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The challenge from Classic

March 6, 2010

By Saturday of Classic, attendees are incredibly tired but have one more day of excitement to grasp. Thankfully as I made my way back to the convention for a fee more goodies, Starbucks called my name! After an evening of networking with friends and future colleagues the extra shot of caffeine was a definite necessity.

This refreshing Iced Upside Down Caramel Macchiato hit the spot. However, many farmers and ranchers enjoy their black, rich and simple coffee to start off their early mornings.

Most of us know farmers as simple good ‘ole boys, which we all wish the entire population enacted. During my last round at the Trade Show, I met with some farmers and ranchers from northern Colorado/ southern Wyoming. The group was quite intrigued I was here blogging, in which they picked my brain about the blogging, Tweeting and Facebooking. One message many farmers are taking home is dedicating 1 hour per week to educate consumers through the use of the Internet and community events. As the coffee shop talk continued, they were extremely fascinated  by the idea of social media but a little unsure how to implement these networks into their small family operations.

Point being, social media does not need to imitate the complexity of my choice of coffee. However, social media tools are the ticket in educating the consumer and expanding the agriculture industry. Small family operations are encouraged to start fan pages to network to those in the community who may not know about agriculture production. Social networks are a growing trend and if we continue to supply food, fiber, fuel and economic growth we must get on board.
The farmers from Colorado and Wyoming were confused by the fast-paced technology but were really interested in learning. They even caught me again to pick my brain more. Facebook is such a valuable tool for any industry to reach their intended audience and build networks across the US, even for the small family farm.

As I leave to catch my plane from Las Angeles, Calif., back to God’s country in the High Plains, I leave you with a the challenge of captivating consumers’ attention with your production systems. Educate them about the over-time you commit in order to make ends meet. Let them know, if agriculture stops they will be hungry, jobless and even naked. Now let’s not allow any of these things to happen!

One of the Best Parts of Tradeshows? SWAG!

March 5, 2010

Tracy Pool, a Monsanto employee, hands out SWAG to Commodity Classic attendees.

SWAG! Michael Scott, the co-manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company of The Office, said it best, “Stuff we all get. I basically decorated my condo for free with all of my swag.”

One of my favorite parts of working Commodity Classic as well as other trade shows is handing out free stuff to all the attendees. At most booths you are encouraged to sign up for a contest or newsletter and then you can receive some free things. Because there are so many booths and LOTS of stuff to collect, efficiency is key. Attendees bring labels with their name and address to paste on forms, some bring stamps with the same info, and some choose to use good old-fashioned handwriting.

Because so many of the attendees are from the midwest and likely have to get home by plane I had to ask, “how do you plan on getting all of your things home?” Many told me they bring a large suitcase or even an extra one just for their free goodies!

Modeling my newly acquired SWAG at Commodity Classic. Getting free things is all a part of the experience.

I decided to put myself in the shoes of these attendees and got some of my own free things. My favorite booth was the North Dakota Soybean Council booth. They were handing out chocolate covered soybeans (delicious) and hula hoops! The hoop was clever because not only was it fun for kids, but it was a way to measure the number of soybean plants per acre.  You can see my mad hula hoop skills on Twitter. Other favorites of mine and the attendees included a shirt that said, “Ask me why you’re not hungry, naked, or itchy”; and an Asgrow mug, which is a collectible for many attendees.

What are your favorite items to pick up? Do you have special methods to grabbing your goodies at trade shows?

Coffee shop talk

March 5, 2010

As I made my way through the Trade Show, I somehow managed to find a very influential individual in the herd of farmers. Mr. Sorghum as many would describe, Bruce Maunder, worked for Dekalb from 1960 to 1996 as an influential plant breeder. Through our conversation at the United Sorghum Checkoff Program booth, I learned Maunder is a pretty interesting person and loves to talk sorghum. I honestly felt we should have been drinking coffee at the local coffee shop. During his career he developed between 100 and 150 new hybrid seeds for grain and forage use.  Maunder now retired and serves as the research adviser for the National Grain Sorghum Producers in Lubbock, Texas, after working with Dekalb for 36 years.

Bruce Maunder proudly represents the United Sorghum Checkoff Program at Commodity Classic.

Are you telling your story?

March 5, 2010

This morning I was gathered by over 2,500 U.S. farmers and ranchers ready to hear what the future of agriculture holds. I was reminded and motivated, might I add, by the various impacts agriculture has on the U.S. population as a whole.

The General Session started with Mark Mayfield, master of ceremonies, first engaged the audience with a few laughs.

The light-hearted atmosphere was carried until Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, approached the stage. Though the atmosphere was still positive,Vilsack discussed the future of agriculture and the policies in he is pushing in Washington, DC.

Tom Vilsack addresses U.S. farmers and ranchers at Commodity Classic.

Vilsack shared his appreciation for those involved in the industry by committing to the fight for rural America. In addition, he emphasized that the outlook in the U.S. needs to return, “if we cannot grow, people will not eat.” Vilsack wrapped his speech with a genuine thank you to the farmers and ranchers on behalf of all the uneducated consumers – something producers do not hear very often.

Guilt then hung farmers and ranchers heads’ as Jay Lehr, agriculturalist economist and futurist, began his speech about the many battles agriculturalists continue to fight. I agreed with Lehr as farmers and ranchers are not doing enough to share their story with consumers. Lehr raised anger as topics about agricultural enemies, PETA and HSUS, were discussed. Point being, farmers and ranchers need to help educate the consumers through the Internet. If not, farmers’ voices will not be heard, the family farm will be lost, and people will not eat.

As I left the ballroom, I got to thinking about the conversation I had with a producer before the program began. This producer was raised on a family farm and had retired back to the farm, while continuing to partake in various leadership positions in agriculture. As a young journalist, these farmers’ stories are incredibly moving because they contribute to feeding over 300 million Americans and numerous people globally. Agreeing with Lehr, farmers and ranchers need to begin using social media and resources in their communities to share their message, in order to continue agricultural production.

Just like all those 2,500 farmers, I left the session discussed with the consumer, while being incredibly motivated to help share producers’ stories. Environmentalists and livestock activists will not win this long battle. Farmers and ranchers will not let it happen.

By the way, after the session I proudly grabbed a roast beef sandwich to sooth my hunger.

Trade Show Grand Opening

March 4, 2010

In perspective of the Commodity Classic hype, I’ve captured some exciting elements of the Trade Show. Enjoy!

John Deere unveils the 4020 tractor Chip Foose, automotive designer and hot rod builder, at the Trade Show Grand Opening.

Most of you know the size of agricultural equipment, as do I. However, when new equipment is displayed at trade shows it appears much larger. Being 5 foot could also be a contributing factor!

The Commodity Classic Trade Show Grand Opening was sponsored by Genuity SmartStax Corn from Monsanto.

Treating your soils like dirt?

March 4, 2010

The 2010 Commodity Classic in Anaheim, Calif., kicked off at 7 a.m. with an Early Riser Production Session with Brian and Darren Hefty, co-hosts of Ag PhDTV. The meeting room gathered over 200 producers learning to improve the qualities of their soils.

Brian and Darren first discussed the importance of incorporating tile drainage in fields that receive large amounts of rain in the fall. Advantages of tile drainage include:

  • increase in yields
  • predictable growing season
  • ability to plant earlier in the spring
  • increase of soil pH
  • decrease of surface water
  • decrease in salt
  • investment is paid off within 1-2 years
Brian Hefty

Brian Hefty discusses the importance of investing in drainage tile.

Knowledge of your fields’ Cation Exchange Capacity was another important topic discussed.  The Hefty brothers provided a formula for producers to calculate the amount of Nitrogen their soil can hold.

(Nitrogen holding capacity formula is multiplying your field CEC by 10.)

The following example was illustrated:

Darren has a field with the CEC of 14.5. Therefore, he could only apply 145 pounds of Nitrogen. Point being, most farmers would apply 200 pounds of Nitrogen when only 145 pounds was actually needed. Without knowing the CEC of fields, farmers take the chance of wasting Nitrogen that was initially not required.

Darren Hefty

Darren Hefty discusses his field's Cation Exchange Capacity

The session wrapped up with the both speakers emphasizing on the importance in being stewards of the land, as farmers and environmentalists.

“Do not take it for granted,” Brian said. “You have been blessed with this opportunity.”

The Face — and Voice — of American Agriculture

March 3, 2010

His name is Cal Dalton. He’s a retailer-customer of Monsanto’s, and he is a manager for the Landmark Services Cooperative in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin.

He recently received the Agri-Communicator Award at the Corn/Soy Expo, held in Wisconsin Dells. The award is given to a grower who tells agriculture’s story. The award is sponsored by Wisconsin Agri-View, and the recipient is chosen annually by The Wisconsin Corn Growers Association and the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board.

What Cal has done to merit the award tells you a lot about people who are committed to agriculture.

·         He helped grow the ethanol industry by helping launch United Wisconsin Grain Producers, helped educate state legislators on the importance of the ethanol industry, and continues to serve on the UWGP board.

·         He’s a past president of the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association.

·         He serves on the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board.

·         He served as a national director for the National Corn Growers Association for seven years. Before than, he was on NCGA’s services action team for six years.

·         He’s currently co-chairing the 2010 Commodity Classic, being held this week in Anaheim, California.

·         He’s attended a multitude of meetings, lobbied Congress, served on committees – all for his fellow corn producers specifically and for agriculture in general.

·         He’s a member of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.

You can check the Agri-Vew story on Cal for more details about him and his wife Joanne.

If there’s one word you could use to describe Cal Dalton,it’s “serving.” And servin is a lot of hard work. Just like agriculture.