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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 ūüėČ ) 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.

20120905-231712.jpg

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.

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#Harvest12 turns into #plant13. Wordless Wednesday

January 30, 2013 Leave a comment

20130130-001151.jpg

As Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down

September 4, 2012 7 comments

We’ve all been there. ¬†You are in a hurry, your driving down the road, with places to be and things to do and worst of all, your hungry. ¬†Then ahead in the distance, there is a string of brake lights….yes another traffic jam. ¬†As you get closer you see flashing yellow lights. ¬†The thought of “construction again?” crosses your mind. ¬†As you pull up on the car in front of you, you then realize it isn’t construction at all, its a piece of farm¬†equipment doing a mere 20 mph ¬†taking up nearly the whole road making it seemingly impossible to pass. ¬†Frustration overcomes you, then maybe a little anger because you will surely be late for your appointment, or whatever else it may be. ¬†But, eventually (after what seemed like an eternity) its your turn to pass. ¬†Still frustrated and maybe still angry for being late, you might honk in displeasure and wave at the farmer as you drive by (Ill let you count the amount of fingers used). ¬†But then life goes on, you pull into your favorite drive through and order up dinner to go (Ironic huh?) and get Safely on your way.

We’ve all been in those shoes before. ¬†Running late, in a hurry, and stuck in traffic. ¬†Its common everyday right? ¬†Happens all the time and at the end of the day everyone gets home safe. ¬†Not always. ¬†According to The Michigan Secretary of State:

From 2004 through 2009, more than 1,000 crashes involving farm equipment occurred in Michigan. Of those crashes, 272 involved injuries and 22 fatalities.

In the coming weeks, Harvest will begin to gear up across the Midwest.  Drivers will see an increased number of Farm Equipment traveling our nations back roads, County Roads, and State Routes as well.  One thing all of these pieces of Farm Equipment have in common is a simple triangular shaped reflective sticker or panel attached to them.  Like the one below.  Now I have to assume most of you reading this have a valid drivers licence and know your road signs, but lets take a short quiz as a refresher.

What is the name of this Sign?

What Does it Mean?

Where do you usually find it?

I know, its an easy one right? ¬†I hope it was. ¬†Here’s the answers:

What is the name of the sign?

 SMV (Slow Moving Vehicle)

What does it Mean?

 The vehicle it is attached to is moving at a reduced rate of speed, usually around or under 25mph.

Where do you usually find it?

Rear of a John Deere Combine with SMV

How’d you do? ¬†It was easy right?

These Slow Moving Vehicles present a challenge to their operators and other drivers alike.  I personally,  know all too well, that driving a slow, large, often tall and wide, piece of farm equipment from field to field has its challenges.  Narrow roads, narrow bridges, low clearance on overhead bridges, construction, etc etc, are huge concerns just to name a few.  However my (and other farmers) main concern is safety of  the other drivers who are on the road as well as our own.

While all farm equipment legally has to have a SMV attached to it before it can be driven on the road, many late model combines and tractors have numerous flashing (hazard) lights as well as Beacon Lights to warn other drivers of their slower speeds. ¬†Still some drivers just don’t seem to notice and or respect the warnings these safety measures put out.

In my personal¬†experience while driving farm equipment on the roads, ¬†I have been passed on the right (on the shoulder), been honked at numerous times, seen “the finger” waved my way more times than I can count, have had a few near misses, and have ran partially off the road in order to avoid an accident. ¬†I can go on and on. ¬†However have been lucky enough to have never been in an actual Tractor or Combine vs Car accident, though many others have, like this

or this

From a farmers point of view, we understand that while driving our equipment on the roads presents a challenge to other drivers. However, moving our equipment from field to field via our nations roads is an important and necessary way for us to plant, care for and harvest our crops which help feed you and your family, as well as the world.  Just like every other driver on the road, a farmers top priority is getting to the next location safely.

So next time you are on your way to work, and come up on a SMV, like a Tractor or Combine, please slow down, most farmers will try to give you some room to pass when its safe, then maybe even give a wave.   Please remember,

 As Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down

 

What’s in a name? “The Farm Bill”

Whats in a name?¬† The answer is everything!¬† A “Name” includes someones or somethings reputation, personality, perspective, etc etc.¬† For instance, if you go to purchase a Chevy, Ford or another brand of Truck, you expect to get a quality Truck.¬† When you visit your local cafe you expect to sit down to a good meal.¬† When you hear the words “Farm Bill” in the media or elsewhere it would be logical to expect the bill to revolve around Farming, Right?¬† Wrong.¬† Let me explain:

image

As you can see in this chart, the “Farm Bill” mainly consists of government funding for Food stamps.¬† 80% of it to be exact, which translates to 82 billion (with a B) dollars!

So if 80% of the “Farm Bill” doesn’t go to “Farm” purposes then the other 20% must right?¬† Wrong again.

Of the 20% of the “Farm Bill” funding left after Food Stamp funding is removed, another 6% is taken out for Conservation purposes.

So we started with a “Farm Bill”, removed 80% of it to cover non farm costs, in the form of food stamps, then removed another 6% for Conservation.¬† This leaves a mere 14% of the initial “Farm Bill” to actually be put to use on Americas Farms to increase our nations food security.

Where do the truth in advertising laws kick in here?¬† If you bought that Truck from above, and 86% of it turned out to be a Car you may not be too satisfied.¬† If you went to that cafe and realized 86% of it was a bar, you may be disappointed.¬†¬† So why is the “Farm Bill” still named the Farm Bill?¬† Well, its simple, it always has been and probably always will be, even if its incorrect.¬†

If you had the chance to rename the “Farm Bill” what would it be?
      (Leave your comment below)

Thank you for reading, and God Bless!

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 ‚Äúpins‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄúTruth about Modern Pork Production‚Ä̬†¬†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 ‚ÄúCommon Sense Agriculture‚ÄĚ, by Jeff Fowle, ‚ÄúAgriculture Proud‚ÄĚ by Ryan Goodman and ‚ÄúThe Farmers Life‚Ä̬†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.

Which Came First, The Chicken or the Egg? and the Unexpected

January 24, 2012 1 comment

This past¬†Monday, I posted a “Thought of the Day” on Google+,

Thought of the day, Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Post the most logical response you can.  Lets see who comes up with the best one.

It’s an age-old question, no one has really been able to completely answer.¬† Theories on the subject are like…well you know…,everybody has one.

Being a¬†Monday morning, I¬†posted it as a joke, but¬†also asked for commenters to¬†post their most logical response.¬† I thought¬†there may be some comical responses about chickens antics and such, along with one or two more serious ones.¬†24 comments later¬†the conversation had turned into one of the best convos¬†I’ve¬†ever had on Google+ as well as¬†other social media sites I’ve ever been on.

The conversation started out with some great comments, ideas and thoughts then became more serious and deep in nature, which I totally did not expect.  Afterall I just asked a simple question, jokingly.  Subjects such as religious beliefs and evolution were discussed without any issues arising (which are common on these subjects in the social media world).  The conversation was open, understanding, respectful, and heard by everyone involved To sum it up, the entire conversation was educational for everyone.

My point is, we can all learn something from this.  We can learn what true communication really is.  We can learn that true communication can happen over social media and education can take place.

  We can learn that with respect, communication, and education, understanding of each other will happen, almost instantly.

¬†Did we learn “Which Came First, The Chicken or the Egg?”¬†, probably not, but we had a great conversation trying to figure it out.

Whats your theory on “Which Came First, The Chicken or the EGG?”¬† post it in the comments below, lets see who¬†can come up with¬†the most logical response!

Thank you for reading, 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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