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Just What Do Farmers Do in the Winter Anyhow?

February 4, 2013 5 comments

We’ve all been there.  Your on a warm weathered road trip, a vacation or just out to see a distant relative.  Along the way you see a grain farmer (like myself) out in his fields, working the ground, tending to his crops, or harvesting.  Basically doing what farmers do.  While you are watching that farmer for that small moment of time, the thought runs through your head,  What do they do in the winter?

 

“What do you do in the winter?” is the number one question I, as a farmer, have ever been asked over the years.  It’s usually followed by the joking assumption that we sit in the house and watch Oprah, Springer and Maury all day.  However, Nothing can be further from the truth.

Yes,  we work hard in the warmer months of the year, but what about the winter?  What exactly does a farmer who cant be in his fields and cant tend to crops due to the freezing cold conditions do all winter?

 A lot!

  Alright, so you may have saw that general response coming.  So let me be more specific.    In the winter, a grain farmer usually:

1.Hauls away the previous years crop from his grain bins to be sold at the elevator..

2. Works tirelessly on paperwork, closing out the year before and beginning the new year.

3. Attends meetings offered by Agricultural based companies in efforts to learn to be better at his/her job.

4.  Completes all of the maintenance needed on his/her equipment to make sure its ready for the following year.

The list can go on and on.

For the moment, lets talk about  #4 Maintenance.  Why?  Because its something we can all relate to.

If you own a vehicle, there is no doubt that at one time or another you may have had a breakdown or a flat tire.  Things happen, but a general maintenance plan can help with that.  Every 3000 miles or so, your car will need an Oil Change and maybe a new air filter.  Every 50,000 or so miles it may need new tires, brakes or something else. If this maintenance isn’t completed in a timely manner chances are the vehicle wont last too long without having mechanical issues when you need it the most.   Farm equipment is no different   They need the same type of maintenance that your vehicle does, just on a larger scale.  While a late model car may need its 4 quarts of oil changed every 3000 miles (for around $25-$45 at your local dealer).  A tractor can run over 100-500 hours (depending on the model) before its 5-15 gallons of oil need to be changed (for $200 or more in the farmers shop).  A cars tires may last 50,000 miles and cost $150 each while a tractors tires may last 4000 hours and cost upwards of $1500 each to replace (often having 6-8 tires).  As you can imagine, this takes time.  Especially if you have to do this type of maintenance when you need the vehicle or tractor the most.

So what do farmers do in the winter?  A large part of it is maintenance, especially preventative maintenance.  Every winter, at one time or another, virtually every piece of farm equipment we have is brought into our farm shop to be checked over.  First we start just outside the shop door, blowing all of the dust and crop debris off of the machine with an air hose.  Next, as in the case of this tractor, its brought into the shop for an oil change.

Hoods up, lets get to work!

Hoods up, lets get to work!  (When you see it…comment as to what it is)

Under our John Deere 6310.  Getting ready to drain the oil into a bucket for it to be recycled.

Under our John Deere 6310. Getting ready to drain the oil into a bucket for it to be recycled.

Throughout my tractor maintenance ritual, I treat the tractor much like a mechanic would your car.  Like, checking air pressure in the tires, checking the antifreeze and other fluid levels and so on.  After the oil is changed, fluids checked, air pressures checked, and more, its time to for a wash, some touch up paint and a wax before it leaves the shop. (Look for a future post explaining more about what we do)

All of this is done to maintain our farm equipment so it can be the best it can be.  We hope the machines we use have long and breakdown free lives, just as you do your vehicle.  This type of preventative maintenance along with many other responsibilities are what keeps many farmers like me busy throughout the year, especially in the winter months.   So if you ever wonder what farmers do in the winter, simply stop by and knock on the farm shop door.  Chances are, you’ll find a farmer inside.

The Sweet Taste of #Ethanol?

January 31, 2013 2 comments

It’s going to be beautiful day in late July. The morning is cool and dewey, but we know it’s going to heat up and get humid. So we get up early, get out a bunch of bowls, 1 quart ziplock bags, my Moms newly sharpened paring knives, a few 5 gallon buckets, a turkey fryer filled with water and a pick up truck. It’s Sweet Corn freezing day on the farm.
It’s been a tradition for as far as I can remember. Getting up early, picking a pick-up bed full of sweet corn, cleaning it, cooking it (boiling it in the turkey fryer if you were wondering), cooling it, cutting it off the cob, filling the bags, taste testing (for quality reasons of course 😉 ) and finally freezing it for future meals throughout the year. It’s a lot of work but it’s so worth it. The funny thing is, I’ve never had one bite of sweet corn taste like Gas, well Ethanol anyway.

Wait what? There is Ethanol in the Sweet Corn we eat?
No, there is no type of Corn that tastes like any fuel product either, but here’s a fact you may not know.

Ethanol is not made from Sweet Corn

This cartoon came across my FB feed yesterday.

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At first sight, I chuckled, but after reading a few comments below it. I felt compelled to address it. The Mom in the cartoon is relating sweet corn consumption and hunger to Ethanol use. The fact is, Ethanol is NOT made from Sweet Corn at all. It is NOT made from the same Corn you buy in your produce isle or farmers market to have at your next meal.

Ethanol is in fact made from #2 yellow dent corn. Never heard of it? Sure you have, if you have ever seen a field of corn while driving down the interstate, more than likely it’s a field of #2 Yellow Dent Corn, more commonly known as field corn. In fact there was about 90million acres of it planted across our nations heartland this past spring. However, you won’t find any of it in your local produce section. Why? Let’s just say that although very few people actually like it, it really does’t taste very good.

While Sweet Corn is largely grown for direct human consumption, Field Corn (#2 yellow dent) is mainly grown for some food production, livestock feed, and to be turned into countless other things, including Ethanol, which gets mixed into our nations gasoline supplies. It can be argued that Ethanol helps reduce our nations dependence on foreign oil and increases the octane level of our gasoline all while making each gallon of gas about 20 cents cheaper than straight gas. But that’s not my point.

What does this all mean? It means that the kid in this cartoon can feel free to eat his ear of Sweet Corn without guilt. It means the price you pay for Sweet Corn at the store and the supply there of are not affected directly by Ethanol because it doesn’t come from Sweet Corn at all. It means that my family and I can go to the gas station, purchase E10, E15, or E85 mixed gasoline and still be able to freeze our pick-up load of Sweet Corn every year.

Why? Because Ethanol Does Not Come From Sweet Corn

Want to learn more about Ethanol? Click here for some Ethanol Facts.

Want to know if your vehicle can run on E85? ( Flex Fuel Vehicle). Click here.

#Harvest12 turns into #plant13. Wordless Wednesday

January 30, 2013 Leave a comment

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A week without Facebook, and other Social Media sites: Lessons Leared

April 16, 2012 5 comments

What would happen if you woke up one morning and couldn’t sign on your favorite social media site like Facebook, Twitter, Google+?   How would you feel?  How would you communicate with your friends?  How would it change your life?  Most importantly what would you learn from it?  That is exactly what happened to me.

For the last 2 years,  I have decided to give up Facebook Mobile on my phone for the Lenten time period of the 40 days before Easter.  Now while some of you may be laughing inside at the lack of relevance doing so has to everyday life, I’m sure the majority of you understand how not having mobile access to a major way of communication can affect you once you have already had it.

Did you know:   Over 700 Billion minutes a month are spent on Facebook, 20 million applications are installed per day and over 250 million people interact with Facebook from outside the official website on a monthly basis, across 2 million websites. Over 200 million people access Facebook via their mobile phone. 48% of young people said they now get their news through Facebook. Meanwhile, in just 20 minutes on Facebook over 1 million links are shared, 2 million friend requests are accepted and almost 3 million messages are sent.

via: Facebook Statistics

Now, I didn’t give up FB entirely, I could still go on my computer and catch up with everyone later in the day, so it was really no big deal. Having said that, I decided to take giving up Facebook to the next level for this year by giving up Social Media Entirely for 7 days!  Check out my previous blog on the subject, Giving it Up.

For the 2012 Lenten season I decided to go on a week-long Social Media Detox.  The Social Media Detox consisted of 7 days of absolutely no Social Media, including Facebook (except for my farm Page) Boucher Farms, Google+, StumbleUpon, Twitter and more.  I also decided to give up Social Media based online games such as Scramble, Words With Friends, and more.   In order to eliminate the temptation of playing a game or signing on the sites, I simply deleted the apps from my phone.  As you can imagine, staying away from social media for a week wasnt the easiest thing to do, but I am proud to say I did it and learned a few things from it like:

  1.  While it is nice to keep up with friends on FB and other Social Media sites throughout the day, there is really not a need to be constantly updated on my phone about whatever it may be.  It can wait till later.
  2. While I may missed out on a few things here and there on FB and other Social Media Sites throughout the day, I quickly discovered how much time I actually had during the day when I didn’t sit down to mess with my phone or computer.
  3. While I missed conversing with my Social Media Friends, I found myself spending more quality time with the ones who matter the most to me, my family.
  4. Social Media based games are a blast, but I didn’t really miss them.
  5. Since I deleted the social media apps from my phone, I basically turned my smart phone back into a regular phone.  I discovered after being used to having the world at my fingertips, having a basic phone is NOT an option for me.

So what are the lessons learned? 

  1. Social Media has its very important and ever-expanding place in today’s world of communications, however it also does not have to be constantly “checked in on.”  The viral video of the day can wait till the end of the day.
  2. Quality time is quality time.  Weather it be on a Social Media site  or with family and friends, make the most of the time you have and try not to mix the two together.  Honestly,while there are times when they work well together they usually interfere with each other like oil and water.
  3. Social Media games like Words With Friends, and other fun apps are great, but only use them to pass a few minutes of time.  Dont let time escape you while you are using them.

It’s easy to sit here, typing on my computer and state the lessons I learned, however as we all know actually living by them can be difficult.  So here’s my plan. 

I plan on checking FB, Google+ etc in the mornings, and at night, after the kids go to bed.  This doesn’t mean I wont post a pic or two from my phone throughout the day and check a notification or two, from time to time, but it does mean I wont be on as much in the heart of the day. 

Like I stated above, It can wait. 

“Letting it wait” has proven to save a lot of time which I can use to achieve other things in life including the most important thing, spending time with family.

I should add a note too,   I’m not against Facebook or other types of Social Media, in fact I believe they are a great communications tool which when correctly utilized has unlimited potential to bring people together and make the world a smaller and smaller place.  However, it does have some side effects like pulling the Social Media contributor away from the people who are around them, physically.  Achieving the balance of the two is the challenge.

As the old saying goes…”Everything in Moderation”

Thank you for reading, and God Bless!

Giving it up, a 40 day Facebook and other Socail Media Detox

March 21, 2012 3 comments

Since I was a child, I was always taught that I should give up something for lent, which I do to this day, and I am not alone in this philosophy.  Most people Ive talked to about it say they have given up one of their favorite things such as certain type of Soda Pop, a type of candy or candy all together.  Some others have instead pledged to do something positive for the season.  For example, spending more time with family, a young sister being nicer to their brother, etc.

So I asked myself, what should I give up for this Lenten Season this year?  I tossed a few ideas around, but then I came back to what I gave up last year, which was my Facebook Mobile ap on my phone.  I understand some of you may be laughing right now, some of you may be rolling your eyes or maybe you get it.  Yes it sounds silly.   However, I found that I was spending an, well lets call it, unhealthy amount of time on FB Mobile.  The result was less quality time spent with my family and less day-to-day productivity on my farm.  So I decided to give up Facebook Mobile again this year for lent.

Now before you say, boy that’s easy, I will honestly say it’s not!  Picture yourself staying in touch with your friends throughout the day every day, then all at once, nothing.  Only phone calls, no FB texts, no profile updates, no viral video recommendations from that kid you went to grade school with who you don’t really know at all and so on.   We all know how Facebook can suck you in, and its hard to ignore.

As of today, its been about 3 weeks since I’ve last been on FB Mobile.  At first I was concerned I would be missing out on all the stuff going on on FB every day.  I thought Id miss out on the news and pictures my friends post.  What I found was that I was actually missing out on more when I was on the Ap as much as I was.  I missed out on family, on work, …..on everything.  Now I’m not saying FB or other social media is bad, in fact it has its place, but in moderation.

Going into the week before Easter, I plan on taking another huge step.  For that week, I have decided to delete my Twitter, Google+ and FB aps from my phone and will not be on their websites unless totally and absolutely necessary.  I call it:

The Facebook and Other Social Media DETOX Project.

For those 7 days.  I will fall off the social media grid in every capacity except for this blog.  Thats right, No FB, No YouTube, No Tweets, No Words with Friends, No StumbleUpon, No…well you get the idea.    For those 7 days my smart phone will basically be used as regular phone, with only Phone Calls, Text messages and a few (non online) games in use.  After being an active part of social media for years now, this wont be an easy thing to accomplish.

 I encourage you to join me in this Project and post your thoughts in the comments below.  

It all Starts this coming Monday and ends on Easter Sunday. 

Feel free to check back to this blog often as I will periodically post how things are going and post a summary after Easter is over.

Thank you for reading and God Bless!

As a disclaimer: I must say I dont believe Social Media is bad in any way, in fact it has become an awesome force in changing the world of communications, however, I believe sometimes, we need to step away from it to see what is physically around us.

Meet a Farmer, via Social Media

February 15, 2012 12 comments

Today, less than 2% of the population are farmers and the average person is said to be 3 generations removed from the farm.  However, even though less and less people are involved in farming these days, it is becoming easier for consumers to stay in touch with those who produce the food products they depend on every day.

Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, and the popular Pinterest.com, seem to be the online places to be these days.  It seems almost everyone has a social media account on at least one of these sites and those who don’t have one definitely know someone who does.  Common uses for these sites are to keep in touch with friends, family, post pictures of a child’s achievements and more, but have you ever thought of using those sites to get in touch with a farmer and learn where your food comes from?  Doing so is a growing trend in social media.  Consumers who are concerned about where and how their food is produced are now talking to the farmers who grow their food products daily through social media.

With well over 350 million active users, Facebook is arguably the most widely used social media tool on the web today.  People from all over the world, from varying backgrounds constantly use the site to convey their thoughts from day-to-day.  Farmers from across the country are also on Facebook and are ready and willing to tell their story as well.  Countless farms of various types have their own Facebook pages so consumers and other farmers alike can see what they are doing, how they are doing it and why.

Some examples of Farm related Facebook pages are Organic Valley, The Farmers Life (IN. Grain Farm)  , Haley Farms (OH. Cattle Farm),  Gilmer Dairy Farm , Fair Oaks Farms (IN Dairy Farm) , and Boucher Farms (IL Grain Farm), just to name a few.

With 100 million new accounts opened in 2010 alone Twitter has proven its place in the social media landscape.  Every Tuesday night on Twitter from 7pm-9pm CST, about 125-175 farmers and non-farmers alike, take part in a discussion called #AgChat.  Each week the discussion has a different general topic surrounding farming, food production and agriculture in general.  The discussion is moderated by a different person each week and everyone is welcome to chime in with their thoughts on the subject.  Topics of conversation have ranged from Ag Policies to Biotech Crops to Feeding our Ever Expanding Population to name a few.  The discussions are always educational and usually result in great conversations with other Tweeters after the chat is over. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

 Some farmers who tweet are

@kansfarmer, @okCableGuy, @sunflowerfarmer , @Katpinke , @BoucherFarms , @JeffFowle , and @farmerhaley .

Google+ and Pinterest are new comers in the Social Media world.  Both sites are growing in size but as many of you know Pinterest has basically exploded in popularity, and yes, Farmers are on it too.  While most searches and “pins” on the site seem to be about crafts, household items, and travel, a simple search for Agriculture or Farming will easily put you in touch with a farmer who produces your food products.

Lets not forget YouTube. YouTube is a place where many of us have visited to see one video or another, but soon find ourselves watching something totally unrelated to what we came to watch in the first place.  From EHow, where you can learn to do basically anything via video, to that viral video of a kid singing a song, YouTube covers it all, including farming.  A simple search for farming will bring up countless videos of farms including one by Chris Chinn (familyfarmer ).  In the video “Truth about Modern Pork Production”  she explains, in detail, how her modern pork production facility works on their family farm.  Other farm related YouTube channels provide education on modern grain production, organic farming and urban farming as well.

Last but not least, blogs are all the craze today.  Sites like tumblr.com and wordpress.com have countless blog post entries every day covering all sorts of subjects.  Agriculture is a growing part of the blog world.  Many farmers are using blogs to communicate with consumers today to better explain how and why they do what they do.  Three great AG blogs are “Common Sense Agriculture”, by Jeff Fowle, “Agriculture Proud” by Ryan Goodman and “The Farmers Life” by Brian Scott.  Bryan, Ryan and Jeff are professional Farmers and/or Ranchers who share their day-to-day lives and opinions with their ever-growing community of followers.

No matter which social media outlet you prefer to use, the farmers who produce your food products are there to answer your questions.  They are easy to find, and will be there to give you an honest answer, straight from the source.  The next time you are updating your Facebook status, or tweeting a tweet, look up a farmer and learn about where your food really comes from.

Today’s Farmers may make up only 2% of the population but their occupation directly affects all of us.

If you have any farm or food production related questions please contact any of the farmers listed above or leave a comment on this blog.  Thank you for visiting Off the Cobb and God Bless.

Are College Degrees Surrounding Food and Animals and Plants Really “Useless”?

January 20, 2012 Leave a comment

While doing my usual scroll through the social media landscape yesterday I discovered Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be abuzz about what College degrees were useful in today’s society and which were not.  Having a Degree from Iowa State University myself, I found myself interested in finding out what degrees were deemed useless based on facts.  So I clicked on the article that everyone seemed to be talking about

http://education.yahoo.net/articles/most_useless_degrees.htm.

The Yahoo article turned out to be a blog post of sorts citeing info from the Department of Labor (indirectly) with quite a few of the authors opinions mixed in and few real facts.   So what were the top five listed “Useless Degrees” you ask?

  1. Agriculture
  2. Fashion Design
  3. Theater
  4. Animal Science
  5. Horticulture

Judging by this list, apparently no one needs to :

  1. Eat
  2. Wear Clothes
  3. Watch Actors on TV or Broadway
  4. Have pets care options
  5. Have any Landscaping around their houses, Golf Courses, Football Fields, or local Flower shops.

From a guys point of view, we need all of these!  WE love to eat good food provided by farmers and others in the Ag industry, we can’t live without a good pair of Jeans and a T-shirt, there are few things better than watching a great action movie, mans best friend needs a good vet like Kata Nichols (a vet with a Animal Science Degree) to go to once in a while, and sometimes most importantly us guys need a good local Florist to provide us with flowers for our wives/girlfriends or both (just kidding) from time to time.  Not to exclude the girls, but lets face it, while the the above could be said for you too gals too, I doubt you buy flowers for the guy in your life.

After reading the article I began to think about the value of my degree I worked hard to get, a Bachelors in Agricultural Business.  While I was fortunate enough to be able to come home to work on and eventually take over the everyday operations of our farm, there were many other job opportunities along the way that my Ag Degree allowed me to pursue.  I recall going to an agricultural job fair at ISU where countless companies from all across the country were actively seeking those with Ag Degrees to work for them.  No Degree…NO Job.  It’s that simple.  I wonder if going to the job fair was “useless”  hmm….  NO.   Like I said above, I didn’t take any of those 9-5 jobs which my degree allowed me to enter into, however I do work in the AG field on my own farm.  While I may not need a degree to run my farm, I value it and the education I received greatly because it helps me everyday, in every decision I make which in turn makes my farm better than it would have without a degree.  Many others in my situation would agree.

AG FACTS:

  1. Nearly 30 percent of today’s farmers and ranchers have attended college, with over half of his group obtaining a degree. A growing number of today’s farmers and ranchers with four-year college degrees are pursuing post-graduate studies
  2. Agriculture employs 17% of the U.S. workforce, or about 23 million people.
  3. Agriculture employs more than six times as many workers a the U.S. automotive industry

Back to the original article,  In response to the article a Facebook Page was quickly created appropriately named

“I Studied Agriculture, and I have a Job”

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Studied-Agriculture-I-Have-A-Job/306700539376086?sk=wall

 Almost immediately the page took off and was running…well sprinting…well…something faster than that, maybe like a speeding Indy Car.  It seemed to be gaining exponential popularity as the day went on.  As of this morning, less than 24 hours into the pages young life it had over 2500 likes and growing.  As for the time this post was written, it is boasts over 2700 likes.  Countless posts on the page have stated what degree the posting person has, how they use it and why they believe the article to be in error.  Recently other media types have even picked up on the flaws of the Yahoo Article like those listed below:

The Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-s-levine/useless-college-majors_b_1217401.html

And AG DAY on YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l_d3zdx0jI&feature=share

And even other media stations like WIBW.

http://www.wibw.com/blogs/melissa/Useless_Degrees_This_List_Doesnt_Sit_Well_137706603.html

An Agricultural Photographer https://www.facebook.com/#!/lens.of.a.farm.girl Posted these pictures

https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=314532528589459&set=a.314531975256181.70626.309663002409745&type=1&theater

https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=314532841922761&set=a.314531975256181.70626.309663002409745&type=1&theater

In the end, if the author was looking for attention he got it.  But in the end, which is more useless, the degree or the article?   In my honest opinion even this flawed article wasnt totally useless because it had 2 items of value.

  1. It brought the AG, Animal Science and Horticulture (all 3 of which are Agriculture Based) together
  2. It proves just how important the AG industry is to our world, and how many jobs are out there for those with AG Degrees.

So, I suppose, in a weird way, we should Thank the author for not doing his homework, studying his sources, or filling in the blanks (so to speak) on his article.  Wait…that kinda sounds like what we all had to complete to get our degrees doesnt it?  Have a great day, and God Bless!

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