1.) Maintain grain quality (e.g. moisture, heat, etc)
2.) Never enter a bin without a “bin entry permit”
3.) Never enter a grain bin unless it is really truly necessary
4.) Never enter a grain bin alone – have an outside observer who can both see and hear you
5.) Most young teens do not have the experience to be your wingman
6.) Time is of the essence – if you’re engulfed, it takes only 90 seconds for you to die
7.) The outside observer needs to have a sure quick method to contact emergency responders in an emergency
8.) Always lockout unloading equipment before entering (so they can’t be turned on by mistake)
9.) Always check oxygen (min 19.5%) and toxic/inflammable gas levels (phosphine CO2 dust etc) before entry
10.) Always always always use secure a lifeline (harness/rope/ladder) for everyone inside
12.) The lifesaving tip of last resort = cross your arms in front of your chest if you’re sinking – so that you can breathe
13.) Even during the most frantic times, never every risk your or anyone else’s life with a 5-minute shortcut
14.) Have a written plan for training and rescue
15.) The most important safety tip – train-and-practice often
Grain bin safety is such an important task that no one should take lightly. In addition to the tips above we want to share a fantastic contest with you that is going on now. Nominate your local fire department to win an invaluable grain bin rescue training and the rescue tube, brought to you by Nationwide Agribusiness.
Other great resources:
- Grain Bin Safety videos: http://youtube.com and http://google.com
- Farm Safety for Just Kids at http://www.farmsafetyforjustkids.org/
- National Education Center for Ag Safety at NE IO CC at http://www.necasag.org/
This week we’ve been discussing a technology that seems to be rattling the agriculture industry – unmanned aerial systems. We had a fantastic discussion last night during #AgChat on Twitter where we discussed various sub-topics such as types of UAS to the legalities behind the devices. While the technology is becoming more readily available, its important that you understand the facts behind utilizing it. Therefore, we have provided a reference guide to assist you as you make decisions about how you will fit it into your farm or ranch.
reposted from AgTechTalk.com with permission from Chad Colby
One of the most promising new technologies for use in agriculture is Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). These systems have the potential for farmers to monitor their crops for problems in a quick and affordable manner. It is very important to understand the facts about this new technology. I continue to hear of farmers planning to hire newly formed UAS companies for 2014, and that my friends is against the law. If a company is offering you a service to provide images or information from a UAS for a fee – it is ILLEGAL.
Many companies in the Agriculture Industry are investing millions to learn how to understand the capabilities of Unmanned Aerial Systems. In the spring of 2014 you can expect lots of expanded research to understand how to measure the vegetative index of a plant to detect issues like disease, nitrogen deficiency, flooding, etc. To do this they will use infrared and thermal camera technology. Colleges and Universities all over the country are also working to help develop programs for students who can support this new industry. The uses for this technology is truthfully unlimited.
Two different aerial systems exist to do this type of data collection. One is a small helicopter with three to four rotors and the other is a small fixed wing airplane. The one you should choose depends on your mission and which systems works best. Honestly, the actual ship is the easy part. The technology already exists to do almost all functions needed to “scout” and get imagery of any field.
The biggest development over the next year or two will be the camera technology used in the systems. Camera designers are currently working to build a camera specifically for UAS. These cameras hold the future of how effective UAS will be in agriculture. It’s easy to get an infrared image, the challenge is to be able to make effective decisions with the data collected. A few weeks ago I saw a new design of a thermal camera, and wow was it impressive. I will be doing some independent testing of cameras in the spring of 2014 and will be reporting back on those.
One of the major reasons I have become outspoken about UAS is because of the lack of knowledge about this topic. There seems to be some serious confusion about the current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. It’s very important if you are considering this application on your farm is to understand the rules. The facts are this simple: If an individual or company flies any unmanned aircraft for commercial use, it’s against the law. Period. You can use a unmanned aircraft for non commercial or private use, provided you operate it correctly as a hobby aircraft.
Beginning at a young age, Chad Colby’s passion revolved around technology. Known as the “tech guy” amongst his friends and family, Chad grew up in Bureau County, IL, where he worked on the family farm. After leaving the farm, he spent several years with a Los Angeles based aviation construction company developing, building, and designing airport hangar projects across the country. During this time, Chad earned his pilot’s license and found a passion for aviation. He then returned to his roots in Illinois and combined agriculture with aviation to educate farmers and ranchers about the latest technology in the industry. In 2013, Chad developed AgTechTalk.com to provide readers with the best information pertaining to unmanned aerial systems. As a guest speaker at the 2013 John Deere Global IT Conference he shared his expertise while presenting, “Drones in Agriculture, the Next Phase in Precision Farming.” Most recently he has been involved with Market to Market as well as This Week in Agribusiness’ and travels the country delivering presentations about the latest in precision agriculture. Chad resides in Bloomington, IL with his wife Karen (partner at McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics) and daughter Bristol. Connect with Chad on Twitter: @TheChadColby, by visiting www.AgTechTalk.com or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week we’ve been discussing young/new farmers and startup businesses. The Tuesday night #AgChat was fast-paced and fun! Questions ranged from determining the “ideal” age for a young farmer to challenges facing new farmers and types of skills needed to be successful.
A unique success story we would like to highlight comes from Minnesota and the Redhead Creamery. We were able to catch up with Alise Sjstrom, President and dreamer maker behind the expansion of her family’s dairy.
Q: The Redhead Creamery is a new venture for your family. What was your motivation for beginning the Redhead Creamery?
A: The idea of coming home to my parent’s farm to make cheese came from a trip to the National 4-H Dairy Conference when I was a senior in high school. We toured Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, and I was hooked. I came home and told my parents that the only way I would come home to the farm was if I could make cheese. They said ‘go for it’. I’ve basically dedicated my life to cheese ever since.
Q: If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?
A: I’m not sure that we would do anything differently if we were to run a campaign again. Some of the best advice we got prior to launching is to give ourselves enough time to get the rewards out. It takes some time to get everything organized, no need to beat yourself up over it.
Q: Are you providing tours of the creamery?
A: Once we are up and running, tours will be available at the creamery. We are still a few months out before we can begin production.
Q: What is it that connects the creamery to the consumer?
A: We specifically designed the creamery so that the public can come in and watch us making cheese without interrupting the actual cheesemaking process. The processing area is all on one floor - the basement. The public can come in on the upper floor and look down through viewing windows into the cheesemaking room. The upstairs also has a kitchen and tasting room where we hope to host smaller events and gatherings.
This week we’ll be talking about Young Farmers during #AgChat, Tues., Jan. 14th, 8-9PMET (NOTE TIME CHANGE). The conversation will continue on the blog throughout the week with additional young farmer posts.
With the average age of an American farmer being 57, there is a substantial need for young farmers. Today’s young farmer faces challenges which have hampered the ability to begin their business and lively hood. Two of those challenges include the availability of land and prohibitive costs.
In locations of the country such as Pennsylvania, there are efforts like PA FarmLink which connect older farmers with the younger generations. The goal is to eventually transition the state’s 4.2 million acres, owned by farmers age 55 and younger, over to younger age groups. This movement will ensure that those acres will remain in production agriculture. While this example is specific to Pennsylvania, you can check with local resources such as your county Farm Bureau.
Overcoming the challenges of cost are not always that simple. In some cases young farmers are looking towards more non-traditional, niche operations. In the state of Illinois for instance, farms such as Marcoot Jersey Creamery and Ropp Jersey Farm have transitioned from sending their milk to dairies into becoming on-site cheese makers. In both cases, this has allowed younger generations to become invested in the farms. Another Illinois farm family, the Kilgus Farmstead, manage a direct to customer operation raising Jersey milk cows, beef, meat goats and pork. In 2009 they became the first farmstead to bottle their own milk. Changing their business structure and bottling on-site allowed for more of the younger family members to become part of the farm. In all three cases the producers are dedicated to telling their stories to the public by offering on-site stores, tours and seasonal events.
While these are certainly not the only challenges facing today’s young farmer they tend to be most prominent. Later this week we will share some additional resources to help guide you to follow your dream of being a farmer.
What are some other challenges facing young farmers and the solutions behind those challenges?
written by Jenny Schweigert
Jenny serves as the AgChat Foundation Communications Director while helping manage her family’s small hobby farm in central Illinois. In addition to AgChat.org, she can be found blogging about life on the farm, Jersey dairy cattle, hunting and her boys, all at TheMagicFarmHouse.com.
In the 100 years that our farm has been in the family, we have grown a variety of crops. Wheat has always been in the rotation, along with the occasional oats, barley, and flax. For many years, the Olson family grew seed for the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association.
Currently, we have a three crop rotation – about 1/3 corn, 1/3 soybeans, and 1/3 small grains. Our small grains are usually hard red spring wheat, and a small field of barley mixed with field peas. We like the three crop rotation because it spreads out the work load, has different weed suppression, breaks the insect cycles, and is good for the health of the soil.
The first thing we do in the spring, as soon as we can get out into the fields, is prepare the small grain fields. Depending on which field is ready first, we’ll either plant the barley and peas first, or the wheat. We use a grain drill, and GPS AutoSteer technology to seed the grain as soon as the seed bed is ready. When we plant our barley and peas, we first seed the field peas, and then we move the grain drill over about 3 inches, and seed the barley. The barley and peas grow together, dry down together, and get harvested and stored together. They are separated before they are hauled to their final destinations by a portable grain separator that we have here on the farm.
Small grain fields tend to have different weed issues than corn and soybean fields do. Since the small grains are planted so early, they are established before the smaller weeds get a chance to become a problem. This helps to control the smaller weeds by smothering them out. One nice thing about this natural weed suppression is the minimal need for weed control in the small grain fields. Although we still walk the fields for Canada thistle, we are able to concentrate our weed control efforts in our corn and soybean fields.
When August rolls around, we are scouting the small grain fields a little more often as we prepare for harvest. We like that one-third of our harvest is finished before the soybeans really start maturing. After the small grain is harvested, we will plant a cover crop of oats and tillage radish before turning our attention to the upcoming soybean harvest.
Over the winter, Jonathan and I attended a few conferences and soil health seminars, and listened to scientists talk about the importance of diversity in our rotations. Healthy roots in our cash crops mean better yields, and plants that can handle stress better. For many farmers, who do not already use a three crop rotation, and easy way to get a few of the benefits of a third crop is to plant a cover crop following soybeans.
Having a three crop rotation is one of the requirements for organic certification. We have always had an alternative crop in with our corn and soybeans, so this was not a difficult one for us. We like that growing a third crop helps to spread out planting and harvest, and we like what it is doing for our soils. Growing hard red spring wheat and a barley and field pea mix has worked well for us, and we’ll continue to grow them. Just like our ancestors did.
written by Carolyn Olson
Carolyn Olson raises organic corn, soybeans, field peas and small grains with her husband and their three daughters on 1100 acres near Cottonwood, Minnesota. They also finish about 7000 conventional hogs annually. The Olson family lives in the same house, and farm some of the same land that was purchased by Jonathan’s great-great-grandfather in 1913.
Carolyn grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, but became a farm wife in 1988. She quickly learned how to drive tractors, haul corn wagons, and help with tillage in the fall. She loves watching the seasons change, and looks forward to each growing season.
Carolyn is the current president of the Lyon County Farm Bureau, chair of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Organic Advisory Task Force, and secretary of the local FFA Alumni Chapter. She is active in the Minnesota Farm Bureau, having served on the Promotion & Education committee, Growth committee, and Resolutions committee. She is the co-chair of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Pork Chop booth at FarmFest. She has volunteered for FFA Chapters in Lyon County, helping with contest judging, Farm Safety and Petting Zoo days. She has also brought the FFA officers to the Farm Bureau Day on the Hill. She is active in her church as a Senior High youth group advisor, Sunday school teacher, worship leader, and Choir member. She has served on the Southwest Minnesota Synod Assembly Planning Committee, where she has helped create the programs and worship experiences for over 700 attendees.
The ethanol world had a big shake up the other week when EPA announced a reduction in the renewable fuels standard. How much ethanol that will be required to be blended into gasoline is proposed to be dropped around 3 billion gallons from the 2007 goal of 18.15 to 15.21 billion gallons. Major news outlets picked up the story pretty quickly which tells you the importance of the potential implications beyond the farmyard. Reluctance by fuel manufacturers to blend ethanol above a certain level along with declining fuel use means they’ve hit a “blend wall”. This could mean trouble for crop farmers relying on ethanol production as a market for corn to keep prices up.
My Twitter and Facebook feeds saw an awful lot of chatter about this and its potential effects on crop markets. Notice I didn’t say corn markets even though that’s the major crop used for ethanol production? That’s because all the different crops we grow in this country including the forages and grains I feed the animals on my farm are constantly competing with one another for acreage. If one crop is worth more, others have to follow or they won’t get planted and corn has been leading the charge lately. It would be hard to make a case that the number of bushels of corn going to making fuel for our cars hasn’t had an effect on the prices and availability of feed for my animals. This graph from a Congressional Research Service report shows the increase in use of corn produced for ethanol.
While I feel bad for my crop growing friends who may be seeing an end to what have been some of the most profitable times in recent history, I’m looking forward to livestock farmers having a chance at a decent year of profits which have been hard to come by lately. Hay prices which are a major portion of the ration for our dairy cattle have gone from $130/ton 3 years ago for good quality hay to $230/ton for the same quality today. There has been a considerable amount of hay ground turned into corn ground in the past 5 years and I have a hard time believing that ethanol played no role in that. I was a supporter of ethanol in the beginning, believing what was good for some farmers would be good for all farmers in time and I’m still not entirely convinced that isn’t true. With the increases in crop prices meat and milk prices have followed which means there’s a lot more dollars flowing into agriculture as a whole. The increase in feed costs, despite higher prices for meat and milk, means margins have remained slim for livestock farmers especially those who don’t grow all their own feed.
Where will things go from here? I don’t know, to be honest, and if I did know I’d be a billionaire hedge fund manager by now. Personally I look forward to being able to find more farmers to work with that will be willing to plant hay and non-GMO crops for my livestock with a willingness to do a multiyear contract that will ensure we both make a decent living. I doubt the renewable fuels industry will go away and I hope it doesn’t as I feel it’s part of the solution to our energy and climate problems but it may have just grew too fast for our own good.
It amazes me how the social pendulum has swung from ethanol being a political and media darling in the mid 2000’s to a social outcast recently. Granted, much is at risk for stakeholders and consumers alike. Objective discussions become challenging when issues become emotionally charged. Social media has sped the rate of idea exchange. This leaves many of us in the position of responding to criticism and negative attacks rather than proactively addressing each issue.
Hopefully, my experience will help balance the pendulum. Diversification helps a farm survive the ups and downs of individual markets. That is why I purchased shares in a farmer-owned ethanol plant in the early 1990’s. Later, I added a contract turkey enterprise to my operation. Ironically, the poultry industry is very outspoken against ethanol. Higher grain prices mean higher feed prices, which poultry and some livestock producers dislike. The missing link in the discussion is how much of the price of corn is related to ethanol production and how much is worldwide weather and other market forces.
Grain markets are dynamic. Blaming only ethanol for higher corn prices is conveniently simplistic. At the same time, failing to acknowledge ethanol has played some part in thinner poultry margins is disingenuous. The discussion needs balance. Currently, corn prices are below levels we saw in 2007 when the federal Renewable Fuels Standard set the bar for biofuel production. Hopefully, this change eases some of the tension. Agriculture needs to do a better job of keeping its disagreements out of the headlines. Production agriculture already has enough critics.
I am thankful my ancestors chose Le Sueur County to build a life around farming. Our deep rich soil and favorable climate are just right for crop and livestock production. So far I know of nobody in my area discovering oil under their farmland. My dad and his dad and his before him, raised a multitude of crops including flax, wheat, oats, alfalfa, sweetcorn and peas. Over time we’ve learned field corn is the most productive and most profitable crop for our farm.
To illustrate, assume an average yield of 180 bushels of corn per acre. That is 10,080 pounds of corn. Through processing, only the starch is removed yielding 522 gallons of ethanol. The protein is still intact. That protein is about 3,360 pounds of what we call dried distillers grains (DDGs), a very high quality livestock feed. My farm could produce about 55 bushels of wheat per acre. That is 3,300 pounds of wheat. Therefore, the DDGs alone from one acre of corn are roughly equal to the total pounds of wheat I can produce from the same acre.
I have used this analogy in conversations with friends, relatives, news reporters and civic groups. It helps people understand why I raise corn on my farm. From there the conversation can migrate to clean air, a strong economy, and dependence on fossil fuels. It is my hope that a balanced discussion of the issues surrounding ethanol will swing the pendulum once again.
Written by Greg Schwarz
Did you share on Saturday’s ShareFest this past Saturday? If you did you had a chance to be highlighted here on the
blog. This week we’ve picked Jennie Schmidt, RD, to feature!
Jennie, aka, The Foodie Farmer or @FarmGirlJen on Twitter, is passionate about connecting the farm to the fork. She combines her enthusiasm as a registered dietician with her passion for agriculture while working on projects such as CommonGround MidAtlantic’s Field to Fork Farm Tour in September.
What is especially unique to Jennie’s agvocating efforts is that as a registered dietician, she has a natural connection with other RD’s, who are a key part to bringing our food to the plate.
You can check out her latest – and very popular, I might add – blog post. Following a survey of her followers she established a Top Ten list of Agriculture’s Most Annoying Words. Some of these are real envelop pushers including ‘Big,’ ‘Shill’ and ‘corporate’ to name a few.
Be sure to also connect with Jennie via her The Foodie Farmer fanpage where she provides a birds eye view to the happenings around their farm.
Some people see us as Big Ag, or even consider us a factory farm. When a farmer or rancher continually grows or is an undermined size or has some sort of relative significance, they’re label “Big Ag”. Big Ag or Factory Farming is perceived to be farm-related companies who only care about money, and not about the land or people or safety. Big Ag couldn’t possibly have the love and passion of actual farming or ranching that is depicted in romantic photos and old movies. Big Ag is dressed in slacks, logo’d Polo’s and have big offices so they obviously can’t be trusted.
WHY GET BIGGER?
Every business has their own business model that works for them. The same goes for farms (sometimes, people forget that farming is also a business). Each model is based on the core values of the owners (sometimes families and sometimes outside investors), but it’s mostly based on what the customer wants and what is best for the business long term.
Our farm started in Forest River, ND in 1928. Forest River has a population of about 150 people (depending on the season). We have arguably the best farmland in the world, as we are right smack in the middle of the Red River Valley. However, it’s expensive, inefficient, and not very sustainable to keep hauling truckload after truckload of heavy potatoes across the country. So, our customers gave us a challenge: “Take what you know, and grow potatoes close to our processing plants which are close to where the people are”. We said…. Challenge Accepted.
In 1986, we grew our first non-North Dakota crop in Southeast Missouri. Since then, we have developed a system to grow potatoes in non-traditional potato growing regions and seasons. This has allowed us to be a more sustainable and reliable operation. Other factors for our growth include succession planning – not only for our farm, but also for other farm families who don’t have a succession plan. Our growth is due because the market is demanding more products that are grown locally – and we have that expertise when it comes to potatoes. We are also taking what we’ve learned about potato production for chips, and utilizing that knowledge for other crops. We grow because if we don’t – we can’t hire, retain, grow, and develop people, careers, families and communities. We grow because it’s on our blood.
We are not even close to being the biggest of Big Ag, but we recognize that we do have some of the characteristics (including the Polos). We have a corporate office and 11 farming locations. We employ over 150 full time people, and continue on a path of growth and diversification. There are many companies, farmers and ranchers who are way bigger than us by multiple factors – and to them we say, “Congrats! Let’s work together to move the food industry forward”.
Our corporate office in North Dakota. Not the typical romantic picture of a family farm, but it is our family farm headquarters, and we go there every day.
So what if we’re considered big? We’re not going to slow our growth and progress just because it can be uncomfortable to talk about. We’re going to keep going down the path that we’re on, if our customers are still demanding it.
At the end of the day, it’s still just the 3 adult kids and a dad along with the 5th generation grandkids. At the end of the day, it’s also 150 other dedicated families who give their blood, sweat and tears to this – to their farm. It’s our big ol’ family farm.
Leah Brakke is a part of the 4th generation potato farm called Black Gold Farms. She works as the Marketing and Communications Specialist at the North Dakota Corporate office of Black Gold Farms. Additionally, she serves as a member of the AgChat Foundation Board of Directors.