Agriculture Production Differences from Maryland to the Mississippi

Image result for corn fieldPhoto credit: Inhabitat

At the discretion of the land

If a person were to get into a vehicle and start driving with a starting point at Ocean City, Maryland and start driving west, there would be many different observations made when traveling. One of the more obvious observations is the lay of the land. On the very east coast, the land is relatively flat. Then, when heading west the mountains start to become more apparent. Once one is over the mountains and into the central portion of Ohio, it seems to get flat again. From there it only seems to get flatter!

Another observation that can be made from Maryland to the Mississippi River is the agricultural demographic. There is produce, cereal grains, livestock, and seafood produced on the far east. Cereal grains, hay, and livestock become more of the top commodities produced when headed to the Midwest. I grew up in a town called Woodbine, Maryland. As a kid, I travel many times into the Midwest, mainly due to livestock shows. While driving the countless miles to and from the Midwest, many observations were made about the agriculture diversity that was involved between Maryland and Illinois.

Maryland

To start with Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay contributes to over 50% of the blue crab harvest in the United States. In Maryland alone, the seafood industry brings in over $600 million in annual income for the states economy. Commercial landings of seafood have averaged almost 57 million pounds in the past 15 years. Maryland Blue Crabs and oysters are among the crowd favorite when consuming seafood within the state.

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photo credit: The Crab Depot

Now Maryland isn’t known for just the seafood. Other agricultural industries in Maryland include the equine, poultry, beef, dairy, produce, hog, and cereal grain industries. Last year, there was an average of 164 bushels of corn harvested per acre, 40 bushels of soybeans per acre, 64 bushels of winter wheat per acre, and 69 bushels of barely harvested per acre. There was over 20 thousand pounds of milk produced per dairy cow annually last year also. Maryland.gov will tell us that there are more horses per square mile in Maryland than any other state in the nation! The Preakness Stakes is a highlight event in the horse industry that the state of Maryland hosts. Maryland.gov will also tell  us that “in 2015, Maryland ranked ninth among states in the number of broilers, or chickens raised”, what do all of these statistics mean one may ask? The numbers show how diversified the state of Maryland really is. There is not one industry that is of major focus, but there are many industries that really make Maryland agriculture and make Maryland so proud of what they produce.

Illinois

Now unfortunately for some, fresh seafood is non existent in the state of Illinois as it is in Maryland. Grain and livestock production is of a much larger scale though. On average there can be one cow/calf pair ran on about two and a half graze-able acres in Illinois. There are some parts of the state that 300 bushel an acre corn harvest is normal. At one point in time, Henry County, Illinois was known as the hog capital of the world because there were more hogs per square mile then there was at anywhere else. Now with the rise of new technology and different production practices, that is no longer the case, but there is still an extreme amount of livestock and grain production in Illinois when compared to Maryland. A very simple observation can be made by the soil color differences between the two states. On well maintained and highly productive Illinois ground, there is a very dark, rich, black dirt that covers the land. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois farmland covers nearly 75% of the states total land area. Illinois Department of Agriculture also states that exports from Illinois account for 6 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports. So even though Illinois may not host one of the largest race horse events in the country or have the delicious seafood readily at hand, the state is extremely important when pertaining to American agriculture.

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photo credit: Illinois Pork Producers

From Maryland to the Mississippi River, there are all different kinds of agricultural practices in place. From getting on a boat every morning in the Chesapeake Bay to go harvest that days catch of seafood, to getting in a combine to harvest 300 bushels of corn an acre on the rich black dirt of Illinois, and everyone between,  there’s a purpose behind everyone’s efforts. The purpose stands behind the red, white, and blue. The purpose is, American Agriculture!

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My name is Brandon Gruber and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University. I’m originally from Woodbine, Maryland, where I grew up raising hogs and was very active in 4-H and other national junior livestock associations. I am currently employed at Minnaert Show Cattle of Atkinson, Illinois, and now call Annawan, Illinois, home where I plan on building a competitive showpig sow herd and stay diversified within multiple species at the completion of my time here at WIU.

Sources:  http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/html/agri.html

https://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Ag_Overview/stateOverview.php?state=ILLINOIS

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How Cover Crops Double as a Good Farming and Wildlife Practice.

Cover crops are a newer method of farming that prolongs the health and productivity of soil with strategic planting. For farmers this sounds like a great idea when it’s available for implementation, but today we are exploring another demographic that thoroughly enjoy cover crops. Any guesses? How about wildlife. From deer enjoying the variety of eating options that are rich in essential nutrients to smaller rodents utilizing the additional cover, these farming method may have more of a wildlife impact than most would consider.

Where and When Should I Plant a Cover Crop?

Whether you are planting in a field or in your food plot there is a certain planting time for your cover crop. They can be planted following your harvest of your cash crops like corn or soybeans. Before September 15 will provide the best results for these crops. The earlier you choose the cover crops for your area the better, it gives you more time for research as well as insures you get the right variety. It is essential that you take time to learn about the cover crops you are using, if you manage your cover crops poorly you most likely will end up with a poor result.

Why to Consider Planting Cover Crops from a farming perspective?

As mentioned before cover crops help to contain weeds, build up your soils and reduce erosion. But they are also used in a different facet like wildlife conservation. Brassicas and tuber plants can also help with breaking hardpan. A hardpan is a layer of compaction that is hard for roots to grow through, but these cover crops can assist in breaking the hardpan apart. This will make it easier from future plant to grow. Cover crops are often a key role for organic farmers to keep their soil stable, within the strict organic guidelines.

Courtesy of Jacob Hofer

Examples of Cover Crops.

Depending on the soil type and directed mission, there can be many options for cover crops that also double as a wildlife drawing sanctuary. For instance; rye, wheat, barley and oats are commonly used according to Sare Org. All of those grass cover crops are high carbohydrates giving nutrients and energy for animals preparing for winter.  

Leveraging Cover Crops for Wildlife Benefits

Earlier in the article, it was mentioned that cover crops can often bring in wildlife and essentially work as a food plot and double as a farming technique. For some who farm and also hunt, implementing a cover crop plan could save on traditional food plot or wildlife plots.

 
Courtesy of Jacob Hofer

Measuring Success

With the use of cover crops bringing in more wildlife it could be helpful to see what animals are visiting your property. A trail camera could be a great addition to help you monitor the new activity. In your fields there will also be a helpful hold of nitrogen and other nutrients for the next years crop. It is pressing that hunters and farmers strive to keep wildlife management a main priority. This wildlife helps to improve the diversity of your area, for yourself as well as future generations. 

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My name is Miranda Wright and I am currently a junior at Western Illinois University majoring in Agriculture Science with a minor in Agriculture Economics. I am from Henry, Illinois where I grew up on a grain and cattle operation. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post!

 

A view of agriculture from a Minnesota Rancher

Background information

I did an interview with a young man by the name of Jared Seinola, Jared is a farmer on the eastern side of Minnesota. He lives in a small town called St. Charles, as a young kid Jared always had a passion for agriculture. In 1995 his family moved to a farm  and called it the 5 Star Ranch. The name generated from the 5 children that lived there, Jared being one of them. At first they began renting out both the pasture land and the crop land from the previous owners. In 2014 they began running all the pasture and hay land for production, and acquired some cattle over the years.

Picture taken by Jared Seinola, at the Five Star Ranch

 

Growing up

Jared was four years old when he moved to the farm, even though at this age he couldn’t really do much to help out he was always around the farm. Throughout his schooling Jared was involved with the FFA and showed cattle all over the U.S.. After high school he went on to North Dakota State University (NDSU), where he received a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and minored in Agriculture Business. At 22, he started operating the family farm by himself. After graduation from NDSU, Jared now being 23, began as a beef cattle nutritionist for a larger scaled company, Benson Farm Service LLC. Here he works with 30 other full time employees but he is the only beef nutritionist on the staff. Benson Farm service sells feed to Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota farmers, along with dairy and agronomy services. When I asked Jared why he got into agriculture he told me:

“I’ve always enjoyed raising cattle. I enjoy growing food for others. The different seasons and times of the year bring new challenges and opportunities. Whether it’s calving season or breeding season or fall harvest. It all takes a specific plan to be successful.”

On the nutrition side of things he said “I’ve always seen nutrition as a vital role in the health of animals. I’m in a position to help farmers maintain healthy productive animals to make them the most profitable and sustainable they can be.”

The Future

Currently, the Five Star Ranch has 30 calves from 30 cows, all of which are maintained and taken care of by Jared. He likes the way the operation is going right now and is excited for the future growth of the farm. The Five Star Ranch sells breeding stock year round, and is currently in the growth stage the operation.  I asked him what he plans on doing for the future and he told me that he wants to own up to 100 plus cow/ calf pairs at some point in his life but right now he is fine with where its at, especially with him starting a family of his own he can’t really expand the operation just yet.Displaying IMG_0256.PNG

Picture from Jared Seinola of a new born calf and its mother.

Working in Agriculture

I asked Jared whats the best thing about working in agriculture and he told me helping people and the challenges it brings. Jared also shared that ever since he was a little kid he loved growing food and helping out with the animals. He says that farming is a humble and noble occupation that requires a lot of work. He loves that about the job, he said that you carry around a sense of pride when working in agriculture. Where he is from he works with a small portion of the national population, and says that a lot of people think that their food comes from the grocery store, but it’s from everybody that works in the agricultural side of things and he loves knowing that.

In the end, I got that sense of pride as Jared was talking, just by listening to him in this interview. Jared is a very hard working, driven young man. He does what needs to be done not only for his family but for everyone that he works with. He loves helping others with his work and truly cares about what the future holds for agriculture.

Bio

I am Christian Melby I am a Senior at Western Illinois University from Platteville, WI. I am going to graduate with a Bachelors degree in Agriculture Science with an emphasis in horticulture. I have a passion for agriculture and horticulture, and hope to pursue a dream in landscaping after college.

 

Clean Energy is No Longer a Dream!

   By: Alison Riesing

Agricultural Education Major

   In the past, clean energy was thought to be only for the wealthy.  No More!  Clean energy is now a realistic alternative for the average citizen.  There are even several options to choose from depending on location and preference.  These options include solar energy, wind energy, geothermal, and tidal energy.  I will be focusing on solar energy because this is the energy that I am most excited about, followed in a close second by wind energy.  Continue reading to learn more about these clean energy’s.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is the most popular form of clean energy.  The main reason for this, if you could not guess, is that everywhere has sunlight.  We shouldn’t continue to pay to dig, harvest, refine, and transport fossil fuels when we can buy and setup a solar panel like any other type of appliance.

The only problem that faced solar energy in the past was storage.  This was not always a hindrance.  A man that my father knows rigged his solar panels to a car battery, then he rigged the battery to run his TV and computers at night.  It is nit optimal to have car batteries siting around the house, but where there is a will there is a way.  Today we have batteries designed to store solar energy.

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Figure 1 from greenenergyjubilation.com

        Solar energy is suitable for individual homes, businesses, or even augmenting a city’s already existing power grid.  The Tesla company is in the process of building a factory that only runs on clean energy.  There are also several companies, colleges, and even high schools that are augmented almost completely with solar energy.

For those that live in a typically cloudy area, solar can still be for you.  A person would need to look at their areas ‘solar budget’.  This might lead you to only augmenting your current power supply, or adding a couple of additional panels to gather more sunlight.

The fact is that we have a solar powered space craft that has been successfully launched several times and already have solar powered cars on the road.  We now need to advertise the fact that these alternatives are available and affordable!  The largest amount of energy I have used in a month is 500 kilowatts.  According to the solar calculator at wholesalesolar.com I would need a system that can produce 5555 watts.  According to news.energysage.com this solar system would cost me $15,000 after a single federal tax rebate.  That may seem like a lot, but in the long run and with some additional rebates it really is not that expensive.  This site has even stated that these prices have dropped about nine percent from 2016.  I have even run across some sites and articles that mention payment plans.  I greatly encourage you to do the math for your area and see if solar panels are in your near future.

solar house

Figure 2 from dfwsolarelectric.com

        The following information is form the website altenergy.org.  I recommend that if you have any interest in the following energies that you post a blog as well to share the information.

Wind Power. The movement of the atmosphere is driven by differences of                 temperature at the Earth’s surface due to varying temperatures of the Earth’s surface       when lit by sunlight. Wind energy can be used to pump water or generate electricity, but requires extensive areal coverage to produce significant amounts of energy.”

This is no longer true.  They have now come out with a wind energy turbine that is roughly about 18 feet tall.  They have also solved some of the problems form the originals.  They have made them bladeless, so they will no longer induce seizure, throw ice chunks, or harm the local wildlife.  They have also made them nearly silent.  This means they will no longer drowned out all other sounds.

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Figure 3 above from iniegogo.com and on the bottom from youtube.com

   “Hydrogen and fuel cells. These are also not strictly renewable energy resources but are very abundant in availability and are very low in pollution when utilized. Hydrogen can be burned as a fuel, typically in a vehicle, with only water as the combustion product. This clean burning fuel can mean a significant reduction of pollution in cities. Or the hydrogen can be used in fuel cells, which are similar to batteries, to power an electric motor. In either case significant production of hydrogen requires abundant power. Due to the need for energy to produce the initial hydrogen gas, the result is the relocation of pollution from the cities to the power plants. There are several promising methods to produce hydrogen, such as solar power, that may alter this picture drastically.”

   “Geothermal power. Energy left over from the original accretion of the planet and augmented by heat from radioactive decay seeps out slowly everywhere, [every day]. In certain areas the geothermal gradient (increase in temperature with depth) is high enough to exploit to generate electricity. This possibility is limited to a few locations on Earth and many technical problems exist that limit its utility. Another form of geothermal energy is Earth energy, a result of the heat storage in the Earth’s surface. Soil everywhere tends to stay at a relatively constant temperature, the yearly average, and can be used with heat pumps to heat a building in winter and cool a building in summer. This form of energy can lessen the need for other power to maintain comfortable temperatures in buildings, but cannot be used to produce electricity.”

thermal

Figure 4 from youtube.com

   “Other forms of energy. Energy from tides, the oceans and hot hydrogen fusion are other forms that can be used to generate electricity. Each of these is discussed in some detail with the final result being that each suffers from one or another significant drawback and cannot be relied upon at this time to solve the upcoming energy crunch.”

tide

Figure 5 from offshorewind.biz

        We already have designed and use many different forms of clean energy.  Now we only need to refine the designs we already have.  If we put all the energy we put into improving our gizmos into clean energy, even if for only a year, think where we will be.  I cannot wait until everyone in the world is no longer dependent on fossil fuels, if for no other reason than cost alone.

Common Misconceptions on Food Labels

Have you ever been at the grocery store and put something into your cart just because it had a specific health claim on the label? Or have you paid extra for an item just because the label says “all natural”? More and more people today are paying higher prices for items containing labels that claim to have added health benefits when in reality they are no better for you than similar products without the fancy label.

I am here today to clear up some common misunderstandings that people may have when reading a food label.

When looking at a food product with a label that claims to be
“all natural” people might assume that there isn’t any preservatives or unhealthy substances in it. But having a label that says “all natural” just means that the company hasn’t added any synthetic products or artificial flavors/colors to their product, they are still able to add things like high fructose corn syrup. People  generally also th

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Picture from Dreamstime.com

ink that “all natural” on a food label means that there wasn’t the use of any pesticides or GMOs when growing the crop, but typically that isn’t the case.

People will also spend roughly 50% more on products just because they have an “organic” sticker on the front of them. They genuinely believe that organic products are healthier for your body than conventionally grown products, even though studies done by Stanford University showed no added health/nutritional benefits. Another misconception people have when seeing the word organic on food labels is that the farmer who grew their produce used no pesticides whatsoever. This is a false statement, they almost certainly used pesticides, just not ones with any synthetic products inside of them.

“If some consumers believe that it’s better from the point of view of their health to have organic food, God bless them. Let them buy it. Let them pay a bit more.” – Norman Borlaug

Another huge misconception that people make when looking at a food label is what “free range” or “cage free” means in terms of poultry products. Most people believe that seeing

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Picture from lifeholistically.com

the label “free range” on their chicken products or eggs means that the bird spent it’s life outside without ever seeing the inside of a housing facility. In reality for a product to receive the title “free range” there just needs to be access to the outdoors (even if it is only for a short period of time each day.) Some chickens with the label free range have never even been outside. The same goes with cage free labels, this doesn’t mean that the chickens were always outside, it just means they weren’t confined to their cages indoors. So some people will pay roughly $1.50-$2 more for free range or cage free eggs that came from a chicken who never left the facilities.

All in all, everybody has their own opinions on what is healthy and right for their life styles but I do believe you should know exactly what it is you are paying for.

 

My name17918878_10212859267299467_1229249935_n is Brooke Gulbranson, I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University where I major in Agricultural Business. Before transferring to WIU I went to Sauk Valley Community College which is located in my home town Dixon, Illinois. Before coming to Western I had no idea how much work goes into the food that we consume and feed our animals everyday. Now I am proud to be able to say that I am part of that elite group of people who do that work.

 

 

 

Use of Gestation crates in Swine Production

The use of gestation crates in swine production is nothing new, but has come to be a concern in recent years. Gestation crates are stalls where sows or gilts are held for breeding time and through the gestation or pregnancy periods of there life. Although they are a very good way for farmers to house and manage their breeding stock, their are concerns about animal welfare for the animals. The use of gestation crates is legal, and is actually a good way to keep very close attention and care of all the females. The females have complete access to fresh water at all times, and are fed regularly to maintain a healthy body weight for the animal.Gestation crate

There are other options that can be used to house animals during the breeding and gestation periods. For example, open pens can be used where a group of females run together. Some people may think this is better because the animals are able to have a whole pen to be in instead of a crate. This may sound better at first, but there are definitely down falls to open pen groups. For example, the females will fight especially when first put together, and are at risk for injury. This fighting can also lead to late term abortions. In these group settings, the females are all fed together, and some of the females may be faster eaters than others. Some of the animals will get way more food than the others and some could be shorted food. This could be very bad for the health of the animals and cause illness or abortions due to improper nutrition. Most breeding in swine is done through the use of Artificial Insemination. The employees in a pen setting are more at risk for injury with other animals all around them then they are when breeding in a gestation crate scenario.

When the females are penned individually in gestation crates, the farmer is better able to keep a close eye on each animal and track when something is not right. Each animal may eat more or less than other animals in the building. When penned individually, farmers can make sure that each one gets the adequate nutrition balance that it needs. If the animal does not eat their feed for example, the farmer knows that the animal could be sick and take action to treat the animal. In terms of breeding, the employee is much safer when breeding in a gestation crate.

I do understand that there are many concerns with gestation crates and if they are humane. However, when you look at the threats and benefits, I believe that the animals are safer and better managed in a gestation crate. I believe that their diet is more precise and is better monitored as well in a gestation setting. Overall that animals are healthier and safer in a gestation crate than they are in other possible scenarios.

My name is Ryan Hildebrand aRyan Hildebrandnd I am a Senior at Western Illinois University. I am originally from Payson IL, and I was born and raised on a grain and livestock farm. I am Majoring In Agriculture Business with a minor in Animal Science. I currently serve as the Vice President Of Alpha Gamma Sigma agricultural fraternity.

 

 

5 Values Learned Growing Up On The Farm

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Being raised on the farm was the greatest gift my parents could have gave me. My unique upbringing taught me an unlimited number of valuable life lessons that I wouldn’t have learned growing up somewhere other than the farm. I truly believe that growing up in agriculture has made me a better person.

1. Responsibility- Before I was even big enough to help out with chores, I would tag along with my dad. I knew when things needed to be done and that usually meant taking care of the animals before taking care of myself. Cattle don’t care what day it is or what is going on, they still have to be fed and cared for. We do not get any “days off”.

2. Work Ethic- I never got those days that I got to sleep in until noon like most of my friends did. I had to be up every morning to do chores and I didn’t get to go hang out with my friends until all of my work was done. You learn to work hard and long hours at an early age. It is not always easy, but hard work always pays off.

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3. Respect- The farm life teaches you respect for so many things. Respect for your family, the animals, the land, Mother Nature, and for others.

4. Patience- Have you ever tried sorting cows before? If so, then you know what I mean by saying you learn patience. Some tasks need more time and attention than others, you cannot rush through things to get them done faster, something will always go wrong. Living on a farm is not just a 9-5 job. Checking cows at 2 a.m. may not be fun, but neither is losing calves. I have learned patience from being up all night waiting on a cow to calve and then getting the calf to nurse. Patience is key.

5. Passion- I grew up helping my dad take care of the cattle and I could see the passion in him. I acquired the same passion, learning how to truly care for them.  Living on a farm is more than just a job, and my passion for it has grown deeper throughout the years. “Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams.” – Donovan Bailey

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I am Sara Pieper. I was born and raised on a grain and cattle farm outside of the small town of Stewardson, Illinois, where I found a love for the Agriculture industry. I am a junior at Western Illinois University, majoring in Ag Business and Animal Science.