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

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.