July 31, 2013

There’s nothing as exciting as a close play at the plate in the last inning, as these photos from the 2013 Iowa State Baseball tournament clearly show. And there’s nothing that brings communities together like high school sports.

As the sole sponsor of the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Girls High School Athletic Union, Iowa Farm Bureau supports Iowa’s youth in all of our communities. It’s just one more way that Farm Bureau helps make Iowa a great place to live, work and play.

Photos by Gary Fandel

July 25, 2013

Nothing refreshes and energizes like chocolate milk. Iowa farmers at the Justin Rowe farm near Dallas center handed out 10,000 cartons to RAGBRAI riders in just a few hours.

Photos by Gary Fandel.

Helping animals beat the heat

July 19, 2013

fairs2Man, it’s hot out there. It’s the kind of hot that makes you want to find the nearest lemonade stand, jump in a swimming pool or at least hide out in the nearest air conditioned building.

While most of us are trying to escape the summer heat, Iowa livestock raisers are right there in it, making sure their animals remain comfortable and healthy. It doesn’t matter if the cattle, pigs, sheep or even ducks are out on a pasture, in a feedlot or being primped and shown at one of the county fairs going on this month around Iowa; owners are putting the animal’s needs first.

Livestock raisers are first making sure animals have enough water to drink. They are also finding some shade or a breeze and can provide a little relief from the heat. And, if the weather turns really hot, farmers often give their animals a quick shower to break the heat.

Caring for livestock in the heat, or the cold, or everything in-between is just something that farmers learn at an early age. Then it’s a commitment that carries through season after season.

Written by Dirck Steimel and photos by Gary Fandel. Dirck is editor of the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman and Gary is writer/photographer with the Spokesman.

Who do you trust in the driver’s seat?

July 11, 2013

It’s a rite of passage to get your driver’s license and your first car. I have mixed feelings of pride and fear, watching my 16-year-old daughter back out of the driveway on her own for the first time. She’s leaving for marching band practice, going to a practice field she’s been to a hundred times. Yet here I am, smiling through clenched teeth as I wave at the window. I’m not sure whether to pray for her, or the people she’ll meet on the street, so I do a little of both and cross my fingers for good measure.

As parents, we are comforted by the simple fact that today’s cars are a technological marvel compared to many of the cars that we first backed out of the driveway; they have numerous safety measures and websites dedicated to their crash-test performance ratings. What an improvement!
Remember your first car? Mine was a used, 1976 Chevy Chevette, which was ranked as one of the ’50 Worst Cars Ever Made’ (see photo here: (http://tinyurl.com/k9heuy5 ). My old Chevette didn’t have airbags. It didn’t have a back-up camera or blind-spot warning lights or even a seatbelt, as I recall. But, my parents liked the price tag, so I drove that thing thousands of miles, all through college and my struggling years as a radio and television reporter.

Technology improvements are quite welcome when it comes to the car industry, but it’s funny how some folks don’t look as favorably towards technological improvements in farming. Improvements in equipment, seed, livestock housing and medicine helped put Iowa on the map for progressive hog farming, corn farming and so much more.

Thanks to advances in equipment, today’s crops can be fertilized with manure that is injected below the surface, which reduces runoff and odor. Or, fertilizer can be ‘dripped’ on with the help of sophisticated technology that knows exactly when and where the plants need it, so less is used; that’s good for water quality and soil sustainability.

So, it seems like the more that farmers can connect the “why’s” of innovation, the more consumers can feel comfortable with change. Just like watching our teenagers back out of the driveway on their own, of course it’s not something that will feel comfortable after a single conversation. Building trust, sharing knowledge, doesn’t happen overnight. My daughter spent a year preparing for her driving debut, yet many farmers I know spend decades attaining the kind of knowledge and experience that helps them raise animals and grow crops.

It is also worth noting that today’s farmers are a lot easier to get into conversation with than today’s teenagers, so why not give your farming information-quest a “test drive” with a real farmer? After all, they’ve been in the driver’s seat of international farming innovation for a long time.

Written by Laurie Johns. Laurie is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Envious of far-away corn

July 9, 2013

Farmers on the Iowa Farm Bureau Black Sea study tour found themselves in a severe state of envy recently as they toured thriving corn fields in Ukraine. Who could blame them?

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation tour to the Black Sea region is designed to help Iowans learn about this part of the world, which is expected to be a big competitor for Iowa crop exports in the coming years. But even half-way around the world it’s hard to not think about home.

When the participants talked with people back in Iowa, or checked the radar on their smartphones, they heard about more heavy rains in parts of Iowa and another round of flooding. That was not going to help the corn in the Hawkeye State, the U.S. leader in corn production. Bur this year much of the state’s corn is short, stunted and badly in need of a good dose of heat and sunshine.

That’s what made it so hard to visit a farm in Krasopilka, Ukraine. It took only a glimpse to see that the corn there was 8-foot tall, green and ready to start the all-important pollination process. In short, it looked perfect, just like Iowa corn is supposed to look this time of year.

“It makes me sick to look at,” joked Brad Moeckly, a farmer from Elkhart. The perfect-looking corn fields were a long, long stretch ahead of the ones in Iowa, he said.

Blake Anderson, a Nodaway farmer and soon to be ag teacher, noted how the fertile landscape at the Ukraine farm looked a lot like parts of Iowa. But, he added, “The corn does look a lot better here.”

Erwin Johnson of Charles City said he would gladly trade a field of his struggling corn for one of those in Ukraine. He doubted that he’d get any takers.

After last year’s drought and a little too much rain this year, you couldn’t blame the Iowa farmers for being just a touch envious when they looked at the nearly-perfect corn fields in this part of Ukraine. But then, as several said, that’s the way agriculture is. You just never know what the weather will bring. Who knows, maybe next year it will be Ukraine’s turn to fight difficult growing conditions. That’s just part of farming and of putting in the hard work and taking the risks to feed people around the world.

It’s just what farmers do.

Written by Dirck Steimel. Dirck is the editor of the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman.

Using some Iowa muscle to get out of sticky situation in Ukraine

July 3, 2013

No matter where you are in the world, the can do attitude of Iowa farmers always shows through. That was the case recently on the Iowa Farm Bureau Black Sea study tour, when the visitors from half-way around the world lent a hand, and some strong backs, to get tour’s bus out of sticky situation.

After battling mud all spring back home, the Black Sea study tour participants found themselves stuck in Ukrainian mud when their tour bus turned off a bumpy highway. The bus started up a dirt-covered road which led to home of Dutch-born farmer Case Huizinga, who is a leader in the wave of foreign investment helping to make Ukraine an up and coming competitor for U.S. crop exports.

A brief, pop-up thunderstorm had made the farm road’s surface slick and greasy and, as it turned out, virtually impassable. Before long the bus was stuck badly in the mud and the group’s hard-working driver Constantine just couldn’t get it out. He tried rocking the bus back and forth to dislodge the tires from the mud, but it did no good. He pushed weeds under tires to get some traction, but they kept skidding. He looked for drier, more solid spots in the road, but there were none.

So the Iowans, without being asked, did just what they always when a vehicle gets stuck on their farm or a neighbor’s. They got out and pushed. First, they pushed the big bus forward to try to crest a small hill. Then it was backwards to get the bus back to the center of the road after it slide to the side. Then it was forward again.

Boots got muddy and backs felt the pain as they pushed and pushed, with Constantine trying to steer the big bus to surer footing. The group made gradual progress, but finally the road won the battle. In the end, Black Sea study tour crew had to wait to be rescued by the driver of one of Huizinga’s big John Deere tractors, which towed the Farm Bureau bus to the farm.

All in all, the adventure with the stuck bus was a lot like today’s farming. No matter how technical and sophisticated agriculture becomes, there are still a ton of tasks that still require old-fashioned muscle, know-how passed down from generation to generation, hard work and a willingness to pitch in. It’s just something farmers do as they work to offer consumers a vast food choice and feed a growing world population. And if they didn’t, we’d all be stuck.

Written by Dirck Steimel. Dirck is the editor of the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman.

Happy 4th of July!

July 3, 2013

Mark and Holly Grubb first painted a flag on their corn crib in 2003. “it was a way we could show our patriotism, especially after 9/11” said Mark. The Grubbs, who farm north of Ellsworth, re-painted the flag last week. “The fourth of July was a good incentive,” said Mark. The flag is 24 feet wide and about 14 feet high.

By Gary Fandel. Gary is photographer and writer for Iowa Farm Bureau.

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