist Health System

Martha Nepper, MS, RD, LMNT, Nebraska Methodist Health System. Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Nepper works with LifeShapes, a program sponsored by Nebraska Methodist Health System that provides nutrition counseling and support for overweight and obese kids and teens.

Nepper says it’s a process that requires both the child and the parents to achieve the greatest success. “Parent involvement is extremely critical,” she says. “The parents are the gatekeepers—they control what comes into the house. The adoption of healthy habits, including diet and exercise, needs to start with them.”

Nepper adds that, oftentimes, just making small dietary changes can help decrease caloric intake enough to halt weight gain and allow children to grow into their weight. This includes steps like trading sugary beverages (like pop and Gatorade) with water, decreasing portion sizes, increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, and having more family meals.

Some common things for parents to avoid include:

  • Pressuring children to clean their plates
  • Allowing children to have televisions in their bedrooms
  • Bringing too many energy-dense foods into the house, like cookies, chips, and toaster pastries
  • Not being a good role model by not exercising regularly or participating in activities that involve exercise with their children
  • Eating out too often and too much fast food

Using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate is a great way to determine what should be on your child’s plate, says Nepper. With MyPlate, half of the plate should be fruits and vegetables with the remaining half split between proteins, whole grains, and dairy.

Even after completing an intervention program, these children do best when they come back for occasional follow-up visits. “It’s a lifelong battle,” says Fernandez. “A smoker or an alcoholic can stop using tobacco or alcohol; we can’t stop eating.”