Category Archives: Ag Careers
Lord, we thank You for the opportunity to work with the best people in the world, America’s farmers and ranchers, and for the chance to help them to do Your work in feeding Your world.
Al Gustin of KFYR in North Dakota, this year’s Farm Broadcaster of the Year, presented by the National Association of Farm Broadcasters and sponsored by Syngenta.
This week, I’ve had the honor of participating in the 69th annual NAFB convention as a student member. Janet Adkison, an MSU alumna and successful farm broadcaster at KMZU radio in Carrollton, Missouri, invited communications students from across the nation to experience the event. Janet served as this year’s NAFB Vice-President and is the NAFB president-elect for the upcoming year. Her goal on the NAFB Board of Directors has been to increase participation of young members and future professionals in the griculture industry, many of whom will soon have ties to farm broadcasting. Her mission has been a success. When she began work with the board, student membership was at a total of 7 students. Thanks to her diligent work, student membership is predicted to reach 40 before the end of this year. Nine students attended the conference – six from Missouri State, and one student each from Western Illinois University, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State University through Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow.
Today, I sat in on professional development sessions and attended an awards luncheon in the presence of farm broadcasting legends the likes of Orion Samuelson, Max Armstrong, representatives from Brownfield Ag News and RFD TV, an that’s not even touching the tip of the iceberg.
My time here has been full of unique opportunities, and it means the world to me that I was chosen to participate in the inaugural year of the NAFB college experience.
Farm Out Loud!
Thank God for rain in the Heartland yesterday morning! After about three weeks of hot, dry and thirsty fields, Monday morning brought heavy storm clouds to our Mid-Missouri farm and the surrounding area. The rain had perfect timing as far as we were concerned, though we would have taken it gladly had it arrived a bit earlier. Sunday, as my family and I got my little brother registered and settled in at UCM Music Camp, my uncle finished harvesting the last of our 500+ acres of wheat. Harvest took just five days – but hundreds of gallons of fuel.
Have you ever thought about how much fuel (& driving time) it takes to bring in a harvest? Well, obviously there’s the combine operator, but there’s also the grain truck driver, the taxi driver (this is my job when I’m home), not to mention the tractor, sprayer, water truck, and all the errands that have to be run just to get a good crop ready to harvest. As the taxi driver, I get to drive a normal truck around to the different farms to help my dad get all of the equipment he needs from point A to point B before he gets started.
It’s like those awful riddles from elementary school:
“Once upon a time a farmer went to market and purchased a fox, a goose, and a bag of beans. On his way home, the farmer came to the bank of a river and rented a boat. But in crossing the river by boat, the farmer could carry only himself and a single one of his purchases – the fox, the goose, or the bag of the beans.
If left alone, the fox would eat the goose, and the goose would eat the beans.
The farmer’s challenge was to carry himself and his purchases to the far bank of the river, leaving each purchase intact.
This is part of everyday life for farmers. In fact, Sunday afternoon I ran the taxi for my dad to prepare for the rain that we sincerely hoped was coming. We made several trips back and forth between the different fields where he had been working and the storage facility that would protect the equipment and product (grain in trucks) from the rain. Dad had to figure out what to take first and how to park the different machines to make sure it all fit. I had to figure out how to drive his long bed four door pickup truck, which is far too new for me to be allowed to drive (my car is a 99, and I’m not even sure about it all the time because it’s big and low to the ground).
Problem solving skills are sometimes a mystery to me – I like to think that I’m good at that kind of thing, but really I’m good at the intellectual and informational side. Putting the same skills to practical use is a different story. When I got Dad’s truck sort of stuck in a hole driving across a waterway (which he told me to cross), all I could do was throw up my hands and radio Dad behind me for help. He’s sort of a pro at fixing problems for other people, too. He’s come to my rescue for dents, flat tires, and other motor vehicle mishaps – even when I was over an hour away from home.
Do you have a favorite farmer to call when everything goes wrong? Or are you the one who gets all the phone calls from common sense challenged people like me?
Maybe schools need a class in common sense. I’d enroll. 🙂
Farm Out Loud!
Oh State FFA Convention…. This coming week, hundreds (probably more like thousands) of high school students in blue corduroy jackets will converge on the Mizzou campus for an event they’ve been preparing for all year. Many will compete as state-qualifying teams and speakers in career development events (like Entomology, Dairy Foods, Meats, Soils, Floriculture, and other judging contests), and leadership events (speaking, Parliamentary Procedure, Knowledge, Sales, etc). Some will grace the stage as winners – of contests, awards, and degrees. Others will perform as talent entries or chorus members. This year’s leadership sessions will focus on this theme: Plant Goals, Harvest Success.
These two days of intense competition, inspiring speakers, leadership developments, and memories made are a celebration of agriculture in Missouri. These students are members of an organization that values and promotes our nation’s most vital industry – food and fiber production. Will all of them grow up to be farmers? Far from it. Many will go on to careers that are a far cry from a wheat field or a ranch – but even if their futures don’t become intimately linked with agriculture, they learn enough about the industry to speak up, vote smart, and spread the word – agriculture has a bright future, and we’re growing strong leaders for the winding road ahead.
This week, I’ll be spending most of my State FFA Convention in a room filled with computers and busy college students, typing away. It’s our job to record all of the awesome and exciting things that happen during convention to send to home chapters, newspapers and other media. The press room at convention will be hectic – but I think it’ll be a lot of fun. After all, this is part of what I can see myself doing with my life – telling the stories of the people of agriculture (or buying tan pants and a blue blazer – if girls even do that – and taking my own group of high schoolers to state contest). Talk about exciting!
Farm Out Loud!
It seems to be the exception to the rule when someone has such a passion for their career that they simply cannot imagine life apart from it. These rare people must be the best in their field – unable to separate themselves from their work, idle time is spent solving problems in their area of expertise, they are constantly pursuing greater knowledge, and their speech can’t help but spill over with their enthusiasm. I’m in an Intro to Teaching class this block (half a semester), and the most important thing to consider about teaching according to our professor, especially if secondary education is your goal, is passion for your subject matter. As in, even if you don’t become a teacher, you would spend a great deal of your time working with and learning about your subject (math, science, history…). He meant it as a warning – don’t settle for teaching because you just kinda want to and haven’t considered other options. I took it as encouragement. As a double ag major, farmer’s daughter, FFA member, etc. I can’t imagine my life apart from agriculture.
Today though, I’d like to tell you an inspiring story about a man named Sidney. He grew up on a farm not far from my hometown, where he plowed fields with mules, among other farm tasks, until he left for a tour of duty in the Air Force. Sidney meant to make the service his career, but unfortunate circumstances brought him home to another type of duty entirely. In the 1960’s, he found himself back on the family farm, following the same old routine, and before long became the farm’s primary caretaker. He loved the farm work even more this time around, and he lived happily ever after. Right?
Far from it. Sidney did – and still does – love the farm, and the life it provides. But some 30 years down the road, his story took a hard left turn.
Problem-solving is part of everyday farm life, maybe more so than many other careers. When the cows are loose in the front yard, the fence rows are falling down, and the tractor met some power lines head-on… Usually you’re the only one around who can fix the problem, and that’s exactly what you do.
It was definitely one of those days for Sid. The tractor wouldn’t start – dead battery. Easy fix, go get the truck and jumpstart it. Sid got everything hooked up, and disaster struck. As soon as he touched the starter, the John Deere 4440 jumped into gear – backing up over Sidney with its full weight, about 18000 pounds of metal and water with a corn planter behind it. After over an hour of lying there unable to move, a man hauling rock nearby came upon the accident and went for help. A broken pelvis and spinal cord damage meant that Sidney, with little control of his lower limbs, spent 6 months in the hospital before rehab therapy even began, with little hope of recovering to the point of walking again.
The next 6 months of his year’s hospital stay consisted of Sidney’s battle to walk again. With setbacks minor and major, he persisted with a positive attitude through it all.
Meanwhile at the farm, area farmers pitched in to help get Sid’s crops in and the community poured out its characteristic love and support during the struggles of one of its own.
Sid has been living at home since 2008. It hasn’t been easy, and there is a walker and a wheelchair that have taken up permanent residence in his house.
Are you ready for my favorite part?
November 6th, 2009. It’s harvest season, and the corn is ready to be picked. Sid’s son Steve is out on the combine hard at work.
Sid’s family gathers around him, helping him get out to where Steve is working. Steve asks Sid to do something he thought he may never get to do again – does he want to help harvest corn?
Now, picture that big green combine. I’m sure you can imagine a few obstacles that might get in the way of a man with a walker. The ladder, for instance.
This is where problem-solving on a farm shines brightest – Steve and Sid’s grandson Randy had this one all figured out. A backhoe awaited him, to lift Sidney (as Randy held him steady) to the cab door. Sid admits that it took him a minute to figure out the controls – it had been 15 years since he sat behind the wheel of a combine. But the joy in his heart spilled over onto his face, and he wasn’t through combining for another 5 hours once he got started, harvesting 25 acres of corn. His wife Emma Rose and daughter Juanita took turns riding in the passenger seat, delighting in that smile they knew was so well deserved.
Sid said, “God still has something he needs me to do and I plan on doing it.”
Check out the photo album – the story is told so well through pictures that I’ll leave you with them.
Farm Out Loud!
I recently took a poll of my public speaking class to get a feel for what my audience would know about my upcoming persuasive speech topic. Out of 18 students polled, all from the Honors College at MSU, only 2 had heard of the proposed changes to child labor regulations that could severely limit family farms and educational opportunities for agriculture students.
Today, my Agriculture Leaders class heard from the Missouri Farm Bureau National Legislative Programs Director Garrett Hawkins, a graduate of Missouri State. During his visit, Garrett answered some of our questions about the changes and Farm Bureau’s stance and actions regarding the measure. He shared with us that Farm Bureau, like every agriculture entity he has heard from, is strongly opposed to the changes as they are currently written. While no one would argue that safety wouldn’t come first when it comes to high school students working with animals, farm equipment, and so on, the changes would take away valuable education tools for teaching safety.
In case you’re still wondering what changes have been made, I strongly suggest researching this topic so that you can make your own call. However, here’s a quick overview. Before occupying her current position, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis backed an initiative in California that called for strict regulations for the children of migrant workers who worked with their parents in the fields. This, of course, crossed not only labor issues, but also differences in culture – and did not pass. When she became labor secretary in 2009, she continued to fight the same fight on a grander scale.
The changes are a combination of the issues Solis wanted addressed, as well as a number of sweeping rules and changes that would apply to all US teens – including removal of student learner exemptions, as well as the ban of certain kinds of work for students age 13-16, which includes work with animals, in hog & poultry barns, and machinery (defined as anything powered by an engine, meaning mowing the lawn is out), unless they were volunteering or working directly for a parent or guardian whose operation had not been incorporated.
I say all that to say this: the proposed changes are a major deal. If you caught what I did in that list, you’d notice that the Department of Labor is trying to kill the traditional FFA SAE Project, as well as other activities for students in FFA and 4-H programs. The changes also threaten multi-generational farms where children and grandchildren learn safety and agriculture through work. Doing away with these opportunities for children to learn safety in a supervised environment is not protecting children – it’s exposing them to undue risk of harm.
Right now, these changes are being proposed yet again (they’ve been proposed before, causing passionate backlash from the agriculture community). The goal as I understand it is to push the changes into law by the end of the summer. Why? If our current president is not re-elected this November, the new president will have the right to go back through all laws passed during a certain time period before the office changed hands. The people (and activist groups) backing the labor law changes want the proposed changes signed into law before the window for review opens.
This means the agriculture community has a lot of work to do. Maybe you can help me spread the news about the changes. Maybe you’ll see fit to call or write your congressman and let them know what these changes really mean, and why they should oppose them.
Farm Out Loud!
Guest Blogger! Well, almost.
In my Honors COM 115 class (public speaking), we’ve been writing and presenting speeches about our chosen careers this past week. As one of only 2 “ag” students in my class, naturally I was interested in what the other would have to say. I gave my speech on Agriculture Advocacy (talk about a mouthful); he gave his on Genetic Engineering. It’s difficult to talk about any career for 3+ minutes and make it interesting, but even more so for topics that are technical in nature, or that people just don’t know much about. I must say, I was impressed with my fellow aggie’s speech. Enough so that I was willing to be a dork and ask for a copy of it for my nerd farming blog.
So here it is: for your reading pleasure, a speech on the importance of a career in genetic engineering by Justin Conover, a Cell and Molecular Biology major at Missouri State University.
“Have you ever wanted to save the world?
When I was younger, I dreamed of being just like my favorite superhero, Superman. I dreamed of flying around the world, lifting large rocks off beautiful women and saving babies from evil, all while living the life of a businessman.
Now, however, I am dreaming of becoming a different kind of superhero, one who saves the world using science.
Today I want to explain to you how genetic engineering can save the world, what qualifications it takes to become a genetic engineering research scientist, and tell you some of the benefits being this career has in today’s world.
First, let’s take a look at why the world needs superheroes and how genetic engineering can save the world.
Currently there are 6.7 billion people on Earth, but according to a report in 2010 by Dr. Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology at the University of California at Davis, this number is projected to be close to 9.2 billion by the year 2050.
The question is how will we feed them?
There are already people around the world that do not have food to eat, not because they can’t afford it, but because it is not available to them. And with the traditional agriculture production yield, there is no way that we will be able to produce enough food to feed everyone.
This is where genetic engineering comes in. Genetic engineering is the use of recombinant DNA technology to alter the genetic makeup of an organism which improves its yield and nutritional value, along with added benefits such as pharmaceutical advantages and ecological gains.
Examples of genetically engineered plants include Bt corn, which includes an insecticide from a common bacteria; Round-up ready soybeans, which are resistant to Round-up, a herbicide manufactured by Monsanto; and golden rice, which contains small amounts of vitamin A used to prevent childhood blindness in many third-world countries.
These genetically engineered crops have led farmers to have higher production rates, provided consumers with lower prices of food, and given vitamins to those who otherwise could not get them.
The people that create these genetically engineered crops in the lab are called genetic engineering research scientists. Most genetic engineering research scientists have a doctorate degree in a biological science such as genetics or microbiology, which takes an additional four years after the completion of a bachelor’s degree to obtain. Many of these scientists have both their doctoral degree, or Ph.D., and their doctor of medicine, or M.D.. They spend most of their time working with a small team in a laboratory with strict cleanliness and safety standards. Research scientists often spend 35 to 40 hours a week in the lab, but additional hours are occasionally required for special projects.
Genetic Engineering research scientists also have great benefits. The average research scientist makes 65,000 dollars a year, according to stateuniveristy.com. Some of the benefits they can receive include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans. Plus, they get the satisfaction that what they are doing will make a direct influence on someone’s life and that they may save hundreds of lives by testing and creating genetically engineered crops. But perhaps the greatest benefit of all is knowing that their work will not only affect those close to them and alive today, but it will help people around the world for generations to come.
Just like Superman, being a genetic engineering research scientist requires you to take action and save the world, but instead of sheer strength and the ability to fly, research scientists use the power of science to complete their tasks. Being a research scientist is a very rewarding career, as you will most likely make decisions and discoveries that will affect people around the world. People are in desperate need of saving from poverty, starvation, and malnourishment.
That is why I have decided to become a genetic engineering research scientist and start saving the world through science.”
Justin Conover is a freshman Honors College student at Missouri State University majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology pursuing a career in Genetic Engineering. He is a 2011 graduate from Pattonsburg High School in Pattonsburg, MO. In high school, he was a part of FFA, FBLA, Student Council, National Honor Society, and was the Class of 2011 Secretary. He served as the Pattonsburg FFA Chapter President and as the Area II Treasurer. He competed on multiple contest teams in FFA, including Prepared Public Speaking, Poultry Evaluation, and Farm Business Management.
Farming out loud is more than just what I call “geeking out” with others in your field. It’s having the courage to speak up and tell you story when you know not everyone listening is on your side.
Farm Out Loud!
National Ag Day is coming up March 8. What are you going to do to celebrate?
What is National Ag Day? It’s sponsored by the Agriculture Council of America, a non-profit organization made up of leaders in the ag industry. Here’s what agday.org says about the day:
National Ag Day is a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. Every year, producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America join together to recognize the contributions of agriculture.
The site also has a great outline of goals for Ag Day.
Every American should:
- Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
- Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.
- Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
- Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.
There are lots of ways that you can get involved in the celebration. The best way I can think of is to tell your story somewhere where people outside of agriculture can see/hear/read it. You can highlight something about what you do, why it’s important, and why agriculture plays a big role in America. A fellow blogger, Ryan Goodman at agricultureproud.com, is hosting a month’s worth of guest posts from people in different aspects of agriculture about what they do and why they are proud to be a part of agriculture. You can read about how to contribute here.
What should you write about? Well… if you’re a nerd farmer, and I suspect that you are, then you’ve probably done something pretty cool in the last year that you’re proud of and excited about. I’ll give you an example: my dad.
Dad participated in a couple of different row crop competitions during the growing and harvest season for first-crop soybeans this past year. The farm split a soybean field in half between two different varieties of seed from two of the biggest seed company competitors in our area, Asgrow and Pioneer. He chose a field that was unique – they had installed drainage tile (underground tubes that drain off excess water) in a pattern that meant that the whole field got tile every 40 ft. This meant the field could be planted earlier than normal because the ground would be dry enough, and that excess rain wouldn’t become as much of a problem. They also took systematic soil samples so they would know which sections of the field needed which nutrients to support a good soybean crop. Once the field was planted and marked for the different seed varieties, the whole field was treated the same.
They did a few things differently than they had in the past, including their methods for fertilizing and spraying insecticides and fungicides. Since they had the soil samples from each section of the plot, they were able to employ a variable fertilizer application method that made sure every section got what it needed without undue waste. Then they scouted the field for insects and other problems once or twice a week, and if they saw bugs, they sprayed.
In fact, the last time the field needed an insecticide application, the plants were so tall that the sprayer wouldn’t fit over them, so Dad hired a plane to fly over and administer the insecticide. Towards the end of the season, they also applied fungicide to the entire field to keep fungus out and keep the plants healthy.
When it came harvest time, a judge came out to make sure everything was done by the book, and Dad harvested 2 continuous acres of each variety of soybeans for entry into the contests.
In the competition sponsored by Asgrow and Dekalb, called Yield Chasers, a yield of 72.3 bushels/acre was recorded, winning first place in Central Missouri.
In the contest sponsored by Pioneer, called Missouri Soybean Yield Contest, the farm won 2nd place in Central Missouri with 71.48 bu/acre.
Basically, my dad and Brauer Farms are some of the best soybean farmers in the state of Missouri. In fact, as a senior in high school last year (the same crop year as the soybeans that won the trophies above), I was able to help with the soybean crop and submit samples of it to the State Fair FFA Contest in Sedalia. Does the following photo need any other explanation?
This little story has probably reminded you of a story you’d like to tell, whether it be about a contest, a gadget, or just a not-so-typical day on the farm. So tell it!