Category Archives: Agriculture

The Start of Spring Work and Documentation On Our Farm

Spring work is in full swing at our farm theses days. This is probbly the earliest we have been able to get field work done that I can remember. It was a very mild winter and that in turn will present its own set of problems this year.

One of the problems we will see is that our compaction zones in the soild were not broke by the natural freeze and thaw that we usually experience. Another issue we will deal with may be heavier than normal disease and pest pressures in our crops. This is going to mean increased costs for our farm most likely and the use of fungicides and some insecticides which we have not had to use for quite a few years, at least on our conventional corn.

We do use both fungicides and insecticides on all of our popcorn acres as the popcorn plant is a much more susceptible plant than our yellow commercial corns. Popcorn in general has weak scores when it comes to plant diseases and pest like corn borer and rootworm as all of our popcorn is non-GMO. Much of our popcorn ends up in export channels and it is a requirement that it is non-GMO. It is all source verified and can be traced all the way back to individual fields it was rasied in. We also document every single thing we do in that field regarding application, and what is put on the crop regarding fertilier, chemicals, etc.

The one thing I think a lot of people do not realize is that we do this same documentation for all of our crops. It is a requirement of the federal government and we can be audited at any time for compliance. The majority of the yellow corn that we grow is GMO corn and requires little to no fungicides or insecticides as the plant has a natural resistance to most of our major concerns. On our farm we use GPS technology and computers to document everything we do with a time stamp. We can telll you exactly what time of day we were in a certain spot in the field, how fast we were traveling, amounts applied, wind direction, and its speed. This keeps us in compliance and also provides us documentation regarding potential drift, etc. should there be a concern with a neighbors field or farm.

So, spring work has begun, but so has the task of documenting all that we do to ensure a safe, abundant food source for all.

A Quick Pic for #TacoTuesday. This Is Where Your Beef Comes From!

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With the nice weather this week we are hauling some of our commodities to the local feed yard. Today we are hauling some alfalfa and hauled some corn also. We will also haul them the majority of our prairie hay production. Animal agriculture is the number one economic engine in Nebraska and they are my number one customer as a grain farmer. Ironically since I have Taco Tuesday in the title, these cattle will eventually become the burger in your Tacos at Taco Johns. Happy Ag Week to you all.

Going #AgNerd on the Farm

The term nerd 25 years ago and still today generally has a negative meaning to it, but there are a bunch of agricultualists and our supporters that have embraced the term and somewhat made it the calling card of the AgChat Foundation.  I am not sure who first coined the term, but it has caught on and we embrace #AgNerd.

The AgChat Foundation is an organization dedicated to helping enable people involved in agriculture to better tell their stories through the use of social media.  I serve in a volunteer capacity with the organization in setting up our conferences to help with this educational effort.  I attended the first conference in August of 2011 in Chicago, IL.  It was quite an experience finally meeting in person all of the individuals with whom I had advocated for agriculture with over the previous couple years.   We put together our second Agvocacy conference this last August in Nashville, TN and it was a resounding success.

As I look forward this week to attending The Ag Issues 2012 event sponsored by Bayer Crop Science I reflect on where this social media journey of agvocating has taken me.  I have had an opportunity to work with an amazing group of people that are interested in having a conversation with consumers and finding our common ground.  These are selfless individuals interested in helping others to tell their stories and help bridge the gap that seems to exist between the producers of our food and the consumers.  Last night many farmers and others in this area had a chance to listen to Anne Burkholder speak about the importance of telling this story and doing it the right way.  If you have not heard of Anne, make sure to visit her blog at www.feedyardfoodie.com. I believe it opened some eyes to the divide that is out there.  For too many years agriculture has sat back and let others tell our story for us.  Let me tell you, it is not a pretty story.  Do you consider your farm a “factory”?  I certainly do not, but that is the way we are portrayed the majority of the time!  Why, because the public does not know us.   What they do know of us is usually second hand.

I get the chance because of this social media adventure to serve on a sustainability panel at Ag Issues 2012.  The Twitter hashtag for the event in #agissues12.  Please follow it on Twitter as myself and some friends I have met through #agchat will be tweeting the conference also.  To follow the conference follow me at @Huskerfarm Michele Payn-Knoper at @mpaynknoper, and Jeff Vanderwerff at @agsalesman.  We will be #agnerding  with our smartphones, iPads, etc. for a couple days in Nashville, but there are a ton of others out there doing it every day, telling their story via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Blogs, Pinterest, etc.

Who are you going to tell your farm story to today?  Is there someone you can connect with in a positive way to start a conversation?  Are you going to let someone else do it for YOU?  Are we going to be part of the solution, or help create a bigger divide?  Take 10 minutes a week to tell your story in some way and see what it can accomplish.  Large companies employ PR and reputation management firms to handle interaction and communication with the public.   As individuals in agriculture, that is just another one of the many hats we need to wear each day on our own farms!  I tell my story because I want to ensure that our children are afforded the same opportunities  in agriculture that I have been.  Find your reason!

Did You Know McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Sonic All Support HSUS?

This is a great blog post by Chris Chinn, a farmer from Missouri.  Her number one concern is the welfare of her animals!

Did You Know McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Sonic All Support HSUS?.

Chris does a great job of explaining her family’s reasons for adopting modern pork production practices!!!

Our Farm Week In Pictures 2-7-2012

This is a new pivot they have laid out to construct on one of our farms. This is an early February picture and we still have no frost in the ground. The next picture below is only 2 days later. Winter finally decided to arrive here.

Same pivot on the ground two days later.

One of my daughters helping me do some work on the sprayer. This is the daughter that sang a song called "combine" set to the tune of Rawhide a few years back while we were harvesting popcorn.

Here is the link to her singing in the combine a few years ago.  https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1413559700969  I was doing video updates of harvest in the field to post to Twitter.

The snow accumulation on our back deck in the most recent storm. We got 11+ inches of snow with 30-40 mph winds. It ended up being a weaker storm in our area than they were predicting. It was a heavy snow with a good amount of rain beforehand. We needed the moisture here.

Downtime In the Winter? Not On This Farm!

One of the common misconceptions with row crop farming is that we tend to take the winters off and basically sit around doing nothing.  I would say a decade or two ago if you were purely a grain farmer, there was a lot more time off than now, however, most farms twenty years ago had a livestock presence also.  It seems we finish harvest, start fall fieldwork, ground freezes, and you tackle the continual pile of bookwork and planning for the next year along with working on equipment for the next few months so it performs with minimal breakdowns.

We used to have a cow/calf herd on this farm and I will tell you that when it is snowing and blowing I do not miss the cows a bit, but many in our area who farm also tend to a livestock herd year round.  I can tell you that if you have livestock, there is no downtime on the farm.  I remember calving out heifers (Cows who are having their first calf) and waking every two to four hours for two months to check on them in cold weather.  I also remember rolling bales in blizzards to try to keep them warm and give them a dry place to herd along with some energy from the feedstock.  Carrying a half frozen calf through snow while the cow head butts you in the rear because you took the calf.  Having a cow jump in the back of a pickup because you are tagging her calf.  The days of raising livestock on a larger scale are not something we intend to do again, but we will have a small herd again someday to teach my children the responsibility of caring for food animals and understanding the purpose they serve.

Another thing that has changed over the years for our farm is that there is a tremendous amount of management and bookwork that goes into a farming operation.  We have become more like a full fledged business.  We have moved from written accounting ledgers, to quicken, to quickbooks, and now to managerial accounting which allows us to analyze data from a cash or accrual basis on individual field levels.  We have changed from, well I think i will plant this because of rotation or preference to hard financial analysis of what crop will provide the best return while also properly nurturing the soil that is the living organism that our farm depends on each and every day to make our living.  We spend days in the winter analyzing yield data, soils maps, soil fertility tests, and hybrid data to pull all of these things together and go to the field in March or April with a plan that rests on hopes of a good weather year.

You all know the sayings about farmers.  “Three and three, three weeks in the spring and three weeks in the fall”, Keep the hat rolled so it will fit in the mailbox”, etc, etc.  Agriculture has become a full time, highly management focused business.  It has adapted and changed to meet ever increasing needs both domestically and globally while maintaining the “Family Farm”.

Do we slow down a little in the winter compared to the growing season, yes, but do accountants slow down other than year end and the tax season early in the year?    Yes, they do.  Is winter “downtime” on our farm?  I would say, no.  Is winter downtime when raising livestock on a farm?  I would definitely say NO!

4 Wheelers, Hunting, #agnerd-ing and Some Snow – A Picture Show of The Last Few Weeks on the Farm

A little post harvest 4 wheelin' through the harvested soybean field on our home place

 

Deer Hunting

 

 

#agnerd-ing out by checking soil types while going through the field with a soilweb app on the iPad while sattellites steer the tractor for me.

 

Received a little snow last night just in time for Christmas.
Received a little snow last night just in time for Christmas!

 

Board Duty, Is It Worth It? Yes! School Board at Adams Central? I’m Not Sure!

I often get asked the question, “why do you spend so much time serving on boards?”  The simple answer is that I feel all should serve their community in some way.  Whether that is in your school, church, fire department, town council, 4-H, MOPS or any other service to the greater good of others, I see it as a positive investment in the future.

My wife would say I over extend myself time-wise, and I respectfully agree with her!  At the current time I am serving on Congressman Smith’s Ag Advisory Committee, Chairing the Prairie Loft Center Board, Chairing the Development Committee on that board, serving on the Nebraska Rural Radio Association Board of Directors, serving on a training committee for the AgChat Foundation, serving on the Adams County Farm Bureau Board, and my wife and I recently completed a stint on Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher Committee.

Every single one of those committees serves my chosen occupation of Agriculture in one way or another and that is the reason I chose to put my time and effort into supporting those organizations and people.  As, I look forward to the end of my term on the Prairie Loft Board this month I might choose to focus my energy more toward things that benefit the community as a whole and not just agriculture or even mostly agriculture. School Board is one of the things I am considering along with some other opportunities.  Is school board something I have always had my mind set on doing?  No, and in fact I would say the opposite!  Is it an incredibly rewarding position?  No, it is a thankless job!

Why even consider it then?  I believe the one thing good to come out of our school district voting down a school bond twice in the last 18 months is that people have come to the realization that we need high quality individuals with the ability to make decisions based on a certain amount of business acumen balanced with common sense leading our district!  This district needs to come together and do something now.  Our district has been fractured and pitted against each other in this battle for the vision of a select few.  I spent a lot of time on the phone putting together a diverse group of approximately twenty people to try to come to an agreement on how to proceed.  We met with some Administrative staff and came together with another group in the district that had been formed by some other patrons in our district (bringing our numbers to over forty) and had discussions.

I said before the second attempt at a bond that we needed to throw the people strongly for and the people strongly against in a room, lock the doors and tell them to come up with a solution.  The board chose not to do that, but to instead rely on a mail survey with a 22% response rate (recycling it for toilet paper comes to mind here). We, as patrons put those people in a room and it took 40 minutes to come up with a viable plan to move the district forward!  So, here we are, two failed bonds later, a district divided that is generally looked on as one of the best in the state, and extreme distrust in our school board.  Our united group of citizens that are representative of both sides of the failed bonds come to the board with a proposal that we are willing to get behind and help with and we already have a board member out working against the plan saying he is going to shoot holes in it.

I do not claim to be a genius, but after getting my butt handed to me on two different, but not so different bonds that were certain to pass I would operate with a little bit of humility and try to work with people, but that’s just me.

“When things go wrong, great leaders look in the mirror for the person responsible.”  -Doug Henley

Maybe our biggest issue lies in Leadership, not in facilities?

“Successful leaders listen. They use a lot of common sense in their decision
making…and they listen. Leaders use their intuition along with moral and
spiritual values…and they listen. Leaders communicate clearly and directly…and
they listen.”-Doug Henley

It might be time for a change in our district!  Not sure how I want to be a part of that yet, but the wheels are turning!!!

What is your idea for change in our District?  Keep it respectful, keep names out of it and let’s have a discussion.  I will be approving all postings, and anything deemed offensive or inappropriate will not be approved.  Pleas avoid personal attacks also as they will not be approved.

Our Farm Week In Pictures 11/6/2011

Well, we finished up harvest a little over a week ago and it has been a blur of activity since then.  We are shredding stalks on the gravity irrigated fields, discing up our organic quarter to return it to conventional production, drying grain in the bins to prepare the crop for winter storage, cleaning up equipment, winterizing equipment, storing equipment in the building for the winter, purchasing and making commitments for next years crop inputs, planning for next years crop and meeting with our seed customers to get next years orders.

Below are a few pictures to get you caught up on our farm happenings.

This is us harvesting our NET plot which is an experimental corn plot with all of the newest genetics either entering full production, or still in the experimental stage. These hybrids are compared against current hybrids both in our line-up and competitive companies. Each hybrid has four rows spaced 30 inches and 400 feet long. We plant the corn at a population of 34,000 plants per acre.
This is our sprayer we purchased recently to do all of our own spraying. We had previously done all of our own and spent two years having it commercially done by someone else. I am looking forward to getting to run this machine.
My son getting his four wheeler fix for the week shortly before we started harvest.
End of the first day of hunting at the Korkow Rodeos Ranch near Pierre, SD. I make this trip annually. Beautiful country and a few days of unplugging from technology as cell phones do not work there for the most part.

Raising “Food Animals”

Raising “Food Animals”

Animals hold many roles in our society. Growing up in urban South Florida, I had more experience with “pet animals” than any other. However, my dad likes to hunt so I was also familiar with wild animals that became food on my dinner table. When I married Matt, moved to Nebraska, and started to work at the cattle feed yard, I was exposed to another “type” of animal: a “food animal”. This is an animal that is raised for the express purpose of becoming human food.

It wasn’t until I began to work at the cattle feedyard that I starting thinking about animals in different “roles” in society. As an urbanite, the boundaries between the “animal types” were pretty fuzzy for me. Fifteen years later, as a cattle feedyard manager, the boundaries are very clearly defined. I have animals at my house that are pets. I have pet dogs, cats, and I even have a couple of horses that fall into the “pet” category.

Magnum (the horse) and Izmo (the cat in my daughter’s arms) are pets that are part of our family.
Those animals are literally part of our family. I suspect that many of you can empathize with this type of relationship with an animal.

My cattle do not fall into this category. They are not pets. They are animals that are raised for food production. I mentioned in my last post that I have two top priorities at the feedyard: food (beef) safety, and healthy and well cared for cattle. Those are priorities for me because I know that healthy cattle make healthy beef. It is a heady and sobering feeling for me as a mother to know that the animals that I am caring for will end up nourishing children. That is a huge responsibility, and one that I take very seriously. I have to have food (beef) safety as my top priority—the animals that I raise are being fed to people—they are not sleeping on my couch at night next to my dog.

This steer calf is a “food animal”, raised according to Beef Quality Assurance Practices, and will provide a safe and healthy source of beef for either my family or yours.
I make decisions every day that affect the health of my cattle and the safety of the beef that they produce. If I treated my animals “as pets” I would be doing a disservice to you as the consumer because food safety and quality would then not be my top priority. I realize that it may be difficult to imagine an animal that is not a pet, but I am asking you to do that because it is something that is incredibly important to understand if you are truly interested in “where you food comes from”. Your beef comes from cattle. If you have been following this blog from the inception, hopefully you fully realize how important cattle care and comfort are to me. However, it is equally important that you realize that, as a “grower of beef”, I must put the safety and quality of beef ahead of everything else.

About the author Anne Burkholder:

A native of urban Palm Beach County, Florida; I was an Ivy League educated athlete fueled by beef for many years before I understood “where my beef came from.” Now, I am a mother of three and live with my husband in Nebraska where we run a cattle feedyard and farming operation. Feed Yard Foodie is a site where people can come to read about the real story of beef, written by someone who actually gets their hands dirty.

Many thanks to Anne for allowing us to publish this piece on our blog. Please connect with her on her blog at www.feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com