mission to promote agriculture, we will be highlighting a wide variety of blogs from farmers, ranchers and other agriculture professionals. If you have an idea for a submission (or would like us to feature your blog) email Julianne Johnston for consideration.

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February 2012 Archive for Blogging for Agriculture

RSS By: Pro Farmer Editors, Pro Farmer

As part of Pro Farmer's mission to promote agriculture, we will be highlighting a wide variety of blogs from farmers, ranchers and other agriculture professionals. If you have an idea for a submission (or would like us to feature your blog) email Julianne Johnston for consideration.

'Farm & Food Ambassador Team'

Feb 29, 2012

Pro Farmer News Editor, Julianne Johnston, is part of the Iowa Soybean Association's Farm & Food Ambassador Team. Following is her blog submission as part of this group.

Big Week For Agriculture

About the blogger: Julianne Johnston is the News Editor for Pro Farmer in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She was raised on a Hardin County, Iowa, corn, soybean, cattle and hog farm and was active in 4-H and FFA growing up. She and her husband, Terry, reside in rural Parkersburg, Iowa, on an acreage, with the goal to install the work ethics their fathers passed down to them to their two daughter, Mackenzie (17) and Addie (13).

The week of February 12 was a big week for agriculture, especially for Iowa. Highlighting the week was China’s "Buy America Tour," in which Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping was treated like royalty as he visited Iowa to catch up with some old friends and meet new ones.

I was personally moved by some of the moments caught on video from Xi’s visit to Rick and Martha Kimberley’s farm in rural Maxwell, Iowa, where Rick answered Xi’s question on his grain-drying techniques, examined the latest equipment on the farm and said it looked like farming was steady employment.

Why was this so important? Simply put, China needs and wants Iowa’s agriculture to succeed. China’s growing population — and growing middle class — demands our high-quality goods as they struggle with inefficiencies to maintain self-sufficiency in agriculture

The Chinese are in awe of the efficiencies of American farms, yet some organizations want to take some of those efficiencies away from us. While the Chinese delegation was complimenting us for our production practices, McDonald’s Corporation teamed up with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to ask for the pork industry’s plan to phase out the use of sow gestation stalls.

The use of gestation stalls is highly debated and it’s our own fault. HSUS says consumers want sows to have more room to roam, but this production practice has become the gold standard for sow health. But American consumers are influenced by what the HSUS calls the "inhumane" treatment of sows, forcing pork producers to change their best practices, which will ultimately raise the cost of production and the price of pork.

American consumers could learn something from the Chinese trade delegation. We are the gold standard for ag practices on the globe. There’s a reason they are in awe of American agriculture. At the current pace of improved efficiencies in American agriculture, we are up to the challenge of feeding the world. But stumbling blocks like the HSUS stand in our way.

Farmers, tell a consumer why you do what you do. Educate them. You don’t necessarily have to let the world onto your farm like the Kimberley family did, but from this experience we learned that farm visitors can be appreciative of what is being done in American agriculture today.

AND, it’s time to push back on McDonald’s and ask for less processing of the food we provide them. They have asked us to change, now it’s time for us to ask them to change.

'Is True Leadership About Me or We?'

Feb 16, 2012

The following blog was submitted by Michelle Payn-Knoper of Cause Matters Corp., an ag advocate helping you to champion your cause.

Is True Leadership About Me or We?

Few are intuitive leaders, moving through life with the masses following them. Most of us have to learn leadership. It’s always an interesting journey in my work with agricultural advocates to watch them go from succeeding individually to bringing others along in the "agvocacy" journey. More than once I’ve had the conversation "This no longer about you, but the bigger picture. Your work is to now create more advocates like you."

Only the best become true leaders. Many get distracted by ego, politics and the latest bright shiny object. When I see leaders rising through the ranks, I start watching to see if they’ll be able to make the jump from "me" to "we." I have the great fortune as a professional speaker to witness many of these journeys; when people make the jump to the "we" of agriculture, it is my single greatest motivator.

Two ladies who farm in Oregon and North Dakota are great examples of this. Both have reached well beyond the "me" sphere and shaped the work of others giving voice to agriculture. I’ve known both of them for a few years and have watched their journey; it’s inspiring.

Marie Bowers is a spark plug. The woman makes things happen and I’m fairly certain she won’t take no for an answer. She didn’t think Oregon had enough of agriculture and natural resources people working in social media, so she created a workshop that pulled together 20+ natural resource organizations to learn social media and corralled others to help her. I had the chance to work with the group and was very excited about the level of discussion we had; there is no doubt that Marie laid miles of road to bringing others into the agvocacy arena. She does a great job herself; check out her Oregon Green blog.

When I first met Marie at a American Agri-Women workshop hosted by Syngenta, I was pretty certain she thought I was a little over the top. Now I know her real story; it’s so fun to watch her journey. She’s a new board member of the AgChat Foundation, chairs the weekly AgChat/FoodChat committee and will be the President for Oregon Women for Agriculture next year. Yet her titles have nothing to do with leadership; it’s all about her heart and ability to bring others to the cause. I do have to warn you though, she knows how to shoot a gun and isn’t afraid to use it.

Sarah Bedgar Wilson always has a smile on her face and a funny story to tell. I first met her in the Young Dairy Leaders Institute, where her skills stood out and she always had a million questions about the advocacy assignment. She’s now on her own mission as a speaker, a mom of three children under the age of five, a farm partner and in charge of the North Dakota Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers program.  I don’t know how she does it all, but after being in North Dakota – I know she does – and with great accolades from others.

Sarah leads people to with her heart for the good of agriculture. She and her husband have some amazing experiences on their farm, but she’s never let that diminish her concern for the bigger picture of getting the story out there. She works constantly to reach out and develop human connections, whether through her blog, work, teaching children or just being Sarah. The smile is always there to brighten people’s day, which certainly helps humanize the world of farming.

The impact that both of these women are having on others as leaders makes it a privilege to work with them – and an honor to call them friend. More importantly, Sarah and Marie are a case study of what happens when agriculturists move from "me" to "we." 

Are you taking steps in that direction to bring others to the cause?



'The 2% Project, The Farmer's Story'

Feb 15, 2012

The following blog was submitted by Matt Boucher, a farmer from Illinois who developed "The 2% Project." Click here to learn more about participating in The 2% Project.

The Farmer's Story

Introducing Dolly Farmers, Leroy, Ill

Welcome to the first farmer feature post of The 2% Project! Today The 2% Project features Dolly Farms of Leroy IL. I would like to take this opportunity to thank this inspiring young farm family for participating in the project as well as agreeing to be the first to farmer feature post within the project. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed working with Jenny and Eric on this project. Now on to Dolly Farms! Introduction: Dolly Farms of Leroy IL is owned and operated by the Mennenga Family. They are young, educated, and aspiring 4th generation family farmers who use today’s modern technology to care for their crops and livestock in an efficient and humane manner in order to provide consumers with quality meat and grain products. I am grateful to have met them, and am thankful they are part of this project. Here is their story:

Our Farm Story (By Jenny Mennenga)

Dolly Farms Inc. is a mid-sized family farm which is wholly owned and operated by Eric and Jenny Mennenga of Leroy, Illinois, producing #2 yellow corn and soybeans. Some of the soybeans we produce are used for seed beans (for a seed company) which will be grown in the following year by other farmers. We also have a small cow-calf herd, and maintain over 100 acres of pasture. What makes our operation unique is that we both come from farm families, but were are farming independently from our families. We also are quite a bit younger than most farmers in the area, Eric is 34 and Jenny is 33. We feel our niche to the market is not to be the biggest, but strive to do the best job that we can do. We utilize technology fully, but rely on sound agronomics and common sense. We surround ourselves with smart people, such as accountants, lawyers, mechanics, and input suppliers who help us make the best decisions possible for our family farm.

Eric is a graduate of Illinois State University in Ag Industry Management and Jenny is a graduate of Iowa State University in Agronomy and Seed Science. In addition to farming, Jenny has a seed dealership and Eric works for Illinois Department of Transportation in the winter time plowing snow. We have 3 kids under the age of 5 that our farm supports along with our "part time" jobs.

We chose to be a part of "The 2% Project" because we want the general public to know that farmers today are modern, care about the environment, can have tremendous community pride, and we pay taxes just like they do. Farmers today need to be extremely agile in running a business, buying inputs, selling grain, growing a crop, negotiating leases, as well as being pulling a calf all at the same time. Our dream is to be able to have our children farm with us (that is, if they want to farm), and be able to sustain their families.

Our biggest concerns are the rapidly growing world population, and the pressure the farming community is going to face in feeding, clothing, fueling this population boom. Also, as farmers have become a 2% minority.  We will face increasing mandates on water usage, pollutants, and other standards that may be difficult or impossible to manage.

Farming is a very noble profession, and we are proud to be a part the 2%.


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