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Heger Family Farms

Honoring the Past, Working Today, Preparing for the Future

Month

January 2016

A Country Song? Not a Real Farmer?Say What!

I come across headlines daily that attack farmers and food. I know that there is a disconnect  and a lack of understanding between what my family does each day, along with millions of others, to provide food, fiber and fuel to Americans, most of which do not farm or ranch. But I was caught off guard when I heard a few comments last week at an agricultural convention.

The first happening that caught me off guard was when a judge at a national agriculture 11870730_10205229033140789_6822739860993362652_n (1)achievement competition told my dear friends that their story of becoming first generation farmers, with their children working at their side, working to build a farm, a legacy, and future, all while doing something that they love and sharing their passion with others was “nothing less than a country song“. It was implied that they basically made up their story. WHAT????!!!!  I don’t even know where to start with my disgust and surprise. This is a national elite competition where the finalist have all been vetted by people and an organization that knows them well. It is disappointing because this was very unprofessional and disrespectful of a judge to 1) say and 2) to not respect and listen to the reality of the real life experience. One needs to know that yes, there is opportunity for people to enter into farming and truly choose this occupation. Yes, people can really love what they do! Yes, people struggle and ride the roller coaster of market prices, weather, and need for dedicated and hard working labor and still continue on each day with a smile on their face. A country song… well maybe, but not the down and out sad ones that are played on the radio. The farm story told by my friends would be uplifting, encouraging, and a darn good one at that! I would love to write a song sharing the real ups and downs and the faith that carries us through that exemplifies the story my dear friends from Kentucky and numerous others’ experience each year!

The second experience happened at the same national farm convention.

Grandfather Farmer Stands with Grandchildren in Wheat Field Fami
A proud midwestern grandfather farmer stands with his grandchildren in a field of wheat, ready to harvest, on the family farm that will someday belong to them. Vast expanse of fertile open farmland spreads out beyond. Scene represents “down home” family values and Americana at its best.
The
featured speaker for the closing session was Barbara Corcoran, probably known best for her role on Shark Tank. She showed a picture, (seen to the left), and stated that this farmer was not what people thought to be farmers. In fact, she said thatshe 

didn’t think it was a real farmer either. I do believe my chin dropped and hit the floor! She was speaking to 1000’s of people who live and breath agriculture each day. If this isn’t a real picture of a farmer, I don’t know what is! So, after I picked my chin from the floor and put my eyeballs back in their socket, I set out to find the picture on Google. 

Yes, in deed this is a real farmer. I found the picture and went to the website that it was associated with, www.JaniBryson.com . It was accompanied by a description ( printed below the photo). An email from the photographer confirmed the caption too! Ahha! I felt victorious, but I didn’t stop there. I sent a note to Barbara Corcoran herself, explaining that her picture was a real farmer, shared the copyright, (Yes, I have permission to use it), the story and where she could find more pictures capturing beautiful moments in life!

As I have been taught to do, I ended my note to her with an ask, “I ask that you take time to reflect on this presentation and find peace with the injustice you did. Perhaps, your next Corcoran Report should highlight and appreciate agriculture and the fact that farmers do work 98% of Americans refuse to do, yet that 98% sits back and reaps the benefits. Perhaps you should highlight what you can learn from us…. starting with, the fact that we won’t we bitten by a shark!” 

Did I go too far? Maybe, maybe not. I was and still am bothered by Corcoran down talking agriculture when she was paid to speak to a large agricultural group. Again, I felt professionalism did not come into play. At this time, my peace has been said and I await her response, which I don’t hold my breath to receive. But when all is said and done, at least I know I have shared with her, or her secretary, my feelings and a bit of information about farmers and family farms in the USA.

To sum up these two eye opening experiences, I simply say they were surprising and caught me off guard. I have learned that I am not afraid to speak up, to value those who work hard, that there is a need to lift up those who deserve it, and to expect the unexpected!

So, to close, I say THANK YOU to all who work hard each day to provide goods and services for others!

 

First Peas… Accurate Ag Book of the Year

Yahoo, Hip- Hip Hooray!

The newest Accurate Ag Book of the year is out…First PEAS to the Table by Susan Grigsby!

pea book

Why am I so excited? Simply because now I have a new book to share with students and local libraries! Ok, so I know the book was there before it became the America Farm Bureau Foundation’s book of the year, but now I know it is an accurate reliable story!

Why do I love this book so much? Hmmm, that is easy. It incorporates a bit of history, talks about gardening, competition and helping others! In addition to a great story this book has fabulous lesson plans and activities and a full newspaper type Ag Mag!

Peas are one of my favorite garden goodies. I have taught kids to plant them in pots if they don’t have land to make into a full garden. There are many kinds of peas… yellow, green, short and fat pods, long and lean pods… each look a little different, but grow easily and are tasty!

I can’t wait to share this book and invite groups and classrooms out to our farm to partake in a Pea Adventure, perhaps we will even call it Pea Fest! field peasThe timing of honoring this book as this year’s Accurate Ag Book couldn’t be better, the entire field around my home and farm are planned to be planted into peas! What a better way to share than to let kids grow some of their own, pick a few, do a project, have a snack and listen to a story out at a real farm…

Pea Fest is it…. now time to plan and have some fun!

Check out the Peas First to the Table Resources at:  https://www.dmsfulfillment.com/FarmBureau/

 

We Do More Than Feed the World

So many times I hear the phrase “farmers feed the world”. Yes, we truly do feed the world. Some farm in a very small scale to provide for their own family or neighbors and others for larger markets near and far, but the phrase “farmers feed the world” really has started to irritate me. It is just so cliche’! On our farm, we do more than feed the world!

Now let me explain. Yes, my farm grows crops and some of that crop is made into food products such as bread, tofu, soy milk, wheat cereal flakes, and refried beans. But that is not all. Much of our crops of ours are used to make things like ink, insulation, crayons, carpet, livestock feed and ethanol. Not all of what is grown on my farm and many other farms solely provides a commodity that is used as food. Food that is used to feed a growing population here in my small rural town and places all over the world.

So what do we do on our farm besides  grow food, livestock feed, soybeans for insulation and crayons, and corn for ethanol? We analyze the soil looking for its specific nutrient values, we enrich our knowledge base by attending classes, we shovel and scoop, we climb and sweep, we plan and evaluate, we repair, we research new seeds available and weed issues, we plant and harvest, and nurture and protect the plants that grow in our fields. We make decisions ever minute of every day to be sustainable and leave this third generation farm better for the upcoming generations!

We grow in the understanding of work, we continually grow our definition of success, and we prepare a business while building a way of life that we can hand down to our children.

On our farm we draw out an outline, perhaps one would say the frame of a puzzle and the squiggly lines defining interior pieces. Each one of those interior pieces is a plot of land we farm. Then we identify soil types and nutrient levels in various places  if each field, layering one level of information onto the base of the puzzle, piece by piece. Then we take the available  seed varieties, match them to the soil type, weed, disease pressure, and insect issues if any, and place another layer of information over top, again piece by piece in coordinating locations onto the puzzle. (And yes, for those that are asking, we do use some seed that has been researched and developed to be resistant to pest and weed controls to meet our needs, raise a healthy crop and attempt to minimize applications of substances aiding in growing healthy plants.  These seeds are genetically modified (GMO) seeds, and are one of many tools we use to grow healthy crops.) We then transfer all the information into a computer program, called Precision Farming software, in our planter and seeder to plant the seeds then the sprayer to care for plants as they grow.

We can monitor how much seed is planted to the nearest inch, how far apart the seeds are planted, how much fertilizer and exactly where it is placed, and adjust these setting as we go. That means that we can take a map and data from the past years, analyze it and know that certain parts of a field grow a smaller amount of crop than another. This can due to many reasons some of which include topography, soil type, moisture, wind, sunlight etc. We then can place less seed and nutrient supports in these areas. All of which can be programmed into the computer software ahead of time and can be done automatically through the software or manually by the driver in the tractor cab.

The future of farming is much more than planting a few seeds to feed the world. It is technology, ongoing training, sharing our story, protecting our rights, and a commitment to the future for generations to come!

Penny Pinching

So, the holidays are over. All the hype over the gifts,  excessive food, and hub-bub of family and friends has died down. “Regular” life has returned and so has reality!

2016 is going to be a year of penny pinching, tightening the belt, reigning things in. So, how does one go about doing that? How can it be done and still ensure a little fun and adventure? Well, that is exactly what I reached out and asked a fabulous groups of ladies that I call my “Prairie Mamas”!

Living day to day and/ or running a business in the red is never fun and often leads to bigger issues than it should…. working to keep budgets in line is very important.

Here are some ways to that we brain stormed to cut back in 2016 to help with a household’s budget and bottom line!

  • Cut back on personal privileges…. expensive haircuts, hair colors, favorite bottle of wine, fancy chapstick, that not needed cool pair of clearance shoes, fancy apps, and new music
  • Eat out as a treat, buy on- the- go coffee at gas station not upper end coffee stores, pack snacks/ sandwiches for travel and sporting event, drink water from the water fountain

IMG_1408

  • Give gifts from the heart… What can you create? What talents do you have on hand? Are gifts really needed or is a note enough? Face it.. we don’t always need all the gifts we receive…. save them for a time when you can bless someone else with them. ( Note: put a sticky on them when you tuck them away so you don’t give them back to those that blessed you with them.)
  • Buy what is needed! So often we buy what we FEEL we need or may need in the future at some point. Stop! Too much stuff gets forgotten about, wasted, tucked away and often we buy it again, not realizing we already had it!
  • On the other hand, take advantage of things like buy 3 and get a gift card. Target is great for this! I know I will use laundry soap and (at one time) diapers! Why not get “credit” for my next purchase! Plus, they will deliver to my house for free! A huge bonus since I live 60 miles away!
  • Movies: TONS free on Amazon if you have a membership, Youtube has a bunch too, and don’t forget about your library- most have a iTunes account and can order ones you want! Strike a deal with other family… if you have an amazon account, let them use it and you use their Netflix!
  • Food: portion control- making too much isn’t good for the waist line or the budget, use left overs to make fun things- wrap left overs in croissants or bread dough and bake…. and there is always a soup, stew or hotdish for an option.
  • Birthday parties can be expensive think about what you have around you that is entertaining and forget the goodie bags! Swimming, nature hikes, playgrounds, sledding, visiting museums and castle competitions, and for us interacting with our goats, chickens, and bottle calves are all free! Skip the cake and go for ice cream!
  • Misc ideas…
    • cut all subscriptions
    • turn off lights and water, turn air and heat down a few degrees
    • new family events: cards, games, outdoor activities, attend community events
    • family trips: cheaper hotels w/ breakfast included, shorten by a day, stay with friends and family, find less expensive locations
    • COUPONS!!
    • Adult night out… find a great bar/ restaurant that has free food w/ drink purchase…
    • Toss less, care for things better, scrub stains
    • Birthdays… did you know that and Lego Store will give the birthday child a free small kit?! Yahoo!

What ever you do, be realistic!

Identify needs and wants and keep in mind what you value… family time, faith, vacations, friends, personal time/ experiences. Don’t let those things go, just find new ways to meet those needs. And as for wants…. collect that laundry money, the couch coins, save those cash gifts and find something that ranks high on the list, not just the first thing you see!

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