Category Archives: Agriculture Stories

Summer Rain

Rain in the Heartland

Photo courtesy of KOMU 8 and Michele Ridenour from Montgomery City, Mo.

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.

How did he do it?

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!

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Have you ever noticed how incredibly hard it is to keep up your motivation once you’ve gotten past the tough part of something?

I started moving home at Easter, and I’m so ready for my summer. I only really get a week before I’m working full time, but I plan to make the most of it, and of my weekends all summer long. Our pontoon boat and pull-behind camper are my family’s favorite place to get away to relax. We explained to someone yesterday who complained about his parents who don’t do anything that we do that too – we just prefer to go elsewhere to do nothing. It’s kind of the best – the boat anchored in a cove, a floating deck with food, drinks, music, and a little patch of shade right in the middle of our favorite swimming hole.I have just three weeks left of my first year of college, and even though I have a lot left to do – finals, projects, tests, etc – I really just want to sit down in the sun and read a good book at the campground, or possibly on the boat.

These are old photos, but they’re a pretty good representation of the five-star restaurant with rotating head chefs that exists on my grandparents’ deck at camping. Below, you see the kids table. Right, my brother and cousin chowing down dramatically, my grandpa grilling, etc.

 

 

Even once I’m working full time, though, it’s going to be a great summer. I’ll be in Jefferson City working for the Missouri Department of Agriculture as an intern, and I am so excited to find out what I’ll get to do there! I know it will be a great experience and I’ll meet some awesome people while I’m there. A bonus for my parents is that I’m working close to home – they’ll get the joy and the occasional headache that comes from me living at home this summer. I’ll also get to work some on the farm, which will begin with a crash course (hopefully not literally) in running some of the machinery so that I can actually be helpful. I’ll keep you posted on that adventure!

I’ve been listening more and more to songs with beaches and water and sunlight, so I figured I’d start putting together a playlist for boating and camping this summer.

Check it out by following the link or browsing the rdio playlist below!

What songs should I add to it to make the most epic summer playlist?

Farm Out Loud!

Farmer’s Hands 2012 Missouri Farm Bureau Video Contest Winner

Check out one of the winners of Missouri Farm Bureau’s state video contest. The winners were announced at the 84th Missouri FFA Convention in Columbia, Mo. this week. This video was created by the Walnut Grove FFA Chapter.

I love all of the awesome facts they incorporated into the video, some of which I had heard before, and others that were new to me.

I spent the convention working in a basement room behind the Missouri FFA Convention stage. The people in that room worked incredibly hard, volunteering their time and effort to get the news out to the public. Each story that passed my desk as one of the editors (and there were over 400 press releases written and edited in that room) represented at least one big and exciting success of an FFA member, advisor, or supporter. My big and exciting success was practically running across the stage, one of over 700 people in blue jackets who were raised to the highest award/degree a state association can bestow on an FFA member – the state degree. I am the proud owner of a brand-new, shiny gold, emblem-shaped nerd medal!

Plant Goals, Harvest Success!

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!

Life Lessons From A Farmer – Sid Dubbert

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.

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Farm Out Loud!

Farming – Hypothetically, Literally, and Spiritually

farming- hypothetically, literally, and spiritually

I got back to Springfield this evening after a week at home in central Missouri for Spring Break. The day I drove home, I realized that practically overnight (which could mean anything from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks for this tunnel-visioned college kid) everything had turned green. I mean, our neighbor mowed our small lawn twice in the span of a little over a week.

It’s officially spring, which means that my house is regularly haunted by a presence who sleeps in a bed in our house, but rarely if ever darkens our doorstep in daylight hours. He lives on Mountain Dew and honey buns, and spends most of his days taking care of baby plants. My dad spent this past week (until it started raining incessantly) driving his new toy – a huge sprayer. It looks like a giant bug-slash-fourwheeler that runs across fields (wheat this week) using its long arms to spritz a mixture of water and chemicals to protect the plants from bugs, fungus, weeds, etc. Only one thing can be applied at a time, so these plants will get sprayed several more times this season to keep them healthy.

In other news this past week, my small Baptist church at home led a revival with a guest preacher. I really enjoyed the services, and Icouldn’t resist sharing one of the stories Brother David told one evening when he shared with us his passion for missions.

Prayer is the backbone of missions. If you’re not called to go far away, and you’re not called to go close to home right now, you’re called to pray. Because here’s the thing – farmers don’t just drive their combines into a random field and hope there will be something to harvest there. They know better. They know that they have to cultivate the ground, plant the seeds, water them, keep the weeds and bugs out, and check on them regularly to make sure they mature – they also have to make sure their tractor, sprayer, and combine are in good working order.

God tells us that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Yet He called all of us in the great commission to go therefore and make disciples. But just like a farmer, we are equipped for the call. Until we receive a call, we need to keep our equipment in working order. Is your pray-er rusty? Are your blades dull? It’s God’s parts store, the body of believers, that can help us with those things.

When God gives us a mission, He doesn’t waste words – have you noticed that? We’re supposed to listen the first time. When you hear it, jump to action – farm out loud, pray out loud, live out loud!

Farm Out Loud!

Top 10 Tips – Farm Blogging

My PR in Ag class was visited last week by Judi Graff, a farm blogger who has dedicated a blog to helping new bloggers set up their sites and tell their stories consistently. Our assignment for the week? A top 10 list based on what we learned.

My top 10 is divided up into a few categories.

For Farmers

Farm Blogs

  • Blogging is for everybody – Judi offers many suggestions on her FARMnWIFE blog for new bloggers to help with post ideas, design tips, and other advice.
  • Telling your story is free – Many of the ways people gather information are online – and it’s free to add to the internet’s wealth of knowledge in many ways (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, e-mail, etc.)
  • Your story online is important – When you take time to write or videotape a part of how you make your living, you give a face to agriculture that customers can identify with.

For Business

  • A blog gives a website life – Since it’s updated regularly, search engines like Google will move your site closer to the top of search results in your field because its algorithms prefer recently updated material
  • Blogs build customer confidence – Consumers feel more invested in your business when you open up and allow them to see your day to day operations.
  • You can be more responsive to customer concerns – If your business has an active presence online, customers will know that they can ask questions of you and get good answers.

For Bloggers

  • Know your answers to a few questions – Why do you want to blog? Who is your target audience? How are you going to encourage your readers to connect with you?
  • Keep it simple – When you choose a design, make it clean and easy to navigate without distraction
  • Make it obvious – Make sure it’s easy to find the information that people look for on a website, like information about the Farm Blogsauthor, contact info, and what to do next. The phrase Judi uses is “above the fold,” meaning on the website as it loads when you type it into the address bar and before you start scrolling. Everything a site visitor needs should be above the fold.
  • Repeat – Give site guests multiple opportunities to respond to you, like contact pages, badges, an about page, a mini about on a sidebar, and share buttons connected to each post.

I have learned a lot about blogging and social media in my PR in Ag class so far this semester. I don’t have everything perfect yet, but I’m working on it as I go. I encourage you to check out Judi Graff’s blog, and allow her to encourage you as I have to take the next step in telling your farm story.

Farm Out Loud!

Ag Day Agvocacy

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!

Farm Out Loud!

Chipotle, Sustainability, and Questions

At the Grammy’s last weekend, a commercial for Chipotle, a mexican grill, debuted. It has received a lot of attention from the agriculture industry, good and bad.

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it here so you’ll know what I’m talking about:

When I first watched this video, I really didn’t know what to think. On one hand, it’s a great illustration of a company that prefers working with family farms that produce food organically. On the other, it’s a slap in the face to the agriculture industry. I don’t know which one is more correct.

I wonder what Chipotle meant the message of their ad to be. It’s probably safe to say that they were promoting organic agriculture. Their website refers to “food with integrity” and sustainable agriculture. Now, the chain restaurant is still supporting the ag industry, so they’re probably not trying to insult the industry. However, they exclusively serve relatively inexpensive burritos. My next question was who is the person behind the ad and the company? What I found out was rather odd. Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle, has a degree in Art History and also attended culinary school. He doesn’t have a background in agriculture, but on the company’s website, he claims to know a lot about how food is produced.

As Chipotle began to grow and expand, I learned quite a bit about the way most of the food in the US is produced and processed — and what I learned was pretty grim. Pigs are raised in stark confinement, produce is grown on vast factory farms with little or no regard for the environment, and dairy cows are confined and injected with hormones that make them produce 8 times their normal amount of milk.

I don’t deny that in this country exist farms that might fit this description, or have at some point in time. Once in a while, somebody gets caught up in new technology or making money and loses track of what customers expect about their food. However, the issue with Mr. Ells’s view on the subject is the word most. Most of the food in the US does not come from the ugly farm he describes. Most of the farms in the US don’t look anything like that. It is also possible that the description is an exaggeration of the truth. Many farms feel the pressure to deliver low cost food, which cannot economically be produced on a farm with descriptors like “free range, organic,” etc.

We as an industry have come a long way from the defamed “factory farm,” but we still have a long way to go. One of the issues the industry is facing is an ever-growing demand for agricultural products, meanwhile small groups of consumers and voters are tying our hands when it comes to meeting that demand. If a solution is found that allows more bushels of grain to be produced per acre, someone somewhere is against it. It’s even worse if the same idea is applied to animal agriculture.

Small groups of people make their voices heard on such issues, meanwhile a silent majority continues to buy (and therefore fund) the products as they are already produced. It’s confusing for producers. Do you listen to the loud minority, or follow the bottom line? If the average consumer truly prefers food from sustainable or organic sources, the best way to communicate that to producers is to vote with their dollars. The more people who are willing to pay more for the organic foods some say are the best, the more producers will sit up and listen.

Regardless of what consumers do, our industry does have a responsibility to work to find ways to operate in ways that are more sustainable. That is, once we can agree on the definition of the word.

What do you think about the Chipotle ad? How do you define sustainability? How should we react to people and companies who choose to get our attention this way?

I certainly don’t have the answers, but I do know that the voice that’s missing in the ad is ours.

Farm Out Loud !

Winter Projects

When it’s very cold outside, or generally wintertime, there are a lot of seeds in the fields around home. Mostly winter wheat, which does best with hard freezes and such, hence the name. There are lots of seeds, but not lots of farmers in the fields. It’s not surprising that weather determines what farmers do on a daily basis. But a whole winter? That’s a lot of time.

I used to have a sneaking suspicion that my dad went to “work” on winter days just to stoke the fire and farm out loud at the shop. I was right about him spending time in the shop, and I’ve been there enough times to know that a whole lot of farming out loud goes on there. But, there’s actually a lot of work to be done in the winter. There’s paperwork to fill out (and tax forms, oh joy), and there is machinery to clean up, fix up, and generally get ready for the hectic work of spring (and all the other seasons).

This winter, my dad has been working in the shop on the John Deere 4960. It needed new interior. So what did it get? The works, of course. Not only does it have a freshly installed interior, it also has a very detailed, not to mention good looking, paint job. This is one of those little stories that wouldn’t necessarily get told to the world. But this is where a whole host of nerd farming comes in. My dad is a perfectionist when it comes to, well, everything, and that includes his winter project. So he was a little proud of himself, unsurprisingly. (I mean, check out that paint job in the slide show!) First, Dad told his friends on Facebook about his good-as-new tractor. Then, he took his story to the nerd farmers who care the most. He clicked over to a forum on AgTalk about machinery and proceeded to let other farmers check out his hard work. Some of them want to give him directions to their shop so he can spruce up some other local machinery in John Deere green.

http://talk.newagtalk.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=286605&mid=2223317#M2223317

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This is a great example of somebody with a pretty cool story taking it directly to the readers who want to hear about it. Props to Dad for totally getting this stuff I’m learning about in school. It’s proof to me that it’s worth my time to learn. Telling your story directly, to the people who want to hear it, when they want to hear it – that’s farming out loud at its best.

Have you found your opportunity to

Farm Out Loud?