Filed under: Farm, history, science | Tags: ageing, brighter future, children, flexible mind, good old days, history, science, technology
A flexible mind may be more important than any other attribute in life. I’ve noticed that the only thing sure in this world is change. I’m not one of those who look back and yearn for the “good old days,” because I have seen so much of today and tomorrow to embrace.
I’ve heard it said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect different results, and I’ve come to firmly believe it. I have watched way too many people keep trying the same thing over and over and wonder why it doesn’t work. Many of the organizations I belong to are complaining of declining membership. When you dig in, you find them doing the same things that did not work the last time. It seems to me it time to try something new.
I grew up interacting with older people, but today I like to be around young people. They help to keep me young. The most encouraging young folks to be with are the bright up and comers in technology fields. Agriculture also has its tech wizards, and the things they are doing are really going to change the way we farm in the future.
Having a positive attitude in life also can help you stay flexible. If you see only the bad in change you will forever be suspicious of change. Instead look to see the positives, and perhaps even look for ways that change will ease the more unpleasant parts of our existence.
So flex on. Talk to the bright young people in your life about what they see in the future. Read about the new and the exciting innovations that are coming in our world. Trust that we will overcome our problems. Wrap your mind around some new ideas of a brighter future.
Filed under: family, Farm, history, Minnesota, time, travel | Tags: aging, children, contemplation, farm, friends, history, looking back, Minnesota, travel, turning 60
I grew up a child of the 60′s, an era when young, politically active, people were proclaiming that you should ” never trust anyone over 30,” and now I am twice that age. It has been a long interesting ride.
Supposedly when you get old you are full of wisdom and are entitled to being listened to with respect, but I do not as yet see myself as being an elder. For me there is so much yet to learn, so much yet to do.
I never really felt I fit into the mold the world thought I should fit into. As the eldest of three children living in rural Minnesota I had few friends. I interacted more easily with the older folks in my family and community than my peers. I was conservative when the talked about people in the world where liberals. My people skills were poor and I was afraid of conflict and of doing something that would embarrass my family.
I was, and still am, bookish, preferring to read rather than interact. Because of a tendency to motion sickness however, traveling and reading do not mix, so I watch the world around me when I travel, or I sleep. I can sit for hours in a public place and just people watch. No matter where I am there is always something interesting to watch.
My job is mostly solitary. Long hours in the field allow contemplation. I have learned to observe the little things that occur around me, hawks diving at mice, clouds, growing plants. I will solve work related math problems in my head as I work and contemplate moral and political issues as I travel up and down the rows of cropland.
I am lucky to have found a best friend that I married. Although not always on the same page, we mesh in so many of our beliefs and interests. We have raised three children who still think we are relevant.
I have been a joiner and a doer. The list of organizations that I have held jobs in is long. This activity has given me the most satisfaction, since I have had to get out of my shell and deal with people. I have learned so much about the world and my country in my travels for these organizations.
So turning 60 has not been so bad. I’ve had a good life so far, and am looking forward to some good years yet to come.
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: 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: 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: Corn, family, Farm, farm animals, food, garden, harvest, hunger, Minnesota, Soybeans | Tags: Agriculture education, Corn, eat local, family, farm, Food, garden, harvest, history, machines, Minnesota, Soybeans
We live in an area that is not exactly food diverse, because of market availability we do not raise many crops here. Our area is mainly corn and soybeans and a bit of wheat and alfalfa for field crops. For livestock we mainly raise swine and beef with a few stray sheep, goat, milk and poultry producers in the area. Fruits and veggies are relegated to gardens with only a few making their way to a farmers market. Our problem here is not lack of produce for the local eaters, nor lack of soil or climate that can produce food for our locals, but a lack of customers. We produce more food here than can be eaten in the local area. The average farmer in the U.S. now produces enough food to feed 155 people. Because of our distance from markets where our produce can be consumed, we have a history of producing products that move on the hoof to market, beef and pork. Those who live closer to a population center can and do produce the perishables that are consumed fresh.
We are lucky to have harvest facilities for both pork and beef in our area. A little to the east there are processing plants for sweet corn and peas. Most of this production is shipped to the east coast. There are a few scattered vineyards for the production of locally consumed wine and craft breweries for beer. Some local gardeners set up stands to sell their excess produce in season. Beyond that, we also ship in most of the food eaten in our area. We have no local producers of bread, pasta or rice, and tropical fruits, chocolate and seafood are still craved here just as they are in the city.
As I said, our markets drive our production. The livestock of our area are our chief consumers of field crops. Until WWII the only way to get produce to market was to walk it there. There was no interstate transportation except the railroads and most production was consumed on the farm for the horses that worked the farm. Except for wheat, milk and eggs there was not a lot of produce that was sold to others. As more and more people moved to the cities the need for food to move from the farm to the city increased, thus was born modern agriculture. Now with only a few percent of the population left on the farm we have developed machinery and crops that feed those who do not work the land. Ninety-eight percent of the food produced in our country is produced by families who care for the land and animals that feed our world.
Although some in our world would like to eat local, it is just not practical when you live in the city for all to eat that way. There is not enough food produced within a few miles of our large cities to feed the city, you need the farmers and ranchers of middle America to produce enough to feed not only the cities of the U.S., but the world. So eat local if you want to. In the mean time I and others like me will be putting food on the table for the many who do not have access to, or the money to pay for, locally produced products.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, rain, science, seasons, Soybeans, spring, weather | Tags: climate, Corn, drought, dry soil, farm, harvest, history, Minnesota, nature, Planting, rain, science, Soybeans, spring, weather
There has been a bit of talk lately of what this last years crop year was and what next years will be like. What is past is always a bit easier to know.
A month ago we started work on a new barn. Part of the process was to dig a rather large hole 4 feet deep. The clay under the top soil was dry. It made for some very easy digging. What does that have to do with next year and what does that say about this years crop.
Back in May a Minnesota Public Radio reporter talked to me about the prospects for the future with an early planting and a future of a very large crop. You can read that story here <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/05/24/corn-crop-outlook/> When he asked me what I thought of the USDA prediction of a large crop, I laughed and said they were guessing. A few months later he came back to talk to me and the talk was not about a record crop and depressed prices, but of a short crop and prices at historically high levels for months now. That story is here <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/11/15/business/2012-minnesota-crop-report/>
So much changed just weeks after the May interview and so much can change now. Historically we have only a 5% chance of a drought this next year, yet the least expected option often happens. So how do we get from dust to a banner crop? Rain.
We will get rain. If it is enough is not in our hands. I was blessed to be raised in a part of the country that has small chance of a drought, but much has changed in my lifetime. Centuries of man’s wanton waste of the energy resources of our earth have tipped us into new territory. I hesitate to try to predict the unpredictable.
In the meantime I will plan and prepare. The soil is here, I will protect it. The rain will fall, I will use what is given to me. The sun will shine and plants will use it. God willing there will be a harvest again next year.
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: 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: Corn, Farm, Minnesota, planting, Soybeans, Tractors, weather | Tags: Corn, farm, global warming, heat dome, history, machines, Minnesota, Planting, plants, Soybeans, summer heat, weather
Are the farming practices of today actually lowering temperatures? That is the question that came up at a recent marketing meeting as we considered the prospects for yields this summer in the face of dry conditions in Southwestern Minnesota.
It’s a known fact that asphalt, concrete and roofs are raising the temperatures in our cities. There has been an effort made to add green plants to the roofs of our country. Green spaces and trees are encouraged in parking areas and along city streets. These efforts are as yet making little headway in the heat dome associated with large cities. Could the reverse be working in farm country?
We were told that the last time Southwestern Minnesota had a 100 degree day was back in 1983. I remember from my childhood that 100 degree days were possible, but not abundant. Still no summer was complete without a few. Today the carpet of green in corn and soybean country is something that is new in the modern era. For the 100 degree days to go away in the face of increasing global temperature, something must be happening.
When the pioneers came to this area the hills were covered with the green of the prairie. The lush green of spring and summer always gave way to a dustier grey green and then tan and brown as the year went on and spring rains decreased. Late summer temperatures could build up as the browns of autumn allowed the earth to hold heat.
Then the farmer broke the prairie and planted mostly wheat and oats. These crops, like the prairie grass before them used the rains of spring and summer and then were harvested leaving fields either black or brown from late summer into the winter. Farmers needed the wheat for a cash crop and the oats to feed their horses. Corn was rare here although present, wheat gave a better yield. Livestock was still a major part of the landscape and pastures were needed to feed a few cows and the horses.
As corn yields increased, wheat became less popular as a cash crop. Corn had previously been a crop for human consumption, now it fed an increasing number of chickens and pigs, both animals that thrived on seeds. As modern machinery moved in, we learned how to chop up and store the whole corn plant making it feasible to use as a winter feed source for cattle. The production of young cattle moved to river valleys and western, drier areas where cultivated crops had a hard time growing. To ready cattle for market, they were moved to corn country, or the corn was moved to them.
A major change in technology, the tractor, made further changes in the way farming was done. 16,000 plants per acre was an incredible population in corn fields of my youth. There was no way to keep the weeds out of the field short of manual labor, and many corn rows were still planted far enough apart so you could get a horse between the rows, 38 to 40 inches.
With todays modern machinery, the use of herbicides to reduce weed competition and careful use of fertilizer, farmers are planting over 30,000 corn plants per acre in 30 inch, 22 inch or even 20 inch rows. Even soybeans are planted in narrower rows, between 7 and 15 inches, to shade the dirt between the rows and hold the moisture and keep weeds down. Both corn and soybeans stay green longer into the fall than did wheat and oats, thus reflecting heat that otherwise would reach the ground. The result is a steamy jungle in the fields. The plants are drawing moisture from the soil and “sweating” it out. This moisture seems to be holding down daytime highs and raising night time lows.
To show you what difference green plants can make, just look to our deserts. With no plants to cover the ground, daytime temperatures can soar over 110 degrees, even in northern deserts. At night temperatures drop dramatically, sometimes approaching freezing. Add green as in our forests, and daytime temperatures are decreased and night time temperatures increased. One of the major factors used to slow desert growth is the introduction of trees. It has been proven that deserts increase where trees are removed.
So are todays farming practice actually lowering temperatures? It sound possible. Perhaps we can look to farmers, ranchers and foresters to help us hold off global warming.