FIVE QUESTIONS FOR: Jenny Rohrich, Ashley, N.D., blogger and farmer
Q. You blog as the "Prairie Californian." Tell us about your roots and why you decided to blog. A. I originally started to blog as a way to keep my friends and family updated on my life as I transitioned to North Dakota from California. I am a bo...
Q. You blog as the “Prairie Californian.” Tell us about your roots and why you decided to blog.
A. I originally started to blog as a way to keep my friends and family updated on my life as I transitioned to North Dakota from California. I am a born and raised California girl, growing up in the northern part of the Sacramento valley. I loved where I lived, and vowed never to leave - until I met a farmer from North Dakota via Twitter and fell in love.
I started Prairie Californian shortly after we got married, I wrote about my transition to North Dakota, being married to a farmer and other things I learned on the farm. I was amazed at the reception my farm-related blogs had with various audiences, and I was soon introduced to the world of advocating for agriculture.
Q. What’s the greatest difference between California and North Dakota?
A. Whether we realize it or not, where we live shapes and influences us. How we become connected to a certain place stays with us and becomes a part of us. Until you’ve lived here, capturing the “essence” that is North Dakota is extremely hard to sum up in words, but there is no denying North Dakota has stolen a part of my heart.
Everyone always talks about “North Dakota nice” which is certainly a thing. People in North Dakota are known for their friendliness. I have had to get used to saying “hi” to someone on the street or in the grocery store, and waving to someone as they drive down the street. I will never forget when I first visited, I had multiple offers to pick me up from the airport, which is a 240-mile round trip
North Dakota also does an amazing job of celebrating and holding onto heritage. I live in what is known as the Iron Curtain of North Dakota, consisting of mainly Germans from Russia descendants.
The traditions of food, family, and culture are still alive and widely celebrated today. My husband is a purebred, 100 percent German from Russia. I joke with him that he really ruined the family tree when he married me.
Having that history and such close ties to your heritage is rare. It is something that makes this part of the country unique.
Q. You and your husband grow wheat, among other crops. How do you view the gluten-free or gluten-restricted diet trend?
A. Gluten free, unfortunately, has become a “healthy” buzzword. Jimmy Kimmel did a bit asking people on the street what is gluten. Most couldn’t tell you what it is, but they just knew it was bad.
If you look at the peer-reviewed science, there is no definitive answer as to why gluten sensitivity seems to be increasing in our population. Many point to how wheat has changed, but as I address on my blog, our wheat hasn’t changed in over 100 years. There are plenty of theories out there, the latest one being it is possible gluten isn’t the cause, but instead something called FODMAPS (fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates) are to blame.
Either way, marketing industries have gotten ahold of this idea of gluten-free, and it is clear the trend isn’t going away anytime soon. Sales from gluten- free products and labeling have been estimated to hit $15 billion this year, which is a 50 percent jump from 2013.
Q. What’s your greatest concern about the current ag climate?
A. With less than 2 percent of the population actively involved in farming and ranching, and the average age of a farmer at 55 years old, my greatest concern about the current ag climate is finding young people to take over.
I personally know how hard it can be to get started and expand an operation; it is not for those unwilling to take a risk. I hope young people won’t be afraid to get involved. It is my hope there continue to be opportunities for young men and women to get the capital to be able to start farming or ranching. And I hope all the longtime farmers will be welcoming, and willing, to accept new perspectives and innovation on the farm.
In our small community, we’ve already seen an influx of young people coming back to take over the family farm or even expand the family farm. Even with so much uncertainty right now, I think it is an exciting time to be in agriculture and I look forward to seeing how it changes as the new generation takes over the old generations retire in the next decades.
Q. You’ve been successful as a contributing writer for websites such as the Huffington Post. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give a younger you?
A. You are defined by whom you surround yourself with. Pick the good ones, pick the people who inspire and encourage you and most of all love you for you. They’re worth it every time. Don’t waste so much time trying to force friendships with people. Know when to recognize this. I spent so many tears and so much stress trying to make friendships work. If they are meant to be, they will find themselves back into your life at some time. Never compromise your voice, your style, or who you are for any fame or fortune. Your voice, your style, and who you are are what make you unique. Remember that.
Read Rorich’s blog at at prairiecalifornian.com.
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