Filed under: Farm, Farm Bureau, food, food safety, Minnesota, Politicians, Politics, travel | Tags: farm, Farm Bureau, Food, food safety, Minnesota, politics, travel
Part of March was spent in the halls of politics for me.The 8th of March my bride and I went to D.C. to visit our daughter who is in grad school and see what life is like for her this year. (http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/into-another-land/)
While there the rest of the Minnesota Farm Bureau delegation arrived. We got a chance to visit with American Farm Bureau President Stallman and see D.C. from his 10th floor office.There were 20 of us from Minnesota and we usually split into two groups to visit with congressional members and all 20 of us in a senate office.
The week we were there was the time that Obama was pushing congress and the senate to do something about the budget. That meant that our pre-arrainged times could be changed if the president decided to visit. We were lucky to get to the offices of 7 of the 8 representatives from Minnesota. We presented out requests, tried to add in a few personal stories, and left hoping they would get something done.
Until the “Sequester” is figured out there is really going to be nothing that can be done in Washington. One of our concerns was in the meat packing industry. Because of lack of funds, meat inspectors were going to have their work weeks shortened. This could mean a lack of inspection and possible problems for our food supply. That issue seems to have been taken care of, but the concerns about paying for government services are still there.
I was only back a few days and I was off to St. Paul for our Ag Week visit to our Minnesota legislators.
Farm Bureau members from several areas of the state were in town to express our concerns about future legislation. These visits rarely do much more than help out representatives put a face on a name. It will be our future contacts on behalf of upcoming bills that will really have an impact. I always enjoy the visits and the chance to be brought up to speed on what is happening in politics. I hope to see you someday on one of my visits.
Filed under: Biofuels, cars, ethanol, Farm, food, Minnesota, Politicians, Politics, travel, wood heat | Tags: car, cars, ethanol, farm, Food, machines, Minnesota, politics, transportation, travel
I’ve made no bones about it, I’m in favor of ethanol. The fact that I’m part owner of a small ethanol plant here in Minnesota does color my perception. That ethanol is cleaner burning than gas or diesel is a given. Bio-fuels are a renewable resource, being produced new again every year.
I’ve alway been one who hates to pay any more money to Big Oil than I have to. The main heat source for my home and shop are dead trees harvested from my farm. I have air to air solar collectors on my house and shop. I try to keep the house tight and all equipment operating at peak efficiency. I limit my trips as much as possible and will use public transportation when practical.
Big Oil does not like my little ethanol plant. They also do not like conservation practices that use less fuel, they want you to keep paying them for ever. In fact they don’t seem to like anyone who gets between them and their fat profits, and they are very, very fat profits.
Big Oil is worried. They have to be to keep saying the bad things about ethanol that they have been for so long. They try to tell us that ethanol is bad for our cars when the same cars we use are on the road in Brazil and in some cases are using 100% ethanol and have been for many years. They try to tell us that using more ethanol is causing our food prices to go up when more of your food dollar goes to oil related costs than to the farmer. They push a message of the carbon foot print of farming when they blow much, much more carbon into the air than any other industry. Big Oil has convinced our politicians that agriculture does not need any financial help so that they can protect the much larger tax breaks and hand outs that they take in.
This is nothing more than a coordinated effort by oil companies and refiners who will stop at nothing to hold their near monopoly on the liquid fuels market in the long quest to blame others for their absurd profits and never-ending increasing gasoline prices at the pump. I find it very interesting that the states with the largest ethanol industries have some of the lowest gas prices in the nation.
All we hear about is a domestic energy boom; more drilling and new oil and gas reserves. But nothing changes; gas prices still increase and every time it’s the other guys fault, not the oil companies. Let’s be honest here. The oil industry is experiencing record profits on the backs of the American consumers. And their industry sees renewable fuels such as ethanol that can be produced far less expensive than gasoline as a threat and they will go to great lengths to discredit any competition through misinformation and smear tactics. Enough is enough – it is time to call this what it is – an orchestrated sham by the oil companies to manipulate markets, cause panic and attempt to use false data to blame an industry that has grown to be a threat to their record profits and bottom lines.
Ethanol is a win-win for America, creating jobs and revitalizing rural economies, it is better for our environment and it is reducing our dependence on foreign oil, all while providing consumers a choice and savings at the pump. It is time for Americans to hear from someone other than oil companies, which are holding American consumers hostage to excessive prices and a dangerous dependence on a finite resource.
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Animal care, Biofuels, ethanol, Farm, farm animals, Farm Bureau, food, food safety, genetic modification, Minnesota, Politicians, Politics, travel | Tags: Agriculture education, biofuels, ethanol, farm, Farm Bureau, farm bureau members, Food, food safety, government, Minnesota, minnesota farm bureau federation, politics, travel
Filed under: family, Farm, food | Tags: family, farm, farmer, farmers and ranchers, Food, quotes
I believe a man’s greatest possession is his dignity and that no calling bestows this more abundantly than farming.
I believe hard work and honest sweat are the building blocks of a person’s character.
I believe that farming, despite hardships and disappointments, is the most honest and honorable way a man can spend his days on this earth.
I believe farming nurtures the close family ties that make life rich in many ways that money can’t buy.
I believe my children are learning values that will last a lifetime and can be learned in no other way.
I believe farming provides education for life that no other occupation teaches so much about birth, growth, and maturity in such a variety of ways.
I believe many of the best things in life are indeed free: the splendor of a sunrise, the rapture of wide open spaces, the exhilarating sight of your land greening each spring.
I believe that true happiness comes from watching your crops ripen in the field, your children grow tall in the sun, your whole family feel the pride that springs from their shared experience.
I believe that by my toil I am giving more to the world than I am taking from it, an honor that does not come to all men.
I believe that my life will be measured ultimately by what I have done for my fellowman, and by this standard I fear no judgement.
I believe when a man grows old and sums up his days, he should be able to stand tall and feel pride in the life he’s lived.
I believe in farming because it makes all this possible.
Filed under: Farm, rain, science, weather | Tags: climate, drought, farm, nature, rain, weather
The forecast is out for prospective rains and the news is not good for those of us west of the Mississippi.Yep, the drought is likely to continue this summer. This is not good news for farm folks. It will mean higher prices for those who get a crop, but that is bad news for livestock producers. Crop farmers in the hottest, driest areas will not be looking for anything decent for a crop. Looks like another challenging year ahead.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, GMO, Minnesota, planting, rain, seasons, snow, Soybeans, spring, tillage, time, Trees, weather, winter | Tags: climate, Corn, farm, Minnesota, Planting, rain, snow, Soybeans, spring, summer, weather
Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist, reports that 55.82% of the country still in drought. “But we’ve knocked out the eastern Corn Belt.” While the country at large had some pretty good rains from November through January, we haven’t had much relief until this week in the Midwest, he says. Weather is personal, you may feel fine that your area is now out of the drought, or very concerned if you are still in a severe to extreme drought area like I am here in Southwestern Minnesota. The next few months are going to be critical for our area crops.
We’ve had very little snow in our area this winter, and what we have had has been a dry type of snow. Snow falling on frozen ground does little to recharge the subsoil moisture, and that is where we need water. Without gentle long term rains, we will have our crops come up and then die.
Last fall we did some digging in the fields. This digging left me concerned for the 2013 crop. There is so little water in the top 4 feet of the soil profile that I wonder how roots will get down to the little bit that is below 4 feet. Compound that with the needed tillage to get our crops started, tillage that will dry out those top few inches, and we could be in real trouble.
Our area of Minnesota usually needs drainage tile to dry it out so that we can actually get tillage done. Depending if your soil is more clay, sand or rock, you will have more or less water in it. Organic matter, sometimes called loam, from old roots and buried plant stalks also plays a part in the water holding ability of soil. Our soil varies from heavy and wet clay loam to almost pure sand. Sandy ground takes near continuous rain since water runs right through it, while clay soils tend to hold water tighter. In our area even the clay soils are dry.
Even deep rooted perennial crops like alfalfa and our younger trees are showing the stress. Our late season alfalfa last year was a disaster, and I have several evergreen trees that are dropping their needles. These are not good signs for an available water source.
The only bright spot in the planting season is the advent of more drought resistant varieties. Choice of drought tolerant varieties of field crops along with genetic modifications that help to control root pruning insects and encourage root growth may just give our corn and soybeans a chance to get down to that deep water. This is going to be a real test. I know that we now plant corn and soybean varieties that are so much better than when I started farming, but I still worry.
So now we wait and see. A third year of dry weather would be very unusual, but the whole climate seems to be changing. We have been moving away from long gentle rains to rapid downpours. Rapid rains do not stay on the land, long gentle ones do. If these dry conditions persist we may have to rethink the crops we grow in this area. Time will tell.
Filed under: blizzard, cold, Farm, Minnesota, snow, travel, weather, weather wisdom, wind, winter | Tags: clothing, cold, farm, Minnesota, nature, safety, travel, weather, wind, wind chills, winter, winter clothing
The winds are a howling in our grove and the little bit of snow they can find is making life difficult. With wind speeds of 30 to 40 mph and temperatures near zero, we now have wind chill ratings of 20 below with sunrise wind chills near 30 below. This is not a night to be stranded out in the open.
We live on U.S. highway 71, so usually we can count on some relatively easy driving conditions. The plows gets out and opens these main roads early. Tonight the highway patrol has closed 71 from Windom to Willmar. Local police have even stopped in at high school basketball games to tell folks about the danger of being out tonight. This is serious.
Unfortunately I am prone to thinking I am an exception. After all I’m a Minnesota farm boy, we’ve had to be out doing chores in stuff like this most of my life. Now I’ve seen people who will brave winter in shorts and a tee shirt, I’m here to tell you that I am not one of those people. I know how to dress for the weather. If the wind blows you need protection.As I age the weather seems to affect me more and more. Oh yeah, a quick trip out to the mail box or the wood pile may see me with just shoes and a hooded coat but long pants are always part of the winter gear, when the winter wind blows you need layers! Insulated boots and heavy socks for the feet are mandatory, maybe even two pairs of socks. I have several pair of felt lined jeans that can go under insulated bib coveralls for the lower body. A cotton tee with a heavy flannel shirt goes under a heavy hooded coat to cover the upper body. I usually make do with a baseball cap, but when the wind really blows I have a head band I put over my ears to keep the cap on. If it’s really cold the cap is replaced by a stocking cap to keep the head warm, that’s all under that hood. Don’t forget the heavy gloves or mittens with a pair of cotton gloves underneath for the colder weather. If you want to survive a Minnesota blizzard even this may not be enough, but at least you will stay warm if you can find a place to get out of the wind once in a while.
So when the wind blows like today, I’d advise you not to be out in Minnesota. Some of us have to work here, and we’ll dress for the weather, but even we will not be far from shelter for long.
Filed under: Ag education, Farm, fertilizer, food, organic | Tags: Agriculture education, environment, farm, Food, organic, organic farming, sustainable farming
There is a big push by some in the food industry telling people that they need to be raising the food we eat sustainably. So what is sustainable? Do small organic farmers fit? How about large organic farms? Can you be sustainable and raise your crops conventionally using herbicides, non-organic fertilizer, insecticides and/or fungicides? Many have tried to tell me that only organic food is sustainable, is it. Some have tried to raise crops organically and had to sell their farms since they could not earn enough income.
I was just reading a post from One Hundred Meals called “Supporting our Farming Habit” <http://onehundredmeals.com/2013/02/17/meal-seven-supporting-our-farming-habit/> where Grant was writing about organic farmers who’s businesses were failing. So if you produce food organically and you fail are you still a sustainable farm? There are many farmers who raise their crops in a non-organic manner who’s farms fail, where they not sustainable?
The truth is that the way you farm does not make your farm sustainable. A farm is sustainable if it can earn enough to cover expenses. There are organic farms and non-organic farms that are sustainable, they earn their owners enough to pay the bills and a living wage.
I understand the idealism of those who profess to be organic only proponents. They truly feel that there is only one way to farm, but to do so, they must be willing to pay more for their food, in some cases a lot more.
My parents and grand parents were raised on organic farms. In those days it was not known as organic, it was just the way you farmed. When my grandparents were born farm folks earned barely enough to feed their families. When my parents were born, a farmer supported maybe two families. When I was born a farm family could feed bout 20 people. All of this was done with hard manual labor, very little machinery, the only fertilizer used was produced on the farm, no herbicides, no insecticides, no fungicides. More than half of a city persons income would go to paying for food. In those days people died young, living without the medicines we take for granted and could not travel far from home. So much has changed since then.
Many of the practices that are called unsustainable today are those practices that allowed our children to get city jobs. They are the reason that one farm family today supports 155 off farm consumers. Yes, some farmers still struggle to earn enough to pay the bills, but their places are being taken by those who can sustain farm income in a manner that pays the bills. I do not believe that because a farmer does not grow his crops a certain way he is unsustainable. The consumer will tell him by either buying, or not buying his produce if he is sustainable or not.
So here it is, if you want to eat only organic food, do not buy it because you think it is sustainable, but because you think it tastes better, if it does. Those still left on the farm are doing their best to supply you with the foods you want. Support them, and be willing to pay the prices they ask for their labor. Organic farming is not sustainable unless you do.
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Animal care, Farm, food | Tags: Agriculture education, agvocate, farm, Food
Talk about food and people can get very emotional. Talk about how our food is raised with a farmer and you also get raw emotion, especially if you try to portray his life’s work as damaging to the land, our environment or those who eat the food he raises. As the consumer gets further and further from the farm, some have started to portray agriculture as something gross and dangerous. That can get farm folks a little bit prickly and some have been known to lash out. What we all need is some civil conversation.
Some in the farming community have started to understand that we need to tell our story ourselves or someone else will tell it for us and we may not like what they say. Since many of those who are spreading the untruths of our food are using social media, it has been natural that social media has also been the method used by farm folks to tell what really happens on the farm.
Don’t get me wrong, there are bad apples in farming as there are in all areas of life. The majority of the farming/ranching community does not condone the things they do. We do not, however, like it when the worst of the worst gets portrayed as the norm. There are also some common practices in agriculture that the consumer does not understand. These practices are based on science and our critics are using emotion, the two are not equal.
I have been very happy to watch many of my peers take on these misconceptions in agriculture in the social media. Most of these agvocates are young and female, but there are a liberal number of young men and even some of us older folks in the mix. Groups such as “Finding Our Common Ground” have popped up that are populated with these agvocates working to answer the questions of our food buyers.
Now there is a soon to be released book, out February 14, 2013, by one of these young agvocates that hopes to bridge the gap between farm and foodie, it’s called No More Food Fights! Written by Michele Payn-Knoper, the book is ”a call for decorum instead of mayhem in the conversation around food and farm.” Michele’s blog “Cause Matters” <http://www.causematters.com/> was one of the first I found when I started my blog.
Instead of a front and back cover, there are two sides to Michele’s book – the food side and the farm side. It is designed for both farmers and foodies to read about issues from each prospective. I know the book will get a lot of interest from the farmers and ranchers, and I’m looking for a similar interest from foodies. Hopefully this book will help us all to get rid of the pricklies.
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Farm, history | Tags: Agriculture education, farm, history
Paul Harvey’s recitation of “God made a Farmer” in the Superbowl ad has a lot of
people talking about the changes in farming. So how much has farming changed
since Paul’s speech in 1979 and today?
Using the numbers from our most recent U.S. Agriculture Survey (2007, a new one
is being conducted for 2012), here are some interesting comparisons:
In 1978, there were 2,257,775 farms, averaging 449 acres each. In 2007, those
numbers reduced to 2,204,792 farms averaging 418 acres each. Farmers today
are actually smaller by 31 acres.
Today the market value of farmland and buildings is $1,892 per acre. That is up
from $619 per acre in 1978 – an increase of $1,273 per acre.
Today we have 922,095,840 acres of farmland in the United States. In 1978, that
number was 1,014,777,234 – a decrease of 92,681,394 acres.
In 1978, 56% of farmers claimed farming as their primary occupation and 44% of
farmers claimed zero days away from the farm work.
Today, 45% of farmers claim farming as their primary occupation and 35.3% of
farmers claim zero days away from the farm work.
Our average farmers have aged almost 7 years since 1978. Today the average
farmer is 57.1 years old.
The numbers have changed, and so has much of the technology farmers use to
produce much more food on much fewer acres, but the person remains the same.
The characteristics, values, hard work, determination, and grit it takes to work day
in and out, producing food for a global food supply, still holds true 35 years after
the late Paul Harvey first made his description.
My Thanks to Ryan Goodman for putting these figures together for me.