A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping

steve corn head shotThere’s an old saying that to know where you’re going, it helps to know where you’ve been. And as we closed out 2015, it’s worth taking a look back at last year to see the work that’s been done and see how it helps moving forward in 2016. That applies not only to our farms and ranches, but also to Farm Bureau.

Farm Bureau is about making life better for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families.

In 2015 that meant working to provide property tax reform for farmers, ranchers and all members. It meant finding ways to grow Nebraska’s livestock sector to create home grown markets for our commodities. It meant investing time and resources working to promote agricultural trade opportunities to add value to the grain and livestock produced on our farms and ranches. And it meant pushing back on a landslide of regulations directed at agriculture, particularly EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rule that poses the single largest threat to private property rights we’ve ever seen from a federal agency.

It also involved getting the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture up and running with new leadership and new staff which are integral to the Foundations’ efforts to engage and equip students, teachers and consumers with information about how their food is produced and where it comes from.

And it also meant providing support for our county farm bureau’s, growing our list of member benefits, and engaging more with the youth who will be the next generation of Farm Bureau leaders.

It was a good year with numerous successes; all of which have everything to do with your engagement as a Farm Bureau member. Listing all the activities members do to make Farm Bureau great at the county, state and national level is a nearly impossible task. But the results of all those actions are reflected in our list of 2015 achievements.

As we look to 2016, I’d ask you to consider a New Year’s Resolution; a resolution to continue to engage and be a leader for agriculture in the coming year. As I’ve said on many occasions the strength of Farm Bureau lies in the strength and engagement of our grassroots membership. Working together thru Farm Bureau we do things we could never accomplish alone. My hope for 2016 is that we continue to push forward together as we always have, engaging when and where we can, to help make life better for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. That’s truly a New Year’s Resolution worth keeping!

Sincerely,

Steve Nelson, President, Nebraska Farm Bureau

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What’s a typical day like on your farm?

noe 5My family has been farming in Spring Bay, Illinois since 1875. Over the years, the farm has seen quite a few changes in which crops are grown and how they are raised. Currently, we raise corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, hogs, cantaloupes and watermelons. Since the farm is so diversified, each day is different throughout the year. The spring season consists of working ground, planting corn and soybeans, starting the melons in the greenhouse and then transplanting them into the field.

noe 4Summer is our busiest season. In the early months, we finish transplanting melons and begin to cultivate and hoe them to keep the weeds out. In July, we cut wheat, bale straw and hay and begin to pick cantaloupe. We will usually handpick about 300-400 cantaloupes on a daily basis. In the middle of the season, it’s not unusual for us to pick 800-1200 cantaloupes each night. We deliver truckloads to local grocery stores in addition to selling them at local farmer’s markets six days a week. The watermelons are usually ready in mid-August. We pick them about three times a week and continue to go to farmer’s markets and grocery stores. On a typical summer day, you can find my family up and working by 6:30 a.m. loading pickups, picking flowers and produce to go to the farmer’s market, and doing hog chores. One of us will go to the market and sell until noon. When we come home, we unload the leftover produce, eat lunch, and relax. Then we go out to pick more cantaloupes, reload pickups, eat supper, and make sure everything is ready to go for the next day.

noe 3September is an in-between month for our farm. The cantaloupe and watermelon season winds down and my dad and brothers start preparing the combine and equipment for harvest. We usually begin cutting beans and picking corn in the first week of October. Once harvest starts, my family spends a majority of the day in the fields or on the road moving equipment and hauling the grain to the elevator for storage. Mom takes breaks from driving the trucks to pack lunches and make supper for the crew. Harvest is an exciting and stressful time for the whole family. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done and the weather just never seems to cooperate. There have been numerous times when Dad combined through the night to get a field done before an early snow or to get an extra load up to the elevator before it closed for the evening. Despite the stress, breakdowns, and disappointments, it’s very easy to love the harvest season. It’s an exciting time you spend out in the field working with your family and bringing in the crops that you started way back in the spring.

noe 2By early November, we are usually finished with harvest and begin to prepare the equipment for the next season. Once the crops are harvested, everything starts to slow down. The winter months are mundane compared to the rest of the year. From December to March, we work to repair the things that broke during the spring, summer, or fall that we didn’t have time to fix in that season. This is also the time that we get to work on fun projects, hobbies, and finish taxes and other book work. When it gets cold and starts snowing, we use skid-steers to clear snow off our driveways and out of the hog pens. We also have to put straw in the outdoor hog pens to help them keep warm in the cold weather.

noe 1Although we’re busy throughout the year with our crops and melons, the hogs are an additional year-round occupation. Every morning and evening, we have to feed the hogs in the indoor and outdoor pens. We also have to move any pregnant sows into the farrowing house, wean piglets and give them shots, and move sows out of the farrowing house and back into the pens with the boars so they can be rebred. Once the pigs have reached market weight, we arrange shipments and send them off on the semi to become pork chops, bacon, sausages, and pork burgers.

Our farm is an exciting place to be and there’s always plenty of work to be done. Through our family farm upbringing, my brothers and I learned what it takes to run a successful business and have built a lot of character through the work that we did. One of the benefits of farming is that the job changes every few months and each day is different from the day before. It can be overwhelming at times, but it’s a very rewarding career in the long run.

Rachel Noe bio pic

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Hearty Lentil Ham Soup

Hearty Lentil Ham SoupIngredients
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
6 cups water
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained or 1 qt. home canned tomatoes
¾ cup dry lentils, rinsed
¾ cup pearl barley
1 meaty leftover ham bone or 2 ham hocks
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules or 2 cubes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Swiss cheese, optional

 

Directions
1.   In a Dutch oven or soup kettle, saute the celery, onion, and garlic in butter until tender.
2.   Add water, tomatoes, lentils, barley, ham, bouillon,  herbs, and pepper; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Lentils and barley should be tender.
3.   Add carrots; simmer for 15-30 minutes, until carrots are tender.
4.   Remove ham bone/ham hocks from soup; remove meat from the bones and return it to the soup.
5.   May be served with a sprinkling of cheese in each bowl.

Yield:  8-10 servings

The Joys of Fall

Front Pg - Farmers Market 2There is something about Fall and Harvest that I love experiencing every year. Things like the cool morning air as the sun rises over the horizon, the deep rumble of the diesel engines warming, and the rows of finished crops just crying out to be picked. And while our harvest at the nursery is a bit different we also look forward to our fall harvest. For the Nurseryman, when we see fall colors coming onto our trees and we can begin our harvest, our hearts beat a bit faster. To me, fall really hasn’t arrived until I see the combines in the fields harvesting and our equipment digging fresh trees from our fields.

Every year as harvest arrives, whether it is acres of crops, fields of trees, or our own home landscapes and vegetable gardens, I believe we all smile a bit larger as we enjoy the fruits of our labor and the return of the fall.

Our fall harvest while similar to other farmers is also slightly different. Just as crop farmers wait for the beans or corn to dry to harvest, we need our trees to show good fall color before we can safely harvest them from our fields. Once harvested our job is just beginning, as we will spend the short time before winter planting our harvest in the landscapes of our clients. This means there is still plenty of time to install a new tree, shrub or even perennial in your landscape. Generally we feel you can safely plant perennials until early November, shrubs and evergreens through November, and shade & flowering trees until the ground freezes solid. Of course some years Mother Nature is kinder and other years a bit meaner so that schedule can vary from year to year based on weather so check with your local nursery professional for specific recommendations about your fall planting.

Beyond the harvesting and planting activities don’t forget that fall is also a great time to prepare for next year in our landscapes and gardens. Fall landscape cleanups and fall turf care are some wonderful ways to prepare for next year.

fall leaf04As cool fall weather arrives and our plants go into their dormant winter sleep, proper cleaning of our landscapes prepares our plants to sleep through winter and come back ready to grow next spring. Removing dead annuals opens the beds for next year’s planting and trimming off browned up perennial tops cleans them up and prepares them to regrow next spring. Also when removing your annuals or vegetables consider preparing your beds for next spring’s plantings by adding and tilling in some compost or peat moss & manure to further enrich your beds.

On the turf side when the leaves begin to fall don’t forget to spend time on your lawn. September to early October is the time for the third step of the four step lawn programs and November is perfect for the fourth step usually known as the Winter Turf Fertilization. Proper fertilization of your lawn this fall will give your turf what it will need next spring for a healthier lawn. Fall is also the time to aerate your turf to reduce compaction, encourage a vigorous root system and to increase water / air movement into the soil. And while you may need to mow a few more times, make an effort to rake up fallen leaves every week to ten days. Frequent rakings will reduce the possibility the leaves will get left in place caught under the snow. Short-term, leaves aren’t really a problem but if they are left to sit under the snow all winter they can mat down the grass and leave areas to reseed or patch next spring.

Finally, if Mother Nature doesn’t give us plenty of moisture this fall even as the weather gets cooler make sure to water your turf and plants to keep them hydrated. By properly hydrating your plants, especially your evergreens, you ensure they are prepared for their winter sleep and your plants will be better prepared to begin growing again next spring. Just remember to detach your hoses between waterings to eliminate the potential of frozen or cracked pipes in your home.

When I think about it I really don’t know what it is about fall that I enjoy so much. Choices abound from the beauty of the fall foliage, the moderating weather, Husker football, the harvest, or any of the many other events that fall brings. What I do know though is that the events of fall, including the harvest, are such major parts of our lives here in Nebraska. So, as I will, make the most of a glorious fall this year and celebrate it before that evil beast winter shows up again.

 

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.