Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Farmers Joe & Jay are getting excited to get into the field to start Spring work! For a farmer waiting to get into the field is probably a lot like a  football  fan eagerly awaiting the beginning of  football season. All the pre-game preparations, the anticipation for a great season, and hoping for a victory when the season has ended and the dust has settled.

So the pre-game activities on the farm have begun and we are putting the final touches of getting the equipment ready to head to down to the early fields on our Tammany farm, which is 37 miles away from our main shop and equates to about an hour drive at 60 mph, but flagging equipment is usually more like a  2 1/2 hour drive as the average speed is 15-20 mph as tractors aren't built for speed, so it is slow going.

Moving equipment requires planning and before we can head to the Tammany Farm, a flat tire is discovered and needs to be fixed.

Cody our hired man fixing a flat tire

Getting ready to roll 
With the beacon/flasher lights are secured on top of Joe's pick-up along with the oversize load sign, the farmers are off!

A slow trip as tractors aren't built for speed
Once the farmers get to the field,  the next thing that is done is to check the fall seeded winter wheat roots for signs of disease.  Depending on what is found will determine what type of treatment is sprayed on the plants.

Jay checking the wheat

Inspecting the plant roots to assess for root disease
The weather is being somewhat uncooperative and we still need to spray out the weeds that have sprouted in the fields that will now be planted to spring wheat.  Currently it is 39 degrees and a forecast of rain- so sort of a wait and see game plan as the weatherman is a fierce opponent. So stay tuned for more game plans.

As always, if you have questions, please email me at idahofarmwife@gmail.com. All my best, Gayle

Monday, March 28, 2011

Farming - Through The Eyes of the Consumer

Farming looks idyllic and seems easy, but there is real precision, logic
and science behind everything we do 
Would you ask your plumber tax questions?  And believe his answers to be true because he observed how accountants went about their day and then considered himself to be knowledgeable on the subject?   No?  It’s the same concept that many of us in the Ag industry feel about the misrepresentation portrayed in the food movies and biased media.  Half truths, things taken out of context that are put out there as the real answers, but they are not.

What does taking a walk with a 5 year old and you, the American consumer, have in common? It’s about asking questions and getting the real answers. True facts to your questions, so let me explain….

The 5 yoa grand-angel. A day out in the field when harvesting wheat

Viewing an ordinary walk on our rural gravel road through the eyes of an energetic and curious 5 year old made me think about you, the average American consumer and how you view those of us who farm. Let me back up, yesterday Farmer Joe and I took our 5 year old grand-angel out for a walk (her idea) and as the pink coated, yellow booted short little blond was skipping down the road, throwing rocks in the ditches filled with water, and asking questions – it was viewing the same ordinary path that we walk a lot, but so differently viewed through the eyes of someone who was asking questions and wanting answers. So as the farmer and I answered questions about why water was running from the fields into the ditches and other curious, sometimes funny questions…. It made me think about the shopper, the ones who rely on us to get food on your table, who want to know about the hows and whys of the things farmers do.

Early Spring on the Palouse, the winter wheat fields
are starting to turn green
A close up of the wheat, note the wheat straw from
last year's harvest helps protect the crops

So my newest endeavor is to have you, the consumer, get the real answers to your questions from real farmers in all areas of Ag. I have been compiling the many blogs along with the industry councils and other good knowledgeable websites to do just that - give you a one stop shop and invite you into our daily farming lives. It is still a work in progress, but it is a beginning. So where do you find this site? The site is called, Farmer Inc., The Real Story, and the link is simply farminc.net. So we invite you to read about us and if you have questions, ask us, we know what we are talking about.

P.S. Yes, I will keep this blog site up, as it is about our wheat and garbanzo farm. Tomorrow I will be blogging about starting spring work and Farmer Joe has taken his camera along with him to begin documenting what he is doing. Later on in the week, I will be touring the Washington State University Wheat Research Lab to show you how universities help the farmers with developing better wheat varieties.  Then hopefully I will get to document wheat at the Port being loaded onto the barges that go to the foreign markets! Am I excited to share this with you? You bet! So stayed tuned, come back often and as always, if you have questions, email me at idahofarmwife@gmail.com. All my best, Gayle.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Does a Farming Family Celebrate National Ag Day?

Today is Nat'l Ag Day.  So how does an all American Farm family celebrate?  We will gather to share a hearty meal using only foods grown on American farms and thanking the other farmers who grow what we don't grow. 
Look for the little Red, White & Blue
stickers on the produce
We are wheat and garbanzo farmers, so we have many other farmers to thank who produce the fruits and vegetables, the beef (& all animal ag), the dairy & poultry and yes, the cotton we wear.  It is a group effort that all of us in the Ag industry do and who are all committed to providing the best, most economical and safest food available anywhere. 

So come on take a peek at a normal family gathering on the Anderson Farm.

The table's all set and ready

Farmer Joe with grand angel, Natalie
We were celebrating Joe's birthday on Nat'l Ag Day

Kaitlyn our daughter getting some snug time in
with the newest  farmer-ette niece, Maggie

The girls hanging out sharing a laugh. L to R
Daughter Jen, Natalie, Kaitlyn and GG

No matter whose house I go to, it seems we all end up congregating in the kitchen.  For me, the kitchen is the heart of the house and my favorite place to be -other than in front of the fireplace on a cold day. 

GG and Brinley sharing some quiet time after dinner

This is what Daddies do after dinner

But everyone woke up for dessert! 

Enjoying good food and happy times with family are the stuff memories for this farm-wife are made of.   Happy National Ag Day from a very blessed and lucky farm-wife.  As always, thanks for stopping by and feel free to email me at idahofarmwife@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Farm is Coming to Town

"Monsanto has announced a new Mobile Experience! The story of America’s farmers is making its way to your backyard. The America’s Farmers Mobile Experience is a 53-foot tractor trailer that folds out into 1,000 square feet of exhibit space. Step into this Mobile Experience and get a first-hand look at not only the demands global agriculture faces, but also how farmers truly are the solution. And learn it all in a mere 24 minutes." As quoted by http://bloggingfoodforthought.blogspot.com/.


The farmer (Joe) and I got to tour this amazing mobile farm education center while in Florida at the farm conference.  I signed up to have it come to our area, so if/when it does arrive, you can be sure I'll be letting everyone know.   This is by far is the best educational tool outside of inviting people to the farm that I have seen.  The farm family that talks in this youtube clip mirrors what we, in the Ag industry, feel everyday.  There is a song on the radio that I heard with lyrics that say "this is the best day of my life", well being on the farm and doing what we do, everyday is the best day of our life.  As my blog sub-title notes, "Farming isn't just a job, it's a way of life".   Even today knowing the stock market will be crazy due to all the unrest in the Arab countries and now with the awful disaster in Japan, we still are thankful we are farmers and know that the crops we produce will help feed our nation as well as other nations too.

As always, glad you stopped by, email me at idahofarmwife@gmail.com if you have questions, comments.

As for my other blog project that I mentioned earlier, I am in the process of combining blogs and farm agencies from all over the USA to help connect the consumer with the producer.  This is still a work in progress and I have gotten quite a lot accomplished, but there is still more seat time in front of my computer!  So stay tuned for more on that too.  Best Regards, Gayle

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Farmer, Inc. The Real Story

Wheat Harvest on the Anderson Farm
What will wake me up at 4:10am? An idea so simple I’m wondering why no other agriculture advocacy person or group is doing this. Well, it will take a fair amount of organization and work, but I’m your gal.

At the farm conference that the farmer (Joe) and I just got back from,  all of the sessions I attended were geared towards agriculture advocacy, telling our story and the need to create trust with the consumer. Some farmers like us have blogs, Facebook, Twitter accounts to help, but we are scattered all over the country. One of the speakers said something that has been bouncing around my brain and what Troy Hadrick (http://www.advocatesforag.com/) said was, if you have a question about agriculture, ask the farmer, don’t “Google” it or ask Orprah, but ASK THE FARMER. Then I attended another session that was using their survey findings and it showed that many consumers do look to the Internet as a source when questions arise about food safety. Makes sense as we google everything else, so why not have a central site to direct people to the right source, the real people who grow the food.  So why isn’t there a central website to put the American consumer in touch with the farmer? I did a quick search and nothing…. So in honor of Agriculture Day on March 15, I will begin the task of doing just that, setting up a blog site that will put the everyday consumer in touch with the real people who produce their food. It will be their tool to find a farmer to ask questions.

My favorite yard sale find, it is proudly displayed in my kitchen

As always, hope you enjoy the blog and feel free to email me at idahofarmwife@gmail.com if you have questions or comments.  Best Regards, Gayle

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tomato and Strawberry Tour in Florida

Tomato Field Tour

The almost endless rows of newly planted tomato
plants. This farm does Roma's and Beefsteak tomatoes
After my tour of the tomato fields in Florida, it reinforced my decision to only purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from the U.S. as I saw firsthand the safety and care put into growing this crop.
The field boss, Marco on the right talking to one of the
farmers on the bus tour

Imagine 2 tour buses full of farmers descending on the McClure Tomato Farm all interested in row crops as this was a “tomato field 101 lesson” to us.

The view from the back where the 6 workers
 would sit and plant tomatoes.
The field boss, Marco, explained the process, first seedling plants arrive from a nursery and are hand-planted by 6 workers as pictured above. Another 3 or 4 men follow on foot behind the tractor to ensure the plants get fully planted or plant another seeding if by chance the worker misses getting a plant within the target area. They plant the tomato plants in a continuous stage (staggered growing) and the first planting begins towards the end of January. Rather a foreign thought for most of us as we were all coming from the lands of snow and cold.

This tractor is used to spray for weeds between the rows
of tomatoes and notice the  boxed in covers that
shield the plants from the spray being used to keep weeds down
Another view of the endless rows of plants

Close up of the tomato plant in the plastic. Plastic helps keep weeds
away from the plant, plus it keep the plant healthier by not
having the dirt splash up on the plant that can cause blight
The plants are flood irrigated and grass is planted around the edges of the field as a ground cover so the sandy soil doesn’t blow and damage the delicate plants. Once the plants get big enough, they will be secured to the stakes. The crew can plant 35 rows of plants in one day. Plants are ready to be harvested in 90 days and are picked once a week by hand. Everything is documented to the hilt from the nursery stage to what is used on the plant, temperatures, treatments, etc. In this climate, the farmer gets 2 crops of tomatoes per season. After the season is over, the plastic and stakes are removed, then the ground is tilled and sorghum is planted. Once the sorghum gets to a certain stage, it will be cut and worked into the ground for organic matter for the next planting season of tomatoes. Cost of production to raise tomatoes is $10-$12,000 per acre and for that reason, many growers moved their production to Mexico as the labor is cheaper and there are not the same restrictions on what kinds of treatments can be used on the tomato. This is why I choose to only buy produce from within the USA as our farmers can only use highly regulated treatment/products that are extensively tested for safety, plus farmers using these products must complete training to ensure proper application.

The production manager at the processing plant
Next we drove about 20 min to the processing plant and were greeted by the plant manager. He explained that due to the recent frost, they had lost their entire crop so the processing plant was empty until the next crop was ready to be harvested. The manager pointed out the bins that the tomatoes are brought in and explained that they all get a chlorine solution bath as another measure of safety to ensure there is no e-coli contamination. Next the tomatoes are hand sorted as shown here:

One of the many stools a worker sits on and sorts tomatoes

After the tomato has gone through the sorting process,
they get boxed for delivery

Just to give you an idea of how big this processing plant was.
It was so clean, you could have eaten off of the floor!
As the tomatoes make their way through the processing plant they are photographed 6 times among their journey and sorted by grade and color. Also in the process a number sticker gets placed on the tomatoes that can be traced to the exact row in which the tomatoes were grown. The record keeping is onerous at best and everything is documented. The Food and Drug Administration regularly pops in for inspection and the manager noted they are pure business and intense. I got the impression that these FDA inspections are about as pleasant as a root canal.

Strawberry Field Tour:

Next we boarded the bus for a tour of the strawberry fields. We were met by the matriarch of the Parke Strawberry farm.

Mrs. Parke, even her handbag had a strawberry pattern and
she drove a red car.

Unfortunately, we were not let out into the sorting area nor were we allowed in the processing plant, which was a little disappointing. However, we did get to see their hydroponic strawberry farm. Two sons now run the farms, one does the conventionally grown strawberry and the other does organic hydroponic. This farm has 250 acres of conventionally grown strawberries and ½ acre of hydroponic grown strawberries. It was explained that the hydroponic field can grown 57,000 plants on a ½ acre compared to the 9,000 plants done conventionally on the same amount of ground.

A view of the hydroponic plants in their heavy gauge
styrofoam containers

This was Mark, the son that runs this operation

A close up of the plants and containers

Next we were treated to huge strawberry shortcakes and the line was like being in a theme park, there had to be at least 100 people ahead of us all waiting for this tasty all American treat.

All I can say was, yummmm

To sum it up, tomato and strawberries are an extremely labor intensive crops and it gave me a whole new appreciation for fruit and vegetable farmers. So there you have it, now when you go to the grocery store and see the little stickers on the tomato plants or on a container of strawberries, that are grown in the USA, you will know you have the best and safest fruit or vegetable for you and your family.  I know I feel better. So buy American my friend. 

As always, glad you stopped by and hope you enjoyed the tour via this website.  Email me at idahofarmwife@gmail.com if you have any questions.  Best Regards, Gayle

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Food, Farmers, Trust and the Consumer

A growing force of farm-wives stepping into the spotlight
to tell our story and promote trust with the consumer
 Growing consumer trust in food and farming, was the main focus on the session that I attended on Friday.  The workshop was called Common Ground that was started up within the mid-west and it is governed by farm-wives just like me.  They are doing many of the exact same things that I am doing, using social media and talking to people about food and farming.  It was reassuring to know that I am on the right track.

The panel of Common Ground farm-wives leading the session
Earlier that morning we had the opportunity to listen to Secretary of Ag, Tom Vilsack and House Ag Committee Chairman, Frank Lucas.  It was encouraging to hear what they had to say and know they are looking out for the agriculture industry.  Their goals are clear, they want to increase exports with some specific countries and they want to help ease the unnecessary burdensome regulations farmers are trying to be saddled with.  To give you an example, the EPA is proposing a new rule to regulate dust that a farmer creates when we are out in the field.   Dust! And I am not kidding on this.  When a tractor is in the field putting in seed for a crop, yes dust is caused, but nature also causes dust when it is windy.  It was learned that the EPA director had never been to a farm before, yet her agency was setting rules and regulations that we must try to comply with.  Is that crazy or what?  So it is heartening to know our leaders understand our plight and are willing to help us, which helps the American consumer.

Today, which is Saturday, I am off to tour a tomato and strawberry processing farm.  As we don’t grow vegetables on our farm, it will be interesting to see what farmers in sunny Florida do. 
Talk to you soon, and hope you are enjoying the blog.  As always, email me at idahofarmwife@gmail.com if you have any questions, concerns or to just say hi. 
Best Regards, Gayle

Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 2 of the Florida Commodity Classic

The best part of the conference are the people you meet, whether reconnecting with old friends or making new friends. We are all like mind farmers here at the conference and you get the chance to meet amazing people. On Thursday my day started off by attending one of the best farm advocate sessions featuring Troy and Stacy Hadrick, fifth generation cattle ranchers in South Dakota. You must visit their website at www.advocatesforag.com . Their message was simple and clear, be yourself and tell your farming story as people out there are interested in what we do.  I could go on and on about them, but let say they are warm, funny and down to earth farmers, despite their super-star status within the Ag community.

The other great event of my day was getting interviewed by Pam Fretwell, Director of Industry Relations with Farm Journal. Pam had interviewed me by phone several months ago for her talk radio show and when learning that I was coming to the conference, we agreed to meet in person. We hit it off and seemed like old pals rather than new acquaintances. Pam also got to interview the Hadricks, as pictured below.

The Hadricks being interviewed by Pam Fretwell
One of my favorite booths is the Monsanto booth as they have the best photos of real life people in the rural farming sector.  Here are some of my favorites.

So typical of a rural road and a school bus

Rural mainstreet anywhere in USA

As with farming and life, Moms are the
glue that holds everything together
Well off to another round of sessions, meetings and reuniting with more great folks. I'll post more later on.  As alwys, thanks for stoping by and reading the blog.  All my best, Gayle

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Non vegetarian potatoes and the Farm Conference

A banner at the conference
Non-vegetarian potatoes? What does this have to do with the Tampa Commodity Classic Farm Conference? Well nothing, other than the need for farmers to get out and educate people about  what we do.  But this is the story that the Farmer (Joe) and I learned of from our farmer friend Eric who met us at the hotel shortly after we checked in.

So let me tell you about my day on Wednesday. First let me explain about the farm conferences. Besides the lure of sun and warmth (after leaving amidst a snow storm that had dumped 12” of snow before we left) this is like “continuing education” for us, plus farmers like the eye candy with all the biggest and best farm equipment on display. If it’s one thing I have found out about being a farm-wife, farmers love equipment.

The Farmer by one of his favorite pieces of equipment

This conference caters to the many kinds of farmers, as the region in where your farm is located dictates what kinds of crops are best suited to grow on your farm. So along with us, the farmers who grow the grains, legumes, corn, soybeans, and sorghum are here.

As the farmers were descending upon the unsuspecting Floridians, our friend Eric had a great story to tell about his taxi driver. The driver after learning Eric was a real farmer, asked if it was true about farmers genetically trying to infuse chicken genes into potatoes. Yikes, this got me to thinking and two troubling thoughts came to mind, first that crazy mis-information can be spread so easily and secondly that the taxi driver believed this to be true. Eric reassured the driver that no, this was not something that was being done, and went onto explain the GMOs (genetically modified organisms) were not evil and bad as many would like you to believe. The intent of genetically engineered plants is to help the plant defend itself from insects that harm the plant, sort of like inoculating your child against diseases. Nature has been modifying plants for thousands of years and with today’s technology scientists are helping to boost the plant's ability to ward off harmful insects.  Thus, the need for insecticides can be reduced or perhaps eliminated, so it is a win for all. I would like to think that educating the consumer about GMOs will help ease their concerns and to not believe all the hype that is being disseminated. I wanted to share an interesting article about organic farmers and their reluctance on using genetically engineered plants. Here is an excerpt from that article, “Pamela Ronald, a plant biologist at the University of California, Davis, says those consumers are losing track of what's most important. Ronald has a foot on each side of the biotech wars — she works with genetically engineered plants in the laboratory, and she's married to a longtime organic farmer. She and her husband together wrote the book Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food. What really is important is, can we reduce the use of insecticides? Can we foster soil fertility? Can we feed the poor and malnourished?" she says. Those should be the goals of organic farming, she says, and they should be the goals of non-organic farming, too. According to Ronald, they're much more significant than avoiding laboratory-spliced genes.” So there you have it, consumers, organic and non-organic farmers can and should be comfortable about the use of genetically engineered plants whether in your food or the food that an animal consumes, and if you want to read the article for yourself, here is the link: http://www.npr.org/2011/03/01/134162035/a-growing-debate-how-to-define-organic-food?ft=1&f=1053 . Remember we, who grow the food, also eat what you eat and as a mom and wife, I do not have concerns about GMO modified crops - it’s just in a new packaging, sort of the “new and improved” version. Feel better? I hope so, but then again, the chicken and potato cross got me to thinking…. Now if you could infuse flour, butter, maybe incorporate some vegetables genes…. Hmmm a natural chicken pot pie – what do you think???

Yup, that's me by a cool display
As always, hope you enjoyed the blog and it you have any questions, please email me at idahofarmwife@gmail.com and I will do my best to answer you. Best Regards, Gayle