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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.

Fun Fact Friday – Organic Farming is Not Like Grandpa’s Farming

CarolynCares Organic Farming

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 22: Technology

CarolynCares Technology

Have you ever driven past a field and noticed that the person driving the tractor didn’t have their hands on the steering wheel? Look for a globe similar to the one on the left, and you will know that they are using AutoSteer technology.

Jonathan and I have been using the AutoSteer system for about 5 years. We like to use the same wheel tracks for planting, dragging, rotary hoeing, and cultivating to reduce soil compaction. This system allows us to do that. If you look at the right hand photo, you will see lines on the monitor. We are able to skip lines when we’re working so we don’t have to turn as tight. The dark blue areas are where we’ve been, and the gray is where we need to go yet. The system allows us to record every pass in the fields, so we can keep records of planting dates, and weed control dates.

The GreenStar system works on our combine, and uses the same globe and monitor. We are able to record our yields…when the yield monitor is working…as well as use the AutoSteer. This year, I was very thankful for the whole guidance system. We had a wind storm that blew many acres of corn down in our county, including ours. Being able to set the combine on a line and not worry about staying on the row made harvesting the downed corn a lot easier! Some of my friends and family will think I’m mostly thankful for the AutoSteer so that I can text, Tweet, and Facebook. Really, that is just the icing on the cake.

 

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Burn Baby Burn! Flame Weeding Video

I rode along with Jonathan while he was flame weeding the corn. If the video doesn’t answer your questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

So, What Do You Do All Day?

Thanks to my friend, Emily Zweber of Zweber Family Farms, for the inspiration for this slightly sarcastic look at a farm wife working in the field.

 

 

Riding Along in My John Deere Tractor

Ride along with me in the tractor while I prepare the field for seeding barley and peas. If you’d like to learn more about how we grow barley and peas together, check out last year’s post.

Enjoy the ride!

Patiently Waiting

Over the last 72 hours, we have received between 15 to 18 inches of snow. We’ve had snow in 6 of the last 12 months here. Sigh. Typically we are getting the spring farm equipment out of the machine shed, and making sure everything is ready to go once the fields are dry.

Not this year! Instead of spending time in the tractor we use for preparing the seed bed, Jonathan spent time in the tractor used for clearing snow.

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While he was busy clearing snow, I was getting ready to make some of these delicious little treats. Jonathan brought back this box of Beignet Mix from New Orleans when he was there with our youth group last summer.

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I made a few, and decided I needed to practice my food photography a little bit. You know, things that help you stay sane on yet another snow day.

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The good thing about spring snow storms is the fact that the snow will melt into the thawed ground instead of just running over the top. We can really use the moisture here, so we’re trying to be thankful. To be perfectly honest, though, I can’t wait until I see this out my window:

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Be Careful When You Tease the Dog…

This last week has been interesting, to say the least. Some good, some not so much…

We finished harvesting our crops exactly one week ago. It was an overcast, windy day like today. I was anticipating the finish, and getting back to a more normal schedule. I received a phone call with just a few hundred yards to the end. I mentioned in that call that I was watching three raccoons running in and out of the rows, going slower than I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t get run over.  Cue the foreshadowing music…  Apparently my combine is not only good for rock picking, but it is also handy for coon hunting. I’ll leave the details for those who want to hear the story in person. Let me just say… “Ewww.”

My huge rock I picked up on the bean head…it was so dusty I couldn’t see it until I picked it up. The biggest one I’ve picked up so far!

 

Now that harvest is done, we are hitting the tillage pretty hard. We have had so many offers from friends to help, which is such a blessing. Jonathan has taught my niece, Katie, how to drive tractors and use air tools. She has been loving the lifestyle so far.

Katie and her tractor

 

With so many people helping, I was able to concentrate on getting our guestroom ready for Jonathan’s sister, Anita and her husband, Charles. They will be staying with us for a couple of months while they visit churches in the United States that sponsor their mission work. They are splitting their home assignment time between Charles’ family in Canada, and Anita’s family here.  Anita and Charles arrived last Thursday evening, which gave me Wednesday and Thursday morning to have their rooms ready.

Thursday morning arrived, and I had just a few things left to do in the basement. I played with the dog every now and then when he was inside, occasionally teasing him by hiding his favorite toy in my pocket, and squeezing it to make it squeak every now and then. It drives him crazy when he can’t find it, which we find really funny. Cue the foreshadowing music…

Thursday afternoon was so beautiful, and I hadn’t had a chance to run in so long. I thought a quick sprint to the mailbox and back would be just what I needed to keep the cleaning motivation going.  The dog was out in the yard with Jonathan, who was working on the plow before heading back out to the field. I hopped down the two steps outside the door, and accelerated as I started to round the corner of the house. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the dog in a dead run towards me. He usually runs beside me when I am walking/running laps around the yard, but this time he went right in between my legs. Not good.

Do you remember when you were little, and when you fell while playing, it sometimes seemed like it was in slow motion? That was me. I remember thinking, as I see the gravel driveway rising up to smack me, “this is going to hurt!”  It did.  I rolled onto my back on the driveway, sobbing and bleeding. Limbs were in the air…kinda like a dead bug. Jonathan came over, assessed the situation, and offered a hand to help me up. I hobbled into the house, still crying, and started to clean the gravel out of my hands, right knee, and right elbow. This is the same knee that I bruised super bad 17 months ago. I was determined not to be on crutches again, so I haven’t gone in to the dr. Sorry mom.
I have spent the last few days feeling super lazy as I elevate and ice.  Things are not so swollen today, but the colors are very pretty. I always did like purple.

So, the moral of my story…I am very thankful for the people who have asked to come and help out by driving a tractor for a few hours, and I am thankful that Anita loves to do dishes. Oh, and don’t tease the dog.

15 pounds of energy and destruction…but yet so cute

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