Minnesota Farmer


Minnesota Shrimp

On Monday, I attended our local Corn and Soybean growers meeting.  The guest speaker was from a company called Tru-Shrimp.  The goal of Tru-Shrimp is to help the U.S. grow more of the shrimp currently eaten here.  Currently 80% of the shrimp eaten in the U.S. is grown overseas in lagoons and bays near the ocean.  Because of a variety of problems, these shrimp production areas can have a mortality rate of over 60%, a number that no U.S. farmer would allow in their flocks and herds.

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Tru_Shrimp has developed an indoor pond system for shrimp production in Balaton, MN. Thats about as far away from salt water as you can get in the lower 48.  This pond system is set to be put into full scale production in an indoor ocean near Luverne, MN in about a year.  The plan is to eventually have 12 of these large scale shrimp production sites in the area.

Now why would the corn and soybean growers be interested in shrimp production?  The food source for the shrimp will be locally sourced corn and soybeans.  In ocean side shrimp farms the shrimp are fed fish meal.  Taking fish and fish by-products for shrimp production may be part of the reason for the 60% mortality rate.  Using corn and soybeans in a totally enclosed system where water is filtered and reused has gotten the mortality rate to nearer 10%, a truly ground breaking shift.

So keep your eyes open for Tru-Shrimp.  Once those Minnesota shrimp farms are up and running you’ll be able to buy and eat some really fresh shrimp, all brought to you by folks here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and your Minnesota Corn and Soybean Growers.

 



Mostly knee high
June 20, 2015, 8:41 am
Filed under: Corn, Farm, Minnesota, Soybeans, weather | Tags: , , , , ,

Knee high by the 4th of July used to be a target for corn growth.  If you made that mark you were on your way to a good harvest.  Back when that saying was minted they planted corn much later than we do now.  Twice in my life I’ve seen corn over my head and tassels forming.

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Corn in our area of southwestern Minnesota is now mostly knee high.  I say mostly because there are places where it is not.  It could be the tillage system, weed pressure, poor soil or cool temperatures that have kept if from growing as fast as the rest, but some areas just are not doing as well.

We plant our corn in two different systems.  Corn planted on soybean stubble is strip tilled, a process that leaves plenty of soybeans stubble on the ground to protect from wind and rain erosion.  Some of the fertilizer is placed in the tilled strips in the fall, the rest is applied after the corn comes up.  Corn planted after corn is more of the conventional style where more tillage is done in the fall.  This tillage allows us to mix in hog manure for fertilizer.  About half of our corn ground gets covered with that wonderful, inexpensive, organic fertilizer.

Our spring started out warm and dry, but just as we got done planting the weather changed.  It got cool and wet.  We’ve now worked our way out of the drought conditions we had.  Although we do not have water standing in the fields, and all our soybeans got planted, we have still been a bit wetter than we would like at this time of year.

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The soybeans are off to a good start.  Weed control is our main challenge right now in soybeans.  Because they do not shade the ground as fast as corn we have a longer window of concern for weed control.  Early weeds have been taken care of, but soon we’ll have to knock them back again to be sure they stay only a minor annoyance.

So, here we are, June is half over and things are looking good here on our farm.  We had more rain last night to keep those plants happy, now we need some heat.



Rain, Glorious rain

We’ve been in a bit of a dry spell here in Southwestern Minnesota.  Our winters snowfall was well below normal and spring rains have been few and far between.  This dry spell has allowed us to make record planting progress on our corn and soybeans despite cooler temperatures.

Frankly, I have been more than a little concerned about the dry.  Rivers, creeks and lakes are at low levels.  Field tile have had some water in them, but not much.  Any stirring of the soil surface has created lots of dust.  There is some moisture in the soil, but is it enough to keep the crops going?  We needed rain!

Today’s weather has helped that immensely.  In the last 24 hours we have now had about nine-tenths of an inch of rain.  Mostly it came down slowly, just drizzling out of the sky.  There were a few episodes where the sky cut loose, but not many.  This is just what we needed.  Crops will now be off to a good start.  When will it rain next?



Still a chill

It’s April 23, the day the University of Minnesota says those of us who farm in Southwestern Minnesota should start planting corn, but there is still a chill in the earth and I will wait.

The last few mornings have found ice in the cats water dish.  Frost on roofs and grass has been obvious.  Stick a thermometer into the earth and it will show temperatures still in the 30’s.  This is not where I want my seed to be.

I have not as yet seen one dandelion bloom.  Crocus, tulip and other early bloomers are not yet budding.  Only my pear tree shows blooms, the apples do not, and few trees even show the smallest of leaves.  The trees tell me it is cold out there.

4/23/2015 pear tree in bloom

4/23/2015 pear tree in bloom

There were a few days over a week ago when we had some warm weather, then the insects were out, but most days are bug free.  Because there are no bugs there are no barn swallows.  Barn swallows swooping around eating insects are a sure sign that the ground is finally warm enough to plant.  Yep, all signs say it is still cold in that dirt.

So when will I start planting?  I’m not sure yet, but come Monday I’ll check and see how things are going.  Frost is finally out of the forecast, but temperatures are not all that warm yet.  Also rain is in the forecast for the next few days, that will also slow us down.  If we get into May and have not yet started planting then the calendar starts to come into play.  We need to get that corn planted by May 10.



Dry start?
April 19, 2015, 7:15 am
Filed under: Farm, Minnesota, planting, rain | Tags: , , ,

It’s looking as if there will be a dry start to this planting season.  We went through winter with little snow and have had insufficient rain to really make a difference yet this spring.  We do have enough water to get crops started but how long that will last depends on future rain events.  Our area of southwestern Minnesota is on the edge of the driest ground getting just a bit below normal rainfall for this month.

So far ground temperatures have yet to reach optimal planting temperatures.  Tile repair crews and builders are still reporting frozen ground less than two feet down.  Some farmers have started to plant due to the great top soil conditions.  Although there is risk in early planting they are willing to take that risk.  So far I am waiting.  The forecast for two days of frost this week will influence my decision to wait.
So when will I start planting corn?  I’d expect a starting date later this week if all holds as forecast.  I still have plenty of projects to keep me going as I prepare for planting season, so I’m not sitting idle.  Stay tuned for the beginning of my planting season.


50 foot buffer

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Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton stirred up a bit of controversy when he proposed a 50 foot buffer strip on Minnesota rivers, lakes and drainage ditches.  If he wanted to get the discussion going on ways to protect our states waters, he definitely succeeded.  In fact the surprise and controversy started on the day of his announcement when DNR officials were blindsided by his intentions.

I attended the meeting on buffer strips held at the Worthington Fire Hall on Thursday.  The room was more than standing room only as attendees spilled out into the hallway.  One bystander counted over 150 standing in the room and could not count those in the hallways or seated.  Mostly it was farmers at the meeting, but a sprinkling of mayors, school officials and agricultural business employees were also there.  All came out in support of buffer strips and water quality, but did not agree that a one size fits all 50 foot buffer would solve the problem.

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There was also come confusion on what Dayton’s proposal would not include.  At first blush the proposal seems to be aimed at farm land which would amount to an uncompensated taking of land from farm families that live near these waters.  Pictures posted at the meeting by the governors office did cover only farm land so that intention seem to be supported.  One attendee questioned whether the DNR should not also be held to this standard and had pictures of local DNR land that would become out of compliance with a 50 foot buffer.  Also unstated was if this proposal would include land currently used as beach front gardens, play areas and lawns.

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Not every drainage ditch bank slopes down to the water for over 50 feet.  Most drainage ditches in rural areas have banks of soil along them that create a barrier to water running into the ditch.  This soil was placed there when the ditch was dug and is an effective barrier to water entering except in controlled areas.  Do these ditches also need a 50 foot buffer?

The controversy has not been helped by some news organizations making statements like “Big Ag. against clean water.”  Those at the Worthington meeting were not against clean water, they were against a blanket 50 foot buffer strip proposal.  Also, those at the meeting could not in any way be considered “Big Ag.” but they were farmers of all ages, farm types and farm sizes who own and live on the land that will be affected by this proposal.

Governor Dayton further muddied the waters by several times bringing up the recent notice by an area town to have it’s city residents use bottled water.  This problem was not at all related to buffers, but to a malfunction of equipment in the city’s water supply.

At the end of the meeting Dist. 22 Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, gave his response on the governor’s proposal saying that one of the take-aways from the discussion is that there isn’t one answer to the problem.

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“We have a variety of programs out there, and they really do work,” Weber said. “The reality of this proposal is it put everybody on defense right away.”

Yet, Weber said there is a willingness for stakeholders to gather, sit down and discuss it further. He encouraged Dayton to gather representatives from farm, drainage and conservation organizations to discuss what is available now and how something more could be implemented.

Weber also asked Dayton to “say these bills are dead for this year” and bring the groups to the table for discussion.

“I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the cooperation and willingness … in advancing the goal that you have,” Weber added.

So the process has started.  The discussion on the 50 foot buffer has now moved out of St. Paul and into the out state area.  From what I have heard the other meetings the Governor has set up were also well attended.  It shows a willingness to talk about the issue, but is also shows that the governor made the proposal without consulting his own department heads.  Perhaps if he had discussed this with them first there would not be so much controversy.

The proposal is still moving on in the state house and senate.  It is still likely that it will not even make it through one or more committees before the end of the session.  If it does move forward it will need much work, much more than has been shown so far.



Yesterday’s Snowman

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and soon puddles will outnumber snowdrifts.

100_3108The weather has turned warm quite quickly here in southwestern Minnesota.  Just a few days ago low temperatures were in the single digits and the high didn’t make 20.  Today the high is near 40 and the low will barely get below freezing.  Warmer weather is forecast for next week.  Hurray!

 



Dirty snow

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We’ve had a series of days with thawing temperatures and our snow is not white anymore, it’s very dirty.

Every snowflake has a bit of dirt in it, gathered as it forms, our snow here in Southwestern Minnesota has more than it’s share.  The winds of winter have been moving dirt along with the snow.  Now that it is melting, the dirt is left on the top.

We went into winter with dry topsoil.  Then the normal process of freezing soil squeezed more moisture out.  When our prairie winter winds come the soil starts to move.  Most of that soil doesn’t move far.  It falls behind some bit of plant material in the field or a low spot between dirt clumps.  Other bits may blow as far as the road ditch or a grove of trees.  Some little bits will stay airborne and help to start new snowflakes and rain drops.  It’s all part of the process of wind rain and snow.

Farmers in our area have come a long way since the dirty thirties.  Back then when you plowed ground you left it “smooth as a babies bottom.”  Smooth soil moves easier.  Today, farmers take pride in keeping winter soils rough with plenty of plant material sticking up.  Many will not till fields so they can help hold their soil.  We are well aware that soil is hard to replace, we need to keep it in place so our children can earn an income here also.

We’ll have white snow again before winter is over, it’s only January and there is lots of winter left.  Still I enjoy seeing some of that snow melt before spring, I just don’t like dirty snow.



Ground Blizzard

This morning when they called off school the weather didn’t look that bad.  We had a bit of snow blowing around, but most of the snow was still staying put.  When our mail was delivered about 9 a.m. we were surprised, usually mail doesn’t come until after noon.  Now it is a different story.

Winds are holding at over 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.  We have ourselves a ground blizzard.

If you are out of the wind, temperatures are not too bad.  Step out into the wind and you have a different story.  I have trouble seeing across my yard with all of the snow in the air, and yet, when you look up there is the sun in a mostly clear sky.

I can hear a truck out on the highway but he doesn’t seem to be moving that fast.  I would not want to be in a car in these conditions.  This is the time I am glad for a warm house and plenty of food.  I’m hunkered down with a project or two and a book.  It’s great to live in Minnesota on a day like this and have nothing that has to be done.



It’s all about the wind
January 7, 2015, 2:45 pm
Filed under: cold, Farm, food, frost, history, house, Minnesota, snow, weather, wind, winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

They say it is time to ‘hunker down,” it’s going to get windy.

To look at the weather today you wouldn’t know the concern I have for the next days.  Today the sun is shining and the wind is light.  It may be below freezing out, we may have several inches of fresh snow on the ground, but it is not that bad being outside.  Folks out here on the prairie of southwestern Minnesota and points north and west understand, this is not bad weather.  Ah, but throw in some wind and things change.  Tomorrow the wind is predicted to start up and then we will be challenged.

A commentator on the radio at noon reminded me of a three day blow from my childhood.  I think back to that old house I lived in then with the inadequate insulation in the walls and wonder how we survived it all.  I remember warming my body by the oil stove before bed to have a head start on the cold.  It was not unusual to have frost on the inside of windows every day back then.

To keep warm doing chores then needed fuel!  Salads need not apply, we had meat, bread  and potatoes, and if we were lucky, some kind of canned or dried fruit with lots of sugar on it.  It takes energy to stay warm for hours working or playing on the farm when the temperatures are low and the wind blows.  That was real hunker down fuel.  Starches and fats kept the body fueled, and hard work kept us lean.

So today, as I think back on those days of cold, I remember with fondness the high in fat, sugar and starch meals of yesteryear.  They kept us fueled for labor.  Today we sit in warm houses and cars and we can afford to eat salad.  Go outside and you will freeze in an instant because the wind drives away all of your warm.  Give me a hearty old fashioned meal any day before I head outside.  I know the wind will not blow me away.