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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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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!

Saving the World… Through Science

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.

Saving the World, One Plant at a Time

“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.

My name is Justin Conover and I am a freshman honors college student at Missouri State University, planning a career in genetic engineering.

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!

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!