Minnesota Farmer

30 days: Blogging after the harvest

Wow! I’ve reached day 30 of the 30 day challenge, and I still have things to say!  Today it’s blogging.

Back in 2009 I was at a Minnesota Farm Bureau meeting where we were challenged to get involved in a new thing called Social Media.  Activist groups were taking over this new mode of influence.  Some very nasty things were being said about agriculture and we were challenged to get involved and tell our story.  The thing is, that if you are not involved in setting the table, the next thing you know, you may be on the plate.  The goal is to stop fighting over divisive issues that some are pushing to the forefront.  We are trying to stop the food fight.


Author Michele Payn-Knoper calls for decorum instead of mayhem in the conversation around farm and food. http://www.causematters.com/farmfoodbook/

I am not your usual blogger.  Most bloggers are younger and female, so a mid-50’s (now 60) male on the blogosphere was a bit unusual.  Yet I did have something to say, and I hoped that with my years of living someone would listen to me.

To get a large enough audience you have to say things people want to hear, share your personal stories and get known.  Then, when they are comfortable with you, you can write opinions that may, or may not be well received.  You also need to be reading, and responding to, other people’s blogs.  A well thought out response may just make someone curious enough to check out what you are saying.

I also think it is important to write carefully.  I am distressed when I read well thought out comments or blogs that are full of spelling and grammar errors.  To be believed, I think you must write like you actually have a few brain cells tied together.  Now I do not write with perfect grammar, but I do hope that I write well enough that my old english teachers would be surprised at my progress.  Back when they knew me, I was a farm kid who had no intention of being a writer.

Today, I am still amazed when people stop me and comment on something I wrote.  To have local people reading my blog is unexpected.  I have had many nice things said about me when I do chance to meet one of my fellow bloggers at a Farm Bureau meeting away from home.  All I can do is say “Aw, Blush, Thank you” when they do.  I have even been asked to comment on agriculture issues and had them reposted or quoted from by bloggers I respect, some of them from very far away.  This is getting to be more than I had ever expected.

This month I have joined other agriculture bloggers in an 30 day challenge to write something every day for 30 days.  I have been pleased to join these folks in this challenge.

30 Days Bloggers

It has been an interesting 30 days for me, and I hope for you also.  I invite you to contact myself or one of these other farm bloggers if you have questions about what is being said about our food.  I can tell you that they will take your concerns about the food you eat seriously.  If we do not know the answer, we can steer you in the correct direction.  So thank you for joining us on this 30 day challenge of blogging.



30 days: Getting ready for snow after the harvest
November 29, 2013, 8:21 am
Filed under: Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, snow, Tractors, weather, wind | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Here in southwestern Minnesota snow in the winter is a given.  We have had years with little snow, but most years have enough snow so you have to be ready for it.  So it’s day 29 of the 30 day challenge, let’s talk snow.100_2527We’ve already had three warning shots of snow.  The snow was beautiful and it melted.  Now the average daily temperature is below freezing and any more snow we will get is less likely to melt.  Lakes are freezing over and the ground has a bit of frozen earth also.  Our next snowfall is likely to last.

I put in the posts for my snow fence before the ground froze, soon I must put the fence up.  There is an art to snow fencing.  A snow fence does not keep the snow out, but stops it from blowing.  The area down wind from the snow fence will develop a pile of snow and less will blow onto areas where you do not want snow.  Notice I said less.  Here on the prairie wind will continue to move snow long after it has fallen.

Also on the list of things to get ready for snow are loader tractors and snow blowers.  I prefer a snow blower to a loader.  A loader tractor leaves a pile that becomes a snow fence, a blower puts that snow into the wind and deposits it far from where it was.images

It’s time to get the tractor hooked up to the blower and have it ready in the shop.  I’m not wanting snow, but when it falls I want to be ready.

So here’s to being prepared for winters worst.


30 days: Giving thanks after the harvest
November 28, 2013, 8:15 am
Filed under: Fall, family, Farm | Tags: , , , ,

George Washington was the first president to proclaim a day of thanksgiving, issuing his request on October 3, 1789.  It wasn’t until President Abraham Lincoln set apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise” that the U.S. had an official permanent Thanksgiving day.  During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders similar to this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.  So on day 28 of our 30 day challenge we take time to give thanks.

538971_558244154239721_540770175_nThese are some of the folks that will be coming to our house to celebrate.  Family is foremost in my giving thanks.  There are so many other things to give thanks for.  I would like to leave you with the litany we used in church last night.

“Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth sky and sea.  We thank you, Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ, We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends, We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think and hearts to love, and hands to serve, We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play, We thank you, Lord.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity, We thank you, Lord.

For all the valiant seekers after truth liberty and justice, We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places, We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in our Lord Jesus Christ; to Him be praise and glory, with You o Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, Amen.

Almighty God our Father, your generous goodness comes to us new every day.  By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness, give thanks for your benefits and serve you in willing obedience, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, Amen”

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

30 days: Keeping up with the tech after the harvest

Changes in technology have changed every part of life in this world, and agriculture is not exempt.  So for the 27th installment of the 30 day challenge let’s talk a bit about keeping up on the farm.

Back in the 80’s I was one of the early farm folks to computerize my record keeping.  As much as possible I put all of our financials, herd records and inventories on my old 128K Mac.  So much has changed since then, but I’ve had a bit of trouble keeping up.  Today’s young farmers are pushing technology on the farm now like I was then and there is so much more to use.  My father, at 83, is even more behind in his understanding of the technology, but happy to use it if someone else will set it up for him.Unknown

My first “computer” in the tractor was a spray monitor.  It dramatically improved my ability to control how I applied weed control products to my fields.  Instead of having to measure off a known distance and measuring the amount of water applied, now the computer changed application rates on the go to calibrate our chemical applications.  Every step along the way we have improved on that computer assisted ability.  I know that our current spray controller is old technology and it is less than ten years old.  I could have even more control if I updated my equipment.

Raven spray control

Raven spray control

Our combine harvester is 15 years old.  For us the technology is cutting edge, and yet I know I could have so much more.  We have automatic control of the header height that even tilts the head if one side is too far off the ground.  We have a monitor that tells us the moisture and yield of the crops as we harvest them.  There are shaft monitors and grain loss monitors, it is indeed a high-tech machine, but it is not even close to what is found on modern combines.

Computers inside the cab are increasing in modern farm machinery

Computers inside the cab are increasing in modern farm machinery

You can get satellite images of your farm that will help you find out things you never knew were important.images

Tractors tied to satellites and the Global Positioning System are taking over the steering and leading to greater efficiency mainly by decreasing overlap when tilling fields.  The technology also means an operator is not as tired after a long day in the field.Glen08-gps1

Lest you think that technology is only found in crop machinery, let’s talk a little tech in livestock.

Lely-astronaut robotic miker

Lely-astronaut robotic milker

There are robotic milkers that do all of the things that human milkers used to do.

automatic hog sorter

automatic hog sorter

Our new hog barn has a computer operated hog sorter that weighs pigs and puts the market ready ones in a separate pen from those not ready for market.  If something goes wrong in the barn, the computer will call and tell us what the problem is.

Most of this new technology is also wired so that it will tie into your home computer or smart phone.

Technology is driving the new advances in agriculture.  We are being asked to produce more with fewer inputs and less damage to the environment.  I just know that farmers are up to the task, and the new technology of agriculture will be there to help us.



30 days: Tinkering after the harvest
November 26, 2013, 1:49 pm
Filed under: Fall, Farm, harvest, repairs, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Yes, tinkering, attempting to repair or improve things around the farm.  All farmers do it.  There’s a bit of time so maybe that tractor needs a better step or the gate needs a new hinge, there is so much to do.  Many improvements that are found on modern machinery started in some farm shop.  Sometimes whole machine lines and businesses started out with a farmer tinkering in his shop.  We can’t let the engineers have all of the fun.

Harvest was long and hard, but the list of things that were not quite right on machines is fresh in your mind.  Perhaps you can fix them, or improve them.  Now is the time to do things that may or may not lead to improvement.

My dad loves old tractors.  He has several that he has spent time restoring over the years.  Me, I prefer wood, although I have been known to do a bit of welding.  The shop is warm even though the cold wind is blowing across the prairie.  Must be something I can build or fix.

There is so much to do after the harvest is over.  We have a few days left in the 30 day challenge, today is day 26, where do I go from here?  Check it out tomorrow.


30 days: Assuring Quality after the harvest

The harvest is over and it’s time to make sure we are doing our best to provide food for the world, it’s time to take some tests.mdalogo-smlSitting by my computer is the manual for my Private Pesticide Applicators license.  The Minnesota Department of Agriculture wants to be sure I know what I am doing when applying any pesticide on my farm.  To keep my license I am tested every three years.  The manual covers things like pest management, pesticide laws, protecting the environment and safe handling of pesticides.  To protect the food that I produce and my family that lives here I choose to be licensed to handle the chemicals used on my farm.

Livestock producers also have the opportunity to be certified in livestock production.pqaPlusLogoYou can take part in the Pork Quality Assurance programPbqalogothe Beef Quality Assurance program or steldev3000003be a USDA Certified Organic producer.  Everyone of these programs, and many others, are set up to protect both us and the consumer of our products.

All of these programs take extra work for the farmer and rancher, but we do it for ourselves and for the consumers of our products.  If you are going to do something you might as well be the best you can be.

This has been my posting for the 25th day of the 30 day challenge.  You can find more information on myself and other 30 day challenge agriculture bloggers by following the links.


30 days: making the sale after the harvest
November 25, 2013, 11:53 am
Filed under: Ag education, Fall, Farm, history | Tags: , , , , ,

So the crop is in the bin and life is good, or is it?  Now may be the most important time in a farmer’s life, getting his crop sold at a price that will pay the bills.  So on the 24th day of our 30 day challenge let’s talk about making the sale.

If life were simple a farmer would take his crop to market and always get a price that would pay the bills.  But life is not simple.  Buyers always want to buy cheap and sellers always want to sell high.  Times of high demand rarely mesh with times of high supply, and harvest time is notoriously the lowest price for farm products.  Everyone knows the crop is there and must come to market, setting the price can be really hard.

In an average world prices go in predictable cycles.  The lowest prices would be found nearest harvest and the highest prices would be found at the point furthest away from harvest.  You would develop a marketing roller coaster that looks like this.tylerarticle930The problem is that even though farmers know of this cycle, they end up selling most of their crop on the lower end of that roller coaster.  Sellers want just a bit more, so they wait for the very top of the cycle.  Then as the prices start to go down they hold on in panic, sure that prices will get better.  Many end up selling in despair of ever seeing the hoped for top again.

Periods of lower crop supply or excess crop supply will change how this roller coaster runs.  Highs can get higher and lows can get lower, or the whole thing can flatten out and there will be little difference from high to low.  Sometimes the high can come just before or after harvest and really mess up your plans.  Selling your crops for a price that will pay the bills can be difficult to impossible some years and no problem at all others.

Farm folks spend many hours in the off season studying markets and reading market opinions.  If they are lucky they will sell most of their crop on their way to the top.  Unfortunately that is rarely the case.  Still, it is a game we have to play if we want to stay in farming.

So next time you start to think that farming is easy, ask a farmer to explain to you how markets work and what he does to market his produce. I’m sure it will leave your head spinning.