Editor's Notebook and Production Journal

May 15, 2009 09:38 AM

Our Next Crop At Corn College

Regardless of what challenges Mother Nature throws our way, all of us who grow things are  always chasing the best crop possible. That was apparent as soggy fields had thousands of tractors and planters parked when this magazine headed to the printer.

This year's corn crop looks like it will get off to a rocky start in much of the country, which makes it even more important to guard absolutely every bushel. Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie is keeping that top of mind as he puts the finishing touches on the curriculum for the 2009 Farm Journal Corn College.

One thing is for sure: The two days of hands-on training will be packed with agronomic information you can take right back to your
operation—and turn it into dollars with your next corn crop. We're especially excited to give attendees multiple opportunities to physically get out into our Corn College plots. Ken Ferrie and a team of agronomic coaches will be on hand to provide training you literally can't find anywhere else in agriculture.

We're also revved up about the ride-and-drive opportunities and the new technology sessions that will be offered. You can find updated agenda and event information at www.FarmJournal.com.

While you're online, check out the opportunity to win the first-ever Young Farmers Corn College Scholarship, sponsored by DeKalb. To enter, go to www.agweb.com/corncollege.

Ken and I hope to see you this summer—as we chase bigger, better and more profitable corn crops.


A Nice Surprise



Keeping a Smile on Our Face Just Got Easier

It's hard to end a conversation with cartoonist Leigh Rubin without a smile on your face. It's next to impossible to read his cartoons on AgWeb.com without laughing out loud. (If you haven't seen his cartoons, check out his blog; he posts a new cartoon every day!)

All of us at Farm Journal are delighted that it just got easier to keep smiling. With this issue, Rubin officially becomes our Farm Journal Humorist. What does that mean? For starters, you'll be seeing more opportunities to stay up to date with his daily cartoons. You'll also see him making periodic personal appearances at our Farm Journal Media events.

The first chance to catch him in person will be at the 2009 Farm Journal Corn College in July. Rubin promises to keep everyone laughing with humor straight from the corn field but not to be too corny. He'll also have several of his popular books on hand for anyone looking for a souvenir.

For those who are curious to see what the real Rubin looks like—instead of the caricature on his blog—see his photo on www.FarmJournal.com.   


 Helping Agriculture Define Itself

Stories in the urban press that contain misleading or flat-out wrong information about U.S. agriculture do more than just raise your blood pressure. They foster and imbed the wrong perception of U.S. agriculture. But there's a new effort under way that is seeking to turn this tide.

The Hand That Feeds U.S., spawned in part by the farmpolicyfacts.org Web site launched during the 2008 farm bill debate, will roll out this month. Its primary target: urban media outlets.

Former House Ag Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-Texas), a key driver of the effort, says it's funded by the USA Rice Federation, the Minnesota and Texas corn growers associations and others. "We have nothing to hide about who is behind this effort,” he notes, adding other commodity organizations are interested.

Straight talk. "We're not going to cook the information, just give people the facts,” Combest says. "We're trying to combat those half-truths or no truths that get out there.” It's also an effort "to help U.S. agriculture define ourselves—otherwise, someone else is defining us.”

The plan is to engage the media with "real farmers” when they have questions about agriculture. While many farms are structured as corporations for business purposes, Combest notes, there is a misperception of the "corporate” farm.

"Oftentimes. it's a husband, wife and their children working 12, 14 or 16 hours a day,” he explains.

Combest says the effort is separate from the farmpolicyfacts.org effort "but is a continuation of that concept and idea.” The farm policy effort found success in terms of Web traffic and some of the information on the site made its way into floor speeches by lawmakers during the 2008 farm bill debate.

Educational benefits. While the initial phases of The Hand That Feeds U.S. will be on key mainstream media, Combest says he would love to see the effort expand into the education arena, too.

Combest hopes that individual farmers' involvement could bring some of that local-level educational effort to the table. He also sees the Web site and accompanying information as a source for producers to use if and when they are confronted with incorrect information about their industry.

Food safety is another area where he sees a role for the information effort. When there are food contamination issues, Combest says, "it's not most times the farmer that caused the problem. In fact, his part in the process is very small.” For example, the value of wheat in a box of Wheaties is only 20¢ even if wheat prices are at $12 per bushel.

Noting that U.S. agriculture provides a safe, reliable and still relatively inexpensive supply of food and fiber, Combest says people don't realize the impact agriculture has. "The auto industry has 4.5 million workers and it is labeled too big to fail,” he says, referencing a phrase being used in economic stimulus and rescue efforts to deal with the U.S. recession.
"Agriculture employs 21 million people—all jobs that are created directly from agriculture,” he adds. "Now that's too big to fail.”

Fact check. When attacks on agriculture occur, Combest says, a person or operation is affected. "We want to talk about those impacts,” he explains.

Combest isn't alone in the initiative but has taken a great interest in it. "For the past 37 years, I have been an advocate for agriculture,” he says. "I don't know how many times I've heard farmers react to something in the media and say ‘that's just not true.'”

This effort can help change that.

In the magazine world, being engaged doesn't have anything to do with wedding plans. In fact, "most engaged" is high praise for being connected to readers. This spring, Farm Journal was one of 14 publications named as min's Most Engaged Media Brands. Considering that we didn't apply for the award and that fellow winners were the likes of Business Week, ESPN, Forbes, Better Homes and Gardens and Martha Stewart Living, we were honored. The award recognizes our multimedia commitment to deliver the information you want, when you want it and how you want it—whether that is in a magazine that reaches your mailbox, online, on television or at events such as the Farm Journal Corn College.

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