During snowy South Dakota winters, sometimes it just feels good to snuggle in at home with our favorite comfort foods. When blogger and designer Oksana Silchuk needs to take time for herself, she recharges by spending time in the kitchen. Cooking comforting meals, like this Potato Chicken Noodle Soup, takes her back to her Ukrainian roots and fuels cozy days at home with her husband and two toddlers.
Shopping for the ingredients for her Potato Chicken Noodle Soup reminds her of the impact farmers have on her family.
“My appreciation for farmers runs so deep,” Oksana said. “Every time I am at the grocery store, I am reminded that the produce and meat I purchase is there because of their labor and care. It’s humbling.”
That’s one of the reasons why she’s a fan of Hungry for Truth. It’s an opportunity to get to know the farm families behind the food she enjoys. Though she grew up in town, she understands the work that goes into growing crops and raising animals. Her family even raised a few chickens in their backyard.
“I recall feeding them, chasing them, taking care of them and, ultimately, my mom making us delicious meals with them,” said Oksana.
Oksana is thankful that Hungry for Truth gives her the chance to teach her children about how South Dakota farmers care for their animals, crops and the environment. Oksana’s kids even get a chance to learn about how crops like soybeans are used for so many different things like animal feed, cooking oil and even the crayons they color with. Not bad for two Sioux Falls city kids.
Who knows? Her children might get the chance to call themselves farm kids one day.
“I’ve always lived in the city but am a total farm girl at heart,” she said. “I dream of one day owning some livestock and living on a farm.”
Wherever the Silchuk family winds up, they’re sure to have many more cozy days gathered around the table, sharing soup and each other’s company.
“This is the one meal my babes can’t get enough of. They can easily gobble up a few bowls and ask for more,” Oksana said. “Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.”
Snuggle up to Oksana’s soup recipe below. Looking for more comfort food? Try this Crockpot Turkey and Edamame Chili recipe to warm your winter days.
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.
Whether it’s date night at the theater or a cozy family night on the couch, movies have a way of bringing us together. When it’s warm in South Dakota, it can be fun to take the movie magic outdoors and gather under the stars. Here are our tips for planning a night that’s sure to please family and friends.
A projector, audio speakers and computer are essential technology. A free projector might be tough to track down, but they are available at most rental companies and easy to purchase. Need a portable screen? No worries. Just hang a white sheet or painter’s drop cloth. You could also skip it and project onto the side of a building if it’s clean and light colored. Don’t forget extension cords.
Pay attention to sunset and plan your festivities accordingly. You want to start the movie when it’s dark, so this could be 9 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., depending on the time of year. Starting later gives you time to host dinner and play yard games. Starting early may mean you can squeeze in two movies; family-friendly first for the kiddos and then one for the adults after they go to bed.
Comfy and Cozy
Keep your audience comfy by providing blankets and pillows for lounging or ask them to bring their own. Hang bistro lights to set the mood, segment food from the theater seating and make sure your guests can see where they’re going. Set out mosquito repellent spray and fire up citronella candles to protect your guests against bugs and other pests.
The best part of any movie night is the food. Snack stylishly by creating a buffet table out of pallets or cement blocks and plywood. Cover with a cute tablecloth and add a flower centerpiece for a touch of greenery.
When it comes to the menu, keep it simple. Finger foods like kabobs or meats and cheeses paired with crackers work well for flexible dining. A popcorn bar with butter and assorted toppings transforms the traditional snack into a bold, salty or tangy mix. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, a selection of classic movie candies or toasty s’mores are two of our favorites. In fact, we have the perfect recipe for campfire ice cream s’mores.
No matter what’s on the menu, South Dakota soybean farmers have you covered. Pigs, cows, chickens and turkeys love to eat protein-packed soybeans as part of a balanced diet. Healthy animals mean you’re serving up quality milk, eggs, cheese and meats for your guests.
Select your movie based on your guest list. The classics or a comedy are always a great bet. Depending on who’s there, it might be “Grease,” “8 Seconds” or “The Goonies.” When it comes to kids, you can’t go wrong with anything Pixar or Disney. “Jurassic Park” or “Jaws” might be fun if you’re feeling adventurous, but watch out. Your backyard may never feel the same again.
Now that you have the basics for hosting an outdoor movie night, it’s time to get the invites out and start planning the menu. Here’s a recipe for Green Chicken Souvlaki Kabobs that’s sure to please. See our recipes for more ideas.
SPOILER ALERT: Cuteness overload!
It’s time for our latest episode of Across the Table. Host Melissa Johnson from Oh My Cupcakes! shares some of her favorite kid-friendly cupcake toppings with local farmer John Horter and his son Dane for a fun, springtime activity. Plus, Melissa talks with John about why sustainability matters so much in farming.
As a fifth-generation farmer who wants to pass on the farming tradition to his kids, John knows how important it is to take care of his land so he can leave it for future generations. From using new technologies to implementing advanced farming practices, farmers like John continually find new and more effective ways to ensure their farm is in better shape than they found it.
Watch the full episode to find out about how John uses some of those technologies and practices, like GMOs, responsible pesticides use and conservation practices, on his farm.
If you can’t get enough of Dane’s cuteness, you can watch his adorable harvest crop report from last fall.
Don’t forget to check out our other Across the Table episodes here.
In honor of National Ag Day, we talked with local South Dakota farmers about what they love best about family farms. Did you know that 98 percent of farms in our state are family owned and operated? Your neighbors work hard to make sure the food they raise that ends up on your table is safe and healthy. Check out what they had to say about their favorite parts of farming as a family affair:
“For me, it’s such a privilege to watch my kids grow up on the farm. To see the excitement in their actions and expressions is priceless. My kids will be the sixth generation on our farm, and you can tell their passion for agriculture comes from within. There’s nothing more rewarding than teaching my children what has been passed down to me through the generations and see them grow to appreciate the land that provides for us.” – John Horter, farmer from Andover
“One of the things I love most about being part of a family farm is the interaction with the land and animals. I believe there are no more beautiful pictures than that of calves running in a green, flowing pasture; combines harvesting soybeans from the fields on a brisk, colorful fall day; or a litter of piglets simultaneously nursing from the sow. These “office views” are awe inspiring and make a day on the farm that much sweeter.” – Amanda Eben, livestock specialist who is active on her family farm near Rock Rapids, IA
“From the time our children could talk, they would watch out the window every morning and we would hear “Grandpa’s here!” as they ran out the door to greet him as though they hadn’t seen him in years. Though retired, he has always been protector, teacher, trainer, baby sitter, disciplinarian and confidant. No amount of money could buy that opportunity for our children. The family farm is the only institution I am aware of that can provide that opportunity and solid foundation for life.” – Jerry Schmitz, farmer from Vermillion
“What I enjoy about farming is being able to work alongside my husband every day with our kids playing around us. It’s what I love most about the life that we live.” – Morgan Kontz, farmer from Colman
“No amount of money could equal the pride I feel when my parents and grandparents tell me I’m doing a good job of managing our family farm. It’s a joy to work alongside all the generations of our family. We have so many memories that make me smile when I think about them, like laughing about lessons learned the hard way, our children talking to the animals, and me shouting, “Come boss!” to the cows as I bring them from the pasture to milk, just like my Grandpa. I love remembering the smile on his face as I gave it my first call, and wished he was here to see my kids and me doing the same thing today.” – Todd Hanten, farmer from Goodwin
“I love being a part of a farm passed down through four generations and working to pass it on to the fifth. The best part of it all is passing on my passion for farming to my children.” – Josh Kayser, farmer from Emery
Read more about family farms in South Dakota:
Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s that wonderful time of year when everyone’s celebrating love. Farmers are no different, and some of them have some great stories about how they ended up meeting each other and starting a life on the farm. We talked to two couples from South Dakota with unique stories about how international meetings and online surprises brought them together.
Sari and Matt
How did Sari end up in rural Ethan, South Dakota, so far from where she was raised in a bustling Indonesian metropolitan area? It all started in December of 2014 when she met South Dakota farmer Matt in her home city of Jakarta.
Matt was attending a soybean marketing trade mission, and struck up a conversation with Sari while he was in the country. The two exchanged contact information and kept in touch regularly via Skype after Matt returned home.
After over a year of getting to know each other and falling in love across the world, Sari made the move to South Dakota in June of 2016. A month later, Matt and Sari were married and the city girl began her new life on the farm.
She’s embraced all the new experiences that come along with U.S. agriculture. From chasing cows to raising vegetables and driving a combine, Sari loves her new life with Matt.
You can find out more about their family farm and how they’re planning for the future here.
Morgan and Jason
When it comes to online dating, there are sites for just about everyone. If you’re looking for someone who’s a fan of the rural way of life, farmersonly.com is the one to visit. Still, Morgan never truly expected to find love when a friend suggested she check it out as a student at Purdue University in 2008.
She decided to sign up for a free trial and struck up a conversation with a guy named Jason. Soon, she and Jason went from exchanging emails and texts to long phone calls. Then, in the summer of 2008, Morgan drove from Indiana to Colman, South Dakota for their first official date.
But, that adventure didn’t go quite as planned. After a flat tire while driving through Minnesota, Morgan’s 12-hour trip turned into a much longer ordeal. By the time she arrived to meet Jason, they only had a few minutes together before joining his extended family at their annual summer barbecue on the farm.
Within an hour of meeting Jason in person for the first time, Morgan was introduced to his entire family. Getting to know his family so soon only helped Morgan realize just how much she liked Jason and his life in South Dakota.
Soon, Morgan transferred to South Dakota State University to be closer to Jason, and a year after their first in-person meeting, they married and began their life together on their farm.
Today, Morgan continues to love her life on their family farm raising her two kids with Jason. She blogs about her experiences with motherhood and farm life at Stories of a First-Generation Farm Wife. Morgan was also featured in a recent episode of Across the Table where she shared all about her life on the farm.
If you want to find out more about what farmers like Morgan and Sari love about farming, check out our Valentine’s blog from 2016.
It’s the time of year for presents under the tree, cookies for Santa and time spent with family and friends. Farmers especially enjoy this time of year when harvest is complete and they can reflect on the months of hard work spent growing healthy, sustainable crops and providing food for tables across South Dakota. We checked in with some local farmers to find out the unique ways they celebrate the holidays on their family farms.
“Christmas magic has always been alive in my household, but also in my community. One year, my dad volunteered to give horse-drawn sleigh rides in the community. Unfortunately, it had not snowed yet that year, which meant it was not possible for his team of horses to pull a sleigh. We had to improvise. Instead, we decorated a horse-drawn buggy in lights to look just like Santa’s sleigh. We dressed up our horses like reindeer, fastening ‘antlers’ to their bridles. My sister and I even dressed up like elves to complete the look. I will always cherish the memory of the joy on children’s faces as they climbed into Santa’s sleigh for a ride.” – Amanda Eben, livestock specialist from northwest Iowa
“Growing up, we always had a big Christmas Eve dinner on the farm where lutefisk would be the main course. While the older generations in my family enjoyed this traditional Nordic dish, the rest of us weren’t so fond of it, so we made a change. Wanting to keep the tradition of being ‘non-traditional’ with our Christmas meal, we decided on prime rib and king crab legs. It’s a meal the family looks forward to all year long.” – Tim Ostrem, farmer from Centerville
“On Christmas Day, my husband, Jason, does something a bit unique and sweet. To prolong the morning of opening gifts and the fun of the day, he hides all our gifts – literally. Mine and the kiddos’. He writes out clues on cards to help us find them. It was such a treat to watch our daughter fully participate last year. I’m always so thankful for the time he spends staying up late to do this for our family, especially knowing he has to get up early the next morning and do chores before we open presents. I’ve saved all the clue cards through the years because it’s such a fun memory.” – Morgan Kontz, farmer from Colman
Does your family have a fun or unique way to celebrate the holidays? Share your stories with us in the comments.
The holiday season is officially here. Feeling pressure about hosting the perfect Thanksgiving meal for your family or friends? Farmer Morgan Kontz from Colman, S.D., knows a thing or two about hosting large groups and has some tips for making everything run smoothly in this guest blog post.
I am so thankful every year when this holiday rolls around because it signifies the end of a season. Harvest is complete and we have “bushels” for which to be thankful. We work hard on our farm throughout the year to grow our crops and raise our animals in a sustainable manner. To us, sustainability means farming with the future in mind. That means preserving the land so that we leave it in even better condition than when we found it.
As a mother, when it comes to food, I enjoy being a part of the farm because I know where the quality food comes from that I put on our table and feel confident feeding it to our family. I love preparing large meals for people, being a host and opening our home for fellowship. Here’s a rundown of what I do to make sure those big events go off without a hitch.
A few weeks before the event
To get ready for big meals or occasions, my number one piece of advice is to plan ahead. I make note of everything I want to make and make a grocery list of what I need. I do my shopping a few weeks before the event, except for any fresh items. This way, in case I forgot anything, I still have time to get it all ready while avoiding panic mode.
One to two days before the event
At this point, I start making a pile of ingredients and serving dishes for each item on my counter. This helps me to visually make sure I have space for all the food and everything I need.
The day of the event
Right away in the morning, I cook as much as I can. If anything needs to be chilled, I do that the night before. I discovered that if I spend too much time cooking that day, I never have time to get myself ready. So I wake up early and get as much done as I can so I can enjoy chatting and visiting with our guests when they arrive and not be rushed.
Spend time with friends and family and enjoy the fellowship. One thing we do during the month of November is talk about what we are thankful for each day. We write our blessings on leaves and add them to our blessings tree. What I love about the holiday is simply spending it as a family. After we feed our cattle, we spend the entire day together just enjoying each other’s company.
You might see the famous Hungry for Truth table in some familiar spots around South Dakota on your TV screens this fall. From the beginning, the table has been a focal point of Hungry for Truth. In many homes, the kitchen table is where most conversations occur, and family and friends are food and fellowship. In the newest Hungry for Truth commercial, the table journeys across South Dakota and shows the connections made with fellow South Dakotans.
The Horter family, who farm in Andover, are featured in the commercial sitting around the table having meaningful discussions with another family about food, farming and everything in between. John’s wife, Jaclyn, and their two children joined in for the Hollywood treatment.
“It was an interesting experience because we’ve never been involved in something like this,” said John. “It was a new experience for me, having make up done, wardrobe … I’ll tell you that.”
John says life ended up imitating art on the set. Sitting around the table with their fellow South Dakota family, they had conversations about where our food comes from and what life is like on the farm.
“In between takes, we talked about our farm, and they had a lot of questions. We loved sharing our story and learned things from them too. Being on the farm all the time, it’s nice to hear the perspective of people outside of that life. After all, we all have to eat.”
“This commercial is about connecting with South Dakotans and hopefully enticing them to talk with a farmer, finding out more on our website or engaging with us on social media,” said John. “Today, not many people grew up on farms or have family who farm, so it’s important for people to have a real person to connect to. We want to talk with people every day about how food gets from our farm to their table. We want everyone to know the way it really works and understand why we make the choices we do. We’re putting the same food on our family’s table.”
What do you want to know about the Hungry for Truth initiative? Do you have questions for John and his family about what they grow on their farm? Leave them in the comments.
Also, check us out on social media:
This time of year, the leaves are changing and the weather is cooling. It’s time to visit a pumpkin patch, make Halloween plans and break out the cool-weather clothing. For farmers, this time of year holds a different meaning: It’s harvest time. While many of us see the equipment in the fields and know that crops are done growing for the season, there is much more that goes into soybean harvest than just driving a combine across a field. John Horter is a father of two and a farmer from Andover. He grows corn and soybeans, and raises beef cattle. We caught up with him to find out everything that goes into the soybean’s journey from field to plate.
John’s son Dane is a young farmer-in-training. He loves to share the latest “crop reports” from their farm. Here he is with a crop report on soybean harvest.
“We monitor the fields very closely,” said John. “We watch for visual signs. The leaves will turn from green to brown and start to drop. Once we think they are close, we take moisture samples. We’re looking for 13.5 percent moisture or less before we can harvest.”
Weather is Key
Dry weather is imperative to a successful harvest. If the plants are too wet, the seeds won’t be able to separate from the pods; and if the ground is too wet, equipment could get stuck in the field. Weather is a major factor in the timing of planting and the health of soybeans throughout the growing season. John said this year, Mother Nature worked in his favor.
“We are in the northwest part of the state where we had warmer, drier weather so harvest was ahead of schedule. It went very well because we didn’t have weather delays.”
The impact of weather makes a big difference in harvest conditions for farms in different regions of the state. Southern South Dakota had a lot of rain this year, which delayed planting in the spring, so their harvest began later.
The Art of Harvest
“Once soybeans show the visual signs of being ready for harvest and moisture levels are dry enough, we head out to the fields with our combine to start taking the crop out of the field,” said John. “The combine has the capability to be flexible as it goes over the ground. It’s pretty neat technology that guides the part of the combine that does the harvesting along the contours of the ground, cutting off the plants. Next, it’s fed into the big drum in the combine that separates grain from the pods with sieves that shake the pods away from the seeds. Those seeds are what we end up harvesting.”
“Even though the weather was very dry in our region during the growing season and we had some hail, we still found very good yields,” he said. “I attribute that to modern genetics and our GMO crops being able to more efficiently use moisture even in adverse conditions.”
When John is done harvesting, he will prepare his fields for next year’s crop and take care of other areas of his farm for the winter months. He’ll use the what he learned from this past season to plan for next year.
“As we harvest, we have a lot of monitors that show us how our crop did. We always think about how to improve and do things more efficiently next year,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure we use as few inputs as possible to grow a healthy crop.”
John and South Dakota farmers like him work hard to grow healthy crops. So next time you break out your jacket and head to the pumpkin patch, remember that farmers are breaking out their combines to start the process of turning their crops into the nutritious ingredients that make up the great food on our plates.
Do you have questions for John about soybean harvest or what he’s up to this time of year? Leave them in the comments.
The tradition of the family farm is alive and well in the United States and South Dakota. In fact, many may not realize that 97 percent of farms in this country are family owned and operated, a statistic very few other industries can tout. Although the “American Gothic” picture of the family farm is no longer accurate, many are thriving.
Today, more and more young people seek education and careers outside the farm and join their parents later in life, which means a wide breadth of knowledge and experience when multiple generations come back to farm together. To find out more about what that means, we talked with Matt Bainbridge, a farmer from Ethan, to learn about his family’s farm.
Matt says the family aspect is what makes farming unique. “If you look at other industries around the country, how many are still family owned and operated? There are not many businesses that have stayed in one family for more than 100 years. If you look around South Dakota, it’s really cool to see how many farms are kept in the family for at least that long. We are providing the next generation with the opportunity to keep that business going.”
Matt says that in order to pass the farm on to the next generation, families like his focus on sustainable farming practices.
“We think about future generations while we farm,” he said. “We practice no-till farming so we can conserve the soil as best we can, keeping it healthy to sustain it for generations to come. We also diversify our operation financially by growing a variety of crops and raising livestock. That way, if one part of our operation doesn’t go well one year, the others will help us to maintain the business.”
Many farmers today use technologies like auto-steer, soil sampling and GPS to manage their land more precisely. By managing everything more efficiently, farmers can lessen their impact on the land and be more sustainable.
While many farmers hope to keep their land in the family, there are many different options how to go about it. While he was still in college, Matt bought his farm from his grandmother. He grows soybeans, corn, winter wheat and alfalfa, and raises beef cattle. His brother, Neal, also has a farm nearby, and his father operates the farm where Matt and Neal grew up.
“We have separate operations, but we work together,” said Matt. “We share each other’s equipment and labor. We try to keep it as equal as possible.”
“Our dad isn’t going to farm forever,” he said. “Once he decides to slow down and eventually retire, my brother and I will farm more of his acres. We’ll rent the land from him, which will help pay for his retirement.”
Matt recently got married and is looking forward to sharing the farming experience with his future children some day.
“If you are a farmer and have children farming along with you, I think it’s really important to give them a chance to farm the land. A lot of farm families take pride in being able to offer that to the next generation,” he said.
Do you have questions for Matt about his family’s farm? Leave them in the comments.
It’s officially September, and we all know what that means – kids are back in school! Food safety might not be on the top of the list when you think about packing lunches, but it’s an essential part of planning a healthy meal. Whether it is a bag lunch for kids in the cafeteria or for your own lunch break at the office, here’s everything you need to know about packing a safe lunch.
Food safety starts in the kitchen. Always remember to clean, separate, cook and chill when preparing your meal. Wash your hands and any surfaces before cooking, and rinse fruits and vegetables. Separate raw meat from other food – that includes using separate cutting boards and storing them in different locations. When cooking, use a food thermometer to be sure your food is cooked thoroughly, and remember to chill leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours.
Keep It Cool – Or Warm!
If you have perishable foods as part of your lunch – meats, eggs, cheese or yogurt – be sure to have two cold sources packed in your bag. Frozen juice boxes or water work great as freezer packs. Also use an insulated lunchbox with perishable foods.
Looking to keep hot food hot? You can use an insulated lunch box for that too! Fill the lunchbox with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, then empty it and put in your hot food. Be sure to keep the lunchbox closed until it’s time to eat.
Always remember to leave your lunch in the refrigerator if you pack it the day before.
Pack disposable wipes for easy cleanup of hands and surfaces. Because foodborne illnesses can easily spread through containers, throw out any wrappers or disposable packaging.
Recipes to Get Started
- Caesar Steak Wraps
- Italian Turkey Panini
- Sirloin Pita Salad Sandwich
- For a healthy side: Fiesta Fruit Medley
- For a twist on the traditional meal: Healthy Mango Banana Smoothie
What tips or tricks to you have for packing an amazing lunch? Let us know in the comments!
It’s Father’s Day, and we want to give a special shout out to all the farm fathers in South Dakota and beyond. Thank you for all you do for your families. To celebrate, we visited with some of our favorite farm dads to see what the best part is about the job.
“The best part of being a farm dad is watching your kids grow up on the farm. There is nothing more rewarding than teaching them the values of hard work and pride. My kids are the sixth generation on our farm, and I’m proud to pass on to them what was taught to me by previous generations.” – John Horter, farmer and father of two from Andover
“The best part of being a farm dad is spending time with the family even when I’m working and knowing I’m leaving a legacy for my children.” – Josh Kayser, farmer and father of four from Emery.
“Even though my daughter is only 5 months old, she is so interested. She looks around at everything when she rides along in our farm equipment. As she grows up, it will be fun to teach her what I do on the farm. I look forward to all of the ‘But why?’ questions. I learned a lot of what I know riding with my dad and look forward to passing my knowledge on to my children. That is what makes family farms so great.” – Colin Nachtigal, farmer and father of one from Harrold
Having grown up on a family farm outside Sioux Falls, Amanda Eben has always loved sharing her experiences with agriculture. Today, as a stepmom she gets a lot of questions from fellow moms about modern farming and how it affects our food. She is passionate about farming and wants to help others make the connection from the farm to the grocery aisle.
“Farmers do many things differently today than they did in past generations,” Eben said. “When I was younger, we fed our pigs in dirt lots and in wooden A-frames outside. Today, we use a larger enclosed building that allows our animals to be kept safe from diseases and predators, and allows us to monitor their environment to keep them comfortable and happy.”
Eben, who lives with her husband and stepson in northwest Iowa, wants to share these changes, especially with other moms. That’s why she decided to join CommonGround, a grassroots organization that works to bridge the gap between women who purchase food and the women who grow it.
“Through different media events and activities, a group of farm women will get together to have honest conversations with women who are on the consuming side,” Eben explained. “We share what we do and why we do it and try to be as transparent as possible.”
Eben sees opportunities to talk about agriculture in every day life as well. “I try to have these conversations with anyone I can,” she said. “Whether I’m on a plane or in the grocery store, wherever I have the opportunity. Everybody eats, so everyone should be able to connect with their food.”
Most recently, Eben has lent her support to the Hungry for Truth initiative. She is one of eight farmers featured on the Hungry for Truth website with videos answering some of consumers’ most frequently asked questions.
“The Hungry for Truth website brings you across the table from real farmers,” Eben said. “It feels like you’re really there in person, having a conversation. I think oftentimes people think they can’t ask farmers about what they do, but we love talking about how we care for our crops and animals.”
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! We want to say thank you for all that you do. To celebrate the great moms of our state, we visited with some of our favorite South Dakota moms to see what motherhood means to them.
“Being a mother defies verbal description. My kids are my world, and no matter what’s going on in life, they bring me joy. Randi is 21 and embarking upon her own adult life journey. Emily is 18 and will graduate this year. My son Brandon is 12 and fully into the world of a middle schooler. I also have a foster daughter named Lyric Rose who just turned 4, so life is very full with different stages. If everything else were to be taken away, my kids are the essence of everything I need.” – Melissa, owner of Oh My Cupcakes! in Sioux Falls
“My favorite thing about being a mom is watching my daughters become wonderful women and being able to share life with them. It is special to reflect on those little kid moments: cuddling and reading stories, helping them with homework, watching them in 4-H and school events. I know those moments all helped them become who they are today.” – Charlotte, registered dietician and farmer from Alcester
“I love working out in the field with my husband and sons. There is a bond and a sense of pride in what we can accomplish when we work together as a family. As we raised our sons on the farm, we loved seeing them find joy and freedom exploring the outdoors. Whether it was to work or ride along in the equipment, they were always excited when they could come out in the field with Mom and Dad.” – Monica, farmer from Claremont
“My favorite part of being a mom is watching my children grow and seeing the world through their eyes. They truly are so innocent and sweet. The things we often forget to stop for are the things they pay attention to, like looking at a pretty flower or watching a plane fly across the sky, or just simply enjoying a beautiful day running around the yard. Life is amazingly beautiful to a child and that is so completely heartwarming to watch.
When it comes to being a farm mom, I enjoy being able to watch my kids learn, just as their daddy did when he was their age. At 4 years old, my daughter knows the names of equipment and crops in a field. She knows when it’s important to stand still and wait for a tractor to finish backing up. She gets the chance to come to the farm and help us do small chores. She gets to experience planting a seed and watching it grow. She gets to see life being born, cared for and nurtured by a new mother every time we have a calf. Probably most importantly, she gets to experience firsthand what it means to have a passion that can last a lifetime. She gets to see passion in our eyes when we work at something we love.” – Morgan, farmer from Colman
Local farmer Monica McCranie thinks a lot about food beyond the farm field. As a health-conscious mom, nutrition has always been important to her. Now, she wants to make the connection with like-minded South Dakotans to have open, honest conversations about food and farming.
“Because I’m a farmer, some people might not realize that I am thinking about the same things as they are when it comes to food choices,” McCranie said. “As my kids were growing up, when making food decisions, I always asked, ‘Is it nutritional, and is it healthy for them?’ I always wanted to make sure they were fueling their bodies with what was important.”
McCranie is a third-generation farmer who grew up as a city girl. She has been farming with her husband for 29 years, growing mostly corn and soybeans. McCranie believes many misconceptions exist about farming practices today, and she wants to reach across the table to have conversations with fellow South Dakotans about food.
“As a consumer and a mom, I understand how confusing it is to look at a label and understand what it means and doesn’t mean,” McCranie said. “What I think is important to know is that, no matter what the label says, whether that food was grown conventionally, genetically modified or organically, it has the same nutritional value.”
McCranie is eager to start conversations with those who don’t farm and learn more about what concerns they have about farming today. That’s why she was excited to become a part of Hungry for Truth.
“There’s no better source of information about food than the farmers who grow it. I want to help South Dakotans understand that, as farmers, we value being able to provide healthy food for our families and theirs,” she said.