It’s always a pleasure to sit down and open up a conversation about food and farming with South Dakotans and the farmers who grow it. In fact, that’s what Hungry for Truth is all about. True to our mission, we had the wonderful opportunity of connecting, Sioux Falls native and mommy blogger, Kaylee Koch with soybean farmers, Dave and Miriam Iverson of Astoria, South Dakota to talk harvest, sustainability, soybeans and food. They spent a beautiful afternoon together filled with good conversation and farm education. Today, Kaylee is sharing her perspective of her recent South Dakota farm visit.
With fall upon us and finally some dry weather, harvest is in full force and the farmers are working tirelessly, almost all hours of the day, to get their work done. Through my partnership with Hungry for Truth I got a chance to go witness the entire harvesting process first hand and it was quite the learning experience. We visited Dave and Miriam Iverson’s farm in Astoria, South Dakota. They are the two nicest people!
First, we started at their beautiful farmhouse in Astoria where Miriam and I immediately connected about our love for home decor and remodeling, their home is so lovely! After I was done drooling about every inch of their home, we began to discuss the generation of farming that she and Dave both grew up in. This is what is always so interesting to me. Miriam grew up on a farm near Alberta, Canada, and Dave grew up right where they still are. But only one house away, which is where his father still lives. I love to hear how each family is involved and how it is passed on from generation to generation. I find it so fascinating how it is a family career. In fact, Dave’s father, at 86, was still out there harvesting and helping Dave by driving the combine.
Next, we headed to the fields to meet Dave and his father and to check out the combine. I was really anxious to learn from Dave, this is the best part about Hungry for Truth – directly connecting with the farmers to question and learn from them. We dug right in and he introduced me to the word “harvest” and all about the process of waiting for the crop to be just right, not too moist, and not too dry. I was thankful to hear from him that despite all of the crazy weather we have had lately, his crop was just fine and he felt great about the results he has been able to harvest already. Such good news!
Now was time to get a ride in the combine! First time ever for me. We climbed right up there and Dave got straight to work. This thing was huge and it was so neat to look straight down and see the process of this time-saving and technology filled machine. Dave just cruised right along after setting it on auto-pilot (WHAT!!!), and explained all of the parts and process. It was incredible to witness it go from the whole stock to just the soybean in a matter of seconds. I was blown away at how fast it works and how it can strip it down to just the bean. AMAZING to me!
Dave and I also discussed sustainability and how with each passing generation, they are always looking for new ways to improve and nurture their land. In fact, Dave’s father was one of the FIRST in the area to buy a combine! He explained how other farmers thought he wasn’t “manly” enough to do the work by hand and that he was crazy! Sure enough, now his Dad laughs about it, as it has saved the family tremendous amounts of hard work and hours of labor, but what an incredible example of sustainability and technology to catapult the family to be more efficient in the fields with just one swift move towards new innovative strategies.
After being in awe about this machine and the fun old stories Dave had to share, we went on to discuss the planting process from seed to plant to harvest and what he does with his crops once they are harvested. He explained who he sells to and what happens to his crops from there. I was very curious to hear what soybeans are used for and was amazed all over again about the many daily uses of soybeans and soybean oil and just how important they are to feeding our world. I went home and checked my vegetable oil, and sure enough, it was 100% soybean oil. So neat.
Overall, this trip was such a valuable lesson for me. I left in awe about how IMPERATIVE farming is to our world and feeding the world. It is so easy to just grab things off shelves at the local grocery store, but when you stop to think about Dave and Miriam Iverson and other farmers and all of the hard work and dedication put into their crops, you have a whole new humbling appreciation for your grocery list. I am so thankful for this experience and getting the chance to talk one-on-one with farmers to learn directly from them. To see the process and witness it left me feeling huge amounts of gratitude for what you all do for us consumers! Thank you for the opportunity and best of luck as you finish out your season of harvest.
About Kaylee Koch
My name is Kaylee Koch, I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and still live here with my husband John and three young kids, Ivy (5), Leo (3), and Faye (1). I was a 6th grade science teacher for eight years, and now stay home with our kids. I am a passionate mother, wife and also LOVE to learn. I blog at Apple of My Ivy (www.appleofmyivy.com) about my family, life, home, fashion, and anything else that interests me.
Instagram – www.instagram.com/kayleemaykoch
Website – www.appleofmyivy.com
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.
Farmers hosted guests from western South Dakota at Prairie Berry Winery in scenic Hill City for the second annual Harvest Social on Thursday, November 2. The warm, bright setting offered farmers and community members an opportunity to escape the chill and engage in conversations about how food is grown and raised on today’s farms and ranches.
Huron farmer Brandon Wipf welcomed the crowd and shared stories about growing soybeans, corn, wheat and hay on his fourth-generation family farm. After attendees enjoyed appetizers, desserts and beverages created exclusively for the social by Prairie Berry Winery and Miner Brewing, farmer Jerry Schmitz from Vermillion also spoke to the crowd.
He explained that, in addition to growing soybeans and corn, he and his wife Sally also care for a variety of fruit trees and keep bees to help with plant pollination. He then showed participants three apples: one came from his farm and two he purchased at a grocery store. The two from the store were different because one was grown organically and one conventionally. He invited attendees to explain three things about the apples.
This sparked a lively discussion about the use of pesticides and GMOs. A few people in the crowd knew that organic and conventional farmers use pesticides but that organic farmers cannot use synthetic pesticides.
“Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean a pesticide wasn’t used,” said Jerry.
He also explained how GMOs are bred to have specific traits that help farmers reduce their use of pesticides and still grow safe and healthy crops for people and animals. Soybeans are one of 10 crops that are genetically modified and approved for use in the U.S.
That led to questions about how farmers prevent pesticide drift, the increased use of precision technology and conservation practices on the farm.
“Everything has to be just right or we don’t spray,” said Jerry. “We don’t go out when it’s windy or the air temperature isn’t right. We mix pesticides with water according to label instructions and add an ingredient that helps them stick to the plants’ leaves. Precision technology in our sprayers also helps us apply just the right amount of pesticide according to label instructions.”
Brandon explained how using precision technology helped him take steps to make his farm more sustainable.
“By measuring every acre of my fields with precision technology, I’m able to decide where to invest most of my time in growing the best crops,” said Brandon. “The land that isn’t as productive can be converted to grass for buffer strips and habitat for pheasants. For me, sustainability is all about growing and raising quality food, while improving lives for families in South Dakota.”
Let us know if you’d like to attend a future Hungry for Truth event or have a question for a farmer by sending a note via this form. Curious to learn more about how GMOs, pesticides and sustainable farm practices contribute to safe and healthy foods? We’ve got you covered with these reads:
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.
You may be surprised to know that the farmers you see on Hungry for Truth billboards along South Dakota roads aren’t models. They’re real local farmers. Some have farmed their whole lives and others recently discovered a love of the land. All of them are committed to growing safe and healthy food for your family.
We thought we’d take you behind the scenes to learn more about the farms behind those friendly faces and why they’re involved with Hungry for Truth.
Morgan and Jason Kontz
Though she was not a farmer, Morgan met Jason online through farmersonly.com when she was a student at Purdue University in Indiana and he was farming in Colman, South Dakota. After getting to know each other through phone calls and online chats, they finally met in the summer of 2008. Morgan had car trouble on the drive out so she arrived later than expected. Within minutes of meeting Jason for the first time, she also met most of his family at a reunion.
That might’ve scared off some women, but not Morgan. She loved his family and the wide-open spaces for adventure on his farm. Soon, she transferred to South Dakota State University and one year after that first in-person date, they married. Today, they have two children who all work together to grow food on the farm.
“Until I moved to the farm, I had no idea just how much effort goes into making sure the food we grow and the practices we use on the farm are safe,” said Morgan who also blogs about her experiences. “Being involved in Hungry for Truth gives me the opportunity to talk with other moms about how we make safety a top priority for our kids and theirs.”
John and Dane Horter
John and Dane Horter are a father/son duo who enjoy growing food for South Dakota families near Andover. Dane may be young, but he already knows and loves the ins and outs of farm life. He feeds cows and helps during calving. He rides along in the tractor during planting and in the combine during harvest. He’s even become a budding newscaster, giving crop reports from the field, sharing what he’s learned about the safety of GMO seeds, the latest farm technology and how to care for animals from his dad.
It may seem like a lot of responsibility, but that’s part of being the sixth generation to continue the family legacy. Learning from the past and improving practices for the future are important for feeding their friends and neighbors.
“Hungry for Truth is a way for me to share our farm story,” said John. “Farming today looks much different than when my grandpa farmed, and it’s going to change even more by the time Dane grows up. We want South Dakotans to know how food is grown and raised, and that we make choices every day to become more sustainable so all of our families have a bright future.”
Monica and Mike McCranie
Monica McCranie is another city gal who moved from Denver, Colorado to South Dakota to build a life on the farm with her husband Mike. For more than 30 years, they’ve worked side by side in Claremont to grow soybeans, corn and raise two sons. They are also well-traveled and love learning about agricultural practices in different parts of the world. All this experience translates into confidence in the grocery store when Monica selects foods to feed their family. Understanding labels is key.
“As a consumer and a mom, I understand how confusing it is to look at a label and understand what it does and doesn’t mean,” Monica said. “What is important to know is that, no matter what the label says, whether that food was grown conventionally or organically, whether it’s a GMO or not, it has the same nutritional value.”
Monica and Mike believe there’s a lot of great information to share about food labels and what they mean to help moms make the right choices for their families. Hungry for Truth is one way they can reach across the table and have those conversations.
Get to know more about the farmers who grow and raise your food by reading these stories. Or if you have a question for any of our farmers, let us know.
For many in Sioux Falls, the average Saturday starts with a cup of coffee and a walk down to the local farmers market around 8 a.m. For local farmer Dale Hebda of Hebda Farms, preparing his stand at the market starts at 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning.
“We start with picking produce and packing it up for Saturday morning,” Dale said. “We usually finish Friday by packing our cooler with our baked goods at 11 p.m.”
Long hours are just part of the job at Hebda Farms, a produce farm in Mission Hills that started off as a 4-H project for Dale’s oldest son, Steven.
“He began with two or three acres that supplied our stand at the little farmers market in Yankton,” he said. “He bought the seed, paid for the water and paid me rent. He really took care of his finances and ran an excellent business.”
In addition to Steven’s efforts and purple ribbons accrued at the county fair, the community also provided the support Hebda Farms needed.
“Our community really came together and rallied around him to support his local business at our farmers market,” Dale said. “With Steven’s proven success and our seven younger children coming into 4-H down the road, we needed to expand our business.”
As luck would have it, a property came up for sale just as the Hebda family considered expansion. They purchased the land and went from two to three acres to 45 acres and have been growing ever since. In addition to adding products and produce to their line, they also began growing soybeans, corn and alfalfa on an annual rotation.
“We rotate crops yearly for weed control, as some weeds are more prevalent in some crops than others,” he said. “Some of the harvested crops are sold, and some are kept to feed the cattle we raise for our family.”
Introducing new products and produce is a regular occurrence for the Hebdas. Dale said they test them for about two to three years to see if they’re viable, then decide if they’ll continue growing them in future seasons. Hebda Farms also now has a commercial kitchen for pickling and canning their 36 varieties of jellies and creating delicious baked goods from scratch.
“We have about six to seven varieties of pies,” said Dale. “Our Latino workers have contributed their family recipes, so we now sell flan and other traditional Mexican foods.”
Even though there are challenges in owning a small businesses and farming, Dale enjoys growing food and connecting with South Dakota families.
“It is a fun time. At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily get satisfaction from the revenue,” he said. “I’m happy when I see happy customers leaving our farm or stand with healthy and fresh food for their families.”
You can visit Dale and the Hebda crew on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Lewis and Clark Lake in Yankton, Saturday mornings in Sioux Falls and by appointment at their farm in Mission Hills.
Farmers markets are a great place to meet with the people who grow your food. If you can’t make it out to a farmers market, ask a question in the comments, or check out our blogs below to learn more about connecting with local farmers:
Not many farmers can say they’ve cultivated their South Dakota land for nearly 90 years. But then again, Eunice McGee of rural Colton isn’t your typical farmer. Affectionately known by her friends and neighbors as the “Iris Lady,” Eunice not only tends a flower garden with 140 varieties of rare irises, she’s also pretty good at growing corn and soybeans on her family farm.
“I’ve been farming since I was 10 years old. I used to drive a team of horses alongside a one-row corn picker with my father. I’d stay with the wagon until it was full,” said Eunice, who turns 97 later this year. “Now I use my iPhone to check the farm markets to decide when to sell my crops. I think I’ve seen more changes in farming than anyone else around here. We just continue improving.”
With her eyes on the future and her knowledge of the past, Eunice embraces farm technology and new practices while staying committed to being a good neighbor and growing safe and healthy crops.
Though it was hard to give up the horses, she was the first woman in her area to purchase her own tractor, a move that caught the banker off guard. She also began planting GMO corn and soybean seeds when the technology became available because they require less water and pesticides to protect the plants. She said that, despite all the changes she’s seen in farming, she still feels safe eating food that’s grown and raised on farms.
Today, her son-in-law Tom Langrehr and neighbor Dan Fladmark tend to the day-to-day field work while her daughter Deb Langrehr takes care of the bookkeeping. Eunice actively maintains massive gardens of irises, tulips and day lilies, delivers equipment parts to the field and is the key decision-maker when it comes to managing the farm. Her neighbor, Jeff Thompson, enjoys stopping in to see the flowers, finding out how her crops look and discussing market trends, which Eunice has at her fingertips.
Every year, she determines which seeds to plant, where to plant them and when to sell her crops. She also works with the local co-op to spray pesticides when needed and harvest her soybeans and corn because she doesn’t own a combine. There’s no doubt farming is in her blood, and she has her grandfather Lars to thank for it.
Lars Berven came to the United States from Norway in the late 1800s with hopes of finding land and starting a family. After a brief time in Wisconsin, he headed west and settled on 160 acres in Sioux territory. All he had to do was plant crops and tend to them for a year and the land would be his for free. The natives were friendly and eventually named the farm Minnewawa Farm after the “gentle waters” that flowed in a nearby creek. That was 1875.
By the time Eunice came along in 1920, her father had taken over the family farm and grown it to 320 acres. She farmed alongside her grandfather and father as they expanded to the 805 acres she manages today. When she got married to her late husband JC in 1943, they moved to a new farm just two and a half miles away. In addition to growing crops, she also raised chickens for eggs and maintained a garden full of vegetables over the years.
“I just love being outside,” said Eunice. “Farming gives me the opportunity to be outdoors with the animals and nature.”
Another thing she loves to do is cook meals from scratch to feed the combine crew who harvests her crops. Typically, the crew pushes through harvest without breaks, but not on Eunice’s farm. She gets them out of the field with mashed potatoes and gravy and sends them home with their favorite pies.
“The world is so fast paced these days. On our farm, we take meal breaks to slow down a bit, enjoy our blessings and talk to each other,” said Eunice. We couldn’t agree more. Conversations around the dinner table are one thing that should never go out of style.
Enjoy reading stories about real South Dakota farmers? Here are a few we think you’ll like:
Now that you know farmers use pesticides to protect crops from diseases, insects and weeds, and the steps for pesticide application, it’s time to take your education up a notch. Precision technology – such as GPS, auto steer, variable rate spraying and tablets – are important tools for today’s family farms. With precision at their fingertips, farmers can track crop growth, health and yields to improve their family farm businesses each year.
Paul Casper grows approximately 4,500 acres of soybeans and corn near Lake Preston. He’s the fourth generation to run the farm along with his father Warren and son Drew. Let’s take a look at his technology and why he thinks his sprayer is the best piece of equipment he owns.
Just like you use GPS to get to where you need to go, the Caspers use it to ensure they cover each acre in the most efficient way. The GPS signal helps guide their equipment on a straight course through the field. Tools built around GPS can even turn the equipment around when it reaches the end of the row!
The Caspers also keep digital soil maps of each of their fields so they plant the right amount of seeds, and apply the right amount of fertilizers and pesticides to grow healthy crops. Using advanced software, technology transfers from tractor to sprayer to combine right through their tablet so they can track all data throughout the season.
Paul’s sprayer is loaded with advanced options that help keep his family, neighbors and animals safe from pesticide drift and crops safe from applying too much. The sprayer automatically slows to speeds of 2-3 miles per hour when he drives near a neighbors’ house or the edge of a field. The pulsating system also increases the size of the water droplets in the spray increase to keep pesticides from drifting in the air.
The two arms on the side of the sprayer, called booms, self-level according to plant height as he drives across the field. This helps them float the right distance above the plants so the spray reaches the leaves and doesn’t drift. The booms are also equipped with automatic shut offs that stop spraying when it reaches the end of the field to turn around. This helps him avoid overlapping applications.
Creating a Sustainable Future
Being a good neighbor, growing healthy crops and taking care of the environment is important to continuing the legacy of the family farm. Paul, Drew and Warren try to make the best decisions now so one day Drew’s daughter Madi has the chance to take over.
“My father recently told our banker that the sprayer we bought three years ago is the best piece of equipment we own,” said Paul. “The technology in it is so accurate. It helps us be better managers of our business and the environment because we can apply the right amount of product at the right time in the right place. We even use it to apply fertilizer.”
In addition to the mechanical advancements, Paul says many of today’s pesticides are less likely to drift off the field because of new formulas that require more water. He also adds a soy-based agent to the tank to help the spray he applies during the growing season adhere to plant leaves and resist movement with wind and humidity.
“There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with farming. You have to have the right tools to apply the right products and make the best decisions possible,” said Paul. “We track what we do and try to improve each year. It’s all part of being a good neighbor and creating a sustainable future for our family farm.”
Keep learning how farmers use technology like drones and treated seeds to grow safe and healthy food in South Dakota by reading these:
We recently asked the question: What would you do if you drove by a field and saw a farmer spraying pesticides? If you missed it and want to know more, read this. We hope you give the farmer a friendly wave as you drive by. They have your family’s safety in mind.
Today, we go behind the scenes to learn about pesticide application on the Casper family farm near Lake Preston. There’s a lot that goes into making sure crop protection products are applied in an effective and safe way before they even get to the field.
Let’s take a look:
Step 1: Put Safety First
Safety comes first for Paul Casper and his family who grow about 4,500 acres of soybeans and corn near four South Dakota lakes. “We take spraying more seriously than planting and harvesting,” he said. “It’s about being a good neighbor, making sure our children and grandchildren are safe, and growing healthy food we can all feel good about eating.”
Being safe includes having the right certification to apply pesticides, using protective gear when handling and spraying products, and knowing the right amount and time to apply. Paul’s sprayer even has a cab shield so his granddaughter, Madi, can ride along with her dad, Drew, in the field.
According to Paul, many of the products and safety practices he uses are no different than avid gardeners, just on a larger scale. In fact, Paul’s wife, Korlyn, is a gardener who uses some of the same pesticides to protect her plants.
“We get bugs on our tomatoes and potatoes. If we didn’t use pesticides, our fruits and vegetables would be eaten up,” explained Paul. The whole family enjoys grabbing healthy snacks fresh from the garden. They just wash them first to eliminate any dirt, microbes and pesticide residues.
Step 2: Identify the Pest and Solution
The Caspers may be certified to apply all types of pesticides on their crops, but just because they can, doesn’t mean they do. First, Paul and Drew employ crop rotation, minimal tillage and use GMO seeds to try to prevent problems before they start.
“I’d rather treat a specific problem and take care of it early instead of applying pesticides to growing crops in the middle of the summer. GMOs help us be more precise and efficient with crop protection products and still grow healthy plants,” said Paul. Scouting fields regularly also helps them identify and deal with issues early.
This year, a weed known as marestail invaded their crops. Paul and Drew had to act fast to control it and talked with their crop consultant about solutions. He helped them identify the weed and recommended a contact herbicide that absorbs quickly to maximize application safety, but before they can apply it, they have to wait for the right weather conditions.
Step 3: Wait for the Right Weather
The ideal day to spray pesticides is dry and warm with wind speeds less than 15 miles per hour and no rain in the immediate forecast. Humidity should be between 50 and 60 percent and outside temperature no greater than 90 degrees. This helps keep the spray from staying in the air and drifting into different areas.
If the weather conditions aren’t right, Paul and Drew wait for another day to spray. “It’s just not worth taking a chance,” Paul said.
Step 4: Mix With Water and Apply
Once all the conditions are right, it’s time to transport the bulk pesticide product to the farm, mix it with water in tanks and pump it into the sprayer. Then they head out to the field to apply.
For the marestail herbicide, Paul and Drew combine approximately 18 gallons of herbicide with 1,000 gallons of water and a special soy-based product that helps the pesticide adhere to plant leaves and absorb better and faster. This mixture protects approximately 70 acres of crops. That may sound like a lot, but it turns out the actual amount of pesticide applied to an acre of land might be much less than you think.
“It’s about the size of medium latte spread over an area the size of a football field. Most of what you see being sprayed on the field is water,” explained Paul. The water truck stays with the sprayer and can cover 500 acres per fill.
According to Paul, the sprayer is the best piece of equipment they own. Not only does it have safety features that protect his family, it’s also equipped with precision technology to protect the families who live around his farm. We’ll take closer look at it in our next blog.
You’re driving from Sioux Falls to Mitchell to visit friends, and you see a large piece of equipment with wide arms and big tires driving through the soybean field toward your vehicle. After a closer look, you see it’s spraying something. Is it water? Is it a pesticide? Should you be concerned about your safety?
Your answer might depend on what you know about pesticides and how farmers apply them. Since most people don’t get a chance to stop by a South Dakota farm to get the scoop firsthand, we decided to bring the process to you. First, let’s start with the basics: What are pesticides and why do farmers use them?
Three Main Types of Pesticides
Paul Johnson is a weed science coordinator at South Dakota State University in Brookings. Paul grew up on a crop and livestock farm near Sisseton. His dad served on the county’s noxious weed board and Paul started spraying crops at the age of 12. It’s easy to see why Paul describes himself as a “weed-fighter,” even though pesticides aren’t just used to eliminate weeds.
“Pesticides is a term used to describe a substance that controls weeds, insects, diseases and other organisms to protect and grow healthy crops,” said Paul. The three main types used on South Dakota farms are herbicides to control weeds, insecticides to control harmful insects and fungicides to control certain types of diseases.
Why Farmers Use Pesticides
Though they may seem small, insects, weeds and diseases can quickly take over fields and cause big losses. Farmers use pesticides to stop the damage and save their crops. To act quickly and safely, they need the latest research and product information at their fingertips.
That’s where Paul and his team of extension specialists come in. They conduct field research throughout the year and share what they learn online and in educational sessions to help farmers identify and treat the problems they see in their fields.
“Part of my job is to monitor crops and compare what I see to previous years. We alert farmers if we see a problem so they don’t get caught off guard,” explained Paul. Top pests he watches for are soybean aphids and grasshoppers that devour plants and grasses quickly. Waterhemp, kochia and marestail are weeds that take over fields and compete with corn and soybeans for sunlight, water and other resources.
Pesticide Certification, Safety and Using Less
You might ask yourself, “Can anyone just climb up in the sprayer and start applying pesticides?” The fact is, South Dakota farmers must be certified to apply pesticides. They attend classes to help them select products, learn how to apply them and make plans for each growing season. If they have an unexpected issue, they talk with specialists like Paul to make the safest choice.
“Pesticide safety is a big concern for all farm families,” said Paul. “Thirty years ago, we spent a lot of time talking with farmers about having the right safety gear to apply pesticides. Today, we use pesticides that are much less toxic. We still need to take precautions, but I’m confident we’re safer than ever.”
In addition to pesticides being safer, farmers today also use less to get the job done.
“When I started my career more than 30 years ago, it was common to use approximately two to three quarts of pesticides on one acre of land,” explained Paul. “An acre is about the size of a football field. Now some pesticides are applied at only two to three ounces per acre. Most of what you see being sprayed on the field is water.”
Now that you know more about pesticides and why they’re used on the farm, should you be worried when you see a sprayer in action? We’ll find out in our next blog when we go behind the spraying scene and get into the field with Lake Preston farmer Paul Casper. In the meantime, here are some great resources on pesticide use and how they affect your food:
Paul Casper has always had a strong connection to the land. His love for the outdoors began when he was young, spending a lot of time hunting, fishing and trapping. Almost everything he does for work and recreation is tied to the environment. That’s why using sustainable agricultural practices are so important for his family and farm.
“What we do on the farm every day has an impact on our family, the food we eat and what we do for fun,” explained Paul. “The water is right beside us so we continually look for ways to improve our farm practices to take care of our soil.”
Paul isn’t kidding when he says the water is right beside them. Today, the family farm is surrounded by four lakes: Lake Thompson, Lake Whitewood, Lake Henry and Lake Preston. That hasn’t always been the case.
Paul used to ride horses and hunt in the pastureland that eventually became Lake Thompson. In the mid-1990s, heavy rains permanently turned the ground into a lake, and now it’s one of his favorite places to take his grandkids fishing. Keeping those waters and the land around them safe while protecting his corn and soybeans are very important parts of his plans.
Like many farmers in South Dakota, Paul uses sustainable practices like crop rotation and soil sampling. The GPS technology in his tractor and sprayer help him apply the right rates of pesticides safely and only in areas where they’re needed. The Caspers also practice no till, which means they don’t disturb the soil after crops are harvested. Leaving the stalks and plant roots in the fields reduces the chance soil will wash or blow into the lakes. It also improves the health of their soil and allows them to use less equipment so they don’t use as much fuel.
“We have greatly improved our farm practices over the past 15 years to preserve South Dakota’s land and water,” said Paul. They have no plans to slow down. This year, they’re looking at planting cover crops, which is a crop grown for the protection and enrichment of the soil.
The more Paul pays attention to sustainability, the better his crops grow. Now that his son and granddaughters have returned to the family farm, safety and sustainability are even more closely connected.
“We live and breathe farming, so we need to preserve the family farm for the next generation,” said Paul. “We also swim in the lakes, and eat the fish we catch, the animals we hunt and crops we grow. There are no shortcuts to being safe and environmentally friendly in agriculture, but I found it’s always worth the effort to do things right.”
Learn more about Paul’s farm practices and how he turns the veggies from his garden into delicious chicken kabobs by watching this episode of Across the Table.
With a name like “laying hen,” you might think the chickens at Dakota Layers near Flandreau, South Dakota, are just sitting around all day. Well, technically, they are, but they have a pretty important job that requires them to stay off their feet. The 1.3 million hens are responsible for laying more than 90,000 dozen eggs each day (at full capacity), which means they need healthy food to fuel their bodies.
According to Brandon Gibson, manager for Dakota Layers, there’s a science to keeping hens happy and consistently laying high-quality eggs. It all starts with what they eat. No off-the-shelf feed brands will do for these ladies. They get their own special blends delivered right to them daily, which requires teamwork up and down the ag supply chain.
Brandon works with poultry nutritionist Stacey Roberts at Provimi North America Inc. to select the right mix of feed. “Feed is formulated to meet each flock’s needs. It’s adjusted weekly based on egg production, age of the hens and how much each one is eating,” she said. “We’re very precise. In fact, the hens eat better than I do.”
The foundation of the feed for Dakota Layers’ hens comes from corn and soybeans grown by farmers in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa that is processed locally into meal. Other ingredients depend on what the hens need to be healthy.
So what do chickens eat? Let’s take a look:
- Soybeans. Soybean meal is about 15 percent of the feed mix and provides hens with important proteins and amino acids they need to lay nutritious eggs.
- Corn. Ground corn is an excellent source of energy for the birds and contributes to the yellow color of the pigment in the egg yolk. Corn contributes more than 50 percent of the feed mix. The next time you crack open an egg with a vibrant yellow yolk, you know the chicken enjoyed a diet rich in corn.
- Distillers grains. In addition to ground corn, chickens also eat corn in the form of distillers grains – 5-10 percent of the mix – which is a byproduct from creating ethanol. It turns out corn that doesn’t become a renewable fuel is a great source of nutrition for animals.
- Calcium, vitamins and other minerals. The remaining ingredients in chicken feed, about 10 percent, are the same vitamins and minerals you take in a daily multivitamin. The only exception is vitamin C, which is a deficiency unique to humans. One mineral that’s especially essential to hens for egg laying is calcium because that’s what eggshells are made of.
“Since hens typically lay in the morning, the shell is the last thing put on at night while they sleep. Large particle limestone is really important to make sure it’s a good shell,” said Stacy. Just in case you’re wondering, it typically takes just over 24 hours to make and lay an egg.
Once Brandon and Stacey settle on the feed formula, she sends the recipe to Darren Ponto at New Vision Co-op in Worthington, Minnesota, for testing, mixing and delivery. He makes sure they check each ingredient to confirm its quality before blending the feed.
Since New Vision is the sole feed provider for Dakota Layers, Darren is also in charge of making sure it gets there on time. New Vision Co-op hauls approximately 3-5 trucks of feed per day, five days a week with each load weighing approximately 31 tons! A missed or late delivery could throw off the egg laying schedule and ruffle the feathers of those hungry hens.
The next time you grab a carton of Dakota Layers’ eggs at Hy-Vee in Brookings or eat a bronco omelet at the Phillips Avenue Diner in Sioux Falls, consider the precision that keeps the hens behind those eggs happy and healthy. There’s no time to “lay” around when it comes to feeding a hungry flock.
Want to read more farm-to-table stories? Here are some journeys from the farm to your fork.
Even with all the fun memories we’ve made this summer, we’re still talking about the fun we had on the farm for the Farm-to-Fork dinner on June 15. It was a great night and the perfect setting to have conversations about how food is grown and raised in South Dakota. What did people talk about? We asked Sioux Falls school board member and mother of three, Cynthia Mickelson, to share a little bit about her experience.
Why did you attend Hungry for Truth’s Farm-to-Fork dinner?
My husband Mark and I received an invitation last year, but were unable to attend. Afterward I checked out Hungry for Truth online and I loved it! The initiative does a great job of proactively communicating with families. We were so excited to be invited again this year.
What kinds of questions or fears do you have about food?
As of now, none, but I used to! The hysteria over GMOs hit when we lived in the suburbs of Chicago and I totally fell for it. I read a lot online and thought I will never feed my family foods made with GMO ingredients. I thought they were some sort of poison. But, after I researched them further and realized that GMOs have been around for more than 20 years, I learned just how safe they are and there was nothing to worry about.
What conversations did you have at the Farm-to-Fork dinner?
One conversation that stood out was with a Yankton farmer who is having issues expanding his family hog facility. He had pushback from people in the community and it’s kept them from growing their business.
Policies and perceptions about growth like this are interesting to my husband and me. We feel strongly about farmers being able to expand their operation if they wish. People think it keeps some big corporate farm from coming to town, when it actually keeps the little family farms from growing. From our interactions with farmers across South Dakota, we know no matter the size of the farm, farmers take care of their animals.
What do you think about the dinner?
The dinner was so nice! The farm was beautiful, the decorations, the food, everything was wonderful. It was even nicer than some weddings I’ve been to! It was also neat to see the diversity in the operations – there were pig farmers, cattle farmers, soybean farmers, everyone! Agriculture across the country, but especially in South Dakota, is so interconnected—pig and cattle farmers rely on soybean farmers to provide quality feed for their animals, and we rely on pig and cattle farmers to raise high quality, safe meat for us to eat. Everyone at dinner had the chance to ask questions and learn about food right from the source. It was the perfect environment for open dialogue, and it was great to see this community become more comfortable with their food and who raises it. I think we can all learn something from farmers. Hopefully I can come again next year!
See what Cynthia and so many others enjoyed about the Farm-to-Fork Dinner with these blogs about past events.
For many South Dakotans, summer time includes having fun on the water. Whether it’s a road trip to the lake or a quick dip in the river, it’s a tradition that’s great for escaping the heat and creating memories that last a lifetime. The same holds true for farmers like Colin Nachtigal who lives near the Missouri River and enjoys fishing, kayaking and swimming on hot summer days.
“When we’re out working on the farm and it gets hot, we jump in the river for a quick dip,” he said. “I’m excited to teach my 18-month-old how to swim in it someday.”
While Colin doesn’t get to be on the water in summer as much as he’d like, he does spend most of his time on the banks of the Missouri working with irrigation pumps. He, along with his dad, two uncles, brother, and six cousins, grow corn, soybeans and wheat and raise beef cattle along the river. He’s part of the fourth generation to cultivate the land and thinks of the Missouri River as more than just a swimming hole.
“Some of our land is irrigated, and the water comes right from the Missouri River. Our rural home’s water system uses water from the river, so we also drink it,” said Colin.
He uses sustainable farm practices to ensure the water is safe for his crops, animals, family and neighbors who depend on it. The Nachtigals blend reliable practices from the past and innovative technology of the future to prevent soil erosion. This includes GMO seeds, minimal tillage and using equipment that puts crop nutrients, like fertilizer, in the soil.
“Minimizing tillage, or no-till, means that we’re leaving the soybean plant roots in the ground after harvest to hold the soil in place. Putting the fertilizer into the soil instead of on top helps the plants use it more efficiently. Both reduce erosion and keep the river clean,” explains Colin. He also uses GMO seeds that require less pesticides. If he does have to apply pesticides he waits for the right day.
“We’re always looking to improve on the ways of the older generation. Learn from them, but also try new ways to take care of the land and water,” said Colin. “Hopefully one day my daughter will be part of the family farm and grow food for people in South Dakota. In the meantime I’m looking forward to making more memories with her on the river.”
Summer isn’t the only time of year to make lasting memories. Learn how South Dakota farmers spend time with their families all year long by reading these blogs:
On July 8, South Dakota families stopped by the Hungry for Truth tent during Family Fest in Sioux Falls for fun family activities. Kids and parents beat the heat in the shade by playing with trucks and tractors in sandboxes, spinning the “ag” wheel of fortune for a chance to win a prize and climbing into a John Deere tractor compliments of Kibble Equipment.
More than once the horn honked and the hazard lights flashed thanks to curious fingers inside the tractor cab. One lucky mom even walked away with a new KitchenAid® mixer that was given away at the end of the day. South Dakota farmers, Josh and Kara Kayser and Jerry Schmitz spent time talking with attendees about what it’s like to grow healthy food on their farms.
“A few parents asked questions about hormones in meat and if they should worry about GMOs,” said Jerry. “I enjoyed hearing the kids answer the questions about where some of their favorite foods come from. Quite a few knew the two top crops grown in South Dakota are soybeans and corn!”
In South Dakota, we’re lucky that families have choices when it comes to the food they buy. Regardless of what you choose, it’s important to know that food you find at the grocery store is safe and nutritious. For example, food made from GMOs have been proven safe to eat, that the meat you buy in the grocery store is virtually hormone free and that farmers care about growing healthy food for your family.
Have questions about how your food is grown and raised? Leave them in the comments and a farmer will get back to you. In the meantime, take a few minutes to meet some South Dakota farmers who grow your food.
On June 15, urbanites and farmers from across South Dakota gathered on the farm for an evening of conversation and outdoor dining at the second annual Farm-to-Fork dinner. The event was hosted by Hungry for Truth to encourage open discussions about how food is grown and raised on the scenic Bones Hereford Ranch, Hexad Farms and MDM Farms near Parker.
The farm chic décor, cattle and calves in the pasture, historic barn and music by The Hegg Brothers created the perfect backdrop for summer dining. South Dakota blogger and mom Staci Perry noted how the location really set the tone for great conversations.
“You could see the camaraderie among the farmers, and everyone was so excited to share stories about how they grow our food,” said Staci.
Local farmers took time throughout the evening to thank attendees for coming and share their farm stories. They talked about animal care on their farms, why they might choose to grow GMO crops, and improved farm practices that benefit the environment.
“The most important thing on our farm is sustainability,” said Bradee Pazour, a cattle farmer from Pukwana who provided the beef for the appetizers. “My husband and I are raising our two boys on our farm, and one day we hope they may want to continue on the farming legacy. We are truly farming with the future in mind.”
“It’s so nice to meet the real, actual farmers who raise the animals and see the farming processes,” said Kirsten. “It’s important to me to be able to see the farm where the animals are coming from, and these farmers were so open to talking about what they do and why they do it.”
The Farm-to-Fork dinner is just one of the ways Hungry for Truth connects South Dakotans with the people who grow their food. Special thanks to everyone who attended, and to Chef Jeni and Company, The Event Company, Flower Mill and The Sampson House for creating such an elegant and memorable night.
Of course the event wouldn’t be considered “Farm-to-Fork” without featuring some truly delicious local foods. In case you’re wondering what was on the menu, here’s a rundown of some of the tasty local fare:
- Wine from Prairie Berry
- Beer from Miner Brewing Co.
- Artisan cheeses from Dimock Dairy
- Devilled Eggs from Dakota Layers
- Bacon from Greenway Pork
- Honey from Laughing Eyes Apiary
- Individual bread loaves from Breadico
- Beef from Creekstone Farms
- Mini apple and Rhubarb Pies with rhubarb from Chef Jeni’s garden
- Ice Cream from the South Dakota State University Dairy Bar
Don’t worry, if weren’t in attendance at the dinner, you can still find a lot of these local products by simply shopping at your grocery store. Peggy Greenway from Greenway Pork shared that the pork from her farm goes to Costco. If you buy pork at Costco, it very well could have been raised by her! You can also find Dimock Dairy and Dakota Layers at local Hy-Vee stores.
Have you ever met a real South Dakota farmer? Get to know a few of them by reading their stories:
June may be dairy month, but if you’re anything like us, cheese is a year-round obsession. In South Dakota, Dimock Dairy is known for some of the best handmade blocks, curds and spreads you’ll find anywhere.
The journey for these delicious cheeses starts seven miles northwest of Dimock on Marty Neugebauer’s farm. Marty grows corn and soybeans, and raises beef cattle in addition to operating a dairy. He started selling milk to Dimock Dairy in the 1980s as a junior in high school when he his mother Anita expanded the family farm. When his mother retired in 1998, his brother Darin joined the operation. Marty knows dairy products don’t get any better than what’s right down the road.
Today, his family business is one of four family farms selling milk exclusively to Dimock Dairy. He’s proud to support a local business and enjoys knowing their products get their start on his farm. He claims their butter is the best ever made with the aged cheddar a close second.
Marty gets going every morning at 5:15 a.m. Before bringing the cows in around 6 a.m., he sanitizes the milking equipment and pipes to make sure the milk is clean when it reaches the bulk tank. Keeping things clean is Marty’s number one priority so he can send the best quality product to town.
He brings eight cows into the barn for milking at a time. Each cow goes into the same stall on the same side of the parlor every day. According to Marty, “Cows need routine. If you change anything, they won’t give the same amount of milk. Keeping them comfortable and happy is important to milk production.” He sanitizes the cows before attaching the milkers, which suction right to the cow. The milkers are equipped with a sensor to detect the flow of milk and stop pumping when the milk stops flowing.
Marty says cows have their own unique personalities and pump different amounts of milk. They can provide anywhere from 25 to 50 pounds per session, and it only takes about five to eight minutes to milk each cow. After the milkers shut off, they detach automatically and he disinfects the cows so they’re clean. Within 15 minutes of coming inside, the cows head back outside for the day.
Next, the fresh milk flows into a receiving jar and is pumped through a plate cooler to reduce its temperature by 20 degrees within seconds. It is then collected in a bulk tank where it’s chilled to 38 degrees F until a Dimock Dairy bulk milk truck picks it up.
Marty repeats this process at 4:30 p.m. every day. It takes three hours to sanitize and milk about 90 cows each morning and afternoon. In between milkings, he takes care of his beef cattle, tends to his crops and completes other tasks on the farm. “There’s always something to do,” Marty said.
Cow Comfort and Nutrition
For many dairy farmers like Marty the key to good milk production is keeping cows comfortable, giving them plenty of access to water and feeding them a nutritious diet. While Marty’s cows eat mostly distillers grain made from corn and silage, many dairy farmers in South Dakota also feed theirs soybean meal. Did you know there are approximately 117,000 dairy cows in South Dakota that eat 31,000 tons of soybean meal each year? Good thing soybeans are the state’s second largest crop.
Dimock Dairy Delivery
Every other day, approximately 10,000 pounds of milk leaves Marty’s bulk tank to take on a whole new shape and flavor. We’ll explore how Marty’s milk becomes the delicious cheese at Dimock Dairy in part two of this blog so stay tuned.
What about the gallons of milk you find at the grocery store? Ever wonder how it gets from the farm to the shelf? Read about its journey.