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
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.
Rodney Elliott started his first dairy farm in Ireland with 20 cows and a big dream. Over time, he added 120 cows to the herd with goals to keep growing, but European grazing systems and government-established quotas stood in his way.
That’s when Rodney, his wife, Dorothy, and their three children looked toward America to realize the family dream.
After a visit to South Dakota and a lot of planning, they sold their farm in Ireland and founded Drumgoon Dairy near Lake Norden. Together, Rodney and Dorothy built high-tech dairy barns to house 1,400 cows and hired a team of dedicated employees to help in the day-to-day work. In the beginning, delegating cow care was difficult because Rodney was used to tending to each cow himself.
“I had to learn to trust other people to do the job,” said Rodney. “And accept the fact that sometimes they’re actually better at doing a job than I am.”
South Dakota dairy farmers like Rodney can manage larger, family-owned dairy farms because of the methods they use. In barns, farmers and employees can watch over each cow, protect them from the elements and feed them custom diets tailored to their needs.
Today, the Elliotts and 45 employees care for more than 4,700 cows each day and work together to grow the alfalfa and corn used to feed them. Rodney and Dorothy’s animal nutritionist helps them develop total mixed rations, which are precise combinations of ingredients designed to fit the needs of each cow. For example, ingredients like soybean meal may be added for extra protein and soybean hulls can be included for additional fiber. On average, South Dakota dairy cows eat 18,000 tons of soybean meal each year.
Farming in a way that is safe for the environment and helps protect soil and water for future generations is a priority for the Elliotts. They care deeply about their community, especially since everyone warmly welcomed them when they moved to the area. Since their dairy barns are newly built, Rodney ensured they comply with EPA standards from the start.
“We try to be good custodians of the land,” explained Rodney. “I treat my farm, not as a right, but as a privilege, and I work every day to keep that privilege.”
The Elliott family has an open-door policy at Drumgoon Dairy and welcomes visitors to stop by and see how a modern dairy is run.
“We are proud of what we do and like to share our story with those who want to learn more about where their food comes from,” said Rodney. “Come and look at the cows yourself. They always answer the questions. If they look content, they’re comfortable.”
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.”
In a perfect world, we could plant our crops at the start of summer then sit back and watch them grow. Unfortunately, there are bugs who like eating the plants and food we grow almost as much as we do.
Keeping bugs off our food can be a challenge. Both gardeners and soybean farmers need to learn how to spot pests early to protect plants and keep them healthy. They may use tools like pesticides or good insects, like wasps and lady beetles, to stop the bad guys in their tracks.
Farmers work with university experts to learn how to identify pests and the best ways to control them. Sometimes pesticide applications are necessary. Farmers take classes to become certified to apply pesticides safely, according to label instructions. They also use precision technology in their sprayers to apply exactly the right amount.
Since you might not have quick access to insect experts, we’ve rounded up a list of the top five buggiest garden and field offenders to help you identify them.
Identifying features: teardrop shape; may be green, yellow or brown; leave “honeydew” — sugary, liquid drops — behind.
Aphids give new meaning to the saying, “small but mighty.” These tiny critters tend to hang together, and when they do – in colonies of hundreds at a time – they can inflict big-time damage. Aphids suck sap out from the underside of a leaf until plants become droopy. Gardeners should look for them on most fruits, vegetables and flowers. For South Dakota soybean growers, the soybean aphid is a major threat to a healthy harvest.
Identifying features: larval stage of moths and butterflies; segmented and worm-like.
Caterpillars may have you thinking first of the bright butterflies you love to see in your garden, but some can be a real headache for green thumbs. These pests can chew on leaves and tunnel through fruits in your backyard. Soybean farmers scout for pests like caterpillars on a regular basis so things don’t get out of hand. You should do the same thing in your garden. Check for them daily. If you spot one, remove it by hand and look for any tiny egg clusters to remove or just pluck the whole leaf off.
Identifying features: only active during very early morning and at night; may find them curled up in the soil.
If you’re a gardener, cutworms are the night owl neighbors you wish would move away. They like to chew through stems and flower seedlings. In early summer, these plump pests can gobble up an entire small plant. Home gardeners, we advise picking them out of the soil by hand or delaying planting. South Dakota soybean farmers can carefully apply pesticides to keep cutworms in check.
Colorado Potato Beetles
Identifying features: black and white striped wings/back, orange spotted head.
These little guys look fun, sporting black and white striped bodies and vibrant orange heads, but they are bad news for your potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants. They’ll strip your garden of its leaves if you don’t take action. A quick spray with neem oil can defend against these pests so you can enjoy those home-grown salads all summer long.
Identifying features: metallic sheen; green head with brown wings and white spots around edges of body.
Unlike lady beetles, which help control garden and farm pests, Japanese beetles leave a mess of sad plants in their wake. They chew on flowers, leaves and even roots. You can keep them in check by giving your plants a shake or spraying them with a soapy pesticide mixture from your local garden shop.
Now that you know how to spot the usual suspects, you can confidently consult your local gardening expert to determine the right plan of action. Here’s a little more info on how farmers safely apply pesticidesand other ways that farming and gardening are more similar than you think.
Hungry for Truth held its third annual Farm-to-Fork Dinner in June, bringing to life its mission of uniting farmers and consumers around the dinner table to have open conversations about how food is grown and raised. Approximately 180 farmers and South Dakotans gathered at the Country Apple Orchard near Harrisburg for a social hour and meal featuring local food and beverages.
While the emerald orchard trees, luscious pink peonies and rustic wood architecture created a picturesque backdrop, the pinnacle element of the evening was the opportunity to share stories and connect.
“My favorite part of attending the Farm-to-Fork Dinner is the opportunity to hear more about what the farmers do year-round to create healthy food. There’s so much more to farming than just planting a seed and harvesting the crop,” said guest Lexie Frankman. “Plus, it’s a really fun vibe, and the menu is full of fresh, local favorites.”
Sandra Melstad agreed. “As someone who works in public health, I appreciate resources that can help families eat and live healthier lifestyles. Learning more about locally grown, sustainable foods is important to me and the people I serve. Hungry for Truth does a great job of bringing farmers and families together at this event,” she explained.
Dinner began with a welcome from Vermillion farmer Jerry Schmitz. He described his farm and how he grows soybeans, corn, apples and also keeps bees for local honey producers. Other farmers, including Jeff Thompson, Walt Bones and Alan Merril addressed the crowd throughout the meal, explaining how their family farms are becoming more sustainable.
“Our farms have changed to grow and raise food more efficiently but we’re also committed to caring for the soil, water, air and wildlife for future generations,” stated Walt, who gave some specific examples of technology and how it’s helped farmers grow more with less land and resources. “If farmers today used the techniques from the 1950s, we wouldn’t be able to grow enough food to feed approximately 131 million people. That’s equal to the number of people who live in the 9 most populated U.S. states.”
Alan shared how technology has helped him be more efficient with pesticide application and making sure just the right amount is applied to the crop at the right time.
Guest Karla Santi said she appreciates learning more about food and farmer safety when it comes to pesticides. “Pesticides can be useful in protecting crops, but it was good to learn about the growth of biotechnology products compared with pesticides. It’s good to know farmers use technology that helps keep them and our food safe.”
For Karla and other urbanites whose regular connection to the farm is the grocery store or a farmers market, sharing a meal around the table with a local farm family is a special treat.
“Farming is really key to being a South Dakotan. It’s a big part of who we are, and I’m excited to be part of celebrating it,” said Natalie Eisenberg.
No one can say no to an ice cream sandwich, especially if it’s drizzled with tasty salted caramel sauce! This frozen treat is the perfect dessert for your next gathering. Customize this recipe by switching up the flavor of ice cream or keep it classic with vanilla.
When you treat yourself to ice cream, you can feel good about the impact you’re making on the environment. The dairy industry is getting more sustainable every day. Sustainable farming means doing what’s right for the environment and continuously improving practices for future generations. The industry has done just that by reducing its carbon footprint by 63 percent since 1960 and producing three times more milk with half the cows. By 2020, dairy farmers aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by another 25 percent, the equivalent to taking 1.25 million cars off the road.
Not only are farmers sustainable, they also focus on treating their animals right. Now more than ever, farmers understand what cows need to produce healthy milk. Building climate-controlled barns and feeding them a nutritious diet are just two ways farmers take care of their animals. Each year South Dakota dairy cows eat approximately 18,000 tons of soybean meal and we enjoy the benefits!
Now that you’ve learned more about the sustainable side of your ice cream, it’s time to create mouthwatering Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches. Watch the video below for step-by-step instructions.
Want to learn more about what happens on today’s dairy farms? Visit the SDSU dairy with us and see how cheese is made in this episode of Across the Table.
Sustainability is a trending topic among South Dakota farmers and families. Farmers want to take care of the soil and water for future generations, and consumers want to know the food they’re eating is grown and raised with the environment in mind.
Morgan and Jason Kontz are no exception. Jason is the fourth generation in his family to grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and raise beef cattle near Colman. Morgan recently added a few free-range chickens to the mix.
Keeping up with the demands of the animals, crops and two young kiddos can be challenging, but they make time to explore new opportunities to enhance sustainability on the farm.
“We feel very privileged to have a role in growing safe and nutritious food for families. We’re making decisions today we hope translate to better soil and healthier crops and animals so our children have an opportunity to farm in the future,” said Morgan.
For example, they use no-till for growing all crops. No-till is just like it sounds: not tilling the field after harvest. By leaving plant stalks and roots in the ground, they keep the soil in place and enrich it with organic content and beneficial bugs. Over time, healthier soil translates to nutritious and productive crops.
Another way to improve soil health is through cover crops. These are crops planted before or after harvest that can increase organic matter and fertility, reduce erosion, improve soil structure and limit pest and disease issues. Morgan and Jason are planning to start using cover crops this fall. First, they need to test the soil to determine the right mix for their fields.
Their commitment to doing the right thing for the environment extends to the cattle barn. The deep-pit beef barn safely collects manure from cows in a large pit through grates in the floor. Then they apply the manure to their fields using a tanker truck and a drip line. Precision technology allows them to apply the right amount of fertilizer per crop, per acre.
According to Morgan, this is a perfect example of sustainability and recycling because they’re using waste to precisely fuel plant productivity.
“We want to be able to come full circle on our farm. We like that we can apply manure to feed our crops and then we use those crops to feed our cattle,” she explained. “Sustainability is more than a trend on our farm. It’s something we plan to continue growing for the future.”
Did you know that when it comes to being environmentally friendly, the size of the farm doesn’t matter? Test your knowledge with this blog on the truth behind five sustainability myths.
For Kevin Deinert, farming is all about family. The 30-year-old farmer grows 2,500 acres of soybeans, corn and alfalfa, and raises beef cattle alongside his dad and brother on their family farm in Mount Vernon.
“I went into agriculture because I wanted to keep up our family legacy,” Kevin said. “I now farm the land I was raised on and enjoy playing a small part in feeding and leading my community.”
Kevin was recently chosen to serve on the South Dakota Soybean Association board as part of a national young farmer-leader program. The group encourages young farmers to take on leadership roles in their communities while empowering them with the tools they need to have conversations about today’s farming practices with their neighbors.
One topic many people find interesting is how and why farmers use pesticides. Farmers use pesticides to protect against the weeds, insects or plant diseases that might threaten the safety and quality of their crop. Farmers like Kevin can leverage technology to understand exactly what pesticides to use in his fields and in what amounts.
“We’re not spraying more than we need. We formulate a specific recipe for each field and apply no more, no less,” he said. “Some people might not know that farmers have to be licensed to buy pesticides and must take classes to ensure they’re using the products correctly.”
Using pesticides correctly means using very little product. It takes about a coffee cup’s worth diluted in water to cover an entire acre, which is about the size of a football field. Many soybean farmers have also reduced their pesticide use by using seeds that are genetically modified to protect against harmful insects. GMO soybeans have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, according to the American Council on Science and Health.
The Deinerts also believe that taking care of the soil can help stop problems before they start. Kevin and his family practice no-till farming and use cover crops to enrich the soil and make sure they’re growing quality crops from the get-go.
“I farm with my brother and my dad. The decisions we make affect our family and community,” Kevin said. “So I hope people know that when we make decisions for our farm, we think about their families as well. We’re out there to do good for everyone and grow safe food that everyone can enjoy.”
For Kevin, a newlywed, being a good steward of the land is about much more than growing great food. Sustainability means continuously improving the land, leaving it better than it was when he found it.
“Farming is not just a year-to-year deal. We look many years down the road,” he said. “We’re trying to preserve our land for years to come so that we can pass it on to our children and their children after that.”
Curious about how farmers like Kevin safely apply pesticides? Get the scoop on plant protection from another South Dakota family farm.
For South Dakota soybean farmers, sustainability means doing the right thing for the environment and continuously improving the land for future generations. BJ Hansen is no exception. On his farm near Turton, diversity is also key to building a sustainable future for their farm.
BJ is the third generation to join the business and works with his father and uncle to grow a variety of crops, including soybeans, corn, sunflowers, wheat and alfalfa. They use some of those crops to feed a herd of purebred Charolais beef cows, which he brought to the farm when he moved home. He uses embryo transplant technology to breed the Charolais and sell them as seed stock to other farmers and kids in programs like 4H.
Adding cattle to the mix brought a new level of diversity to the farm that allowed them to increase value without growing in size.
“My dad and uncle take care of the fields, and I manage the cows. Adding cattle to the farm is how I was able to come back and build a life for my wife and children,” explained BJ. “We probably won’t grow our farm by purchasing more land, so we have to find ways we can do more with what we have to grow healthy food.”
In addition to the cattle, they’ve also seen an uptick in wildlife thanks to the 60-foot grass waterway strips they installed along the creeks in their fields. Grass waterway or buffer strips are a conservation practice used by farmers to help filter rain as it runs off the field and into water. They are also great nesting ground for pheasants, ducks and other birds, which supports BJ’s outdoor adventures.
While he enjoys seeing the diversity their practices bring to the fields, he’s even more impressed with how efficient they’ve become. The cattle manure is recycled by spreading it on the fields to nourish crops and the soil. They’ve also stopped tilling the ground and started using cover crops to limit erosion and control weeds. Precision technology helps them apply just the right amount of pesticides when needed and plant the right amount of perfectly-spaced seeds per acre.
“We used to do a lot of tillage when I was growing up. Then in the 1990s my dad decided to stop and just leave the crop stalks and roots in place. With no-till, our soil has become so much healthier,” explained BJ. “We’ve continued to add conservation practices and technology to our farm and are seeing great results.”
The best part of all is that by focusing on sustainability through diversity, BJ’s kids may have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.
“Sustainability is helping us get the most out of what we already have and make improvements for the future,” said BJ. “Someday I want my children to have the opportunity to join me on the farm and continue the tradition of growing safe and healthy food.”
Did you know South Dakota farmers are so committed to conservation that it’s the top state in the nation for enrollment in the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program? Read this blog to learn more.
Sometimes farming and ranching can get a little sloppy, especially when spring storms dump a couple feet of snow on the ground and interrupt calving season. Good thing for quick, kid-friendly family meals like Sloppy Joes to make sure everyone has the energy to pull on their boots and keep the cows and crops healthy and safe.
Bradee Pazour, her husband Joel and their boys are big fans of any kind of beef. Sloppy Joes are a tried and true comfort food that are great for lunch or dinner and easy to freeze or reheat as leftovers. While it’s OK to get a little sloppy in the kitchen, the Pazour family and many other South Dakota farmers and ranchers are anything but messy when it comes to growing and raising food.
“Sustainability is all about improving our practices to take care of the land and water for our future because it’s the right thing to do. Farmers are constantly educating themselves and using technology to become more efficient,” said Bradee. “Thanks to the GPS capabilities in all of our equipment, precision planting, pesticide application and field mapping have helped farmers be more accurate than ever before.”
In addition to growing soybeans, corn and wheat, the Pazour family also raises cattle as part of a feedlot. The attention to detail they use to grow crops also translates to how they care for their cattle.
The Pazours work with nutritionists and veterinarians to ensure their cows are well-fed and cared for throughout their lives. It starts with a diet high in roughage like grass, hay and silage, and gradually steps up to more grain and protein-rich ingredients such as corn and soybean forage to help them thrive as they get older. They also maintain clean pens and pastures, and ensure cattle have ample water sources.
“Cows are such neat animals and play an important role in in keeping our food system balanced. They act as ‘upcyclers,’ meaning they take inedible food – grass, hay, silage – and turn it into something healthy and nutritious we can eat,” explained Bradee.
By working together as a family, the Pazours are carefully and sustainably raising healthy foods to beef up mealtimes everywhere. Get Bradee’s favorite Sloppy Joe recipe below. While it’s simmering, take a few minutes to read more about environmentally friendly cattle ranching on another South Dakota family farm.
Whether you work in a tractor or at a desk, everyone needs a quick, easy meal to ward off midday hunger. This easy Cuban slider fits the bill. Make a big batch on Sunday evening, and you’ll have delicious, hearty ham sandwiches to fill your lunchbox for the whole week.
Not only does ham provide high-quality protein, it also is one of the most sustainable meats available. Sustainability means doing what’s right for the environment and continuously improving the land. Pork farmers have done just that by reducing their carbon footprint by 35 percent in the last 50 years. Feeding pigs a nutrient-rich diet of sustainably-grown soybean meal allows farmers to raise delicious meat while leaving the land better than they found it.
Now, it’s sandwich time! Follow along with this video to see step-by-step instructions for this quick lunchtime hit. Need a dinner recipe? Try these Pork Chops With Rosemary Apple Butter.
Though farmers may not be the first people who come to mind when you think of environmentalists, they are focused on making continuous improvements to the soil and water on Earth Day and every day. Leaving their land in better condition for future generations is part of growing healthy and safe food. It’s especially important in South Dakota where 98 percent of farms are still family owned and approximately 2,500 farms have been in the same family for more than 100 years.
In celebration of Earth Day, we’re digging into facts behind how one of our state’s top crops is grown. While soybeans may not be regularly served on your dinner table, they are fed to the pigs, turkeys, chickens and cows many of us love to eat. They can also be transformed into cooking oil and other ingredients like lecithin, which binds together your favorite chocolate treats.
You’ll be happy to know that more than 90 percent of U.S. soybeans are grown sustainably. Over the past 30 years, farmers have adopted precision technology, reduced tillage, rotated crops, planted cover crops and more to grow many crops with less impact on the environment. Let’s look at some of the spectacular stats for soybeans:
These improvements are wins for all of us who enjoy eating healthy and sustainable food on Earth Day and every day. Read the full ag sustainability report for more information.
Want to see farm practices in action? Here are a few stories from local farmers:
Ram Farrell grew up around the world. His dad’s military career took the family everywhere from Hawaii to Panama to North Carolina. When it came time to literally put down roots, the Farrell family knew South Dakota felt like home.
Ram, now a 32-year-old father, is the third generation to farm in South Dakota. He grows soybeans, corn, wheat and cover crops near Parkston with his wife, Ashley, and their one-year-old daughter, Rosalie.
“I’m glad my daughter will have the opportunity to grow up on the farm. So many kids in big cities just don’t know very much about where their food comes from,” said Ram. “I can’t wait to teach her more about ag as she grows up. Maybe we’ll even farm together some day.”
As a young dad, Ram knows how important it is to protect the environment while growing nutritious, safe food to feed families. That’s why he practices precision agriculture. Ram leverages data and technology to determine exactly where to apply fertilizer and pesticides. Resources are applied only where they’re needed to limit waste.
Precision agriculture makes it possible to use a small amount of pesticide – about a coffee cup’s worth diluted in water – to cover an entire acre, which is about the size of a football field. To cover about 70 acres, it takes 18 gallons of pesticides diluted in 1,000 gallons of water.
“Some people think farmers are out here spraying pesticides every day and that’s just not the case,” Ram explained. “Farmers only want to apply as much as they need to grow a healthy crop. It saves money and, more importantly, it helps preserve the land for the next generation.”
In fact, Ram doesn’t apply insecticides to his crop. Insecticides are a type of pesticide that specifically target insects. Instead, he uses GMO seeds equipped with technology to defend against pests. GMO soybeans have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, according to the American Council on Science and Health.
Ram also practices a form of conservation tillage called “no-till” to keep his soil healthy. After harvest, he leaves corn stalks and wheat stubble in the field. This reduces soil erosion, improves soil quality and conserves water and energy. No-till farming also helps suppress weeds, which means Ram uses less herbicides to grow healthy crops.
“We’re really treating the land the way God intended,” Ram stated. “The soil microbiology and everything happening below the surface, invisible to our eye, helps us grow healthy plants. It’s important for us farmers to understand how everything we do affects our crop and the land.”
Now you know how farmers use pesticides safely and sustainably. Go deeper with this blog post about how farmers apply pesticides.
When you imagine a South Dakota farm, you probably think of soybeans, corn and wheat. While row crops comprise most of our state’s agricultural production, South Dakota is home to farmers who safely and sustainably grow and raise some pretty surprising things. For many, sustainability is a priority because farm families want to do the right thing for the environment and improve the land and water for future generations.
At Hungry for Truth, we love connecting families with the farmers who grow and raise their food and digging into the truth behind what happens on today’s farms. Let’s explore some of the unique products that come from farms across our state.
- Fish Food
Soybeans are a great source of protein and amino acids. They’re typically fed to farm animals such as chickens, turkeys, pigs and dairy cows as part of a balanced diet. However, in the last decade they’ve also become popular with farmers who raise fish because they’re a sustainable source of food.
Two South Dakota State professors noticed the opportunity a few years ago and founded Prairie AquaTech, a company in Brookings that transforms soybeans into fish pellets.
“Making fish food out of locally grown crops helps lessen the environmental impact of fish farming, while providing a protein-packed, nutrient-dense fish meal for healthy, tasty fish,” said Dennis Harstad, vice president of operations.
Hops are the ingredient that gives beer its bitter flavor. If you’re a fan of craft brews, you know the taste.
Ryan Heine transitioned from engineer to farmer when he and wife, Michelle Donner, established 6th Meridian Farm near Yankton, South Dakota, in 2014. They grow five acres of crops and process them into pellets for breweries.
Ryan uses his background to grow safe, quality crops. “Growing up on a corn and soybean farm taught me that farming is a science,” said Ryan. “I’m always checking the weather and walking the rows to check for any signs of pests or disease.”
You can taste 6th Meridian hops in select beers at these South Dakota breweries:
- Crow Peak Brewing Co., Spearfish
- Ben’s Brewing, Yankton
- Lost Cabin, Rapid City
- Haycamp Brewing Company, Rapid City
- Remedy Brewing Company, Sioux Falls
There’s nothing sweeter than local honey, according to beekeeper Nic Hogan. This South Dakota native has over 5,000 colonies stretching from Wagner to Vermillion.
His bees travel with him all over the country to pollinate almond groves in California and vegetable fields in Texas. Nic knows that working with farmers is an important part of protecting his bees.
“Bees pollinate approximately 75 percent of the food grown in the United States, so it’s important that we keep them safe,” explained Nic. “Beekeepers can help farmers make key pesticide decisions to protect pollinators like bees.
Wave “hi!” as you pass fields of sunflowers grown by Moriah and Austin Gross while driving through Sully County, the sunflower capital of the United States. The Grosses love to host the public at their fifth-generation family farm for pheasant hunting, sweet corn picking and, of course, sunflower field frolicking.
“I host an annual photoshoot in the sunflower fields for my students,” said Moriah, who teaches music in Onida and Pierre. “Their parents are always happy to see how we care for the land while running our business.”
In addition to sunflowers, the Grosses grow corn and wheat, using sustainable practices like conservation tillage. Conservation tillage is when a farmer leaves corn stalks or other crop residue in the field after harvest, which reduces soil erosion while conserving water and energy.
5. Goat Meat
Goat meat might not be something you regularly put on your table, but this lamb-like meat is a staple in cuisines worldwide. Goats can be raised on relatively little land, making them a sustainable choice for people who may not have access to beef.
Leslie Zubke of Watertown has been raising goats since she was five years old. She regularly cares for more than 20 female goats, or “nannies,” and one male goat, a “billy goat.” Most of the goats she raises are sold at sales barns and transported to grocery stores outside the U.S.
While you might not be adding goat meat to your meal plans soon, it’s a safe bet others are enjoying nutritious goat meat raised on the Midwestern plains. But that’s only if Leslie can catch them.
“They’re Houdinis!” exclaimed Leslie. “They can jump out of their pens and get in a bunch of trouble.”
Do you know a local farmer who grows or raises something unique or unexpected? Let us know in the comments below. Keep your sustainability knowledge growing with these myths and truths.
Thirteen years ago, Rebekah Scott was a young farm wife struggling to make ends meet. In an effort to give Christmas presents on a budget, she leaned on a lifelong passion for sewing and designed handbags as gifts for her family. They loved them and soon her favorite hobby blossomed into a business: Rebekah Scott Designs.
Today, she employs 20 South Dakota women who sew bags, process orders and respond to customer inquiries from her home in Valley Springs. But Rebekah isn’t the only entrepreneur in the family. Her husband, Nick, is a fifth-generation farmer. Together, they grow corn and soybeans, and raise cows and pigs.
“People often don’t think of farmers as entrepreneurs, but they really are,” Rebekah said. “Nick and his dad, Glen, are always trying new seeds and farming techniques in order to grow the best crops while preserving the land for the next generation.”
Doing what is right for the environment is a top priority for the Scotts, who have four children. Continuously improving the land means their kids will have the ability to farm alongside them one day.
Rotating crops is one way they reduce soil erosion and improve soil quality. Growing the same plants on the same land continuously can deplete the soil of certain nutrients. When you rotate crops, you give the soil an opportunity to recover and build up nitrogen through soil-enriching plants like soybeans.
Just like soybeans help support other plants by enriching the soil, Rebekah has made it part of her mission to support and inspire other rural women who want to start or grow businesses. She holds regular workshops and produces a podcast called “The Encourager” to help women develop strategies to manage the demands of work and family.
“Rural women make great entrepreneurs because you have to be creative and resourceful when you’re out here in the country and can’t go to town every time you need something,” Rebekah said. “My mission is to equip them with the tools they need to execute their long to-do lists and achieve their dreams.”
This includes connecting her fellow entrepreneurs with initiatives like Hungry for Truth, which is dedicated to bringing farmers and families around the table to have honest conversations about how food is grown and raised.
Do you have a question for a farmer? Share it in the comments below. Then read about another farm woman who uses cover crops to make her family farm more sustainable.
Eggs are a staple ingredient in so many of our favorite dishes, from protein-packed breakfasts to comforting chocolate chip cookies. South Dakota hens lay almost 700 million eggs a year to fill that spot in our refrigerators, but rarely do we stop to think about how they’re raised.
One farmer who spends a lot of time and energy taking care of those amazing birds is Jason Ramsdell of Dakota Layers in Flandreau. His family-owned farm processes about 1 million eggs every day. Leveraging technology helps the farm be more efficient, which keeps the operation sustainable and boosts the quality of life for his chickens.
For farmers like Jason, sustainability is an important part of doing business. It means continuous improvement and doing what’s right for the environment and the birds he cares for. Many farmers strive to leave the land in better condition than they received it to benefit future generations.
“We make sure nothing is wasted,” said Jason. “We have water lines feeding into each of the barns, so the chickens have just the right amount of water readily available to them. We also feed them out of a trough, so they don’t have the opportunity to waste any of the feed by scattering it on the ground.”
Dakota Layers isn’t the only environmentally friendly egg farm. Since 1960, American egg producers have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 71 percent, used 32 percent less water and about half the amount of feed today as they did back then.
Advances in technology help farmers waste less water and feed, but improvements in the quality of feed have also made a big difference. Today’s chickens are fed protein-rich soybean meal, corn, distiller’s grains and added vitamins and minerals. The eggshell is made out of calcium, so chickens need a diet rich in that nutrient in order to create healthy eggs.
“Anything that’s taken in by the bird is used to produce the eggs,” explained Jason. “Since eggs are one of the best sources of protein out there, layers need a protein- and calcium-rich diet.”
Everything Jason does, from choosing a blend of nutrients to feed his hens to designing barns to house them, is centered around creating healthy, safe food for your family.
“One of the most interesting things many consumers might not pay attention to is how our grandfathers moved hens from a cage-free environment to cages specifically to keep them healthier and to ensure the safety of the eggs,” Jason stated. “Because our hens are in a closed environment, we can keep a closer eye on their health.”
Newer chicken facilities have what’s called “belted high rises” that ensure manure is quickly removed from the cages via a conveyer belt. This improves air quality and reduces the chance of cross-contamination between manure and the eggs.
Laying facilities also have temperature controls to make sure hens are comfortable. Farmers like Jason are constantly checking the temperature of their barns, as well as the air quality and the amount of water and feed available to the chickens to make sure their hens are healthy and happy.
Want to try Dakota Layers eggs? You can pick them up at Hy-Vee or County Fair Foods locations in the eastern part of the state. After you pick up a carton, check out this tasty egg bake recipe to fuel your morning.