Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Future is Ahead and God's the Driver

Do you ever wonder where your life will be at in 20 years? Most likely you do, and I am sure you probably are wondering where your life will be at in one year or maybe even tomorrow! The future is something we have all thought about since we were little. We have wondered what career we would have, who we would marry, where we would be living, and so on. Thinking about the future can be both fun and frightening. The reason it can be fun is because we think about the things we want and the things we want to do while at the same time it can be frightening from the fact that we may not always succeed, or get what we want.

I have always found myself in this predicament when thinking about the future. I look at all the could be situations but then remind myself of the could not situations as well. Sometimes I get frustrated from the fact that I can't predict the future nor the outcome. Yet, then I remind myself that God has a plan for me. That plan may not necessarily be something that I thought of or wanted, but could end up being something greater than I ever thought.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." - Romans 8: 18-21

As Christians, we need to put our worries in God's hand and remind ourselves that the ultimate plan is for us to end up in his Kingdom. When I look at my future, it is full of different dreams and passions, but in the end I see myself spending eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven. God doesn't care what job I have or how much I get paid, but he does care about my journey through faith. He cares about the struggles I go through as well as the times of joy and excitement.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you." - Jeremiah 29:11-13

So the next time you worry about the future, whether that is tomorrow or ten years, remember that God is the driver of your future and to give up your worries to him through prayer. He cares about you and loves you and wants you to spend eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mission Accomplished - or is it?


Can you believe it!? A LONG overdue Farm Bill has been approved in the House of Representatives and now moves on for approval from the Senate and then eventually onto the President’s desk for his signature. The Farm Bill has been on the minds of many farmers and ranchers for the last couple of years, and any time it seemed like progress could be made, it got derailed by partisanship.
Now with a new Farm Bill, farmers and ranchers will have certainty of what programs they can expect from the government over next five years. Many farm organizations supported the bill with a few groups in opposition. Many of the groups that supported the bill supported the reforms to safety net programs as well as the investment in Ag research and renewable energy. Those that opposed the bill were unhappy that the COOL measure (Country of Origin Labeling) was still part of the new Farm Bill. They cite that the COOL measure is not compliant with the World Trade Organization’s rules and regulations. Because of that it could cause conflict with some of our trading partners, such as Canada and Mexico.
Although the passage of the Farm Bill in the House has led to the feeling of accomplishment by some, it makes me wonder what future Farm Bills will be like. It took nearly three years for Congress to finally reach an agreement on the new Farm Bill. That was three years of partisanship between two parties who couldn’t seem to find common ground. Instead of doing what was right for America’s hardworking farmers and ranchers as well as ALL Americans, congress put its party and ideology first. So far partisanship in Washington has only grown worse and makes me ask what it will be like when the new Farm Bill expires. If it took nearly three years to pass this bill, will it take even longer for the next one? Will congress kick the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers around like a soccer ball until something disastrous happens and forces them to do something? Will urban congressional delegates become even more out of touch with America’s agriculture industry? These are questions I keep asking myself and I think others need to consider as well. 
 
While we can consider the new Farm Bill an accomplishment, we still have not accomplished showing those in Washington how important working together is and the impact their policies can have on the livelihoods of our farmers and ranchers. All of us involved in producing a safe and abundant supply of food need to continue to educate those who represent us in Washington as well as the general public. We also have to stand up for what we believe in and not let those who do not understand what we do determine our future. America’s agriculturalists are some of the hardest working people in our country who love what they do, which is growing food for the nation and world. So let’s consider the passage of the new Farm Bill an accomplishment but realize we as an industry still have a lot to accomplish in the years ahead!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

From a Kernel to a Chip: Harvest Time!

White corn harvest has arrived!! First, I apologize for not posting my "From a Kernel to a Chip: September Update" blog post. Right when it was about time for me to post my September update, we got super busy with soybean and popcorn harvest as well as drilling wheat. So I figured I would tie it in with my Harvest blog!

In my last blog (August Update) I mentioned that we were starting to wrap up irrigation. This year's irrigation season lasted a little longer than previous years and we didn't stop watering the white corn until the end of August. Most years we usually start wrapping up irrigation on corn around the middle of August. Once we shut down the wells, we began picking up pipe on pivot corners and other gravity farms. We also prepared equipment and bin sites for harvest so once it started, we would be ready to go!

On September 25th we were able to get started on our soybeans as well as started drilling wheat. We do some custom drilling for neighbors, so that kept me busy while my dad and our help stayed busy harvesting the soybeans. Once the soybeans were done we moved on to the popcorn and corn. Then on October 18th we were finally harvesting our white corn! Usually we harvest white corn last as it usually matures slower than regular corn. We always try to harvest our white corn at 17% moisture or below. If it is higher than 17%, we usually wait to let it dry down. So far what we have harvested has been around that moisture or below, so it has allowed us to keep on harvesting. The white corn yields have been decent with a few fields not doing as well as we would have liked them to do. I think some of the cooler weather we encountered back in August could have impacted yields a bit, especially where we saw some tip back. We also had a couple fields that had some wind damage. Unfortunately the hybrid we planted also had a weak stalk, which caused it to lay over and made picking it not so fun. So hopefully the seed company can provide better white corn hybrids in the future that can stand winds a little bit better.

If all continues to go good the next few days, it looks like we should wrap up white corn harvest by the first part of next week. After harvest is completed, we will clean things up and then move into preparing for next year's crop. This usually involves fertilizing and some tillage work. We also will do some dirt work to fix low spots and ditches.

Overall it has been a very different growing year, but thankfully the Lord has looked out for us and allowed us to bring in a crop. I hope all of you who followed my "From a Kernel to a Chip" blog series enjoyed it as well as learned where your chips come from! If you have questions that might not have been answered in this blog, please feel free to leave a comment! Thanks again for following and even though the series has come to an end, I hope you will continue to follow my farm blogs in the future as well as blogs about Agriculture policy, leadership, and faith!

If you would like to see previous "From a Kernel to a Chip" blog posts, click here. 

Below are pictures of the white corn during harvest:

The combine picking through the field of white corn.
An ear of white corn that will soon be harvested.
When the combine picks the corn, it gets shelled off the cob and goes into the grain tank where it gets stored until it gets unloaded on to the grain cart or truck.
When the combine's grain tank is full, the corn gets unloaded into the grain cart which then hauls it to the trucks.
A handful of white corn kernels!
A nice ear of white corn I found out in the field. A farmer can hope that all the ears of corn can look like this.
Corn is being dumped into the pit from the truck, which will then get stored in a bin until we haul it to the elevator later on in the year.
One of the many nice sunsets that we get to see during fall harvest. Makes a person appreciate the sights we get to see in the country.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Getting the Facts Straight

"Oh those darn factory farms... where chickens and cows are pumped full of junk, the environment is full of pollution, and factory farmers are making the earth look baron." 

That is the image being portrayed by those who don't understand the agriculture industry, such as Chipotle. Most have already heard, if not seen, Chipotle's new "Scarecrow" ad about modern agriculture. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time that Chipotle has done something like this and they also aren't the only ones out their misrepresenting the ag industry. There are plenty of other groups and people who spread misleading theories and stories about how food is grown and raised in the U.S.

Over the last few years I have noticed two terms that are always used by these groups who misunderstand how food is grown. Those two terms are factory farms and unsustainableHowever, these terms are far from the truth and are opposite of what actually goes on in the agriculture industry, and it is time to get the facts straight!

So lets first talk about these "factory farms". I have yet to see a factory out in the country side where there is a huge building with smoke stacks sticking sky high. Yet, some claim that some farms are so big, they are similar to a factory! That is false as 98% of the farms in the U.S. are family owned and run. I will not disagree that there are some very large farms in the U.S., but that does NOT put them in the same category as a factory. Some farms have grown large due to it being in the family for many generations, which has allowed the farm to grow over time. Other large farms might be in an area where very few people return to farm the land. So then what about all those large buildings housing hogs and chickens, and those humongous feed yards for cattle, how are those not "factory farms"? Many of those are operated by families, or sometimes even a couple of families. Although those places can be quite large, the animals receive the same amount of attention as animals on smaller farms. They are in a temperature controlled environment, safe from predators, get fed a nutritious diet, and are monitored for sicknesses. So the "factory farm" term needs to be put to rest as it misrepresents the many hard working farm families across the U.S.!

The next term that is misleading is when groups pin the modern agriculture industry as "unsustainable". I have a hard time understanding how people can think of the modern agriculture industry being unsustainable, especially with all the technology advancements in recent years. Thanks to many new technologies, farmers are able to prevent the over use of fertilizers and chemicals. They are also able to prevent erosion by using different tillage practices as well as cover crops. New seed traits (GMO's) are reducing the use of pesticides and allow farmers to increase production with fewer resources (fertilizer, chemicals, land, etc). Equipment advancements have lead to farmers reducing their carbon foot print by using cleaner burning and fuel efficient tractors. Yet, this is just the beginning of some of the technology advances..... the future looks to help farmers be even more efficient!

While I know there will be some that disagree with what I said, in my view, these two terms are misleading and opposite of what really goes on in the agriculture industry. It's time to start getting the facts straight, and that begins with doing the research, not just watching videos that groups, like Chipotle, put out. It is also good to have dialogue about these topics, but NOT arguments. Sometimes, on both sides, people get so argumentative that points being made by both sides get completely missed, when in the end we could all be trying to make the same point. So I encourage anyone interested about where their food comes from to do the research and talk to a farmer. Together, we can all make sure that everyone gets the right facts!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

From a Kernel to a Chip: August Update

Nebraska State Fair, Husker Football, Husker Harvest Days.... that must mean fall is upon us! It is hard to believe how fast the summer went and how quick fall is approaching. Before we know it, we will be harvesting our fall crops, which includes popcorn, corn, soybeans, and last but not least WHITE corn! However, the crops must mature and dry down before harvest can take place, which looks to be awhile.

August was a different month for us as we saw cool and cloudy weather the first couple of weeks and then went straight to dry and hot weather to finish off the month. While the cooler temps were a nice break from some of the heat we dealt with in July, we could have used the sunshine. In order for plants to grow and produce, they need an adequate amount of sunlight as that is the energy source for the plant. When plants, corn in this case, don't receive that adequate amount of sunlight, it can cause the ears of corn to not fill out completely. I have heard many farmers say they have seen some "tip back" in their fields, which could be from the lack of sunlight, hybrid trait, or both. Tip back is when kernels don't fill out to the tip of the ear of corn. This can lead reduced yields if it is wide spread throughout the field. We have seen some tip back in our white corn fields and I am guessing it had to do with us having mostly cloudy weather the first part of August.

Other than seeing some tip back, the white corn crop looks to be good! I forgot to mention that even though we had cool and cloudy weather, we were very fortunate to catch a couple of rains the first part of August that allowed us to take a few days off from irrigating. Unfortunately though, with the rain came some wind, which leaned the white corn over. Now a few of the fields look mangled up and will be a little more challenging to harvest.

As we move into September, we will complete our irrigation's on the corn crops and run the pivots a time or two on the soybeans. By the middle of September, we should be all done irrigating for the season! This year's harvest looks to be a week or two behind compared to previous years. Most likely we wont see much harvesting taking place until the end of September unless things really start to mature and dry down quick. Only time will tell but until then, the next couple of weeks look to be busy getting projects wrapped up and harvest equipment ready before we get into the full swing of harvest 2013!

Below of pictures of the white corn during August:

With the corn being over 10ft tall, it looks like a jungle in the field!
A nice big ear of white corn!
When I broke the ear of corn in half, this is what person sees. The corn cob in the middle and then rows of kernels all around the cob.
If you look closely at a kernel, you can see the starch line that signifies that is is maturing. As the kernel continues to dry down, the line will move lower and everything above it will become hard.
An ear of white corn that I picked from one of our fields. Hope the rest will look like that one!
What the inside of a kernel looks like!

Be sure to check back on October 1st for the next "From a Kernel to a Chip" blog!

To see my previous "From a kernel to a Chip" updates, click here!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

From a Kernel to a Chip: July Update

In my last From a Kernel to a Chip update, I said we started off with a wet spring and then went to a dry summer. That was true until the middle of July when things started to cool off and we started seeing rain again! The cooler weather was definitely welcomed as the corn began pollinating. Sometimes, like last summer, when it is too hot and does not cool down during the night it can lead to kernels being aborted and an ear of corn not filling out completely. Thankfully it looks like most of the corn has pollinated well this year.

As I mentioned earlier, the beginning of July started off warm and dry. That meant the pivots were running full bore and irrigating seemed like a never ending job. Right after the fourth of July it felt like we almost couldn't keep up due to it being so dry and hot. While we were fortunate to not have too many breakdowns, we did run into a couple stuck pivots. Trying to get a pivot out that is in corn is not fun, especially when it is hot and humid. Unfortunately though, we can't let the pivot be stuck too long or otherwise we would have gotten behind and stressed the corn. However, by the end of July we started getting much needed rain, which allowed us to turn the wells off for a few days. It also helped out the dryland corn. However, some of the dryland corn ended up burning up because it didn't get rain earlier in July.

So far all of our irrigated white corn looks good and we were fortunate to miss bad weather that crossed South Central Nebraska the last week of July. If we can continue to get rain and have decent temperatures, we should end up having a decent crop this year! Only mother nature knows what will be in store for August, and right now it looks like we are going to be seeing cooler temps with a chance of rain almost everyday! So time will tell!

Below are pictures of the white corn during July:

Tassels are just starting to shoot out of the corn. Within a couple of days, all of the tassels popped out of the corn.
In June I showed/talked about creating a ridge in the corn so that water can flow down it. Here is an example of that. We use furrow irrigation on pivot corners or fields where a pivot doesn't work the best.This involves laying out pipe on the headland an then opening up gates to let the water flow out into the rows.
What an ear of corn looks like before the pollination process begins. In order for kernels of corn to develop the pollen must fall on the white silks, which then leads to the development of a kernel.

Once the pollination process has been completed the silks will turn from white to a purple/brown color.
Once pollen has fallen on the silk, it creates the kernels. This is actually called the "blister" stage because the ear of corn looks like it has blisters but is actually the beginning stages of kernel development.
What I usually saw after an evening of irrigating. You just can't beat Nebraska summer sunsets!
Be sure to check back on September 3rd for the next "From a Kernel to a Chip" blog!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

From a Kernel to a Chip: June Update

Wet Spring - Dry Summer. So far that is how this growing season has gone. It seemed like back in April/May we weren't going to even get a crop in the ground because of how wet it was. Now, it looks like the dryland crops might burn up if we don't get a rain the first part of July. However,  I can't say that has been the case for everyone. Some places around the U.S. are still wet and would be glad to give us some of their moisture. Too bad there isn't a way that we can exchange weather patterns with others!

Since my last "Kernel to a Chip" update, June has ended up being a busy month! The first part of June we cultivated the white corn on the farms that got ridged. The purpose of cultivating is to clean up any weeds that might be growing, which allows us to not have to spray the crop a second time and keeps weeds from using water that could otherwise be used by the corn plants. It also loosens up the soil so that it is easier to ridge the corn for the field that we lay pipe on to furrow irrigate. Due to pivots, we only have to furrow irrigate pivot corners and fields that pivots won't work on due to the lay out of the field. After we ridged the corn (ridging corn creates a ditch for water to flow down), we then laid out the pipe. After the pipe was laid out, irrigation began taking place. We have been irrigating our white corn the last couple of weeks of June due to how dry it has been. We haven't had a good rain for a couple weeks now and the forecast isn't calling for much moisture anytime soon.

As we move into July, we can only hope that Mother Nature will bring us some much needed moisture before our dryland crops shrivel up and start looking like they did last summer! However, not matter what the weather does, we will get through it and hopefully end up having a bountiful fall harvest!

Below are pictures of the white corn during June: 

Cultivating the white corn to remove any weeds that might be developing out in the field.
On the left is what was cultivated and on the right is what was ridged. The purpose of creating a ridge to allow the water to flow to the other end of the fields so that the crops can get water.
The corn has really taken off due to warmer temps!
A sight that is seen almost every evening during irrigation! Gotta love summer time!

Even after the corn has grown and now has many roots, you can still see the seed coat of the seed that was planted back in late April.
It might look like a jungle, but it is only corn plants. As the white corn grows taller, it begins to canopy. This shades off the ground and can prevent weeds from growing while also helping keep the moisture from evaporating so quickly after a rain or irrigation event.
In a couple more weeks we will see this come out the top of the corn plant! This is the tassel which will pollinate the corn plants!



This year we are using a water probe that measures the soil water content and salinity. It will help us schedule our irrigating and tell us how much water is in the soil profile. It is also a tool that is helping us increase our water efficiency.
Be sure to check back on August 6th for the next "From a Kernel to a Chip" blog!