Choice Cuts: Our Favorite 2015 Stories

December 30, 2015 07:20 PM

AgWeb editors try their hardest to provide balanced reporting, but they are terribly partial when it comes to picking the stories they most enjoyed writing. Here’s a sampling of staff favorites our editors brought to you in 2015.

Snakebites Always a Farm Danger, by Chris Bennett

Chris says: “You’re either scared to death or fascinated by snakes. There is no third option for anyone with a pulse. I was fortunate to speak with three sharp fellas who patiently laid out their snakebite tales. All three were very well-spoken and painted a clear picture for me to trace. I held the pen, but they wrote the story.”

NOTE: Chris almost got bitten himself while taking the photo that accompanies this story.

12 Goofy Things You Didn’t Know About Groundhog’s Day, by Jennifer Russell

Jen says: “My beloved home state of Pennsylvania has a lot of weird history and traditions, not the least of which is Groundhog Day. Even though this story was not exactly agriculture-centric, it was really fun to research and write. We report on a lot of serious issues at AgWeb, and sometimes it’s nice to just let your hair down and write something absurd. I hope it brought a smile to a few readers’ faces.”

Webinar: Avian Flu's Impact on Grain Markets, by Nate Birt

Nate says: “When avian flu became a national news item, our team quickly huddled to determine how to best serve our audience. Although few of our readers operate large poultry farms, we knew grain farmers would want details on implications for demand. I wrote this article to preview a webinar on which I collaborated with “Market Rally” host Chip Flory and experts in grain markets and avian flu,  Dr. Thomas Elam of FarmEcon and Dr. Henry Wan of Mississippi State University, respectively. The situation left poultry producers reeling, but what struck me in this case was the opportunity that farmers of all kinds had to be proactive, learn and adjust in the face of an exceptionally awful disease outbreak. It reflects the strength of character that is the bedrock of agriculture.”

Dealing With Disaster, by Ben Potter

Ben says: “Building a magazine is a fairly intricate, if orderly process. Each story goes through a series of predictable writing, edits, design and more edits before getting hammered into its final form. But sometimes, breaking news happens and turns an orderly process into a more unpredictable scramble. Such was the case with the South Carolina flooding earlier this fall. More than 20 inches of rain fell across some of the state, creating calamities for the state’s farmers and ranchers. It also happened two days before our print deadline for Top Producer magazine. I wanted to do some useful reporting while being respectful of the farmers affected by this severe weather. Fortunately, farmers are often among the kindest, level-headed people out there, and was able to tell a story that showcased farmer ingenuity and community togetherness even before the floodwaters receded.”

Decode Your Seed Traits, by Sonja Begemann

Sonja says: “When I first came to Farm Journal, I was really excited about talking about parts of the industry that were not only unclear to the general public, but to farmers as well. “Decode Your Seed Traits,” was a clear, unbiased look at the pervasiveness of biotechnology in modern agriculture. This gave both farmers and the general population a clear view of the state of ag, specifically corn and soybeans. I heard from both pro- and anti-GMO activists after this article and saw it providing clarity about biotechnology that may not have been present before. It was a great way to expand my knowledge of the industry and to give farmers more tools to talk about their industry in a way that makes sense to the uninformed.”

This Cow Does Tricks, by Sara Brown

Sara says: “While this was just a short blog about an athletic heifer, I was so impressed with the owner, Cole Matkin, a bright high school senior. In the livestock show ring, he’s had success with his goat projects, but was so excited to do something he’s never done—show cattle—and learn something new in the process. He’s having so much fun teaching this heifer new tricks. This story reminded me why I love being in the livestock industry!”

Grain Analysts Accept Inevitable at CME’s Board of Trade, by Alison Rice

Alison says: “The news that the CME would shut down its legendary open outcry trading pits truly marked the end of an era for many traders and commodity analysts who got their start at the Chicago Board of Trade. Chip Flory, editorial director of Pro Farmer, was one of them. He still remembers his first day on the job. “On that day, there were more people in the corn pit than there was in my hometown of Oxford Junction, Iowa,” Flory said. “And they were all crazy.” As a reporter, I’m grateful I got to see the pits in action before they closed and feel honored to capture people’s memories and observations for this story. I also loved the photograph of CBOT traders in 1900 that I found through the Library of Congress to illustrate the story. Talk about traveling back in time.”

A Toast to Tradition, by Sara Schafer

Sara says: “The Petersons from Loretto, Ky., are an amazing farm family. One of their direct ancestors actually farmed Manhattan Island, N.Y.! Traditions and core values are ingrained in their operation, and their location is also key. Within 45 miles of their operation, 90% of the world’s bourbon is distilled. For 35 years, the Petersons have been the main supplier of soft red winter wheat to Maker’s Mark, the world-famous bourbon distillery. How cool is that? The Petersons’ ability to seize opportunities, stay true to their core values and establish a sustainable growth strategy and progressive succession plan are just a few of the reasons they were recognized as the 2015 Top Producer of the Year winners.”

Making a Connection: The Personal Side of Consumer Demand, by Jo Windmann

Jo says: “I put a lot of thought and work into this one. I made a real effort to include as many helpful tips and links as I could. Given, it’s long but making a consumer connection is no small project. This one is also kind of near and dear to my heart. I miss the agvocacy stuff I used to do, like the blog and speaking and just being a part of it all.”

NOTE: Although she is not as active on the agvocacy front, Jo is still an active, integral part of her family’s Missouri hog operation.

Ranch Life: Shipping Cattle in the Flint Hills of Kansas, by Wyatt Bechtel

Wyatt says: “Each year my family annually takes in stocker cattle for custom grazing on our native Flint Hills pastures in Kansas. This year I decided to give people a look at what it takes to get cattle from pasture to feedyard, and eventually on their plates as beef. It takes a lot of hard work from our family and friends to get the job done. We gather and load cattle for nearly a week. The days can get long, but in the end we’re doing what we love and making lifelong memories. I hope you enjoy looking at some of the photos I snapped at the Bechtel Ranch during shipping season 2015.”


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