farm

Agvocate or Aggravate?

If you are reading this, it is likely you read other agricultural and farming blogs as well so you may have noticed this “trend” that I will be discussing. There are more and more people writing blogs, social media posts, etc advocating for agriculture (agvocate). While having additional people working to bring awareness to agriculture and farming we need to be careful how we are going about it. I’ve recently noticed a spike in the amount of anger displayed in Blogs, Facebook postings, Tweets, etc. Remember we are trying to Agvocate not Aggravate our audience.

I 100% understand that many times these postings are written in response to something and you are angry, but to the non-farming community you can easily seem like a mean, cruel person with anger issues. This is not how we should be promoting a cause we feel so strongly about. It is due to these strong feelings about our way of life that we allow these emotions to take over our work, but at what cost? I also get fired up when a company/corporation condemns GMO’s or herbicide use, when a politician proposes legislation without understanding the entire impact, when the major news media mostly ignores the wildfires that destroyed so much, but anger isn’t always the best delivery method of your message.

Of course that angry blog post reaches a lot of readers and that video rant posted on Facebook gets a couple thousand views and a few hundred shares, but it is usually the farming community reading and watching these posts, sharing with their friends and families, people that already understand where you are coming from. We as whole, need to do a better job taking a step back and a deep breath before trying to agvocate. As we strive to educate the public about all things ag. related, lets make sure we carry ourselves as professionally as possible so our audience is more likely to listen and understand without believing we are all angry, crazy people.

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This Old Barn

There is something about America’s old barns that keep me captivated. I don’t know if it is the old architecture, the real dimension lumber, the history, or the smells but I can’t resist exploring these old landmarks dotting the landscape.

It is amazing to me to think that 100+ years ago family and friends came together to build these important buildings, some times before the farm home was even built. Hand sawn, hand nailed, and without the advantage of cranes, telehandlers, and other modern equipment.

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One of my favorite barns is the old “horse barn” at the farm where my mother was raised. Not only did countless animals take shelter in that big barn but it was an intergal part of the lives of 5 generations with the 6th generation just getting old enough to show interest. It has been in the family since it was first built so many years ago. A walk through that barn is like a step into the past, built by Irish immigrants with repairs and changes made throughout the course of time to suite the needs of the current generation of farmers. Today it stands tall, with new tin on the front and sides and mostly used for storage, and as a tribute to those who worked the ground before us.

Preseverving these old barns is as important to me as teaching our kids history in school. They all have their own unique story to tell. Some of those stories are of heartbreak and tragedy and some of pure joy. Not only do I urge you to go explore an old barn if given the chance but go talk to the oldest member of the family about it. You may learn more than you ever dreamt you would.

#Harvest16 Photo-Recap

Late this past fall we asked our Facebook Followers to submit some #Harvest16 pictures. We had submissions from all over the U.S. We figured with all the wintery gloom now was a good time to put them all together for you. Thanks to all who submitted!

Case IH Robo-Tractor

As you probably are already well aware, CNH Global revealed their new autonomous tractor concept. They have been showcasing both the cabless Case IH version as well as a cabbed New Holland model. These tractors have been paraded around the country to some of the biggest farm shows around, but are these tractors really a look at our immediate future? Well here is my take.

If you are like me the announcement of the Robo-Tractor, as I like to call it, made you cringe. I just can not imagine a world where the tractors did the work with no operator. It seems to go against our agricultural legacy. However, we all should know by now that new and improved technologies emerge every day and this Robo-Tractor wasn’t exactly a huge surprise to me.

Personally, I don’t see this Robo-Tractor coming to a farm near you anytime soon. For one, this big reveal was not a new model or product announcement, it wasn’t meant to show you what will be on every dealer lot next year, this is only to show you what they are working on and what the future of farm machinery COULD look like. These autonomous tractors as well as their new slogan are nothing more than a marketing gimmick to try to boost sales for CNH.
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The public’s opinion on these machines is less than optimistic based on everyone I’ve talked to and numerous articles written about it. Most farmers just aren’t ready for the day where they spend less time out of the tractor and more time in an office. Many farmers have pointed out the obvious pitfalls of such a machine, such as it not detecting a wet spot that a human operator may have been able to avoid or problems with the implements hooked behind the tractor, it does you no good if you have to drive out to the field 8 times  to fix or adjust a piece of equipment. Roadability is a big concern, in the video released by CNH they mentioned it being able to travel to the field on its own on private roads and paths. That doesn’t always work real well in some parts of the country where you are more often than not moving machinery on public roadways. There is a real concern of price. We can only speculate now, but everyone is guessing these tractors will be very, very, very expensive, higher than tractors are already.

I believe the version of the Case IH tractor they revealed will be a flop if ever released in that form. It isn’t versatile enough to be of much use to the average farm. The New Holland version they are showing however, could have some success as it still has a cab as well as a user friendly operating station like our current tractors and is meant to be easily used either driverless or with an operator. The only way I see very many of either version being sold is if big corporations buy them in an effort to reduce labor. I’m talking the farms that the owner or share holder owners don’t make any real day to day decisions but are there to manage the finances and try to collect a healthy profit for themselves. These are people that have likely never farmed or even stepped foot on the place they own.

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Quite frankly, I don’t like this thing and I share the same views and opinions of many others. I believe it will cost to much, not necessarily make life or work any easier, and the cost of repairs will be horrendous. I also see almost zero benefit to the average farmer. We already have GPS guidance systems and auto-steer to help us out, what will this thing do that we can’t already do? If I own a piece of equipment I prefer a human to accompany said equipment in case there are any issues. I don’t want to be tied to my computer or smart phone any more than I already am. If I send an employee out to the field with a tractor to do some tillage I know that he/she will only call me if there is a question or issue, and other than that I know the machine is in good hands. If I send a Robo-Tractor to the field to do some tillage I have to periodically check on it with my computer, tablet, or phone thus limiting the amount of work I can get done myself. I don’t like the idea that this computerized abomination can possibly put people out of a job. I am frustrated with the fact that CNH is trying to come across as leaders of unmarked territory, when in fact there are companies already producing autonomous tractors as well as converting existing tractors to be fully autonomous. I’ll give them credit on that paint scheme though.

Do I believe the autonomous tractor will eventually make its way into every day farm life? Of course I do, but I think we are still a ways off from that happening. I think the agriculture economy will have to improve drastically before many people even consider purchasing such a machine. I also believe that the technology still has growing to do before that day arrives.

The Importance of Carpet Farming

If you grew up on a farm or around a farm or in a rural area you likely have fond memories of farming several thousand acres on the floors of your bedroom, kitchen, living room, hall ways, and even some custom work for a neighbor over in the bathroom. You likely had some of the newest equipment of your favorite color. There were probably times you had to beg your sister for some pasture space in her room for your newest heifers.

At times I see kids tearing across the floor combining corn or baling hay and I’d give nearly anything to be able to go back to those days when a trip with Mom or Dad to the local farm store or implement dealer meant a chance to hopefully bring home another piece of equipment for MY farm. My birthday, Christmas, and sometimes Easter usually meant I’d get at least one new addition for the farm.
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Carpet farming taught me as well as other kids some very important lessons over the years. A large part of that state of the art machinery I had was purchased with my own money and I learned early the importance of saving for what I wanted and budgeting expenses accordingly. I also learned what it felt like to beg the banker (Mom and Dad) to spot me the money that I PROMISED to pay back (I wonder how many of those promises I actually made good on). I still remember the first time I learned about sales tax. I was at the Clay County Fair and though my farm was primarily green, a toy booth had a New Holland tractor and implement, I think a ripper, and for some reason I thought I needed that for an upgrade. I happily went to the check out counter and bought my newest equipment, after walking back to where I was meeting my parents I realized the change I received wasn’t correct, or so I thought. I failed to realize we had to pay sales tax, boy that was a shock.
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I’m sure you all have similar memories and lessons learned from those days. We also shouldn’t forget how much fun a kid has when his/her parents, grandparents, or any adult really, gets down on the floor and plays along. Kiddos love that, especially if you let them be farm manager. You may be amazed at how much fun your having yourself, that is until you try to get up and those old knees are stiffened up.

To all my Carpet Farmers out there; Farm ON!

If You Aren’t Learning, You’re Losing

I know to most farmers the terms class, training, clinic, and seminar sound absolutely terrible. I, for one, am in the same boat. If someone approaches me about one of these learning events I usually dread it, but fact of the matter is if we aren’t actively learning we are losing. This isn’t to say that all learning comes from a class room and that all classes/clinics/trainings are created equally.

I recently attended one of Conklin’s Pro Ag 1 events. Pro Ag, for those that haven’t been to one, is a 2 day fundamentals of agronomy clinic. There, they discuss the importance of soil health, nutrient uptake of various crops, nutrient management (particularly nitrogen), importance of soil and tissue tests and how to read them, among other crop production practices and topics. Though this event is put on by a manufacturer of crop input products it is not a sales meeting. While at lunch the first day of this event, a gentleman at my table shared with me that it was refreshing to attend a corporate sponsored event that wasn’t about pushing product. I think its this pushy sales tactic used for years by many different companies that have turned us off on attending these events. I urge all farmers out there to attend a learning event or listen to a keynote speaker whether it is about crop production, livestock, or even tax planning. We just need to make sure the event we plan on attending is an event worth going to.

Now a class, clinic, or training isn’t the only way for us to learn and grow. Something as simple as talking to other farmers, even in different areas of the country can be very beneficial. Some of the best things I’ve ever learned about both crop production and raising livestock is from other farmers sharing experiences and ideas. There are many ways to connect with fellow farmers and ag. enthusiasts. Social media is a terrific way of connecting with others, my favorite is through Facebook groups. There are tons of agriculture groups to get hooked into. My favorite are, https://www.facebook.com/groups/agricultureproud/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/midwestcropproducers/ as well as our very own group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/PROFOUNDAgriculture/

If we don’t do all we can to learn to be more efficient, more productive, and more sustainable we will suffer. Agriculture is in a tough place right now. It is no secret that the current prices are hurting us and input costs aren’t coming down very fast. We are under constant fire from people who don’t fully understand agriculture and where food comes from. Then, on top of it all, we have government agencies striving to make our lives more difficult with new regulations. We must learn to be productive despite all thats going on, while remaining profitable and sustainable.

Support Your Local FFA

Learning to Do,
 Doing to Learn,
 Earning to Live,
 Living to Serve.

This one phrase consisting of only 12 words have stuck with me long after my FFA Career ended. As a Sophmore in high school I decided to join FFA. My only regret is not joining as a Freshman. I learned very valuable lessons in FFA throughout those 3 years that are beyond the contents of a text book. Like all good high school agriculture programs, we learned about soil science, plant health, animal science, meat and milk production, and much more. Those lessons are important for aspiring farmers and those pursuing careers in agriculture but that just barely scratches the surface of FFA. FFA taught us all about life skills that I will forever carry with me including public speaking and giving presentations, problem solving, research skills, interview skills, leadership, organization, teamwork, and servitude.

My local FFA Chapter, Okoboji FFA, does a great job of giving back to the community. The community supports the chapter throughout the year by partaking in various fundraising events including fruit sales, an antique tractor ride, donations for an annual auction, the chapter pumpkin patch, and more. Okoboji FFA then uses those funds to purchase equipment or materials for the shop, and send students to district, state, and national events. Every year the chapter strives to give back to the community by donating fruit to the elderly, trash pickup on a stretch of Highway 71, present a series of Farm Safety demonstrations to elementary students, educate non-farming folks about agriculture, and many more projects and events.

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FFA is more than just showing livestock at the local fair and working on tractors. I encourage you to support your local FFA Chapter. We all need to be thinking of the future of agriculture, especially when so many of our practices seem to be under attack by the mis-informed. I urge you all to go out to the next event you see that your local chapter is hosting. If you can and wish to, donate to either your local chapter, or to the National FFA Organization. The next time you see students sporting the National Blue and Corn Gold remember that FFA is much bigger than livestock and corduroy.