Minnesota Farmer

From thin air
August 8, 2016, 6:07 am
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Animal care, Farm, farm animals, food, Wildlife

I’ve been seeing, and perhaps you have too, these posts about animal free meat put out by groups like PETA and others.  They are promoting a product that is grown without killing animals.  Their contention is that even organic labels do not go far enough and we need to produce our meat proteins in the lab, not on the farm.


But lab meat is not all that great for the environment.  Lab meat must be “exercised” to grow, that takes electricity, which requires fossil fuels.  Animals have all kinds of built in immunities to disease, lab meat needs antibiotics to keep it clean.  There are waste products associated with the production of lab meat that must be disposed of.  The most confusing part for me however is just where do they think this meat will come from, thin air?

You need a food source of some kind to make this meat.  It takes sugars and amino acids to grow this stuff.  Where will they come from?  Right now land that will grow food for people is already in production.  If we must produce sugars and other products for a factory to produce meat, it is going to take land that is currently not tilled to make the raw materials, land that is currently in pasture or forest.  We’re going to have to clear forests and cultivate land that should never be worked to produce meat in a factory that can be produced so easily by just letting the cows eat that grass.


Oh yes, the cows are eating that grass right now despite the talk you get from PETA about animals housed in filth, our beef is grass fed for most of it’s life.  It is only in the “finishing” stage, when the fat needed to make a burger or steak juicy that cows go in to confined feeding, and even then most of what they eat is whole plant based, not grain (corn, barley or wheat) based, and that filth is removed quickly to be used as nutrients for growing more grass and grain.

Livestock (cows, sheep, goats) grazing environmentally sensitive lands is what the vast majority of the meat eaten in this world is based off of.  The bison of North America and the huge herds of African grazers helped develop the grasses that they can make into meat.  Our domesticated animals are just picking up where they left off.


The difference is that man has helped make his grazing animals much more efficient than the vast herds ever were.  Modern animal husbandry is producing more meat on less grass and grain than the wild herds ever could.  Today in the U.S. there are fewer grazers on the land than there were in the wild days of human expansion, yet they produce many times more meat.  Careful management of pasture land has great environmental advantages over just letting the herd go.

Man protects his livestock from predation and disease.  Man shelters them from the sun and cold.  Waste products are spread on the land to grow more food for the animals.  It all becomes much more efficient than the smaller farms and ranches ever could be and the environment and those who enjoy a bit of steak or hamburger at a low price are the winners.

Young McDonald

Many in our country complain about the large farms and, to them, questionable technology that is used on today’s farms.  The truth is that we no longer live in “Old McDonald’s” world.  In an effort to produce more food using fewer inputs, Old McDonald and his son have adopted the technology that makes the rest of the world run.  So instead of Old McDonald, I offer you here the words to a new farm song,  Young McDonald.

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

And on their farm they use a lot of technology, E I E I O

With at smart phone here and a computer there, here and iPad, there some GMO’S, everywhere there’s new technology,

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.


Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

And on their farm they have lots of computers, E I E I O

Figuring rate of gain here and days to market there, watch the weather, watch the market, computers are helping everywhere,

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.


Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

And on their farm they have some smart phones, E I E I O

With a hash tag here and a photo there, call the seeds man, call the feed man, and what’s the latest on the weather forecast,

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.


Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

And on their farm they have some GPS’s, E I E I O

With a turn left here and a turn right here, keep that planter moving straight and increasing efficiency of that tractor,

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.


Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

That new technology is helping them everywhere, E I E I O

With use less fuel here and use less herbicide there, they’re producing more with less on their farm everywhere,

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

A bit misunderstood

How easy it is to misunderstand something that only a few actually do.  Those who left the farm when they were young remember the good times and paint a picture of an idilic life free of care, with dogs, cats, and horses to play with.  Perhaps they remember driving big machinery and they remember that they were happy.

Back when farming was simple, all you needed was a strong back, but even then many could not handle farming.  There was a time when most of the worlds population hunted for or raised their own food.  Back then most people never lived much past 25 or 30.  Those who survived taught those survival lessons to their children, those children managed to live a few years more.  That hard, dangerous life was easy to leave for the city, where now they dream of the simple life back on the farm.529984_495798610485209_1247879837_n

Today in this country we have people who never set foot on a farm trying to tell farmers what to do.  Those folks seem to think that we here in the country live the simple life.  Oh my, are they wrong.  The fact is that farm life is so complex, that there is no one body of knowledge to cover it all.

Back when I was a boy here in southwestern Minnesota, my dad and mom raised corn, soybeans, oats, alfalfa, dairy cattle, beef cattle, hogs, chickens and ducks, plus there was a large garden.  They got by somehow knowing a bit about all of those.  Today the margin of error is so tight that farmers have been forced to specialize.  Today we raise corn and soybeans and I have trouble keeping up with all of the new advances.

I talked recently to Tony who rents our hog barns.  I had been in the business of producing pork for 30 years, but the changes in the last ten years are hard to comprehend.  We used to be farrow to finish, we bred the sows, farrowed the pigs and raised them.  When we gave up pork production it was partly because we could no longer meet market demands.

Today, Tony only raises pigs.  Someone else breeds and farrows the pigs.  Because he only raises pigs he is better able to keep up with the demands of the market.  It is like that in all of farming today.  There are very few who can keep up with the changes in all of agriculture so they specialize depending on what the climate, land and market give them.

Farmers make up less than 2% of our nations population.  Those few folks are further broken down into producers of corn (dent, sweet and pop), soybeans, wheat (spring and winter, hard and soft), cotton, milo, sugar beets, rice (wild, white and brown), sunflowers (confectionary and oil), apples and other northern tree fruits, tree nuts, citrus, the many different varieties of vegetable producers, honey, pork (breeders and finishers), dairy (broken into the many different breeds), beef (breeders and finishers), sheep (meat and wool), goats, chickens (layers and broilers) and turkeys, plus a few that I have forgotten.  There are dry land farmers and irrigators in the mix. These producers can further be broken down into organic and non-organic producers.  Each area of the country that produces a crop will have some unique problems of their own.

As you can see, farmers are a diverse lot who specialize in many different fields.  It has been easy for those who do not know us to think one of us is representative for all of us.  We all know how to get things done on our own farm in our own area of the country, but fall short of knowing the whole story.

So please, when someone who has never set foot on a farm tries to tell you how farmers should do their job, find out if they really know what they are talking about.  I’m sure they will not.  When you need information about what happens on a farm, I invite you to check with your local farmers.  The ones who really know their job will be glad to fill you in, but remember, don’t expect a beef producer to know how to raise chickens or an organic sweet corn producer to know how to produce macadamia nuts.  We all have our specialties.


Time to step up

The EPA thinks it’s time to back off on an environmental issue, and I don’t understand it, who do they think they are?  Why is an environmental  group backing off on enforcing the law?  We need to defend the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The issue is over a proposed change to Renewable Volume Obligation numbers for 2014 that oil companies must provide as part of the RFS.  The EPA is siding with oil companies and saying that they do not have to obey the law.  At issue are RINS, those interesting certificates that ethanol producers create when when they produce renewable fuels like ethanol.

Big oil companies were supposed to use those RINS when they blended in ethanol, but they have not. Instead they let smaller companies like Holiday, 7-Eleven and Casey’s blend the ethanol for them. Big Oil would purchase these RINS for little or nothing so that they did not have to make changes in their refineries that were required by law.  Back when RINS were worth 5 cents a gallon that seemed like a good deal.  Now RINS are worth $1.50 or more and big oil will have to fork over big money to get those RINS and pay off their obligation to the government.  They are looking at some serious money here and they are screaming “bloody murder.”  Just the hint that the EPA was considering reducing the requirements of the RFS sent oil stock prices soaring and netted big oil billions of dollars.

For years now oil companies have been required to use ethanol as an oxygenate since their previously used oxygenates were found to be highly toxic to the environment.  Because of the success of ethanol the oil companies and others have promoted a “food vs. fuel” debate blaming ethanol production for the rise of food prices.  Research has since proved that oil prices have a much greater effect on food prices than does the cost of producing ethanol.  This is a fact that Big Oil would not like you to know.

Farmers producing food and fuel is not a new thing.  In a previous post “It’s always been this way” I talked about how farmers have raised food and fuel for the world for as far back as there are farms.  Oil companies would like you to think that we cannot produce both food and fuel on the farm when it has always been our job.  Today we produce more food and fuel on U.S. farms using less fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides, land and labor while protecting the environment than at anytime in my life.  Today 95% of the food and fuel produced on U.S. farms is produced by farm families.

So now you need to step up and let the EPA know that they should not let Big Oil off the hook.  The RFS was put in place to protect our environment and produce jobs here in the U.S.  Now just as the production of the Next Generation of ethanol plants are starting to come on line Big Oil wants to gut the RFS.  This will put more of our troops into harm’s way protecting the worlds oil supply when we can produce all we need right here.  Big Oil has not done it’s job in obeying the law while America’s farmers and small business owners have.

What you need to do.

  • Write a letter or send an email to the EPA.


  1. Mail: Air and Radiation Docket and Information Center, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail code 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington D.C.
  2. Email: a-and-r-docket@epa.gov
  3. Online: Visit www.regulations.gov  search RFS  click on Renewable Fuel Standard Program; 2014 standards  Click on Comment now
  • Be sure to include Docket number: EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0479 in your comments.

Send a copy of your comments to your U.S. Senator and Representative.  Also send a copy to President Obama.

We need thousand of people to tell the EPA to enforce the RFS or Big Oil will get its way and Americas people will be the ones who suffer for it.


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: Promoting our products after the harvest

100_2506Farmers not only produce crops and livestock, they help promote them as well.

I was recently able to take part in the dedication of the first “Blender” diesel pump in the state of Minnesota which was installed in Heron Lake.  The Heron Lake Cenex is just down the road from Brewster where area soybeans are processed into soybean meal and oil.  Some of that oil is further processed to produce biodiesel.

basic_logoFor many years now farmers have worked to find new uses for the products they produce.  Although industry may develop some of the new uses you find, in agriculture it is likely that farmers, banding together in co-ops (a cooperative enterprise) are behind the most innovative ones.  The modern day use of ethanol fuel is largely because of the promotion and backing of farmers.  Here in Minnesota most ethanol production plants are at least partly, if not wholly, owned by farmers and their families.100_2503

Blender pumps are not new.  They have been around our area for years now selling various grades of ethanol blends to be used in E85 vehicles.  What is new is the ability to buy higher blends of biodiesel.  I expect that the higher blends of biodiesel will not be popular now that colder weather has set in, but come summer, area farmers will be flocking to the Heron Lake Cenex to put more of their product into truck and tractor tanks.

If you have questions about products produced from our crops you can ask a farmer.  We know where your food and fuel start and are happy to be producing both for you and your families.

So there you have it, day 12 of the 30 day challenge.  Look for me out there promoting what I grow.


Do you want the real story?

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

I’m Farming and I Grow It (Parody Song) – YouTube

Today a really good video came to my computer from Midwest Dairy producers that is one of the best I have ever seen.

Feeding‘ A Nation (Parody Song)

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.529984_495798610485209_1247879837_nNot 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.

To D.C. with MN Farm Bureau
Farm Bureau Members Travel to Washington D.C.

Farm Bureau members from across Minnesota met with their members of Congress in Washington, D.C. during the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation’s (MFBF) Farmers to Washington, D.C. trip March 12-15.

The trip began with a briefing from the American Farm Bureau Federation on current issues. Participants met with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken; Members of Congress Collin Peterson, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan and staff members from the offices of John Kline, Michele Bachmann, Erik Paulsen and Betty McCollum.

During their meetings, Farm Bureau members discussed a variety of issues affecting agriculture. Top areas of focus included fiscal policy and tax reform, passing a five-year farm bill, biotechnology, short-term and long-term agricultural labor, duplicative and unnecessary regulations, animal care, Renewable Fuels Standard, food safety regulations, transportation and the Water Resources Development Act.

“Research shows that the most effective way to communicate with your members of Congress is in Washington D.C.,” said MFBF President Kevin Paap. “It is vital to agriculture for our Senators and members of Congress to put a face to the families involved in Minnesota agriculture. Farm Bureau’s Farmers to Washington D.C. trip provides this opportunity.”

Farm Bureau members also met with officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) including Deputy Undersecretary – Natural Resources and Environment Ann Mills; Robert Ibarra Jr. – USDA Risk Management Agency director and Robert Riemenschneider – USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Deputy Administrator; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Senior Agricultural Counsel Sarah Bittleman; and officials from the Embassy of Canada.

More than 5,000 Farm Bureau members from across the United States travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with their congressional delegation. For more information about Farm Bureau’s legislative process, contact your county Farm Bureau office.

Minnesota Farm Bureau is comprised of 78 local Farm Bureau associations across Minnesota representing farmers, families, food. Members make their views known to political leaders, state government officials, special interest groups and the general public. Programs for young farmers and ranchers develop leadership skills and improve farm management. Promotion and Education Committee members work with programs such as Ag in the Classroom and safety education. Join Farm Bureau today and support our efforts to serve as an advocate for rural Minnesota, http://www.fbmn.org.

February 11, 2013, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Animal care, Farm, food | Tags: , , ,

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.

no-more-food-fights-smNow 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/&gt; 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.


At it again

It’s been a long week.  But one of the most interesting days I had this week was spent in St.Paul at the Farm Bureau Council of County Presidents meeting.

Each year the Minnesota farm Bureau’s county presidents get together to find out what is going on in our state and national politics.  We have people from many different state, and if we can get them, federal organizations come in and brief us on the things happening in their area.  It is a chance to get to know each other and to find out about issues we will be dealing with. Below is a picture of myself with some area Farm Bureau members as we greet our State Senator Bill Weber.8451501258_816a72c025_mThe Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) recently held the Minnesota Farm Bureau Council of County Presidents meeting on February 5 at the University Club in St. Paul with 120 Farm Bureau leaders, elected and appointed officials in attendance. County Farm Bureau presidents heard from state legislators, as well as Minnesota Agriculture Water Resources Center Executive Director Warren Formo, Minnesota Board of Animal Health Executive Director Dr. Bill Hartman, Minnesota Department of Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Douglas Knowlton, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner John Stine, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Deputy Commissioner Dave Schad, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Policy and Government Relations Director Bob Meier and Minnesota Department of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Jim Boerboom. Pictured left to right are Dave Van Loh-Minnesota Farm Bureau District III director, Kevin Bock-Redwood County Farm Bureau vice president, Mike Wojahn-Cottonwood County Farm Bureau president, Senator Bill Weber (R-Luverne), Susan Hansberger-Nobles County Farm Bureau, Tim Hansberger-Nobles County Farm Bureau president and Rachel Daberkow-Jackson County Farm Bureau president.