Monday, February 23, 2015

Planting the Crop, Crossing the Finish Line

By Holly Spangler, Penton Agriculture

In the USFRA-produced documentary, Farmland, there's a scene where the Nebraska corn and soybean farm family plots out their day of planting. They're running behind, racing against rain and planning to run two planters all night, or at least until the rain starts. With his dad lost to cancer, young farmer David Loberg runs one planter, while his mother runs the other. The movie never reveals exactly whether they were able to finish that night, but the swell of the music sure makes you feel like it's possible.

I've tried to figure out what it is that gets me about that scene. I've seen the movie twice and while I cry as this young man tells of losing his dad (tears in the shop? Of course I will cry along), there's something completely compelling about this springtime race against time.

It's a scenario that every last farmer on every last continent knows all too well: the crop must be planted, before the rain comes. It's simple agronomics. Except that it's not so simple when it's your acres and your investment. Your operating loan. Your crop.

And I've wondered: Is this what makes farmers so passionate about what they do? Is it the risk that drives them forward every morning? Or the passion itself?

Either way, it makes for a special profession. A special industry, full of people eager to get up every day, take the risk, and push through to the finish.

Like the Loberg family in Farmland, it's the scene we'll watch play out in townships all across the nation this spring: planting. Racing a marathon rather than a sprint, and pushing onward to the finish line.

Perseverance and hard work. It's the exact things that make American agriculture worth celebrating.

Holly Spangler is the Special Projects Editor at Penton Agriculture. She blogs about issues relating to young farmers, consumers and more at her blog, My Generation.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Reflections From the New Guy

By Adam Holton, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, CHS Inc.

How would I sum up my first 12 months in agriculture? Technology. Opportunity. Purpose-driven.

While many in agriculture chose their career paths early while growing up on farms or in rural communities, I come from a second, expanding category, those who come from other business sectors. It’s been a year of a considerable learning that has left me feeling both excited and humbled to be part of agriculture and, in the case of CHS, the cooperative system.

So here’s what this newbie has learned about agriculture in his freshman year:

Technology – I joined CHS from a technology-driven medical diagnostics business and wrongly assumed that agriculture wouldn’t stack up where tech is concerned. Instead I’ve been amazed by the precision agriculture in the field, as well as what goes on behind the scenes. It’s inspiring to see what technology has done to help farmers manage against the whims of weather and other unpredictability. At the same time, this underscores why CHS is actively supporting the critical STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs that will drive the future technological advances so critical to developing next-generation agriculture employees.

Purpose-driven – I’m proud of my time in the U.S. Marines Corps, where a “what can I do to contribute?” culture always outranked “what can you do for me?” Agriculture and, especially CHS as a cooperative, have the same purpose-driven focus. Every day it’s always about how each of us can support one other and help our farmer-owners grow. That strong work ethic, collaborative spirit and entrepreneurial approach are at our core, whether we’re on the frontlines as farmers, working directly with producers or one of countless employees supporting them behind the scenes.

Opportunity – And the future? A growing and hungry world to feed, advancing technology and a workforce where many are nearing retirement add up to long-term opportunity.

Take it from the new guy. Whether you’re already committed to agriculture or considering the possibilities, you’re in for an exciting time. Most important, you have an opportunity to connect to something meaningful -- feeding a hungry world.

Friday, February 13, 2015

ACA Announces 2015 National Ag Day Essay Contest Winners

The Agriculture Council of America has announced the winners of the 2015 National Ag Day video and written essay contest winners. The winners were chosen based on the 2015 theme, Agriculture: Sustaining Future Generations.

The theme presented an opportunity for students to address how the agriculture industry is rising to the challenges of feeding a growing population. Entrants chose to either write an essay and/or create a video focusing on how today’s growers are overcoming challenges to provide a safe, stable food supply and sustain the significant role agriculture plays in everyday life.

“CHS enthusiastically supports rural youth and is proud to showcase their thoughts and creativity,” says Annette Degnan, marketing communications director, CHS Inc., one of this year’s essay contest sponsors. “The essay and video contests provide the perfect platform for their visions and dreams to be shared with a broader audience.”

The national written essay winner, Theresa Seibel from Roanoke, Virginia receives a $1,000 prize and round-trip ticket to Washington, D.C., for recognition during the Celebration of Ag Dinner held March 18 at Whitten Patio at the USDA. During dinner, she will have the opportunity to read the winning essay as well as join with industry representatives, members of Congress, federal agency representatives, media and other friends in a festive ag celebration. Video essay winner, Harshin Sanjanwala from Madison, Mississippi wins a $1,000 prize, and the winning video will be posted to the Ag Day web site.   This is the 42nd anniversary of National Ag Day. The goal of the ACA is to provide a spotlight on agriculture and the food and fiber industry. The ACA not only helps consumers understand how food and fiber products are produced, but also brings people together to celebrate accomplishments in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

The Ag Day Essay Contest is sponsored by CHS Inc., High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal, National Association of Farm Broadcasting and Penton Farm Progress Companies.

National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America and celebrated in classrooms and communities across the country. ACA is a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community, dedicating its efforts to increasing the public's awareness of agriculture's role in modern society.

Founded in 1973, National Ag Day encourages every American to:
  • 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.
Learn more and register for events at