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
Growing up on the farm, Matt Bainbridge’s favorite memories were riding along in the fields with his dad and grandpa, and wondering when he would be big enough to drive the tractor himself. Now, with hundreds of hours in the cab and a young son to join him in the buddy seat, Matt is grateful his family is working together to create a sustainable future for their farm.
The Bainbridge family has been growing soybeans, corn, alfalfa and raising cattle near Ethan, South Dakota, for almost 100 years. Their recipe for long-term success requires everyone to do their part. Matt and his brother, Neal, run the cattle operation and manage the crops. Their dad, Lewis, helps out with finances, crop insurance and running errands. Wives Sari, Tara and Charlene move cattle, cook meals and transfer equipment.
Their drive to improve the land for future generations is no different. They contribute new ideas and adopt farm practices so their children have the opportunity to grow and raise food one day.
It started more than 25 years ago when Lewis stopped tilling the soil. Leaving the stalks and roots from crops in the fields is a practice called no-till that’s used by conventional and organic farmers. It’s a natural way to protect the soil from erosion and feed it with organic matter that supports healthy crops.
“We feel it’s important to keep the soil covered to prevent erosion. We continue to try new techniques with soil fertility and rotating different crops to help control weeds, diseases and insects,” said Matt. Planting GMO seeds and using precision technology in their tractors, planter and sprayer also help them protect crops efficiently and sustainably.
With technology and soil mapping, they can treat fields the size of football fields like they’re backyard gardens, applying the right amount of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides needed to grow healthy plants. The science inside GMO seeds helps defend them against weeds, pests and extreme weather. Having all these tools at their fingertips helps the family manage difficult times.
“This year has been a challenge. We had a wet spring that made calving and planting difficult,” explained Matt. “However, we were fortunate to continue getting rain all summer and were rewarded with an excellent, healthy crop.”
Looking toward the future, Matt and Neal are considering more changes to keep their environmental sustainability growing. They recently planted a new variety of soybean that allows them to use different types of products to control weeds. They’re also looking into expanding their cattle herd, which could add new crops the mix and a more abundant supply of manure.
“Farming changes so quickly that it’s hard to predict what it will look like in 20 years, but I believe family farms will always be part of safely growing food,” said Matt. “As a new dad, I hope my son has the same opportunities I have had. Our land and water need to be in excellent condition for our farm to be successful.”
Did you know South Dakota farmers lead the nation in farmland enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program? Grow your knowledge with these local farm sustainability facts.
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.
This Thanksgiving is extra special for South Dakotans. For the first time in history, two South Dakota turkeys will ride – Suburban style – from Huron to Washington, D.C and will be presented to President Trump and his family on behalf of our nation’s turkey farmers.
The National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation is a tradition that began in 1947 with President Truman and has evolved into a well-coordinated annual effort by the National Turkey Federation (NTF). This year, NTF Chairman Jeff Sveen, who is also chairman of the board for Dakota Provisions, chose a farmer from his home state to raise the presidential flock. He attended last year’s event and enjoyed “babysitting” the turkeys in the Willard Hotel before the ceremony.
“It’s such a fun time for the whole country to come together. It’s an amazing honor for South Dakota turkey farmers,” said Jeff, who was integral to establishing Dakota Provisions and jumpstarting the state’s turkey production.
In honor of these special birds traveling to the nation’s capital from South Dakota, we thought it would be fun to explore how healthy turkeys are raised and what it’s like to be part of the presidential flock.
South Dakota Turkey Stats
Today, there are about 50 turkey farms raising about 5 million turkeys each year. Most of them are located in the eastern part of the state near the Dakota Provisions plant, which processes meat for businesses like Panera Bread, Firehouse Subs and many of the Disney properties.
“About 95 percent of turkeys here are raised in Hutterite colonies, which are very similar to most South Dakota farms,” explained Dr. David Zeman, veterinary pathologist and executive director of the South Dakota Poultry Industries Association. “They’re progressive, employ the latest technology and are family owned.”
The birds grow up in large, well-ventilated barns with open floorplans and plenty of access to food and water. In the summer, the sides of the barns open for fresh air and then close in winter to help keep them toasty warm. The facilities also protect them from predators and diseases.
Turkeys are fed a healthy, balanced diet of homegrown crops. According to Dr. Zeman, South Dakota turkeys consume about 3 million bushels of soybeans and 5.4 million bushels of corn each year. That equates to about 30 pounds of soybeans and 60 pounds of corn during the 20 weeks it takes to grow a turkey from a chick to the full-grown weight of roughly 50 pounds.
Thanksgiving Turkeys and Hormones
The turkey slow-roasted in your oven for Thanksgiving is actually different from the birds typically used for deli meat and items at Dakota Provisions. Thanksgiving turkeys are typically 10-20-pound hens (females) instead of 40-50-pound toms (males). Turkeys are so efficient at turning food into protein, the farmers who raise them never use hormones. That means you don’t need to pay extra for the hormone-free claim on the packaging of any poultry item.
The Presidential Flock
So what’s the difference between the turkey you eat and ones raised as part of the presidential flock? Not as much as you may think. They’re fed, sheltered and cared for in many of the same ways.
Two distinct differences are that presidential turkeys live in a small house away from others and are handled regularly so they get used to people and activity. That’s right, the most important quality for a presidential turkey is its ability to keep cool in the spotlight.
According to Jeff, the farmer raising the flock spends a lot of time picking up the birds and training them to stand on tables so they will be comfortable during the press conference and White House ceremony. This hands-on approach helps ensure they’re ready for their close-ups.
So even though presidential turkeys may have more personality, South Dakota farmers know how to raise happy, healthy and nutritious birds for any occasion.
Did you know if you purchase a nationally-branded turkey from the grocery store there’s a chance it’s from a South Dakota farm? That’s because national brands buy from local companies, like Dakota Provisions. Learn more about why eating local may be easier than you think.
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.
South Dakota farmers may have planted a record soybean crop this year, but the growing season and harvest have been challenging to say the least. Late planting coupled with a dry summer, unusually damaging hail and then rain and snow in October forced local farmers to take advantage of every sunny second in the combine to harvest a projected 277 million bushels of soybeans.
What’s the view from the field? Luckily we know a pint-sized crop reporter who has the 4-1-1 on all the soybean action near Andover. Dane Horter is back – with the help of his dad John – talking about harvest and sharing insights on how planting GMO soybean seeds and cover crops helps their family farm improve sustainability and protect yields.
Plus, we find out how second grade is going, whether or not Dane has a girlfriend and which football team he’s rooting for. Don’t miss out on all of this and a truck high-five!
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.
If farming is like football, harvest is a soybean farmer’s championship game. They’ve clocked countless hours planning, preparing and nurturing their plants to provide nutritious food for South Dakota’s families. Now, it’s time to discover the results. Since farmers are always thinking ahead, and looking for ways to improve, it’s also a time for them to evaluate how their strategies worked and make even better plans for next year.
Last fall, we chatted with David and Miriam Iverson as they prepared for harvest on their farm in Brookings County. As combines began rolling this season, we checked back in with the family to see what updates they made and how they’ve paid off.
“We’ve had a really good growing season this year, and overall the crop looks really good,” said David. “When thinking about changes and improvements moving forward, we typically consider factors like the resources that will be needed, harvest costs and balancing the workload.”
For South Dakota soybean farmers, sustainability means doing the right thing for the environment and continuously improving the land for future generations. That’s why farmers evaluate their practices each season and make adjustments accordingly.
The Iversons made a few changes this year, such as increasing the amount of soybeans they planted and cutting back a bit on corn. They also decided to dabble in a new soybean variety and planted 300 acres of non-GMO high-oleic soybeans for the first time. High-oleic soybeans provide a source of vegetable oil for the food industry that is low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat and trans-fat-free.
Since they’re food-grade soybeans, the high-oleic variety is managed and harvested a little differently. Extra elbow grease is needed to clean out the combine, trucks, grain bins and augers before they’re harvested, and farmers have to use a slightly different crop protection strategy. However, their premium price is worth the extra effort. David said they’ve grown well on his farm so far and he may look to plant more next year.
The Iversons also use tools like soil sampling to determine which crop nutrients they’ll use for the next growing season.
“Once everything is harvested, I work with an agronomist to pull soil samples. We do this when we’re ready to rotate crops because the requirements vary for different plants,” explained David. “We send our samples to a lab, and they send back a full nutrient analysis so when a field is changing from soybeans to corn, we know exactly what that corn crop will need in the upcoming year.”
By working with experts to determine specific nutrient needs, David can be efficient with fertilizers and only apply exactly what is needed. Preserving crop and soil health is important for sustainable farming because it supports the longevity of the land, minimizes waste and maintains a healthy environment for future crops to flourish in coming seasons.
“Sustainability to me has a few different legs,” shared David. “One is maintaining soil health. There’s a lot of agronomy that goes into that aspect. There’s also the economic part of it. Improving the soil helps economically, and to be sustainable long term, you have to make decisions that financially benefit the farm.”
David’s family has passed their farm down for four generations and have achieved success through the changing times by implementing new techniques and best practices.
“The biggest aspect in recent years has been adding technology like autosteer and yield mapping,” said David. “That data helps us make better crop decisions and improve parts of the farm that are producing less.”
Today’s technology helps farmers interpret harvest and yield data of past years to grow safe and healthy food in the future. Whether reflecting on this year or planning for the next, harvest is special time for soybean farmers. Find out how another South Dakota farmer plans for the future by reading Matt Bainbridge’s story.
Fall is a busy time for many reasons: school commitments, community events, team sports. But for farmers, it’s all about harvest. They’ve planned, prepared and monitored their fields since early spring, and now it all comes down to these last couple months. After all, they only get about 50 chances throughout their career to grow a successful crop, so they want to get it right each time.
But what does it take to reach harvest time? Let’s take a peek.
Growing acres of healthy crops requires a lot of advanced planning. Farmers start making decisions for planting in the fall by selecting the right seeds and preplant strategies for their farm. Adverse conditions like cold temps, pests and competitive weeds can challenge young seed growth so farmers get their fields in tip-top shape to minimize those obstacles.
They often use sustainable strategies like soil sampling and cover crops to protect the fields during winter, capture nutrients and preserve the land. Many farmers also choose to plant GMO seeds, which are created with the right genetics to defend against weather conditions and potentially reduce the need for insecticides.
Today’s farmers are grounded in science and data. They know their fields better than ever. Once seedlings emerge, farmers use precision technology to monitor each acre and keep an eye on how their crops are doing. If the plants are low in nutrients or facing pressure from pests or weeds, they can deliver the right product, where it’s needed in precisely the right amount to reduce waste.
Adapting to Conditions
While advancements in technology have boosted farmers’ accuracy and access to data, nothing is guaranteed in farming. There are many variables that require farmers to adjust their plans on a dime. For example, the best time to safely spray pesticides is when it’s dry, the forecast is clear, temperatures are moderate and wind speeds are low. If a product is needed, but the conditions aren’t right, farmers adjust their strategy.
As leaves change color in the fall, soybean fields transform as well, changing from green to a light golden brown. During this time, farmers watch their crops closely to determine the right time for harvest. If soybeans are harvested when they’re too wet, the combine struggles to process them, and they don’t store well. On the other hand, if they’re harvested when it’s too dry, the brittle beans can shatter, resulting in crop loss. Farmers must balance time, weather and moisture when choosing the most optimal time.
Improving for the Future
Shortly after harvest is complete, farmers get right back to work planning for the next season. With in-depth data and observations, they improve their strategy to grow healthier crops more efficiently and sustainably for the next year.
Rodney Elliott started his first dairy farm in Ireland with 20 cows and a big dream. Over time, he added 120 cows to the herd with goals to keep growing, but European grazing systems and government-established quotas stood in his way.
That’s when Rodney, his wife, Dorothy, and their three children looked toward America to realize the family dream.
After a visit to South Dakota and a lot of planning, they sold their farm in Ireland and founded Drumgoon Dairy near Lake Norden. Together, Rodney and Dorothy built high-tech dairy barns to house 1,400 cows and hired a team of dedicated employees to help in the day-to-day work. In the beginning, delegating cow care was difficult because Rodney was used to tending to each cow himself.
“I had to learn to trust other people to do the job,” said Rodney. “And accept the fact that sometimes they’re actually better at doing a job than I am.”
South Dakota dairy farmers like Rodney can manage larger, family-owned dairy farms because of the methods they use. In barns, farmers and employees can watch over each cow, protect them from the elements and feed them custom diets tailored to their needs.
Today, the Elliotts and 45 employees care for more than 4,700 cows each day and work together to grow the alfalfa and corn used to feed them. Rodney and Dorothy’s animal nutritionist helps them develop total mixed rations, which are precise combinations of ingredients designed to fit the needs of each cow. For example, ingredients like soybean meal may be added for extra protein and soybean hulls can be included for additional fiber. On average, South Dakota dairy cows eat 18,000 tons of soybean meal each year.
Farming in a way that is safe for the environment and helps protect soil and water for future generations is a priority for the Elliotts. They care deeply about their community, especially since everyone warmly welcomed them when they moved to the area. Since their dairy barns are newly built, Rodney ensured they comply with EPA standards from the start.
“We try to be good custodians of the land,” explained Rodney. “I treat my farm, not as a right, but as a privilege, and I work every day to keep that privilege.”
The Elliott family has an open-door policy at Drumgoon Dairy and welcomes visitors to stop by and see how a modern dairy is run.
“We are proud of what we do and like to share our story with those who want to learn more about where their food comes from,” said Rodney. “Come and look at the cows yourself. They always answer the questions. If they look content, they’re comfortable.”
Since 1896, David Struck’s family has been farming and caring for their land in Wolsey, South Dakota. Today, three generations of the family work together to grow soybeans, corn and wheat. While their roots run deep in the Beadle County soil, the family has adopted new technology over the years, allowing them to become more efficient and sustainable.
For South Dakota soybean farmers, sustainability means doing what’s best for the environment and continuously improving the land for future generations.
David has played an active role in implementing new strategies to farm smarter, faster and more efficiently along the way. His son, Brady, is the fifth generation to be actively involved and brings a fresh perspective to the farm as a recent graduate of Lake Area Technical Institute.
“We do more in an hour than my grandpa did in a season, and we do more in a day than my dad did in a season when he started farming,” said David. “It’s almost hard to fathom, looking back and seeing how far farming has come.”
For example, GPS technology completely changed the game for the Strucks, allowing them to farm with precision. Flat rate application of pesticides and fertilizers is a thing of the past on this farm. Instead, they tailor how much they apply as they move throughout their fields to make sure they use the exact amount needed. GPS technology has also saved them time and labor.
“We used to have two guys constantly circling the farm in pick-ups to monitor irrigation systems and look for anything that could be wrong,” said David. “Now, with GPS, we can monitor them from the office.”
The Struck family also plants cover crops to protect their land. This emerging trend allows farmers to manage nutrients and weeds by planting crops like rye, barley or even radishes and turnips, to capture nutrients and moisture, and to keep the soil in place.
The Strucks also use no-till farming, which means they don’t disrupt the soil by plowing between plantings. Instead, they leave the stalks and roots where they are after harvest, and the leftover organic matter sticks around to enrich the soil and help retain moisture. Capturing as much water as possible is important to the Strucks since they farm in a dry region.
Speaking of moisture, they even use special irrigation technology called drop nozzles to reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation. In fact, their evaporation rate is less than a third of what it was 30 years ago.
These strategies may not have been used by David’s great-grandpa when the farm was established, but by embracing change and innovation, the family has grown safe and healthy crops for more than 120 years.
“There’s a perception that we’re running big corporate farms out here, that don’t care about the environment or about people, but that’s very untrue,” said David. “There are some big farms, but they’re still family farms with multiple generations involved in every one of them.”
In South Dakota, 98 percent of farms are family owned, and over 2,500 of those have been in the same family for more than a century. While the Strucks have expanded their farm throughout the years, it has always remained a family affair.
“We’re very family oriented out here,” said David. “Are we big? Yes. It’s different than it was 100 years ago, but we’re still family farms, not giant, faceless corporations.”
At the end of a busy day, you deserve a sweet treat the whole family will enjoy. Making homemade popsicles is a creative way to get everyone involved in dessert. Speaking of family time, did you know 97 percent of South Dakota farms are family-owned? There’s nothing better than spending time together growing safe and healthy food and then enjoying a homemade popsicle.
We love this berry lemonade popsicle recipe because you skip the concentrate and create your own lemonade simple syrup from scratch. Watch our step-by-step video to find out how.
Looking for more frozen treats? Try these decadent salted caramel ice cream sandwiches.
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.
Farmers are driven to grow safe and healthy food while protecting the land. That’s why many use pesticides, along with other pest management techniques, to reduce damage from insects, weeds and diseases on their crops. In the words of South Dakota soybean and corn farmer Ram Farrell, “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.”
Farmers put a lot of thought into their crop protection plan. Here are five questions farmers consider before applying pesticides to their fields.
Is it safe? Safety is the name of the game when it comes to pesticide use. Before they spray, farmers have to be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This certification shows they understand pest management and how to properly store, use, handle and dispose of pesticides and containers.
“We take spraying more seriously than planting and harvesting,” said Paul Casper, a soybean and corn farmer from Lake Preston. “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.”
What insect, weed or disease am I targeting? Farmers routinely walk their fields, looking for bugs, weeds or signs of disease. This is called scouting. Pesticides are just one tool farmers use to deal with harmful insects and weeds in their fields. There are other techniques, such as conservation tillage, GMO seeds and crop rotation, that help prevent and address problems. Knowing what pests are in their fields helps farmers make the right choice about whether to spray or employ another technique.
“Each method is part of a toolkit to safely manage and grow healthy crops,” said Dr. David Shaw, a weed scientist and professor at Mississippi State University. “Many farmers take a holistic approach to stopping pests.”
Have I used this pesticide before? Different products attack target pests in different ways. If farmers use the same pesticide over and over again, the target pest population can adapt over generations and become resistant. That’s why farmers are careful to rotate the products they use to ensure crop protection remains effective.
“The goal is to use pesticides accurately, efficiently and responsibly,” said Joel Pazour, a soybean, corn and wheat farmer from Chamberlain. “It’s just better all the way around.”
What’s the weather forecast? The weather plays a big role in determining when it’s safe to spray. We get some hot, hot, hot days here in South Dakota. When the temperature tops 90 degrees, farmers avoid applying pesticides. They also avoid spraying when wind speeds are over 15 miles per hour so that pesticides don’t drift into other areas. Lastly, they aim to spray during dry weather. Humidity should be between 50 and 60 percent, and no rain should be in the immediate forecast. When it’s too humid, pesticides can stay in the air, rather than settling on the crops and target weeds.
What if the weather conditions aren’t right? They wait to spray. “It’s just not worth taking a chance,” said Paul Casper.
What’s the proper rate at which I can apply this pesticide? Farmers read product labels to learn the use rate for each one. The EPA reviews pesticides and determines the rate at which they’re safe and effective. The whole process takes nearly 10 years from start to finish, and pesticides are re-evaluated every 15 years to make extra sure they’re still safe. You might be surprised to learn that farmers aim to use as little of a product as they can. To cover an acre, which is about the size of a football field, a farmer will use about 20 oz. of pesticides. That’s about the size of a large coffee.
“We’re not spraying more than we need. We formulate a specific recipe for each field and apply no more, no less,” said Kevin Deinert, a soybean, corn and cattle farmer from Mount Vernon.
Now that you know a little bit about all the considerations that go into a pesticide application, you can feel confident that farmers keep your family, food and safety top of mind. Learn more about how farmers control weeds by reading about the Pazour family farm.
“The phrase ‘You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl’ is more accurate than you might expect,” says Kristin Harms. She and her husband recently returned to the small town of Leola to help run her parent’s cattle ranch. For Kristin, ranching isn’t just about raising safe, delicious beef. It’s as much a family tradition as celebrating the Fourth of July with this tasty fruit pizza.
“From the time I was a kid, I watched my parents care for their livestock and the land with pride and purpose,” Kristin said. “Even though there were times I thought I might venture outside of the agricultural industry, I always seemed to find my way back.”
Kristin’s family takes great pride in raising beef sustainably. For ranchers like Kristin, sustainability means continuously improving the land, leaving it better than it was found. Kristin and her family practice rotational grazing, which means their cows nibble on grass and clover in a different part of the ranch throughout the summer. This is healthy for the animals and also helps maintain the natural grasslands.
You might be surprised to learn that farmers also use genetic information to help raise animals more sustainably. For Kristin’s family, that means being thoughtful about mating cows with desirable traits. This leads to better milk production, easier calving and, ultimately, healthier cattle. This means that they can raise safer, healthier, tastier beef using less resources.
While breeding cattle for desirable traits does not create GMOs, the same concept applies to soybean farmers, who plant seeds that have been genetically modified. These seeds not only help farmers produce more food with less resources but also help protect the environment. The use of GMO seeds in soybean, corn and cotton production has reduced soil erosion by 93 percent across the U.S. since the mid-1990s, according to a study from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology.
“We all have families that we want to keep safe and healthy, and part of doing that is making sure they have access to nutritious food,” said Kristin. “Taking care of others is incredibly important to the farmers and ranchers of South Dakota, and the only way to do that is to be ethical and sustainable.”
Ranching is all about family, and what better way to celebrate summer than gathering your loved ones around the grill with a delicious meal? No backyard bash is complete without dessert. Try Kristin’s favorite red, white and blue fruit pizza to make your Fourth of July one to remember.
“My mom has always been a fabulous cook. Now that I’m a mom, she’s passing on her stellar recipes and cooking skills or at least trying to,” Kristin said, laughing. “I’m pretty lucky to have a mom like her who shows me how to be a good mom and how to work my way around the kitchen.”
Gather your family and get cooking with Kristin’s fruit pizza recipe. For another dessert option, try a festive make-your-own s’mores bar.
Hungry for Truth held its third annual Farm-to-Fork Dinner in June, bringing to life its mission of uniting farmers and consumers around the dinner table to have open conversations about how food is grown and raised. Approximately 180 farmers and South Dakotans gathered at the Country Apple Orchard near Harrisburg for a social hour and meal featuring local food and beverages.
While the emerald orchard trees, luscious pink peonies and rustic wood architecture created a picturesque backdrop, the pinnacle element of the evening was the opportunity to share stories and connect.
“My favorite part of attending the Farm-to-Fork Dinner is the opportunity to hear more about what the farmers do year-round to create healthy food. There’s so much more to farming than just planting a seed and harvesting the crop,” said guest Lexie Frankman. “Plus, it’s a really fun vibe, and the menu is full of fresh, local favorites.”
Sandra Melstad agreed. “As someone who works in public health, I appreciate resources that can help families eat and live healthier lifestyles. Learning more about locally grown, sustainable foods is important to me and the people I serve. Hungry for Truth does a great job of bringing farmers and families together at this event,” she explained.
Dinner began with a welcome from Vermillion farmer Jerry Schmitz. He described his farm and how he grows soybeans, corn, apples and also keeps bees for local honey producers. Other farmers, including Jeff Thompson, Walt Bones and Alan Merril addressed the crowd throughout the meal, explaining how their family farms are becoming more sustainable.
“Our farms have changed to grow and raise food more efficiently but we’re also committed to caring for the soil, water, air and wildlife for future generations,” stated Walt, who gave some specific examples of technology and how it’s helped farmers grow more with less land and resources. “If farmers today used the techniques from the 1950s, we wouldn’t be able to grow enough food to feed approximately 131 million people. That’s equal to the number of people who live in the 9 most populated U.S. states.”
Alan shared how technology has helped him be more efficient with pesticide application and making sure just the right amount is applied to the crop at the right time.
Guest Karla Santi said she appreciates learning more about food and farmer safety when it comes to pesticides. “Pesticides can be useful in protecting crops, but it was good to learn about the growth of biotechnology products compared with pesticides. It’s good to know farmers use technology that helps keep them and our food safe.”
For Karla and other urbanites whose regular connection to the farm is the grocery store or a farmers market, sharing a meal around the table with a local farm family is a special treat.
“Farming is really key to being a South Dakotan. It’s a big part of who we are, and I’m excited to be part of celebrating it,” said Natalie Eisenberg.
There’s nothing sweeter than when farmers and beekeepers work together. Just ask Tim Olsen. Tim grew up on a farm in Minnesota, leads the South Dakota Ag in the Classroom program and started beekeeping as a way to reconnect with his agricultural roots. In the last eight years, he’s grown his operation, Laughing Eyes Apiary, to about 25 colonies.
Tim’s bees are mostly located on farms near his home in Luverne, just over the Minnesota-South Dakota border. To show his appreciation for farmers, he even partnered with Hungry for Truth, providing jars of honey for the gift bags at the Farm-to-Fork dinner in 2017.
“I have wonderful working relationships with my farmer partners,” Tim said. “I understand they need to spray their soybeans to protect against aphids. My farmer partners will call me when they’re planning to spray their fields, so I can come out in the early morning to lock my colonies down and protect the bees. They’ve also planted pollinator-friendly plants in areas of their farm.”
Bees pollinate plants, playing a crucial role in our environment. Soybeans are a self-pollinating plant, meaning they don’t rely on insects to help them reproduce. However, data show that soybeans may experience a yield boost of up to 18 percent when exposed to honey bees and native pollinators.
Many farmers choose to use integrated pest management (IPM) principles to protect these pollinators. IPM programs focus on pest prevention and reducing excessive use of pesticides. Along with GMO seeds and precision agriculture, IPM programs are one more tool farmers can use to grow safe and healthy food sustainably. For farmers, sustainability means doing what’s right for the environment and continuously improving the land and water for future generations.
Tim partners with farmers in another way, too. He sells his honey to a local farm that puts it in their community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes. CSA shareholders pledge an amount of money at the beginning of a growing season and receive fresh produce and other goodies throughout the season. It’s one of the ways he can connect with consumers and spread the word about local honey.
“Many people don’t realize that beekeeping is a livestock enterprise. I’m responsible for taking care of my bees and making sure they have access to nectar and pollen,” Tim said. “Just like a crop farmer, we’re driven by weather. When it rains and there are multiple nectar sources, we have great yields of honey. When it’s dry, we don’t produce as much.”
If you want to create a pollinator-friendly garden, one of the best things you can do is grow flowering plants that give them the nectar they crave. Good examples of these are sunflowers, lavender or fennel. Ready to make a bigger investment? Try a flowering tree, like a red maple or linden.
“A flowering tree can produce as much honey as an entire field of flowers,” said Tim. “Search for a tree species that blooms in late March or early April to help get the season started.”
Another thing you can do to encourage beekeepers? “Buy local honey!” said Tim, with a laugh. Check out your local farmers market for honey made from bees near you. You might even get the chance to talk to a beekeeper like Tim or another South Dakota farmer who grows the food we enjoy.
Sustainability is a trending topic among South Dakota farmers and families. Farmers want to take care of the soil and water for future generations, and consumers want to know the food they’re eating is grown and raised with the environment in mind.
Morgan and Jason Kontz are no exception. Jason is the fourth generation in his family to grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and raise beef cattle near Colman. Morgan recently added a few free-range chickens to the mix.
Keeping up with the demands of the animals, crops and two young kiddos can be challenging, but they make time to explore new opportunities to enhance sustainability on the farm.
“We feel very privileged to have a role in growing safe and nutritious food for families. We’re making decisions today we hope translate to better soil and healthier crops and animals so our children have an opportunity to farm in the future,” said Morgan.
For example, they use no-till for growing all crops. No-till is just like it sounds: not tilling the field after harvest. By leaving plant stalks and roots in the ground, they keep the soil in place and enrich it with organic content and beneficial bugs. Over time, healthier soil translates to nutritious and productive crops.
Another way to improve soil health is through cover crops. These are crops planted before or after harvest that can increase organic matter and fertility, reduce erosion, improve soil structure and limit pest and disease issues. Morgan and Jason are planning to start using cover crops this fall. First, they need to test the soil to determine the right mix for their fields.
Their commitment to doing the right thing for the environment extends to the cattle barn. The deep-pit beef barn safely collects manure from cows in a large pit through grates in the floor. Then they apply the manure to their fields using a tanker truck and a drip line. Precision technology allows them to apply the right amount of fertilizer per crop, per acre.
According to Morgan, this is a perfect example of sustainability and recycling because they’re using waste to precisely fuel plant productivity.
“We want to be able to come full circle on our farm. We like that we can apply manure to feed our crops and then we use those crops to feed our cattle,” she explained. “Sustainability is more than a trend on our farm. It’s something we plan to continue growing for the future.”
Did you know that when it comes to being environmentally friendly, the size of the farm doesn’t matter? Test your knowledge with this blog on the truth behind five sustainability myths.
For Kevin Deinert, farming is all about family. The 30-year-old farmer grows 2,500 acres of soybeans, corn and alfalfa, and raises beef cattle alongside his dad and brother on their family farm in Mount Vernon.
“I went into agriculture because I wanted to keep up our family legacy,” Kevin said. “I now farm the land I was raised on and enjoy playing a small part in feeding and leading my community.”
Kevin was recently chosen to serve on the South Dakota Soybean Association board as part of a national young farmer-leader program. The group encourages young farmers to take on leadership roles in their communities while empowering them with the tools they need to have conversations about today’s farming practices with their neighbors.
One topic many people find interesting is how and why farmers use pesticides. Farmers use pesticides to protect against the weeds, insects or plant diseases that might threaten the safety and quality of their crop. Farmers like Kevin can leverage technology to understand exactly what pesticides to use in his fields and in what amounts.
“We’re not spraying more than we need. We formulate a specific recipe for each field and apply no more, no less,” he said. “Some people might not know that farmers have to be licensed to buy pesticides and must take classes to ensure they’re using the products correctly.”
Using pesticides correctly means using very little product. It takes about a coffee cup’s worth diluted in water to cover an entire acre, which is about the size of a football field. Many soybean farmers have also reduced their pesticide use by using seeds that are genetically modified to protect against harmful insects. GMO soybeans have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, according to the American Council on Science and Health.
The Deinerts also believe that taking care of the soil can help stop problems before they start. Kevin and his family practice no-till farming and use cover crops to enrich the soil and make sure they’re growing quality crops from the get-go.
“I farm with my brother and my dad. The decisions we make affect our family and community,” Kevin said. “So I hope people know that when we make decisions for our farm, we think about their families as well. We’re out there to do good for everyone and grow safe food that everyone can enjoy.”
For Kevin, a newlywed, being a good steward of the land is about much more than growing great food. Sustainability means continuously improving the land, leaving it better than it was when he found it.
“Farming is not just a year-to-year deal. We look many years down the road,” he said. “We’re trying to preserve our land for years to come so that we can pass it on to our children and their children after that.”
Curious about how farmers like Kevin safely apply pesticides? Get the scoop on plant protection from another South Dakota family farm.
For South Dakota soybean farmers, sustainability means doing the right thing for the environment and continuously improving the land for future generations. BJ Hansen is no exception. On his farm near Turton, diversity is also key to building a sustainable future for their farm.
BJ is the third generation to join the business and works with his father and uncle to grow a variety of crops, including soybeans, corn, sunflowers, wheat and alfalfa. They use some of those crops to feed a herd of purebred Charolais beef cows, which he brought to the farm when he moved home. He uses embryo transplant technology to breed the Charolais and sell them as seed stock to other farmers and kids in programs like 4H.
Adding cattle to the mix brought a new level of diversity to the farm that allowed them to increase value without growing in size.
“My dad and uncle take care of the fields, and I manage the cows. Adding cattle to the farm is how I was able to come back and build a life for my wife and children,” explained BJ. “We probably won’t grow our farm by purchasing more land, so we have to find ways we can do more with what we have to grow healthy food.”
In addition to the cattle, they’ve also seen an uptick in wildlife thanks to the 60-foot grass waterway strips they installed along the creeks in their fields. Grass waterway or buffer strips are a conservation practice used by farmers to help filter rain as it runs off the field and into water. They are also great nesting ground for pheasants, ducks and other birds, which supports BJ’s outdoor adventures.
While he enjoys seeing the diversity their practices bring to the fields, he’s even more impressed with how efficient they’ve become. The cattle manure is recycled by spreading it on the fields to nourish crops and the soil. They’ve also stopped tilling the ground and started using cover crops to limit erosion and control weeds. Precision technology helps them apply just the right amount of pesticides when needed and plant the right amount of perfectly-spaced seeds per acre.
“We used to do a lot of tillage when I was growing up. Then in the 1990s my dad decided to stop and just leave the crop stalks and roots in place. With no-till, our soil has become so much healthier,” explained BJ. “We’ve continued to add conservation practices and technology to our farm and are seeing great results.”
The best part of all is that by focusing on sustainability through diversity, BJ’s kids may have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.
“Sustainability is helping us get the most out of what we already have and make improvements for the future,” said BJ. “Someday I want my children to have the opportunity to join me on the farm and continue the tradition of growing safe and healthy food.”
Did you know South Dakota farmers are so committed to conservation that it’s the top state in the nation for enrollment in the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program? Read this blog to learn more.
Sometimes farming and ranching can get a little sloppy, especially when spring storms dump a couple feet of snow on the ground and interrupt calving season. Good thing for quick, kid-friendly family meals like Sloppy Joes to make sure everyone has the energy to pull on their boots and keep the cows and crops healthy and safe.
Bradee Pazour, her husband Joel and their boys are big fans of any kind of beef. Sloppy Joes are a tried and true comfort food that are great for lunch or dinner and easy to freeze or reheat as leftovers. While it’s OK to get a little sloppy in the kitchen, the Pazour family and many other South Dakota farmers and ranchers are anything but messy when it comes to growing and raising food.
“Sustainability is all about improving our practices to take care of the land and water for our future because it’s the right thing to do. Farmers are constantly educating themselves and using technology to become more efficient,” said Bradee. “Thanks to the GPS capabilities in all of our equipment, precision planting, pesticide application and field mapping have helped farmers be more accurate than ever before.”
In addition to growing soybeans, corn and wheat, the Pazour family also raises cattle as part of a feedlot. The attention to detail they use to grow crops also translates to how they care for their cattle.
The Pazours work with nutritionists and veterinarians to ensure their cows are well-fed and cared for throughout their lives. It starts with a diet high in roughage like grass, hay and silage, and gradually steps up to more grain and protein-rich ingredients such as corn and soybean forage to help them thrive as they get older. They also maintain clean pens and pastures, and ensure cattle have ample water sources.
“Cows are such neat animals and play an important role in in keeping our food system balanced. They act as ‘upcyclers,’ meaning they take inedible food – grass, hay, silage – and turn it into something healthy and nutritious we can eat,” explained Bradee.
By working together as a family, the Pazours are carefully and sustainably raising healthy foods to beef up mealtimes everywhere. Get Bradee’s favorite Sloppy Joe recipe below. While it’s simmering, take a few minutes to read more about environmentally friendly cattle ranching on another South Dakota family farm.
Bradee Pazour has always been passionate about farming. She grew up on a family farm just outside Chamberlain and married into the farm life. Today, she grows soybeans, corn and wheat alongside her husband, Joel and his family, near Pukwana, South Dakota. They stay busy raising cows and two spunky kiddos on the plains.
Bradee cherishes her role helping Joel manage the day-to-day demands of farm life. “We care tremendously about growing safe food for families and protecting the environment,” she explained.
This includes assisting when she can with planting and controlling early-season weeds that can threaten the health of their crops. Just like many South Dakota farmers, the Pazours take steps to carefully select the types of pesticides to use and apply them safely. The strategy of using just the right amount to get the job done is important to Bradee, who wants to grow healthy plants without sacrificing the safety of her family, neighbors and the environment.
“Weed control is similar whether you live in town or on the farm. For example, many people want to protect their yards from crabgrass. One of the best ways to prevent it is to apply a pre-emergence herbicide in the spring to keep it from ever coming up,” explained Bradee. “It requires strategic pre-planning but translates to healthier plants down the road.”
Applying a pre-emergence herbicide to stop weeds on the Pazour farm means crops don’t have to compete for resources like water, sunlight and nutrients from the soil. Since the tiny seeds are resistant to the herbicides thanks to genetic modification, the plants can put all their energy into growing strong and healthy.
Selecting the right product is just one part of the equation. Farmers like the Pazours also have to attend classes to get certified to apply all types of pesticides. They also learn when to spray and how to mix the product for optimal performance and safety.
“The precision technology in our sprayer allows us to apply the right amount down to the inch across the field,” explained Joel. “The goal is to use pesticides accurately, efficiently and responsibly. It’s just better all the way around.”