Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Anderson Farm

Whew! What a busy month it has been.  December seems to fly by just like the month of August when we are in harvest.  Life on the farm has slowed to a snail's pace, but in our personal lives, this is the time we get to reconnect with family and friends as most of the year is devoted to raising crops.  I love Christmas and start preparing for the big day right after Thanksgiving. The pace is hectic, just like harvest, but the focus is purely social, such as an annual Christmas party hosted at our house, gathering the women of our family  to bake cookies, plus everything else associated with the holiday season. 

After Christmas I plan on blogging about where the crops go after they are harvested. You will get a behind the scenes look at how hummus is made, where the wheat goes after it is taken to the grain terminals and how the wheat labs at the University of Idaho and Washington State University help the farmers to  raise better crops.   So stay tuned!

Late last night,  I received a call from Kaitlyn, our youngest daughter, telling us that  her new boyfriend (whom we have not met yet) can't get home for Christmas, so she is bringing him with her.... well a quick dash to town to grab a gift card!

With that, we wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas,

Joe and Gayle Anderson


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Farmers are a Rare Commodity

With the arrival of winter, life on the farm slows way down.  This is the time when we are working in the shop and repairing equipment.  It is also the time that farmers, like us, attend meetings, workshops or conferences to learn about the newest products, procedures or attend seminars that focus on anything from succession planning to giving input on the upcoming farm bill or just plain networking with like minded individuals. 

The Oregon/Idaho Grains Conference hosted in beautiful Portland, Oregon was attended by many of the best and brightest farmers who are working to continue to help the Ag industry.  At this conference, Joe officially became the Vice President of the Idaho Grain Producers Association (IGPA), an obligation that he wholeheartedly embraces and devotes a great deal of his personal time to.

One of the dedicated farmers who was recognized and honored for his hard work in the wheat industry was a man named Mark Darrington. After receiving the award, Mark told the story that out of his 4 sons, only one as willing to follow in his dad's footsteps and become a farmer. Farming is a year to year risk and as Mark explained, all of our resources go into putting the crop in the ground and hope for a good harvest. Not many people can or want to take financial risks of that nature. Farmers are a strong breed of men and women who share a love of the land and the desire to put food on every one's table, and I feel very privileged to be a part of this group. 

At this conference, I had an interesting experience which again reinforced my views that farmers are thought to be somewhat of a novelty as the bulk of the population rarely has any interaction with those of us involved in agriculture. Case in point: while making a purchase in a department store, a sweet young clerk dutifully asked what brought me to her city (which I am sure she asks that question hundreds of times), so I explained we were here for a farm conference. Once she realized I was an actual farmer, she became quite animated and wanted to know what we grew on our farm, plus she wanted to share her story about her friend who traded her corporate life for one that entailed a foray into some kind of organic farm related venture. The clerk truly was excited to meet a real authentic farmwife and the thought hit me that we are such a minority  we are a novelty! This has happened to me many times and each time it does, I come away feeling amazed and blessed that I am part of this industry  but also recognize that we, as farmers, must tell our story again and again.  What other industry can make the claim that “Today's farmer provides food and fiber for about 140 people—up from just 19 people in 1940” per the Farm Policy Facts website. 

In case you were wondering why I don't have pictures of this event... I have to confess I left my camera at home in my haste trying to get to the airport via the snowstorm that was going on at the time. =) So I'll post pictures of winter scenes from our farm like this....

Winter in our area of the country (Northern Idaho) is beautiful and here is a what we enjoy everyday.
Windmill outside our kitchen window as the sun is setting

A view from the back of our house overlooking
some of our fields
Also at the conference, I met a young woman named Sarah who was attending her first farm conference with her farmer-boyfriend. Sarah was sharing that she didn’t know much about farm life but found it interesting and questioned me and Brenda, another farmwife about our lives and asked if she would ever learn everything there was to know about farming. We both told her farm life is great, but what people don't understand is that it isn't just a job, it's a lifestyle, so be sure you are ready for that adventure.  We told her about our lives and admitted that we were still learning about farming too, even after 25+ years on the farm.  So Sarah if you are reading this, I know you will make a great farm wife, you have the passion.

During the banquet, a striking young woman holding a friend’s baby came up to me to tell me she was a fan of this blog. Now that really made my day and I was quite humbled to have someone else in the Ag field seek me out. I never did get her name, but if you are reading this, thank you for the ultimate compliment. =)

As always, I  hope you enjoy the blog, email me if you have comments, thoughts, questions and I promise to respond.  I also just received permission to document and photograph how Bronzestone Hummus  is made, which uses locally grown garbanzo beans.  So stayed tuned for more on that! 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fuel Containment Project Completed

From my earlier blog (July 15, 2010)  I showed a couple of pictures about dismantling an old grain silo to make way for the new fuel containment site.  Well,we are happy to announce that project is done and one more thing to cross off of the "to do list".   The fuel containment is part of the necessary components of a Spill Prevention Countermeasures and Control (SPCC) plan.

Getting the site ready to pour the pad

A break in the weather helped the pouring along.

The big tank is for red-dyed off road diesel.
The two smaller tanks, the top one is for road diesel,
the bottom one is for gasoline

Shown here is the security fencing being installed.

Outside work on the farm has come to an end for the year, the wheat crops are safely in the ground, equipment is cleaned and stored - winter on the farm  is our down time.  Now until March, we will be busy working on inside shop projects, sometimes it is fabricating some kind of small item that will help with making our farm work easier or just regular maintenance on the equipment. 

For the next few months Joe will be traveling to meetings on behalf of the Idaho Grain Producers Association and Jay is recovering from a recent knee surgery.

For me, I thought I would focus and report on some different kinds of things such as:

* how local garbanzos are made into humus at the Bronzestone Humus Company.
* UI & WSU Wheat Labs
* Where does the grain go once it leaves the field

So stayed tuned and watch for these blogs.  =)  As always, thanks for reading and come by often.

P.S.  If you want to see how to make a cool ornament Christmas wreath, check out the At Home on the Farm page.  Also I've updated the Diary of a Crop page that shows the winter.  Keeping watching for more on some yummy new recipes on the Recipe page as well.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Field Maintenance on the Farm

After the winter wheat has been seeded (if you listen closely enough I am sure you can still hear the collective sigh of relief not only from us, but other area farmers as well), we try to get as much field maintenance work done and often have to work around the Fall rains.  Sometimes we don't get very much accomplished due to the wet weather. 

Believe it or not, fields like anything else, require continued maintenance every year.  Each Fall we try to put in drain tile so excessive ground water can be carried out of the field and keep it from getting swampy. By not having these mud holes in the spring when we are trying to seed can speed up the time frame of getting the crop planted sometimes by a week or more. Timing is everything when it comes to getting the crop in the ground. 

Here are pictures and  videos of the actual process for putting in the tile.   On this particular field, it is rented ground and we are incurring the expense of putting in the tile. We own this tiler so this helps bring the cost down by not having to hire a company to do this task.  Some landlords will pay for the upgrade, some will not, so we feel incurring the cost of this project is worthwhile.  By installing tile it will improve the ground and allows for better crop yields and of course, this makes the landlord happy (so come lease renewal time, they are willing to renew the leases).

The roles of tile on the trailer

Jay & Cody unrolling the tile

Tile being laid in the ground

Tile being laid in the field, this is a labor intensive process


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall Work on the Palouse

Fall work has begun in the "Palouse" and here are some videos that I took of the winter wheat being planted on our Genesee farm.  At the time of this blog (Tuesday, 10/12/10) we have now moved down to the Tammany farm, which is about an hour away from our home and we hope to be done seeding in a couple of days. 

Our rotational crops on our farm are winter wheat, spring wheat and then a legume (usually garbanzo beans).  As mentioned in earlier blogs, this is to help soil health, weed control and pest control by rotating crops. Winter wheat is planted now in the fall and will be harvested next August.

In these videos I had just come home from work and saw the tractor and seeding drill working around our house.  We live on the Palouse, which is a rich farming area that encompasses parts of Washington and Idaho.  Our rolling hills mainly grow wheat, pea, lentils and garbanzos.  Anyway, I hurriedly changed clothes and literally ran up the steep hillside to capture the videos and pictures as this was the very last patch to be done on our farm before moving down South to the Tammany farm.  I was standing on the hill behind our house and this is my brother-in-law, Jay in the tractor which is both seeding the wheat as well as fertilizing it at the same time.  We can plant about 200 acres a day if one person is in the tractor and one is on hand to keep the drills filled with seed and fertilizer.

Here is a  video clip of Joe in the tractor pulling a spike tooth harrow implement in the same field .  The purpose of this piece of equipment is to ensure the soil has covered the wheat seed and  to spread out the crop residue from the recent garbanzo harvest.  It is sort of like using a rake to cover the seeds when you plant them in your garden and smooth out the soil, only of course, on a much larger scale. =)

This is what a freshly seeded  field looks like up close.  The  red seeds
are  treated wheat kernels. Note the crop residue from the previous
garbanzo crop.  This is like "composting" and  it helps the ground to
keep moisture in the soil and reduce erosion.
The seed truck and fertilizer truck on hand in the field to fill the drill

A view of the harrow implement

A view of the rolling hills of some of our farm ground 

A view of our house from the top of the hill that I climbed when
I shot the footage of the tractor seeding wheat.
It's a great hill for sledding  =)

The weather forecast is great, sun and no rain for the rest of the week.  This means we will finish seeding the winter wheat this week.  It's a relief to get the seed in the ground as in this part of the country, it can start raining and not stop until the snow flies.  So everyone hurries to get the fall crop planted as "Mother Nature" can be somewhat unpredictable.  Procrastination is not in a farmer's  vocabulary when it comes to getting the crops planted or harvested, as our livelihood depends on timely work to be accomplished.  When the snow flies, then we can relax! =)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Urban Wheat Field - Washington, DC

A view of the Capitol from the Urban Wheat Field site

The Urban Wheat Field hosted by National Association of Wheat Growers in partnership with the Wheat Foods Council in Washington DC was amazing, to say the least.  My blog will have lots of pictures and I will show you what the visitors saw, so it may be long, but  it is worth the read! =)  This event was designed for the urban consumer to see, from start to finish,  the journey of a wheat plant from its young green grass looking stage to the golden wheat head stage.   The stations were set up to educate the consumer about milling the product, exporting it to other countries, a baking station, and a mock-up of a grocery store isle that showed an assortment of products such as cookies, crackers, bread or flour.  The space for this event was on a quarter-acre field. 

On Wednesday, September 22, there was lots of activity going on as the wheat arrived via semi trucks as shown below.  As mentioned in an earlier blog, the wheat was grown at the University of  Maryland.

Golden ripe wheat  arrives and awaits to be unloaded

The wheat was unloaded from the semis by the forklift as shown above

Shown here is the wheat in its green grass looking stage

The combine arrives amid lots of traffic on a semi

We had been told the combine would arrive on location around 3:00a.m. to avoid traffic, but that was not the case and it arrived mid-afternoon amidst a busy street.  It was quite a sight to be seen.

The header for the combine was following on a lowboy trailer

Each step of the way through the wheat field was a sign like this that
explained the process

More information on what happens to the
wheat after it is harvested

Explaining that we also not only feed America
but export crops to feed  the world

The baking station

The baking station's tantalizing  smells automatically drew the crowd to their trailer with samples of  cinnamon rolls, bread and cookies.  Guests also received a small bag of flour as well.

The milling station showed how wheat is made into flour

 The milling station was a fun one as people got to see how wheat seeds were ground up into flour, plus there was a hand grinder there too.

A master chef was on hand to give demos on making
homemade goodies. Sample cupcakes were a hit with everyone

The master chef  gave short demos through out the day on how easy it is to make things from scratch. 

Left to right, Travis, Jerry, Robyn, Scott, me, and Joe

Many volunteers like us from the wheat producing states,were on hand to visit with people, give tours,and answer questions.  It was a great opportunity to give our urban friends a glimpse of what we get to do and see every year.  The temperature during this event was in the mid to high 90's complete with humidity, which us Idahoans are not used to. =)

A representative from Case IH (the brand of  the combine) and Joe visit.
Note the cinnamon roll in the reps hand.

Collin Peterson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee

 We were honored to have Congressmen Collin Peterson be our keynote speaker for the ceremony.  He is a farmer himself and knows the importance that agriculture plays in the American economy.

Ribbon cutting ceremony with Collin Peterson doing the honors

Joe Anderson, Travis Jones  and Scott Brown during the open ceremony
Idaho Grain Producers Association is lucky to have Travis Jones as their Executive Director, not only for his great work in this organization, but for his vast knowledge of the inner workings on Capitol Hill.  Prior to being hired as director, Travis was a legislative aid  to Senator Craig.  Thus he knew how to navigate around Capitol Hill, the proper protocol required, plus Travis still has many friends and contacts on the hill, what an asset to our organization.

Ms. Dana Peterson to the left in the black pants suit during
the opening ceremony

Ms Dana Peterson, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, who has been on the job for less than a year, is also an asset to those of us in agriculture.  Dana and Travis spend countless hours behind the scenes to assure a better future for our industry.

Joe talking to a guest in front of the mock-up grocery store isle

Guests wandering through the exhibit 

A view from the end of the wheat field that shows the milling
station, baking station and grocery store isle

The day before, many of us went to Capitol Hill to visit with our congressmen as shown below.

On our way to Walt Minnick's office

For more pictures of this event from the National Association of Wheat Growers, click this link:

Monday, September 20, 2010

2nd Dinner on the Farm for 2010

Simple hand written welcome to our attendees
These dinners have been as fun for us as I think ( and hope) for our guests.  This was the 2nd and last one for the year and I already have 2 people waiting for next year's dinner.    From the feedback that we get, the guests love this event.  As in last year, we let the guests shape the evening.  Our formula for the event is simple -  we have as much equipment on hand as possible to show them, explain what each piece does and why it is needed, but mostly answer their questions.  This is a relaxed affair designed to gently educate and provide a view into our farming lives.  We feel this approach is working and the guests are free to ask whatever they want and keep it from being a "classroom" situation where we lecture and you listen  kind of function.  So each dinner is like an adventure - you do not know where it will take you, but you know it will be a memorable time.

Our guest list again was amazing, we had Glen, a software engineer and his wife Susan who works as a scheduler for a doctor,  also in attendance was Britt, a teacher who is staying home right now with the little ones, and her husband Eric, an assistant principal for a local high school.  We invited Dr. Dan Schmidt,  Idaho State Senate candidate and his wife, Martha.  Our other farm host couple was "Potlatch" Joe Anderson and his wife, Pam. (No relation to us).   I must say, all the guests from the dinners have been fun and engaging not only with us, but each other. =)

Farm Hosts (left to right) Pam Anderson, Potlatch Joe Anderson
Britt and Eric enjoying a drink before we head out to the field

Potlatch Joe, Pam and Dr. Dan Schmidt
getting acquainted

The group gathering as we head out to the field
Left to right, Joe, Glen, Susan, Dan, Me, Britt,
Eric, Potlatch Joe, Pam and Martha

The menu for this year's event -
Entrees/ Meat Lasagna, Spinach/Artichoke Lasagna  Almond Crusted Chicken and Lentil Chili
Salad/ Garbanzo/zucchini
Bread/ Artisan bread from Panhandle Bakery
Desserts/ Lemon Tart, Walnut Tart, Zucchini Chocolate Cake, Rustic Chocolate Pie, Blackberry Shortbread Squares and Lentil Brownies  ( I couldn't help myself when thumbing through the recipe books for things to make.  I couldn't decide so I made many of my favorite ones)  The recipes for these are on the recipe page of this blog (or will be added shortly!)

Martha, Britt, Eric visiting outside before dinner

Out in our garb field in front of the combine

Me, Martha, Dan, Potlatch Joe and Pam by
the tractor. The guests loved the big equipment

A few of the guys took a peek into the cab of
the combine

Susan and Glen amazed at
the size of some of the equipment

The guests were hungry and we were all
heading into the house for dinner

Our oldest daughter, Jen was again on hand to take pictures of the event and later commented to me that the dinner conversation was quite spirited, of which it was.  Perhaps because of the composition of the guests, we focused on the importance of higher education and it's connection to Ag in our State.  Agriculture needs our universities, both University of Idaho and Washington State University for their wheat breading research & programs, plus farmers use them as a resource to get answers to their questions.  Susan wanted to know if other farms did this kind of event or was it only us?  I replied that as far as I know it, we are the only ones who do this at no charge and as an educational service to the public.  I do know that other places in the southern end of our state and do a dinner, but there is a charge  and I am unsure of what their program is like.  Anyway, Joe and I love doing this and are committed to continuing this event on a yearly basis.  Perhaps more farm couples will hold their own version of the Dinner on the Farm as it is certainly an important and worthwhile effort.

Joe and I realize there is a hunger and thirst from people in the non Ag sector who truly want a connection, however they can find it,  to where their food is produced. 

With that my friends is the conclusion of our 2010 dinner event.  Stay tuned for more on the Urban Ag field in Washington, DC., our fall planting of the wheat and more updates about the farm life. As always, I love comments and questions, so feel free to leave a comment or email me at