Top 10 Agriculture Earth Day Facts

Today we celebrate Earth Day across the nation, but Earth Day is every day for farmers and ranchers and anyone involved in agriculture. That’s what we are sharing the top 10 agriculture Earth Day facts.

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Earth Day Fact 1: Nebraska farmers and ranchers are the original environmental stewards who take great pride in caring for our state’s land, air and water. Nebraska farmers are growing more food with less – less fertilizer, less chemicals, less water, less land and less of an impact on the environment.

Earth Day Fact 2:  Protecting the environment is something farmers and ranchers always have on their mind. They protect the environment because they want to pass it onto future generations and because it is the right thing to do.

Earth Day Fact 3: America’s farm and ranch families are dedicated to caring for our planet. They are ethical caretakers of the land and water resources that help make our nation’s bounty possible.

Earth Day Fact 4: In addition to their ethical dedication to protecting the land, it is in the economic interest of farmers and ranchers to care for natural resources. America’s farmers and ranchers take their commitment to land stewardship very seriously.

Earth Day Fact 5: Through modern conservation and tillage practices, farmers and ranchers are reducing the loss of soil through erosion, which protects lakes and rivers.

Earth Day Fact 6: Today, it is possible for farmers and ranchers to produce more food, fiber and fuel than ever before on fewer acres with fewer inputs.

Earth Day Fact 7: Such modern production tools as global positioning satellites, biotechnology, conservation tillage and integrated pest management enhance farm and ranch productivity while reducing the environmental footprint.

Earth Day Fact 8: Farmers and ranchers are proven and committed environmental stewards, but they are justifiably concerned about the regulatory overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency. At the very time agriculture’s environmental footprint is shrinking, EPA has ramped up its regulatory force.

Earth Day Fact 9: More regulations in the face of clear progress could lead to unintended and negative consequences for the environment.

Earth Day Fact 10: Since the 1970s, hog farmers have achieved a 35 percent decrease in the carbon footprint, a 41 percent reduction in water usage and a 78 percent decrease in land needed to produce a pound of pork, according to a study published in the Journal of Animal Science/Journal of Dairy Science. Those reductions have come largely through production efficiencies, including improvements in swine genetics, housing – moving pigs indoors – manure management and feed rations.

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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Keeping the Values Going and Growing

March 25 - 2Grandparents, Parents, Children, Grandchildren. If you were raised on a family farm, think about where it all started. Has it been a generational farm for 80 years in the making? Or is it a new farm with just your father or mother at the start? Generational farming is a family farm that has been passed down from generation to generation to keep the values of it going and growing. Generational farming is a very important factor in today’s agriculture community. In fact, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2012 Census of Agriculture, of the 2.1 million farms in the United States, 97 percent of those farms are family owned. Small family farms, actually make up 90 percent of the U.S. farm count Meanwhile, nearly eight percent of farms in the United States are midsize or large family farms, whether big or small, family farms are beaming with success. However, here and now, we need to realize that if we want to continue having successful family farms, we need to remember the importance of passing down the family farm. In this blog, I will discuss the need for generational farms, the challenges of generational farming, and finally, we will learn what it takes and how to prepare future generations for this difficult task.

FullSizeRWhy do we need generational farms? Well lately, I’m sure we have all been hearing this famous question: “How will we feed the world by 2050?” According to www.fao.org, the world’s population is expected to reach 9.1 billion by the year 2050. That is nearly a 40 percent increase from where we are now. This statistic could very easily frighten farmers into thinking there is no way I can contribute enough to help, but that thought is wrong. family farms together produce 86 percent of the value of farming and ranching. What would we do if family farms suddenly began to fail? According to www.start2farm.gov, the average age of the American farmer today is 57, and according to the USDA, the average age of the farmer has increased in each census since 1978. Former Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack stated that “We have an aging farming population. If left unchecked, this could threaten our ability to produce the food we need” (GenNext 2015). With the average age of the farmer increasing, younger generations need to step up to the plate and not just take over the farms but rather continue to increase the value of the farms. Not only is the aging farmer an issue, but financial values are as well. The USDA stated that the U.S. farm real estate value has averaged $3,020 per acre in 2015, and that’s only the average. It is virtually impossible for someone to get into the farming industry without having the preceding generation help. We also need to look at the increasing amount of technology available to the agriculture community. Aging farmers are less likely to feel the need to make technological advancements on their farm, such as auto steer and digital yield mapping. This is where, again, the next generation needs to step up. We have the skills and knowledge needed to make advancements in technology that can be useful to farmers. The importance of passing down the farm is extreme. As agriculturists, we will never be where we want to be by 2050 without generational farms.

Now, although the needs are great, the challenges can feel even greater. E.M. Tiffany wrote in the well-known FFA Creed, “for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life.” There is no doubt that passing down a farm from generation to generation is one of the most difficult tasks. One of the major problems that arise is how to treat all family members fairly but keep the farm as one unit.  In fact, this is often where the thought of the “generational farm” gets lost. Another important responsibility that can be difficult for the current generational farmer is having to educate the next on crucial information about the farm. All too often we hear about farms and ranches that get passed down only to be lost. If communication takes place between the generations before the farm is passed down, the farm has a better chance of surviving. Keeping up with technological advances is also a challenge that generational farmers face.

FullSizeR (1)Early mornings, late nights, long days in the field. Any hardworking and dedicated farmer will take on any task; but what does it take and how do you prepare? Well, dedication and determination doesn’t just come from anywhere. It’s a drive from within you that must act. It’s a beating in your heart that says “this is what my job has called me to do.” According to www.agweb.com, 56 percent of farmers report spending at least 10-14 hours a day on the farm. If you don’t have an interest in working long hours on the farm, then you won’t be able to find the joy in the job you do. When you stop, and think of the challenges, you can realize that generational farming isn’t easy. In fact, it’s something that just can’t be done unless you have the passion for it. However, there are group efforts in our nation that are working to prepare those who have a passion and dedication but just don’t have all the knowledge they need yet. Kevin Moore, a professor at the University of Missouri, teaches “Returning to the Farm.” This is a class that prepares students to overcome the financial and personality hurdles of becoming a farmer. Dr. Tom Field from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln also teaches a “Family Business” class that equips students with the tools they need to have conversations with their parents about things such as succession planning. I personally believe that we need more efforts like these to help prepare the next generation.

Grandparents, Parents, Children, Grandchildren, and the list can go on. These are just four of the possible generations that can thrive on a family farm. Think of the sense of accomplishment someone could get from knowing that their farm has never died and never will. Generational farming is more than just land getting passed down. It’s a way of helping our world work more efficiently. It’s a way of learning and earning. It’s a way of life. If more people could see the need for generational farming, overcome the challenges of generational farming, and find the passion and drive to keep passing down the farm, then as agriculturalists, we can and we will succeed in the farming community and keep the values of our lifestyle going and growing.

 

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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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Importance of Family in Agriculture

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We are often told to choose our words carefully. Sometimes we don’t pay any attention to the words that aren’t inappropriate or hurtful but in reality they are just as important. When attending Nebraska Agriculture Youth Institute a speaker gave us a chart of words to use when talking about agriculture to the consumers who are unaware of who we are as an industry. There was one group of words that really stuck out at me, the usage of operation compared to family farm or ranch. I’ve always considered our ranch as our family’s, but professionally speaking I have always referred to it as an operation. When thinking about Keystone Cattle Company and O-C Livestock I realized that it isn’t an operation but really my family’s home.

Grandparents:

The reasoning behind my agriculture influence. Both sides of my grandparents have given me the opportunity to grow up in the most amazing industry and I have learned so much about their lives through doing the same activities that they have enjoyed in their lifetimes. My Grandpa and Grandma O’Connor have blessed me to grow up in God’s Country. It seems as if I can’t go anywhere without hearing crazy stories about Grandpa. Some of my favorite time with family is spent talking about the older generations. One of my most memorable brandings was this year when my grandpa crawled onto my brothers rope horse and heeled two legs on his first loop. I have been beyond blessed to be apart of the Keystone Cattle Company. However my blessings don’t stop there. My love for 4-H might just come from the Merritt’s. I love to hear the story of my grandparents meeting on the steps of the White House as they represented Nebraska as the 4-H Four Square Winners. Still to this day my family will go through my grandfather’s old papers on his registered Maines and his long line of show quarter horses. I love hearing people talk about how successful my Grandpa was in this tough industry, and even to this day my family and I wish we had his good eye to help us pick out our stock for the year. I love learning more about my family and am blessed to learn about the lives of my loved ones.

Mom:

Perhaps the biggest influence of agriculture in my lifetime. If anyone knows my Mom you know that pigs won’t be far behind. Growing up, raised by Nebraska 4-H’s Queen and King,she fell in love with the organization and has passed that down to my brothers and I. Her father, having a variety of operations, presented her with a chance to work on their feedlot growing up, show some awesome show horses, and be involved with showing livestock competitively. Her love for agriculture met her profession when  she traded out special education for a job at the local grain elevator. Though she was just  wanting to help out during the harvest season, her love for ag lead her to being the commodity trader for a feedlot and now a manager for a feed store. I have seen my mother put much time and money into spoiling my brothers and I with some awesome livestock, hotels for shows, and of course a fair amount of carnival food. I wouldn’t be as successful in FFA, 4-H or any other activities if it wasn’t for her support. Her ability to network with everyone in the industry shows me how important relationships are. I love sitting in the show barn doing nothing with her and aspire to be such as great of female agriculturalist as she is.

Dad:

The passing of my father last year has allowed me to learn so much about him in such a short time. Hearing stories about his success in high school and college rodeo inspires me to chase after my dreams. My father served as a regional director for both high school and college rodeo, which gives me a sense of where my strong leadership skills come from. Also the amount of support and friends he had, shows me that the all the relationships  built in the agriculture family are those of gold. 

Merritt:

My oldest brother is completely responsible for my future in agriculture. The year he left me to do my own chores had me worried, but being forced to be in the barn by myself made me realize his love spending time with his livestock. After chasing his dreams of judging livestock in college it has made me work hard to be more like him. From Casper College to South Dakota State, he has grown as an agriculturalist and man as he prepares to be in the workforce in agriculture. I can’t wait to see where this industry takes him.

Rhett:

Lastly my brother Rhett. Yep, you guessed it, Rhett is “that brother.” The one that is so close to home, but  we don’t ever see him because he is busy experiencing new things, but mostly you can’t get him out of the roping arena. Rhett has demonstrated the importance of finding your perfect place while at school where he has excelled in his rodeoing and academics. Rhett’s good work ethic, love for talking, and positive attitude will make him do great things while running the Keystone Cattle Company in the future. 

After thinking long  and hard about how the words “family ranches” are more appealing than operations it made me think about how my operation would differ if it weren’t for my family. Agriculture is one of the fastest advancing industries yet it sits strong on a foundation of tradition and family. The closeness of family operations prove to be than producing goods but instead making a living worth loving. The future of agriculture will continue to grow but the tradition of the family farms and ranches will stand strong for ever.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

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Ingredients
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
½ cup sour cream
½ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, room temp.
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Glaze
1 teaspoon melted butter
1 cup+ powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions
1.    Preheat oven to 350º.  Line muffin tins with paper liners.
2.    Whisk flour, baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and baking soda in medium bowl.
3.    In a small bowl, whisk sour cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice.
4.    Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, lemon zest in a large bowl to blend.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until mixture is light and fluffy.
5.    Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with sour cream mixture (2 additions).  Mix just until blended.
6.    Stir in poppy seeds.
7.    Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
8.    Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.  Cool in pans 5 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool on rack.
9.    Mix together melted butter, lemon juice, and enough powdered sugar to make a glaze.  Drizzle over tops of warm muffins.

Yield:  48 mini muffins, 18 regular muffins, 12 large muffins.

Copycat Outback Steakhouse Walkabout Soup

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Ingredients
White Sauce
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk
Soup Base
2 cups thinly sliced yellow sweet onions
3 tablespoons butter
14-15 oz. can chicken broth
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 oz. processed cheese (the kind that melts easily)
Shredded cheese for garnish

Directions
1.    Prepare white sauce in a saucepan or microwave.  Set aside.
2.    In a 2-quart saucepan, place 3 tablespoons and the sliced onions.  Cook on low to medium heat, stirring frequently until soft and clear but not brown.
3.    Add chicken broth, bouillon cubes, salt, and pepper.  Stir until completely heated through.
4.    Add white sauce and processed cheese. Simmer on medium low heat until cheese is melted and all ingredients are blended, stirring constantly.
5.    Turn the temperature to warm and let cook for an additional 30-45 minutes.
6.    Serve with a garnish of shredded cheddar cheese.

Yield:  3-4 servings