When the fields are frozen, there's still plenty of work to be done
February 11th, 2013
05:45 PM ET
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Ryan Goodman is a generational rancher from Arkansas with a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, studying beef cattle management. Goodman is one of many farmers using social media to bridge the gap between farmers and urban customers. Follow his story daily at AgricultureProud.com or on Twitter and Facebook.

In the past several months, the Farmers with Issues series has featured the voices of several farmers and ranchers who try to reach out, connect, and share a window into the world of food production. Some great conversations have been launched and more than once, there have been comments implying that farmers take the winter months off.

Do farmers really have time off once the hay is in the barn and the crops are out of the fields? Personally, I take advantage of the longer dark hours to catch up on some of my favorite reading, but winter is not all rest and relaxation for farmers.

I asked a few farmers from across the country what they are up to as much of the country is hunkering down in the snow and cold.

Soil conservation and field preparation
If Texas farm wife Suzie Wilde is going to find her husband this winter, she will have to look for his tractor in the cotton fields on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. Daniel is busy making repairs to the fields after heavy autumn rain events. Cotton farmers like the Wildes are also employing soil conservation practices to harvest every drop of rain that falls prior to the 2013 planting season.

Read more about it on Wilde's blog – I Kissed a Farmer.

Taking care of the cattle like always
The cattle never stop eating and do not plan for a holiday. That is why Nebraska Cattlewoman, Anne Burkholder, may wish for a brown Christmas. Anne and the employees at her family-owned feedlot are busy every day in the winter feeding and looking after the cattle in her care. Winter months actually bring on added responsibilities of keeping pens clean and cattle warm.

Learn more about her work to provide responsible care on the Feedyard Foodie blog.

Equipment maintenance and adjustments
When equipment breaks during the harvest season, repairs will often be made a quickly as possible to keep things rolling. Matthew Boucher of Illinois explains that farmers will use the winter months to make permanent repairs and important maintenance on their equipment. Marie Bowers, Oregon grass farmer, says this is also an opportunity to make adjustments so this year’s harvest will be more efficient.

Putting the kids to work on a snow day
Rancher, Debbie Lyons-Blythe, does not let her kids sleep in on a snow day at her Kansas Flint Hills Angus ranch. She puts them to work feeding the cows and welcoming newborn calves into the world. Debbie gets excited about this extra help and makes sure to put on a crockpot meal to feed her hungry crew after a long day’s work.

See some great photos of calving and learn more about the kids’ work on her blog, Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch.

Working with the family: farmer style
In the past year, the Peterson Farm Brothers brought the world a fun look at farming with their viral YouTube videos, including their popular LMFAO parody, "I'm Farming and I Grow It." They are giving us another look at Kansas life with a monthly video blog of farm activities when they are home from school. The January installment shows Greg, Nathan, and Kendal feeding cows and spreading organic fertilizer.

Watch the January video and keep an eye out for another in February.

Winter is still a very busy time for farmers across the country. In fact, Emily Zweber said she sees less of her organic dairy farmer husband with his busy winter schedule. Do not let these tales fool you though; farmers still seek opportunities to make it away from the farm for some vacation time to visit friends and family or to attend educational meetings in warmer parts of the country.

There are many more farmers sharing insight to their winter chores. I have a growing list on my personal blog. Reach out and thank these folks for their dedication to growing our safe food supply in all types of weather.

Were you surprised by any of the tasks farmers and ranchers are tackling in the winter months? What are your favorite ways to pass time during the winter months? We're listening in the comments below.

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