Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Using Technology to Agvocate for Farmers

It is easy to see where technology is advancing in everyday life. In your lifetime you have likely made the switch from a flip phone to a smart phone, or when you once consulted a dictionary to spell a word, you now say “Alexa, how do you spell…” and so on.

In some industries it is obvious where technology has made improvements, but it might come as a surprise just how far technology has advanced in the agricultural industry. Take CES for example. This show is a place for the unveiling of the latest and greatest technology that companies have to offer. At the show there is anything from cars, gaming devices, and virtual reality to smart appliances for your home and wearable tech. Oh yes, and a John Deere sprayer. A what? Yes – a sprayer.

For the second year, John Deere exhibited at CES in front of a crowd of more than 175,000 people. The exhibit was likely hard to miss with a R4038 sprayer sporting a 120-foot carbon fiber boom. Deere was in attendance to not only flex their ag muscle, but also their tech muscle to show how technology is changing the face of agriculture.

To John Deere there was no better way to showcase tech than to have those who uses it every day share their experience. Deere customers Jeremy and Elizabeth Jack of Silent Shade Planting Company were invited by Deere and their equipment dealer Wade Litton from Wade, Inc. to do just that. As people visited the booth, their curiosity was piqued. What was this thing and what is its purpose? As the Jacks would explain, technology within their equipment enables them to do more with less while being productive, profitable and sustainable for the future.

The Jacks farm 12,000 acres of corn, cotton, soybeans and rice in the Mississippi Delta, and they have the management of their operation down to a science – literally. With the use of technology and equipment, they can have more time for family activities while still knowing what is happening on the farm from their phone. They can also make more informed decisions for their operation and make adjustments without even sitting in the cab of a tractor. The Jacks know not every field can be treated the same, and not every acre in a given field is identical.

In Silent Shade’s quarterly newsletter, Jeremy Jack said CES provided their farm with a huge opportunity to share their story with a megaphone to a large non-agricultural audience. Until then their main source of communicating was through their newsletter and social media channels. With the display of a sprayer, the Jacks said they were a little nervous CES attendees would focus on chemical use on farms. To their surprise, that was not the case. Instead, people were genuinely curious how the technology was improving agriculture.

The Jacks were excited to be a part of CES 2020, and John Deere was happy to have them share their story and advocate for technology in ag. Like Deere and the Jacks, Ag Day also advocates on behalf of agriculture and educates people on how the advancements in farming will enable farmers to provide more food and fiber to a growing population while practicing sustainability for the future of farming.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

African Swine Fever Prevention in the U.S.

Growing up in a small town in Iowa, agriculture was all around me. My family raises cattle, has 300 acres of row crop and shows pigs. Agriculture is part of our livelihood and I saw, first-hand, the time, commitment and care that my family and so many others in our community put into growing food and raising healthy animals. That’s why it’s so important we continue to ensure our U.S. hog herd remains safe, for the livelihood of farmers and consumers around the globe.

African swine fever (ASF), a disease affecting only pigs with no human or food safety risks, is spreading throughout China, Southeast Asia and Europe. The most likely path for ASF or other foreign animal diseases (FADs) to enter the country would be through the importation of infected animals or contaminated, contraband products. An outbreak of certain FADs would immediately close U.S. pork export markets, with significant harm to our farmers, consumers and overall economy.

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are doing an excellent job of protecting America’s borders and ports, we must continuously strive to strengthen biosecurity. For more than a year, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has led efforts to boost biosecurity at our borders, working with lawmakers and administration officials on funding for additional agricultural inspectors. In an important milestone in NPPC’s efforts, Congress recently passed legislation (S. 2107), which authorizes funding for 720 new agricultural inspectors at land, air and sea ports to prevent ASF and other FADs from entering the United States. That will help protect the U.S. swine herd and ensure that the farms in my community and around the country are able to continue to provide healthy, safe pork to consumers domestically and around the world.

USDA and CBP agricultural inspectors are our first line of defense against ASF and other FADs. Hog farmers across this country, in communities just like mine, are producing safe, nutritious and affordable pork. On this National Agriculture Day—and every day—let’s continue to remain vigilant to ensure the number one preferred protein in the world remains plentiful and safe.

Friday, March 6, 2020

5 Facts about Farming That Americans Need to Know


Many Paulsen employees grew up on farms or live on farms today. And while our office is much like other marketing agencies, our water cooler talk is a bit different.  In honor of National Ag Day, we asked a couple of our farmer-staff members what they’d like consumers to know.

1. If you want to know something about farming, ask a farmer.
If you drive past a farm and don’t recognize what you’re seeing, you’re not alone.

“I would encourage consumers to approach farmers with their questions,” says Brittany Lessman, account specialist and farmer. “We’re happy to answer their questions. I’d also want consumers to keep an open mind and trust that farmers are the right folks to ask.”

Account Coordinator Alix Pearson is active in her family’s sheep operation in Hettinger, N.D. “We shear some of our sheep in mid-November,” she says. “That’s because we lamb from the end of November through the beginning of March, and the wool prevents us from seeing if they’re about to give birth, so it’s a necessity.”

“During winter, someone driving by might think the sheep look cold,” Alix says. “But actually, we have a heated, insulated, well-bedded barn that they can enter at any time. And before it even gets dark, we bring them into the barn.”

2. Consider the expertise of your sources.
When you do find information, check to see where it’s coming from. Is the source a scientist? A veterinarian? An agronomist? An animal nutritionist? It might seem obvious, but the experts on farming are farmers and the people that work in the industry.

3. Farmers care about their land and animals.
A farmer’s land or animals is literally his or her livelihood. That’s why stories about farmers misusing land or mistreating animals are often untrue. Today’s farmers have excellent resources for maintaining and improving soil health. Livestock are raised with great care; several years ago Brittany laughed about how her dairy cows’ waterbeds were more comfortable than her own bed.

4. Many farmers are generous and caring.
While farmers often pride themselves on being self-sufficient, people in rural communities have traditionally depended on one another. Paulsen President and farmer Sara Steever has seen this first-hand.

“One of our neighbors who was only in his fifties passed away suddenly,” Sara says.  He had been getting ready for harvest—his equipment was out and ready to go.

“A few weeks after his funeral, on a beautiful fall day, I saw five combines and probably as many grain trucks on his land, and they took out his harvest all in one day. Then all the women in the community got together and made a big meal.”

“I think that's just so integral to rural communities,” says Sara. “They understand the power of getting together to accomplish something and just stepping up and helping a family when things go south.”

5. When it comes to food, having multiple choices benefits everyone.
Americans have a huge variety of food options to choose from. Farmers and folks in agriculture generally support this system, because everyone benefits.

“That’s the beauty of our food system,” says Brittany. “Everyone gets to choose what they want because there are so many options.”

Whether your diet is traditional, fusion, organic, vegan, paleo, keto, Mediterranean or any other type, U.S. farmers have your back.

“If everyone ate the same way, we’d have a catastrophe on our hands,” Brittany says. “Farmers and food systems wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand, and it would be damaging—socially, culturally and economically.”

“It would also create monopolies. And that would mean higher food prices across the board, which nobody wants.”

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to talk to farmers if you have the opportunity. They’ll more than likely be delighted to answer your questions and satisfy your curiosity.

About Paulsen
At Paulsen, we help brands reach the nearly 46 million people who proudly call themselves rural Americans. We know how to connect with the people who live and work in this part of the country, because we live and work here, too. Paulsen understands the challenges—and we see the incredible potential. www.paulsen.ag.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Ag is for Everyone


At times in life it can be easy to lose perspective. You get in a routine with work and life and forget to take time to look and appreciate the world around us. Sometimes you wonder if what you do even matters or makes a difference to anyone else. As individuals who make up an entire industry, what you do does matter to someone or some group of people.

If you think about it, each day would consist of major inconveniences if one entire industry decided to totally stop functioning. Eventually, society would lose some kind of product, skill or service which could ultimately impact a wide variety of other industries. Society takes all kinds of people doing all kinds of jobs to operate. In agriculture, it’s no different.

At Sage, a creative marketing agency, we work with other creative thinkers and our ag clients to see firsthand what it takes to tell the story of agriculture and make the industry work. On the surface level, it can be obvious who the contributors are of the agricultural industry – the farmers and ranchers. However, like billions of people rely on farmers and ranchers every day, these professionals also rely on thousands of others to make their jobs possible.

For example, farmers and ranchers need equipment manufacturers, mechanics, software developers, veterinarians, animal health experts, agronomists, financial advisors, economists and legal professionals (just to name a few) to operate.

Agricultural youth programs rely on teachers, extension specialists and agents, parents, volunteers and support from a variety of local businesses to ensure agriculture has a place in future generations.

In our world at Sage, we see many other roles being played to advocate and share the story of agriculture. We communicate regularly with writers, editors, designers, data analysts, photographers and videographers to deliver messages for the industry. Working with the media, we are encouraged when we see agriculture being talked about in print, online, through social media, TV and radio.

Agriculture not only produces food and fiber, but also medicine, household products, personal care items, fuel and entertainment. To make these items, agriculture and society also rely on processors, manufacturers, transportation, retailers and food services. Without agriculture and its related industries more than 21 million jobs or 11% of U.S. employment would be effected. However, the number is likely higher and does not include the number of people who use food and fiber products each day.

Agriculture truly has a place in everyone’s day-to-day activities, whether it’s part of your career or not. National Ag Day is one way you can educate and advocate for an industry everyone relies on. Perhaps this Ag Day you should take the time to find out where your relationship with ag fits into your life. Chances are, if you eat you need agriculture, but agriculture just might need you, too.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Year In, Year Out

by Karen Jones,Growmark

The early ‘80s. 1988. 2003. 2009. 2019.

Mention any of these around an Illinois farmer – the high interest rates of the 1980s, the drought of ’88; floods in 1993 and 2003; a very late harvest in ’09 --  and you’ll likely get a story.

And 2019? When the ball dropped in Times Square at midnight on December 31, many of us in agriculture had that “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” kind of feeling. We’re all crossing our collective fingers that 2020 is a “normal” year.

You know, a year when we get that perfect window in the spring to plant our crops at just the right time. The one where we get rain when we need it, not too much, not too little, and definitely not while we have hay waiting to be baled. The year when our sows have healthy litters of pigs and our cows calve easy, around 10:00 on a sunny Tuesday morning. When our combine runs perfectly all fall, there are no lines at the elevator, and the Board of Trade is in our favor. And we’re all done with field work by Thanksgiving.

When people outside of production agriculture think about farming, a scene like that one usually comes to mind, a thought echoed by President Dwight Eisenhower: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”

But in reality, farmers have always understood they have little control over so many things that can make or break their year. Weather, markets, livestock health issues, land prices, even politics affect our day-to-day lives, to the point where you might wonder why the two percent of us who farm do!

We farm because it’s in our blood. We take pride in knowing we help produce food, fiber, and fuel not just for our fellow Americans but for people around the world. We enjoy using new technology, like plant genetics that provide an edge when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, or imaging tools that can alert us to crop diseases or pest issues in our fields faster. We desire to care for our land and livestock, and leave it to future generations better than we inherited it.  

As we celebrate National Ag Day, let’s join together to recognize all American farmers, and thank them for their dedication to safe, affordable, and abundant production year in and year out.

Karen Jones is the Youth and Young Producer Specialist for GROWMARK, a cooperative providing agriculture and energy products and services headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois. She and her husband are also part of the fourth generation on her family’s farm, raising corn, soybeans, and a few hogs in central Illinois. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Agriculture Is A Part of You Today and Everyday

I was lucky enough to be part of the 1% that was raised on a family farm that my parents still manage today. It was a no brainer for me to study agricultural in college and eventually find myself working at Successful Farming.

My days on the farm in the hog barn, in the sweet corn patch, or out in the pastures have changed to a commute to downtown Des Moines. Although, I make it home for the important parts of the year – planting, harvest, sweet corn season and family holidays, I’ve enjoyed a new beginning in the city.

But what I’ve come to realize is, no matter where you live, agriculture is a part of you.

Take one of my favorite quotes for instance.

“My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, lawyer, policeman, or preacher but every day – three times a day – you need a farmer.” – Brenda Schoepp

To me that, really couldn’t be any truer. Doctors, lawyers, policeman and preachers are all vital parts of our fundamental lives, but so are our dedicated farmers.

Where does the food come from that you enjoy three times every day? What’s on your dinner menu tonight? Maybe some casserole you’ve been looking forward to whipping up for a couple weeks. Better yet, what’s on your back currently? A cotton t-shirt?

Moving to the city has made me realize that even though I’m not part of the farm directly, I still reap the benefits of family farmers at my grocery store, at the mall and so many more places.

National Ag Day today is the perfect day to go tour a farm, talk to a local farmer and think about where the food came from that’s on your breakfast, lunch and dinner plates today and every day.

For farmers it’s the time to celebrate and share their ag story to the next generation of farmers and urban residents like myself now. America’s farmers are in this together, providing nutritional products right to your grocery store.

So not only today, but everyday agriculture is a part of you, no matter where you live. Happy National Agriculture Day!

Submitted by Emma Wilson, Digital Content Editor, Meredith Agrimedia

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Taco Tuesday

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Make good choices.” That can be a lot of pressure. And I get it.  As a son and brother of farmers, I know they make good choices every day, and those choices impact every growing season, and even more importantly, every bite of food we all eat. And while that can be a lot of pressure, I know we have access to ever-improving tools and technologies, which help make the right choices for our farm. These in turn enable food companies to offer you a lot of choices for great tasting, healthy foods for your family and friends.

You probably don’t think about agriculture every time you eat, but every bite is impacted by farmers like my family, using science, technology and innovation. Whether it’s white corn that goes into chips or tortillas or field corn that becomes animal feed, they’re part of the food chain.

Take for example one of America’s favorite foods - tacos. The basis of every great taco is the tortilla, and with agriculture innovation tools farmers can grow an agronomic high yielding white corn which makes it easier for food companies to make more tortillas from corn grown on fewer acres. That tortilla is then fried in an oil that is both tasty and more nutritious. The oil comes from the seed of plants that were bred together, so people eat more good fats and less bad fats.

Innovation can be found in the taco meat too; it doesn’t even matter if you like beef, pork or chicken. The feed the animals eat comes from seeds developed through science that provides the animal with optimal nutrition to grow healthy. With crop protection tools, the vegetables on your tacos can grow big, healthy and safe without the threat of pests and weeds. Even the cheese sprinkle or sour cream on top is impacted by agricultural innovation. Dairy cows eat a diet high in silage, a feed ingredient made from the corn plant. When farmers ferment the corn plant for animal feed, a bacteria-based product called an inoculate helps ensure the feed is nutritious and easy for the cows to digest, leading to better dairy products for you.

Just like having a smart phone with your calendar, email and text messages makes your life easier, innovation on the farm makes growing food easier for farmers. By using seed science, I can plant seeds that are able to grow strong in areas that receive limited water or use crop protection tools that help me eliminate weeds, bugs and pests. Cattle farmers can use technology and innovation to make sure their pastures are healthy, providing nutritious grasses and forges for their animals to eat.

The next time you’re enjoying “Taco Tuesday”, know there is a farmer that is also pondering the decisions that help improve the food you eat. And know the farmers producing your food also have trusted tools, technologies and allies to help them raise food for you, your friends and your family. And they also like tacos.

About the Author
Roger Theisen is the marketing manager of specialty crops for Corteva Agriscience. Roger grew up on a farm in Iowa, where his family continues to farm. He has worked in the agronomy and agriculture industry for more than 25 years.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Tomorrow’s agriculture is here now- almost!

Technology will bring agriculture not only to your door, but inside your house! 
By Tom J. Bechman, Indiana Prairie Farmer  

Technology even allows you to be part of agriculture today, growing a constant supply of salad inside your own kitchen using this space-age appliance. 

Just a few years ago John Deere Company produced a short video which followed a farmer for one day during planting season. He woke up to his coffee already brewing. Today we can even set a programmable coffeemaker to just make a single cup of coffee. But most of us can’t do what the farmer did next- he walked to a large-screen LED TV display, and it provided weather information and much more. He could start his tractor remotely, and even let it operate by itself.

It seemed a bit ‘out-there’ then, but not today. Deere and several other companies have autonomous equipment. The question is whether society is ready for tractors without drivers. There are cars which drive themselves, but that doesn’t mean everyone is hurrying out to buy one.

Meanwhile, data collection is booming in agriculture. As machines operate in the field, sensors linked to on-board computers collect all kinds of information. Technology is available which allows a farmer to monitor what’s happening on a machine an employee is operating from his cell phone. He instantly knows not only where the machine is but how well it’s operating.

And if the machine isn’t performing up to par, he can clue in his dealer, who alerts a technician to monitor data coming from the machine in real time. Often, the technician can diagnose a potential problem, even before it causes a breakdown. These technicians still know how to turn a wrench, but their most important asset is a computer, not a toolbox.

At the same time, companies like Microsoft are figuring out how to transmit crop information collected in the field back to the computer in the farmer’s office, using ‘white noise’ channels on TV frequencies which TV stations aren’t using. The Internet of things has come to agriculture!

What does all this mean to those inside and outside of agriculture? The goal is increased efficiency, which means more food produced on the same amount or less land at cheaper cost. That translates into a constant supply of safe, healthy food, not only for Americans, but for people around the world. Instead of one farmer feeding roughly 150 people today, someday that number will be much larger.

Meanwhile, technology allows consumers who want local food to decide just how local they want it to be. Today they can buy fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets in season. Some producers are using hydroponics to produce certain types of vegetables all-year long and supplying them to consumers through local arrangements.

What if you could grow your own food, right in your kitchen? It’s not far-out dreaming. Unlike many things that weren’t reality yet in the John Deere video of the future farm, growing your own food inside your kitchen is reality now!

Scott Massey, an entrepreneur who learned how to grow plants, primarily lettuce and other greens, in a small, controlled environment while working on NASA space projects, developed GroPod, available for order through his start-up company. It uses aeroponics in a small appliance and seed starter ‘pods’ to allow you to, in theory, have green, leafy vegetables for your table, fresh every day, all year long. Now that is local! It’s pricey today but check it out at gropod.com.

Where will technology take agriculture in the future? The sky may be the limit. Perhaps small robots will work like a swarm of bees to spray and tend crops. Perhaps fresh lettuce growing in your kitchen will become affordable.

One thing is certain. Agriculture will be ever -broadening, perhaps including even you. And it will continue to provide safe, affordable, healthy food for America and beyond.