Minnesota Farmer

American Farm Bureau Federation’s 99th Annual Convention

This past week I was able to attend the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 99th Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show. Part of the reason I go is to participate in educational workshops that help me to expand leadership skills and impact policy discussions. There is the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of leaders in agriculture and witness keynote speakers in the general sessions. I get to explore the IDEAg Trade Show floor to gain a stronger industry network, learn about innovative technologies, and enjoy TED-style talks on the Cultivation Center stage.

An annual meeting gives you the opportunity to interact with others in agriculture and share your stories of the rural life. There were plenty of opportunities to tour the Nashville area and experience things only available in Music City.  I also met up with a few friends from across the country that I only see at a major event like this.

Since the Convention was held in Nashville we were lucky to get Reba McEntire as our Monday keynote speaker, but we also heard from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duval plus others.

Sessions I was able to go to included ones on Membership Recruitment, Talking to Consumers, Animal Activism and Religion, Crop Markets, Crop Insurance, Farm Policy, Retirement, and Dicamba.

The last official event of the General Session was an address by President Trump.  It has been 25 years since a president has addressed the AFBF, they are always invited, but few take the time.  Policy development sessions were scheduled for Tuesday, but not being a delegate we did no stay for that.

Next years 100th AFBF meeting is in New Orleans, a place I have yet to visit.  I’m seriously considering making the trip.


American Farm Bureau in Nashville

cropped-2013_blog_headerWe made the trip to Nashville for this years Annual Meeting.  Since my sister lives just south of the city it was a dual event.  Our weather started out really nice, and then went cold and rainy.  Wish we could have brought some of that rain home.

Essential things for the AFBF Meetng

Essential things for the AFBF Meeting

Site of the meeting was the Opryland Hotel.  It’s a huge place with 2881 rooms and 15 restaurants on 6 floors.  Because of continued expansion and no understandable structural layout the hotel is bit confusing.  Each hotel area has a central garden area that is really stunning, with each different in many ways.  The attached convention area was also a bit confusing so keeping a map within reach was really helpful if you were going someplace new.  They said we had almost every room in the place booked for Farm Bureau members.

Sunday morning started out for us with a Minnesota breakfast at 7:30 gathering.  It was a place to get to see most of the folks who made the trip from Minnesota.  It was also a chance for President Paap and his staff to give us our tasks for the event.  Since I’m not known to be shy, I was assigned 4 radio stations to call back in Minnesota at specific times.

After breakfast we gathered for the opening session.  Along with many awards and introductions of important people we all needed to know, we had an address from AFBF President Bob Stallman.  Bob talked about the challenges and triumphs of the past year.  Included in those challenges was the lack of a Farm Bill in the U.S. congress.  This lack of a farm bill leaves a lot of uncertainty for all involved in agriculture.  He also addressed some disturbing government regulations that we were able to stop.  These included a regulation that would have prevented farm folks from employing their children on the farm, and threatened regulations on a small chicken producer that would have forced them to get a pollution discharge permit when nothing was being discharged.

We also got to spend some time at the trade show where they had displays from each state showing what they were doing to promote agriculture, as well as displays from several agricultural companies.  We had our choice of seminars put on by companies and the Farm Bureau.  I got to meet some old friends and make some new ones along the way.  The evening was free to spend as we wished.

Fellow bloggers Ryan Goodman and Janice Person

Fellow bloggers Ryan Goodman and Janice Person

Monday included more seminars and demonstrations in both the morning and the afternoon.  At noon I joined other county presidents for a luncheon and a speaker.  Our closing session started at 3 in the afternoon and included more awards and contest winners.  We also heard from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who spoke of the optimism he has for the future of agriculture.  The real highlight of the day was Keynote Speaker Captain Mark Kelly.  He had a great story to tell.UnknownThat was the end of the sessions for the general public.  Tuesday brought the delegate session and regional caucuses, wednesday was the AFBF Board of Directors meeting, none of which I attended.

With the rainy and cold weather, the rest of our time was mainly spent indoors checking out area attractions including one night spent in a country music bar, we just had to check out Vince Gill andTTJ_LOGO_225group_MainFeature  It was a fun and restful trip, but it is good to be back home.


Sourcing food in Paradise

On my recent American Farm Bureau Federation trip to Hawaii I got into a few discussions about the food available in paradise.  When we are in such a lush area we may think that getting food would be no problem.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

First off you have to remember that Hawaii has a limited amount of land that is suitable for farming.  Much of the big island of Hawaii is covered in lava rock and has trouble supporting a goat.  The areas that are in production are mostly for raising cattle.  The largest cattle ranch in the United States is in Hawaii.  Little of the island is either suitable, or gets enough rainfall for production of food.

While on Oahu we drove past large areas that do get enough rainfall, and do have good soil for food production, but these areas are fallow.  Since sugarcane and pineapple production moved to other countries where labor is cheaper, no one wants to farm the land.

Hawaiian acres that are farmed are mostly used for the production of high cost items like coffee and macadamia nuts.  There are areas that seed companies use to get a winter crop of corn or soybeans, but again these are high value crops.  Very few are raising the staples needed for everyday life.  There is an abundance of tropical flowers, but most flowers cannot be eaten.

You would think there would be an abundance of fresh seafood in Hawaii as they have a tradition of farming the sea.  The shrimp industry is supplied by many farm raised shrimping operations, as well as both fresh and salt water ponds for fish production.  Most of these are sold to tourists at roadside seafood shacks.

But my conversation with a chef in one of the larger restaurants in Honolulu showed me some cracks in the food supply.

  • Despite having the largest cattle ranch in the country, there is nowhere to process these cattle.  Cattle must leave the island to be processed, so there is no major source of locally grown beef.
  • The islands large chinese population eats a lot of pork, but there are no large pork producers on the islands, and pork must be sourced elsewhere.
  • While Hawaii seems to be a fisher mens paradise, most of the fish eaten in Honolulu is shipped from other countries.
  • Despite the large amount of vegetables used in cuisine for those who like the oriental cooking preferred by so many in Hawaii, most is imported.
  • Rice, a stable in most of the meals eaten in the islands, is not grown here.

The list goes on.  In short, Hawaii is a land on the edge.  One person I talked to estimated that there was enough food on the islands to last 5 days, perhaps less in the more populated regions.  Wow, what will it take to put Hawaii over the edge, not much.  In fact, Hawaii, like most other large cities in the world cannot survive long if we have a major transportation problem.

Our modern world has become so dependent on so few to be sure it is fed everyday.  A shortage of transportation fuels would doom so many unprepared people.  I live in an area of abundance of food, yet a large snowstorm can decimate the shelves of the local grocery.

Hawaii and its food supply is a warning.  Where is your next meal coming from.  Are you sure there will be food to eat if something happens to our food distribution system.



On the beach

My recent trip to Honolulu for the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention was my third trip in the last three years.  With a daughter living there I have a local tour guide to show me around.  Although I have seen some of the usual sights, I’ve also been able to visit some out-of-the-way places too.  You see, the locals do not spend their time at Waikiki beach.  It is far from the best beach on the island of Oahu, much less the whole state, and yet many come to Hawaii and never see anything more than Waikiki.  A beach in Hawaii cannot be owned, it is public property.  Even in the most expensive housing areas, openings must be left so that anyone can walk down to the Pacific to surf, fish or sit in the sun.  If you have a multi-million dollar home, you will usually have a fence between you and the beach.  I’m going to show you a few of the places I visited this last trip, some beaches, some not, some famous, some not, but all Oahu, Hawaii.

from the Punch Bowl Memorial overlook

First of all you have to realize that Honolulu is squeezed between the mountains and the sea.  There is not a lot of place to put the city.  It has a good harbor which is what helped the city grow in this place.  The Kings of Hawaii had their favorite spot here, but it is now so overfilled that there is no sign of the wonderful beaches that kings and their families once played on.


All of these hotels are built on fill.  Even the sand is hauled in, they were bringing in more when I was there.  Waikiki is almost all artificial these days.  The waves are gentle and the temperatures are great, hotels and marinas crowd the edge of the Pacific.

Sundown at Duke's

This is a sight many come to Waikiki for, sundown on the beach, this one is from the terrace of one of the more famous watering holes, Duke’s.  The beach was crowded, the music was loud and the wait for a table was about an hour and a half.

Sunset in the masts

The next night we snapped this one from a eatery in the marina area called the Shorelander.  Again a beautiful tropical sunset.  Fewer people because there was no sand.

Portlock park

Here’s a small neighborhood park that is hard to find.  It’s on a dead-end street, there is no parking, it’s difficult to walk to, but it is no less spectacular.  Getting to the ocean is not the plan here.  Spending time surf side is the reason, and when the waves are right….

Portlock park

The waves this day were mere three footers.  It would be interesting to be here when the surf was really up.

Pillbox park

Here’s my guide at another out-of-the-way park.  There are hiking trailheads all over the place.  Most are way back in the neighborhoods with no parking.  This popular hiking trail was busy with families and young singles.  The views were excellent.

Here’s the beginning of the hike.  It’s not very promising is it.  It’s steep, it’s rough, and it is not well maintained, but look at what comes once you get above the trees.

Stop and catch your breath, this is the first pillbox, it is not our destination.  It’s straight down if you go left, and a long tumble if you go right.  This is considered an easy hike by the young ladies who were showing me the path.

Rare flowers can be hiding where you least expect them.

Do you blame these young ladies for making the hike, the view is wonderful, and a breeze takes away the sweat from your hike.  It only took about 20 minutes to get here.  That’s Lanikai down on the beach, and Kaneohe off in the distance.

Here’s a nice little beach that doesn’t get much traffic.  It is a favorite of ours since you access it from Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church.

Kualoa beach

The view towards the mountains from the beach here is not as well known as the one the other way.

Chinaman's hat

Most of the beaches on the windward (northeast) side have a long ways out to the reef.  The area from Chinaman’s Hat to Kaneohe is a large bay that is a local playground.

from Pali Overlook

This picture from the Pali Overlook shows much more open land on the Windward side (north) than you see near Honolulu (south).  There are even larger areas of open space on the west side of the island where all of the pineapple and sugarcane fields used to be.

On the right side of the picture you can see the island where they filmed the TV series Gilligan’s Island.  It’s easy to walk to the island, not at all a remote place.

Sandy Beach

There are many more beaches on Oahu than the kiddie pool that is Waikiki.  Next time you are in the islands check out a few.  Most have a lot more sand and a lot fewer people than Waikiki.  Do look for notices of danger spots.  There are beaches here that only daredevils use.  Stop awhile to appreciate the natural beauty.  Ask about local eating spots and seafood shacks.  Check out Shave Ice.  Perhaps you can even get your Shave Ice at President Obama’s favorite spot.  Perhaps one of the locals will show you the real Hawaii that is so near yet so far from Waikiki.

American Farm Bureau in Honolulu

it’s 2012, the time has come again for the American Farm Bureau Federation to meet in Honolulu, and this year I decided to take advantage of the fact.  Now I’m not a delegate or an exhibiter so I’m not getting my way paid by anyone, but I am a Farm Bureau Member and I do have a daughter who lives in the Aloha state, so I had at least two reasons to go.

As with any organization there were  meetings for the whole group and meeting for special groups, like the Minnesota Breakfast for the about 100 of us from Minnesota, or the County Presidents Luncheon which I attended.

There were also breakout sessions on subjects that members might find interesting like these;

  • Food and Farm Facts, Navigating Waves of Change in Advocacy and Agriculture Literacy
  • American Farmer: Heart of Our Country
  • Election 2012
  • 2012 Farm Bill
  • It’s Not What You Say, It’s What They Hear
  • Business Development
  • 2012 Crops Outlook Conference
  • 2012 Livestock Outlook Conference
  • Asia in the Present and Future of U.S. Agricultural Trade
  • Celebrating Differences:How to Capitalize on Diversity in Times of Change
  • Protecting your Estate:Essential Questions to ask your Estate Planning Professional
  • Operating in and Era of Hyper Regulation
  • Farm to Table, Aloha Style

Whew, I only had time to get to three of those, I wanted to go to many more.

All of this was held in the Hawaii Convention Center in Ala Moana neighborhood of Honolulu.

The Hawaii Convention Center is a four level combination of open air spaces and closed meeting rooms with all that the over 6000 farm folks could want, and plenty of space to do it in.  The exhibiter area was large,  There were multiple areas for breakout sessions and meetings as well as banquets and grab a quick meal areas.  Several restaurants were just across the street.

The beauty of Hawaii is that the temperatures are usually good.  Closed rooms usually have air conditioning, but all hallways are open to allow the out doors in.  Dress code for Farm Bureau conventions is Business Casual, but in Hawaii casual is the Sunday-go-to-meeting-norm,  a Hawaiian shirt is dressed up.  To Hawaiians we were over dressed.

Inside and out the building was beautiful.  Even from the back, everything was designed to welcome.  This water wall was hidden away where few conventioneers had to go.

I expect that in about ten years the American Farm Bureau Federation will be back again to visit the Aloha State.



Home!  It really is a great word.  It’s the place we long for, and always seek to be in the end.  When we get sick, there is no place like home.

This last week I had the opportunity to attend the American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii.  It’s a bit of a trip and not one of the cheapest convention sites, but I have a daughter there so this year I went.

I arrived Thursday evening, Em met me at the airport, and we went off to eat.  I got settled into my room and tried to sleep.  Now my plane landed at what for me would have been 9:30 p.m. so I should have been tired, but the “not home” bed and the noise of a city that is very late to quiet down kept me from getting a good nights sleep.  I took a morning walk, and before having lunch got some cough drops for a bit of a sore throat.

The next nights were not much better.  Yes, I went to all of my meetings, I had a good time meeting and getting to know new people, but my body was in rebellion.  I never did get a good nights sleep the whole time I was there, and the cough got worse.  I don’t think I ever slept for over 4 hours straight the whole time I was there.  Although food smells good, I can only eat a small amount and every restaurant portion is HUGH, each day I’m eating less.  I’m starting to run a low grade fever.  A trip to the drug store for some stronger cough, cold medicine didn’t help much.  Here I am in paradise and I getting sicker by the day.

Wednesday, the last day, I pack up, check out, and call Em to come take me to a doctor.  This day that was to be my last chance to see the sights and I’m seeing a doctor!  Prognosis, don’t know.  Em took me to her place where I got some sleep.  Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch, ah, comfort food.

The flight out is late, 9:40 and I’ve been in bed by that time most nights.  I try to sleep some when we are in the air, and must have, but I don’t remember it.  Before we got to LA I had the chills so bad I got a jacket out of my bag, I was COLD.  We had a two hour layover in LA and all I wanted to do was sleep.  Got some food for breakfast, a bagel and a banana, I was full after the banana.  The flight into MSP arrives just before noon.  Beth picks me up at the airport.  I was traveling light so no checked luggage.  She takes me to her place where I have a light lunch and sleep.

Now, I’m home.  I’m still not feeling the best, but a full nights sleep did help.  After breakfast, I went to sleep again.  I feel like I might make it.  I spent some time outside, wrestled our new water heater into the house, and am taking some time to write.

It’s GOOD to be HOME!