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Our Farm In Pictures 4-11-2014

A picture taken from our DJI Phantom 2 Drone yesterday
A picture taken from our DJI Phantom 2 Drone yesterday

 

 

 

 

 

Our baseball team doing a service project helping the residents of a local nursing home celebrate the opening on the MLB season.
Our baseball team doing a service project helping the residents of a local nursing home celebrate the opening on the MLB season.
Our new house is taking shape on the farm.  They are mudding the drywall today.  We hope to be in by June.
Our new house is taking shape on the farm. They are mudding the drywall today. We hope to be in by June.

 

 

 

Treating soybean seed with fngicide, Insecticide, Inoculant and an Organic Growth Promoter
Treating soybean seed with fngicide, Insecticide, Inoculant and an Organic Growth Promoter
Took a trip to DC to lobby for speeding up the regulatory process relating to new technology in agriculture.
Took a trip to DC to lobby for speeding up the regulatory process relating to new technology in agriculture.
My wife joined me in being over the hill in March.  We had a great party at the farm with family and friends.
My wife joined me in being over the hill in March. We had a great party at the farm with family and friends.

Our Farm In Pictures: Baseball, John Deere, Flipped Pivot and a New Home

Well, after quite a bit of time off from the blog, here we go again.  Been a busy 2013 so far.  All of our crops are in the ground for this year and have all emerged.  We will be raising popcorn, white corn, yellow corn, alfalfa and prairie hay this year.

Our color scheme change.  first planted corn field in the background
Our color scheme change. first planted corn field in the background

 

 

We welcomed a full time employee to our operation this year.  Mason is a graduate of Hastings College and had worked for us part time while attending college and playing college football.  He graduated in December and started work for us at the beginning of the year.  We are happy to have him helping us.

Hastings Brickyard Bombers 8u
Hastings Brickyard Bombers 8u

I have spent a lot of time this year coaching a USSSA 8u Hastings Brickyard Bombers baseball team.  Coaching 8 year old kid pitch baseball has been a great experience.  To see where the kids are now compared to the beginning of the year and to see them start to have some success has been very gratifying. It has been a year of fundamentals and learning how to play the game the right way.  The main thing we want out of our team is for them to look at us at the end of the year and say they can’t wait to play next year.

We broke from our color scheme on the farm this year and bought a John Deere tractor which has brought me much joy(sarcasm) in the form of all the ribbing I have taken from friends and neighbors.

Weather has created some interesting situations this year also.  We have had a flipped pivot, some minor hail, gone from dry to wet and experienced relatively cool temperatures so far outside of one 100 degree day.

We have also decided after two years of subdivision living that it is time to be back on the farm and will start the construction of our new house in the next couple weeks.  The mailbox is up, plans are done and we are off and running with it.  I spend a lot of time talking about the disconnect from agriculture in our society and we felt like we were contributing to that with our children.  There are many benefits of subdivision living like neighbors, kids for our kids to play with, socialization, etc, but we also enjoy the peace, family, responsibility, work ethic, freedom and privacy living on the farm provides us.  So, back to the home place we go!  Wishing you a safe and prosperous spring and summer season.  The Weeks Family

 

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The beginnings of our new house at the farm.

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Everything ready to go for 2013 planting season
Everything ready to go for 2013 planting season
Flipped pivot
Flipped pivot

Catching Up on the Happenings On Our Family Farm

Many things are going on here at our farm this winter. We are spending time doing crop planning, receiving seed corn, booking chemicals, repairing equipment, building a few things and the list goes on and on.

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Seed corn being unloaded at the Producers Hybrids facility in Battle Creek, NE. All seed corn is harvested on the ear, unlike commercial corn, popcorn, or white corn. This is the seed we will plant in 2013.

We have hired a full time employee this year. Mason just graduated from Hastings College in December and started full time with us on January 1st. He has worked part time for us the last year and we welcome him and are very happy to have him on board.

We have worked with Producers Hybrids as a dealer for the better part of two decades and they have worked really hard this year to make sure we have the tools necessary to succeed. To that end we took an extensive tour this year during the seed corn harvest and saw our products as they came out of the field and headed to the bags that we will deliver this spring for planting. Producers is a part of the Ag Reliant family and is independent in the fact that we are not owned by a chemical company which makes them a different kind of seed company.

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Myself on the right with fellow dealer and friend Doug Luther in the middle and our District Sales Manager Jason Fryda. This was taken during lunch after visiting Ag Reliant’s Research facility on the southern side of Puerto Rico.

As part of equipping us with more knowledge of our company and our facilities, I am just returning from a visit with Producers to Puerto Rico where we toured our research facility there. They have the benefit of a climate which literally can allow three crop seasons in one year. They plant on most days and harvest on most days. This ability coupled with a dihaploid breeding process allows us to bring products to market faster than anyone in the industry. It was very beneficial to see what we have coming down the pipeline and have an opportunity to see the excitement that the people have for what is going on with our seed corn company.

The coming weeks will bring more prep work for the 2013 crop, my first meeting as a school board member at Adams Central, a meeting with the Dow Grower Technology Group, a vacation as a couple, and some basketball games the kids are playing in.

From our farm to yours, we all hope you had a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Irrigation Season on Our Farm.

Water flowing down a row on our gravity irrigated fields 

 

It has been a very busy summer here as we have been in one of the worst droughts I have seen. We have caught a few timely rains here that other areas of the state have not. Our non-irrigated corn is just barely hanging on. We will have a crop from it, but it will be less than expected. Our irrigated fields look great and yield projections for those will most likely be record yields the way it looks now as we are way ahead on Growing Degree Units and have very minimal disease and insect pressure.

The popcorn looks good this year as do all of the soybeans also. I have included a few pictures of gravity irrigation and pictures of the crops to catch you all up with what is going on. Hope to get back to posting a little more often, but mother nature and kids activities dictate my free time this time of year.

 

 

a pipeline on one of our gravity irrigated fields. The water flows through the pipe and out individual gates for every row that we open manually. It is a labor intensive irrigation process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the lower end of the field that the water flows to and we check to make sure the rows flow through to the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are thankful to have the irrigation on our farms as much of this country’s ag producers are not so fortunate!

Our corn is nearing roasting ear stage and it looks like harvest will be around two weeks early this year.

This is a book we use to keep track of the rows that water reaches the end. This particular field has over 600 rows.

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!

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!

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

Our Farm Week In Pictures 10-6-2011

We have been very busy around here.  Harvest is in full swing.  We will finish with soybeans by tomorrow and switch to corn.  The yields on the soybeans have been very good, but there are some larger varietal differences than I would like to see.  Sounds like a front moving in will bring rain by Friday evening and we will head to Lincoln Saturday to watch the Huskers play Ohio State.  We did get in a few days of goofing around before we got into harvest though.

Sailing with my Uncle Gary at Lake Hastings. The kids really enjoyed it and learned a lot about sailing.
Shooting pop cans with the bb gun a couple days before harvest started
My son and some of his buddies having a refreshment on the shop deck after an afternoon shooting pop cans with the bb gun. Shooting cans with 3 boys is a great chance to teach safety with firearms to prepare them for hunting season.
Area that the sprayer missed. What a mess.
Doing some welding on the flex head we use to harvest soybeans. It is an older head and requires quite a bit on maintenance and fixing during harvest

Adams Central School Bond 2.0 (no updates from version 1.0)

Most school districts would salivate at having a modern, updated school such as ours, but our district wants to throw it away for a new model! K-6 with great class size, modern computer lab, library, gym, and cafeteria.

This is what the Adams Central School Board voted to try to take away from us last night along with other great schools! I would hope that you all would fight to bring some common sense to this process. The Juniata Elementary School is only three years older than the high school and was completely brought up to code in 2003.

The board has stated they need three pods to efficiently operate the school system. Why we cannot add a north pod to Juniata, expand the kitchen, take advantage of the central gym, computer lab, and library, add a multipurpose space to district 60 along with a kitchen and move forward is beyond me! This would come in at a fraction of the cost and preserve buildings that are already there, along with not taking a school away from a community.

We all know there needs to be something done with districts 15 and district 33, but why take away my choice to send my children to Juniata and others right to send their children to a smaller school to satisfy 1/3 or less of the population in the district. I am not against doing something, but I am against the one school concept. A two school proposal would pass easlily in the AC district!

I also found it ironic that the board was laughing about a pickup almost being hit during the traffic study they are currently conducting on Hwy 6. I find nothing funny about putting more children on the intersection at Hwy 6 or 12th street. Would it have been as funny if it was a minivan full of kids? I realize the laughter was because they can get nothing done with the department of roads, but reality is they are not going to inconvenience people 22.5 hours a day for 1.5 hours of congestion.  Failing to recognize this reality is much the same as recognizing that we voted down this exact same proposal once already!

I strongly urge a vote against the bond for many reasons, but just the fact that our board is ignoring a vote of the people and basing their decision on 13% of the voting public(see voice of the people on page 4) is enough for me to not have to consider any other reasons. That’s right, they had a 22% response rate to their survey and 60% of those favor a one site proposal.  Hardly enough response to say the general public surely supports one site statistically, especially with the obvious slant of the survey and threats received via local media by our school board.  We voted this down once and should not have to do it again. A vote of the people usually effects change. The only change with this proposal is the Calendar. Their plan B whatever it is cannot be worse than this blunt ignorance of the vote of the people 15 months ago.

I realize there are people that disagree with this, and I respect your position also. You all have a vote just like me, so please use it!