mn agriculture

Thank You Mom For Making Harvest Look Easy

My mom always told me that in a marriage, sometimes someone was giving 150% to help your spouse through. In farming, those wise words couldn’t be truer.

My mom always prepared large harvest meals for our family. The gentleman who did our custom combining for us, along with my dad, and siblings, would all come in and sit around the kitchen table each night for about 45 minutes with an amazing meal that my mom prepared.

Everything from roast beef or pork roast with mashed potatoes, corn, squash, fresh homemade bread, and always dessert, usually a homemade apple pie or brownies would be waiting for us. My dad always took that time to stop what he was doing in the field and come in for supper. Luckily for us, growing up, all of our fields were relatively close in proximity to our home farm which made it possible.

I often think about my mom running us kids to sports and other activities, getting laundry done, some years working a job in-town, others being a stay-at-home mom. She always made sure my dad had a thermos of coffee and breakfast before heading to work in town or to the fields. She did a lot during planting and harvest, for all of us.

My mom always went above and beyond for our family during those tough spring and fall seasons on the farm.

She taught me that I was capable of anything. That being strong and independent was just part of the farming lifestyle. Taking my daughter to her doctor’s appointments, gymnastics lessons, grocery shopping, the museum, etc. all by myself would just be part of this new season of my farming life, and it is one she showed me how to do with grace on a daily basis.

Sometimes, it is those that are behind the scenes in harvest that are the unsung heroes. The ones we don’t see pictures of driving tractor or combine, but instead are folding laundry, tucking kids in at night, cooking meals for harvest crews, feeding livestock, or sitting down to pay all the bills each night. They keep the home running while someone is in the tractor from 7am to midnight, and do their best to give a few comforts of home during that time.

When you are a farming family, it truly takes a team to make it all work. It may mean that one of you gives 150% for a while to keep it all going. This is the industry we live and breathe.

So thank you Mom, for all you did for our farming family growing up. You made it look easy, and I never thanked you enough. And for teaching me that sometimes a hot thermos of coffee and fresh cookies are the best thing you can send with your husband when he’s going to spend 16 hours in the tractor, thank you for that too.

-Sara

Harvest 2015 Update

Harvest 2015 is almost a wrap! We have 1 field left to harvest and some tillage to do. We typically consider harvest “done” when the last crop is out of the ground, even if we still need to do some fall tillage.

It has been a crazy fall. I picked up a second job for September and October. Mark and I are currently completing Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, a class I will talk about more in another blog post, and we are trying to position ourselves to get ready to buy our own farm. So that means, Harper spent a lot of time riding in the tractor with Dad while I was at work. May I present exhibit A?

child in tractor

I’m pretty sure Harper will be able to drive the tractor by herself by the time she is one at this rate!

She also spent a lot of time with Grandma Jeanette, Grandma B, and Great-Auntie Corrinne. Our friends Pete & Abbie, and Jackie all chipped in to watch her too! Thank you to everyone who has helped out during this crazy time!

There is no way we could get harvest done without all of the awesome help we have. Family, friends, and landlords all come out to help drive tractor, semi, combine or even bring their own equipment to help get it all done. Farming has its own unique community, one I am very thankful for!

family farm harvest 2015

Mark’s uncle Darren helping out during harvest, running the grain cart

Of course, there are always break downs on equipment. We had everything from a pretty good oil leak in the combine, to sensors that quit working to semis that decided to break down.  Some days, I really wonder how they even get any combining done. Although, I think we evaded the year of flat tires this harvest (knock on wood) unlike a few years ago when I think every piece of equipment needed a tire repair at some point.

chisel plow

Mark checking over the chisel plow before working soybean ground.

Combining soybeans

Combining soybeans

We have been very lucky with this fall. Most farmers were done with all of their harvest by the 2nd or 3rd week in October due to dry weather. We also have been able to save a lot on fuel for drying since the corn has been coming out of the field at just about perfect moisture content. Now, we are finally getting a few days of rain, which frankly, is okay. It was getting extremely dry, and with Mark, Ray, and Kevin all on the fire department, they were called to 2 different field fires during harvest as well.

In all honesty, this has been a very different harvest with a little one in tow. We are so thankful she is such a good baby, that is content to ride a long in the tractor or get switched into Grandpa’s truck at 8 at night for the ride home.

I will be glad when we can finally all relax a little bit.

soybeans

Soybeans being transferred from the grain cart to the semi.

We were able to sneak in a quick trip to a corn maze about an hour from our home after it rained one day, and then didn’t dry out soon enough the next. While others are busy visiting apple orchards, pumpkin patches, etc., we often don’t find time to get to any of these with being in the field every day. Harper wasn’t really sure about the corn pit. She was more interested in watching all the rest of the kids running around in it. We also decided if all else fails, we will just put a maze in our corn field and charge a $15 entry fee! Uff-da!

Harper in the corn pit at the corn maze!

Harper in the corn pit at the corn maze!

With harvest 2015 almost in the books, we did learn a few lessons – do not get a 2nd job during harvest time, do not take a class during harvest time, and always remember an extra bottle for the baby!

-Sara

The MARL Experience – Changing the Face of Leadership

Rural areas in Minnesota require 1 in every 34 people to take on a leadership role. In metropolitan areas, that number is 1 in every 143.

MARL (Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership) is a 2 year leadership development program. Participants go through an application process and then an interview process. Classes are typically 75% production agriculture and 25% business, civic and government, and organization leaders in agriculture and rural Minnesota.

This past spring I went through the application and interview process. Being younger, I figured I probably wouldn’t make this round, but might apply again in the future. They only let 30 people in every class, and I knew there were some amazing people working in agriculture that had applied as well. I got a phone call not long after that, saying I was accepted into MARL! I was excited and nervous for this new experience that involved 9 three-day instate seminars scattered throughout Minnesota, a national seminar in Washington, D.C., and a 2 week international seminar.

Needless to say, I walked in on the first day and looked around at my 29 classmates and wondered what the heck I was doing there. What did I have to offer this group? Many of my classmates are doing amazing things, have traveled the world, lived in different countries, started their own businesses, raised families, done mission work and so much more. I feel intimidated every time I walk in the door, but also blessed to be learning from all of them. In examining my own life, I’m not really sure what I have done yet that got me into this group, but part of MARL is growing as a leader and having all of these travel and educational experiences. I have learned so much from my classmates already, from the program, and I have learned more about myself.

At the first MARL session in Willmar, we met with the owner of NovaTech

At the first MARL session in Willmar, we met with the owner of Nova-Tech

This last session was in St. Paul and focused on leadership in politics. We were able to meet with many of our elected officials, sit on the floor of the House of Representatives, learn about some of the activities and functions of the MN Dept. of Agriculture, meet with Sue Knott from MN Ag in the Classroom, learn from Kevin Paap, president of MN Farm Bureau, and attend a committee hearing where MARL alumni and some of my current classmates testified about MARL and the benefits the program has. It really was amazing to see some of the politics in action. I have been up to the Capitol before and sat in on a committee hearing, but seeing my classmates testify on something they were passionate about and believed in really helped me drive home why it is important to talk to your legislators, connect with them and share your concerns. I have always thought maybe one day I might consider a role in politics whether a local or state position, but seeing it all in action, made me realize that yes, I could really do this some day.

Testifying for MARL in front of a joint House Ag Committee.

Testifying for MARL in front of a joint House Ag Committee.

We were also able to see the U of MN St. Paul campus and learn more about their genomics and genetics work, as well as tour the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. Being pregnant, I only made it through about 1/2 of the diagnostic lab before realizing I probably shouldn’t be in there with some of the chemicals that are being used. It was pretty cool though to see the research being done there. There was even a hive of deceased bees that was having a necropsy done with a researcher trying to find out more about diseases that affect bees and their hives.

Learning from Dr. Brian Stupar who works primarily in soybean genomics and genetics.

Learning from Dr. Brian Stupar who works primarily in soybean genomics and genetics.

I was also able to tour the Midtown Global Market as part of the session I chose to go on. It was absolutely amazing to see so many different cultures, people, food and items all in one place and learn about the story behind the market which is in a former Sear’s building, as well as a lot of the merchants, some of who now are in their 2nd generation of ownership and operation. My classmate, Yolanda, was so passionate about the market and her enthusiasm made the tour that much better. I really hope that Mark and I can get up there again to visit and do some more shopping. I only had time to bring home a honey sampler and try a honeydew/strawberry smoothie while I was there. The global market features specialty grocery stores and restaurants focusing on local food, Latino food, Halal food and Hmong food. There is also Italian, 1950’s style dining, Indian, French pastries and so much more. It really was like traveling the world right in one stop in Minneapolis. I wanted to try everything and next time, I am going to come hungry!

This session of MARL has really taught me to keep an open mind and to be mindful of what I am doing. It is easy to start each day with a bad attitude when you think about the news or what we see on our social media channels. But despite all of that, we need to be informed. Make our own decisions. We need to really be mindful of what we are hearing, reading and thinking, and take the time to examine our values going forward too. I also think that this MARL session taught me that I can do more. I can do more for my community, more for others around me and more in my job. I was listening to some of the issues that the metro area was talking about, and really a lot of the same issues are facing rural areas in Minnesota too. Kevin Paap said it can’t be a “rural versus metro” anymore, it has to be together, because we are dealing with the same things from education, work force issues, immigration, aging populations, economic growth and so much more. It just takes a few people to really step up to the plate to make a difference. So many of my classmates are doing that already, and I know that the experiences and lessons I gain from MARL will help me do the same.

-Sara