Harvest is when farmers and gardeners alike enjoy the results of their labor. We checked in with our dynamic gardening/farming duo Ken and Vonda Schulte from Geddes to find out how their crops and garden produce fared. They also talked about harvest plans and Vonda shared a tip on how to make preserving garden-fresh produce a snap.
Q: What was the growing season like on your farm?
Vonda: This year, things started off slow. After planting, it didn’t rain for a long time. The ground was hard and most of the seeds didn’t germinate. I had to replant. We had rain in August, so the weeds popped up. My garden looks like a jungle right now. Every year is different. It can be frustrating, but I try to learn from it and do something different next year. Mother Nature is always in control.
Ken: It was very hot and dry in June and July, which slowed corn pollination and kernel growth. When rains came in August, it helped our soybean plants form and fill pods, so they look good now. Overall crop growth is behind so we’ll start harvest a little later than usual.
Q: What types of pests did you experience and how did you manage them?
Vonda: Squash beetles. They’re nasty. They burrow into the plant, kill it and move to the next variety. I don’t like to use pesticides unless necessary, so next year I’ll plant my squash in a raised bed with different soil. That should keep them from coming back.
Ken: Kochia (weed) was a big problem in our fields. We sprayed pesticides, but the dry weather means they didn’t work well. Grasshoppers were also an issue, but I just sprayed the border around the affected fields with some insecticide. My sprayer is equipped with technology that keeps me from overlapping pesticide applications. I only like to spray when necessary so the technology helps a lot.
Q: When do you harvest crops and how long will it take? Does anyone help you?
Vonda: I plant and harvest fruits and vegetables all the time. Lettuce, radishes and spinach like cool temperatures and only take six weeks to grow. I pick those in May, then plant a second round in September. Next up are potatoes, string beans and broccoli in the middle of the summer. Then it’s peppers, tomatoes and celery in early fall. Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes are last. They like a freeze; it makes them sugary. Onions, herbs, beets and carrots can be harvested throughout the season.
I harvest everything myself, but our daughters and grandchildren love to pick and eat foods right out of the garden, so I guess they help too.
Ken: My brother-in-law and neighbor help me. Typically, harvest begins during the first week in October. If the weather cooperates and we don’t have to repair any equipment, we finish in 30 days.
Q: How do you prep your garden and fields for winter?
Vonda: I clean it up by pulling all the plants out. Then I amend or improve the soil and cover with peat moss and leaves. In the spring, it’s ready for me to dig in. I don’t till up the soil; tilling just makes weeds.
Ken: After combining, we apply herbicides to control weeds. We don’t till our soil, which helps manage erosion and protect it during the winter. Then we clean up the equipment, park it in storage and go hunting. That’s our incentive for being safe and efficient in the field.
Q: Do you have any tips for preserving all that fresh produce?
Vonda: Keeping it simple is the key. People make canning a big deal and try to pack too much into a day or weekend. I keep a small tote of canning supplies ready to go in the kitchen and just pull it out throughout the summer when I have time. You’ll be surprised how quickly a little bit adds up.
Canning Tote Supplies
- Jars, cleaned in dishwasher
- Canning lids
- Canning funnel
- Magnetic lid lifter
- Jar lifter
Ready to try your hand at canning? Here’s how to make Vonda’s raspberry jam.
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.
If one thing is true about South Dakotans, we love making memories outside with our families. One of our favorite places to visit in the fall is the Country Apple Orchard in Harrisburg. Kevin Kroger, general manager, knows exactly what that’s like since he’s been working at the orchard with his own family for 12 years.
“All of my eight children pitch in, even my youngest,” said Kevin. Kevin’s stepfather and grandmother are the primary owners, making it a true family affair.
“The first year was a little sticky, but every year it gets easier,” he said. “We learn more and get better. We know we are investing in success with 100 acres of prime South Dakota farmland.”
Running a farming business has been a trial-and-error process. Kevin’s family felt that firsthand when they began maintaining their trees. “We were hit with a hard frost right off the bat. It was hardly the optimal season to start with an orchard,” he chuckled. “We almost went without enough apples that season. Now we can’t grow enough of them!”
That’s great news for Americans everywhere, who eat an average of 55 pounds of apples annually. In addition to pruning their 4,500 trees, the Country Apple Orchard sprays their apples with linseed oil before they blossom to ensure a plentiful harvest of healthy apples for families to pick and enjoy.
“No one likes biting into an apple with insects in it,” Kevin said. “Like other farmers, we only spray pesticides when the apples need it.”
While the Kroger family doesn’t have a typical South Dakota farming background, Kevin did walk beans as a child. That means walking through soybean fields and picking weeds for Sioux Falls area farmers. It’s a chore many seasoned farmers remember, but is no longer needed on most farms thanks to technology.
“I was exposed to hard work in the older days of farming, and I didn’t think I wanted anything to do with it,” Kevin said. “Now, with technology, it’s so much easier and much more enjoyable.”
Today’s farmers use different types of technology, including GPS, drones and computer-generated soil maps to grow healthy food more efficiently. Over the past 30 years, soybean farmers grew 46 percent more soybeans using 35 percent less energy thanks to technology and more sustainable farm practices.
Being more efficient means farm families might have a little extra time to enjoy an afternoon at the Country Apple Orchard. Kevin and family pack weekdays with school field trips and weekends with festivals. Even Santa takes a break from his work at the North Pole to stop by and say hi before the busy holiday season.
“In today’s world, it can be really hard to slow things down,” he said. “Here, families go on wagon rides, pick apples and pumpkins, and enjoy delicious local foods. Slowing down to take in the outdoors makes family time more memorable.”
Cooking together is another way to create memorable moments. Try out one of these recipes with your family this fall.