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
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.
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.
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.
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 hosted guests from western South Dakota at Prairie Berry Winery in scenic Hill City for the second annual Harvest Social on Thursday, November 2. The warm, bright setting offered farmers and community members an opportunity to escape the chill and engage in conversations about how food is grown and raised on today’s farms and ranches.
Huron farmer Brandon Wipf welcomed the crowd and shared stories about growing soybeans, corn, wheat and hay on his fourth-generation family farm. After attendees enjoyed appetizers, desserts and beverages created exclusively for the social by Prairie Berry Winery and Miner Brewing, farmer Jerry Schmitz from Vermillion also spoke to the crowd.
He explained that, in addition to growing soybeans and corn, he and his wife Sally also care for a variety of fruit trees and keep bees to help with plant pollination. He then showed participants three apples: one came from his farm and two he purchased at a grocery store. The two from the store were different because one was grown organically and one conventionally. He invited attendees to explain three things about the apples.
This sparked a lively discussion about the use of pesticides and GMOs. A few people in the crowd knew that organic and conventional farmers use pesticides but that organic farmers cannot use synthetic pesticides.
“Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean a pesticide wasn’t used,” said Jerry.
He also explained how GMOs are bred to have specific traits that help farmers reduce their use of pesticides and still grow safe and healthy crops for people and animals. Soybeans are one of 10 crops that are genetically modified and approved for use in the U.S.
That led to questions about how farmers prevent pesticide drift, the increased use of precision technology and conservation practices on the farm.
“Everything has to be just right or we don’t spray,” said Jerry. “We don’t go out when it’s windy or the air temperature isn’t right. We mix pesticides with water according to label instructions and add an ingredient that helps them stick to the plants’ leaves. Precision technology in our sprayers also helps us apply just the right amount of pesticide according to label instructions.”
Brandon explained how using precision technology helped him take steps to make his farm more sustainable.
“By measuring every acre of my fields with precision technology, I’m able to decide where to invest most of my time in growing the best crops,” said Brandon. “The land that isn’t as productive can be converted to grass for buffer strips and habitat for pheasants. For me, sustainability is all about growing and raising quality food, while improving lives for families in South Dakota.”
Let us know if you’d like to attend a future Hungry for Truth event or have a question for a farmer by sending a note via this form. Curious to learn more about how GMOs, pesticides and sustainable farm practices contribute to safe and healthy foods? We’ve got you covered with these reads:
There’s no doubt farmers are busy when it’s time to plant and harvest crops, but the work doesn’t stop once the crops are out of the ground. Farmers make many decisions throughout the year to keep their plants healthy and family businesses thriving. Let’s look at what typical soybean farmers have on their calendars that keep them hustling throughout the year.
As the new year begins, farmers have already selected and purchased most of the seeds they will plant. During January and February, they are busy preparing business financials, evaluating data, assessing their marketing plan to sell their soybeans throughout the year, learning about new technologies to improve their family farm and attending classes to renew important certifications like pesticide application.
In March, they meet with agronomists to determine what kind of fertilizer they should apply and to discuss other factors that will help keep their crop healthy. They inspect equipment to make sure their tractors, planters, discs and sprayers are ready to run in the field for planting. It’s also time to purchase crop insurance to protect their soybeans since Mother Nature is anything but predictable.
Before the equipment rolls across the field, farmers send their planting plan to the USDA for tracking. At the end of the season, they also report how many acres they harvested. Then it’s time to load field maps into the precision technology in the tractors so they plant just the right amount of seeds and use the right amount of crop inputs.
In South Dakota, planting officially starts in late April or early May when the soil temperature reaches at least 50 degrees. Most farmers do some type of tillage to prepare the seedbed. Many are more sustainable by reducing their tillage over time to control erosion and take care of their soil. Soybeans are a friendly crop that require less tillage and fertilizer than other crops.
It takes about 15 days to plant soybeans. If the soil stays warm and the weather is sunny, plants can sprout in as little as four days. Farmers try to finish planting by June 1 so the plants have plenty of time to soak up the sunshine, nutrients and water needed to grow. Some farmers may apply herbicides to make sure weeds don’t overtake young soybean plants.
Farmers spend the summer months monitoring their soybeans. Many use drones to take pictures of their fields. If they notice a problem, they can take quick action by applying a crop protection product like a pesticide. In addition to evaluating their own soybeans, farmers look at other fields. Seed and crop input technology is constantly improving so attending summer events, talking with neighbors and watching for market trends help them determine what to plant and purchase next year, as well as ways to improve their management practices.
By the beginning of September, farmers select the seeds they will plant next season and prepare the combine for harvest. The first week in October is typically the busiest. After all the soybeans are picked, it’s time to store, market or deliver them to the elevator or biodiesel processor. Fertilizer application, tillage and tile drainage improvements wrap up the harvest season and then equipment is cleaned and stored for winter.
As the end of the year approaches, South Dakota farmers pay for their seed, analyze field data and visit their landlords. Some farmers don’t own all the land they farm so it’s important to stay connected to those who do. Then it’s time to spend time with family and friends, give thanks for the food on their tables and the opportunity to grow more healthy and safe soybeans in the new year.
Want to learn more about the soybean’s journey after harvest? Read this.
Dig deeper into sustainable planting by reading this Q&A with farmer Paul.
On November 11, local community leaders, foodies and farmers gathered together at Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City for a Harvest Social. The Hungry for Truth event brought South Dakotans together to share in meaningful conversations about the journey from farm to plate over some delicious foods and local wine.
“It’s a very rewarding experience to talk about food and agriculture with people,” said Colin Nachtigal, farmer from Harrold. “We chatted about simple things like the crops people see while they’re out hunting and which of those crops I grow on my own farm. This kind of thing comes naturally to me, but I love sharing it with others. There is always more work to do on the farm, but it’s worth it for me to take the time to make connections with people about what I do.”
Colin said he had the chance to talk with almost every person in attendance that evening. He said many people were interested to hear more about the family aspect of farming. “The people I visited with were surprised to hear that 97 percent of farms in South Dakota are family owned and operated,” said Colin.
He farms with his father, two uncles, brother and six cousins. Together, they grow soybeans, corn, wheat, milo and grass seed, and run a cow-calf operation. Colin says that, when it comes to making decisions on the farm, they’re always thinking about the future.
“Because we are a family farm, when we make decisions about how to manage things, we think about our children and grandchildren, the future generations who will take over the farm,” said Colin. “For example, we conserve our soil by using minimum tillage and, in some cases, no tillage at all. We do this to reduce soil erosion and to keep nutrients in the soil. Caring for the environment is a top priority for us.”
Do you have questions for Colin about his family farm? Let us know in the comments.
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.
Soybeans are one of the biggest crops in South Dakota, accounting for about 30 percent of the crops grown in the state. Those soybeans are used in food products, animal feed, oils, plastics and much more. Ever wonder how they get from seeds in the ground to harvested crops?
Earlier this spring, you probably saw tractors riding across empty fields, planting crops for the year. Soybeans are typically planted in May. At this time of year (early August), almost all soybeans in the field have bloomed. You likely can’t see it from the road, but up close you’ll see each soybean plant has little purple flowers on them to aid in reproduction. After flowers have bloomed, the plants will set pods, fill them with seeds and develop to maturity. They will be harvested in October and processed into anything from sports turf to tofu, animal feed to biodiesel.
How do you use soybeans in your everyday life? Leave a comment to let us know. Learn more about soybeans and their many uses here.
Driving by a farm this time of year, chances are you’ll see a combine moving through the field harvesting crops. Most people know that fall is harvest time, and spring is time for planting, but do you know what farmers are up to the rest of the year? Hint: It’s not lounging on a tropical beach. Check out this helpful visual to learn more, along with some fun facts about agriculture. Feel free to share this on your social network.