Filed under: cold, Farm, farm animals, food, Ice, Minnesota, rain, school, snow, spring, Trees, weather | Tags: cold, farm, fluffy snow, Food, Minnesota, nature, rain, snow, spring, travel, trees, weather
Wow, talk about some weather. We’ve been almost two years without a major storm in our area of Minnesota and now we get it all at once.
Monday we got a bit of rain, it was looking like our usual tenth of and inch and done storm.
Tuesday things started to ramp up with nearly an inch of rain, still not very interesting since it was only rain with a bit of thunder.
Wednesday things turned serious. Icy rain had fallen throughout the night. Area schools were called off because the road crews were having trouble keeping the ice and snow off of the road. Traffic was nearly at a standstill. Almost an inch of ice on trees was bringing down branches and power lines. Some areas have lost power but we were still in business. The days rainfall total was again nearly an inch.
Thursday dawned with nine inches of soft, fluffy snow on the ground. Most area schools were off for the day. It continued to snow for most of the day, but the temperatures stayed just above freezing so we also had quite a bit of melting going on. Tree branches that had held out for the ice were now breaking with the added weight of snow. Our area lost power about 11 a.m. Standby generators for the hog barns went into action.
We went into town to see if someone would feed us. All stores were dark and many were closed. Subway was feeding people until they ran out of bread. Runnings had employees with flash lights helping you find the things you needed. Hy-Vee was in full operation since they had enough backup power to run the registers and some lights. Food in need of being kept cold was being moved to refrigerated trucks. Power came back on for us about 3:30 p.m. but many are still in the dark.Today is friday and this April Fools joke still continues. School is finally in session, but area roads are not in good condition. We still have snow falling. Because the ground had started to thaw we have mud under our snow, if you break through the crust there is no traction, so it is easy to get your vehicle stuck. Much of the ice is now off of the trees, but the damage will take a long time to clean up. When the snow and rain have all been added up we are nearly a 3 inches of precipitation. If we can get it to stay this will start to get us on the way to a good crop.
Tomorrow the sun is supposed to come out and I would like to get started on branch pickup. By Sunday we are expecting more rain and temperatures are supposed to get more normal. That just might melt this latest snow fall. Spring may be here, but first we need to get rid of some snow.
It’s been wild, but we continue on.
Filed under: Ag education, Animal care, family, Farm, farm animals, food, food safety, organic | Tags: agriculture, Agriculture education, common misconceptions, corporate farms, environment, farm, Food, food safety, small farms
Agriculture is very important for human life here on earth, but because less than 2% of the U.S. population actually works on a farm, it is often a misunderstood career. Because farm life was and can still be hard, dirty and smelly work, many left the farm for the easier life in town. As our population gets removed several generations from the farm there are even more misconceptions, some of them, sadly, are perpetuated by farm folks themselves as jokes on non-farm folks (Chocolate milk comes from brown cows is one of my favorites). Still it is right for you to be concerned about where your food comes from and how it is produced. We on the farm are also concerned. We want you to understand us so that you will be as proud as we are of American Agriculture.
That leads to this Top 10 misconceptions about Agriculture I saw today. The author is Matthew J. Lohr, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, but the answers are good in any agricultural state.
MY TOP 10 LIST OF MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AGRICULTURE
By Matthew J. Lohr, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
As we approach Virginia Agriculture Week March 17 – 23, I decided this is the perfect time to address some of the common misconceptions about agriculture. Many of you will have a similarly-titled list, but our Top 10 may differ. If you want to share your list with us at VDACS, please e-mail it to our Communications Director email@example.com.
Like David Letterman, we will go from #10 to #1.
#10 – Small farms are unimportant. In many ways, small farms are the backbone of Virginia agriculture. They range in size from three or four acres to 150 acres or so, but they probably do the best job of any farms to provide local food. Many small farms sell directly to the consumer through roadside stands, on-farm sales, farmers’ markets and events. They are at the heart of the Buy Local movement and not only provide food but also provide that all important one-on-one relationship between farmer and consumer. They are also one of the fastest growing segments of Virginia agriculture.
#9 – All large farms are corporate farms. In Virginia nearly 90 percent of our farms are family-owned and operated. Many family farms are incorporated for business purposes or to ensure an orderly transition from one generation to the next, but incorporated is not the same as corporate. The vast majority of our farmers live on the land they work, and they have a very special bond with the land that may go back generations. Their roots run deep.
#8 – Farmers are destroying the environment. This is absolutely not true. In fact, farmers are the original good stewards of land and water resources. These resources are, after all, how they make their living, so it makes sense to protect them. I find it interesting that many of the complaints to our Ag Stewardship Program about perceived environmental problems are unsubstantiated. What the public perceives as an environmental problem often is not. At the same time that farms give us environmental benefits such as green spaces and wildlife habitat, they use far fewer resources than the average urban or suburban home.
#7 – There’s no future in agriculture. I’ll admit that for a few years, many of us were concerned about the future of agriculture and the next generation of farmers. But things are changing. Fox News recently ran a feature that said ag degrees are the hot ticket for job growth. They quote data from the Food and Agriculture Education Information System that says enrollment in U.S. college and university agriculture programs are up 21 percent since 2006. The data show more than 146,000 undergraduates in ag programs. This growing interest is critical for the future of food production, as world population growth is creating a greater demand for food, and the average age of farmers in many states is near 60.
#6 – Farmers are uneducated. This is a persistent myth and one we need to bust. The days are long gone when you learned everything you needed to know about farming from your grandfather. That doesn’t mean we discount grandpa’s advice, born from years and years of experience. It does mean that today’s farmers need post-high school training in a variety of areas: animal science, agronomy, environmental science, business, marketing, communications, perhaps even law and psychology. Today’s farmers also need to be life-long learners. If you’ve been on a farm recently, you’ve probably seen a farmer using his cell phone in the field to make decisions about planting or applying pesticides or fertilizer. That’s the kind of on-the-job training every farmer needs these days to stay competitive and make a profit.
#5 – The cost of food goes directly into the farmer’s pocket. A persistent myth in the eyes of the public and the media is that the only factor in food prices is what the farmer charges. Don’t we wish this were true? But in reality, only 15 to 16 cents of every food dollar goes into the farmer’s pocket. The rest goes for things like transportation, processing, packaging and marketing. Farmers can barely pass along their direct costs for feed, fertilizer, labor or insurance. Their indirect costs are even more difficult, and when drought, hail, hurricanes, flooding or other natural disaster wipe out a crop, they can lose most of their year’s income but still have to bear all of those direct costs.
#4 – Food costs too much. In some parts of the world, this definitely is true. It not only costs too much but is unavailable to many people. But in the United States, we have one of the most abundant and affordable food supplies in the world. In 2011, the share of final household consumption on food in the U.S. was 6.7 percent. The percentage in Switzerland was 10.2; in Japan, it was 14. China checks in at 21.3 percent and in Cameroon it’s 46.9. (Source: Economic Resource Service, USDA)
#3 – Our food is unsafe. Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the headlines of a problem with one commodity or one producer. The reason these stories are called news is because they are not normal. Normal in the U.S. is a safe, abundant, affordable food supply. I Googled “safety of the U.S. food supply” just to see what would pop up, and I found many articles and studies with this same fundamental message: The American food supply is the safest in the world thanks to industry and government efforts. Because our food supply is so safe, we have a luxury people in many countries don’t have; we can take it for granted.
#2 – Farmers abuse their animals. The very idea sends me into orbit. In any industry you will find a few bad players, and agriculture is not immune. But consider this, why would a farmer abuse his or her animals when those animals are the source of his livelihood? That’s just nuts. It may be a marketing ploy, but there is a lot of truth to the statement that “Our milk comes from contented cows.” Contented cows are going to produce more milk than cows that are stressed, neglected, starved or otherwise treated ill and farmers know it. The same goes for any other food animal.
#1 – All farmers are rich. Do I hear the farmers among you laughing? I can’t think of a single farmer I’ve known whose goal was to get rich. In Virginia it’s usually more like, “I hope I can make a decent living for my family.” If your goal is to get rich, frankly, there are many ways to accomplish that goal that are easier and quicker than getting rich through agriculture. We do have some wealthy farmers in Virginia, and I am proud of them. But even among those who are wealthy, I think the motivators for farmers tend to be of a more noble nature. We farm because we love it or because we love the lifestyle or we think it’s a good way to raise our children. We may farm out of a deep-seated desire to help, to make a positive difference in the world. Or we simply may realize that farming is not only the world’s oldest profession, but that it is the only one that is truly necessary. Bottom line, when we can’t feed ourselves, nothing else matters because we will be dead in four or five days.
Filed under: Ag education, Farm, food, house | Tags: Agriculture education, dirt, environment, farm, farmland, Food, housing, housing development, nature, science
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. Nine percent of our nations farmland is gone. Where did it go? Most of it went to housing.
When I travel to any city it is obvious to me that people do love to live outside the city. Suburban housing developments around cities are converting some very good farmland to street after street of houses. Nice flat fertile easy to farm land. As of now that land has a greater value as housing than as farmland. Despite losing 9% of some of our countries best farmland farmers have produced more food than ever before.
Farmers and agri-businesses are constantly improving crop yields so that more food and feed crops can be grown with the same, or even less inputs. We now use less water, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, fuel and labor to produce ever more and more food for the world than we did when I started farming 40 years ago. Our farming methods have changed in ways that reduce erosion. Although our machinery may be bigger we now use methods that do less damage to the soil. Indeed farmers are conservation minded.
Farmers are doing their best to protect the land. Dirt is our most precious resource and we treat it well.
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Animal care, Farm, farm animals, food, food safety, genetic modification, GMO, Music | Tags: Agriculture education, children, family, farm, Food, food safety, history, parody
Do you want the real story, or will you believe the “shocking” news of some entertainer? I’ve seen it so many times, a TV celebrity makes a statement or brings on a guest who makes a statement, that is totally at odds with the truth, and people actually believe it. When they make those comments about what we do here on the farm it can really hurt. I’m proud to tell you that a broad array of farm folks are stepping up to tell the real story. Among my favorites are the ladies at “Finding our Common Ground.” These young mothers are telling about what happens on the farm in a way that other young professional women can believe. One that came across my facebook feed today is about GMO’s. (http://findourcommonground.com/food-facts/corporate-farms/)
I’ve also watched the Peterson Brother do their thing in song parody that both entertains and informs. These young men and their sister are entertaining and informative. Check out one of their videos at
Today a really good video came to my computer from Midwest Dairy producers that is one of the best I have ever seen.
These are only a few of the many good efforts being made by agriculture today. The truth is that we few are a misunderstood group. What we do is shrouded in mystery because what we do is often hard, dirty work. Work that is rewarding in ways that many city jobs are not, but often so hard that many of our ancestors left the farm for the easier life in cities.Not only hard, but today very costly. It is harder and harder to get into farming without lots of money. For most of my life I struggled to make a living and feed my family on a farmers income. Because I was able to work with my dad I was able to keep going and now, 40 years later, can feel good about the life I live and the income I make. Today land and machinery prices are even higher and I wonder how the next generation will be able to farm.
My life is not “shocking,” but it is complex. We do things on the farm today in new ways because we have a heavier burden on our shoulders. When I started farming the average farmer fed 26 people, today he feeds 155. 98% of the farms are still family owned and account for 85% of the food you eat. In the last 100 years the average farm size has gone from 140 acres to about 500. Of interest is that there are now more farms today that there were 10 years ago, not hobby farms, but farms that are actually viable, $500,000 per farm gross profit farms.
So the next time someone tries to tell you how things really are on the farm, check out their bonafides. Do they really know what goes on on the farm, or are they telling you “shocking” story to get you to buy their book. You all are invited to check out the many farm stories that are now on the internet, and I know any one of us would love to hear from you. We’ll tell you what really happens down on the farm.
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: 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.