The Farm Fresh Blog is Moving!

June 23, 2016

Farm Fresh BlogWe’ve moved the Farm Fresh Blog to a new website –, and we’d like you to join us!

Please visit the new site, bookmark it, and check back regularly for the latest stories about the people who bring you your food, fuel, and fiber and the issues they face. Or, better yet, subscribe to receive new blog posts in your inbox.

For more than seven years, Iowa Farm Bureau’s Farm Fresh blog has offered insights into farming’s relevance to all of us. That won’t change!

We’ll be shutting down the old website ( soon, so say farewell to the old site and hello to an even better viewing experience (with the same great content) on the new !

In the future, cows take charge

June 5, 2014

Imagine a world where cows call the shots.

Thanks to robotic dairy milking machines, many of today’s cows decide when to milk themselves. According to Megan Kregel at Iowa’s Dairy Center, the cows love it so much that they line up to get milked!

Learn more in our latest edition of the Iowa Minute.


By Zach Bader . Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Online Community Manager.

Phenologically speaking

May 7, 2014

At a wedding this past weekend I had a conversation with a farmer from northern Iowa. We got on the subject of planting and weather. He asked me if I had ever heard the phrase “Plant corn when oak leaves are the size of squirrels’ ears”. I had not, and it got me thinking – what else am I missing?

I did a Google search and found out that these fall under the term phenology, officially the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and inter-annual variations in climate. And I found a few more of these phrases for farmers and backyard gardeners. Such as:

• When red winged blackbird females (the ones without the showy red wings) return it’s time to plant peas.
• When the chickadees build their nests, plant peas and spinach.
• Plant your corn when apple blossoms start to fall.

Got others you’ve picked up along the way to guide your planting calendar? Please post them in the comments.

By Bo Geigley. Bo is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Multimedia Developer / Print Designer.

Diversity is good for agriculture and consumers

February 25, 2014

There are a lot of folks these day pointing fingers and declaring loudly that there’s only one right way to farm. I don’t believe it.

corn-planting-1I’ve been at this a while and one thing I’ve learned visiting lots of farms in Iowa and other states is that there’s plenty of good ways to raise crops and livestock. It’s also become pretty clear to me that one size really does not fit all. What’s just right on some farms, doesn’t fit well on the next farm or maybe on one a couple of counties over.

Sure, every farmer worth his or her salt has similar goals: protecting land, water and other resources; caring for animals and meeting changing consumer demands for tasty and wholesome foods, and of course, providing for their family. But, the methods farmers use to accomplish those goals can be very different.

Many Iowa crop farmers produce for the commodity markets, using the latest equipment and biotech seeds. I’ve visited with others who have found a niche raising fruits or vegetables for local restaurants or farmers markets. There’s no right way, just different ways of raising wholesome farmersmarketfood.

It’s the same in livestock. Some farmers choose to raise their pigs indoors or their cattle in hoop barns. It keeps the animals safe from disease, out of the mud and, in a winter like this one, the bitter cold. Others raise animals outside because it fits their facilities and can bring premium prices. Once again, no right way, just different ways to farm.

There are also farmers who have feet in both camps, embracing diversity because it just works well for their family or farm. I’ve seen more of that lately as younger people return to farm and search for ways to get a foothold in agriculture with less land and equipment and see an opportunity in the market for local foods.

indoorpigs1outdoorThat’s why I think that negative advertising campaigns like the recent one for the burrito chain Chipotle are so frustrating and potentially destructive. (Zach Bader, farm kid and Farm Bureaus’ online community manager recently posted a great blog on the Chipotle campaign. You can read by scrolling a bit lower.)

Of course, campaigns like Chipotle’s are designed to sell more burritos, or whatever. But instead of simply claiming that product X is superior to product Y, they work to get consumers to believe that some types of agriculture are bad.

Iowa and the United States needs a diversity of farms to meet the world’s growing, and rapidly changing, food demands. It’s one of our strengths in this country, and something that should not be sacrificed in the name of burrito sales.

By Dirck Steimel. Dirck is Iowa Farm Bureau News Services Manager.

Sorting Out the Facts on Ethanol

November 12, 2013

Gasoline DropEthanol is getting pretty rough treatment in the media these days. And it’s got to make you wonder why critics are piling on to a corn-based fuel source that has aided the environment, spurred economic development in rural Iowa and, according to several studies, has saved consumers billions of dollars.

The latest attack is a report from the Associated Press, which was printed by the Des Moines Register and many other newspapers. The AP report claimed that ethanol production is causing farmers all over Iowa to abandon conservation practices and plow up grasslands and prairies to grow more corn. It paints a picture of farmers abusing the land to chase the bucks from the ethanol boom.

There’s one problem: the facts just don’t support it.

In fact, 40 of Iowa’s 99 counties saw a net gain of grassy habitat from 2007 to 2012, based on a study by Decision Innovation Solutions. In fact, only about 3,500 acres of grassland was converted to crops in that five-year period, the study showed.

And corn acreage in the states is not soaring because of ethanol, as the AP report claimed. Iowa acres planted to corn were about the same in 2007 as in 2012.

Much of the AP report centers on reduction of land in the Conservation Reserve Program or CRP. The report claims that the ethanol boom was behind the decline.

But what really changed was the federal government’s desire to reduce costs and redirect the funding for CRP to more sensitive areas. It wanted to get more bang for its conservation buck.

Instead of enrolling whole farms into the program, farmers are using CRP to plant buffer strips, sow grass waterways, install wetlands and adopt other practices to trim soil erosion and improve water quality.

Iowa farmers have more than 591,000 acres enrolled in the continuous, targeted Conservation Reserve Program, (CRP) more than any other state. It’s a better deal for the taxpayers and for the environment.

The AP report also says that farmers have abandoned conservation practices to cash in the ethanol boom. That’s definitely not what I see driving around the countryside.

Spurred on by the innovative Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, farmers are increasing their conservation practices. The most obvious example is cover crops.

In every county of Iowa this month, newly-germinated seeds of winter rye, tillage radish, triticale and other plants are pushing through the black dirt on thousands of acres. The cover crops will stay on the fields through the winter months, acting as a blanket to protect the soil from wind or water erosion In all, Iowa officials say cover crops and other conservation practices has been adopted on nearly 121,000 acres, and most observers say the total is likely far higher than that.

Sensational reports that appear to play fast and loose with the facts always grab a lot more attention than good news stories, like the one about a home-grown fuel that is good for the environment, good for consumers and a shot in the arm for rural communities. But that’s the real story behind ethanol.

By Dirck Steimel. Dirck is editor of the Farm Bureau Spokesman.

Country is cool again

October 4, 2013

Recently, I was window-shopping at a local mall, and I spotted a pair of store-front mannequins dressed in faded denim and ankle-high cowboy boots, in various shades of brown and turquoise.

I’d expect to see fancy cowboy boots on display at a Western wear shop. But this was in an urban shopping center, where most of the teenage customers have never stepped a high-heeled boot on a farm.

A few days later, I noticed that the local newspaper featured a photo of the high school homecoming court. All the homecoming queen candidates were wearing jean shorts and, you guessed it, cowboy boots.

Now I’m not great at keeping up with trends, but it seems like country is cool again. Maybe it started with Taylor Swift, the country princess who topped the pop charts. Or maybe it’s because of red-neck reality TV shows like “Duck Dynasty.”

While Uncle Si and the guys never leave the house without their camo, the Duck Dynasty wives are the very definition of “country chic,” in their skinny jeans, sun dresses and, yes, cowboy boots.
This love of all things country is trickling down to high school and college campuses. It’s not just farm kids who join the FFA anymore; FFA membership is at an all-time high nationally.

And enrollment at Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture reached a record high this fall, again. Students are recognizing that agriculture offers a wide variety of career options, such as precision ag technology, horticulture, communications and public policy.

While fashion trends will come and go and the “country” chic is sure to fade like stone-washed denim, agriculture won’t ever go out of style. There will always be a need for farmers and ag professionals to take on the challenge of feeding people like you and me while protecting our environment.

Looking good in cowboy boots is just a bonus.

Written by Teresa Bjork. Teresa is senior features writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

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.

%d bloggers like this: