So, Where Does Your Corn Go?

corn tassles at sunset

One of the questions I get asked most when telling my farm story is “Where does your corn go?” Our corn is certified organic, so it doesn’t go to the local elevator where our neighbors deliver theirs. We have a few options, and work with buyers to find the right price and right market for our crop.

Animal Feed

One possible use for our corn is animal feed. Organically raised animals that eat ground corn must eat certified organic corn. We have shipped our corn on rail cars to California, New York, and places in between. Living in the Southwest Minnesota, we have the soils and proper weather conditions for raising pretty good corn. The animal feed market is influenced not only by livestock farmers in our area, but all over the United States.


This market may not be my mom’s favorite, but it has been a good one. Last year we sold our corn to an ethanol plant that makes consumable alcohols as a division of their business. They make regular vodka out of conventional corn, and a few times a year clean the plant and make organic alcohols with organic corn. They make vodka for a couple companies, as well as the alcohol that goes in organic vanilla extract, alcohol based cleaning supplies, and pharmaceuticals.

People Products

Typically we think of sweet corn as being the type of corn used for humans. However, there are many products on store shelves made from field corn. Corn chips, tortilla chips, corn flour, starch, and corn meal are a few examples. We have sold corn to cereal companies in the past as well. There are also many non-edible items made from corn and corn oils, but those typically are not organic products, so they wouldn’t use our crop.

We’re not that different, really

When you look at where our corn goes, it sounds pretty similar to where conventionally raised corn goes. One of the reasons so many farmers raise corn is the fact that it has many uses!  I think that’s pretty cool.

Mature Field Corn

Farm to Fork Class Comes to the Farm

Last November, thanks to the Minnesota Farm Bureau’s Speak for Yourself program, I had the opportunity to share my farm story with the Farm to Fork class at Tracy High School. At the conclusion of my presentation, I invited the class to come visit our farm, since we are less than 30 miles from their school. On April 27th, they took us up on the offer.

The day dawned cold and windy with 100% chance of rain. We had tractors and machinery parked in the shop and the machine shed so we wouldn’t have to stand outside. I was very thankful that Jonathan and Adam took the time to clean the shop so we could meet in there…and they even turned the in-floor heat on again. In April in Minnesota, it’s not unusual to go from heat to air conditioning to heat in the span of a week.

We started out in the shop where we had our planter tractor parked with the corn and soybean planter attached. We talked about how the planter works, and how we use GPS technology to plant in a straight line, and how we can adjust the depth the seeds are planted according to the recommendations for that seed. Many of the students have helped plant gardens, so they understand the importance of planting the seeds at a proper depth. We also talked about how we use computers to plant just the right number of seeds in an acre, and how we can adjust that depending on soil types. The three monitors we have in our planter tractor were running so the kids could see what kind of information we use when we’re planting. They were able to climb up into the tractor if they wanted.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork tractor experience

While in the shop, we also talked about the records we keep and the process we go through to become a certified organic farm. We had our Organic Systems Plan, Clean Truck Affidavits, and Yield Maps & Soil Tests books that they could page through.

Next we walked over to the machine shed. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining yet. The machine shed was chilly, but at least we were out of the wind! Jonathan talked about the field cultivator and the tractor that pulls it, and how we can change the tracks on that tractor to narrow ones that will fit in between our 22 inch rows if we need to. The kids were standing around the pallets of seed that were waiting to be delivered to our seed customers, but they didn’t seem to mind.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork track tractor

The rotary hoe is parked to the left of the tractor in the photo, so we walked over and talked about why and how we use it. Then we turned and talked about the combine. It was a good time to talk about farm safety as well. The kids could see the size of the machine up close, and realize that this isn’t really meant to be on the road. I hope the message of giving the combine room in the back, and only passing when it is safe to pass is a message that sticks! The kids had the chance to climb up into the combine cab and up on the back to see what it looks like. I think they liked this part!

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Combine

We viewed the flame weeder from the door of the machine shed, since it was starting to rain at this point. Back in the shop, we gathered around our newest project, a cultivator. This cultivator has a camera that “sees” the crop and adjusts the cultivator’s position accordingly. I’ll explain that a bit more in another post.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork students

The kids were able to put their hands in a bucket of wheat seed, and we talked about how the seed we plant becomes the food they eat. Sometimes King Arthur Flour buys our wheat through one of our grain buyers. We also have sold corn and soybeans to dairy and poultry farms to supply feed for their animals. To help connect the farm to fork concept, I baked some of my favorite scones for our guests using ingredients that could affect our farm when they are purchased by consumers. The King Arthur Flour, and Organic Valley dairy products are two of our potential markets. The organic sugar and egg may not directly affect us, but show that those choices are available to consumers in southwest Minnesota. The ground vanilla beans are there because I love using ground vanilla beans in my baking, even though it is considered a premium ingredient.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Ingredients

The students asked some great questions, and know they have someone they can ask when something comes up that they want to understand a bit more. One of the reasons why I love to share my farm story with groups, and why I love hosting groups on our farm is that connection I now have with all those I visited with.

It is important to Jonathan and I that we show consumers the impact that farmers and agriculture have on them. We talked about how Jonathan and I are giving consumers a choice by farming organically, and that we don’t mind what their families choose, since agriculture is filled with farmers and farm families like ours. No matter what they purchase in the grocery store, it started on a farm.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Scones and Organic Valley milk

To me, there is no better way to cap off a morning on the farm than by eating a vanilla bean scone with a carton of Organic Valley Chocolate Milk served from the workbench. Thanks to the students for being awesome, and thank you to Mrs Campbell and Ms Noll for making both visits possible!

Some might think it is scary to host a Farm to Fork or Family and Consumer Sciences class at their farm. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t have to be an expert on everything. Most of the kids just want the chance to meet a farmer and get a little hands on feel for what it takes for the food they eat to get to their table. If you are interested in hosting classes, contact your Farm Bureau and see if they have programs that will help you connect with teachers.


A huge shout out to my friend, Emily Zweber of Zweber Farms for supplying the chocolate milk…and to Jonathan for cleaning up the shop, getting equipment parked inside, and talking about farming to the Farm to Fork class…and to our hired dude, Adam, for cleaning the shop with Jonathan, and picking up after us and turning off equipment and turning out lights when we were done.

Cover Crop Residue Tour

Jonathan and I went on a little farm tour a few weeks ago, and stopped to check on the fields with cover crop residues. We use oats, which we spread on the field with a spin spreader, and Tillage Radish, which is planted with the row crop planter. This past fall had perfect growing conditions for the cover crops, so they grew really well.

We have a three crop rotation on our farm. Each year one-third of our acres are planted into corn, one-third is soybeans, and one-third is a small grain such as wheat. After the wheat is harvested, we apply hog manure to that land for the corn to use the following year. After the manure is incorporated, we plant our cover crop. The root systems of the oats and Tillage Radish are very different, but work in harmony to improve soil health. The oats stimulate microorganisms in the soil that digest the organic matter making the nutrients available for the corn to use in the spring. Oats are also good at suppressing weeds.  The Tillage Radish tap root breaks up compacted soil, and creates water channels that help the soil to hold water instead of the water running over the top. Both the oats and Tillage Radish are good at storing nutrients from the manure in their stems and roots, which are released when the organic matter is worked into the soil in the spring.

oat cover crop

Here you can see how the stems from the oats formed a thick layer over the soil. This field had no wind erosion this past spring, even though we have had some extremely windy days. The soil underneath was cooler and wetter than our fields without a cover crop.

cover crop finding radish

We were looking for some Tillage Radish residue and the holes they leave behind. The end rows in this field only had Tillage Radish planted, due to timing issues. It also makes for a good experiment to have just the radish in areas that typically suffer from compaction issues. We found a few rows where the tops of the radish were above ground, so we could look at how they decompose.
cover crop pulling radish

You can see how Jonathan was able to tease the radish out of the ground. The top of the radish was exposed through the winter, and was a little spongy when squeezed.

cover crop decaying root

You can see how part of the root has decomposed, yet some remained. This was the part just under the soil line. It was much softer than the top of the plant.

cover crop tillage radish depth test

Here I was trying to see how deep the root channel was. I couldn’t touch the bottom. The root channels vary in size depending on how close the radishes were planted, and how large they grew.

cover crop radish hole

This hole wasn’t as big in diameter as the other one, but was very deep. When it rains, these holes give the water a place to go instead of the rain just running over the top of the soil. It is one reason we use our corn planter to plant the Tillage Radish in rows. When we plant corn over the same rows in the spring, the corn benefits from the moisture held in the soil.

Using a cover crop has become an important part of our rotation. We are seeing the benefits in increased soil organic matter, better water holding capacity, and better erosion control. We are also seeing benefits to the environment in wildlife activity (deer love the tillage radish), water holding capacity, and erosion control. A true win win!

3 Phrases Agvocates Should Lose

Agvocates do nothing from rivalry or conceit

As agvocates, we share our perspectives of agriculture from the lens of our own truth. My lens, or filters will be different from all other agvocates, because I have different experiences and my farm is different from all others. Having that diversity is awesome when it comes to agvocating, especially if the main message is a unified one: Agriculture is important in the United States, and we are blessed to have the safest, most abundant food supply, with the best choices available to fit everyone’s desires. So, if we see things through our own lens, which gives us our own truth, how do we stand united?

Over the past 18 months, I have been to many conferences where speakers and consumer researchers have told the attendees to meet their consumers on an emotional level. We need to make them feel good, and help them understand that no matter what they purchase in the grocery store they are supporting a farming or ranching family. Looking at agvocating from that perspective, I see three phrases or ideas that we should lose in order to reach our consumers on that emotional level.

Food Shaming

It’s pretty safe to say that there isn’t a person alive in North America who hasn’t felt the sting of judgement from their friends or neighbors. Heck, some of us have felt the sting of judgement from our fellow agvocates. The most popular form of judgement is food shaming. Typically, it is seen as a totally granola mom telling all her friends they have to eat only organic to “properly” raise their children. There is a lot of outrage in those instances. When a mom who feeds her kids organic gets shamed, and told that she’s just wasting her money on a marketing scheme, is that any better? There isn’t as much outrage when that happens, but to me, shaming is shaming, and it needs to stop. We will never be the trusted source of information for consumers if we are making them feel bad about their choices. Bottom line: nobody wants to feel stupid for the choices they make. We lose their trust, and they go elsewhere for their information (Peta, HSUS, etc). We need to stop shaming our consumers…and each other.


I’ll admit that this hashtag and the accompanying tweets associated with it annoy me for a couple of reasons. First, most of the tweets have a “I can’t believe you don’t know this” attitude when telling people about some study or another that proves that biotech or whatever is safe. The problem with that attitude is, we make consumers feel dumb. How many people have a science degree, or can understand what the studies are saying? We’re told when giving speeches or agvocating in public to speak at a 4th grade level…I’ve read many study abstracts, and I can tell you, they are not written at a 4th grade level! The Center for Food Integrity’s 2014 research talks a lot about this very thing. We cannot forget about the impact that emotion plays when people are deciding whether or not to trust your truth. Secondly, many of the tweets associated with this hashtag make it sound like the only science in agriculture is biotechnology. When you think about it, biotechnology is a pretty small part of the science that goes into raising a crop, even if the majority of corn, soybeans, and cotton raised in North America are genetically engineered. We all need to pay attention to soil science, plant science (including weeds), pathology, animal science, and hydrology…not to mention computer science, and engineering. I know I’m missing some major ones, but you get the idea. Agriculture involves a lot of science, no matter what you grow. We just can’t assume that our consumers will “get” the science that we work with every day. Heck, I don’t understand the science that goes along with range management or animal nutrition, because I don’t ever work with that. Fortunately, I have trusted friends I can go to when I have questions. That’s what we need to be to our consumers.

Biotech is the only way to feed the world

I’ve had many great conversations about this phrase. Looking at it from an agvocating point of view, though, I think we need to lose it. As consumers, we are all a bit self centered. We want what we want when we want it. When we are making our way through the grocery store, we are not thinking about how many people in the world the average farmer is feeding. We are thinking about checking off our grocery lists, or we’re trying to remember what it is we needed as we’re being distracted by kids, neighbors who want to say hello, or the little old ladies who need help getting a bag of cat food into their cart. This message is being lost on the consumer. I don’t know about you, but I eat a pretty diverse diet. I like my cereal or eggs in the morning, but the rest of the day I’m eating a variety of meats, potatoes or rice, and vegetables. For snacks, I like fruits, or coffee. I don’t like eating the same thing all the time, because I get bored with it. There are what, nine genetically engineered crops on the market? Foods made with those crops do not make up the entirety of the average diet. We need the diversity in agriculture to make the whole system work. We celebrate diversity in every other aspect of our lives, why not in agriculture? When the whole choir only sings one note, there is no harmony. When my BLT has no L or T, it is just a bacon sandwich…but that actually doesn’t sound all that bad….

So, what should we be saying when we agvocate?

In our lenten series at church this year, our Pastor has been talking about not separating our faith from our every day life, but to treat it as we do everything else. The funny thing is, I have taken a ton of notes during his Sunday sermons lately, because they fit agvocating so well. The verse on the photo above summed up my feelings about how to agvocate effectively without running the risk of alienating other farmers or our consumers.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2: 3-4”

How cool would it be if we all agvocated that way…doing nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

We can do this when we tell our story, since we know it better than anyone else. This also goes back to each of us having our own truth. Nobody can argue with you if you say, “On my farm, we do this…” or “On my ranch, we do that…” That is your story, and your truth. You can find things in common with your consumers if you write about things they may be able to relate to. They won’t relate to farming, but if you develop a relationship with them over a common topic, you will be their trusted source when you do write about agriculture.

I absolutely believe we can speak as a unified voice for agriculture, but it’s going to take a little change in attitude from all of us. Will you join me in supporting all of our farming and ranching families?


Where Agriculture and Horror Movies Collide

Have you watched the movie “Alien” where a creature bursts out of the chest of a human, killing him? Truth be told, I am not a fan of horror movies. However, when similar things happen to insects in nature, I am totally fascinated!

Starting today, one of our soybean fields will have little wasps that act like the Alien. They sting soybean aphids, and lay their eggs inside the aphid. This kills and mummifies the aphid. When the larva is ready for the next stage of life, it bursts out of the mummified aphid body. So cool!

So, what do these vicious creatures look like?

CarolynCares Wasp

Did you see it? Maybe this extreme closeup will help…

CarolynCares Wasp Closeup

Yep, these tiny little wasps are the size of a soybean aphid…which is about as big as the dot of a Sharpie Fine Pen. Nick, a doctoral student from the University of Minnesota entomology department came out today to distribute 75,000 of these little buggers. They arrived in their shipping containers, which were mummified soybean aphids on soybean leaves. The black dots are the aphids which house the wasps…

CarolynCares Mummies

Nick transferred the wasps, leaves, and larva to a slightly larger cup, making sure he had a similar amount of wasps in each cup (yes, someone had figured out how many there were in each cup). He then put a mesh over the top that was large enough for the wasps to go in and out, but not large enough for predators like lady beetles to get in. These cups were put in milk crates as a base of sorts for the wasps.

CarolynCares Wasp Release

Nick then went walking on the edge of the field, flagging locations for the six crates to be placed. After that he measured out about 2 meters in each direction, and placed another flag. The soybean plants by those flags will be checked in 3 weeks to see if the wasps have moved that far from their point of release.

One of the limiting factors in this research is the amount of soybean aphids currently in our fields. When we were looking, we really didn’t find many at all. This is due to the delays in planting, and the cooler weather that has slowed the growth of the soybeans. Nick was explaining the optimal time for aphid movement according to soybean plant stage, and encouraged scouting within the next two weeks.

Jonathan and I are pretty interested in learning more about how this natural aphid control will work in a real world situation. We are hoping that this will turn into a viable tool that we can use to combat the soybean aphid. Right now, as organic farmers, we have no effective method to control them other than planting naturally aphid tolerant varieties of soybeans. Nick is hoping that the wasps that were released today will not only help us this year, but their future generations will be helpful in the years to come.

How cool is it that scientists have found an Alien like way to control an agriculture pest?



30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 21: OATF

What? No photo? I totally failed on this one. I brought my camera along to our first Organic Advisory Task Force meeting, and I forgot to ask for a group photo.

So, what is the OATF, and why am I thankful for them?

The Organic Advisory Task Force is a group of 15 individuals from around the state of Minnesota who meet a couple of times a year to discuss the organic industry in our state. We then advise the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and the University of Minnesota on policy and research issues. The group is made up of farmers, processors, distributors, certifying agencies, University faculty, a non-profit general farm organization representing farmers, and the public.

The coolest thing about this group, besides the people, is that farmers get to hear from consumers (processors, distributors and the public) as well as the certifying agencies and the faculty, and everyone else gets to hear from the farmers. I love how we all come together with the goal of finding a consensus on the issues facing the organic industry. I am thankful for the opportunities that we have to share with each other, and the friendships that are made.

On Tuesday, the new 3 year term began. We were able to hear from a Deputy Commissioner of Ag and Deans from the University of Minnesota. We also had a chance to share what the concerns are in the area we represent. We had some really good discussions! One thing that was made clear to the Deans, is that with funding sources shrinking all the time, that they hire faculty that is friendly towards organic agriculture. We realize the importance of shared research and resources, and know that there are many research areas that benefit both organic and conventional agriculture. We are not a group of extremists that are hell bent on taking down anyone. We focus on ways to support and educate what the organic farming and food system is about.

I am thankful for all of the members of this Task Force, and I am thankful that I have been given the opportunity to serve as their chair.


To follow other 30 Day Blog Challenge participants, click here.

Agriculture is Not One Size Fits All

We all like things neat and tidy. We want everything to fit into the box we see as ideal. Our perceptions as to what is right, true, and good are shaped by our experiences and the people around us. Funny thing is, even those who have grown up in the same family have very different opinions on how they do things.

There are 5 kids in my family. Three of us have three children. Even though we were raised the same way in the same house, we parent very differently.   We all remember family things differently. What sticks out in my sister’s mind as a significant event, I may have totally forgotten about. We each see the same things in a different manner.

When Jonathan and I went on our first date, I can remember what I wore, but I can never remember where we went to eat. Jonathan has a great memory for the details & places of significance in our relationship, but I tend to remember the emotions. It’s part of what makes us work together well. We can help to fill in each other’s gaps.

What does this have to do with agriculture? Everything. We each bring our unique perspectives to our farms and ranches. We have certain ways we like to do things, for reasons we probably cannot explain. Does that make me wrong if I do something a different way than you do? Absolutely not. The diversity in agriculture helps to fill in the gaps. We can’t all grow cotton or rice or soybeans or tomatoes. Consumers are asking for choices, and we have the ability to provide that.

We farm our crops organically. We like the process. The management, the record keeping, the constant assessments in the field, the soil management, the relationships with our buyers – we like it all. It suits our land, and it suits our personalities.  Neither one of us thinks that everyone would be good at organic farming. We’re okay with that. We just want the opportunity to be the best organic farmers we can be. If your passion is raising cow/calf pairs in South Dakota, that’s awesome. Be the best rancher you can be. If your passion is raising vegetables and running a CSA, more power to you. It’s not where my passion lies, but I’m glad it’s yours – especially when I want a BLT.

The point is, agriculture is not a one size fits all you have to do it this way everything is black and white industry. Find your passion, and run with it. Just remember, my passion is going to be different from yours, and that’s okay. Just concentrate on being the best you can be in whatever you choose to do. Everyone should be given that opportunity.

Related posts:

Who Am I To Judge – For Farmers and Consumers

What Does it Mean to Love Our Neighbor?

Top 10 Things I Love About Farm Life

Top 10 lists are fun write out. I thought it would be fun to put photos with my top 10 list of things I love about farm life.

10. Fresh pork. We are pig farmers, so we always have a freezer full of fresh pork. Bacon and pork chops have to be the favorites. Grilled pork chops and Marshall Salad pair very well together. Follow the link for the salad recipe, shown here with Beef Strip Steaks to show a little love to our beef friends.

Pork Chops and Marshall Salad
Marshall Salad

9. Spring. After long winters of snow, ice, and wind, it is so good to be able to work outside in just a long sleeved shirt. The smell of freshly turned soil is so awesome. After the crops are planted, waiting for the first shoots to push through the ground seems to take forever. Suddenly, there is a green haze over the fields. We wait eagerly for the first signs that you can “row” a crop.

Young Corn Plants in Rows
Young Corn Plants in Rows

8. Watching crops grow. Growing our crops is our business, but that doesn’t mean we’re on autopilot like some robotic device. I worry. A lot. I worry about getting enough rain, too much rain, hail storms, wind storms. In the fall, I worry about early snow storms. There are things we can do to give our crops the best chance at reaching their full potential: testing the soil and the manure to make sure we are applying the correct amount of manure in the fall, using cover crops to hold top soil in place over the winter, waiting to plant until the soil temperatures are ideal in the spring, and timing our weed control methods to have the least impact on the plants (check out this flame weeding video for one of our methods). The rest I shouldn’t worry about, but I’ll admit, I have troubles giving all of that to God.

The corn is starting to tassel, right before pollination
The corn is starting to tassel, right before pollination

7. Meeting cool people. Jonathan and I have had the privilege of meeting some pretty cool people because we sell some of our corn to a place that makes vodka. Dean Phillips, of Phillips Distilling has visited our farm, and learned about the combine, and what it takes to grow the corn they use. Joe and Connie from Chatham Imports have also visited our farm, learning about us and what it is we do. You can read about that in this series -The Power of Bundt Cake Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. There have also been a few advertising agencies that we have met. Jonathan was even interviewed for the Prairie Vodka website. That was a pretty cool experience.

Representatives from United States Distilled Products, and Chatham Imports
Representatives from United States Distilled Products, and Chatham Imports

6. Work hard, play hard. We love getting together with family. If it is at a lake, all the better. I like to relax a bit and fish, but Jonathan loves to play on the jet skis. We look forward to the few days in the summer where we are free to leave the farm and relax.

Jonathan's motto: work hard, play hard
Jonathan’s motto: work hard, play hard

5. Wildlife. Who doesn’t like to watch wild animals in their habitat? This year, I have watched a fox and her two kits near our grove of trees, a doe and her fawn grazing in our yard, and a coyote who casually walked away while I was working in a field near it’s home. I have watched a dozen hawks circle in the sky while preparing soil for planting, I watched a cicada drying its wings after its metamorphosis,  and have seen butterflies softly flitting around in the yard. Watching the wildlife makes me appreciate the beauty all around us.

Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly
Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly

4. Sunsets. Living on the prairie has its advantages. The skies are endless, and most nights we are treated to wonderful sunsets. In the summer, the sunsets seem to go on forever. To see some gorgeous North Dakota sunsets, visit my friend, Katie Pinke’s blog. She has a blog post about 14 Late Summer North Dakota Sunrises and Sunsets. One thing I love about working outside in the evening, is the way the skies can change so quickly. From a flaming red and orange, to a soft pastel pink, to a mix of purple and deep pinks all a matter of minutes.

Sunset through the tall corn
Sunset in a Cloudless Sky

3. Driving large pieces of machinery. I was not meant to drive a little car like a Toyota or a Honda. I like to drive tractors and combines. You can see more when you are sitting up high. Maybe that’s why I like driving pickups more than cars. I do love my minivan, but I get a little embarrassed when we bring it in for an oil change and there are corn stalks stuck on the bottom from driving out to the combine. I was pretty nervous to learn how to drive the combine, but now I love it! We had our combine all set up for our Century Farm Celebration and our county’s I Met a Farmer Tour. It’s a fun way to introduce people to farming, and they think it’s cool that I get to drive it.

John Deere 9650 Combine
John Deere 9650 Combine

2. Harvest! I love harvest. This is the time of year when we see the results of all the labor that was put into the crop throughout the growing season. When we plant the seeds in the spring, we are hopeful that we will have favorable weather, few bad storms, and be able to harvest enough so we will be able to farm again next year. We are thankful for every bushel of grain that goes into the bin. Yes, the hours are long, the pace is frantic at times, and there is always the worry of an early snowstorm, but those are the things that keep it from being boring. This is one of my favorite harvest photos, paired with a harvest prayer. It was also shared as a Wordless Wednesday photo a few weeks ago.

CarolynCares Lord of Harvest

So, what is the number 1 thing I love about farm life?

1. Working every day with my best friend, Jonathan. Yeah, yeah. It’s sappy, I know. But I wouldn’t trade this life with anyone. Jonathan and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary in August. We were married during a drought year, so we came home from our honeymoon a day early to help with corn harvest. This city girl learned quickly how to move wagons, and unload the corn into the bins. Jonathan and his dad are very patient teachers, which made the transition so much better. I later graduated to running the stalk chopper, then the chisel plow, the field cultivator, and finally the combine. With every new skill, Jonathan has been able to calm my nerves, and give me confidence to tackle the next big thing. I have grown from a shy 20 year old newlywed into a mouthy 40 (something) gray haired lady. I don’t think he regrets that. I don’t care what you want to do in life, a supportive family makes it much easier. To Jonathan, thank you for being a great man of God, husband, teacher, jokester, and friend. I love you!

Carolyn and Jonathan
Carolyn and Jonathan









Tillage Radish Cover Crop Update

The neighbors have been asking, so here is an update on our Tillage Radish and Oat cover crop.

We have received more rain this fall than we have during the same time period the last two years, so our cover crops have gotten off to a great start. We planted this field on August 31st. You can read about the process here.

Neighbors are starting to ask what we have growing in our field. They know one of the plants is a small grain (wheat, oats, barley, and rye are considered small grains), but they are not sure what the other crop is that was planted in rows. This made me think that maybe the rest of you would like to see what our neighbors are seeing.

This first photo shows the tillage radish planted in rows with oats in between the rows.

Tillage radish planted in rows
Tillage radish planted in rows

This is the overview of the field. You can see how the Tillage Radish is more noticeable in the oats.

Cover Crop of Tillage Radish and Oats
Cover Crop of Tillage Radish and Oats

The radish leaves are broad, and very different from other crops grown in our area. The leaves and the root will almost disappear completely over the winter, leaving the nutrients behind in the soil.

CarolynCares Cover Crop 3
Close up of the Tillage Radish leaves

I wanted to see how big the radish taproot was 38 days after planting. To make sure I was getting a random radish, I walked out into the field, and plopped my shovel near a row. That was the one I would dig up.

Choosing a random radish to dig
Choosing a random radish to dig

The soil is still pretty moist after our weekend rains, so digging was easy. I wanted to get as much of the taproot as I could, so I teased it out of the loosened dirt.We are in a wind advisory, so holding the radish still enough for a photo outside was a bit of a challenge.

Freshly dug Tillage Radish
Freshly dug Tillage Radish

I walked back into the house to measure the length of the taproot. The diameter is just shy of 1/2 inch at its widest. I was impressed that the roots measured at 8 1/2 inches already!

Measuring the Tillage Radish Taproot
Measuring the Tillage Radish Taproot

I believe I was able to tease out the entire taproot, and didn’t break off the end, but it was difficult to tell without a magnifying glass. Here is another view of the root length.

Closer view of the root system of the Tillage Radish
Closer view of the root system of the Tillage Radish

As long as we don’t have a hard freeze (around 20 deg F), the radish will continue to grow both in diameter and length. I’ll take a few more photos in a couple of weeks, and give you another update. In the meantime, we are getting ready to finish harvesting our last field of soybeans.