Summertime in the Landscape…

garden lanscape toolsWhen it comes to Nebraska weather, we all tend to forget how quickly our feelings can switch. Only six months ago many of us might be heard complaining about how cold it was outside. Many pleaded for Mother Nature to give us a bit of warm weather to remind us spring would soon return. But, then every year once spring arrives we may be pleading for Mother Nature to change the weather again. A perfect example would be the spring of 2014 and the wettest May on record. Moreover, a few years ago we were entering the beginnings of the 2012 Drought. The soil was parched, plants were withering, and many lawns were turning brown. It seems like many years Nebraska weather can be similar and quite different at the same time.

While this spring and early summer have been enjoyable, there is not anything quite like summer in Nebraska. The old adage “If you don’t like the weather – wait five minutes – it’ll change” certainly comes to mind. Every year Mother Nature eventually turns up the heat and sends us more normal summer weather and that normal weather will drive many of us into the cool respite of air conditioning and outside searching for shade to avoid the heat.

Front Pg - Farmers Market 2July and August for many is a time for vacations, celebrating the Fourth, and enjoying the sweet taste of vegetables from our vegetable gardens. For those of us in the nursery industry we spend our time helping clients try to keep their landscapes and gardens looking their best. For some that could mean dealing with disease and insects, while for others it could mean assistance with caring for their plants, and for others installing new plantings. Yes, I did say planting.

While the summer is not a time to “plant and forget,” it can be a great time to plant. Many have extra time and possibly some help from kids out of school or are simply spending more time at home caring for their kids over the summer. While some days bring terrible heat, most summer mornings or early evenings will bring moderation to the heat making it enjoyable to be out working in our landscapes and gardens.

When we talk about planting in the summer, it is with some understanding and care. Simply put, people who plant in the summer usually tend to care for their plants better than those who wait for fall. The nicer weather in spring encourages people to believe that Mother Nature will take care of new plants without our help. We see our plants standing strong and tall and mistakenly believe that we won’t have to do much because the plants are looking great. However, with our Nebraska summers we need to make sure we care for our plants, whether we planted them last fall, this spring, or this summer. Keep an eye on any plant younger than about 12 months, ensure you water them about once or twice a week and you should do fine.

watering lawnFor those who are itching to add a few plants or simply have finally found time to work in the landscape, summer planting can be rewarding and offer great success with proper care. A young plant, whether it is planted in the cool spring or the hot summer, simply needs a bit of assistance to make sure it survives until it can set its roots and begin caring for itself. How long this takes will depend on the plant. Check with your local nursery professional for specific care instructions for your specific plantings.

When it comes to caring for your older plants while they should not need, as much supervision, do not worry if they are not looking as good as they did in the spring. A bit of timely watering, maybe some trimming to shape the plant, and a bit of mulch to help hold the moisture around the root system can do wonders to help them through the summer. With a bit of care, plants showing stress in the heat should perk right back up and yes, even thrive, in our challenging summers.

Now when we talk to clients about summer plant care the first thing we mention is to try to walk the landscape at least once a week even in the heat. Check for weeds, look for insect or disease issues, and generally try to catch problems before they can get out of hand. A bit of work in the heat could solve a problem with minimal effort versus waiting until the weather is cooler but now the problems have grown and it might take lots of work to get things back in shape. Many of our clients usually do this walk around when they mow their lawn.

As you walk your landscape, keep an eye out for insects eating on foliage, red spider on evergreens, the jalapeno shaped husks of bagworms on evergreens, turf damage from grubs or webworms, and fungal issues on roses, turf, or other plants. Most problems, if noticed before too much damage occurs or pests are allowed to get out of control, can be controlled with timely treatment. While many chemicals are labeled for many different plants and pests, do always follow label directions and consider consulting a nursery professional with any questions and to get help picking the right control for your situation.

DSCN3725If you are able to check on your plants once or twice a week through the summer adding a bit of water as needed and can deal with any problems before they get out of hand, you should be able to keep your plants growing well and looking good even in the heat of summer.

Overall Mother Nature can be our best friend or worst enemy. Which one we believe she is all depends on what she brings us each day, and I for one have said a few choice words about her already this year. However, if we are there to care for our plants here and there, the summer time in Nebraska can be an enjoyable and often fulfilling time in the landscape.

 

Andy Campbell is manager of Campbell’s Nurseries Landscape Department. A Lancaster County Farm Bureau Member, Campbell’s, a family owned Nebraska business since 1912, offers assistance for all your landscaping and gardening needs at either of their two Lincoln garden centers or through their landscape design office. www.campbellsnursery.com.

 

Nebraska Economy Stumbles in First Quarter . . .

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The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce reported Nebraska’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrunk 4 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the fourth quarter of 2016.  Nebraska had the worst first quarter economic performance of any state. The BEA attributed the dismal economic performance to the slumping agricultural sector.  Other plains states, also dominated by agriculture, saw their economies shrink in the first quarter as well.  Iowa’s economy contracted 3.2 percent; South Dakota’s fell 3.8 percent; and Kansas fell 0.7 percent.  Texas saw the greatest first quarter growth at 3.9 over the fourth quarter.  The country as a whole saw real GDP increase 1.2 percent in the first quarter, and the BEA’s first estimates real GDP growth for the second quarter at 2.6 percent.

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Not all the news on the economic front was bad for Nebraska. Governor Ricketts and the Nebraska Dept. of Labor announced Nebraska’s monthly increase in non-farm employment in June was 0.6 percent, the third highest in the nation.  Nebraska’s non-farm employment in June reached 1.031 million jobs.  Also, the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln reported that its most recent leading economic indicator predicts rapid economic growth later this year.  The indicator is a composite of economic factors like building permits for single-family homes, airline passenger counts, manufacturing hours, and the value of the dollar.  All components of the indicator rose in June, resulting in an increase in the economic indicator of 2.75 percent, suggesting a rapidly growing Nebraska economy at the end of the year.

Nebraska’s agricultural economy will continue to struggle in 2017.  The most recent projection indicates 2017 net farm income will fall 16 percent, the fourth consecutive year net farm income will have fallen.  Thus, agriculture will continue to dampen the state’s economic growth.  The first quarter numbers are surely evidence of this fact.  However, it appears the non-farm economy is picking up steam, offsetting the agriculture slump which should help the state post modest economic growth soon.

 

Jay RempeJay Rempe is the senior economist for Nebraska Farm Bureau. Rempe’s background in agricultural economics, years of experience in advocating at the state capitol, and firm grasp of issues allow him to quantify the fiscal impact of a regulatory proposal, and provide in-depth examination of key issues affecting Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers.

2017 Agricultural Land Assessed Values Stay Flat

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The taxable value for agricultural land in Nebraska declined .15 percent in 2017 according to a preliminary analysis released Friday by the Nebraska Department of Revenue.  The slight decline marks the first time the assessed value of agricultural land statewide has shrunk from one year to the next since at least the early 1990s, and perhaps as far back as the late 1980s.  Taxable value for all real property increased 3.34 percent over last year, with residential and recreational property value growing 6.5 percent, and commercial and industrial property growing 5.82 percent. The figures come from reports filed by county assessors with the Department of Revenue.  Notices of valuation changes will be sent to property owners on or before June 1.

The changes for agricultural land varied considerably across the state (see map below).  In Sarpy County, the value of agricultural land fell 9.38 percent, while in Hooker County it increased 19.28 percent, a difference of almost 30 percentage points.  Other counties seeing significant declines were Nuckolls and Douglas Counties with drops in value of greater than 8 percent.  Other counties with large increases included McPherson at 18.68 percent and Thomas at 10.76 percent.  In all, 43 counties saw decreases in agricultural land values (counties in red and orange on map), and 50 counties reported either no change or increases in total values.

Ag Land Valuations 2017

The variations across counties reflect the differences in the timing of price movements in the cattle and crop markets.  The run-up in cattle prices, and subsequently prices for grassland, started and peaked later than the run-up in corn and soybean prices and prices for crop ground.  Because assessed values are set using prices from 3 years’ prior land sales, counties made up primarily of grassland are still seeing the higher land prices reflected in the setting of assessed values.  What do the value changes mean for property tax levied?  The answer will be dependent on local government spending and budgeting decisions later this year.  Local governments must approve final budgets by September 20 and tax levies will be set before October 15.  Suffice it to say, that in some counties, the values changes might result in a slight shift in taxes levied from agricultural land to other property sectors.  For other counties, the trend of agricultural land carrying a greater share of the local tax burden will continue.

 

Jay Rempe is the senior economist for Nebraska Farm Bureau. Rempe’s background in agricultural economics, years of experience in advocating at the state capitol, and firm grasp of issues allow him to quantify the fiscal impact of a regulatory proposal, and provide in-depth examination of key issues affecting Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers.

Why Agriculture: An Open Letter from a High School Senior

kelli blog 2 photoHere I am, a high school senior, taking part in my final days of this stage in my life. Right now, as we approach graduation, filling out scholarships is a big task. The question “What’s your intended major?” arises quite often followed by “Why have you chosen the major stated above?” I always answer with, “Agricultural Communications” and then proceed with my reason why: “I grew up in this industry…I want to make a difference within agriculture…my passion lies here.” Although each of these statements is correct, my reasoning for why I am choosing a major in agriculture goes much deeper. It wasn’t until filling out a scholarship application today that I realized that. So, here’s a letter to agriculturalists in my community, state, and nation explaining why I choose agriculture. Here’s a deeper reason for why I’m choosing this major.

kelli blog 2 photo 2Dear dedicated agriculturalists,

It’s because of you. You are the reason I write “Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication” on every scholarship application. You are the reason I toured the college of agriculture on East Campus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. You are the reason I met with academic advisors in agriculture areas. You are the reason I choose agriculture. Why? It’s simple. YOU give me hope. You’ve helped me see the importance of each and every agriculturalist. From farmers to bankers to chemists to advocates- they’re all important. It’s because of you and your dedication and drive that I am choosing agriculture. Yes, I’m selecting this major for other reasons as well. For the uninformed, those disconnected from agriculture, and the curious. But in the end, I’m venturing with this major because of you. I see the smile you get when you finish your last field of corn. I see the difference you’re making in informing others through social media, radio, and magazines. I see your passion ignite when you get to visit with agriculturalists as well as non-agriculturists. I see the fear in your eyes of being able to feed the world by 2050. But I also see hope. I see so much hope. So, with that being said, thank you. Thank you for showing me that a major and a career in agriculture will be a choice I will never regret. Thank you for investing in me. Thank you for investing in others. YOU make a difference in the lives of countless people without even knowing it. So, thank you.

Sincerely,

A high school senior that got her passion for agriculture by watching all of you

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Egg-Citing News – Food Prices Down for Easter

2017_Spring_Marketbasket_Graphic_vertLower retail prices for several foods, including eggs, ground chuck, sirloin tip roast, chicken breasts and toasted oat cereal resulted in a significant decrease in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Spring Picnic Marketbasket Survey.

“As expected due to lower farm-gate prices, we have seen continued declines in retail prices for livestock products including eggs, beef, chicken, pork and cheese,” said John Newton, AFBF’s director of market intelligence.
The informal survey showed the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $50.03, down $3.25 or about 6 percent compared to a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 decreased, four increased and one remained the same in average price.

Egg prices are down sharply from a year ago and also are down slightly from the third quarter of 2016.

“Egg prices continue to move back toward long-run average prices following the bird flu of 2014/15,” said Newton. “The Agriculture Department is currently monitoring bird flu detections in the Southeast U.S. If detections continue, retail poultry prices could feel an impact due to lower exports or changes in supply,” he said.

“As farm-gate prices for livestock products have declined and remained lower, prices in the retail meat case have become more competitive,” Newton said.

Retail price changes from a year ago:

  • eggs, down 41percent to $1.32 per dozen
  • toasted oat cereal, down 15 percent to $2.83 for a 9-ounce box
  • sirloin tip roast, down 13 percent to $4.95 per pound
  • ground chuck, down 10 percent to $3.92 per pound
  • chicken breast, down 6 percent to $3.17 per pound
  • apples, down 6 percent to $1.55 per pound
  • flour, down 5 percent to $2.36 for a 5-pound bag
  • shredded cheddar cheese, down 4 percent to $4.10 per pound
  • deli ham, down 3 percent to $5.42 per pound
  • bacon, down 3 percent to $4.65 per pound
  • potatoes, down 1 percent to $2.68 for a 5-pound bag
  • bagged salad, up 6 percent to $2.34 per pound
  • white bread, up 2 percent to $1.72 per 20-ounce loaf
  • orange juice, up 1 percent to $3.22 per half-gallon
  • whole milk, up 1 percent to $3.27 per gallon
  • vegetable oil, no change, $2.55 for a 32-ounce bottle

 

Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon whole regular milk, $2.10; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.20; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $3.48.

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm) report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.

“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Newton said.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly marketbasket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a spring picnic survey, summer cookout survey, fall harvest survey and Thanksgiving dinner cost survey.

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 117 shoppers in 31 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in March.

Sam’s Shepard’s Pie

Looking for a fun, easy recipe to fulfill your week? This recipe by Crew Member, Sam Steward, is a quick and delicious version of Shepard’s Pie. Try it tonight!

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Ingredients

1 pound of hamburger

1 can of corn

1 can of cream of celery

3 cups of cheese

1 ½ cups onion

3 large potatoes

½ a stick of butter

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease an 8×13 pan.
  2. Start by peeling and quarter the potatoes in a medium sized pot and boil until tender.
  3. While the potatoes are boiling, begin chopping 1 ½ cup of onion. Then in a medium sauce pan, melt ¼ stick of butter and start cooking the chopped onion until tender.
  4. Halfway through cooking the onions, add the can of corn and continue cooking until tender.
  5. Once the onion and corn are cooked until tender, add the 1 pound of hamburger and cook until brown.
  6. Salt and pepper the corn, onion and hamburger mixture to taste.
  7. Add the can of cream of celery to the corn, onion, and hamburger mixture.
  8. Once potatoes are cooked, you can start mashing them.
  9. In the greased, 8×13 pan, layer the hamburger mixture on the bottom. Then you can layer the mashed potatoes over top the hamburger mixture.
  10. Sprinkle the three cups of cheese over top and cover with foil.
  11. Place in oven and bake on 400 degrees for 45 minutes.
  12. To get browning of the cheese, broil for 5 minutes.

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The Ag Sack Lunch Program: Educating the Future of Agriculture

By: Abby Steffen

ag-sack-lunchI grew up in Northeast Nebraska, in a very rural area. Most of my summer days were spent on my grandparent’s farm, learning about agriculture before I even knew what the word “agriculture” meant. I would run through corn and soybeans while they grew in the fields, I would sit and watch my grandpa bring the cows into the milk barn, I would giggle as baby calves fought over which one got to suck on my fingers. At the end of the day, I knew what the food was that was on my supper plate. I knew how it was raised, how it was harvested, and how much work was put into getting that food from farm to fridge to fork. Knowing these things humbled me in a way I cannot describe, but also gave me some peace of mind to be able to see what I was eating and putting into my body. I wish every kid in America would be able to grow up with these types of experiences, but I know that is not possible. There are many children who are now completely removed from farms and ranches. They aren’t provided with many opportunities to learn about agriculture. The Ag Sack Lunch program is trying to change that.
ag-sack-lunch2In 2010, the Ag Sack Lunch Program was created to educate Nebraska fourth-graders, teachers, and parents about the different agricultural industries in Nebraska, all while providing 5,000 sack lunches each year. Each Ag Sack Lunch Ambassador is given a set of presentation cards that give the children a visual to look at during the presentation. The cards have fun facts that help the students not only learn about the seven main industries in Nebraska, but also make connections about how these industries impact their lives.  They learn about how much land in Nebraska is devoted to farming and ranching, and also that 1 in every 4 jobs relates back to agriculture. The Program covers both specific sectors of the livestock industry, such as beef, dairy, swine, and poultry; and also crops like soybeans, corn, and wheat. In their sack lunches, the students receive a ham, roast beef, or turkey sandwich. They also get carrots, Fritos corn chips, a rice crispy bar, mayonnaise and mustard, and a deck of cards that have fun facts about each industry and look just like the cards the ambassador presents with. At the end of the presentation, the group walks through every item in their lunches and talks about which industry they came from.
ag-sack-lunch3This is now the Ag Sack Lunch Program’s seventh year and I have worked as an Ag Ambassador for two years. I can honestly say it has been one of the most rewarding and educational life experiences I have ever had. It has kept me humble and open minded, as I did not grow up in a very diverse agricultural area. For many classes I presented to, I was not surprised when students knew most of the answers. However, once I began to present to more urban centered schools, there were times I felt truly heartbroken. Some students I interacted with did not even know where the meat on their sandwich came from before the store. I could see the want to learn in the students’ eyes.  When it finally clicked for them, the smiles on their faces was enough to make me fall in love with the Ag Industry all over again.

ag-sack-lunch4Agriculture is a huge and important industry in the state of Nebraska. It is crucial to the economy, the environment, and of course, to providing enough food to feed the growing population. Unfortunately, as more and more generations are being removed from farms and ranches, agricultural knowledge is not being passed along. Not many people know how this industry works and there are not many schools in Nebraska who implement ag-related courses. How can we expect people to understand and care about an industry and lifestyle they aren’t even familiar with? This is why the ag-literacy work that we do in the Farm Bureau Crew and in programs like Ag Sack Lunch is so important. By learning how to communicate to people of different ages and lifestyles we can improve ag-literacy in Nebraska. We can get people more involved and interested in agriculture to strengthen the future of the industry. In The Crew, I get to share different stories in agriculture through videos, photography, social media and blogging. In Ag Sack Lunch, I get to talk to students about where I grew up and how important agriculture is to people, especially in rural areas.
The experiences I have gained by working with The Crew and as an Ag Sack Lunch Ambassador have really made me appreciate the area in which I grew up and the educators who understood the importance of our state’s Agricultural Industry. I have experienced first-hand that programs like The Crew and Ag Sack Lunch are so important and influential to the Agriculture Industry. In the future, it will be up to their generation to find more sustainable food practices in order to feed the growing population while keeping the economy and the environment in check. They are the future of agriculture, and sponsored programs like The Crew and Ag Sack Lunch are preparing them in fun and interactive ways!

 

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