Monday, December 1, 2014

The End of 30 Days 2014 - Wrapping up #Harvest14

I would say it was a good run, but I never actually finished my series.  That will bug me for a while.  Next year will be better.  I find it funny that I went to Kansas City for a conference and kept up with the blog, but go home and completely fall off the wagon.  Oh well.

On the upside of things, #Harvest14, as we call it on Twitter, is OVER.  Thank goodness.  I saw yesterday where someone said if you finish before Christmas you don't have enough acres... I beg to differ.

This being said, I want to thank everyone for following along for the days that I did complete... I think this is a unique sort of challenge.  In life we challenge ourselves daily.  We set goals to do x, y, and z, every day.  Next year I'll complete all 30... I promise!

Hopefully you'll keep following along for my future posts!  I've got some coming up about things such as gestation crates versus group pens in swine production, and some other interesting topics.

Thanks for following along!

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 The morning before Thanksgiving, it was about 5:15 am, dark, and cold, but the coal mine trucks across the hill were keeping me company while I fed hogs.

Monday, November 24, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 24

Some Thanksgivings won't be Happy.

Last night I got a message with a link that said I needed to read a press release about a car wreck.

Friends, last night a boy who I grew up with was killed in a car accident.  It's not just that we grew up together.  We had the same babysitter, lived on the same street for a number of years, his parents were my 4-H leaders, and if I recall, he was my vice president when I was 4-H club president, and he succeeded me as president for two years.

It's never a good day to know that some parent is going to have to hold a funeral for their 18-year old child.   These things shouldn't happen.  Circumstances should never be what they are.  I was discussing this situation with my little sister last night, and I feel like when I'm exhausted I have a way of putting things better than usual.

I told her that we can't forget that life is like a lease.  It's a short period of time we are borrowing, and while we are here we have to do everything imaginable with this little time that is actually a huge gift.  It's not about how many years of life we have, but how much life we have in those years.  He had a lot of great life in his years, but he was still too young.

In this blog I strive to bring the reality of my life.  This is today's reality.  It's going to be a rough Monday, but not nearly as rough as many others' will.

Hold your kids and loved ones close.  Say I love you.  Hug them again.  Recall what you have to be thankful for on Thursday (and every day).

And please, in whatever way you pray, please keep my friend in mind.

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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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Sunday, November 9, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 9

"If your dreams don't scare you, then they're probably not big enough!"

As this Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference winds down and adjourns this morning, I wanted to use the above quote.  I feel that this quote is one of the most true statements that I've ever been told. 

Think about it, "If your dreams don't scare you," what is(are) your dream(s)?  I know that as excited as I am for every day of my future, I'm utterly terrified.  I want to do about a million things, they all are expensive and monstrous things to accomplish, and I feel like I'm being delayed because I'm in college.  However, according to my friend, I've prepared my life plan well.  "College is different for you.  It's like, just add water and go!"  Give me fifteen years and we will see! 

I've always been a believer that we make our future, our destiny, and our misery.  To quote Orion Samuelson, "You should get up in the morning and say, 'Good morning, God,' not 'Good God, it's morning'."  We make these choices.  How are you going to spend today?  What are you going to do to Activate our Potential? 

I've gotten the chance to spend this conference again with a lot of wonderful people.  They're future leaders of the world and just don't know it yet. 

The Purdue 2014 AFA Sophomore Delegates

My takeaway on a Sunday morning: 
1. Do what you love.
2. Love what you do.
3. If you don't - do something else.
4. You can't dream big enough.
5. Take the bull by the horns and tell him who's boss. (that's actually figurative about life - I don't advocate tangling with bulls unless experienced.)
6. Make every day count - we only get one life.

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 It's great to have friends who share your interests, passions, and genuine desire for a brighter future.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 8

Let's Talk Feed

But first, let me take a picture of two gilts (female hogs who haven't had piglets yet).  The pink marker on the back of the right hog is a spray marker that we use when we separate pigs into groups.  It washes off in the rain.

We talk a lot about what it is that we want to eat as people, and we begin to argue GMO versus Organic, and other similar arguments.  We always talk about what we eat.  Do we ever step back and look at what out animals eat? 

I can't speak for most areas of the industry, without extensive research, on animal feeding practices.  When it comes to pigs, I have spent enough time on a feed grinder making dinner for the pigs to discuss this. 

Okay, it looks yellow, its dry, and it smells good.  What gives - what's in it?

Due to the nutrient requirements of pigs, there are a lot of things in the feed. 
For an 8000lb load of feed you can anticipate that the largest portion of you load will be comprised of corn -
1.  Ground up #2 Yellow corn.  It can be organic, GMO, pigs don't care and due to a study since the first GMO corn was put on the market, there is no difference.  Pigs are simply thrilled that it's time to eat again! 
2.  Your next largest component is Soybean Meal.  This is used to be the high protein component of the ration. 
3.  If you feed Dried Distillers Grains, this will likely be next in order of quantity in finishing or "fat hog" feed.  Distillers grains are that is left of the corn kernels after it is refined for ethanol, the oil has been extracted, and sugars removed.  In breeding stock you will typically not find distillers grains.  It is a substitute for around 10% max of the corn.  Things have recently changed as mills have learned ways to extract even more of the valuable parts form corn before they sell dried distillers grains (DDGs) and thus it is a less useful substitute today than it was in the past
4.  In a smaller volume, there is typically some sort of base mix.  Base mix is usually a mixture of things that are essentials to a healthy diet for happy pigs.
5.  And in small amounts (very small), since pigs do not produce these essentials naturally, there will be Methionine, Threonine, and Lysine (amino acids).  If we are nearing the end of the "finishing" stage, some producers use Paylean to help finish the 'growing out' stage, .  Other things vary based on conditions, such as whether you raise hogs inside or outside, and other similar conditions. 

 We feed sows one scoop of feed at a time in group pens.  The feed is stored in this bin 8000 lbs per load.
 This is what it looks like when we go a while without re-stocking on our amino acids, and get a lot at once to have on-hand.
This is breeding hog feed, soft, fluffy, and smells pretty good.  It's ground very fine and scooped to the sows and boars.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 7

Colonel Charlie Plumb - P.O.W.

Today is a little different.  Last night we had a speaker at AFA whose name is Colonel Charlie Plumb.  He is a retired US Navy fighter pilot, and spent six years as a Prisoner of War in Northern Vietnam after his jet was shot down.

During his talk, he connected how his experiences for 6 years in a POW camp, and other times where we 'dodge bullets,' to what a bunch of young agriculturalists are doing developing as leaders.

There were two great takeaways from his talk.  I'm writing slightly verbatim, and somewhat paraphrased (what I can't remember verbatim), but you will get the gist.

1.   "Take the word 'deserve' and erase it from your memory, word processor, the dictionary - remove the word 'deserve.'  You don't deserve anything.  Nobody deserves anything.  Life is a choice we make every day when we get up.  I could have gone crazy in that POW camp.  The government told our families that we were probably going to need admitted to an institution for what we went through.  Of the Vietnam POWs, (if I recall his number) only 4% suffer PTSD.  Because we learned that in their 8'x8' cell, we could communicate, knowing another human is there makes a difference.  It makes even more of a difference when you know that they care.  I was just a kid from Kansas, I didn't deserve six years of torture in a prison camp - I got it anyway.  We get what we earn from the choices we make.  In the end, it turned out well for me, but the choice to move toward survival and our motto of, "Return. With. Dignity.," kept us going."

2.   "In life there are people who are parachute packers.  That's a figurative definition.  These are the people who give immensely of themselves and never once expect anything in return.  What's important is that these people give you the opportunity to succeed.  Far more important, they give you the option to fail.  When we live our lives, we are given every single day and we have two options on how to go about that day.  We can either make it a good day, or make it a bad day - but the choice to succeed or fail is in your hands."

I thoroughly enjoyed our opening speakers last night here at AFA.  I'm looking forward to another couple of great days ahead!

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Everyone has potential - will you activate YOUR potential?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 6

No-Till - Why I Believe

Preface: if you find errors in this, please forgive them, as I'm writing in my iPad on a charter bus somewhere in Illinois. 

I talk to people all the time about how different people farm.  This is highly debated and subject to opinion. We can't all farm exactly the same. The land, capital, equipment, and needs are different everywhere. 

There's a hat on the dashboard of my truck that says "Park the plow, save the soil." I get questions all the time, "How can you never work ground?"  "How do you plant through all that residue?" 

Where I work, if I recall correctly, they began experimenting with no-till back in the 70s, as a way to prevent soil erosion on the rolling hills that make up much of the farm. Again, if I recall right, back in the 80s, they stopped working bottom ground because they said, "If I don't have to work the hills, why do I have to work the bottoms?"  So at that point, the tillage equipment got parked.  We use different parts on the planter's row unit, where it opens and closes the furrow.  It helps make sure that we can get through residue. 

Since this is for conservation efforts, what conservation practices have been put in place otherwise in terms of cropping?  On all acres pre-planting season, we spray a glyphosate "burn-down" that kills the cover crop, then we haul manure.  After manure is hauled, we wait a couple days and plant corn, or drill soybeans.  Where many people grow wheat, we grow rye that is later used as a cover crop.  In growing rye for cover, we harvest it, clean it, and then use it during the fall to drill and hopefully establish a stand that  prevents erosion of the soil during winter months.  In the spring it is sprayed and killed off.  This is a way to keep roots in the soil and to keep the soil from being uncovered. 

How do we keep from having issues with planting corn-on-corn in the stubble from the previous year?  Some of the acres every year will be planted to corn two years in a row, before they are switched to soybeans.  When we drill cover crops, the drill helps break up some of the residue that some claim makes it hard to plant into.  This works as a way to eliminate the necessity of turning the ground over to be able to get seed planted into the residue.  Residue (organic matter) is important in maintaining and increasing soil health.  If you look at the ground on the farm today, compared to some typical assumptions, the hill ground and bottom ground is all producing at a high level, rather than the typical situation where hills produce a little less.  This is due to conservation of the land and the continuation of these practices. 

How do we break up compaction?  Tillage radishes in the cover crop mix is an option.  They put roots deep and break up the soil, but die off long before they could be an issue.  How do we keep from having compaction?  When the ground is wet enough where most people go in and work the top inch or so of the soil, we let the field dry for the day.  If it's fall and corn is ready, or it's spring and it's time to plant, and it's wet, you resist the urge to go "mud 'er in" as many do, and wait.  It takes a different mentality.  We also do not run grain carts.  In my opinion, that's a fast way to increase compaction.  You're running a 50,000 lb combine, plus a tractor that probably weighs another 30,000 and a grain cart holding up to about a thousand bushels (corn alone that equals around another 56,000 lbs) and you have a recipe to compact.  In fact, when ground is wet and you take a big tractor and tillage tool out to mud through and "dry it out" and "cut down on compaction," you're compacting it even more by putting all that weight out there, trying to do the opposite. 

I'm a firm believer, and that's fine.  You and I don't have to agree.  Each operation needs to know what's right for them.  Call me, "One of those hippie no-tillers," that's okay.  I'd like to hear about your soil conservation techniques!

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Linking up with Holly and the other 30 Days Bloggers Here!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 5

AFA - Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference
(This title is a hyperlink to the AFA Leaders Conference webpage.)

This morning I was up before my 5:00 alarm.  5:00 is not my usual alarm time, and I'm usually not up this much before this.  It's been a whirlwind of a week trying to get an entire week and a half of work done so I can be out of state Thursday through Sunday. 

It's all worth it, I assure you.

Tomorrow, I get to be one of roughly 50 students from Purdue University to travel to Kansas City, MO, for the annual Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference.  Some first reactions sound like, "Oh, another boring conference."  If you ask me, it's quite the opposite, and I've been to a number of conferences and still say this. 

AFA is an organization that is built on the foundation of enriching and encouraging young leaders in the agriculture industry in order to give them opportunities to expand their future.  This conference brings 550 students from across the nation together with industry professionals from across the country (and some across the globe).  I may be wrong, but the student to industry professional ratio is somewhere around 5:1.  Those are very nice odds for young people to make connections, learn about future opportunities, and build relationships that will make for future opportunities.

The program has four tracks, or versions, based on your collegiate level (Freshmen go to track one, sophomores track two, etc.).  I attended track one last year and it included countless speakers on topics from time management, issue understanding, and nationwide networking, to a resume panel with recruiters from top companies in the industry, a formal dining etiquette session, and a panel on issues across the industry.  I look back on last year's experience and I look even more forward to going back tomorrow and seeing friends from Iowa, Nebraska, Montana, New Mexico, and other states.  I look forward to the opportunity to sit in sessions that were specially developed for those who are a little deeper in their college career, getting closer to the real world, and working for a higher cause.

I could go on and on, however, I won't.  You will hear more about this trip over the next four days (along with many other things).

Thanks for sticking around for Day 5!

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Linking up with Holly and the other 30 Days Bloggers Here!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 4

It's Election Day!

Election Day has different meanings for different people.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm 20 and this is still somewhat new to me, but today's elections share important things that we should be watching. 

Oregon specifically has a vote on GMO labeling today.  This spun high-speed based on an article written about the "blue corn" versus normal yellow corn.  In reality "blue" is from a seed treatment that is metabolized and used as a way to protect the seedling until it sprouts.  I know this firsthand.  Trust me.  When we harvest corn for the pigs, it is yellow.  The article on the truth behind the supposed blue corn is at this link.

In Oregon the argument is now for GMO labeling to save us from this supposed horrible "Franken-Food."  As much as I would like to sit and argue about the false information out there about GMOs, I'm going to simply say that if you're in Oregon, I urge you to vote NO on 92.  If you're throughout the rest of the country and can vote today, look at four things in your candidates.

1.   What is the candidate's stance on education?  Children are this country's future, and (though I could make some angry and go into my dissension with Indiana's education policy) if we fail to give them tools to succeed, we just threw the country away.

2.   How will they lead your state/town into the future?  Do they have debt reduction and business/economic growth plans that are viable?

3.   Are they so polar to one side of the political spectrum that we are choosing them with the knowledge that political deadlock is going to perpetuate? 

4.    Do they believe in agriculture and food production?  I don't mean that they seriously think food comes from a store.  I mean do they understand the groundwork, science, and technology required to produce food in a way that is not sustainable, but something that can continue growing in the centuries to come?  

These are some of my thoughts on elections.  I could get political, but I don't think my blog is a place for that, and I have a lot of work that needs to get done before I leave for Kansas City, MO, for a conference on Thursday morning!

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Linking up with Holly and the other 30 Days Bloggers Here!

 Here's that yellow corn I mentioned above from the first day of harvest 14 (they're almost done!).

Monday, November 3, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 3

College, a Tale of Two Cities

I was talking to a good friend last Friday about college and how we cannot wait to get out and go on to bigger things, and she said something that really struck a chord with me.  There are two types of people in college, or cities, to continue with the metaphor.. 

First, you have the people that take, "These are the best years of your life - enjoy them!" quite literally.  This mentality often leads people to lead a life that's all *insert university* all the time.  AND THAT's OKAY!  These people often believe that post-college, everything else could possibly be sub-par to what life is today.  There is nothing wrong with this mentality, however, I think it is all about how you set yourself up for the future.  If you use these years to have a good time, accomplish things, and line yourself up for whatever your 'dream career' may be, then absolutely, these could be the best years of your life!  There is a back side to this card, but life is your decision and you're holding the cards.  I may be wrong.  Maybe this mentality actually makes life better later because of the experiences you had in college.

Second, you have those of us who believe that college is just a stepping stone, and that it is a way to build on greater things that will happen later.  To quote my fiancee's response to her dad using the "these are the best years of your life," line a few years back, she said, "Then that's a sad statement on the rest of my life!!"  Granted, I believe this was final exams time, but I feel like life is a set of decisions we all make, and we can choose to do many things with it.  I am using college as a way to better my environment while I'm here, and work for the improvement of future opportunities based on what I can accomplish today. 

Most people that know me would tell you that these probably won't be the best years of my life because I come across boring.  I do a lot of homework, go to a lot of meetings, attend a lot of classes (yes, that has to be said), and am always laying out what needs to be done today, for tomorrow and ten years down the line.  I think it's quite the inverse.  I do these things, but through the process, I have met some of the best friends I could ask for, gotten involved in great organizations that gave me opportunities to travel to Washington, D.C. (twice), Kansas City (twice), Virginia Beach, Minneapolis (twice), Nashville this February, and hopefully Des Moines in June.  Opportunities are endless when you put yourself out there, and it is all for the better good of everyone in the long run.  Obviously I live in the second "city."

On a side note, Purdue is amazing, wonderful, and I hope you'll consider it yourself, encourage your siblings, children, etc., to come here.  That sounded sarcastic, but if I had not come here, the opportunities I have had would not be the same, and I'm proud to say that I'm a Boilermaker.  Purdue Agriculture, above all, is beyond amazing!  I will never say enough about the College of Ag!  (Yes, our football team is struggling - We know...)

"Whatever you do in life, do it all the way," was a line I was told years ago.  I took it to heart, and encourage you to challenge yourself to do the same!  You never know where it may lead you.

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Linking up with Holly and the other 30 Days Bloggers Here!

 College is a lot about people.  Some great people for sure!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 2

Held to a Higher Standard

Today's blog post is dedicated to my grandpa.  It's a sort of "Thankful Sunday Morning."  This amazing man was born in July of 1925, grew up in Jasper, IN, was a yell-leader in high school(and still today from the stands), and served in Iwo Jima during War II.  Upon his return after the war, he began working in the furniture industry, and met my late grandmother.  The countless accomplishments of this man have taught me a lot.  I haven't gone to elaborate, but I assure you there are many. 

My whole upbringing, "mamaw and papaw" as they always have been , and always will be called, were a very active part of my life (grandma and grandpa to most).  We were always close, but it was not until my grandmother passed away in 2011 that I began to develop the bond with this amazing man that I have today.  When he retired in 2004, or thereabout, he began feeding the squirrels, deer, etc., on a nature path in town called the "River Walk" (appropriately named as it goes along the Patoka River).  Oftentimes during the summer I could go along... It was a strange idea to me to just put out corn for the animals to eat, however, he did this until spring of 2014.  For five years at least, I went with him every time we picked up corn, that way someone was there to carry the corn down the steps.  It is just something we always did together. 

When I look at my life, I view it as a long-term mission, and that is what I attribute to why I cannot look at it as "living for today."  There are many people in my life that hold me to a higher standard, and this man is one. (he's in the grey sweatshirt)
During my senior year of high school, as a result of his years of dedication to community service, civic duty, and support of local groups like our athletic teams and band, he was awarded the Key to the City of Jasper.  It was funny because just before this game started, he was telling the mayor about some shrubs that needed removed because you couldn't see to turn off my road, and they were in violation of city code (it was quite hilarious).

Grandpa has a number of sayings that helped shape how I live.  One thing he was told in the Service, "Look to your right.  Now look to your left.  The people beside you don't have to do anything more or less than you do.  Nobody is better than the other.  We're here to do a job.  If you screw up, their lives are in your hands."  He always told me what makes people stand out is what they do when you only have to do so much.  It's about choosing to go above and beyond.  Many people go to college and get lost in the things they "could do" because nobody is watching.  I look at it differently.  I go home on a weekend and stop at papaw's house, or he comes for Sunday dinner, and I know that he's going to ask how things are at school, and I better not say, "Well, I'm flunking because of......"  He taught me that when I'm going to do something that I need to be driven and take action. 

I'm not saying that without him I wouldn't be who I am today, however, I'm just glad I have him to look to as a role model, go to for counsel, and who holds me to a higher standard.  I hope everyone else has someone like this in their life.  

This picture is from before senior prom with my now-fiancee.

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Linking up with Holly and the other 30 Days Bloggers Here!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 1

Blogging is a lot of work!  Why on Earth do I do this?

We all have things we do that make us question, "Whyyy?"  Well, I've thought this time and again, and come to a couple conclusions (these are my "thoughts" for the day).

1. If I don't, then who will?  I've always been 'that guy' who does everything because nobody else jumped up and volunteered, and maybe that's what got me into this.  However, I always enjoyed writing and (fortunately for me) I don't have classes this far at Purdue that make me write (so far).  I like reading all sorts of different things, so maybe others like reading my blog of musings...

2. Even if others are doing this, how will my network of people get this learning opportunity?  Friends see my personal Facebook timeline and probably think, "Oh good! More #AgStuff."  For every four that aren't interested in the million links I share, I firmly believe that at least one probably is, and on my blog page, I know they are (I see page view numbers).  I just think it's worth it.

3. Someone has to be on the offensive from the agriculture industry, because we have to spend too much time on the defensive after anti-agriculturalists post uneducated, or simply, false information.  Take the famous "Food Babe" for example.  She's a computer scientist who spews false information about food production and does not give anyone answers, just fear tactics.

4. I feel like as long as my grades are not suffering for the benefit of my blog (and I assure they are not) I feel that this is an experience that is very valuable.  It benefits my skills, and gives others an outlet through which to ask questions and get real answers.

To sum up today, as I'm trying to decide exactly how I want to write this series, I hope this was interesting...

As always, please stick with me through the series!  You may find some interesting things in my posts!

Please reach out to me on other forms of social media!
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Linking up with Holly and the other 30 Days Bloggers Here!

This picture is from last Friday night, as Luther shut the 860 down for the night.
I'm pretty sure we just have some double crop beans left to harvest.  The switch back to corn came early this past week.  Praise be, they're almost done!

Friday, October 31, 2014

30 Days of Thoughts of a Future Famer - Introduction

For the last few years, writer Holly Spangler has done a "30 Days of Blogging" challenge, and last year she convinced me to finally start blogging.  Every year has a theme.  I know numerous other bloggers who are focusing theirs on topics like food, agriculture in their state, and the like.  My topic this year goes along with the general theme of my blog.

This year's topic is 30 Days of Thoughts from a Future Farmer!  Why on Earth does this matter/do I think my thoughts are important?  I think that as a student, as well as someone not from an agriculture background, I take a unique perspective on things in the agriculture industry, from GMOs to CAFOs (be prepared, I love my pigs), cover crops, why I believe in no-till, and many other topics.

 (to break up the monotony, here's some of our cover crop rye starting to sprout in corn stubble)

I hope you'll all follow along as I go through my series this year.  Some posts will be based on current events in my life, and others are bigger perspective topics.

I want to hear your comments and questions through the blog and Facebook as I get ready for Day 1 on the 1st!  If you want to see a post on a certain topic, reach out to me!

As always, feel free to contact me through different avenues also, including my Facebook Page, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram (all hyperlinks lead you to me!). 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Engagement, Harvest, and Life

It's good to finally have a morning where there is a little bit of time to write!

We are now in week six of classes at Purdue... Don't quote me on that.  It's been exam time, so things tend to run together!  I'm also in the process of working on making sure we are ready for an upcoming Dubois County Young Farmer meeting, and some events at school, so things are crazy! 

Add to the list of "crazy happenings" that I got engaged a week and a half ago!  My fiancee and I have been together since the week before Christmas, freshman year of high school, so December will be five years.  Finally putting a ring on your best friend of nearly eight years is exciting, nerve-wracking, and relaxing all in the same... I'll write about that in my upcoming 30 Days of Blogging series that you can watch out for during November!  Back to engagement, everyone wants to see the ring, and the adorable to-be bride, so I have pictures!  We couldn't be more excited for this next step in our life together!  Not to mention, we have two and a half years until the wedding, so no rush to get things done (or something like that, except not really).

While I listen to my friends at school who are home three times a week and weekends talking about harvest and yields, I usually get at least one daily update from my boss.  With Purdue being 160 miles from home, it's exciting enough knowing that the boss is in the middle of harvest at home, and yields are looking beautiful!  As hog farmers, we aren't exactly upset about these cheap corn prices at all.  It makes up for the fact that we were buying $7 and $8 corn for feed in 2012/2013 after the drought left us with.... Well, very little!

Pre-harvest, there were some improvement projects that we did to speed up the grain storing process this year.
 Here, we were sitting on separate grain bins with the new cross-auger mounts, trying to get them ready for the auger with large PVC pipe.  The augers were put up with a crane truck, and a crew of professionals (I wasn't around to get pictures).  We did, however get cross augers put up, so we use the unloading auger below to empty into the drying bin, and it is automatically augered into two smaller grain bins.  One we empty into a truck and transfer to a big grain bin that is separate from the majority of them.  The other now has an auger that pulls corn from the middle of the bin and transfers it to three neighboring bins.  Corn remains in our bins for as long as it takes to need it for feed.  More years than not, we use our corn up for feed as the next crop is coming to the bin.  Other years there is carryover from the previous year.
Another addition for us this year was a bigger unloading auger.  The old one had a full life, and was ready to be put to pasture.  Moving from an 8" to a 10" auger diameter is a surprising difference when it comes to unloading trucks!  It speeds up the process for sure!

I'm keeping things short today, but this was my text message on the first day of harvest - "First load."

Here's to a good week for you all!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

After a 4 Month Hiatus, I'm Back!

I was looking, and I believe the last blog I posted was in April.  After finals week, I went home and jumped into a work schedule where I simply didn't make the time to write.  If you follow my Life of a Future Farmer Facebook Page  

As some of you know, I took an internship this summer as a seed sales and agronomy intern with a co-op in Southern Indiana.  As a college student, and one who only ever worked on a family farm, I saw this experience as beneficial and necessary.  That sounds odd, "beneficial and necessary."  I say this because I've only ever had one boss prior to this experience, and I will honestly say he's probably been the best employer a person could ask for. 

Working for a company or corporation like the co-op places you in a total different environment.  My branch had an operations manager, salesmen, applicators, truck drivers, and many seasonal employees.  Being part of such a diverse operation is unique.  Not only did I spend days on end hauling soybean and corn seed, fertilizer, and chemicals, I also spent a significant amount of time pulling soil and tissue samples, repairing equipment, assisting with field days, and putting countless field signs in the ground.  I  had never had many of these experiences, and I got the opportunity to make some realizations about what I do (and what I don't) want to do with the rest of my life.  My boss always says, "It's better to spend a summer learning you don't like doing something, than hating your career because you made the wrong choice as a young person with no field experience."

Other than being an intern, I got to do many other exciting things this summer.  One of which was be on a National Title Winning Agriculture Economics Quiz Bowl team.  As a student at Purdue, I took AGEC 498A, which last year happened to be Ag Econ Quiz Bowl.  We met once a week spring semester, and every other Sunday during the summer, went over ten different categories of economics questions, and prepared for national competition.  In mid-July, we attended the Applied and Agricultural Economics Association (I think that's right) annual conference in Minneapolis, MN.  This is largely a convention for professors, graduate students, and the like.  There were teams from across the nation that came to compete as undergraduates in this competition from schools including Mizzou, Iowa State, Manitoba, and the like.  You could say we had very fair competition.  In the end, My team of three won the contest, bringing home a large trophy and another bragging point to Purdue University!

This is a short synopsis of my summer - Hope yours was great as well!

As always, please submit questions and comments - I am always happy to discuss. 

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"The Consumer is Always Right, and That's Why Farmers Use Pesticides"

 Last night, Purdue Collegiate Farm Bureau held their annual banquet, and the keynote speaker was Mr. Leonard P. Gianessi from CropLife Foundation.  The topic was a unique one to say the least, but as we typically look at things from the eyes of producers, it gets very hard to understand consumer attitudes against things like pesticides that make their food more safe. 

What Mr. Gianessi has been doing in these sorts of presentations is turning the card around and speaking about the fact that it is consumer standards and expectations that bring cause for our use of pesticides.  Now before anyone gets all hot and bothered, let me explain that statement.  This link should take you to the PowerPoint slides. 

We learned something interesting in this presentation.  Farmers aren't spending a fortune on chemicals because they simply love spending money, using fuel to drive through fields spraying, and using time that could be spent doing other things.  They spend all this time and money because it produces a better product for their consumers.  Actually, they make this investment because consumers demand food of a certain quality at the very least.  I mean, we could just not do this, have some food that is still acceptable to eat, but looks funny, is discolored, or the like.  In some cases, like blueberries, these chemicals protect consumers from finding beetles conveniently hidden in their food.  Who doesn't like a nice crunchy beetle after every few berries, I mean come on! 

In all seriousness, I urge you to look at the CropLife Foundation's webpage here, and find them on Facebook here.  There is further information on this and other similar topics.

Have a good day, and remember that it's spring.  Slow down and watch for slow moving farm machinery.  That's someone's family member, and saving a couple minutes isn't worth taking their life.

Always remember to leave comments!

Samuel Ebenkamp

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hitching up the Honey Wagon

It's that season again!!

While most people get excited for baseball, cutting grass, and washing cars again, farmers are changing oil, and trying to get spring field work done.  In the case of this year, they just want to get STARTED.  In my part of the country, the fields have been too cold to plant, too wet to till, and not solid enough to pull a manure spreader across.  As the ground continues warming up and becoming more solid (less muddy) the livestock producers are eager to get in their fields because they are getting to be late on hauling manure. 

Individual practices vary by farm, and as I work on a total no-till farm, I will discuss this as we operate.  Before we can get corn planted, there are a lot of buildings that need manure hauled.  After manure is hauled, we spray burn-down on cover crops, and then finally start putting seed in the ground. 

Manure smells bad, annoys travelers and neighbors, and puts slow moving traffic on the road.  Why do we have to do things the way we do?  Great question!  Each field that has manure hauled on it is required to have soil tests pulled once every few years.  Depending on how the soil tests come back,
farmers have to plan a strategy to get rid of a ton of manure.  This is done more strategically than you may think.  Some farmers, in efforts to save time like to stay as close to the manure storage (hog house, lagoon, turkey house, feedlot, etc.) as they can.  What they have learned over time  is that to truly harness the nutrient value of "all that 'crap'" we have to view it as a nutrient source rather than a waste product. One farmer I know to has figured a nutrient value on his hogs manure at nearly $50 an acre.  This means Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, and Potash that they don't have to buy elsewhere. 

Personally, hauling manure is one of my favorite jobs on the farm ("eww" is the typical response).  There's not a much more relaxing job than five minutes loading a tank, driving to the field, finding where you stopped last, five minutes or so to unload, and the trip back.  It's not the best smelling job, and you may walk away with some "mud" splattered on you...  I enjoy it... It's peaceful I suppose. 

Think of it this way.  Driving through the country right now may smell absolutely horrid (especially in the poultry-heavy areas of our county).  What you need to look at more importantly, is the sustainability aspect of it all.  Farmers raise livestock, use the manure to fertilize fields, grow feed crops in those fields, and continue the cycle.  Animal ag in this sense is a very circular business.

Next time you see that "honey wagon" on the road, just breathe through your mouth, and take your time because what he or she is carrying is something you really don't want to be reckless around and cause an accident.  Manure doesn't do any favors for car paint...

Have a great day and be sure to let me know if you want to hear about any topics in future blogs!
@ebenkamp2013 on Twitter
Life of a Future Farmer on Facebook

Photo courtesy of Gilmer Dairy Farm and Will Gilmer.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Miss Peggy Sue and You

This title must have made you wonder if I have lost it!  Well, fortunately I haven't.

I want to talk about one of my buddies, and she's pink!  Just like most people that live/work on farms, I too have one little critter that I take a special interest in.  Okay, she's not very small.  She's about a two year old sow that I, for some reason or other, just cant resist!

Now, why did this sow get a name and many of them don't?  Well, for the most part I was bored and "Peggy" rhymes with "piggy" (real creative, I know!).  This is actually "Peggy II" since Peggy I went to see Louie at the hog market back in the fall.

When I go to visit the farm, or work if you want to call it that, one of my first stops (after dipping my boots in a foot bath for biosecurity reasons) is the sow building.  One of my responsibilities since I started helping on the farm was to help care for the breeding hogs.  There are around 150 of them on the farm, and I always have one that's a favorite.  This is usually because she is the one that doesn't bark at me when I bring the feed cart down the aisle, but rather just looks up at me and patiently waits while I bring breakfast.

What's so special about sows that is different with market hogs?  At the farm, the breeding livestock come from a high-quality breeding stock breeder (tongue twister much?).  Sows will usually stay on the farm two to three years, and farrow (have piglets) twice a year.  They come to the farm about six months old, and then will usually breed in the next couple months.  Sows are pregnant for 114 days (three months, three weeks, three days is how its taught) and then have piglets.  They move into a "farrowing house" and are then put in individual pens like the one you see above with plenty of space to move around, warm straw to sleep on, feed every morning, fresh straw every morning, and a section where the piglets can lay under a heat lamp and stay warm when they are not nursing.  Piglets are very heat sensitive when they are born, so they are kept in buildings where climate is closely monitored.  After six weeks in the farrowing house, the sows go to a different building where they have outside access, and are put on a feed ration to help them put weight back on after six weeks of nursing.  Piglets go to the nursery at this time, and are put in group pens with other sows' piglets.  All pigs are well monitored for their health and well-being.

Peggy and the other pigs are raised in a way to provide a safe, nutritious, and healthy source of pork to consumers across the nation!  Yes, contrary to what some will say, farmers really care about what you eat, since it has their name on it. 

(sorry, this showed up sideways)

As we wrap up National Agriculture Week, I felt that I could share with you about one of my pink friends, since agriculture is, you could say, a huge part of her life! 

As you go on, think of Miss Peggy next time you are eating pork products.  She helped those get to your table!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

So, Are You a Farmer?

There are some questions I get pretty commonly, and this is one I want to address today.  "So, are you a farmer?"  Well, what's your definition of a farmer, and we will go from there.

I have worked for a farmer, raising corn, beans, wheat, rye, and pigs, and this will be my fourth summer with him.  What makes someone a farmer?  Does that mean you own the land?  You're the one that plants and harvests the fields?  You get the check when crops are sold?  You pay the bills?  You care for the livestock?  If you ask me if I'm a farmer, I will say yes. 


I don't own the land, a single seed or pig, any of the equipment, and I don't pay the bills.  What makes me a farmer then?  When I'm at home and can work, my alarm goes off at 5:30, I get up, and head to the farm.  No matter the season, I have pigs to feed, feed to grind, and other tasks to do.  Depending on the time of year, we may have crops to either get in or out of the ground, fertilizer to put down, manure to haul, pigs to sell, and there is always something that needs fixed.  Do I look at this as a job?  Not a chance.  What is it then?  It's farming in America.  You can call it work, by definition of the word, but it's a labor of love for me.  Most farmers wouldn't be there if it wasn't.  I do this because I want to, not because I feel I have to.  Nobody makes me - it's about loving what you 're doing.

I need to clarify why I use the term "we" when I talk about things happening, as it was a point of contention last week.  As I mentioned, I'm an employee in the operation.  I say "we" because when work gets done, if I'm a part of it, in the end, "we" did it.

What do I think makes a farmer?  I think a farmer is something special.  Man or woman, a farmer is someone who spends some portion of their lives growing row crops, raising livestock, keeping bees, growing produce, running a hobby farm with a corn maze, or doing some other sort of similar activity.  Farmers are something special.  Farmers are built of dedication, patience, hard work, tired backs, strong arms, and a heart of gold.  Paul Harvey mentioned much of this in his 1976 "So God Made a Farmer" talk, made popular again by Ram Trucks in the last year.

"And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So God made a farmer.
"I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife's done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon -- and mean it." So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, 'Maybe next year.' I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain'n from 'tractor back,' put in another seventy-two hours." So God made a farmer.
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor's place. So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week's work with a five-mile drive to church.
"Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life 'doing what dad does.'" So God made a farmer."
From .

To answer my question, yes, I am a farmer.  By one definition or another, I am.  I love the animals on the farm.  I love the land and am doing my part to conserve it, improving it for future generations.  I want to make sure I'm helping to produce the very best of what all I help raise on the farm.  I farm for the consumer, because that farm is where my heart is.  This is the difference between the people that say they're going to "work," and my "I'm headed to the farm."  It's about so much more than a paycheck, and until you've experienced it yourself, it's hard to understand.

I don't own it, but I love it all the same.  It's my second home.