Posts Tagged With: soybeans

Farmer Perspectives: How Your Garden Grows (It’s Not Too Different from Corn!)

By Jami Loecker, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Jami and her husband, Billy, live in Manhattan, Kan., with their two children. Together, they raise a chicken flock and garden while Jami is employed full-time off the farm as a local agronomist. She helps other farmers and retailers in eastern Kansas by recommending improvements to crop production practices for corn, soybeans, milo, wheat, alfalfa and cotton.

For me, growing plants is both a profession and a hobby. I’m an avid gardener, but my day-to-day job is helping farmers grow healthy crops. My education in plant and soil science can be applied to thousands of acres of corn, wheat and soybeans — and it can just as easily be used to help a few tomato plants thrive in my backyard.

My friends often ask for my help during the summer when they encounter a particular weed or pest in their own garden. In fact, many of our “garden-variety” concerns are the same ones a commercial farmer would encounter.

 

Identify the culprit

When my friends ask for gardening advice, the first step is to identify the weed, disease or pest causing the problem. It’s no different than a crop farmer. In fact, that’s one of my jobs as an agronomist. I walk through fields to understand the cause of the problem and determine how widespread it may be in a field.

Last year, one of my friends had a tomato hornworm problem in her garden. We talked about the pests, and she described the damage. After we determined the cause, I recommended a few pesticides I use and trust. I also gave her advice on how to safely use the products so she can feel confident slicing those tomatoes later in the summer.

 

Selectively used

My friend wasn’t going to use a pesticide on her garden unless she really needed to. Yet, she didn’t want to suffer a complete crop failure either. It’s really the same for farmers. Pesticides or weed control products can be expensive, and I’ve never known a farmer to spray their crop unless it was needed.

Whether you’re dealing with a few plants or a few acres, the rate of application for a product is likely similar. There’s sometimes the idea farmers are hauling jugs of chemicals to the field and dousing their plants. That’s just not true. You wouldn’t do that in your garden, and farmers wouldn’t do it on their crops. Often, farmers are applying a few ounces of a carefully selected, highly regulated product on a per acre basis. To help with perspective, that’s often the amount of product measured by one or two cups over an area roughly the size of a football field.

 

Thoroughly tested

Pesticides and weed control products are intensively regulated by state and federal governments. The fine print on the back of any pesticide sold at your local lawn and garden store is the result of years of research — and it’s not all company-provided data either. The research supporting a new product approval needs third-party science to back up its safety and effectiveness.

My first recommendation to everyone is: read the product label. There are specific rates of application and wait times for harvesting the resulting crop. Using a product off-label may even damage the plant. That’s true for corn farmers and carrot growers. It’s all right there in the product label.

In fact, the downside for not following the label is serious for a farmer. Commodities are regularly tested for chemical residues. If a shipment is rejected, then a whole year of profit may be in jeopardy. The farmers I know would never risk their livelihood, and most growers I work with speak passionately about the responsibility they feel when raising food for a growing world.

I believe the world needs both gardeners and large-scale growers. I love working in my garden and getting my hands dirty. I feel just as confident feeding my family from the grocery store as I do serving up salad from the garden plot. Farmers and gardeners may use different tactics, but the science is the same.

 

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Farmer Perspectives: Farming Outside of My 8-to-5 Job

By Krystale Neitzel, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Krystale is part of a fourth-generation family farm outside Lawrence, Kan., and a full-time operations manager for an insurance company. She and her husband, Lowell, are raising their two kids while growing crops and running a small beef cattle feedlot. Krystale is an expert multi-tasker and fits in hobbies like baking, writing, running and reading.

Farming doesn’t have regular working hours. We must plant and harvest when the timing is right. The weather, season and plants must all be ready — whether we are or not! Occasionally, that means adjusting family travel plans, date nights and more. Other times, it can mean the farm work adjusts to our growing family.

I still consider myself a farmer even though I’m an operations manager for an insurance company most of the week. Like many of you, I am juggling many parts of my life: family, hobbies and a career. How I get it all done probably looks similar to most moms too!

 

Farm job

Our farming operation consists of corn, soybeans, hay and cattle. My great-grandfather and grandfather began our farming operation in 1945. My mom and dad farm the same ground today with my aunt and uncle. In 2011, my family began to develop a succession plan to help keep my brother, his wife, my husband and I part of the family farm for many more years down the road. Together, we formed Bismarck Farms.

With my parents transitioning away from day-to-day farming duties, it has meant our workloads have increased. This year, my husband completed the majority of planting. It’s meant he’s been in the field for weeks straight — moving straight from fertilizing fields to corn planting into soybean planting and then harvesting hay.

When we “put up hay,” it involves mowing the grass, letting it dry, raking it up, baling into bundles and then hauling it back to the farm. These working hours are not 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. We must time actions based on weather, supplies of products (like seed, twine, drivers, equipment, etc.), machinery working as it should, tending to other areas of the farm where help is needed (for example, we have cattle, irrigation tasks, equipment moving, and ever-present equipment breakdowns).

My husband probably averages more than 12 hours per day farming, which leaves a lot of the day-to-day family duties to me during the busy seasons.

 

Day job

I work off the farm Monday through Friday, 8 to 5. I oversee and work with five insurance offices doing everything from employee management, checking in with marketing reps, account reviews, quotes and whatever else the day may bring. Recently, I took on a management role so I’m often working more than 45 hours a week. My co-workers love stories about country life. I often have tales of visits from opossums or skunks.

My sister-in-law also has a full-time job off the farm. With six people involved in the farm, our schedules can look a little crazy!

 

Weekend job

Our families each have young children. As anyone knows, that’s a full-time job in itself! Recently, all our careers required some flexibility to accommodate our kids’ new hobbies and interests.

For example, my family offered a public roadside fresh garden market since 1982. Most weekends, we would put in 12-hour days, interacting with customers and explaining how we grew our crops. The market was truly a family affair. Our mom helped with deposits, payroll for employees and other daily tasks.

We all loved the market, but the extra time became too much to handle. Our son begged to grow his 4-H projects and have livestock. Unfortunately, our market was still open during the week of our county fair.

This year, we decided as a family not to operate the summer garden. It has been a bittersweet decision. We’re missing our customers but have more family time. My son has been able to raise pigs as a 4-H project. Having pigs was something he’s wanted to do since he was a toddler. I’ve never raised pigs, so it’s been an adventure for us as well!

 

Juggling

The demands of farming, a full-time career and a family require a juggling act every single day. I love running to the field after I leave work to help move equipment — sometimes I don’t get to change clothes so I do it in heels! Other days, I bring the guys an iced tea in the hot field and end up untangling alfalfa from the hay swather (the equipment that helps harvest the hay). Now that my son has pigs, you’ll often find me helping him. I’ve quickly learned I must take the time to change out of my work clothes first!

Finding the balance between an 8-to-5 job and farming sometimes gets the best of me, but there isn’t much I’d change. I’m never sure how the day will go between work, dropping off our kid for classes and farming.

Like most moms juggling a family and career, my passion for each keeps me motivated. I’m lucky our family business involves every member of our family. We can each work towards a shared goal of improving our business and helping to feed the world.

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Kansas Farms Highlighted at Hy-Vee Simple Fix Mini

img_5387Did you know much of the food you buy in the grocery store has a Kansas connection?

CommonGround Kansas hosted a Simple Fix Mini featuring Kansas-grown foods Tuesday, Feb. 21, at Topeka Hy-Vee. Guests enjoyed appetizers and wine, visited with Kansas farmers and prepared a three-course meal to take home and bake for their families.

The menu featured Southwest Avocado Ranch Salad, Layered Beef Enchiladas and Tres Leches Cake. Each recipe showcased connections to ingredients that are grown in Kansas, such as the wheat that goes into flour tortillas, corn that is fed to beef cattle and soybeans that are made into oil for salad dressing. The salad even featured grain sorghum as a topping.

Each work station was equipped with easy-to-follow recipes and all the prepared ingredients needed to create each dish.

Volunteers Melissa Hildebrand Reed, a dairy farmer near Junction City, and Laura Handke, a rancher near Atchison, visited with guests and answered questions about their farms. Guests also sampled flavors of milk from Hildebrand Family Dairy.

Hy-Vee dietitians Kylene Frost and Alyssa Gehle answered nutrition questions and served samples of the prepared meal.

The meal and event was sponsored by the farmers and ranchers of CommonGround Kansas. Ticket proceeds benefited Harvesters Community Food Network. Guests also brought canned and dry goods to donate.

Thank you to all who attended for the great discussions and for helping feed the hungry in our community!

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Guests experience modern agriculture during farm tour

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Volunteer Kim Baldwin talks about growing wheat on her family’s farm near McPherson, KS.

Have you ever been to a working farm? Has it been many years since you saw a farm firsthand? You’re definitely not alone. Even in a highly agricultural and rural state like Kansas, most consumers have never seen modern agriculture firsthand. That changed for about a dozen guests who attended a special tour of Kansas farms on Saturday, July 19.

Volunteers Kim Baldwin and Katie Sawyer opened up their McPherson County farms and ranches to bloggers, media, dietitians and consumers during the first-ever CommonGround Kansas Farm Tour. Guests arrived via tour bus to see how the women and their families raise corn, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum and cattle.

During the tour, the Baldwins showed guests their farm machinery and explained how each is used, including the innovative technology that allows them to more precisely plant, fertilize and harvest crops. Guests also learned about the family’s cow herd and were able to see the animals grazing on pasture near the farm. During a visit to the farm’s test plot, Kim and her husband, Adam, shared about biotechnology while showing different corn hybrids growing in the field.

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Volunteer Katie Sawyer explains how her family uses subsurface drip irrigation to more efficiently utilize water in one of their corn fields.

The bus traveled on to the Sawyer’s farm, where guests walked through a soybean field irrigated with a center pivot. Katie and her husband, Derek, also learned about subsurface drip irrigation and saw the technology working in one of the Sawyer’s corn fields. Katie talked about how the family cares for their cow herd and when and why antibiotics are used to care for sick animals.

Guests also visited the Mid-Kansas Cooperative Groveland facility, where they learned about grain markets. The tour concluded with a barbecue lunch at Knackie’s in Inman.

Thanks to everyone who attended! If you or someone you know is interested in visiting Kansas farms, please email us and we’ll notify you as future opportunities arise.

 

Guests toured the Mid Kansas Cooperative Groveland facilities near Inman to learn about grain storage and markets.

Guests toured the Mid Kansas Cooperative Groveland facilities near Inman to learn about grain storage and markets.

 

 

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Kids’ Reading List: The Super Soybean

From feed to food to fuel and more, soybeans are used for a variety of things that we come into contact with each day.  In addition to its edibility, the super plant is used to make plastics, medicines, inks, fuels, soaps and many other products.

The Super Soybean The Super Soybean, by Raymond Bial, celebrates the humble soybean as a major U.S. export and renewable natural resources.  Find out how big of an impact soybeans have on your family’s daily life through cultivation descriptions and references to the many uses of the plant.

This is more than the average picture book for kids ages 8-11 years.  They will enjoy this book filled with both colorful photos and informational text about soybean growth, harvest and consumption.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list:

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