Straight-to-the-field “harvest meals” a hit with busy farmers

Harvest Meal 2

Here’s a shot of the Patsche family enjoying a harvest meal delivered by Hefty Seed in Fairmont.

Harvest season is to farmers what Black Friday is to retail stores: Long hours, high stress and a lot of things that need to get done in a short amount of time.

But unlike Black Friday, the chaos of harvest season lasts much longer than one day (or a Midnight sale).

Farmers start their days well before the sun rises and aren’t finished until long after the sun sets during harvest. As farmers are harvesting the food, fiber and fuel that meets the demands of a growing world population, they also have to find time to grab a bite to eat themselves.

That’s where some local business step up to provide “harvest meals,” fresh food brought straight out to the field so farmers can have a good meal before getting back to work so the rest of the world can eat.

“As a farmer myself, I know it gets old eating cold sandwiches all the time,” said Evan Oberdieck of Hefty Seed in Fairmont, Minn. “Harvest meals are something we can do to say thanks to farmers, who are also our customers.”

Oberdieck says that Hefty Seed has been delivering about 500 harvest meals per year for the last six years. The local seed company has already brought out 325 meals in 2014, so this could be a record year.

“We feel it is very important to say ‘thank you’ to our growers and this is one way that we do it,” Oberdieck said.

Bob LeCocq is credited with starting a Harvest Lunch program at AgStar Financial Services where he works as a financial services officer. He says the program is consistent with AgStar’s model of on-farm service, where meetings with farmers are held in the field, standing around the pickup truck or at the kitchen table.

“The Harvest Lunch visits help us stay connected to our clients and we can help them out with a basic need,” LeCocq said. “This is obviously an important time for them.”

From a farmer’s perspective, having a pork chop or hot beef commercial delivered straight to the combine means a lot.

“I will be the first to say, I LOVE harvest meals,” said Wanda Patsche, a corn, soybean and pork producer in southern Minnesota. “It really does give you a little bit of relief knowing a meal will be delivered to you.”

Harvest Meal

Here’s another photo Wanda Patsche took of her family enjoying a harvest meal, this time delivered by their local Pioneer dealer.

Patsche credits AgStar for starting harvest meals in her area about 10 years ago. Over the last five or six years, other companies have picked up on the idea and it’s become an area trend once the combines start rolling.

“It’s a great way to show appreciation for farmers and customers,” Patsche said.

Even if it’s not a full meal, it’s still appreciated. Jessica Noble, a State Farm agent in Worthington, brings out snack bags packed with water, jerky, cookies and other goodies.

“For me, it’s a highlight to get out in the fields and ride along in the combines,” she said. “I care about these guys and what they are doing, so why wouldn’t I show them that by being out there?”

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Holiday Station owner in Plymouth brings customers more choices at the pump

Plymouth Holiday

Liz Nalezny owns the Holiday Station store in Plymouth and recently installed flex fuel pumps that dispense E15, E30 and E85.

Liz Nalezny senses a trend approaching and she wants her Holiday Station store in Plymouth, Minn., to be at the forefront.

With support from a public-private coalition of groups that includes the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), Nalezny recently installed flex fuel pumps that dispense E15, E30 and E85 in addition to regular unleaded gasoline.

Her customers now have more choices when they pull in to fill up.

“Not a lot of people are doing this right now,” Nalezny said. “But in the future, everyone will be doing it. I’m trying to get on it earlier.”

If you’re not familiar with E15, E30 or E85, here’s a quick primer:

  • Regular unleaded gasoline is blended with 10 percent ethanol.
  • E15 is a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent regular gasoline. It is approved for use in all vehicles made in 2001 of after.
  • If you have a flex fuel vehicle, you can fill up with E30 (30 percent ethanol) or E85 (85 percent ethanol).
  • Fuels blended with higher amounts of ethanol burn cleaner than gasoline and typically cost less. At Nalezny’s Holiday Store (located off County Road 24 in Plymouth, a Twin Cities suburb) on Tuesday morning, E15 was priced 10 cents less than regular unleaded and E85 was 90 cents less.

Helping consumers understand the different blends and the environmental and economic benefits derived from each is major challenge faced by ethanol supporters. It’s no different for Nalezny and other fuel station owners looking to introduce higher blends to their customers.

“Education is the hardest,” she said. “It takes time. You have to talk to people one-on-one. Once you explain it to them, a lot of them say, ‘Why haven’t I heard of that? Of course I’ll try it.'”

The fact that ethanol is clean, renewable and homegrown has proven to be a major selling point.

“Typically, people around here want to buy local and be a little greener,” Nalezny said.

In addition to the Plymouth Holiday and an independent station in Wayzata, Liz’s family owns a station in Plymouth that soon will be offering E15 under the Minnoco brand.

Nalezny wanted to offer her customers more fueling choices, and weaved the flex fuel pump installation into other enhancements at the station that included installing a car wash and new signage.

“It was actually easier than I thought it would be,” she said. “I was concerned about labeling and signage requirements, but that was actually really easy.”

Now it’s all about helping people become familiar with the fuel blends they might not have heard of before.

“We’re focused on getting the word out and doing some aggressive marketing to get people to try it,” she said.

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Chinese trade team gets up-close look at Minnesota’s corn harvest

Chinese team 1

Brian Thalmann and his dad Randall (center, wearing green) took a break from harvesting corn on Saturday to host a Chinese corn and DDG team on their family farm in Plato.

A Chinese corn and dried distillers grains (DDG) team traveled to Minnesota on Friday and Saturday to walk in a Minnesota corn field and visit businesses that play an important role in driving our state’s agriculture — and overall — economy.

Chinese team 2

Brian Thalmann shows the Chinese team his storage bins and corn dryer.

Saturday was another beautiful fall harvest day on the Thalmann family farm in Plato. Brian, now the operator of the farm that has been in the Thalmann family since 1877, hosted the 13-member Chinese team for a tour and overview.

The team drove their black passenger bus directly onto one of Brian’s corn fields for an up close look at a combine and grain cart in action. For many of the team members, it was the first time they’ve seen an American corn field and held an American corn cob in their hands.

“These visits are a great way for us as farmers to meet face-to-face with current and potential foreign customers,” said Brian, who estimates that over 400 foreign visitors have toured the Thalmann family farm since the late 1970s.

Chinese team 3

Checking out an empty barge at the CHS river terminal in Savage.

Before visiting the Thalmann farm, the team stopped at the CHS river terminal in Savage. The terminal can store over 550,000 bushels of corn and sends about 30,000 barges annually down the Minnesota River to the Mississippi, and, eventually, to the Gulf of Mexico.

The team was able to see grain trucks unloading corn that will eventually be transported via rail during a visit to the United Farmers Co-op shuttle facility in Brownton on Friday.

Before traveling to Brownton, the Chinese team talked DDGs and exports with Renewable Products Marketing Group, an ethanol marketing company in Shakopee.

Chinese team 4

Checking out the grain shuttle facility at United Farmers Co-op in Brownton.

There was also a visit to the Interstate Mills feed mill in Hayfield. Interstate’s facilities in Hayfield and nearby Owatonna are capable of producing 470,000 tons of swine feed annually.

Since the summer of 2013, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association has teamed with the U.S. Grains Council to host foreign trade teams from Taiwan (twice), Morocco, Saudi Arabia, China and Japan. The visits help strengthen current foreign markets for Minnesota corn and develop new marketing opportunities.

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Harvest 2014 Part 3: MCGA Agvocate shares harvest stories and photos

Taylor Broderius

Taylor Broderius

Taylor Broderius attends the University of Minnesota and is a Minnesota Corn Growers Association Agvocate. Taylor grew up on a farm in Hector, Minn., helping his family raise corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and peas.

Every weekend during harvest season, Taylor returns home to help with harvest. In addition to all the work Taylor puts in on the farm, he will be providing MinnesotaCornerstone.com with stories and photos on how this year’s harvest is going. This is part 2 of that ongoing series.

If you’re a farmer, it’s a great way to check out how harvest is shaping up for a fellow farmer in a different part of the state. If you’re not a farmer, Taylor’s work will hopefully give you a better understanding of all the work farmers put in during harvest season to provide, safe, healthy and affordable food for a growing world population.

Here is Taylor’s final harvest 2014 submission:

Headed to the elevator
This last Friday afternoon, the Broderius family ended its 2014 harvest. We picked our last 12 rows of corn a little after dinner time on Friday. This last field of corn had a moisture percentage of anywhere from 18-21 on average. We decided to haul most of the corn from this field to our local elevator in Hector, Minn., because we did not want to store anymore at our home grain site. It is a great feeling to know that harvest is over. Overall, it was an excellent fall for harvest in our area.

Trailer of Corn

This trailer of corn was hauled from the Broderius farm to the local elevator in Hector, Minn.

Cone-shaped corn
Saturday, my dad and I found ourselves cleaning up around our bin site at our farm. One of the steps in doing this is leveling the corn in the bins. In this picture, you can see that the corn in the bin is fairly level. This picture was taken after my dad and I climbed up to the top of the bin, squeezed inside with shovels, and manually leveled the corn. Before we had done this, there was a cone like peak of corn inside the bin. The reason we level our bins is because in a corn bin, heat travels to the highest point in the bin. In doing this, you prevent heat from concentrating on one spot in the corn and hopefully reduce the amount of corn that rots from excessive heat.

Corn Bin

The corn in this bin on the Broderius farm is now level.

Pulling the Case IH 870 DMI
Now that harvest is over for us, tillage is on our minds. I found myself on Saturday night pulling this Case IH 870 DMI through a recently harvested corn field. This piece of equipment has two rows of disks, 11 shanks, another smaller row of discs, and finally, a dragging basket (small teeth that smooth out the soil). We pull our DMI with a 9560r John Deere 4-wheel drive tractor. When pulling this piece of equipment, we usually go about 6 miles-per-hour, but ultimately it depends on soil conditions.

Case IH 870 DMI

After harvest, the Broderius’s til some of their fields to better prepare the ground for planting in spring.

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A farm kid’s guide to finding your dream internship

Maria Wingert

Maria Wingert

Written by Maria Wingert

As a college student, I know how stressful the job hunt can be. Whether it’s an internship or a full-time position, finding a place where you can happily spend 80 percent of your summer (or your life) can be an intense pursuit.

Resumes and the dreaded cover letter aside, sometimes finding the actual position you want to apply for can be the most difficult part. There are thousands of different places to look for openings, but how do you know where to go to find that dream company? It can get confusing, frustrating, and downright exhausting.

Luckily, like many other students, I had an amazing network of professionals that were able to guide me into an internship, where I grew more comfortable with agriculture and the people that work in all aspects of agriculture production, innovation, and communication.

I have been working around farmers and other agriculture professionals for years, but it wasn’t until this past year that I realized just how unique the people in this line of work are. While searching for an internship last fall, I sought out a contact of mine that had recently started working at CHS Inc., the largest farmer-owned cooperative in the U.S. and a business I desperately wanted an internship at. She was able to refer me to the talent acquisition team, as well as individuals that worked in the department I was interested in.

After applying, interviewing, and receiving the official offer, I accepted my dream internship here at CHS. I would have never had the opportunity to pursue my current internship without that initial referral from that friend of mine, but am so grateful I did.

The individuals involved in agriculture are one of a kind. Whether they work in production, communication, or any other facet of agriculture, professionals in this line of work are constantly looking to help younger students succeed. So, if you’re considering agriculture, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Professionals realize that growing a network is crucial, just as much for them as it is for you.

Likewise, don’t hesitate to apply at an agriculture company if you didn’t grow up on a farm or have an agriculture related major.

Talent comes in many shapes and forms, and agriculture companies need more than an intern that did chores at home. In my internship I am writing, developing marketing materials, and planning events. While my experience in agriculture increases my knowledge of the larger picture, it was not a prerequisite to being offered the internship.

Agriculture is an amazing place to find a career, no matter what your interests are. The individuals that work here are truly passionate about their line of work, as well as helping students find theirs.

They might even help you perfect that dreaded cover letter!

Maria Wingert is a student at the University of Minnesota and a 2014-15 Minnesota Corn Growers Association student Agvocate.

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Chinese corn and DDG team coming to Minnesota

The itinerary for a Chinese corn and dried distillers grain (DDG) team in the United States for the 2014 Export Exchange includes two days in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association has arranged for the team to visit a Minnesota corn farm, feed mill, transloading facility, river shipping terminal and a DDG marketer. Team members include several large grains buyers who have done business with Minnesota producers in the past.

Check back next week for photos and a full story about the Chinese team’s time in Minnesota. For now, here is a preview of the team’s visit from Robert Hurley of the U.S. Grains Council.

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Interactive map shows benefits of the Renewable Fuel Standard

Ever wonder how much of an economic impact the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has made for Minnesotans? A new interactive map from Fuels America has you covered.

According to the map, Minnesota’s biofuel sector supports 48,506 jobs and is responsible for $11.7 billion of economic output. Nationally, the biofuels sector supports over 852,000 jobs and generates $184.5 billion in economic activity.

Those are some impressive numbers. Seeing those figures can also be a little frustrating for supporters of homegrown biofuels like ethanol given how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed slashing the RFS and reducing the amount of ethanol blended in our gasoline by 1.4 billion gallons.

It’s been almost a year since the EPA proposed cutting the RFS, and we’re still waiting for a final 2014 blending number. The indecisiveness and lack of support for homegrown fuels has created uncertainty in the biofuels market.

But that uncertainty doesn’t change the important role biofuels play in Minnesota’s economy. Biofuels create jobs, grow our economy, and help clean our air.

Let’s not mess with the RFS. It’s working.

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Harvest 2014 Part 2: MCGA Agvocate shares harvest stories and photos

Taylor Broderius

Taylor Broderius

Taylor Broderius attends the University of Minnesota and is a Minnesota Corn Growers Association Agvocate. Taylor grew up on a farm in Hector, Minn., helping his family raise corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and peas.

Every weekend during harvest season, Taylor returns home to help with harvest. In addition to all the work Taylor puts in on the farm, he will be providing MinnesotaCornerstone.com with stories and photos on how this year’s harvest is going. This is part 2 of that ongoing series.

If you’re a farmer, it’s a great way to check out how harvest is shaping up for a fellow farmer in a different part of the state. If you’re not a farmer, Taylor’s work will hopefully give you a better understanding of all the work farmers put in during harvest season to provide, safe, healthy and affordable food for a growing world population.

Here is Taylor’s first submission:

Greasing bearings
Last Saturday, my dad and I took half a day to prepare our grain system for corn storage. This consisted of greasing bearings, running the elevator, oiling chains, and starting the dryer. This is a picture of me looking down from the top of our 80-foot elevator. When I was at the top of the elevator, I had to grease two different bearings. These two bearings need to be greased so when the elevator is running, there is no friction so the machine runs easier. If these bearings are not greased, it can cause major problems and result in broken parts.

Corn storage

Pulling the chisel plow
On Saturday night, I found myself sitting in one of our John Deere four-wheel drive tractors. The piece of equipment I am pulling here is called a chisel plow. I am working ground that previously had Sugar Beets grown in it. Now that the crop has been harvested, the ground needs to be worked. When pulling this piece of equipment, one travels at about 5 miles per hour. Although chisel plows can vary in size, the one you see here is 38 feet wide.

Chissel plow
Lower yields
This picture was taken during the harvest of one of our last bean fields. Although the bean field was below par as far as bushels per acre, it was ready to be taken. The moisture of the beans were coming in anywhere from 10.5-12 percent. Once the field was taken and we got an idea of bushels per acre, we calculated that it was around 35 bushels per acre, worse then we originally thought. As a farmer, you prepare for low yields like this and hope that next year is a huge yielding crop.

Bean harvest

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New publication highlights research funded by Minnesota corn farmers

MCGA Research

Discovery Farms Minnesota is one of the many research projects supported by Minnesota corn farmers.

Minnesota’s corn farmers are always working to improve the way they grow food, feed, fiber and fuel for an increasing world population while protecting water quality and soil fertility. They also strive to find new uses for corn and expand the use of homegrown and renewable ethanol fuels.

That’s why Minnesota’s corn farmers are committed to supporting science-based research projects and initiatives. A new publication from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) and Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council (MCR&PC) summarizes the commitment made by Minnesota corn farmers to support independent research efforts.

The 2014 Minnesota Corn Research Directory highlights over 150 research projects and initiatives funded by Minnesota corn farmers. Through Minnesota’s corn check-off, a voluntary one-cent fee paid by farmers for every bushel of corn sold, corn farmers are funding about $4 million annually in new and ongoing research.

Corn-farmer funded research efforts focus on six key areas: water quality, corn utilization, livestock, soil fertility, agronomy and fuels and emissions. Research is conducted by independent institutions such as the University of Minnesota.

For example, a new 2014 project is examining how climate change in Minnesota affects the sustainability of corn production. The goal of the study is to help farmers better understand how to adapt to climate change and guide future research efforts.

Another project seeks to expand the use of furfural – an organic compound derived from corn cobs – in consumer products made from plastic. World production for furfural is about 200,000 tons annually.

There is also a project that seeks to fine-tune current fertilizer nitrogen rate guidelines based on the mineralization potential of different soil types. By the study’s completion, farmers will have a better understanding of the benefits of in-season nitrogen application compared to traditional practices.

The complete 2014 Minnesota Corn Research Directory can be viewed by visiting mncorn.org and clicking on the “Research” tab.

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Bins overflowing: Corn farmers look at another record

Bruce Peterson is president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Associatoin and farms in Northfield. (Photo from the Star Tribune)

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

In its mid-October crop production report, with a good percentage of the grain in the bin, USDA estimated that corn producers had raised another record crop. Observers calculated nearly 14.5 billion bushels of corn would come off 83 million acres of farmland. Yield would hit 174.4 bushels per acre, national average, according to the Oct. 10 estimate from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Minnesota shows a major gain over last year with a forecast average yield of 170 bushels per acre. This compares to 160 bushels per acre yield in 2013. Minnesota corn growers planted 8,150,000 acres to corn and NASS estimates they will harvest grain from 7.8 million of those acres.

Perhaps the most astonishing piece of news out of the Oct. 10 report is the yield estimate for Illinois— an average of 200 bushels per acre.

“Corn production is forecast at 14.5 billion bushels, up less than 1 percent from the previous forecast and up 4 percent from 2013,” according to the USDA report. “Based on conditions as of October 1, yields are expected to average 174.2 bushels per acre, up 2.5 bushels from the September forecast and 15.4 bushels above the 2013 average. If realized, this will be the highest yield and production on record for the United States. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 83.1 million acres, down 1 percent from the September forecast and down 5 percent from 2013. Acreage updates were made in several States following a thorough review of all available data.”

The northern tier of the Corn Belt suffered a variety of weather challenges this growing season, and so represent the lower part of the top 10 corn producing states this year. Minnesota’s average yield tops the group at 170, compared to 128 in North Dakota, 151 in South Dakota, 162 in Wisconsin and 167 in Michigan.

This compares to the top performers in the center of the Corn Belt. No one comes close to Illinois’s 200 bushel average, but its neighbors Indiana and Iowa are second and third, with 186 and 185 bushels per acre, respectively. 

In terms of total haul, Iowa remains the leader, with an estimated harvest of 2.442 billion bushels harvested from 13.2 million acres. Illinois will place second, if estimates hold, with 2.34 billion bushels. Minnesota ranks fourth in volume of production at 1.326 billion bushels. Nebraska sits in third position with almost 1.6 billion bushels of corn anticipated.

Many corn farmers in Minnesota are surprised at the “somewhat aggressive” estimate that Minnesota will have boosted yields 10 bushels per acre over last year, said Bruce Peterson, a farmer in Northfield and president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

“There are areas of the state where they have really good yield potential, if they were able to get planted in a timely way and they didn’t have a lot of drown-outs,” Peterson said. “In the southeast part of the state that was true. But west of me (in Northfield) the bulk of the crop was planted in late May and some didn’t go in until early June. It was much the same in the central part of the state. And then in the southwest there were lots of folks talking about drowned out areas. So when you put that all together you question the USDA estimate and ask, ‘can it really be that good?'”

Part of what keeps everyone guessing is that most of the crop is still in the fields.

“We’ve only harvested a little bit of our corn — about 7 percent is in,” Peterson said, who noted yield readings in the 180s and 190s in those first acres. “We quit because it was just too wet. That’s all the corn we’ve done so far. We’ve done a lot more soybeans. It’s our best soybean crop ever.” 

With moisture readings around 30 percent, the Petersons decided to wait and let the crop dry in the field a little longer.

“This year we have had a lot of late summer rains, all through the last half of August and all of September and that really helped the crop. The crop had a good finish to it. The cool weather always helps. Any time you get cool weather while the kernel is developing, it takes a long time, and it tends to make bigger kernels, compared to when you get really hot weather. Then the kernel matures really quickly, and ends up being smaller. We had conditions this year which should lead to large, deep kernels, and that should add to yield.

All signs point to an abundant corn supply in the coming year, with a carryover, after this year’s usage, of more than two billion bushels. This has weakened corn prices — cash prices in Minnesota are around $3.40 currently. Peterson said that hopefully most corn farmers forward-marketed at least half of their production, taking advantage of prices that hit $5.20 per bushel this summer. Looking ahead, the low prices could influence farmers’ planting decisions next year and result in a little less corn.

“Economics work,” said Peterson. “If people run the numbers and its not going to work out for corn, then people will cut back, and all of a sudden you’ve got a situation — well, you saw it this year — our (national corn) acreage was down about four million acres from the previous year. If all of a sudden you end up with less acres next year, then maybe we shrink that carryout from two billion to one-and-a-half billion. Then you’ll see some price increases on corn again.”

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