Friday, November 21, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 21

Becoming a Farmer - An Uphill Climb

As many of you may have guessed, becoming a farmer isn't easy.  It's actually not easy at all. 

I, for one, have a special sort of challenge ahead of me.  I don't come from a farm, I don't really have assets to back a loan, and I don't have land.

Yes.  I'm almost certifiably crazy - ask my fiancee or my mother.

What's it take to become a farmer in this world?  I put together a short list..

1. A plan - ex. you want to raise hogs, dairy steers, poultry, crops, vegetables, etc.
2. A mentor - someone who knows the industry in which you intend to enter, and can help guide some of your decisions.
3. A good banker - some bankers understand agriculture and others don't.  You need to make sure that you get one that's got a background in agriculture lending.  Preferably, you will find one that that understands your wing of agriculture.
4. Land - whether you want to put up a turkey building or start a vegetable farm, you need a place to put it.  Careful planning needs to be put into place before buying ground.  Ex. If you buy ground right next to a populated area, and plan to raise turkeys, the zoning commission will likely cause you problems, and you may have to reevaluate the use of that ground.
5. Equipment - When starting, you need to realize that that new John Deere R series sure is beautiful, but you a. don't have a valid justification for the equipment, and b. (likely) don't have the capital.  The trick is learning how to do proper upkeep and reasonable repair work on slightly older equipment.  This CAN (if you know what you're doing) save you gobs of money in the long term.
6. Support staff - I don't mean your own computer programmer, but I mean a nutritionist, agronomist, veterinarian, depending on your plan's needs.
7. A market - Common mistakes in start-up businesses of any sort include people who have good intentions and something they want to do.  They often fail to consider what type of demand there will be for that commodity after it' produced and ready for sale.  If you want to raise non-GMO corn, you better make sure you have a sale location near you that pays the premium for non-GMO corn.  If not, you end up selling it as regular corn, and miss the gain you planned on making.
8. A supportive significant other (if you have one) - "When you're planning on spending your life with a person, you need to ensure that you share similar goals.  It's better for your relationship long term if you support each others' career choices, rather than just tolerating them."  Any independent business owner needs to consider this.
9. Love what you do.  If you don't love what you do, is it really worth your life dedication?

I feel like there is more I need to say, but I also think this is a good start.  What advice do you have for someone who may be entering the world of farming, or starting a business of any sort?

Again, I've now missed even more days, but I'll try to keep up through the end of the month!!

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Picture sourced from Pinterest - I don't have proper citation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 18

Farm Bureau in My Life

I'm involved in a lot of things, but one that tops the list is Farm Bureau.  My involvement is actually a two-part deal.  Not only am I treasurer for Collegiate Farm Bureau at Purdue, but I'm also the Dubois County Young Farmer Representative on our county board.

"Good boy, what's that matter?"

Glad you asked!  When I came to Purdue last year, I got involved with Collegiate FB, and originally didn't know a lot.  I knew we had an office in Jasper, they sold insurance, and knew a lot about policy.

They sold me on policy.

Throughout first semester we had a few events, speakers, and the like.  I really changed my whole perspective when we went to visit with a family in Rensselear who is very active with Farm Bureau and agriculture as a whole.  Kendall and Tammy Culp taught me a lot.  That evening a group of young Farm Bureau members got to learn more about an organization that's been making an impact for decades.  I gained an entire new appreciation for Farm Bureau that day.

In January, I went to Indiana Young Farmers Conference.  Young Farmers is a branch of Farm Bureau for the 18-35 crowd.  It's an opportunity to get together with people who share similar ailments, struggles, and excitement when it comes to agriculture.  It was a great experience to say the least.

I also got to go to National Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference in Virginia Beach, VA in February with a group from Purdue.  Again, it is an experience that was amazing, and I'll have to blog more about after we go to Nashville this year.

I think my favorite thing about Young Farmers is that you realize there are a ton of people out there fighting the same battle as you.

Neat banner I got made before the county fair this year.

When I sent in my reimbursement request to my county for my hotel room, and expressed my interest in working with our county to develop a program, is when things really changed.  In March, I was selected to be the next Young Farmer Representative for our county.  What do I have to pick up with?  Come to find out, there hadn't been a program for a while.  I've been working with a great group of young agriculturalists to get this program running.  We are working toward a career panel for local 4-H and FFA groups to be held in March or April.  I can't wait for this event!  Now I just have to work it out with Purdue and my exam schedule.....

With Farm Bureau, I have learned a lot.  Here are my top 5.

1.  Success starts with grass roots.
2.  The key to doing anything productive is showing up.
3.  Young people can be a lot more influential than you may think.
4.  Continuity of any organization begins with getting young people interested and involved.
5.  I drive a lot and go to a LOT of meetings.  But that's okay! (You're welcome OPEC.)

That sums it up for this morning!  Keep an eye out for a post tomorrow from me on - I haven't written it yet, but I'm sure it'll be decent!

The picture would be better if my truck window weren't so dirty right now...
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Monday, November 17, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 17

Life is... Busy

Time is this thing that tends to get away from us relatively easily. 

Saturday's sunrise

I've now missed three days of my 30 Days series.  That's okay because I do this by choice, not as a job.

It's been a crazy four days (Since Friday I mean).  Friday morning I had an exam, three more classes, then I drove all the way home.  Because I live three and a half hours from Purdue, I only go home every couple weeks (Okay, this fall was almost weekly), but since I was in Kansas City last weekend, I had a lot of dress clothes that needed washed and dad has an iron at home - I don't have one here. 

One of my favorite parts about going home is not having to cook.  I love cooking, but it's nice to have dinner just appear on the table.  Sorry I don't have food pictures.

Saturday I got to do some #RealPigFarming and I couldn't think of a better way to spend Saturday.  With the cold setting in, we worked on some heaters, closed up the buildings to keep cold air from bothering the pigs, and they finished soybean harvest.  You know it's darn cold outside when your manure spreader is frozen...  So there's that.  It'll wait for another time. 

Sunday at church we had a mass in memory of my late grandmother.  It was a nice morning to have everyone home for church and breakfast with Grandpa...  These are the days we remember, right?  That afternoon we started seeing a spitting of snowflakes so I headed back to Purdue.  This is what it looked like periodically through my trip (bottom of post)...  Roads were okay last night, but there are some slick spots this morning. 

This morning I scheduled for spring classes... I'll only do that two more times, and then graduate in May of 2016.. Time goes quickly - we have to make sure we don't miss anything in the process...

Have a happy Monday, and I'll be back to an early post tomorrow morning!

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 Somewhere around Worthington, IN... I think?
 The lovely town of Cloverdale, IN.
 Detour around a construction detour...
 Crossing the Wabash.
 Things looked good when I got back to my apartment complex.
 The front of my truck after three and a half hours driving into snow/sleet.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 13

Sam's Health Tips:

photo courtesy of Ohio Hog Farmers - Facebook

So the famous Food Babe, Vani Hari, has a list of some absolutely ridiculous 'health tips,' so to be fair, I want to offer some humor this Thursday morning and give you my own list of health tips.   To be clear, health professionals broke down her list and proved that most are a. not necessary, or b. are not actually healthy at all.

This list is based on opinion, and likely has nothing to do with actual health recommendations.  You have been warned.

1.  Eat large amounts of bacon.  Make sure it's not the flimsy kind, but rather the thick cut, well-cooked pieces of heaven on a plate.  Bacon is an important staple in any healthy diet, as it will help to pinpoint everything that's good in life.  It'll let you find a place of ease and begin your day right.  If it were up to me, every morning would begin with a quarter pound of that 'just-like-momma-made-it' bacon that just gets you up and going.

2.  Coffee is a must-have in any well-balanced diet.  My coffee is often half-caffeinated.  This is a way to ensure that I'm awake and alert, but I'm not going to be putting my heart at as much of a risk for atrial fibrillation.  Coffee is how I get going every day, and to begin a morning without coffee would be dangerous for all involved (unless there is a Mountain Dew within reach). 

3. Salads are an integral part of a healthy Sam Diet.  And by salads, I mean a plate that has a lot of meat on it and one of those little  green decorative leaves on the side.  If I was meant to spend my life eating salad like a rabbit, the Good Lord would not have spent so much time perfecting meat! (Honestly, I can appreciate a good salad on occasion).

4.  Ice cream is a naturally calming food item that works well in case of long days, annoying people, bad grades, or any other case where a good pick-me-up is warranted.  It is necessary, however, to properly top your ice cream with items such as hot fudge, caramel syrup, etc.

5.  The final part to my recommended health tip list is a good sense of humor.  However healthy for the mind this list may be, none of these are actual health tips, and you should ALWAYS consult a physician, dietitian, or nutritionist about how to stay healthy.  The point I'm making here is that humans will follow anything if you can convince them that it's true.  The Food Babe is not any of these people from whom you should take health advice, and neither am I.  If you wish to know about your food's safety and growing methods, that's where I come it.  I have nurses close to me in life that way they'll be there if something goes wrong (I have an acute bacon and coffee addiction.).

Thanks for reading along today!


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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 12

Who Packed Your Parachute?

My view yesterday morning - beautiful morning, rainy afternoon.

I heard Colonel Charlie Plumb, a retired Navy Fighter Pilot, speak last week.  One of his big themes is, "Who is packing your parachute?" 

You see, when we go through life, we have people that do bits and pieces in our lives to ensure when we are faced with certain challenges or opportunities, we are ready.  This works the same when it comes to those who gave you the opportunities to succeed in the future in general. 

Today's post goes out to some of those who have "packed my parachute."

1.  First off I want to recognize my parents.  From day one, I have had a wonderful support team.  I've done a lot in my short twenty years, but they were always there, sometimes after they got done thinking, "This kid has to be insane."

2.   My grandparents were another instrumental part in my life.  From helping run us place-to-place as a young kid, to joining us for Sunday dinners, and being forces that not only encouraged us, but made us think and know that bad decisions would require us to also answer to them, they have always been absolute gold!

3.  Who can forget their best friend?  The to-be Mrs. has been there with me since middle school started, and we all remember how horrible middle school is....  We really balance out each other, and are different enough where life is NEVER boring (by our standards anyway - and that's fine with us).  She's also not afraid to tell me when I'm being dumb and you can't beat that.  I wish more people had those people in their lives.

4.  Siblings are a Godsend in that you've been given them and somehow or another you will learn to go through life as a set.  My two sisters and I are very VERY different people, however, I was blessed with two great sisters.  I can't say enough, but I'll stop there.

5.  My boss (to-be father-in-law) was my key to the ag industry.  When I started feeding pigs for him what seems like so many years ago, none of us knew how long this would last.  I was offered a job because they saw I had an interest, and he said he had work that could use doing, and if I decided I didn't like it, I was free to leave - no hard feelings.  That was a great move on my part (with as much time as he has to spend with me now, he may disagree) and I wouldn't change that for anything.  Plus - I think that working with him is why I was less nervous asking if I could marry his daughter.  I felt that he trusted me enough (and I've been around forever, it seems), to where I wasn't that scared for him to say, "No, you can't marry my daughter."  I loved his actual response.  "You have to know what's right for the two of you."  That statement meant a lot.

As I've said, I had a lot of people 'packing my parachutes' over the years.  Share with me - who packed yours?

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 11

Where did the Corn Go?

I've had people ask many times, "Where does all that corn go?!  It just.... Disappears!"  The specific time I'm referencing, the person was very young.  To answer the question, there's a whole process. 

For the farm where I work, it gets stored in a bin and waits until we need to use it for feed for pigs. 

In the United States, we have a few common uses of corn.

1. Ethanol Production - corn is sold to companies like POET Bio-Refining who take it, extract the oil, and most of the parts of the corn that are used for energy, and make ethanol.  The leftover parts of the corn is sold as Dried Distillers Grains (DDGs) or Wet Distillers Grains (WDGs) that are used as supplements for corn as a fraction of some livestock feeds - most commonly in hogs and poultry.

2. Corn Processing for Syrup, Syrup, Sugars, etc. - Cargill is one example of a company that buys corn from growers and processes it, crushes it, and extracts sugars, starches, and makes products such as, "...high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, other syrups used in beverage production, brewing, confectionery, food and pharmaceutical applications..." Source - Cargill.  They also produce other food ingredients that go into your, "...cereals, breads, corn gluten meal, fuel-grade ethanol, and are a leading producer of corn oil..."  Source - Cargill. Their job is to add value to the corn that comes in, and make it more beneficial to the end-user.

3. Feed - corn is either harvested before it is dry and chopped for silage for cattle, or it is dried down before harvesting and ground for other livestock feed (ie. swine, turkey, chicken, other cattle feed).

4. Exports - Around home it is common to haul down to the Ohio River and your truck may be unloaded directly to a barge at an ADM port, for example.  This gets sent all over the world, but our largest export location is China.  I'll touch on China's demand for US agricultural products at a later date. 

5. Flour Milling - Some people raise white corn, and the main purpose of white corn is flour milling.  The folks I know haul theirs to Owensboro, KY, where there are a couple mills that will take corn, grind into flour, bag, and sell the processed product.

6. Popcorn Production -  Your ACME or Redenbacher popcorn (or any others) were once in a field somewhere, believe-it-or-not.  Popcorn is a limited-market crop.  By this I mean that you have to have a deal with a company that wants your corn before you plant it.  The stipulations for popcorn are strict, but there is a premium on popcorn.  Basically, after harvest you hold your corn until the popcorn company tells you that they're ready to bag your corn.  When they say, you load the truck, deliver, and life moves on.  It is just a little different process than regular #2 Yellow dent corn. 

I hope you learned something today.  More importantly, Happy Veteran's Day!  Take a moment today to reflect on who helped get our country where it is today.  God Bless Veterans.

At the farm this week, they're hauling some corn to sell because we had a great crop last year and because of that, we are tight on space this year and have a little corn to harvest yet.  

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Monday, November 10, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 10

God. Bless. Coffee.

There is this age old joke about, "What would college be without sleepless nights?"

The real question is, "How on Earth would I survive college without coffee?!"

I'm pretty sure the answer would be that I would not survive.  But, who could really know that answer?  I've been running on two to four and a half hours of sleep since last Tuesday, preparing to be out of town for four days, finishing homework, preparing for two exams this week, and trying to be ready and engaged in everyday life.  I've learned how to do this, but my companion is dark colored, is in some sort of cup or mug, and has a heavenly aroma.  You guessed it - Maxwell House has become more than a household name, but rather a lifeline some days.

Really, my addiction to coffee isn't what it once was - I'm often drinking half-caffeinated and half-decaf.  I always get confused stares when I say this.  Sometimes when you drink a lot of fully caffeinated coffee at once your heart feels like it is working way too hard, especially on very stressful days.  The trick was to wean off the necessity for the caffeine and move to where my body expects the same amount of liquid, but less of the stimulant.  This is a way to also make sure that when you're running on steam and need that quick caffeinated pick-me-up, it's available.

I need to go finish preparing for an exam, so there's coffee on the counter.

My closing thought today, go out and make this a great day, not just a Monday - now someone hold me to that too!!

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