Cheers to another great year of farm visits, conversations and digging into the truth behind how food is grown and raised in South Dakota! Thank you for joining us on this journey. There are just so many fun things to discover while making the farm-to-table connection.
Before we say sayonara to 2018, we’re taking one last look back at five of our top stories and recipes of 2018. Read on to see if yours made the list.
5. The Sustainability Story of a Fifth-Generation Farm
Since 1896, David Struck’s family has been farming and caring for their land in Wolsey, South Dakota. Today, three generations work together to grow soybeans, corn and wheat. The best part is, they aren’t alone! About 98 percent of farms in our state are still family owned and operated. “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. Read more.
4. Cozy Up with Oksana Silchuk & Potato Chicken Noodle Soup
Nothing warms the soul on a chilly day like a bowl of homemade potato chicken noodle soup. Our fans loved snuggling up with Oksana Silchuk as she channeled her Ukrainian roots to create her favorite comfort food. Along the way, she shared her gratitude for initiatives like Hungry for Truth, which keeps her connected to farmers who grow and raise food her family and yours. Warm up with the recipe.
3. Crockpot Beef Bourguignon for Moms on the Go
Looking for a recipe that tastes homemade and doesn’t require a ton of prep? Courtney Hansen, South Dakota cattle farmer and mother of two, has you covered. When she isn’t helping her husband with calving, she’s making quick and easy meals like crockpot beef bourguignon. Read more about her farm and get the recipe to make your family dinner in a snap.
2. Farm-to-Fork Dinner Unites Rural & Urban South Dakotans in Conversations Around the Table
We love getting farmers and families together to talk about important topics like farm sustainability, pesticide use and food safety. It’s even better when it happens around the table. This past summer, 180 South Dakotans joined us at the Country Apple Orchard near Sioux Falls for our third annual Farm-to-Fork dinner to learn the truth about what happens on today’s farms. Get the scoop on conversations, delicious local foods and what attendees learned.
1. Millennial Farmer Goes High-Tech For Sustainability
In our top story, we explored how young farmers are using their college degrees and love of technology to transform their farms. Morgan Holler is just one of several millennial farmers who is leveraging data and adopting technology to make his family business more sustainable for the future. Find out how he’s growing food safely to feed his family and yours.
Those are just a few of the adventures we had in 2018. Look for answers to your questions and find more recipes. Start your new year off right by signing up for our e-newsletter. It’s an easy way to get new stories and recipes delivered to your inbox each month.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
When it comes to food and choices in the grocery store, it’s tough enough to decide what to make for dinner. The last thing you need to worry about is pesticides on your produce. To help keep crops and your food safe, South Dakota farm families use technology to apply just enough pesticides to protect crops and get the job done. They are always looking for ways to improve how they farm to be good neighbors.
For Lake Preston soybean farmer Paul Casper, this translates to planting GMO crops, driving a sprayer equipped with automatic shut-offs and using large nozzles to ensure more product stays on the plants. These tools help him apply less pesticides in a more effective way. Like all farmers, Paul goes through training so he knows how to mix and spray safely.
We’ll let Paul explain how he uses technology to protect his family and yours.
Interested in learning more? Get a deeper look at the crop protection technology on Paul’s farm.
There’s a good chance you’ve thought about food safety while shopping at the grocery store. Did you know the farmers behind your food are always thinking of ways to improve and keep your family safe and healthy? This includes carefully applying pesticides to protect crops.
We spent some time talking with Lake Preston soybean farmer Paul Casper to learn more about what pesticides are, why he uses them and how they can be a great tool for farmers when applied accurately and responsibly. He even shares how the products his wife, Korlyn, uses to keep fruits and veggies safe in the garden are very similar to the ones he uses in the field. As parents and grandparents, Paul and Korlyn always put safety first.
Watch this video to get the scoop on pesticides and plant protection.
Keep growing your crop protection knowledge with this blog featuring South Dakota State University Weed Expert Paul Johnson. He shares more about pesticide safety and how farmers learn to apply them.
Did you know South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are some of the most proactive in the nation when it comes to on-farm sustainability? South Dakota leads the U.S. with 7 million acres of farmland enrolled in the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). That’s 1 million more acres than any other state.
Sustainability grows strong in South Dakota, which is good for farmers and families. According to information collected through CSP during the past five years, farmers and ranchers adopted environmentally friendly practices that reduced pesticide drift on 1.7 million acres, increased the use of no-till farming on 1.5 million acres and grew cover crop acres on a total of 300,000 acres.
Crop rotation, no-till farming and cover crops are a few of the top techniques used by farmers to improve productivity and grow and raise healthy food. Let’s learn more.
Farmers plant different crops on different acres each season to avoid depleting the soil of nutrients. Crop rotation also helps control weeds, diseases and pests. By planting soybeans one year and corn the next, farmers use less pesticides and replenish their soils.
No till is a form of conservation tillage that allows farmers to grow crops or pasture without disturbing the soil by plowing. Farmers plant the crop, harvest it and leave the stalks and roots in place through the winter months. The next season, they plant a new crop in the same field. The stalks and roots feed worms and beneficial bugs, which enrich the soil. Keeping the ground covered also reduces erosion from wind and rain, and limits weed growth.
Cover crops are seeded after harvesting and before planting. They help prevent soil erosion, keep weeds from growing and provide beneficial nutrients to help other crops grow. Some types of cover crops are radishes, alfalfa, red clover and rye grass. Farmers can plant cover crops using a planter, drill or by flying over the fields with an airplane.
These are just some of the ways farmers protect and preserve the land for the next generation. Find out how Paul Casper uses sustainable practices to support outdoor adventures on his farm.
Now that you know farmers use pesticides to protect crops from diseases, insects and weeds, and the steps for pesticide application, it’s time to take your education up a notch. Precision technology – such as GPS, auto steer, variable rate spraying and tablets – are important tools for today’s family farms. With precision at their fingertips, farmers can track crop growth, health and yields to improve their family farm businesses each year.
Paul Casper grows approximately 4,500 acres of soybeans and corn near Lake Preston. He’s the fourth generation to run the farm along with his father Warren and son Drew. Let’s take a look at his technology and why he thinks his sprayer is the best piece of equipment he owns.
Just like you use GPS to get to where you need to go, the Caspers use it to ensure they cover each acre in the most efficient way. The GPS signal helps guide their equipment on a straight course through the field. Tools built around GPS can even turn the equipment around when it reaches the end of the row!
The Caspers also keep digital soil maps of each of their fields so they plant the right amount of seeds, and apply the right amount of fertilizers and pesticides to grow healthy crops. Using advanced software, technology transfers from tractor to sprayer to combine right through their tablet so they can track all data throughout the season.
Paul’s sprayer is loaded with advanced options that help keep his family, neighbors and animals safe from pesticide drift and crops safe from applying too much. The sprayer automatically slows to speeds of 2-3 miles per hour when he drives near a neighbors’ house or the edge of a field. The pulsating system also increases the size of the water droplets in the spray increase to keep pesticides from drifting in the air.
The two arms on the side of the sprayer, called booms, self-level according to plant height as he drives across the field. This helps them float the right distance above the plants so the spray reaches the leaves and doesn’t drift. The booms are also equipped with automatic shut offs that stop spraying when it reaches the end of the field to turn around. This helps him avoid overlapping applications.
Creating a Sustainable Future
Being a good neighbor, growing healthy crops and taking care of the environment is important to continuing the legacy of the family farm. Paul, Drew and Warren try to make the best decisions now so one day Drew’s daughter Madi has the chance to take over.
“My father recently told our banker that the sprayer we bought three years ago is the best piece of equipment we own,” said Paul. “The technology in it is so accurate. It helps us be better managers of our business and the environment because we can apply the right amount of product at the right time in the right place. We even use it to apply fertilizer.”
In addition to the mechanical advancements, Paul says many of today’s pesticides are less likely to drift off the field because of new formulas that require more water. He also adds a soy-based agent to the tank to help the spray he applies during the growing season adhere to plant leaves and resist movement with wind and humidity.
“There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with farming. You have to have the right tools to apply the right products and make the best decisions possible,” said Paul. “We track what we do and try to improve each year. It’s all part of being a good neighbor and creating a sustainable future for our family farm.”
Keep learning how farmers use technology like drones and treated seeds to grow safe and healthy food in South Dakota by reading these:
We recently asked the question: What would you do if you drove by a field and saw a farmer spraying pesticides? If you missed it and want to know more, read this. We hope you give the farmer a friendly wave as you drive by. They have your family’s safety in mind.
Today, we go behind the scenes to learn about pesticide application on the Casper family farm near Lake Preston. There’s a lot that goes into making sure crop protection products are applied in an effective and safe way before they even get to the field.
Let’s take a look:
Step 1: Put Safety First
Safety comes first for Paul Casper and his family who grow about 4,500 acres of soybeans and corn near four South Dakota lakes. “We take spraying more seriously than planting and harvesting,” he said. “It’s about being a good neighbor, making sure our children and grandchildren are safe, and growing healthy food we can all feel good about eating.”
Being safe includes having the right certification to apply pesticides, using protective gear when handling and spraying products, and knowing the right amount and time to apply. Paul’s sprayer even has a cab shield so his granddaughter, Madi, can ride along with her dad, Drew, in the field.
According to Paul, many of the products and safety practices he uses are no different than avid gardeners, just on a larger scale. In fact, Paul’s wife, Korlyn, is a gardener who uses some of the same pesticides to protect her plants.
“We get bugs on our tomatoes and potatoes. If we didn’t use pesticides, our fruits and vegetables would be eaten up,” explained Paul. The whole family enjoys grabbing healthy snacks fresh from the garden. They just wash them first to eliminate any dirt, microbes and pesticide residues.
Step 2: Identify the Pest and Solution
The Caspers may be certified to apply all types of pesticides on their crops, but just because they can, doesn’t mean they do. First, Paul and Drew employ crop rotation, minimal tillage and use GMO seeds to try to prevent problems before they start.
“I’d rather treat a specific problem and take care of it early instead of applying pesticides to growing crops in the middle of the summer. GMOs help us be more precise and efficient with crop protection products and still grow healthy plants,” said Paul. Scouting fields regularly also helps them identify and deal with issues early.
This year, a weed known as marestail invaded their crops. Paul and Drew had to act fast to control it and talked with their crop consultant about solutions. He helped them identify the weed and recommended a contact herbicide that absorbs quickly to maximize application safety, but before they can apply it, they have to wait for the right weather conditions.
Step 3: Wait for the Right Weather
The ideal day to spray pesticides is dry and warm with wind speeds less than 15 miles per hour and no rain in the immediate forecast. Humidity should be between 50 and 60 percent and outside temperature no greater than 90 degrees. This helps keep the spray from staying in the air and drifting into different areas.
If the weather conditions aren’t right, Paul and Drew wait for another day to spray. “It’s just not worth taking a chance,” Paul said.
Step 4: Mix With Water and Apply
Once all the conditions are right, it’s time to transport the bulk pesticide product to the farm, mix it with water in tanks and pump it into the sprayer. Then they head out to the field to apply.
For the marestail herbicide, Paul and Drew combine approximately 18 gallons of herbicide with 1,000 gallons of water and a special soy-based product that helps the pesticide adhere to plant leaves and absorb better and faster. This mixture protects approximately 70 acres of crops. That may sound like a lot, but it turns out the actual amount of pesticide applied to an acre of land might be much less than you think.
“It’s about the size of medium latte spread over an area the size of a football field. Most of what you see being sprayed on the field is water,” explained Paul. The water truck stays with the sprayer and can cover 500 acres per fill.
According to Paul, the sprayer is the best piece of equipment they own. Not only does it have safety features that protect his family, it’s also equipped with precision technology to protect the families who live around his farm. We’ll take closer look at it in our next blog.
You’re driving from Sioux Falls to Mitchell to visit friends, and you see a large piece of equipment with wide arms and big tires driving through the soybean field toward your vehicle. After a closer look, you see it’s spraying something. Is it water? Is it a pesticide? Should you be concerned about your safety?
Your answer might depend on what you know about pesticides and how farmers apply them. Since most people don’t get a chance to stop by a South Dakota farm to get the scoop firsthand, we decided to bring the process to you. First, let’s start with the basics: What are pesticides and why do farmers use them?
Three Main Types of Pesticides
Paul Johnson is a weed science coordinator at South Dakota State University in Brookings. Paul grew up on a crop and livestock farm near Sisseton. His dad served on the county’s noxious weed board and Paul started spraying crops at the age of 12. It’s easy to see why Paul describes himself as a “weed-fighter,” even though pesticides aren’t just used to eliminate weeds.
“Pesticides is a term used to describe a substance that controls weeds, insects, diseases and other organisms to protect and grow healthy crops,” said Paul. The three main types used on South Dakota farms are herbicides to control weeds, insecticides to control harmful insects and fungicides to control certain types of diseases.
Why Farmers Use Pesticides
Though they may seem small, insects, weeds and diseases can quickly take over fields and cause big losses. Farmers use pesticides to stop the damage and save their crops. To act quickly and safely, they need the latest research and product information at their fingertips.
That’s where Paul and his team of extension specialists come in. They conduct field research throughout the year and share what they learn online and in educational sessions to help farmers identify and treat the problems they see in their fields.
“Part of my job is to monitor crops and compare what I see to previous years. We alert farmers if we see a problem so they don’t get caught off guard,” explained Paul. Top pests he watches for are soybean aphids and grasshoppers that devour plants and grasses quickly. Waterhemp, kochia and marestail are weeds that take over fields and compete with corn and soybeans for sunlight, water and other resources.
Pesticide Certification, Safety and Using Less
You might ask yourself, “Can anyone just climb up in the sprayer and start applying pesticides?” The fact is, South Dakota farmers must be certified to apply pesticides. They attend classes to help them select products, learn how to apply them and make plans for each growing season. If they have an unexpected issue, they talk with specialists like Paul to make the safest choice.
“Pesticide safety is a big concern for all farm families,” said Paul. “Thirty years ago, we spent a lot of time talking with farmers about having the right safety gear to apply pesticides. Today, we use pesticides that are much less toxic. We still need to take precautions, but I’m confident we’re safer than ever.”
In addition to pesticides being safer, farmers today also use less to get the job done.
“When I started my career more than 30 years ago, it was common to use approximately two to three quarts of pesticides on one acre of land,” explained Paul. “An acre is about the size of a football field. Now some pesticides are applied at only two to three ounces per acre. Most of what you see being sprayed on the field is water.”
Now that you know more about pesticides and why they’re used on the farm, should you be worried when you see a sprayer in action? We’ll find out in our next blog when we go behind the spraying scene and get into the field with Lake Preston farmer Paul Casper. In the meantime, here are some great resources on pesticide use and how they affect your food:
Paul Casper has always had a strong connection to the land. His love for the outdoors began when he was young, spending a lot of time hunting, fishing and trapping. Almost everything he does for work and recreation is tied to the environment. That’s why using sustainable agricultural practices are so important for his family and farm.
“What we do on the farm every day has an impact on our family, the food we eat and what we do for fun,” explained Paul. “The water is right beside us so we continually look for ways to improve our farm practices to take care of our soil.”
Paul isn’t kidding when he says the water is right beside them. Today, the family farm is surrounded by four lakes: Lake Thompson, Lake Whitewood, Lake Henry and Lake Preston. That hasn’t always been the case.
Paul used to ride horses and hunt in the pastureland that eventually became Lake Thompson. In the mid-1990s, heavy rains permanently turned the ground into a lake, and now it’s one of his favorite places to take his grandkids fishing. Keeping those waters and the land around them safe while protecting his corn and soybeans are very important parts of his plans.
Like many farmers in South Dakota, Paul uses sustainable practices like crop rotation and soil sampling. The GPS technology in his tractor and sprayer help him apply the right rates of pesticides safely and only in areas where they’re needed. The Caspers also practice no till, which means they don’t disturb the soil after crops are harvested. Leaving the stalks and plant roots in the fields reduces the chance soil will wash or blow into the lakes. It also improves the health of their soil and allows them to use less equipment so they don’t use as much fuel.
“We have greatly improved our farm practices over the past 15 years to preserve South Dakota’s land and water,” said Paul. They have no plans to slow down. This year, they’re looking at planting cover crops, which is a crop grown for the protection and enrichment of the soil.
The more Paul pays attention to sustainability, the better his crops grow. Now that his son and granddaughters have returned to the family farm, safety and sustainability are even more closely connected.
“We live and breathe farming, so we need to preserve the family farm for the next generation,” said Paul. “We also swim in the lakes, and eat the fish we catch, the animals we hunt and crops we grow. There are no shortcuts to being safe and environmentally friendly in agriculture, but I found it’s always worth the effort to do things right.”
Learn more about Paul’s farm practices and how he turns the veggies from his garden into delicious chicken kabobs by watching this episode of Across the Table.
For many South Dakotans, summer time includes having fun on the water. Whether it’s a road trip to the lake or a quick dip in the river, it’s a tradition that’s great for escaping the heat and creating memories that last a lifetime. The same holds true for farmers like Colin Nachtigal who lives near the Missouri River and enjoys fishing, kayaking and swimming on hot summer days.
“When we’re out working on the farm and it gets hot, we jump in the river for a quick dip,” he said. “I’m excited to teach my 18-month-old how to swim in it someday.”
While Colin doesn’t get to be on the water in summer as much as he’d like, he does spend most of his time on the banks of the Missouri working with irrigation pumps. He, along with his dad, two uncles, brother, and six cousins, grow corn, soybeans and wheat and raise beef cattle along the river. He’s part of the fourth generation to cultivate the land and thinks of the Missouri River as more than just a swimming hole.
“Some of our land is irrigated, and the water comes right from the Missouri River. Our rural home’s water system uses water from the river, so we also drink it,” said Colin.
He uses sustainable farm practices to ensure the water is safe for his crops, animals, family and neighbors who depend on it. The Nachtigals blend reliable practices from the past and innovative technology of the future to prevent soil erosion. This includes GMO seeds, minimal tillage and using equipment that puts crop nutrients, like fertilizer, in the soil.
“Minimizing tillage, or no-till, means that we’re leaving the soybean plant roots in the ground after harvest to hold the soil in place. Putting the fertilizer into the soil instead of on top helps the plants use it more efficiently. Both reduce erosion and keep the river clean,” explains Colin. He also uses GMO seeds that require less pesticides. If he does have to apply pesticides he waits for the right day.
“We’re always looking to improve on the ways of the older generation. Learn from them, but also try new ways to take care of the land and water,” said Colin. “Hopefully one day my daughter will be part of the family farm and grow food for people in South Dakota. In the meantime I’m looking forward to making more memories with her on the river.”
Summer isn’t the only time of year to make lasting memories. Learn how South Dakota farmers spend time with their families all year long by reading these blogs:
GMOs continue to be a hotly debated topic, especially when it comes to the safety of the food we feed our families. While you may be undecided about GMOs, the scientific and medical communities have deemed them to be just as safe as non-GMO crops after more than 20 years of research and review. Even Bill Nye the Science Guy, who once questioned their environmental impact, has changed his position and is an advocate.
Many South Dakota farmers choose to plant GMO crops because of their advantages in the field, but the fact is GMOs benefit our lives in some pretty cool ways. Let’s examine a few of the facts.
GMOs Save Lives Through Medicine
The same technology used to create GMO crops in the 1990s started in the medical community in the 1970s. Scientists used genetic engineering to make biopharmaceutical drugs from bacteria. In fact, the very first GMO approved for use in 1982 was insulin, which is currently used by 1.25 million Americans today to manage type 1 diabetes. To date, genetic engineering has led to the development of more than 100 drugs used to treat cancer, arthritis, hemophilia and seizures.
GMOs Benefit Consumers
The fact is genetic modification has been happening in nature for centuries. The sweet potato is just one example of a new food created by its genes mixing with bacteria in the soil. It wasn’t until recently that scientists developed a way to precisely edit gene sequences to create apples that resist browning, soybeans with improved nutritional content and rice with increased beta carotene to help combat vitamin A deficiency. While South Dakota children get plenty of vitamin A, Golden Rice has the potential to save the lives of 1.15 million children annually around the world who suffer from the lack of this essential nutrient.
GMOs Help Protect Our Environment
GMO technology helps farmers improve on-farm practices to be more environmentally sustainable. According to a study by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, the use of biotechnology in soybeans, corn and cotton has decreased soil erosion by 93 percent, herbicide runoff by 70 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 326 million lbs. across the U.S. since the mid-1990s. Protecting the environment is important to everyone in South Dakota. We all need to work together to preserve it for the next generations.
GMOs Keep Produce on Our Shelves
Without GMO technology, we probably wouldn’t have papayas anymore. In 1992, papaya ringspot virus was discovered in the Puna district of Hawaii where 95 percent of the state’s papayas grew. Three years later, the crop was in a state of crisis and would’ve been wiped out on the island if scientists hadn’t bred disease resistance into the papayas. Yellow summer squash and zucchini are other foods that would be difficult to find in produce sections today if they hadn’t been genetically modified to withstand diseases. Scientists are also developing orange trees that resist citrus greening, plum trees that resist plum pox virus and potatoes that resist potato blight to keep these foods stocked on produce shelves.
Regardless of your thoughts on GMOs, what you feed your family is ultimately your choice. The most important part of a healthy diet is eating a blend of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins while limiting sugars and fats. Living a healthy lifestyle benefits everyone, and that is something we can all agree on.
Have a GMO-related question for a South Dakota farmer? Leave it in the comments below. Here are some resources you can use to learn more.
Our favorite crop reporter and farmer is back with a brand new planting update! Dane “farms” with his dad by Andover, and is delivering his latest update straight from the field.
We know farmers are hustling to plant their soybean and corn fields for the season, but what all goes into the process? Dane explores the technology they use to prevent seed waste, regulate how fast they drive and monitor how many acres they cover in a day. Does having a tablet in the tractor cab also mean they watch Netflix while they work? Let’s find out!
Now it’s time to head out to the field. Dane explains why soybean seeds aren’t the color you’d expect and how everyone works together as a team to get their crops off to a healthy start. Planting soybeans is just the beginning. The Horters also use a piece of equipment called a land roller to roll over the ground, making it more level and reducing equipment damage from rocks. Then they spray a pre-emergence herbicide to protect young plants from weeds.
Since they just planted soybeans, there isn’t much growth to see, but the corn is starting to sprout. Dane tells us how long that takes and why farmers make sure their plants are evenly spaced. It looks like the corn loves the sunshine just as much as we do.
Planting can be a hectic time for many farm families, but it’s also a favorite. The start of another growing season means the opportunity to grow food for families and animals in South Dakota.
Can’t get enough of the cuteness? Watch Dane’s Across the Table episode featuring farm sustainability and cupcakes. To learn more about planting in South Dakota, here’s a Q&A with farmer Monica McCranie.
Buying local is a great way to support family farms and businesses, and it’s why so many South Dakotans look for local products when shopping. The great news is you don’t have to look hard to put locally grown food on your table. It’s in the aisles of grocery stores, shelves of downtown shops and stands at farmers markets. No matter where you choose to buy your food, it’s likely you are purchasing a product with local roots.
Marc Reiner is a farmer who grows soybeans, corn, wheat and alfalfa near Tripp. His family has been raising cattle since they homesteaded the land in the 1880s. They also raise pigs.
“Everything we feed our animals is grown on our farm,” says Marc. “The hay, silage, soybean meal and corn is all grown here. My family enjoys eating the meat from the animals we raise and the products we grow.”
Marc’s family sells his crops, pigs and cattle to local grain and meat processors. They transform the soybeans and corn into nutritious animal feed and the animals into choice cuts of beef and pork served in restaurants and sold in grocery stores across South Dakota and the U.S.
Though he doesn’t know where all the food products grown and raised on his farm end up, he knows that farmers throughout the nation no matter the size have the health and safety of consumers in mind.
Dakota Layers is an example of a business serving South Dakotans that purchases feed made from locally grown soybeans. The family-owned operation located north of Flandreau processes and packages 90,000 dozen eggs each day! It purchases 10,000 tons of soybean meal annually to feed its 1.3 million hungry hens. You can purchase their eggs at South Dakota grocery stores. Some local businesses, such as Oh My Cupcakes! in downtown Sioux Falls and Royal River Casino in Flandreau use their eggs for baking and cooking.
So the next time you’re looking for locally grown foods like eggs, pork, beef or chicken, don’t stress if you don’t see a label. There’s a good chance it has a local connection or was grown by a farmer who has your family’s health and safety in mind.
Love learning about local? Milk is another food that has South Dakota roots. Read about its journey farm to shelf.
Temperatures are warming up and soil lovers in South Dakota are excited to dig in and plant. This includes farmers firing up their tractors. Vonda and Ken Schulte are a farmer/gardener pair from Geddes who enjoy growing healthy food in the field and in the garden. Vonda is a cook at the local school so she makes a point to connect with kids on a regular basis about how food gets from the farm to their plates.
We asked Vonda and Ken a few questions about what goes into their planting season, and Vonda gives us instructions for making seed tapes.
When do you start thinking about what to grow and how do you choose your seeds?
Ken: I start planning right after harvest and watch what the seed companies offer. I look at what worked and what didn’t the year before, as well as what current genetics are available in our area.
Vonda: The seed catalogs start coming around the first of the year. I begin making lists and getting ideas then. I usually visit my local seed store that sells in bulk and has a great variety of seeds to try. I like to get just the right amount of seed I need so I don’t waste it.
What will you plant?
Ken: I plant wheat, corn and soybeans on about 1,000 acres. We rotate crops each season to maximize soil health and better manage pests.
Vonda: I plant a wide variety. My garden includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, all different kinds of potatoes, lettuces, spinach, arugula, herbs, rhubarb, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, melons, squash, pumpkins, strawberries, raspberries, kale, leeks, okra, beets, onions, garlic, peas, peppers, radishes and kohlrabi, just to name a few. I also love to mix in flowers around my garden.
How do you prepare the soil for planting?
Ken: We use minimal tillage or don’t till at all. Minimal disturbance is good for the soil. I also do soil testing so I know exactly how much fertilizer to apply on each acre.
Vonda: I really don’t do too much, just clean off some debris from winter, but I really don’t disturb the soil too much. I have it set up so I never walk in places I plant. There are four 5-foot beds with walkways in between so the soil stays heaped up and is ready to dig into. I fertilize it well and add some mushroom compost or cocoa shells.
When will you typically start planting?
Ken: I start when the soil temperature is warm enough for the crop I’m planting. That’s usually around 50 F, which is typically the end of April. I don’t want to start too early because crops may not survive a cold snap, and replanting is expensive.
Vonda: Mother Nature is in charge. I start some of the cool crops early and, if something happens, I replant.
How long does it take to plant your garden/farm acres?
Ken: It usually takes me 30 days to plant, but it depends on the weather.
Vonda: I plant in stages throughout the growing season. I love planting cool crops again in the fall.
How do you take care of the seeds after planting?
Ken: I use herbicides to help control weeds and make sure the crops get off to a good start. The cool thing about our technology is that we’re able to precisely apply exactly what’s needed and in the right amount to help our crops grow. We monitor and scout the crops throughout the season to determine what additional care might be necessary, such as insecticides, fertilizers, fungicides, etc.
Vonda: I fertilize the plants with a mixture from our local co-op. Then I mulch everything with grass clippings.
What’s your favorite part about growing food?
Ken: I like harvest, especially during a good year. I take pride in growing healthy crops that are used in South Dakota and shipped all over the world.
Vonda: I enjoy everything about gardening. Each step is fun for me. I also love eating and sharing my produce, learning new techniques and trying new products. It’s fun to quiz the kids at school about something I brought in from my garden and help them to learn a little bit more about where their food comes from.
Another way farmers and gardeners are alike: They love being outdoors and getting their hands dirty. Unfortunately, spring weather can be unpredictable so here’s a great DIY project to share with your gardener friends the next time you’re stuck indoors.
Make Your Own Seed Tapes
Seed tapes make planting easy because they come loaded with seeds that are appropriately spaced. According to Vonda, making your own seed tape is easy, looks nice when the plants come up and can be done any time. Here’s how she does it:
- Take a roll of toilet paper and roll it out.
- Read the seed package for appropriate spacing.
- Put a small dot of Elmer’s glue on the paper.
- Drop your seed onto the dot. Let dry.
- Roll it up and mark it.
- When it’s time to plant, dig a trench, add water if soil is dry, lay the paper in, unroll it and cover with dirt.
Learn more about the similarities between gardening and farming here. If all this talk about fresh produce has your mouth watering, here are a few recipes to try out:
It’s almost time for South Dakota farmers to get out in the fields and begin the 2017 growing season. There’s a great deal of preparation that goes into planting, and everyone in the family helps out.
Back in March, we checked in with John Horter and his 6-year-old son Dane on their family farm near Andover. Dane shared some insights about what he does to prepare for planting season, what it takes to grow healthy crops and why it’s important to grow food for people and animals in South Dakota. It all starts with a tractor high five!
Can’t get enough of Dane’s on-farm insights? Watch his report from the 2016 harvest.