Thursday, December 27, 2012

Looking Back on 2012

Every year seems to go faster and faster as I continue to grow older and face different challenges and experiences. It feels like 2012 just started yesterday, and now we are about to close it out and move on to 2013. Yet, even though time seems to go faster and faster each year, there still seems to be plenty of time for laughing with friends and family, confronting challenges that make us stronger, and experiencing the different joys that life has to offer us. There's no doubt that 2012 had plenty of those in my life, and I am sure many others can relate.

So looking back on 2012, what all did happen? Well, for agriculture it will definitely be a year that will be remembered for droughts, record breaking commodity prices, and also a year that ended without a farm bill. At the beginning of 2012, I don't think anyone thought we would see the drought we saw this last summer that basically ruined many farmers corn and soybean crops in the Midwest. Unfortunately, many farmers saw their crops turn brown before the summer ended. Even ranchers struggled to get feed for their livestock since much of the feed stock began to dwindle as the drought worsened. This lead to skyrocketing feed prices for many. Along with the drought, it was also a year where grain commodities seemed to continue to move higher and higher due to the drought conditions. I won't forget some even predicting corn prices going over $9 and soybeans going over $20. Luckily prices didn't get that high and began to level out as fall harvest approached.

Although the drought and commodity prices were big news makers in 2012, I think another big news maker is the fact that congress hasn't created and passed a new farm bill. For the first time in history, congress has let an old farm bill expire without enacting a new farm bill. Many don't realize how important a farm bill is to this country since it provides jobs, energy, food, and disaster relief for farmers and ranchers when natural disasters hit their family farms and ranches. Without a farm bill, it is likely that food prices will climb, food aide won't be available for those who need it, and farmers and ranchers won't have disaster relief assistance when another drought or severe storm strikes their family farm. Hopefully those that have been elected won't allow this to continue on into 2013! Yet, even though 2012 wasn't just the greatest year for agriculture, it was a year where farmers and ranchers optimism seemed to persevere. While it could have been a year full of negative attitudes and lost hope, most farmers and ranchers continued to have positive attitudes despite crops burning up and also keeping hopes for better days to come alive. I think that is something all Americans can learn from the American farmer.

For me, 2012 was a year filled with many different experiences and opportunities. During the past year I was able to attend the Commodity Classic in Nashville, Tennessee; wrap up an internship with the Nebraska Corn Board where I learned a lot about the corn industry in Nebraska and in the U.S; took an internship with Cooperative Producers Inc., who I am now employed with as their Precision Ag Specialist; became a teaching assistant at UNL for a commodity marketing class and was able to see the "other side" of the classroom as an instructor instead of a student; and graduated the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in agricultural economics and a minor in international agriculture. Yet, the best part of 2012 for me was being able to spend time with friends and family where many memories were made that will last a lifetime.

So looking back on 2012, it was definitely a year filled with many different challenges and experiences yet also a year filled with lots of appreciation for things that we are blessed with. There is no doubt that as I continue to grow older, each year will go faster and faster. Yet, it is also a reminder that life is short and that we must make the most of our time by taking on new challenges, gaining new experiences, and appreciating those who are in our lives! I wish everyone a happy new year and a prosperous and exciting 2013!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Choosing a Degree before Farming

It is hard for me to believe that my time at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is about to come to an end! On December 15th, I will officially be ending my college career and entering the workforce as I graduate with a degree in agricultural economics and a minor in international agriculture. As I begin the next chapter of my life working in agribusiness for Cooperative Producers Inc., I will also begin farming. Ever since I was a little tike, I always dreamed of being a farmer when I grew up and now that dream becomes reality!

Yet, it's interesting when I tell people what I plan on doing after I graduate college. I won't forget the time a friend asked me what I planned on doing after college.

Friend: "So what do you plan on doing after you graduate college?"
Me: "Well, possibly do something in Ag business for a little bit, but most likely go back to the farm."
Friend: "Really, you're going to farm? That seems like a waste of four years and tuition money." 

That last statement by my friend put me in shock. I couldn't believe they thought that going to college was a waste of time and money if I was planning to become a farmer after college. However, it made me start thinking about whether or not going to college was really worth it if all I wanted to do was farm. I mean, yea, I could have went straight into farming and saved money that instead was spent on an education. Yet, the more I thought about it, I realized that going to college and getting a degree was actually going to benefit me in the long run, whether or not I farmed.

So why then should someone, who is wanting to become a farmer, choose to get an education instead of working on the farm right after graduating high school? Well, I can think of a lot of reasons actually. The first reason I can think of is that going to college allows a person to broaden their education, do things that they might not have been able to do before, such as studying abroad. Second, college allows a person to network with new people and even companies and organizations that they may want to get involved with later in life. For example, I was able to network with farm organizations, such as the Nebraska Corn Board, which I hope to some day possibly get involved with. Third, I was able to take classes that will help me be a successful farmer in the future by being able to understand finances, markets, policy, and agronomy. For instance, I took farm and ranch management classes, commodity marketing classes, and other financial classes. I even took a soil science and plant science class. Fourth, it allows a person to get away from the farm for a little bit and experience life in different ways, such as living in the city. I think getting off the farm for a little bit also makes a person appreciate the type of life a farmer lives. I know it made me appreciate my family's farm life. And the fifth and final reason why going to college instead of farming right away is that a person can get a degree that they will always have. Like anything in life, you aren't always guaranteed the opportunity to farm. Unfortunately with farming there is always the chance of a farmer getting injured, which might not allow them to farm anymore. Yet, if they have a degree, there is a good chance that they will be able to find a good job in something else whereas a farmer with no degree might have a hard time finding a job.

So if you or someone you know is considering becoming a farmer, but aren't sure if they want to go to college first, show them these five reason on what a college education can do for them. This might make them consider getting an education before becoming one of America's many hardworking farmers and ranchers!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Californians Say NO to Prop 37

We can FINALLY say that election 2012 is in the books, and we now know who our government leaders will be on the federal, state, and local levels for the next few years! While many paid particular attention to the presidential race and congressional races there were other measures on ballots as well, which included amendments and initiatives. One that caught my eye was Proposition 37 that was on the ballot in California.

Proposition 37 was put on the ballot due to the collection of petition signatures that would require manufacturers of food products to label ALL food products containing GMO ingredients (genetically modified organisms). Doesn't sound like a bad idea, right? Well, in reality Proposition 37 could and would have created a nightmare for not only food manufacturers, but also for consumers, farmers, and ranchers! Why? It would involve more regulation, which in the end would drive up the cost of food, and most likely hurt the middle class and low income earners. Also, there was talk that this could open up a legal frenzy, which would allow people to sue food manufacturers, possibly even farmers or ranchers, because of mislabeling of food products or accidentally having GMO contamination. All in all, Proposition 37 could have been bad news for both the food industry and the agriculture industry! Thankfully, Californians voted against Proposition 37 by a fairly wide margin of 54% to 46%. Many that opposed Proposition 37 stated that it was too complicated and hard to understand. Some have suggested that if it was more organized, it would of had a better chance of passing.

Supporters of Proposition 37 say they deserve the right to know where their food comes from and what is in it, and I agree with them 110%! All Americans deserve to know where their food comes from and how it is being produced. However, I don't believe regulating the food and agriculture industry is the best way to solve their questions. I think that if consumers really want to know where and who is producing their food they need to do some research. There are many farm and food organizations that have formed in the last few years to help consumers make educated decisions when deciding what to buy at the grocery store. Also, if consumers are worried about products containing GMO ingredients they can choose to buy organic brands, which are suppose to be GMO free. So consumers are already being given the choice of being able to choose GMO free products,  a person just needs to look for the "organic" signs.

Although Proposition 37 failed in California, I believe many of us in the agriculture industry need to realize that people want to know what is in their food. We also need to help consumers overcome this fear about food coming from GMOs. So far GMO food products have been proven to be safe and just as healthy as organic products! Trust me, if GMO food wasn't safe, I wouldn't eat it myself, yet I still seem to be living and as healthy as can be! So when it comes to food, yes, consumers have the right to know, but not the right to regulate based off of fears from misleading information when it comes to GMOs.

If you want to learn about where your food comes from, here is a list of groups that provide information regarding the production of food! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Popcorn Harvest!

Harvest has officially started on our farm! We just began and finished our popcorn harvest this last week and now are moving on to soybeans and dryland corn. This year we only grew one pivot (150 acres) of popcorn, so it only took about two days to harvest. Popcorn harvest isn't any different than harvesting other crops since we use the same equipment. However, we do have to make sure the equipment is clean and free of any debris. Since our popcorn is a food grade crop, which goes to the consumer to eat, we have to make sure that we do not contaminate the popcorn with anything, such as dirt and other grains. This means we have to clean out all the trucks, grain cart, and combine to insure the equipment is free from any of this.

While the popcorn is being harvested, it can be transported and stored at an elevator that accepts popcorn or stored on the farm for a short period of time. We opt to store our popcorn in a grain bin until January. The reason for this is due to the fact that we contract our popcorn to ConAgra, which has their popcorn facility located in Hamburg, Iowa. This allows us to continue harvesting the crop without having to stop and transport the popcorn to a plant that is over two hours away.

When we do haul our popcorn to the processing plant, they will first check the popcorn to make sure it is free of any debris and that the moisture of the popcorn is under 15. If it has any debris, or the moisture is over 15, the elevator will charge a fee to the farmer since it is not the best quality. So that is why it is very important that farmers be cautious when harvesting the popcorn to make sure other grains and dirt do not get mixed in with the popcorn. After they have check the popcorn, we dump it and then the popcorn goes through a cleaning process and then gets prepared to be shipped out to movie theaters and homes!

Listed below are some pictures of popcorn harvest taking place. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to help this year due to me being in college. So my family farm's hired hand took the pictures for me!

Close up picture of the combine in action. The corn head (front part of the combine) strips the ears off the plant and then goes through the machine and gets shelled.

After the kernels get shelled from the cob, they go into the grain tank.

We dump the popcorn into a truck that dumps into an auger, where the auger then transfers the popcorn into the grain bin.

When the combine grain tank gets full of popcorn, we unload it into the grain cart. The grain cart then ushers the popcorn to the trucks.

Popcorn is being harvested so that movie goers can enjoy a snack at their next movie!
If you are interested in the growing process of popcorn, be sure to check out my previous blogs by clicking here!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

From the Field to the Movie Theater: September Popcorn Update

Wow, it is hard to believe how fast the summer has gone! Seems like we were just planting the popcorn crop yesterday and now we are getting closer to harvesting it! Yet, I think many farmers are anxious to get their crops out of the field and move on to another growing year that hopefully won't include a drought. It seemed like no one could catch a rain this last summer or get a break from temperatures that ranged from the low 90's into triple digits. Although it was a very dry and hot summer, some crops look fairly decent considering the conditions we faced. Almost all of the irrigated crops look really good while most of the dryland crops looks tough.

So now for the latest update on the popcorn! Unfortunately we didn't receive much rain in August, which meant we had to continue to irrigate the popcorn. However, we didn't have to irrigate the popcorn the entire month of August since the popcorn plants started to dry down and reached their full maturity. When I say the plant started to "dry down", I mean that the plant starts turning a brown color and stops absorbing moisture from the ground. While the plant is starting to dry down, so are the corn kernels. The popcorn kernels start to turn from a light yellow color to a darker yellow color. This is a sign that the popcorn is getting closer to being ready for harvest. Our popcorn will most likely be getting harvested within the next couple of weeks. Usually our popcorn crop is ready before any of our other crops. I will be sure to post a "Popcorn Harvest" blog when we begin the harvest process!

Below are the current pictures of the popcorn crop!

Just a month ago the leaves were a green color and now they have turned to a light brown color. This is part of the drying down process.

An ear that will be ready to be harvested within another week!

Even the tassels dry out.

The size of the plant hasn't changed much since my last blog. However, it's amazing at how fast a popcorn plant can dry down within a month.

One of the ears I picked on the end of the field. Makes a person wonder how big the ears are as you get further into the field.

The cob!

These are what a person will find in the bottom of their popcorn back (the ones that don't pop).

If you would like to see my previous popcorn updates, click here!

Monday, August 20, 2012

There Goes Another Summer

Wow! It's hard to believe that the summer of 2012 is over, at least for me and many other young adults who are returning to their respective colleges. Every year it seems like the summer goes faster and faster! However, I guess if a person is having fun, usually the time goes by fast anyways, and that is exactly what happened this last summer!

So how does a college student like myself spend their summer? Well, like many, I spent the majority of my summer interning with a company. I was fortunate enough to intern with Cooperative Producers Inc. (CPI), which is headquartered in Hastings, Nebraska. CPI is a diversified agricultural cooperative where they deal with grain, agronomy, energy, feed, and even owns a few convenience stores called Ampride. CPI's territory covers a large portion of South Central Nebraska and has locations in many rural communities.

While interning with CPI, I was able to see the different parts of the cooperative and how a cooperative functions. I was based in Blue Hill, Nebraska and spent the first part of my internship scouting fields to identify weeds and look for pests. I also checked the fields after they had been sprayed to make sure the chemical worked and didn't harm any crops. Before starting my internship, I had no experience in the agronomy area, as I am an Ag business major. So learning how to identify weeds, diseases and other pests was a great learning opportunity! The second part of my internship involved creating a training video for CPI's sales people on the new CPI 300 program! This was another part of the internship that I enjoyed as I not only got to test my movie making skills, but also learned quite a bit about the new program that will help farmers increase their corn yields to 300 bushels and soybean yields to 100 bushels on a consistent basis. Along with scouting fields and creating a training video, I also had the opportunity to spend a day with the grain marketing guys, which was interesting, especially with how volatile the markets have been this summer!

Although learning about how a cooperative works and getting hands on experience was all great, the part I especially enjoyed was getting to know all the people who work at CPI. I have always said that it is not necessarily the work that makes the job fun, but it's the people who I work with that makes it fun! I was very fortunate to work with a great group of people at CPI who made it a fun internship!

Besides being an intern, I also was able to have some fun this summer as well. When I wasn't working I would usually spend my time going to the lake, chilling with friends, attending friends weddings, going to the county fair, or helping out on the family farm! Overall, it was another great summer filled with fun and learning.

Unfortunately it's time to get back into the "college" mode and prepare myself for my last year of college! It's hard to believe that the "real world" is right around the corner and will be here before I know it! But until then, I think I am just going to enjoy the life of a college student!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

From the Field to the Movie Theater: August Popcorn Update

What a summer it has been so far! This has been one of our driest summers in a long time. I don't think many ever thought that the summer of 2012 would end up being like this. Many farmers all across the United States were expecting a bumper crop this year up until the drought developed. Many of the acres planted to corn or soybeans have been lost due to the dry conditions, which has lead the USDA to lower its yields of those different crops.

Here in South Central Nebraska, we haven't received any rain at all. It has been completely dry where all of our farms are located. Most of the dryland corn has burned up, but so far the irrigated corn looks like it could still yield well. Dryland soybeans still have a chance to yield well if we can catch a rain within the next week, and the irrigated soybeans are doing really good so far.

Unfortunately, our popcorn crop has been in the same boat as our other crops, however, we are very fortunate to have irrigation, which has helped tremendously. In my opinion, our popcorn crop looks very good considering the dry and warm weather we have experienced throughout the month of July. A good portion of July saw temperatures reach into triple digits. When temperatures get that warm, it can affect the pollination process, which could reduce the amount of kernels that develop. Luckily, when our popcorn started to pollinate, the temperatures ended up in the upper 80's to lower 90's. Yet, even with cooler temperatures, we have had to run our pivot almost continuously to keep the popcorn plants watered, as corn plants use a lot of water during the pollination process.

Below are pictures of what the popcorn field and plants look like. It wont be too long before we see a combine out in the field harvesting it!

Places that don't get watered look like this. Unfortunately, the pivot misses this spot. Lots of cornfields around our area that aren't irrigated look like this.

The popcorn kernels have developed. These are what you will eventually find in your bag of popcorn after they have been harvested, cleaned, and packaged.

Every popcorn plant produces at least one ear of corn, however, some plants may produce up to two ears per plant.

When walking out in the corn fields,  a person almost feels as if they are in the Amazon as it looks like a jungle.

The corn plants are almost 10 ft. tall.

The rows of popcorn!!
To read previous popcorn updates, click here!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's not a Summer without a County Fair!

When people think about a county fair, they most likely think about rodeos, concerts, carnival rides, cotton candy, or even the good ole funnel cake. However, when  I think of a county fair, my first thought is all of the 4-H and FFA exhibits. These exhibits can range from food to livestock. Even though these exhibits get displayed for a short period of time, many don't realize how much work goes into getting a project ready to exhibit at the county fair. I can actually speak from experience as I am a former 4-Her and FFA member who took a variety of projects to the fair when I was younger. My favorite project that I took to the fair was cattle! For some reason I grew fond of showing cattle and enjoyed the work that went into getting my calf ready for the fair. We would spend every morning leading up to the fair rinsing our show calves and then combing their hair to get it to grow. This could take up to two hours each morning and could take even longer in the evening as we did the exact same thing. While it was a lot of hard work, it all paid off in the end as both my sister and I were fortunate enough to win numerous awards for our show calves.

Everything I just mentioned above is actually what my family experienced again this year as my sister showed at the Webster County Fair in Bladen, NE. We took six head of cattle over to the fair that included two steers, one market heifer, one breeding heifer, and a cow-calf pair. Overall, my sister had a great fair and won numerous champion and reserve champion awards due to all the hard work leading up to the fair.

Even though my sister and our family worked hard to get our calves ready for the fair, we weren't the only ones. Every 4-Her and FFA member that exhibited at the fair this year put a lot of time into their projects. That's why I would encourage anyone that attends a county fair, or even a state fair, to check out the exhibits. I think many would be amazed at how talented today's 4-Hers and FFA members are! They are truly the future of the agriculture industry!

Below are the pictures I took of our county fair! 

During our county fair, temperatures reached into the triple digits. To help keep our show calves cool, we used fans and kept them watered throughout the day.

My sister received Grand Champion Senior Showman along with many other Grand Champion awards.

This was our cow-calf pair my sister showed that received Webster County Supreme Breeding Animal.

My former FFA chapter had it's banner displayed so that people walking through the barns knew which club or chapter the exhibitor belonged to.

Before we take our animals into the show ring, we put them into a blocking chute that allows us to groom them and enhance their image for the judge.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

From the Field to the Movie Theater- July Popcorn Update

Wow, where has summer gone?! It is hard to believe how fast summer is flying by, and before we know it, it will be over! However, I think the way the weather has been acting so far this summer, some are ready for it to be over with already. It has been a very dry summer so far. Crops are starting to look tough, especially the ones that are not irrigated. Nebraska hasn't been the only one affected by the dry weather this summer. All of the corn belt has been experiencing dry conditions, which has already taken a toll on some of the corn in the eastern part of the corn belt. Although these conditions are not the most "fun" farming conditions to be in, I have been amazed at how positive farmers have been when it could be very easy to get negative about the weather. That is one of the many things I give farmers and ranchers a lot of credit for, is that they wont let anything keep the from doing their job and most of time you will find them trying to make the most out of every situation.

So now to the popcorn update! As I mentioned earlier, the popcorn, along with all the other crops, are currently facing drought conditions. We have received very little rain in the month of June and it has put a lot of stress on the plants. Along with receiving very little rain, we have also faced temperatures that have surpassed 100 degrees. Corn (whether it is yellow corn, white corn, or popcorn) actually likes warm weather. However, it doesn't prefer temperatures that get into the 100's. This actually puts the plant under stress, which can eventually affect yield. Currently, the popcorn is starting to tassel, so that is where the plant will begin the pollination process that will lead to the production of popcorn kernels. However, extremely warm temperatures can actually reduce the amount of kernels produced, which then leads to a reduction in yield that can eventually lead to a lesser supply of popcorn.

Luckily, we are fortunate enough to live in an area where we can use irrigation to water our crops. This has helped tremendously since we have received very little rain. We have been running our pivots on our popcorn fields to try and help reduce the stress on the plants so that we can optimize the yield. So far the popcorn looks really good thanks to the use of irrigation!

 Below are some of the current pictures of what the popcorn looks like!

Because of dry conditions in our area, we have been using irrigation to water our popcorn along with our other crops. Hopefully mother nature will bring us moisture soon!

The popcorn has gotten taller and now allows very little sunlight into the rows. It almost looks like a forest/jungle!

The tassels are just starting to appear in the corn! This is the beginning of the pollination process that leads to the formation of kernels.
This is what the popcorn plants look like out in the field. The size of the plants vary but are roughly around 66 inches tall.
The formation of the ear of POPCORN! It is really tiny right now, but this is the part of the plant that the kernels will eventually develop on. As July continues, this tiny ear will become much larger. 

 If you are interested in previous posts about popcorn, you can click here!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Sweet corn and field corn

Here is a picture I took this morning comparing sweet corn to field corn. Sweet corn is what a person eats and field corn gets used for livestock feed, ethanol, plastic, and a few other things. Below you can see the difference between the two plants.

The sweet corn plants are on the left and the field corn plants are on the right. As a person can see, there is a major difference between the two plants. Field corn will usually get much bigger and won't produce an ear until July. However, with sweet corn, the plant will usually tassel in the middle to later part of June and then will have edible ears to pick come the first to middle part of July.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: First Ear of Corn

I found the first ear of corn for 2012! It is pretty small and you almost have to use a microscope to see it. I also found the tassel in the cornstalk, which will eventually come out of the top of the plant. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

First ear of corn that is starting to develop for 2012!

The tassel will continue pushing up though the cornstalk and eventually come out the top and begin the pollination process.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

From the Field to the Movie Theater- June Popcorn Update

It is hard to believe how fast May went, and I have a feeling that June is going to go by just as fast! As I mentioned in my last "popcorn" update, I will be giving a monthly update on the growth of my family's popcorn crop. Since the last update, the corn has grown and is over a foot tall! The month of May didn't present us with the best growing conditions. It has been very dry, and a lot farmers started to irrigate in the middle of May just to get the crops to grow. However, by the end of May we received a couple large amounts of rain. Although we were very appreciative of finally receiving some rain, many farmers in our area didn't appreciate the hail, which destroyed some fields and led to farmers having to replant their corn or soybeans. Unfortunately, we were also affected by the hail and some of our crops took a beating. Yet, that is all part of farming. That is why it is VERY important that Congress passes a Farm Bill that includes a feasible safety net to protect farmers when mother nature doesn't want to cooperate. Below are the pictures of what the popcorn looks like. Be sure to check back on July 5th for the next popcorn update!

A picture of the popcorn as the sun goes down for the day. As you can see, the popcorn isn't real tall yet.

Another picture of what the popcorn looks like. If you look closely, you can see some of the hail damage from the storm that went through the area at the end of May. The leaves are torn a little, which shouldn't hurt the plant too much since the leaves are still in tact.
This is what the popcorn plant looks like after digging it up. As the summer goes on, more roots will develop as the plant gets bigger.

Have you ever wondered what the inside of the a corn plant looks like? Here is a good glimpse of what is happening inside the corn stalk! There is actually a tassel developing inside the stalk, which will eventually come out the top of the corn plant during the first part of July. To learn more about the different parts of the inside of a corn plant, click here!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Getting the Experience

It is hard to believe how fast time goes by as you get older, which has made me start appreciating the time I have with friends and family. Every year seems to get shorter and shorter with time, so I don't even want to imagine how fast time will go by as I get older since I am only 22 right now.

Speaking of how fast time goes by, this last year I had the opportunity to intern with the Nebraska Corn Board. For me it is hard to believe that a year has already went by when it seems like I just started yesterday. This last Monday was my last day at the Nebraska Corn Board and right before I left for the last time I noticed a saying that I had never payed attention to, even though it was right above the clock. I felt like this saying really summed up how my year went since I truly did pass the time at the Nebraska Corn Board working with a great staff and board! Not only did I have the opportunity to pass the time working with a great group of people, I also had the opportunity to learn more about the corn industry and the corn checkoff, which I believe is important to Nebraska's corn industry.

So you may be wondering why the corn checkoff is so important to Nebraska corn farmers. Well first, the main role of the NCB is to promote Nebraska's corn while also providing funding for research, education, and market development. Coming from a family farm that raises corn, I appreciate the efforts of the NCB to try and add value to the corn that my family produces. However, this hasn't only benefited corn farmers, but has also benefited consumers as well since they can purchase products made from corn that can be less expensive and more environmentally friendly.

Along with learning how important the checkoff is to Nebraska's corn farmers, I also was able to experience some other great opportunities such as being able to tour different corn farms and also being able to attend the Commodity Classic down in Nashville, TN. While attending Commodity Classic, I was able to learn about the issues that agriculture is facing, such as getting a Farm Bill passed this year that includes a safety net that protects farmers during rough times.

Although those were just a couple of the highlights of my internship experience, probably the greatest thing I learned was how to be a good advocate for agriculture and how to use social media to share my story about Ag. Before starting my internship, the only social media experience I had was Facebook. That soon changed, and all of a sudden I had a twitter account and then several months later, I decided to start this blog. I learned that it is important for those of us involved in agriculture to share our story about how we raise food for a growing world population.

Even though my internship experience has come to an end, I plan to continue being an advocate for agriculture. There is no doubt in my mind that agriculture will face some tough challenges down the road, such as a growing disconnect between the farmer and the consumer, and the growing amount of regulations being placed on agriculture. I hope to get involved with some of the Ag organizations when I return to the farm one day and help form solutions for the future challenges agriculture will face. Even though time may seem to get shorter and shorter as I get older, I definitely plan on using my time doing something I have a passion for, which is agriculture!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

The calves are coming up for some breakfast this morning. In another day or two we will be sending all of our cows and calves to pasture where they will graze this summer.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

From the Field to the Movie Theater

What is the most common snack a person gets when they go to the movies? Popcorn!! Popcorn is the most popular snack when it comes to watching movies, and Americans consume roughly 17.3 billion quarts of popcorn each year! That is a lot of popcorn!

Although it is easy to just grab a bag of popcorn and throw it into the microwave, have you ever thought about how those popcorn kernels ended up in that bag?

The popcorn that you eat comes from fields located all over the Midwest. Farmers will usually plant their popcorn crops in April and then harvest the popcorn the following fall, usually around September. After harvesting the popcorn, farmers then sell their popcorn to food processors, such as ConAgra, where the popcorn then gets produced into brands like Orville Redenbachers. From there the popcorn gets shipped out to places all over the U.S. where it can be enjoyed either at the movies or even at home!

So how do I know about all of this? Well, my family has actually grown popcorn for several years. We usually will grow on average around one million pounds of popcorn, but it varies from year to year. All of the popcorn we grow is non-GMO, which means it has not been genetically engineered. After harvesting our popcorn, we then sell it to ConAgra who then packages it and sends it out.

Over the next few months, I will post a popcorn update on the first Thursday of each month so that you can get an idea of how popcorn is grown! This will allow you to see the different growth stages of popcorn along with the harvesting of the popcorn.

So here is the first update for May:

This is what the popcorn seed looks like before it is planted. Looks a little different than the stuff you buy in the store! All seed corn will usually have a pink color to it, which is a coating for the seed.

As soon as the planter is filled up with popcorn seed, we can begin to plant. Usually we will plant the seed about an inch to an inch and a half deep with a seed population of 34,000 seeds per acre. All of our popcorn that we are growing this year was just recently planted. We also use the latest technology so that we can ensure that we are being efficient with all of our resources!

Be sure to check out the next popcorn update on June 7th!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Taking the Listening Role when it comes to Ag Issues!

This last Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend one of Lincoln's Earth Day events to help promote ethanol for the Nebraska Corn Board. This was the first time I had ever attended an "Earth Day" event, and before that day I didn't even know much about Earth Day.

When I first arrived I found myself in a diverse group of people, people that probably aren't real fond of modern day agriculture. I wasn't sure what to expect for the day and was expecting to be criticized since I was representing agriculture. However, I ended up having a great time interacting with people who stopped by our booth. A majority of the people that did stop by our booth were supportive of ethanol, and if they weren't supportive, they wanted to learn more!

As the day went on, I ended up having a great conversation with a gentleman about ethanol, which eventually turned into a discussion about modern day agriculture. I found it interesting that he was very supportive of the ethanol industry and wanted to see ethanol offered at more fuel retailers in Lincoln. However, as supportive as he was about ethanol, he wasn't as supportive of modern day agriculture and questioned a lot of what farmers are doing. At that point, our conversation turned away from ethanol and started into a discussion about today's agricultural practices.

Before we even began talking, he said he probably shouldn't say too much since I was part of the Ag community. However, I told him that I was really interested in hearing his views as I come from a family farm and wanted to learn more about their concerns. He then began telling me that he believed GMO crops are bad and how they are harming both the planet and humans. He also said "Big Ag" is a problem and that they cause of a lot of the problems. I then asked him to define "Big Ag" for me since Big Ag gets thrown around a lot but it gets defined differently between people. He then responded that Big Ag meant large companies like Monsanto and even large farms. He said these are the people who are polluting the environment. He said farmers are using up all the resources and are also using chemicals that are harmful to ecosystems. Our conversation ended up lasting for about a half hour discussing these issues while at the same time I responded to his questions and concerns.

Overall, I felt the conversation was good and it ended up giving me a different perspective on how we should approach individuals who question modern day agriculture. I learned that those of us in agriculture need to be willing to take the listening role instead of the defensive one at times. Sometimes the concerns they have, such as the environment, are the same ones that we have. Yet, if we don't listen, how are we suppose to know? It is hard to fight something when you don't even know what you're fighting. To be honest, that actually goes with anything in life. Before you can address something, it is always good to know what you are addressing first. So if you are ever in one of those situations, be sure to take the opportunity to listen even if the other person's perspective might be different from yours. In the end, it opens the door for dialogue about these issues!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Faith and Animal Agriculture

When your eating that tender steak or delicious burger, do you ever wonder if you are committing a sin? Usually when I am eating a steak, that thought doesn't even come to mind and I am pretty sure that doesn't come to mind of most individuals that are involved in the agriculture industry. However, animal right's activists are trying to instill this thought in consumers minds, making them think twice about what they are eating.

A couple days ago I read an article in the Drovers Cattle Network that said animal rights activists are starting to change their tune a bit and are starting to use faith as a way to push their anti-meat/anti-animal agriculture agenda. However, this wasn't the first time I heard about faith being used to convince consumers that eating meat is unethical. When I was down at the 2012 Commodity Classic,  I attended a learning session that also pointed out that these activists are starting to use faith as a way to convince people to stop eating meat. In their view, they see eating a steak or pork chop as committing a sin. They think that God did not put animals on this earth for our consumption and that God gave us plants to consume instead. Yet, one of the scriptures in Genesis suggest otherwise. "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything." Genesis 9:3. This was when the Lord spoke to Noah after the great flood. So my question to the individuals that claim producing and eating meat is ungodly is why would the Lord tell Noah that everything on the earth that moves is food but in today's world it is wrong and unethical? It doesn't make much sense to me and the message about everything being food doesn't change throughout the bible.

However, not everyone realizes that eating meat is NOT a sin, and this is why it is important for the agriculture community to make sure that anti-animal agriculture groups don't start misusing faith as a way to further their anti-meat agenda. Over 78% of the nation's population belongs to the christian faith, so just imagine what could happen if these anti-animal agriculture groups started to convince Christians that eating meat was bad and against the Christian faith.

Those of us in the agriculture industry need to make sure that these groups against animal agriculture don't take advantage of faith and use it to further their agenda. I want to leave you with a passage that I found that I think makes a good point. We shouldn't judge those who don't eat meat and those that don't eat meat shouldn't judge us. The only one that has the authority to judge is our Lord.

"One person believes he can eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgement on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him." Romans 14:2-3

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Starting "A Growing Passion"

Welcome to "A Growing Passion", a blog where I want to share my ever growing passion for agriculture, leadership, faith, and other things that are having an impact on my life. To be honest, I never thought I would even start my own blog because I thought it would take too much time, and I was too afraid to even manage one. However, that all changed several months ago.

A little under a year ago, I had the opportunity to begin interning with the Nebraska Corn Board. My title was the Communication and Market Development intern. I understood what market development meant, which was helping find new uses for corn and doing research. However, I didn't quite know what the "communication" part of this title meant. I knew it didn't mean answering phone calls all day but thought maybe it dealt more with trade shows or communicating more with Nebraska's 26,000 corn farmers. While those two things were part of the internship experience, I soon found out that the communication part meant I would do a lot of work with social media.

I was familiar with what social media was, I mean I did have a Facebook account, but soon realized that there was much more to social media. There is Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google Plus, Pinterest, and last but not least- the blog. Like I mentioned before,  I had a Facebook account but hadn't even thought about doing any of the other social media stuff. Yet, that all changed as soon as I started at the corn board. All of a sudden I had my own personal twitter account set up (@latwater1) and then started making educational videos to post on the Nebraska Corn Board Youtube page. Lets just say I was learning quite a bit about social media and to be honest, was really getting into it. After about a month being with the corn board, I began to write blogs for the Nebraska Corn Kernels talking about some of the current issues facing both the corn and agriculture industry. After writing a couple of blogs for the Nebraska Corn Kernels, I began to post monthly "Interesting Intern Insights", which featured blogs that had my opinion on certain issues that agriculture faced. For a person that was skeptic about blogging, I suddenly fell in love with it because it gave me the opportunity to share my story about agriculture with others.

As I mentioned earlier, I started with the Nebraska Corn Board just under a year ago and will soon be ending my internship with them come this May. It has truly been a great experience with them and I am thankful for them getting me more involved with social media, which I find myself constantly using. If I am not on Facebook, I am usually on twitter. With my internship coming to end it also meant that my blogging on the Nebraska Corn Kernels would also becoming to an end as well. However, I didn't want to stop sharing my passion for agriculture, and that is why I created "A Growing Passion". I want to continue to share my growing passion for agriculture with others and what better way to do it than start my own blog!

While I hope that you will enjoy reading my posts, I hope that you will also learn something about the agriculture industry. While "A Growing Passion" will have a heavy focus on agriculture, there will also be occasions where I will blog about leadership, faith, and other things that have had an impact on my life. I hope you enjoy the blog and who knows, maybe it will help you grow your passion!