Saturday, September 10, 2011

Meet a Farmer

How many of you know a farmer?  Can you put a face to a person that grows and produces food?  Do you know, or have you ever thought about, where your food comes from? (If you said this or this, you guessed wrong)  I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine who is one of those people that makes up less than 1% of the U.S. population. That's a percentage so small, that farmer is no longer listed as an occupation on the U.S. Census.  Farmers now help make up the inauspicious "other" category, and yet, farmers are being asked to feed, clothe, and help fuel a growing global society like never before.  Scarcely will a farmer meet a challenge he or she can't handle, and one such couple meeting that demand is Ben & Jennifer Moore from Dresden, TN.  Ben and I became friends when we were fraternity brothers together in college, and I met Jennifer, whom he was dating at the time, shortly thereafter. Recently named Tennessee's Young Farmer & Rancher winners for 2011, the Moore's will now proceed to the national competition (held in Hawaii this year--yes, they will somehow suffer through it) as representatives from TN for a chance to win a new Dodge truck, the use of a tractor for a year, and various other prizes.  I'm vey happy for them, and excited that they are representing Tennessee.  Check out the short video below to meet them and learn more about their operation.

Now, you can put a face to someone who helps feed and clothe you.

As always your comments and questions are welcomed and encouraged.  Thanks!

The Fabric of our Lives, Part 1

I say Part 1 because this will likely be a three part series, though I'm not sure when the other two parts will be completed.  With many trilogies, the first two are usually good while the third is often, well, not worth watching (or reading) - ex. Karate Kid 3.  But, we shall proceed and try and follow the lead of those great trilogies such as Back to the Future, LOTR, and the original Star Wars.

Cotton defoliation for us began today.  What is cotton defoliation?  Basically, cotton defoliation serves 3 purposes:

1.  It helps the leaves fall off the cotton plant, reducing the amount of "trash" in the cotton.

2.  Aids in opening the bolls completely, making harvest (picking) more efficient and more likely to gather all the cotton in one pass instead of two. 

(closed boll on left, open on right)

3.  Prevention of any unwanted regrowth (greening back up) on the plant(s).

(Cotton Growth Chart)

Farmers who grow cotton are paid by pounds, or bales.  In addition to weight, these bales are also graded, and a poor grade would result in a deduction, i.e. loss of money.  So, in addition to aiding in the harvest process, defoliation also helps improve the overall quality of the finished product.

Just in case you didn't know, that stuff that you wear everyday, dry off with, sleep on, and wipe with all comes from a plant.  In other words, it's natural, not a synthetic item that has been blended from other products.  And these are just a few of the uses. (See bales link above for more)

On a separate but related note, occasionally I will get asked if cotton defoliation is the reason peoples allergies flare up.  Well maybe, but probably not, at least not to the extent one may think.  It is logical to think that because defoliation takes place in approximately the same window of time, in the same  relative geographic area, this is the cause for ones allergies.  However, do remember that like in the spring, this time of year (late summer/fall) is also high pollen season, and known allergens like ragweed pollen are floating through the air aggravating ones sinuses.  It seems to me that it is more likely seasonal allergies are the cause rather than defoliants. 

As always your thoughts, comments, and questions are welcomed.  Thanks!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Corn Harvest, Facts, and More

After getting off to a good start, corn harvest has come to a standstill on our farm, and will likely stay this way for the next few days.  We've run into corn that's still a bit green (wet).  Ideally, corn that is harvested for grain will have a moisture content below 17%.  I sampled some today and it was over 20%, so we will park the combine and wait a few days for it to "dry down."  While it could be harvested at 20%, the grainery (also known as an elevator) will dock (penalize) corn over 15.5%, by taking away bushels.  They do this because they will have to physically dry it down themselves in their grain bins with their fans, and this costs them money.  So, for example, let's say we have 1,000 bushels of corn on a semi-trailor, and the moisture checks at 19%.  The grainery will dock a percentage of that load, and only credit us as having, say, 900 bushels.  Remember, the grainery is the one buying our product--whether it be corn, soybeans, wheat etc.  Now, we will only get paid on 900 bushels instead of the 1,000 delivered.  Corn today is selling for around $7/bushel (a really good price for the farmer).  Now figure what one lost by cutting it too wet:

$7 x 1,000 = $7,000
$7 x 900 = $6,300
For a loss of $700 on that load.

$700 x 10 loads a day (as an average) = $7,000 per day one would lose by harvesting corn too wet.

I think we'll keep the combine parked a few days.  It's still very early in the harvest season, so we aren't hard pressed, and won't be unless the weather turns ugly for an extended time, to try and get it out in such a hurry.  The closer we can get it to 15.5%, the less dock that will be applied.  Corn is considered "dry" at 15.5%, so anything below that number doesn't get docked.  However, corn that is too dry can present other potential issues, which I can discuss another time.

Corn being harvested by a combine:

The corn plant is pretty a-maize-ing, and the uses derived from this plant are probably even more amazing. Sorry, that's pretty corny. Two recent documentaries,


put a spotlight on corn.  Both of these documentaries are very entertaining, enlightening, and well-made.  Unfortunately both of these documentaries, like many politicians, often only tell one side of a story.  I learned much from these documentaries, and others like them, and found myself agreeing with much of what was being said.  However, I was still somewhat disappointed that the information presented, while truthful, was in my opinion, lacking and incomplete.  More on this later.  I would recommend watching these if you have not yet, but would urge a word of caution and discernment if not familiar with the agriculture related issues discussed.  I only briefly mention this now because a few people I know have asked me about them, so I wanted to get a word in now. As the late Paul Harvey would say, "The Rest of the Story", is coming. 

Finally, some corn facts:

And if you have kids, teach, or homeschool, here's a link to educational resources about corn:

As always, your comments and questions are welcomed.  Thanks and enjoy your corn, but not like this guy:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dyer County Farm Bureau Ag Day 2011

Each year fifth graders from Dyer County and Dyersburg City Schools come to enjoy Farm Bureau Ag Day by listening to local farmers and county extension agents explain agriculture in various stations. For several years now, Ag Day has been held on our farm. It varies from year to year, but each year includes a cotton stop, corn stop, a soybean stop, and a popcorn stop--for a snack, of course! This year a safety stop was added to teach students about four-wheeler safety. Students learn about each crop, how it is used in the products they use everyday, and meet actual farmers who grow the crops. Students also get to see the equipment that is responsible for planting, spraying, and harvesting the crops. For many students, this day might be their first experience on a farm. 

 Four-Wheeler Safety was a station added this year.

 Students listen to a demonstration on corn.

 Students learn about soybeans.

The cotton station is always a big hit.

Snack time! 

As always, comments and questions are encouraged.

Hungry and Naked

...what you would be without farmers.