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.
Filed under: Biofuels, cars, ethanol, Farm, food, history | Tags: Agriculture education, biofuels, cars, climate, ethanol, farm, Food, fuel, horses, machines, science, transportation
Now stop and think about it. You are concerned that foods you eat may be diverted to use for fuel. You consider that this is a new phenomenon. The truth is that only in the last century or so has the earths surface not provided the world with fuel. Only when we dug down for coal, oil and nuclear energy did man move away from the fuels provided by the forests and fields of agriculture.
How did the horses and oxen of our great grandfathers generation move? They ate plant materials and turned them into energy. Before WWII most of the production of a farm went to feeding the horses and oxen that pulled the plows, wagons and buggies. Very little of the food produced on a farm actually made it into town.
When the train and the automobile were first introduced they was powered by ethanol, from fermented grains or other food crops, or steam, produced mostly from coal or wood, not oil, thus powering early trains and autos on the produce of farms and forests. Early oil discoveries were used in medicines and as lubricants. Then some oil man figured out how to make a motor fuel cheaper than ethanol and we moved into the modern era with our addiction to oil.
When Germany went to war it had very little for oil reserves and initially powered its war machine on potato alcohol. When bootleggers needed a fuel to outrun government pursuit they fueled their boats and cars with alcohol and ethanol. It is only since WWII that man has depended almost solely on oil for his motor fuels.
So you see, except for a brief part of history, man has relied on farms and forests to provide him with food and fuel. It is only in the “modern” era, an era of smog, pollution and global warming, has man relied on the fossil fuels of coal, oil and natural gas. Perhaps it’s time we got back to the farm to fuel our world. I’m not such a fan of pollution and global warming.
Filed under: fertilizer, history, make a difference, Politics, safety | Tags: culture of violence, gun control, gun violence, guns, history, politics, safety, violence
Again another senseless shooting. Again innocents die. Again the press and many anti-gun people talk about the culture of violence we live in, but do we? A culture of violence is one in which it is, or seems to be, right to be violent, is that what we have here?
I would have to say that here in the “Western Nations” we do not. We here look at ourselves and wring our hands and talk of all the gun violence, but we are safer here from gun violence than many other countries. If you want gun violence look to northern Mexico, the Middle East or parts of central Africa, there you have gun violence.
In most western nations we have police and a rule of law that is lacking in much of the rest of the world. Many think that because we still have people being killed with guns we must do more to ban guns, and yet violence will still find a way.
I myself have been bullied and treated violently, yet there was no gun involved. Every day we have adults and children treated violently, yet without guns. There are many more ways to die besides with a gun. For most of human history there were no guns, and yet people died at the hands of other people. Getting rid of guns will not stop the violence. If there were no guns people will still find ways to kill large amounts of people. Just look at the huge number who died when a few people took over three airplanes with box cutters, or the number who died when a fertilizer bomb went off in Oklahoma City.
We humans have not yet removed ourselves that far ancestors who had to use violence just to survive. There still are bad people out there who must be controlled, and because of that we still need people willing to use controlled violence to protect us. I bless the soldier and police force that has taken on that job.
Do I long for a day when there is no more violence in this world, Yes I do. Do I expect to see it in my lifetime, no, nor perhaps even in the lifetime of my grandchildren. Despite what we want to believe, violence is written into our DNA. It is well controlled by only a few, much of the rest of the people in the world are only a split second from doing something violent. Most likely that violence will be to protect someone they love, but it is there.
So please, act for and promote peace and non-violent activities. Just do not expect laws controlling guns to stop violence.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, dogs, Farm, genetic modification, GMO, history, Soybeans | Tags: Agriculture education, Corn, dogs, farm, Food, GMO, gmo debate, GMO's, history, mule, plants and animals, Soybeans, triticale
The GMO debate is on because of the prop 37 vote in California. Everyone seems to assume that genetic modification is new, or bigger than ever before, but it’s not. Here are some groundbreaking modifications in plants and animals that happened before we were able to move genes around in a cell.
Changing for humanity
Somewhere between 5000 and 10,000 years ago, mankind started changing plants and animals around him. You see, mankind was a thinking animal such as had never before walked the earth. Men and women started noticing that certain kinds of plants were better than others for food. They started protecting the ones that they found easiest to harvest, or producing more food. As time went on the protected plants changed. More and more they started showing the characteristics that people wanted. The grain heads became bigger, the fruit became tastier. Changes were coming because the need to protect themselves from those who ate them were no longer needed. Man became the protector, the spreader of the “best” seeds, fruits and tubers. Those plants that man wanted spread to new areas and became dependent on mankind.
One of the most changed of these plants was maize, corn here in the Americas. Corn had made dramatic changes before Europeans found this continent. The placement of the grain head had moved to the center of the plant and become larger. Seeds also changed size and shape. But the changes were not over. When Europeans started to pick larger ears in a more organized fashion the yield per plant increased. Then people found that if they cross-breed certain types of plants, you could get even more grain from each plant. Corn was easy to cross-breed. The male and female parts of the flower were separated from each other and by plucking off the male part you could force a cross between types. Inbreed lines were developed and the hybrid seed business was born. Maize became a tame plant that could no longer survive in the wild.
Other plants have also changed with human help. The modern banana does not exist in the wild. Wheat, barley, rye, peas, beans of all types changed to suit human needs. Most grapes and apples, if grown from seed will not look anything like the parent. If humans eat it, humanity has or will change it to suit our needs.
Animals also changed to suit our needs. The village dog of Africa is perhaps the most true to type of all dogs, yet even it is like nothing in the wild. Yes, you can cross come types of dogs with wolves, yet they are genetically different.
Consider the Terrier. Chosen as a rat killer to protect a farmers grain, it is small, energetic and savage. It’s large neck muscles are designed to shake a rat to death. It is the best for its job.
The many types of shepherds are also chosen for their jobs. They are gentile with sheep and cattle, yet know when to put a bit of snap in their jaws to get a stupid lamb to move. Shepherds are considered to be the most intelligent of dogs, and why not, they work daily with mankind and must be able to understand commands given by had gesture, word or whistle.
Greyhounds, wolfhounds, dachshunds, bull dogs, poodles, every type of dog you can think of was chosen for a specific job, the hunt, or protection, yet they all came from the same ancestor. The dog is molded to the needs of man, and because of that, they are everywhere.
Many seem to think that crossing species is a new thing. They have forgotten the mule and the hinny. Mules are the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. The hinny is the offspring a male horse and a female donkey. Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of chromosomes. A donkey has 62 chromosomes, whereas a horse has 64. Hinnies and mules, being hybrids of those two species, have 63 chromosomes and are sterile. The uneven number of chromosomes results in an incomplete reproductive system. This is a cross that goes back thousands of years.
Another newer species cross is triticale. Triticale (× Triticosecale), (/trɪtɪˈkeɪliː/) is a hybrid of wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale) first bred in laboratories during the late 19th century. The grain was originally bred in Scotland and Sweden. Commercially available triticale is almost always a second generation hybrid, i.e., a cross between two kinds of primary (first cross) triticales. As a rule, triticale combines the high yield potential and good grain quality of wheat with the disease and environmental tolerance (including soil conditions) of rye. Only recently has it been developed into a commercially viable crop. Depending on the cultivar, triticale can more or less resemble either of its parents. It is grown mostly for forage or fodder, although some triticale-based foods can be purchased at health food stores or are to be found in some breakfast cereals. When crossing wheat and rye, wheat is used as the female parent and rye as the male parent (pollen donor). The resulting hybrid is sterile, and must be treated with colchicine to induce polyploidyand thus the ability to reproduce itself.
These are not the only species combinations that mankind has helped produce long before modern GM methods were available.
Modern genetic modification started with tobacco. Tobacco seems to have been a gateway crop that modern GM testing began with in 1982. In 1994, a herbicide-resistant tobacco was approved that was developed in France. Herbicide-resistance was developed in soybeans the next year. Since then many companies and universities have used GM methods to try to change many of the plants and animals important to people.
With the advent of GM soybeans mankind started eating modern genetically modified plants. Those who balk at eating GM plant material have unknowingly been eating them for over 15 years now. There has never been a scientifically proven human health problem that can be traced back to GM products. In fact, if you look, you will see that all of the health problems that are blamed on GM food products had their advent before GM foods were introduced.
GM products are nothing new. Humans have been changing plants and animals around them for thousands of years. The modern methods of genetic modification have accelerated the process, but not produced the most dramatic changes seen in the history of our companion plants and animals. Humans will continue to shape the plants and animals that travel through history with them. Our modifications have assured that more and more people are fed on our little planet, and that is good, because every year there are more and more of us.
p.s. Some parts of this blog post were lifted verbatim from Wikipedia.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, food, history | Tags: Agriculture education, chicago board of trade, Corn, corn chips, corn flakes, corn prices, farm, field corn, Food, food costs
The city announcers are telling the woeful story of higher food prices to come. They are telling everyone that because corn prices are going up dramatically we will be having higher food prices soon. Here is why they are wrong.
Although field corn seems to be in about everything, it is only a small part of those items. The only foods that will be majorly affected by higher corn prices are things like corn chips and corn flakes, and most of those are priced already for some time to come. They also only have about 5 to 10 cents of corn in that $3 box or bag.
Buyers of commodities like corn use the Chicago Board of Trade to “lock in” their needs for some time to come in the future. They will buy massive amounts of corn as “contracts,” in 5000 bushel lots, when prices are low, and sell those same “contract” bushels when they actually buy corn. Thus they can even out the cost of the corn they need. They can hold off the day they really have to pay up for higher priced corn. If the price of corn goes down as it usually does at harvest, you can be sure they will be buying more corn.
Many growers of corn for items like corn flakes and corn chips grow special types of corn under specialty contracts. These contract prices have already been set for this year. They may go up for next year if there is a shortage of corn produced, but buyers resist changing the price too fast.
The price of corn does not directly reflect the price of meat. Grains like corn, wheat and barley are a major part of the rations of chickens, turkeys and pigs, and to a lesser extent cattle. Most producers of these animals either raise their own grain or buy it on the open market. They lock in their grain needs just like the producers of corn flakes do. The next generation of meat animals may require higher prices, but this one is set.
It takes time for the price of grain to cause a price change in meats, and usually the first effect of higher priced grain is for the price of meat to go down. Producers of meat animals will discontinue production of meat animals if they cannot make money as their input costs go up. This will mean that the mothers of these meat animals will be sold into the slaughter market to cut losses for producers. This will create an initial drop in the price of meat products before it goes up if demand remains constant. The exact opposite occurs as profitability goes up and more livestock are kept out of market for breeding purposes.
There are many reasons for food prices to go up, and you can be sure that your grocer will use any and all of them to tell you why you must pay more for food. The fact remains that the farmer only gets about 10 cents of your food dollar. If commodity prices were to double on the farm, you could expect only a 10% increase in food costs. Anything over that is going to someone else along the food supply chain.
Filed under: Farm, history | Tags: concrete silo, farm, history, machines, silo, Silo demolition, stave silo
The silo that stood on my father’s farm is no more. It was built about 45 years ago when we fed cattle. The last year we used it we had a fire in the feed that burned for several weeks. We have not had a cow on the place since then. It was time for it to go.
The silo and the instrument of its destruction.
First the silo shed is removed.
Then a hole is knocked into the silo’s side.
The hole is widened.
How much more can it stand?
The fatal blow! It begins to fall.
First if falls straight down.
Then it comes towards me…pieces fly everywhere.
It’s down, now all that is left is the cleanup.
That’s all, Michael
Filed under: food, history, house, time, travel | Tags: bureau of labor statistics, Food, history, medical care, recreation, transportation, travel
Filed under: family, Family History, Farm, friends, garden, harvest, history, Minnesota, pond, rain, safety, seasons, snow, South Africa, tillage, time, travel, weather | Tags: children, farm, friends, harvest, Minnesota, politics, rain, safety, snow, South Africa, weather, winter
When I started blogging two and a half years ago I really did not know what I was getting into. As time has gone by my blogs have fallen into a pleasant cycle of comments. I write about farming, politics and family. What is happening in my life shapes everything I write about. So it is again. Here’s some of the highlights from 2011.
January was cold and snowy, and the blog http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/minnesnowta/ told the weather story. On a more personal note I buried a friend after a farm accident. That lead to a farm safety blog.
In February I traveled with others from Southwestern Minnesota to South Africa as we visited with folks from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa. Learning to understand their joys and struggles as we helped them with some gardening projects.
March blogs were about politics and snow.
Snow again was a subject for Aprils blogs, along with how slow the snow was to melt, and the advent of rain which kept us from getting into the fields to plant our crops.
In May we got our planting done just a little bit behind schedule. I also posted stories of the new decorative pond I was installing as part of a long planned for landscaping addition. The plans had to be hurried because we had a wedding coming up in June.
Our daughter, Elizabeth married Michael Feltes on June 10, our anniversary. Postings of crop conditions, wedding planning and pond creatures are the main topics for the month. My favorite is the copy of the wedding toast I gave http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/father-of-the-bride/. I hope you enjoyed it.
July’s weather brought rapid crop development and hot humid weather. Our garden was starting to give its produce and most of the field work was drawing to a close.
August brought us http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/flash-drought/ and more postings of the happenings in our pond.
September found our crops rapidly reaching maturity, wood cutting and a farm safety program for area fourth grade children. I got to tell the stories of farm accidents I and others have survived, plus the death of my friend Doug back in January in http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/scared-safe/. The birth of twin granddaughters at the end of the month also highlighted my month.
October was harvest. I do not recall a fall where harvest went so fast, nor so easy. The lack of moisture after such a wet spring was a big part of that speed. Oh yes, I did post about those cute little girls that joined our family.
November was a bit slower month, but I was surprised by the popularity of a “how to” post I made called http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/santas-peeking-in/. It caused a big jump in readership of my blog.
December has been a winding down month. The lack of snow and warm weather has been most of what I have written about. I did have to put in a post or two about the new girls in my life with http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/christmas-with-granddaughters/.
It has been an interesting year for me. There have been joys and hardships and a lot of learning. So here’s the best to you as you look forward to the new year. There is one thing for sure, It will hold a lot of new opportunities for me to write about life. I hope you join me in 2012.
Filed under: family, friends, history, safety, time | Tags: friends, herefor, history, safety, senior moment
So you walk into a room, you stop and think, now what did I come in here for. Yep you’ve got the “herefors.”
The “herefors” can and do strike with no warning. Your day is going well, and they can hit you. You can get them at home or at work. It’s even possible to get them on vacation, except that when you are doing nothing they are less likely to find you. Don’t be concerned, they are not deadly, you will recover quickly if you just go back to what you were doing before they got you. You do remember what you were doing before the “herefors” hit you, don’t you?
“Herefors” are merely annoying if you are alone. When you are at work, they can be embarrassing, just brazen it out, and act like you came for something else.
“Herefors” are no respecter of age. They strike the old and the young alike. As you get older you can joke about having a “senior moment,” but they are not only for senior citizens.
There is no cure for the “herefors,” although a more organized mind will cut down on their incidence. Just accept it as part of life. Admit it, you came for a reason. Just stop and think, “Now what did I come in here for?”
Filed under: Corn, dogs, history, weather | Tags: change, Corn, dogs, history, weather
I’ve recently been in a conversation on technology in agriculture with another blogger that has started me thinking of all the way we humans shape the land, plants and the animals around us. Humans are the only creature that has affected so many parts of the world that they live in. Our actions have been far reaching, but they are not all recent.
We wonder at the modern marvels man produces, but some of his greatest marvels are not at all recent.
Perhaps the most changed animal on the earth is the dog. The dog most likely started out as a small wolf like animal. Once it took up residence with man, he began to shape it’s destiny. Today the multitude of dog forms from huge to tiny can all trace their way back to that same ancestor. And yet, if the dog was allowed to live in the wild, it would return to something very like its ancestor. We have created an artificial creature, in an artificial environment to meet our needs. Truly amazing.
Man’s shaping of plants is no less amazing. For millions of years mankind has chosen the best of the plants around him, nurtured and protected them, and changed them. Perhaps the most changed is Zea Maize, what is known as corn in the U.S. Maize comes in many forms, some suited to different climates, some to different uses. When people in the U.S. think of corn they usually think of sweet corn, that wonderful vegetable of summer. Another type of corn they think of is pop corn, a theater snack and household staple of the pantry. There is also, flint corn, pod corn, and the most common of all, dent corn.
Dent corn is the most misunderstood of the corn types. It is mainly used for animal feed, and as an industrial feed stock. One of its larger uses in recent times is for the production of ethanol. Dent corn itself is amazingly flexible. It can be changed easily by mixing specialized stocks to fill all kinds of industrial needs. It is also one of the easiest plants to bio-engineer. Despite all of this, dent corn will readily mix with other corn types and revert back to something more like what the Europeans found when they came to the Americas.
Mankind has shaped the land, sometimes to his detriment, by pushing back water and digging out minerals. We have done so much to shape the world, but like the dog, and maize, if mankind turns his back, it will go wild again. When we are most comfortable, there will be an earthquake, volcano or flood to remind us that we live in a wild world. Just thinking.