Minnesota Farmer


Water issues

I spent this last Wednesday at FarmFest near Redwood Falls, Minnesota.  As always, there were lots of displays and things for sale, but I always take time for some of the forums on current issues.  IMG_0674The 1:15 session was titled “Buffers, WOTUS* and other Water Quality Issues.”  Now when you get farmers talking water, you get all kinds of concern.  We are always talking about how little or how much water we have.  Water is life for both our crops and our livestock.  Water is a big deal on the farm.  Now if you add in government control of our water, you are likely to get fireworks. (*Waters of the United States, it refers to a bill that could increase government control of water way beyond what is reasonable.)

The forum brought together nine speakers from various backgrounds, mainly commodity and farm group leaders, plus the local legislator (who wrote the “Buffer” bill) and an assistant to the state secretary of Agriculture.  So here are a few nuggets of wisdom and some comments on water issues from the forum.

“We all want water quality, we just want someone else to pay for it.”  Now isn’t that the truth.  But who should pay for it.  Well it boils down to blaming the least vocal, least politically connected voices, lately that seems to be farmers.

“Currently in Minnesota about 80% of the waters that need a buffer already have one.”  That was a revelation.  When the governor started pushing for buffers along all the waters in Minnesota you would have thought we had a real problem, but most of the job is already done.  But the next one really did open my eyes.

“In many cases, waters that do not have a buffer, need something other than a buffer to protect water quality.”  Now isn’t that interesting.  So again we have politicians pushing for something that is only needed in a small number of cases and they end up creating a big fuss when the job is almost already done.

“There are no waters in the state of Minnesota that are clean enough to drink risk free, and have most like never have been.”  Now I’ve been canoeing in the “pristine” waters of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and I know that even there  you deal with fish, mammal and bird poop in the water and the bacteria they have that can cause distress in humans.  That is a remote area, in areas more densely populated and warmer that density of potential problems increases.  Waters that contain fish, entertain birds and have swimming and wading mammals, amphibians and reptiles will always contain risks for disease transmission, this is not new.

Groups that regulate farmers seem to be seeking out ways that they can push for multi-million dollar fines for doing activities that are not even in their rules to control.  Normal farming activities that are up to date and environmentally friendly to most are being levied with suits to see if the regulation will stick.  If farmers cave in, it becomes law.  “They want to face individual farmers, not farm groups.  If we contact our farm group we can combat these illegal taking of farm activities.”  As a group we can face up to those who wish to push the law too far.  The courts have been on our side, but one farmer cannot afford all of the costs of lawyers, that is where your commodity or farm group can help.  Do not suffer alone.

Now the comments turn more hopeful.

“The changes in U.S. Agriculture since the passing of the Clean Water Act in 1972 have allowed agriculture to have a smaller environmental footprint.”  Farmers get all kinds of bad press when they get bigger and increase the density of their endeavors, but the truth is once we get bigger we get more concerned about controlling all of the possible elements on the farm.  Two issues from our own farm.

1) When we raised pigs outdoors, pens were not designed to control manure runoff.  It was spread on fields at anytime of year with no concern for whether it may end up in a stream or lake.  Now every bit of manure is controlled and used as the precious resource it is.

2) Newer machines have allowed us to control crop chemicals in ways we never could before.  Now we can control our crop chemicals down to the fraction of an ounce.  This means using only enough, never too much of that expensive crop input.

“Water quality is improving in Minnesota, but as more obvious point sources of pollution are eliminated (factories and city sewage systems) the search for the next point of pollution goes to more and more diffused sources.”  In other words, we have already done the large part of cleaning up our act, if anti-pollution groups are to keep their funding they must find more places to put the blame that may not amount to much in the overall picture.

“Farm groups are being asked ‘Are we sustainable.’  Well, yes we are.  We have over 40 years of work on being sustainable.  We are not yet done on improving on our sustainability.  We now produce more food on less acres and with fewer animals than 50 years ago.”   We have less waste and fewer inputs for more yield than at anytime in my life, that means we are doing something right.

At times when we talk water issues and government policy, it seems as if everything is hopeless.  There are too few of us and we are so small.  Still if we band together, our voice can still be heard.  The courts have been good to us, if we get a chance to make our case.  Alone we are helpless, together we can protect this precious way of life that provides food for so much of the world.

 



Way beyond knee high
July 6, 2016, 7:48 pm
Filed under: agriculture, Corn, Farm, history, Minnesota, rain, weather

There was a time when corn that was knee high by the 4th of July was a goal to shoot for.  No more.

Today (July 6, 2016) I was out in the field and found our tallest corn already at 10 feet and still growing.  It’s even starting to show a few tastles which has only happened this early two other times in my life.

Alas, not all of our corn is this tall.  Spots that are sandy are starting to show the lack of rain and are still quite short.  Areas that were too wet at planting are also still short and not quite the deep green of the rest of the field.  Still, it’s looking beautiful out there.



There was a time
April 24, 2016, 6:47 am
Filed under: Farm

There was a time when we really needed the equipment we now have, but changes in the farm make much of it way to big.

I’ll soon be 63, my dad is 86.  In our younger years we had half of our income coming from pork production.  We had a birth to market plan the kept us busy year round.  As our bodies aged we got out of feeding those pigs, and being pushed around by and run into by those animals.  It was taking a toll on our bodies.  Think being hit by a 200+ pound line-backer in the knees every day.

The farmland we work has also been reduced.  We now farm 64% of the land we used to.  One farm was sold, and the other was rented at a rate that I just could no longer justify.  So here we sit with all this machinery and less work to do.  True, my dad at 86 is doing less of the work around here, but even if I was to do all the work alone we have way more machinery than we really need.

So now to the reason for this posting.  It will take me just three or four days to get all of my corn planted this year and another three days to plant the soybeans.  Yes, they will be long days, but I still will get up in the morning and drive a school bus route before going off to plant.  So if I seem a little laid back about planting season, I have a reason, It just does not take as long for me to get my crop in the ground as it used to.



Bus wounded, turkey missing
November 18, 2015, 9:40 am
Filed under: birds, bus, Farm, School bus, Wildlife

The area along the Des Moines river on County 14 is an area I know well.  It is an area teeming in wildlife.  Deer, pheasant, turkey, fox and coyote have all been seen as my bus rolls down that streach of county gravel.  I saw my first wild turkey there.  I hit my first deer on that streach of gravel.  Tuesday, the encounter was a bit closer than I wanted.  My bus windshield took a direct hit by a wild turkey.

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There were still 6 students on the bus when the turkeys flew in front of the bus.  The students of course, were excited.  Me?  I’d just about had a turkey come through the front window into my lap, I was a bit unnerved.

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My lap was full of glass, and there was no way I could continue taking the kids home.  We had a big problem!

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Lucky for us we were only half a mile from where our bus company manager lived.  I got to his place and the students and I were picked up by a bus from another route.  Everyone was safe, I only had one minor cut, the turkey could not be found.

This morning the students who had been on the bus were celebrities.  They were showing the pictures on their iPads and  recounting the whole experience.  I’m just glad no one was hurt except the turkey.



Friday at the Fair

Friday, Wife and I spent the day at the Great Minnesota Get Together, the Minnesota State Fair.

We waited to leave for the fair until after the morning bus route, so it was almost noon before we found a parking spot and got onto the grounds.  We had done more pre trip research than we usually do so we had some definite stops in mind.  Since it was almost noon, we headed for what is reported to be the best walleye on the grounds at Giggles Campfire Grill on the north end of Cooper Street.  Wife went for the walleye sandwich, and I had the Walleye Stuffed Mushrooms, Delish!

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The lumberjack show was on next door so we kept an eye on the action as we savored that wonderful walleye. I also sampled on of their Maple Bacon beers.  Not bad if you like beer you can chew.  This one came with a chunk of bacon in it.

In past years we have spent most of our time on the north east side viewing the exhibits in the buildings along Cosgrove Street.  This year we elected to head for the west side and found ourselves in the West End Market.  The market is a newer area of the grounds with quirky little shops and the best, and newest, restrooms on the grounds.  We had fun browsing and even buying an item or two.  These shops are more open air than the ones found inside the buildings and were more on the hand made side.

We had never been in to see the butter carving so we headed off to the Dairy Barn.  Unfortunately the butter carving was not in progress at the time but we got to see where it is done and the pictures of all the Princess Kay of the Milky Way candidates.

Wife had her sights set on some international foods so we were off to the south eastern side of the grounds and the International Bazzar.

Once we had checked the area out it was off to the Tonic Sol-Fa concert at the Band Shell.  Tonic Sol-Fa are Minnesota boys who have made it big in the a-ccapella scene.  We’ve been fans since way back when and are unsure how long they will be around.  What once was 5 are now down to 3 singers.  They still put on a good show.

The time was upon us to head off to work.  The folks at the Minnesota Farm Bureau had paid for our tickets to get into the fair so we had better be ready.  I just had time for one more beer and a pork chop on a stick, wife opted for something more exotic at the wine booth down the street and went to visit the KARE11 studio on the fair grounds, then it was time to go to work.

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We got our new tee shirts on and said goodbye to those on the previous shift.  Working at the fair is always interesting.  I always enjoy interacting with those who stop by the booth.  We had a visitor from Australia stop by this year looking for ways we promote agriculture so she could take them home with her.  I especially like interacting with kids of all ages.  Getting them interested in where their food comes from is a very important job.

The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) State Fair exhibit continues the tradition of providing fun for all ages. This year’s garden theme is a fresh Pico de Gallo recipe. Those stopping by the MFBF building receive the recipe and see the Minnesota crops that are used to make it.

The Minnesota State Fair tradition continues with the Minnesota Farmers CARE theme. Since more than half of Minnesotans have never met a farmer, MFBF has created an opportunity for the public to ask farmers questions at the fair. Minnesota farmers will be volunteering all 12 days of the State Fair at the MFBF building where fairgoers can meet farmers who are raising and growing their food.  I always enjoy the questions people ask at the fair.  Some are very easy, but some are hard to answer.  If you have questions about your food, here is where to get them answered by those who grow your food.

Adults and children can all learn something new about Minnesota agriculture. MFBF will have drawings for children’s books, including The Beeman, and a rain barrel. Walk away with a free thermal lunch bag or ice cream scoop by learning four new facts about agriculture and talk to a Minnesota farmer.

The MFBF State Fair building is located at 1305 Underwood Street, directly across from the Food Building and behind the giant slide.

Nine p.m. and the building closes.  It’s time to go find our car and head off to bed.  If we missed you at the fair this year, we hope you can make it next year.  It’s always fun at the Minesota State Fair.



Rainy start to fair
August 19, 2015, 5:59 am
Filed under: 4-H, fair, Farm Bureau, FFA, rain, weather | Tags: , , ,

It’s fair time here in Cottonwood County and we are off to a rainy start.  Rainfall totals are nearing 5 inches for the week and everything is a bit messy.  4-H and FFA entries are in and Open class entries are this morning.  Due to the rain I expect crop and garden entries to be light.  Who wants to go out into a muddy garden or field to pick entries.

I put up the Farm Bureau booth yesterday and finishing touches will be put on this morning.  I’ve got the first shift of the fair starting a 5 p.m.  Come by and visit for a bit.

Fair food stands open at 10:00 this morning, if the rain slows a bit all of them should see some business.  The 4-H is the only enclosed food stand so they will be doing a good business despite the rain.

At least the temperatures will be nice for livestock entries today.  That is supposed to change as the rains end and temperatures rise.  We could have some real fair time weather by Saturday with hot, muggy days, at least the nights will give some relief.

So come enjoy the fair.  Lots of people will be there to talk to and the entries will be amazing again.  The carnaval is set up on asphalt so there will be no mud there.  Our grandstand is enclosed and the entertainment will again be great.  Hope to see you at the fair.



It’s August
August 7, 2015, 7:55 am
Filed under: agriculture, August, Farm, summer | Tags: , ,

It’s August, and the living is a little easier.

I’m now a corn and soybean farmer, as such August is the time of year when not much is left to be done for field work and prep work for harvest is not really urgent.  I remember the days when hogs were our main source of income, and the chores never really stopped.  I have a beef producer friend who is gearing up for silage harvest.  For me, August is a slower time.

So what to do with myself.  Wife has some ideas, and those are getting done.  Farmfest is over, I spent a day there.  We have a family reunion coming up, I’ll be attending that.  The county fair is coming, as is the Threashing Bee and the State Fair.  Early September will see Labor Day activities and the Delft Furrow Makers plowing day with antique tractors.  All things to help occupy my time in what is the slow part of the year.

School is just around the corner, and I’ll be back driving school bus in just over 2 weeks.  That marks the beginning of the end for summer, but late summer can still be a bit slower.

So enjoy your slow part of the year, whenever that may come.  For me, it’s August, and the living is a little easier.