Minnesota Farmer

Where does your food dollar go?
March 26, 2014, 8:34 am
Filed under: Ag education, Farm, food | Tags: , , , ,

Those of us in the farm community know that we get very little of the consumers food dollar.  It varies from commodity to commodity, but here is one of many graphics that helps to answer that question.dollarchart1These are overall averages and do change from food to food and season to season.  The more processed, the less goes to the farmer, and the less processed the more goes to the farmer.  If you eat at home, more of your food dollar goes to the farm than if you eat in a restaurant.

For most items in your grocery cart travel some distance to get to you.  Right now most of the fruit and fresh veggies on our grocery shelves is from South America.  If you want fresh fruit in the winter it has to come from somewhere warm.  This is why winter produce costs more.  Still this is a more efficient way to get fresh produce than any other way we know of.  The best food will always flow to where it can get the best prices.

Road reporter

This morning the roads were covered with about one inch of new snow and slippery in spots.  No wind, but rising temperatures were making for messy travel.100_0762

I’ve been stopped several times this past winter by people who have been thankful for my morning road reports from my southwest Minnesota bus route on Facebook.  When you hit the road by 6:30 and are back in town by 8, you get a good look at morning roads.  Mostly they are people who live here and want to know what is outside their door, but I have also talked to people who are away and traveling.  They like to know how things are going back home.

Road conditions now as spring is approaching are not as critical.  The winter prairie winds here make travel miserable at times in winter as it blows the snow and it can make travel conditions treacherous.  Now our only worry is a late season dump of wet snow that makes for slippery roads.  Spring travel is much easier.

I could also give you wildlife reports from my dawn travels.  For instance this morning I saw 20 deer and 2 pheasant roosters.  images

The deer are really starting to move now that winter is losing its grip.  For a while there was no movement, but now they are looking for new foraging spots and are moving from trees to fields and back again.  It’s fun to see where they have been after new snow.  I would put deer numbers at a stable level, but down from about 10 years ago.images-2

The pheasants have been absent most of the winter, and I know it has been a hard winter for them.  The fact that I have seen no hens, and very few roosters, has been distressing.  Last summers late snow had already cut into pheasant numbers.  Now ice, heavy snows and wicked winds may have further pushed down numbers.  I would place pheasant numbers at a very low level now.

There is a lot to see on my morning bus route, including some of the best sunrises in the world.  I’ve been glad to hear that people are checking in on me, perhaps you have been also.


Adapt or die
March 23, 2014, 4:04 pm
Filed under: history, Music, time | Tags: , , ,

“The South moves North the North moves South a star is born a star burns out
The only thing that stays the same is everything changes everything changes”

From Time Marches On by Tracy Lawrence

It would be easy because of my advancing years (60) to want things to stay the same as they were yesterday.

Yesterday when I was young
So many happy songs were waiting to be sung,
So many wild pleasures lay in store for me
And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see.
I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out,
I never stopped to think what life was all about
And every conversation I can now recall
Concerned itself with me and nothing else at all.

From Yesterday, When I was Young by Roy Clark

But one of the few things I have learned is that time changes things, and we must adapt to them or die.  Too many see this world as a friendly place and do not see how we must wrestle life from the earth through sweat and struggle.  Our lives here in the developed countries are too easy.  When things go wrong we say “Why?” as if we are owed an easy life.  I’ve watched as even the poorest, most defenseless in the developed countries are guaranteed life.  Yes, we have the resources to provide for the poor and the cripple, but that is not the way of life.

Mankind has transcended the mundane struggle for life in most cases.  He has placed himself as a supreme being that no longer has to struggle unless he is severely disadvantaged.  So here is my warning to those who feel entitled, life is tough, and if you are living the easy life, it will not last.  We all are born in pain and struggle, and we all will die.

Sitting with Mama alone in her bedroom
She opened her eyes, and then squeezed my hand
She said, I have to go now, my time here is over
And with her final word, she tried to help me understand
Mama whispered softly, Time will ease your pain
Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same

From How can I help you say goodbye by Patty Loveless

So go ahead, look back on the past with fondness, but realize that the past will never come again.  You can live in the past, or change and embrace the future.  Life is about living today and planning for the future, the past is dead and gone.


Significant Shrinkage
March 20, 2014, 9:48 am
Filed under: Farm, seasons, snow, spring, Trees, weather | Tags: , , , ,

The weather has turned warmer but snow is not yet out of the forecast.  Nights can be frozen and sometimes even daytime highs may not reach 32 degrees, but the snow is melting.100_2644It seems as if we have lost two feet of snow in the deepest places.  Many tree lines and groves  hold three or more feet of snow yet.  The shrubs that hold this snow will be pushed down and may not come up again.  100_2643Our fields have lost most of their snow and now we have puddles in all of the low places.  Hopefully this will soak in and become water for our crops, but so far it is being held in place by the frozen ground.  Rivers and creeks are up with flowing water and many a waterway has funneled water down to area lakes.

Our snow pack has shrunk significantly, but there is much more that needs to melt.  We have about a month before we head to the field, hopefully the snow will be gone by then.


First green

It always amazes me how early the Marsh Marigolds come up in my pond.  The ice is barely gone and there is green.100_2641Today brought cold and the ice is hanging on to plants, but they will keep pushing through, despite the snow that overhangs the pond.100_2642And it is not a small amount of snow overhanging the pond.

This year was the 4th coldest on record for Minnesota.  We had an average amount of snow, and an above average amount of wind.  The pond was covered with much more snow than ice.  I broke open that snow pack many times this winter to keep some oxygen in the pond.  My aerator pump was buried in the snow and doing nothing so I had to get air into the water to keep the fish alive.  Now when our area lakes and rivers still have feet of ice on them, the pond is open, and new green has come.  There is hope for spring.


Bump in the night

There are times I feel that many people in this world have never grown up, they are still scared of things that go bump in the night.

Now I admit that the desire for self preservation is a good thing.  But there are times that we are afraid of things that have such a small chance of coming true that it is just plain disgusting.  Being involved in agricultural issues on the internet I see so many of those baseless concerns.  Where do they come from?  Most can be laid at the feet of attention hungry people, people who just want to be noticed and use loud voices to cover up their lack of facts.

The shocking truth isimagesif someone is telling you a story using words like shocking, there is most likely one chance in a billion you would be injured.  Case in point: The environmental Working Groups “Dirty Dozen List” a list of fruits and veggies that you should not eat because they contain pesticides residues.  So how bad are those fruits and veggies?2012 PDPAccording to the USDA, not at all bad.  47.4% of fruits and veggies tested had no detections at all and 52.07% had detections below tolerance levels.  The remaining .53% were only marginally above the already low tolerance levels set by the USDA.  You would have to eat tons more of these fruits and veggies everyday, and you still would not ingest enough to reach a dangerous level.  The USDA says that our nations farmers get an A+ for producing food for consumers with little or no pesticides in them.  Similar, low level residues are found on organic crops.  In a recent pesticide residue study in Canada, synthetic pesticide residues were detected on more than 40% of organic produce.  Similar results have been seen for organic in the US in the past. Again, these sorts of very low level detections for organic or non-organic crops reflect mainly the sensitivity of analytical lab methods – not any real risk to consumers.

Yes, you can find pesticides in organic crops, and no, they are not all from pesticide drift from non-organic crops or use of illegal pesticides on organics.  Some of those pesticides are naturally there, produced by the food crop.  These plants have developed natural toxins to prevent being eaten.  Those who eat these foods have also developed a tolerance for these toxins.

So there is your bump in the night, and it is a natural bump that will not hurt you.  So the next time someone tells you of a shocking new thing that is going to kill you if you use it, check the facts.  The loudest voices are not going to be the ones you need to listen to.  Get into the details and you will usually find that the bump is a soft plush toy falling out of your bed, not a monster coming to get you.


Sunrise poetry
February 27, 2014, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Ice, School bus, snow, travel, wind, winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I drive a morning school bus route.  I head west out of town in the predawn dark and get to watch the sunrise as I come back into town.  The sunrises of the last few days have been spectacular, and amazingly different.  Because I am driving I am not able to take pictures of them.  I have tried to use words to show the view I have had.

For a few days we have had some clouds at sunrise.  The emerging sun rose slowly painting the sky with pastel oranges and yellows flowing into blues and greens over the stark blue-white snow and the black trees on the horizon.  If by chance the clouds on the horizon have been thicker they will be outlined by a rainbow of colors.  Once in a while, if the sunrise is truly spectacular, the kids on the bus will raise their eyes from their iPads and notice the show.

Today was dramatically different.  The sky was cloudless.  Today the sun seemed to leap into the baby blue sky.  It went from a glow to a blazing yellow-white ball in the blink of an eye.  Today it was not the sky that put on the show, but the snow.  Blue shadows on the white snow cast wonderful patterns all over the place.  Snow ridges that had been sculpted by the wind were highlighted.  Bits of blown dirt and sand made arcs and swoops along the road.  Chunks of ice thrown off of the road by snow removal equipment made polka dots along the road.  Ice ridges made by compacted snow on the road made ribbons of white on the gravel roads.  I was entranced by the variations of pattern and shading created by the rising sun.  No one on the bus seemed to notice but me.

I have always enjoyed the sunrise more than the sunset.  It is more often enjoyed by people who are alone and thus much more personal than a sunset with friends and family.  Sunrise on the prairie is so different day to day.  I invite you to linger some morning over a sunrise.  I’m sure you will also enjoy the poetry of color that only a prairie sunrise can perform.



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