Archive for the 'Other' Category

Planters Are Hitting The Ground

Planters Are Hitting The Ground

In South Dakota, and really across the Midwest from what I can see from my Facebook friends, planters are finally hitting the ground. We actually hit the ground a few weeks ago and got nearly all our corn in the ground before we had about four days of pouring down rain and really chilly temperatures. Well, chilly for this time of year anyway. It isn’t just the air temperature that can affect a growing crop, it’s also the soil temperature. When you put corn in the ground you really don’t want to see the soil temperature fall below 50 degrees. Any seed needs moisture and warm soil temperatures to grow. Hence the power of a greenhouse! Lots of warmth in there! That’s also why you see many people start their garden indoors with grow lights on the plants to help give them a bit of a push.The way that I love to explain planting season for farmers is to talk about planting season for gardens. The process is one in the same we are just planting a whole lot more than my “tiny” garden in the backyard. First off, you apply some fertilizer. We let the local Co-Op do that for us. They do a great job and are really nice guys! And slap on my wrist for not snapping a picture. The one time I was in the field that they were in I forgot my phone! I also fertilize my garden, in the past I have used cattle manure (which we also use in our fields) from my heifers, this year I used a fertilizer you just shake on.Just like in your garden we till up our fields with this big guy. My hubby’s job typically. My garden is currently tilled and waiting for some tender loving care. Well, and someone to pick up the sticks all over it from our ever shedding willow tree.

And if you are like me you do some spraying before you put your crop in the ground.  I really don’t like weeds in my garden, and the guys don’t like weeds in their fields. My brother in law spraying. 

And then you plant your seed. Which the seeds for my garden are sitting on the counter also waiting to be sorted and mapped out. I am way behindon drawing out my garden this year. Farmers are typically ordering their seed months ahead of time and know exactly how much they need and what fields are getting what seed.

And then you take adorable pictures of your child while you wait for the piece of equipment to get to the end of the field to get their lunch.

Just like in your garden all of our crops have a certain amount of time until harvest. If you look at the back of your seed packets you will see a variety of timelines for your crops to be ready for picking. Without corn the shortest amount days until harvest is 95 days. That puts us hopefully chopping our corn silage at the end of August beginning of September. Right where we want to be! Happy planting season to all my farmers out there across the country! And happy gardening season to all my gardeners. I know I can’t wait to get in my garden!  

Oh, What’s In A Label

Oh, What's In A Label

Recently, it seems that a lot of the conversations I am having with producers and also consumers is all about labels.

Labeling on GMO’s specifically. Or Genetically Modified Organisms. Really, it’s just a bunch of Biotechnology.

California tried to pass this law last year and it failed miserably. Not because it was a horrible idea, for the simple reason it wasn’t well thought out.

Here’s the truth.

If we were to label every item that contained GMO’s you may be surprised to see that there are quite a bit of products with GMO’s used in them. Does that tell you if they are good or bad? No, not necessarily.

Honestly, it might even be more confusing than anything.

Every time a label gets slapped on something it makes for more to read, more to know, more to understand. And if we have to take the time and money to put a label on then something must not be right with the ingredients…right?

I am not opposed to GMO labeling, but here is what you need to know to know about GMO’s.

However, I am opposed to lack of understanding when it comes to biotechnology and what it entails to actually get a GMO on the market. It takes some serious time and some serious money to get one biotechnology trait approved. And the truth is we have been safely eating foods that have been produced with biotechnology for over three decades

Because of biotechnology American farmers produce 40% of the world’s corn on only 20% of the world’s harvested acres.

And because of that we have one of the most affordable food supplies in the world. And GMO labeling may cause an increase in price within the food system, depending on what the labeling will entail. And here’s a question, if it isn’t GMO what else goes into the production? Should that also be on the label?

Remember I am not opposed to GMO labeling. But, I am worried about going to the grocery store and seeing more and more people confused over the vast amount of labels on one package of chicken.

If you have questions about GMOs, ask them. The answers are out there. And I am willing to help you find them and will most likely learn something along the way myself!

I am a part of a pretty diverse industry. There are quite a few options when it comes to growing food. People do things a lot of different ways. Knowledge is valuable and the only thing that will make me happy about the food that I eat is knowing about it, not just sticking a label on it.

Minnesota Farmer Assistance Network Up and Running

Minnesota Farmer Assistance Network Up and Running

2009 has been among their toughest farming years ever.  It started with high input prices followed by a late wet spring.  Milk prices hit the skids.  It was dry in the summer and wet in the fall. Harvest was late and the crop wet. Any way you cut it, it was a stressful year. 

Many farmers are experiencing financial stress and readily acknowledge that , but there are also many farmers struggling with the day to day issues of keeping their families properly fed and clothed, or dealing with health issues, but don’t feel they can afford to see a doctor because they let their insurance lapse.  What is harder for many farmers is to admit they also suffer from these other stresses.  .  Even when help is needed the most, farm families have a difficult time reaching out for help.

The Minnesota Farmer Assistance Network (MFAN) was established to help farm families through these difficult times…  MFAN is a partnership of organizations pulled together by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in response to the struggling rural economy, to address the needs of farm families.  The purpose of MFAN is to provide one place a farm family can call for a wide range of business and personal assistance during stressful times. 

The MFAN network includes volunteers available to help with business analysis and suggestions to keep the business going as well as deal with personal issues.  Professionals from many organizations are ready to help steer farm families to the right resources, and in many cases provide the direct assistance, to help farm families make it through.

MFAN is a confidential system wherein farm families can call a toll-free number any time of the day or night to explain their concern and request help.  If the concern is related to the business, business advisors will be put in touch with the farm.  Not all matters are financial however.  If the need is food, health care or other personal welfare, or legal guidance the volunteers know who in the network can provide assistance to the family. 

Some people may feel the need for personal counseling to deal with the stress.  Those resources are also in the network with professionals ready to start the process with the callers.  All contacts are maintained as confidential so there is no need to worry that someone will know you are reaching out for help.

Partners in MFAN include:

  • MN Dept of Agriculture
  • University of Minnesota Extension
  • MnSCU Farm Business Management Programs
  • Crisis Connections
  • MDA Farm Advocate program
  • Farmer-Lender Mediation
  • Farmers Legal Action Group
  • USDA-Farm Service Agency
  • MN Dept. of Employment and Economic Development
  • Lutheran Social Services
  • Catholic Charities
  • County Social Service Agencies

 Access to MFAN is by one of these phone numbers: 

877-898-MFAN (6326)

866-379-6363 or

651-201-6326 (Twin Cities area)

You can also contact MFAN by e-mail at:


During working hours, these calls will be answered by designated staff within the MDA to start you into the system.  During evening, night or weekend hours (24 hours /day) the phones will be answered by Crisis Connection who will then start the process to help you and your family.  Either way, you have access to the same set of resources. 


Don’t let 2009 keep you in the corner.  If you feel the need for help, or even want to talk to someone about whether more help would be appropriate, call MFAN.  It could be your way to a healthier future.

Charla Hollingsworth, Ph.D., Accepts Position with USDA

Congratulations to Charla on her new position with USDA! Unfortunately, Charla will no longer be blogging for AgBuzz.

“Crookston, Minn.  – Associate Professor Charla Hollingsworth at the Northwest Research and Hollingsworth_Charla.jpgOutreach Center (NWROC) recently accepted a position with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) in the capacity of National Science Program Leader for Plant Pathology and Weeds at the Center for Plant Health, Science, and Technology in Raleigh, N.C.  A farewell for Hollingsworth will be held on Thursday, October 8, 2009, at 1 p.m. in the Bede Ballroom located in the Sargeant Student Center on the U of M, Crookston campus. She will begin her new post with the USDA on November 8, 2009.

The Center for Plant Health, Science, and Technology supports regulatory decisions and operations through methods development work, scientific investigation, analyses and technology.  In her new position, Hollingsworth will have responsibilities for planning, coordination, and oversight in support of the APHIS and PPQ missions.  Utilizing technologically advanced investigative approaches will be a primary focus. ”
The full news release can be found at:


It’s Up!

It's Up!

It’s officially spring!  I was able to “row” a corn field in Dakota County on Friday.  I will grant this land between Hastings and Rosemount is a little lighter,  traditionally warms up early, and gets planted early, but that makes little difference.  When so many farmers wait for that day they can see the rows in their corn fields and know it really is growing, it is a good feeling.


Similarly, most alfalfa fields in the area I travel are looking good right now.  An alfalfa assessment field day a couple weeks ago showed signs of some root diseases, though, so farmers are still advised to do some digging and take a look at their own fields.  If there is significant rot or other diseases showing in the crowns, it may be that a first cutting of hay is pretty good, but the plants may lack the vigor to produce more good cuttings this season.  Then come the tough decisions. 

The recommended threshhold is 40 stems per square foot.  If you have fewer stems than 40, it is normally uneconomical to keep the stand and one should consider appropriate alternativesfor that field.   A good resource for help making decisions is the University of Minnesota Extension -Forages web page at  This page focuses on alfalfa, but can also help you look at reports on other forages as well.

If your primary livestock is dairy, check the University of Minnesota Extension – Dairy webpage at  There is a forage section there which provides extra information on forage selections for particular classes of dairy animals and management of the crop for optimal feed quality.

Alternative Livestock Fun

Alternative Livestock Fun

Many producers are looking for ways to diversify their businesses to avoid crashes in one sector or another. Over the years many different livestock species have been promoted as saviors (emu, ostrich, elk). Other producers have looked for new ways to market their livestock for greater value. With that in mind, try this one on for size.

How to Make Beef Like Venison

“Controversy has long raged about the relative quality of venison and beef as gourmet foods. Some people say that venison is tough, with a strong “wild” taste. Others insist that venison is tender and that its flavor is delicate. The UW-Foods Research Department recently conducted a taste test to determine the truth of these conflicting assertions.
First, a high choice Holstein steer was led into a swamp a half mile from the nearest road, then shot several times. After some of the entrails were removed, the carcass was dragged over rocks, logs, through mud and dust, thrown into a pickup box and transported through rain and snow 100 miles before being hung out in the sun for 10 days.
After that , it was lugged to the garage, where it was skinned and rolled around on the floor for a while. Strict sanitary precautions were observed throughout this test, within the limitations of the butchering environment. For instance, dogs and cats were allowed to sniff at the steer carcass, but were chased out of the garage if they attempted to lick the carcass, bite chunks out of it, or sit on the workbench.
Next, the steer was dragged into the house and down the basement steps. Half a dozen inexperienced but enthusiastic people worked on it with meat saws, cleavers and dull knives. The result was 375 pounds of soup bones, four bushels of meat scraps and a couple steaks that were an inch thick on one side and inch and a half on the other.
The steaks were fried in a skillet of rancid bacon grease, along with three pounds of onions. After two hours of frying, the contents of the skillet were served to three blindfolded taste panel volunteers.
Every one of the members of the panel thought it was venison. One of the volunteers even said it tasted exactly like the venison he had eaten at hunting camps for the past 27 years. The results of this trial showed conclusively that there is no difference between the taste of beef and venison.
Many people believe venison tastes best when well-seasoned. It is STRONGLY suggested that this report also be taken with a bit of salt…”

If you are a hunter, I hope your hunt was safe and successful. If it wasn’t successful, better luck next time.

Enjoy the holiday with your family. The best to you.


The Land Grant University

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. James Milliken, President of the University of Nebraska, as he addressed a large audience.  His message focused on rankings of universities.  He said that, except for athletic teams, the administration of the University of Nebraska had no pressing desire to see the University ranked in the top three or the top ten of public universities.  That statement caught my attention.  He continued by stating that the admininstation’s main desire was to be #1 in the eyes of the citizens of the state.  I was impressed.  I thought that this was a fantastic statement which showed a common sense and easy to understand description of the mission of a Land Grant University.  After all, the Land Grant Universities were established to conduct research and educational activities to improve the economic status of the citizens of the respective states.  So, in my opinion, it’s only fitting that a Land Grant University be judged by how well it serves the citizens of the state.

During the past 25 years, I’ve made many trips to Nebraska for various reasons.  I’ve had many opportunities to interact with farmers and ag-professionals.  There is strong support for the University of Nebraska from that clientele base.  And, it’s not just because of the football teams.  They truly appreciate what the faculty of the University of Nebraska has done for them.

I don’t hear statements like: “The University has forgotten about us.” or “I no longer feel connected to the University.”

It’s apparent to me that the administration of the University of Nebraska has fostered an academic environment to encourage teamwork among the faculty.  This teamwork among disciplines leads to major accomplishments.  For example, a team of soil scientists and agricultural engineers working with county Extension staff has conducted a highly successful program that focused on efficient use of irrigation water and nitrogen fertilizer thereby improving the quality of the groundwater.  To me, there is no evidence that a system of individual faculty members working alone is encouraged.

I’v also observed that there is effective communication with the citizens of Nebraska.  It’ a two way street.  The clientele listen to the faculty–especially the faculty in agriculture.  In turn, the faculty listen to the clientele.  As agriculture becomes more amd more technical and information intense, this open communication is really necessary.

In writing this, it’s not my intent to heap praise on the agricultural faculty of the University of Nebraska.  Instead, I use this faculty as an excellent example of individuals who collectively understand the mission of a Land Grant University.  I’m sure that there are other faculty at other universities with an equal understanding.  I write this because I was impressed by the comments of President Milliken.

Since, through taxes, citizens provide a substantial amount of support for the Land Grant University in their respective states, they should expect some benefits in return.  The faculty of that university has an obligation to listen and respond to concerns.  Encouraged by administrators, there can be an effective interdisciplinary approach to both research and educational programs.  Problems in agriculture today are too complex to be solved by one person or one faculty member.  Citizens of any state have every right to expect the best efforts of the faculty of a Land Grant University.

The Land Grant University is an excellent concept that has withstood the test of time.  Over the years, many of the advances in agricultural production as well as the tremendous volume of high quality food produced can be traced to the research and educational programs of this system.  So, as stated by Dr. Milliken, the administrators and faculty of a Land Grant University should strive to be #1 in the eyes of the citizens of the state.