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2016 in Review: Our Favorite Things

16:44PM Dec 29, 2016

2016 Favorite Stories( AgWeb )

Our contributing editors and writers work hard delivering a wide variety of agriculture news at AgWeb all year long. Even so, not all stories are created equal. Some stories have been given a little extra TLC. Here were our personal favorites from 2016.

Farm Dogs Sniff Out Weeds

“I got the lead for this story on Twitter when someone I follow said they were helping teach dogs how to identify lespedeza weeds—not your typical Tweet about dogs. Owner and trainer Jim Peters teaches his dogs to sniff out a variety of scents, but found they could be used to help farmers in their plights against resistant weeds. He’s starting working with dogs and weeds on the conservation side, but thinks dogs will be especially helpful in pastures. While most of my reporting on weed control is about herbicides and mechanical methods, this particular story was a lot of fun because it’s so different—plus who doesn’t love puppy pictures?” –Sonja Begemann

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Digging Into a Downward Cycle

“This story took a look at the downfall of the replacement heifer market in the beef industry. After years of losing cow inventory beef producers were sent the signals by the market to start building back the cow herd. More and more producers began developing heifers until the market peaked in the fall of 2014. Then a downward cycle saw many cattlemen lose money on heifers that were bought at too high of price. It was interesting to dig into this particular story because it showed things to continue on the horizon of an overall bearish market cycle in beef.” –Wyatt Bechtel

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Talking to a 92-Year-Old ‘Living Legend’

“Jessie Small may as well have walked out of the pages of Lonesome Dove and into farm lore. It was a genuine honor and absolute privilege to learn about the life of a time traveling, American giant. Gravelly voice and ever-present cigar stub, Jessie rattled off the bulk of his 92-year-old tale in one sitting and wrote the entire story. Living legend? Indeed.” –Chris Bennett

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The 9-Year-Old Farmer

“On the other end of the age spectrum, meet Trey Kimbrell, a 9-year-old from Texas farming alongside his dad. It was my very first stories I'd written as a Farm Journal employee. Trey reminds me a lot of my brother, who was also driving grain cart/tractor from the age of 8, so it's personal to me.” –Ashley Davenport

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Proof Positive

“From field to glass. That’s the premise of this story featuring innovative farmers who grow grain that they personally distill into high-end craft spirits. I heard of this concept at a conference and set out to see if there were any business-minded farmers actually doing it. The result was a really fun profile showcasing an interesting trend. Plus, the story won “Story of the Year” and “Best Team Story” from the American Agricultural Editors’ Association this past summer.” –Sara Schafer

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Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

“When money gets tight, farmers often find themselves feeling the need to rob Peter in order to pay Paul.  While putting off a seed bill may sound appealing, it might not be the smartest move. I enjoyed assembling these tips for paying bills when times are tough and for determining if you've really got a financial sustainability issue, not just a cash flow issue.” –Anna-Lisa Laca

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Every Last Drop Counts

“My interview with NASA researcher and hydrologist Jay Famiglietti shined a huge light on a diminishing resource for all farmers—ground water. Going beyond any climate change discussion, there is a pronounced disappearance of water availability in many areas across the globe. The social and economic consequences of water scarcity are far reaching—from food to feed hungry people to war and social conflicts. We need advanced tools to help us monitor water levels and investments in technology to conserve and purify water resources for the health of all people.” –Sara Brown

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Beef’s $35 Million Bruise

“This was an exclusive story in Drovers, and one that noted the potential losses from a problem that is fixable. It also highlights how the industry is working to correct an animal welfare issue.” –Greg Henderson

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Culture Counts

“Headlines often talk about businesses, especially in times of change. This article gives insights from the people who kept laser beam focus on farmers during transitions in their ag retail business. The sources shared candidly about what went right, and what could have gone better.” –Margy Eckelkamp

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From the Ground Up

“It’s about a farmer-led environmental initiative to reduce phosphorus loading in the Yahara Pride watershed, which drains into lakes surrounding Madison, Wis.  The really cool thing about the effort is that 23 municipal partners, including city and town sewerage districts, water treatment plants, the Wisconsin DNR and the University of Wisconsin have together committed $250,000 per year for each of the next 20 years in cost-share funding to farmers. Yahara Pride picks those who get the funds. It’s really a cool initiative where everyone is working together.  The hope is to eventually reduce the phosphorus load by 106,000 lb. annually.” –Jim Dickrell

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A Trumped-Up Election Night Surprise

“On November 8, all of the stat geeks had predicted a Hillary Clinton victory. Even so, we collected statements on all possible outcomes as we waited on the election night results. For consistency purposes, we decided to wait until the Associated Press (AP) had called the election because that was the baseline we had used when reporting earlier Senate races. So we waited. And waited. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, the AP called it and entering the 14th hour of my work day and approaching delirium, I pecked out the story. The 2:14 a.m. post time is something I’m personally proud of but not eager to repeat.” –Ben Potter

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