Hungry for Truth’s annual Farm-to-Fork dinner is an opportunity for farmers and South Dakotans to gather around the table, share a meal and engage in conversations about how food is grown and raised. Our 2018 event took place at the Country Apple Orchard near Harrisburg, where more than 180 people came together to talk about topics such as environmental sustainability, pesticide use and food safety.
“The Farm-To-Fork dinner really brings the mission of the Hungry for Truth initiative to life. It’s a great way for us to personally share the truth about how we do things on our farms and honestly address questions or concerns,” said Vermillion farmer Jerry Schmitz. “Despite public perceptions, 98 percent of farms are still family owned in South Dakota, and we’re making more sustainable choices to ensure that tradition continues for generations to come.”
Let’s look at a few highlights from the evening, which included delicious local fare.
Do you have a question for a South Dakota farmer? Leave it in the comments below. Don’t forget to scroll down and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to get delicious recipes and local farm-to-table stories delivered to your inbox.
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.
Just a few miles north of Sioux Falls lies Lynn Boadwine’s dairy farm. Homesteaded in 1874, Boadwine Farms is home to more than 2,000 dairy cows and 2,000 acres of corn, alfalfa and sorghum. Lynn is the fourth generation to farm this land, along with his employees who keep the family-owned operation running smoothly.
Heidi Zwinger is one of those employees. She’s worked on the farm as a herd manager for 16 years, helping care for the dairy cows and managing the other farmworkers. Heidi, who grew up on a dairy farm, is passionate about producing great milk while taking great care of the animals.
“Even though I’m not the farm owner, I still call it my farm because I take pride in it,” Heidi explained. “I love working with our cows and helping them grow and produce milk. I also love working with my coworkers to make sure we’re doing what’s right for the animals.”
On farms large and small, everyone who works together is passionate about ensuring the animals are well cared for so they can create delicious, high-quality food.
“There are real, passionate people behind large farm operations,” Heidi said. “I’m a member of the Boadwine farm family and so are my coworkers, who are just as dedicated as I am.”
One way Heidi and her coworkers take care of the cows is by feeding them a high-quality diet. Dairy cows need a protein-rich diet to produce delicious, nutritious milk. The cows at Boadwine Farm are fed hay and silage grown right on the farm, supplemented with soybean and corn meal from the local grain elevator. Soybeans are a great source of protein so dairy cows across South Dakota enjoy eating approximately 18,000 tons of soybean meal annually.
“We harvest everything we plant as feed for the cows, so nothing is wasted,” Heidi said. “Our cows eat locally,” she added with a laugh.
After a long day tending to animals, there’s nothing like curling up with a hearty plate of Cheesy Tater Tot Hotdish, an upper Midwest specialty.
“For me, tater tot hotdish is an old standby, something my mom used to make. Every family does it a little differently,” Heidi said. “Ours is simple, made with browned ground beef, green beans, cream of mushroom soup and some cheese to add a little gooiness. You can mix it up by experimenting with different kinds of cheese and seeing what your family likes.”
Dig into Heidi’s cheesy tater tot hotdish! Need another classic dinner option? Try this classic meatloaf.
Ram Farrell grew up around the world. His dad’s military career took the family everywhere from Hawaii to Panama to North Carolina. When it came time to literally put down roots, the Farrell family knew South Dakota felt like home.
Ram, now a 32-year-old father, is the third generation to farm in South Dakota. He grows soybeans, corn, wheat and cover crops near Parkston with his wife, Ashley, and their one-year-old daughter, Rosalie.
“I’m glad my daughter will have the opportunity to grow up on the farm. So many kids in big cities just don’t know very much about where their food comes from,” said Ram. “I can’t wait to teach her more about ag as she grows up. Maybe we’ll even farm together some day.”
As a young dad, Ram knows how important it is to protect the environment while growing nutritious, safe food to feed families. That’s why he practices precision agriculture. Ram leverages data and technology to determine exactly where to apply fertilizer and pesticides. Resources are applied only where they’re needed to limit waste.
Precision agriculture makes it possible to use a small amount of pesticide – about a coffee cup’s worth diluted in water – to cover an entire acre, which is about the size of a football field. To cover about 70 acres, it takes 18 gallons of pesticides diluted in 1,000 gallons of water.
“Some people think farmers are out here spraying pesticides every day and that’s just not the case,” Ram explained. “Farmers only want to apply as much as they need to grow a healthy crop. It saves money and, more importantly, it helps preserve the land for the next generation.”
In fact, Ram doesn’t apply insecticides to his crop. Insecticides are a type of pesticide that specifically target insects. Instead, he uses GMO seeds equipped with technology to defend against pests. GMO soybeans have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, according to the American Council on Science and Health.
Ram also practices a form of conservation tillage called “no-till” to keep his soil healthy. After harvest, he leaves corn stalks and wheat stubble in the field. This reduces soil erosion, improves soil quality and conserves water and energy. No-till farming also helps suppress weeds, which means Ram uses less herbicides to grow healthy crops.
“We’re really treating the land the way God intended,” Ram stated. “The soil microbiology and everything happening below the surface, invisible to our eye, helps us grow healthy plants. It’s important for us farmers to understand how everything we do affects our crop and the land.”
Now you know how farmers use pesticides safely and sustainably. Go deeper with this blog post about how farmers apply pesticides.
Farmer Matt Bainbridge tries to make each planting season better than the last. This means growing healthier crops, higher yields and improving his farm practices to take care of the environment for future generations. It’s a tall order, but he has technology and farm data on his side.
“On our farm, we have access to online data from farms across the country and track everything we do on our own land. It helps us be more efficient with seed, crop nutrients and pesticides. We can manage a large piece of land like it’s small,” said Matt.
While Matt and his family use several sustainable practices to grow crops and raise cattle, today he’s focused on planting.
“We plant about 150 acres in a day, driving at a speed of 5 miles per hour. It’s important we take our time to make sure it’s done perfectly. Planting and caring for crops is something we only get to do about 50 times in our lives. We want to get it right.”
Let’s explore the steps he uses to make each growing season more sustainable.
1. Review field data. The first step is looking at the data from the last harvest. Thanks to precision technology, Matt knows exactly how well crops grew in each field. He can tell which seeds did well, which ones didn’t and what factors may have contributed to the results. He uses this information to inform his seed selections for the next growing season.
2. Select high-performing seeds. Next, he chooses seeds he thinks will work best for his farm. Matt grows soybeans, corn, wheat, alfalfa and forage crops for cattle, which means planting a combination of GMO and non-GMO seeds. Matt chooses seeds based on the data from his own fields, what he’s seen growing in other fields around him and information he’s found online. He typically purchases seed in December.
3. Load field maps. As spring approaches, Matt works with a local expert to digitally map out each field. This helps him plant the right amount of seeds and apply the right amount of crop nutrients for optimal growth based on the soil type. Soils that are light and rocky get fewer seeds, while black, heavy soils receive more. The maps help the planter limit waste and improve efficiency.
4. Set up planter. Before heading out into the field, Matt makes sure the soil map software syncs with the GPS system guiding the planter. The software and hardware need to communicate so seeds are planted in straight rows with the right spacing at a precise depth.
5. Check seed placement and depth. Once he gets out into the field, Matt periodically checks to make sure everything is working properly. How? Good old-fashioned digging in the dirt. For the first few hours each day, he physically gets out of the planter and digs near the freshly planted seeds to ensure everything is happening as it should. Sometimes the way his grandparents did it is still the best.
Interested in learning more about precision technology? Read this blog that compares Fitbits and farming.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to food in South Dakota grocery stores and farmers markets. “Low fat,” “gluten free” and “non-GMO” are just a few of the labels companies add to packaging to stand out and appeal to your dietary preferences. While they may be helpful, these labels can also lead people to wonder about the safety and health of foods without labeling claims.
“Organic” is a great example of this because foods grown using organic and conventional practices are equally safe and nutritious, but organic foods receive a little extra attention. That’s because organic farmers go through a certification process that requires them to use some different practices. However, you may be surprised to know that conventional and organic farmers are more alike than you think.
In the past, we’ve explored ways organic farming is different than conventional, so today we’re looking at some of the top similarities.
Families own and operate 97 percent of the farms in South Dakota. There are approximately 31,000 farms in the state and about 103 are certified organic. Whether they use organic or conventional methods, there’s almost always a family behind the food you eat.
Conventional and organic farmers can both use pesticides to control harmful insects. The difference is that organic farmers can’t use most synthetic substances, while conventional farmers can use any type of pesticide deemed safe by the USDA. No matter what they use, by the time the food reaches grocery store shelves, it’s safe to eat. In fact, a woman could eat 850 servings of apples in a day with no effects from pesticides. See for yourself.
Farmers who use conventional and organic methods seek ways to improve their farm practices each year to protect the land for future generations. Environmentally friendly practices like crop rotation, no-till farming and cover crops protect and preserve the land, and aid in improving soil quality. Composting and applying animal manure also fertilize the ground.
Organic and conventional farmers who raise animals care about their safety and want to keep them healthy and comfortable. They protect them by providing shelter in barns, making sure they have access to water and feeding them a healthy diet of soybeans, corn and vitamins. Soybeans – grown organically or conventionally – are a favorite protein-packed meal for pigs, chickens, turkeys and cows in South Dakota. Farmers work with veterinarians to treat sick animals. Though organic farmers cannot use antibiotics to treat them like conventional farmers, they can use some vaccines and pain medications.
Foods raised organically and conventionally must meet safety standards set by the USDA. South Dakota farmers grow and raise foods that are healthy for your family and theirs. The methods may be different, but safety is a top priority for all family farmers.
The next time you’re in the grocery store trying to decide between the organic and conventionally raised strawberries, you can feel confident you’re making a safe and healthy choice no matter which carton you pick. Keep growing your food-shopping knowledge by reading about meaningless food labels and if paying a little more for organic is worth it.
If you’ve ever helped your kids with their science homework or cared for a plant, you might think that crops just need soil, water and sunlight to survive. While true, it turns out they really thrive with 17 essential elements. Three come from air and water, while the rest are absorbed through the soil.
That’s why fertilizers play such an essential role in farming. They provide the elements needed to grow healthy plants in the field. South Dakota farmers understand the balance and use technology to apply the nutrients in sustainable ways. Let’s explore three of the foundational elements, how they contribute to plant health and what technology farmers use to protect and improve the environment.
Nitrogen is considered the most important element for growing healthy plants. It’s essential to creating protein, helping plants grow and it accounts for 80 percent of the air we breathe. Nitrogen is a big contributor to making food nutritious.
Unlike corn and wheat, soybeans create their own nitrogen. Soybeans and other legume crops have a special ability to transfer nitrogen from the air to the soil. Just like you might use a probiotic to improve your digestion, soybeans work with bacteria in the soil to convert nitrogen into the fuel they need to grow. For crops that can’t create their own, farmers apply nitrogen fertilizer in the form of a liquid, solid or gas.
This element helps plants use and store energy. It also aids in photosynthesis and contributes to normal development. The phosphorus used in most farm fertilizers comes from phosphate rock, but it can also come in a liquid form.
Potassium helps plants resist diseases, activates enzymes and improves its overall quality. It also protects the crop in cold or dry weather and helps to build a strong root system. Potassium is typically applied as a solid.
How do farmers know how much of which nutrients they need to use to grow corn, soybeans and other crops? Through the results of research conducted by scientists at universities and ag businesses. Many farmers work with local experts who help them take soil samples from their fields, analyze the results, recommend products and create digital soil maps.
Farmers load those maps into the software in their tractors and precisely apply the right mix of nutrients per crop, per acre. This helps them minimize waste and fuels a healthy growing season. It also means they’re making continuous improvements on their family farms to do what’s right for the environment. Leaving the land in better condition for future generations.
Who knew farmers had to pay so much attention to chemistry and the environment? Here’s a look at more farm technology that helps John Horter be sustainable in the field.
While a lot of college students may say taking care of the environment is important to their future, most aren’t as deeply committed to improving the land and water as South Dakota State University student, Cassius Pond. Cassius, who studies agronomy and precision agriculture in Brookings, spends much of his time in the field or classrooms exploring ways to make his parents’ soybean, corn and wheat farm more sustainable.
After Cassius graduates, he’ll be the fifth generation to return to the Pond family farm near Ipswich.
“We’re on the same ground we originally started with. The original homestead is about a mile south of the house where I grew up,” Cassius said. “It’s kind of neat to see where it all started and to carry on that legacy.”
Though he’ll be caring for the same land his great-great-grandfather did, Cassius plans on doing things differently than previous generations. When he went to college, his dad urged him to take classes in precision agriculture to learn all he could about technology so he could bring that knowledge home. The Ponds recognize precision agriculture is here to stay. Almost 43 percent of U.S. soybean farmers are already using precision technology to improve efficiency.
“Technology is getting integrated into every facet of the farm. It lets farmers know more details about their crops, which helps them be precise,” Cassius said. “The computers we have in the planter, for example, allow us to understand how much seed to plant and where. We have a lot more control over where things are going.”
Technology isn’t just useful while planting. It also helps farmers understand exactly how much water, fertilizer and pesticides their crops need to be healthy. This ensures nothing is wasted, which helps protect the land for future generations. The numbers show it’s working. In the past 30 years, U.S. farmers have increased soybean production by 46 percent while using 35 percent less energy.
“Using technology is just second nature to me and my siblings. When we’re working on an ag program or software, it’s easy for us to pick up how the software works,” Cassius said. “As more millennials come into farming, you’re going to see more and more technology on the farm.”
Technology aside, his time at college also taught him that farming is complex and there’s always room for improvement. For many farmers that’s what sustainability is all about: Paying attention to the most basic elements – the soil, water and sun – to leave the environment in better condition for the next generation.
“When I came to South Dakota State, I had no idea there was so much you could learn about dirt!” Cassius said. “I was like, ‘Oh, it’s just dirt; the stuff that covers the ground.’ Now I’m like, ‘No, it’s soil, not dirt.’ I took whole classes on chemistry and soil that made me think, ‘Wow, I never would have thought twice about this.’”
Want to meet another young farmer who is shaking things up in South Dakota? Read this profile of 29-year-old farmer Morgan Holler from Pierpont.
Being environmentally friendly is an important part of today’s family farms. Thanks to advancements in technology, adoption of conservation tillage and other factors, more than 90 percent of U.S. soybeans are grown sustainably. Most South Dakota families may not realize how much farmers focus on making improvements to care for the land and water, while growing healthy food, because it happens behind the scenes.
Think you know the truth about farms and sustainability? Test your knowledge below with five common myths and the truth behind them.
Myth: Farmers are becoming less sustainable.
Au contraire, farmers are becoming more sustainable. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance estimates soybean farmers today are growing nearly 50 percent more soybeans now than just 30 years ago with a third of the water and energy and just under half the land. They’ve also cut greenhouse gas production and soil loss by nearly half.
Myth: Only small, organic farms are sustainable.
When it comes to sustainability, size really doesn’t matter. It’s all about making smart choices for the land and water. For example, the tillage that some organic and conventional farmers do to avoid using pesticides and create a good seedbed can disrupt soil health. Reducing tillage is something family farms of all sizes and practices can do to be more environmentally-friendly.
Myth: GMOs are not sustainable.
GMO seeds allow farmers to grow safe crops that are more resistant to certain pests, diseases and environmental conditions than plants grown from traditional seeds. Because GMO crops are better at defending themselves, farmers can use fewer pesticides. The American Council on Science and Health estimates GMO soybeans have helped reduce pesticide use by 37 percent.
Myth: Pesticides are not sustainable.
Pesticides are used by many farmers, organic and conventional alike. When used responsibly, they help protect crops from devastating pests. South Dakota soybean farmers must be educated and certified to mix and apply pesticides. They also use technology and equipment to ensure they’re using just the right amount to get the job done.
Myth: Sustainability is about choosing the environment over people.
Sustainability is all about making the right environmental choices now so families continue to enjoy safe and healthy food in the future. It’s choosing the environment and people. For South Dakota farmers, families are the key reason to protect the land and water for the future.
So how did your knowledge stack up against the facts? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Continue learning how South Dakota farmers go green by reading this story about a farmer near Colton.
Many South Dakota farmers would say their favorite part of farming is working with their animals. Local farm animals are well-loved by their owners, which shows in the quality of the eggs, milk and meat they create for your family.
Take the happy cows at Marty Neugebauer’s farm, just north of Dimock. Marty’s farm is one of four dairies that provide the milk to make Dimock Dairy’s delicious assortment of cheeses, curds and spreads South Dakotans love.
Marty knows delicious cheese comes from happy, comfortable cows that are fed a healthy diet. Most of South Dakota’s 117,000 dairy cows enjoy a protein-rich diet of soybean meal, 31,000 tons of it each year to be exact. This nutritious feed typically comes from GMO soybeans. Both GMO and conventional crops are nutritionally equal, and planting GMO seeds allows farmers to grow food more sustainably by using less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
Cows aren’t the only animals living the sweet life on South Dakota farms. Jamie and Brian Johnson raise chickens and Angus cattle on their soybean, corn and wheat farm in Frankfort. Chickens eat a diet of soybeans, corn and grains with added vitamins and minerals. This protein- and calcium-rich diet helps them laying healthy eggs for your favorite meals.
Treating animals right means treating the land right, too. Pig farmers Peggy and Brad Greenway keep their pigs comfortable in a high-tech pen that ensures the animals have a constant flow of fresh air and are fed just enough fresh, nutritious feed. These advancements help them use the right amount of water, feed and land to keep their pigs healthy and reduce their environmental footprint. The Greenways aren’t the only pig farmers practicing sustainability. In the last 50 years, pig farmers have reduced their overall carbon footprint by 35 percent.
At the end of the day, farmers appreciate having a best friend with them through it all. The farm wouldn’t be the same without the family dog. Spending time with their favorite pooch makes the work more enjoyable.
Farms just wouldn’t be the same without the animals that give us safe and healthy food. Find out more about how ranchers sustainably care for their cows with a visit to Shawn and Kristy Freeland’s home.
When it comes to food and choices in the grocery store, it’s tough enough to decide what to make for dinner. The last thing you need to worry about is pesticides on your produce. To help keep crops and your food safe, South Dakota farm families use technology to apply just enough pesticides to protect crops and get the job done. They are always looking for ways to improve how they farm to be good neighbors.
For Lake Preston soybean farmer Paul Casper, this translates to planting GMO crops, driving a sprayer equipped with automatic shut-offs and using large nozzles to ensure more product stays on the plants. These tools help him apply less pesticides in a more effective way. Like all farmers, Paul goes through training so he knows how to mix and spray safely.
We’ll let Paul explain how he uses technology to protect his family and yours.
Interested in learning more? Get a deeper look at the crop protection technology on Paul’s farm.
There’s a good chance you’ve thought about food safety while shopping at the grocery store. Did you know the farmers behind your food are always thinking of ways to improve and keep your family safe and healthy? This includes carefully applying pesticides to protect crops.
We spent some time talking with Lake Preston soybean farmer Paul Casper to learn more about what pesticides are, why he uses them and how they can be a great tool for farmers when applied accurately and responsibly. He even shares how the products his wife, Korlyn, uses to keep fruits and veggies safe in the garden are very similar to the ones he uses in the field. As parents and grandparents, Paul and Korlyn always put safety first.
Watch this video to get the scoop on pesticides and plant protection.
Keep growing your crop protection knowledge with this blog featuring South Dakota State University Weed Expert Paul Johnson. He shares more about pesticide safety and how farmers learn to apply them.
Sustainability is becoming a priority to everyone, especially when it comes to purchasing food. At Jorgensen Land and Cattle and Lazy J Grand Lodge, sustainability is at the forefront of every decision they make.
“Everything we do on each acre of our land is focused on maintaining and advancing soil health,” said Bryan Jorgensen, general partner at Jorgensen Land and Cattle and Lazy J Grand Lodge in Ideal.
Bryan and his brother Greg, his nephew Cody, and son Nick are partners in their family’s Leopold Award-winning 12,000-acre land and 900-head cattle farming operation. When they say they’re focused on soil health, they mean it.
Crops and Cattle
Every aspect of their business is intertwined to bring the best results for the land for years to come. On the crop side of the farm, 100 percent of their 12,000 acres are no till. This means they leave the crop stalks and roots in the soil instead of mulching them into the soil. This practice helps keep the soil in place, and adds to the plant material in the soil, bettering soil health. They plant a rotation of harvestable crops and cover crops. In addition to soybeans, the Jorgensens raise other crops to feed their cattle with including winter wheat, spring wheat, oats, peas, alfalfa, milo, cane sorghum, and corn.
Bryan said all of their crop decisions are based on the feed needs of the cattle. When the feed yard is full, it requires 225,000 pounds of feed per day. Purchasing that feed they need can be extremely expensive, so they choose to grow 90 percent of it. While they plant traditional grain crops like corn and soybeans, they also include a variety of other crops in their feeding rotation to provide a well-rounded diet to their cattle, as well as maintain the health of the soil in which the crops are planted.
“Everything we plant is dual purpose. Corn can be harvested for grain, but we can also chop the crop for silage,” he said. “We plant cover crops to increase organic matter in the soil and to feed our cattle from time to time. When the cattle are out on the land, they replenish the soil through their manure. Everything comes full circle.”
When they’re not managing the land and cattle, the Jorgensen family also operates the Lazy J Grand Lodge, a hunting lodge positioned near their farm offering all-inclusive, four-day hunting trips.
“While visitors stay with us, we feed them, house them and give them the chance to see our farm,” said Bryan. “Most of the people who hunt with us aren’t from the farm, so it gives us an opportunity to tell our farm’s story.”
Their hunting business is in the Golden Triangle area of South Dakota, making it the premiere spot for hunting wild birds like pheasants. To maintain the wild bird population on their grounds, they plant roughly 700 acres of food plots with crops in the bird’s natural diet.
“For us, it’s not about farming or hunting for the business. We don’t make our plans around the bottom line,” Bryan said. “We try and look at the land as a resource we take care of, make better and give back to the next generation.”
Just like the Jorgensen family, Hungry for Truth aims to connect consumers with South Dakota farmers to create an open dialogue about food and farming. Check out how other small businesses and organizations, like Kirsten from the Carrot Seed Kitchen in Brookings, connect customers to the farms supplying her store.
Did you know October is Pork Month? We’re celebrating by making our favorite pork dishes, including Rosemary Apple Butter Pork Chops. Plus, local pig farmer and registered dietitian Charlotte Rommereim gives us the scoop on how she raises pigs, the truth about hormones in pork and the many nutritional benefits of the other white meat.
Tell us about your family farm.
My husband Steve and I are the fifth generation on our farm near Alcester. Our farm has been in my family since my great-great grandfather, Gustav Nilson, emigrated from Sweden in 1874. Our family farm has raised pigs for more than 100 years. We also grow corn and soybeans. My husband operates the farm, and I work as a registered dietitian.
How do you keep your pigs comfortable and safe?
Our farm operation uses many types of housing to keep our pigs safe and comfortable. Steve and I choose to raise our pigs indoors in a barn where we can control the environment and protect them from the weather. Our pigs have food and water available at all times, and we visit them daily to monitor them.
What do you feed your pigs to keep them healthy?
Swine nutritionists formulate our pigs’ diets to make sure they have the optimal nutrients for each stage of their growth. This includes eating some of the soybeans we grow on our farm. As a dietitian, I compare it to how our children’s diets change as they grow to adulthood. Pigs require different feed formulations for each stage of growth.
Do you ever use hormones to help them grow?
The truth is hormones are never allowed in raising pigs or poultry. The federal government prohibits it and actually states this on the meat packaging labeled “hormone-free” in the grocery. We never give our pigs hormones because it is against the law.
How does pork fit into a healthy diet?
Protein is a very important nutrient and many are trying to include more of it in their diets. Pork provides high quality, nutritious protein at a reasonable price that fits into a healthy dietary pattern. As a dietitian, I recommend Pork’s Slim 7, which is a list of lean pork cuts. This includes my favorite, the pork tenderloin, which is leaner than a skinless chicken breast. Pork is also an excellent source of thiamine, selenium, niacin, phosphorus and vitamin B6.
Time to sizzle up some delicious and hormone-free pork chops for dinner. Just watch this video to learn how. Looking for another pork option? We also have a pork tenderloin recipe that’s sure to please.
It’s harvest time in South Dakota, and our favorite pint-sized crop reporter is back to give us the scoop on what’s happening on the Horter family farm near Andover. An important part of harvesting the crop is transporting it from the field to the local elevator. Today, Dane and John are on location at the elevator waiting in line to sell the soybeans that will become food for animals in South Dakota and around the world. Read about the journey.
Dane is in the driver’s seat sharing a recap of the growing season, how harvest going, what keeps them busy in the winter and brightening our day with a joke. Hint: Watch to the end if you want a chuckle.
We will check back with Dane when he gets out in the combine. In the meantime, you can learn more about how the season started with this crop report from planting season.
Between school, work and sports, it can be difficult to find time together as a family around the table. Baking a caramel apple cheesecake is one way to bring your family to you for some much-needed face time. With harvest time for apples running alongside with soybean harvest, farmers use meal time in their combines to spend time with their families.
Did you know the animal agriculture industry consumes 98 percent of soybeans grown in the United States? Soybeans are part of a healthy, balanced diet for many animals. Pigs, chickens, turkeys and cows eat soybeans for protein to keep them happy and healthy. Healthy animals create healthy foods! One example is the dairy cows that gave milk to supply the cream cheese for this recipe.
If you don’t have time to bake, we suggest heading to Country Apple Orchard to pick up a fresh baked sweet treat. Bring your kids along and make some memories by picking apples or pumpkins and enjoying other activities. Read more about how the Kroger family business connects with the community.
Harvest is when farmers and gardeners alike enjoy the results of their labor. We checked in with our dynamic gardening/farming duo Ken and Vonda Schulte from Geddes to find out how their crops and garden produce fared. They also talked about harvest plans and Vonda shared a tip on how to make preserving garden-fresh produce a snap.
Q: What was the growing season like on your farm?
Vonda: This year, things started off slow. After planting, it didn’t rain for a long time. The ground was hard and most of the seeds didn’t germinate. I had to replant. We had rain in August, so the weeds popped up. My garden looks like a jungle right now. Every year is different. It can be frustrating, but I try to learn from it and do something different next year. Mother Nature is always in control.
Ken: It was very hot and dry in June and July, which slowed corn pollination and kernel growth. When rains came in August, it helped our soybean plants form and fill pods, so they look good now. Overall crop growth is behind so we’ll start harvest a little later than usual.
Q: What types of pests did you experience and how did you manage them?
Vonda: Squash beetles. They’re nasty. They burrow into the plant, kill it and move to the next variety. I don’t like to use pesticides unless necessary, so next year I’ll plant my squash in a raised bed with different soil. That should keep them from coming back.
Ken: Kochia (weed) was a big problem in our fields. We sprayed pesticides, but the dry weather means they didn’t work well. Grasshoppers were also an issue, but I just sprayed the border around the affected fields with some insecticide. My sprayer is equipped with technology that keeps me from overlapping pesticide applications. I only like to spray when necessary so the technology helps a lot.
Q: When do you harvest crops and how long will it take? Does anyone help you?
Vonda: I plant and harvest fruits and vegetables all the time. Lettuce, radishes and spinach like cool temperatures and only take six weeks to grow. I pick those in May, then plant a second round in September. Next up are potatoes, string beans and broccoli in the middle of the summer. Then it’s peppers, tomatoes and celery in early fall. Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes are last. They like a freeze; it makes them sugary. Onions, herbs, beets and carrots can be harvested throughout the season.
I harvest everything myself, but our daughters and grandchildren love to pick and eat foods right out of the garden, so I guess they help too.
Ken: My brother-in-law and neighbor help me. Typically, harvest begins during the first week in October. If the weather cooperates and we don’t have to repair any equipment, we finish in 30 days.
Q: How do you prep your garden and fields for winter?
Vonda: I clean it up by pulling all the plants out. Then I amend or improve the soil and cover with peat moss and leaves. In the spring, it’s ready for me to dig in. I don’t till up the soil; tilling just makes weeds.
Ken: After combining, we apply herbicides to control weeds. We don’t till our soil, which helps manage erosion and protect it during the winter. Then we clean up the equipment, park it in storage and go hunting. That’s our incentive for being safe and efficient in the field.
Q: Do you have any tips for preserving all that fresh produce?
Vonda: Keeping it simple is the key. People make canning a big deal and try to pack too much into a day or weekend. I keep a small tote of canning supplies ready to go in the kitchen and just pull it out throughout the summer when I have time. You’ll be surprised how quickly a little bit adds up.
Canning Tote Supplies
- Jars, cleaned in dishwasher
- Canning lids
- Canning funnel
- Magnetic lid lifter
- Jar lifter
Ready to try your hand at canning? Here’s how to make Vonda’s raspberry jam.
There’s no doubt that many South Dakota families have questions about how their food is grown and raised. They know what it looks like on grocery store shelves, but aren’t necessarily familiar with where it came from and want to know more. Kirsten Gjesdal, owner of Carrot Seed Kitchen, has witnessed the disconnect firsthand when visitors to her store thought an ornamental pepper plant was a carrot plant.
“I received the plant as a gift from a friend, who put a carrot seed card into the plant to honor the name of the store,” she said. “I am shocked to see how many people ask if that is actually how carrots grow.”
The Carrot Seed Connection
Hungry for Truth helps facilitate genuine connections between South Dakotans and farmers who grow our food, and Kirsten also shares that same passion. She opened Carrot Seed Kitchen two years ago to help people in Brookings connect with what they eat through quality kitchenware. She spent the previous two years working as an event planner and was tired of sitting at a desk planning meals for corporate functions.
“I wanted to be involved in the community, working one-on-one with cooks and foodies,” Kirsten explained. “I started off selling cooking items, but always dreamed of expanding one day to include food,” she said. “I just wasn’t sure how to do it.”
Food And Farmers
After introducing the “Follow Your Food” event series to help customers learn more about how local food is grown and raised, she realized just how passionate the people of Brookings were about connecting with the farmers.
“Our pizza night event was a crowd favorite. Everyone made their own pizza and chatted with the farmers about what it takes to grow produce,” Kirsten said. She enjoys learning about what happens on today’s farms and sharing that experience with others in the community.
When she attended our Farm-to-Fork Dinner in June, it was the first time she’d been on a farm with animals. She learned about cow comfort and how they eat a healthy, balanced diet including soybean meal, silage and corn. She also had the opportunity to ask the farmers directly about the processes on their farms.
“It’s so nice to meet the real, actual farmers who raise the animals. They were so open to talking about what they do and why they do it,” said Kirsten. “Many people don’t think about the connection crops like soybeans have with the food we eat. I had no idea South Dakota farmers harvest about 250 million bushels of soybeans each year! Those soybeans go on to feed chickens that lay eggs, cows that give us milk and cheese and of course bacon and pork chops from pigs.”
Expanding the Kitchen
When the opportunity came to buy the space next door and expand Carrot Seed Kitchen to include local foods, she jumped at it. Now the store includes a large area featuring milk, cheeses, butter and ice cream from Stensland Family Farms, as well as local meats and produce from the Dakota Fresh Food Hub.
She’s already planning for further growth to support other small businesses by adding an incubator kitchen and opening it up to entrepreneurs who need extra cooking space and a place to sell their products. Kirsten hopes Carrot Seed Kitchen can help others succeed.
“I needed something I could really be proud of that adds value to my life and the lives of others,” she said. “I’m so lucky. I get to help people connect with their food and learn more about where it comes from through my store.”
Create a farm-to-fork journey in your kitchen by reading these farm stories and making their favorite recipes:
Music and agriculture are two of Moriah Gross’ great loves. Six years ago, her passions intertwined when she founded Pierre’s first youth orchestra and invited students and their families to her farm for a sunflower-themed photoshoot.
“What makes our orchestra truly unique is that we live in God’s country, and our county [Sully County] is the top sunflower producer in the U.S.,” said Moriah. “It made sense to combine the two in celebration of the beauty that surrounds us in the fields.”
Since then, it’s become an annual tradition. She decides on a marketing theme for the year, invites her students and their families out to the farm for the photoshoot, where the families also pick sweet corn. Moriah and her husband, Austin, a fourth-generation farmer from Onida, feel it’s a great opportunity to answer questions about food and farming.
“Conversations about how we grow food can happen 30 miles away or sitting next to someone at a baseball game. I always look forward to the opportunity,” explained Moriah.
Combines and Violins
Moriah grew up on a family ranch near Mankato, Kansas, growing milo, wheat and sunflowers, and raising Angus cattle. She spent summers with her family custom harvesting wheat for other farmers, traveling from Texas to the Canadian border. She learned how to drive a combine, grain cart and tractor. Her time in the cab and caring for cattle turned out to be helpful for her career as a musician.
“I remember singing with my mom in the combine to bluegrass and country western music,” said Moriah. “Later, my dad added a radio to the barn, so we listened to music during calving season.”
Moriah began playing the violin when she was 7 and joined the orchestra in middle school. By the time she graduated from college, she had mastered the violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar and piano. With all this experience and a love for wide open spaces, it just made sense to move to Pierre to start The Pierre Youth Orchestra, eventually becoming its executive director. What she didn’t plan on was meeting and marrying Austin.
“I never thought I’d be lucky enough to marry a farmer,” said Moriah. Since Austin’s family regularly opens the farm to youth and hunting groups, Moriah knew he’d welcome the orchestra with open arms.
Questions and Conversations
The annual orchestra photoshoot generates interesting questions about everything from how they grow crops to the equipment they use on the farm. Some families are surprised to find out that most of the sweet corn they grow is GMO.
“We still grow one traditional sweet corn variety for sentimental reasons, but the other five are GMOs,” explained Austin. “It’s fun to explain how each one has been carefully bred to enhance its color or flavor.” GMOs make up 94 percent of the soybean and 89 percent of the corn crops grown in the U.S. They also happen to be two of South Dakota’s top crops.
This year, the orchestra held its first community fundraiser at the Fort Pierre farmers market. Austin and Moriah donated 1,500 ears of sweet corn for the event. Naturally, shoppers asked about different types of sweet corn and if it’s organic.
“People think organic means the corn is healthier in some way. The truth is it doesn’t matter,” said Moriah. “The sweet corn we grow is nutritionally the same as organic and both are safe to eat.”
One day, she hopes to turn the photoshoot into a concert to bring more people to the Pierre and Onida communities to enjoy music on the farm. Until then, she and Austin continue planting seeds of knowledge whenever they can and watching them grow.
If you have questions for Moriah and Austin, share them in the comments below. Love reading stories about South Dakota farm families? Here’s one about Eunice who’s been growing crops and irises on her family farm for nearly 90 years.
Photos Courtesy of Grandpre Photography & Moriah Gross.