Minnesota Farmer

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!


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.


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.

Connections to a tragedy

When word first reached me of the death of 16 year old Ross I didn’t think I had any connections with him or the family. Yes, he lived near a neighboring town, but what connections could I have with him.  The connections have begun to pile up.

The first connection was to our church.  He had for a while been coming to Sunday School classes there and still had family who were members.

The second connection was to friends.  His high school choir director was our daughters friend, we know that family well.  She had brought Ross and some friends to our church to sing at the Living Nativity just days before the accident.

Next came connections to Farm Bureau.  His dad is active in their county Farm Bureau and I have seen him at state activities.  He had just won top prize in the foundation raffle.

The last one hit hardest.  Ross had been coming to sing with our barbershop chorus during the summer.  I had talked to him then, but had not seen him for months.  Our chorus has been asked to sing at his funeral today.

Memories now flood back to an earlier funeral of a promising young man we sang for years ago.  Jeff had been my son’s friend.  They sang in a high school quartet and in our chorus.  That death had been a lot closer, but in no way less tragic.  Both deaths involved cars and both deaths involved making lethal mistakes.  Now another young man is gone.

Hold your children today.  Tell them again to be careful and that you love them.

Farm safety

For several years now I have been teaching farm safety at the Southwest Outreach Center of the University of Minnesota in Lamberton’s fourth grade field day.  This activity is part of the work I do as a volunteer for the Farm Bureau.

682 fourth graders from 15 area elementary schools attended the Elementary Field Day that these safety messages were presented at on Wednesday, September 17 and Thursday, September 18, 2014. Students also participated in activities on healthy soils, composting, electrical safety, plants, and climate change.  

10676386_635581586557654_8744859319046042390_nIn this demonstration I got to talk to the kids about the importance of shields to keep you from getting drug into spinning shafts, pulley, gears, chains and belts.  I tell the story of how I had my fingers go between a belt and pulley.


We also talked about safety around augers.  I tell the story of a man who lost his arm in an auger accident.


 The most dramatic demo has to be the power take-off (PTO) demonstration.  In this demo we get a tyvek suit filled with paper wrapped in the PTO shaft between a tractor and a baler.  I tell the story of a friend I lost to a PTO accident, and if I do it right the crowd is quiet before and after the demo.

Late on Thursday I had a young lady ask me why I told such horrible stories.  To me the answer is obvious.  I want to keep these kids safe.  If I can keep just one of this group alive, all of my time was well spent.

Area schools participating included: Windom, Red Rock Central, Westbrook-Walnut Grove, St. Mary’s (Tracy), Reed Gray (Redwood Falls), Mt. Lake, St. Paul’s (New Ulm), Washington Elementary (New Ulm), Lakeview, Samuel Lutheran (Marshall), Wabasso, St. Anne’s (Wabasso), Tracy, Southwest Star Concept, and Springfield.

If you would like to see more pictures of the field day check out the facebook page for the Southwest Research & Outreach Center.

A time of learning, a time of worship

It’s time for Synod Assembly and many groan.  They see the votes, the work, the controversy and the bother, what they do not see is what draws me back year after year.  The renewing of friendships and finding new friends, the learning and the worship.photo-3

Many of my friends show up at multiple places.  They will be at church meetings, farm meetings and political meetings.  We are all busy, caring people who get involved in many areas.  Yes, we work, but we also learn, laugh and pass on news of family.  Long lost connections can be renewed and family we seldom see can show up.  Organizational meetings are so much more than just work.

photo-4I had not seen the Olson’s for over 40 years, yet there they were at a recent political meeting.

I have had foreign and domestic travel opportunities open up.  Travel that would cost so much more if I was doing it alone is less expensive when you do it with the group.  My first tour of Europe was because of FFA.  I have been to Israel and South Africa because of church activities.  I have visited several states because of Farm Bureau and the Barbershop Harmony Society.  Along the way I have met the same people and shared many good times.

Perhaps for me the greatest part of these meetings was the learning I did.  There have been so many chances to see and study.  Tours of historical sites and seminars on current issues are only part of the learning I have had an opportunity to take part in.  I have also sampled new foods, visited museums and found out how others live in different areas of this world.

My most recent meeting was the annual meeting of the Southwest Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  I have always enjoyed these meetings for all of the reasons above, plus the chance to worship.  There are introductions to new music from around the world, fantastic speakers and some really interesting people to visit with.

So the next time you have and opportunity to attend a meeting of a larger organization, take a chance and go.  You never know where it will lead you.

Number of farms down

The 2012 Census of Agriculture preliminary report is out and the number of farms here in the U.S. is again down, but the amount of land is farms is down also.  Now you have to understand that the census says a farm is “any place from which $1,000 of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year.”  So many of these farms are, strictly speaking, only a small part of the family income.  Still they are considered farms.  You can see the whole Census report here.

Oh, and yes the average size of a farm is up, but only to 434 acres per farm.  This is far from mega-farm size.

A distressing to me stat from the report is the increase in age of our countries farmers.  While the number of farmers under age 34 has not changed much, those who farm and are between 35 and 54 years of age has decreased, and the number of those over 55 is increasing.  Farming is hard work, and to be depending on those near or over retirement age to supply our countries food is dangerous.  Fully 63% of our nations farms are operated by those over 55.

Now at 60, I admit to being part of that group, and I am looking forward to retirement soon.  I am not going to wait until 84 to turn over the farm to someone younger as my father has.  We need young folks on the farm, but if you have health problems, or are smart enough, you can make much more money in a city job than you can on a farm.  I watch with admiration those young folks I see in Farm Bureau who are already making a go of farming.  I would be proud to turn over the reins of todays agriculture to any of them.

Corn-soybean belt farmers have just come out of some great years for income on the farm, and beef producers have just finished some of the most heart breaking years you can imagine.  I hope that out of these years we will see some enthusiastic young people step forward to run the farms of tomorrow.  Our countries food independence is vital and having families on the farm is the only way to guarantee it.


Making assumptions

I was reading a “GMO Fact Sheet” put out by an anti-GMO group recently and was struck by several of their “facts” that I knew to be untrue.  One of those “facts” was that GMO’s were banned in the European Union (EU), and since they were banned there, all other “right thinking” countries should also ban them.

There were some assumptions made by these “fact finders” that are indeed not facts.  First off was the assumptions that since a few vocal countries have so far banned certain GMO transformation events, then all GMO’s are banned in all of the EU.  This assumption is wrong on two counts.

Assumption 1) The EU bans all GMO’s.

The EU is not united in banning GMO’s.  There are several of the countries in the EU that allow the planting and use of GMOs.  EU countries are allowing the import of more GMO’s every year.

Assumption 2) Since a few GMO events are banned, they all must be banned.

In a conversation I had with a member of the EU delegation to the Farm Bureau meeting in San Antonio, I found out that there are very few GMO events that are not allowed for import into the EU.

The EU has been a bit slower to approve the planting of GMO crops than the U.S., but that is changing rapidly.  Farmers in Italy and France, once the heart of anti-GMO outrage, are now seeing the advantage in planting GMO crops.  Now the problem is not local opposition, but laws passed in the past that are the obstacle to planting GMO’s.  These laws are being, or will be lifted as local farmers see that they are falling behind.

All too often I see people making assumptions when faced with a few facts.  They assume that because (a) is true, (bcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz) is also true.  Be careful in what you assume.


How old is your water?

At a recent Farm Bureau meeting I was sitting in on a seminar on water issues when one of the presenters mentioned aging water.  Whoa, that was a new one.  I didn’t know that you could tell the age of water.

Being able to age water has implications for the conversations farmers, lawmakers and environmental groups have been having.  For years now I have been listening to people blame farmers for many of the ills found in our rivers, streams and wells.  If we can age water, we can tell if those problems are from todays farming practices or those of the past, and I know that how we farm today is very different from how we farmed 50 and more years ago.

So first off, how do you age water?  Well, if you want the whole scientific process, I invite you to check out some scholarly papers such as this one from the U.S. Geological survey (USGS).  For a bit more on the implications of water age in the Chesapeake Bay estuary check this USGS paper.

Now I know most of you will not read these papers, so here is the short version.  There are elements that are taken in by water as it falls.  One of those compounds, Tritium (3H or hydrogen-3), a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, has a known breakdown time.  Another compound, chlorofluorocarbons, a group of stable manmade compounds containing chlorine and fluorine, are only present in water from during the years of its manufacture and use.  Using these elements we can find out when the rain water fell.  This helps us find travel time for water from raindrop to point of sample, whether that sample be taken in a well, river, lake or the ocean.

At issue for farmers is the claim that the nitrogen and other pollutants found in water today are the direct result of our actions today.  The study of the Chesapeake Bay area has found that water in the bay can be aged from less than a year, to centuries with an average age of about 30 years.  That means that problems in our waters have their roots over a generation ago.

Nitrogen is an interesting element.  It makes up most of the air we breathe and is both a requirement for, and a waste product of, life.  In particular nitrogen helps promote plant life.  Nitrogen in the soil has several forms.  Some of those forms are stable and will stay where they are put, but the form needed by plants ties to water, and thus it moves with water either into plants or deeper into the soil and eventually into our rivers and lakes.  Once in lakes it promotes plant life that makes water green with algae and green water is not appreciated by those who use water.

This now leads us to Total Daily Maximum Load (TMDL), the amount of pollutants found in waters of our country, and what part of that amount that farmers should be held accountable.  For all of my 60 years I have heard agriculture educators promote farming practices that reduce erosion and nutrient waste.  Farmers have been following the practices of these educators and are a bit upset that we are still being blamed for so much of todays pollution in water.  When you are doing all that is being asked of you, all that modern science tells you to do, what more can you do.

Aging water has helped us to understand that it is the practices of years ago that we are dealing with today.  Eventually the waters of our country will get better, but it is going to take time before the practices of today show up in rivers and lakes.  In the meantime, the family farmers who produce 95% of our countries food will continue to do their best to follow the laws and regulations that reduce pollution.  We live on the land, and it is our children that will be the first ones effected by any pollution.  It is our job to protect the future of life, and we take  the job seriously.


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: Setting policy after the harvest

Day 22 of the 30 day challenge on what farmers do after the harvest found me helping to set policy for the Minnesota Farm Bureau.1460232_551941724885564_255974754_n

Farmers realize that they are a minority in this country.  When you are only 2% of the population you have to keep on your toes or someone else may be telling your story that does not have your best interest in mind.

Organizations such as the Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, Corn Growers, Soybean Growers, Beef Producers, Pork Producers and others give us a voice that is much larger since we have banded together.  Politicians come to us for the information they need to make policy, and since we have little money to pay lobbyists we need to specialize in information rather than persuasion.

Setting policy together is not an easy task.  Farmers are notoriously independent.  They have to be.  What works on one farm or in one region, may not work on another.  They adjust and do what is best for them.  Policy for dairy may not always be best for beef or corn.  Meetings of farmers help them all to understand the political problems they face and what they can do together.8574369261_93eb3fcaf4_mOnce the policy is set, it is time to make a trip to the halls of power.  Telling our story face to face in our state capital or Washington, D.C.  Helps our representatives by giving them stories to tell and faces to put on those stories.  If you are not helping to do the cooking, tomorrow you may be on the plate.