Plotting the future - Douglas County tradition plows into farming advancements
Farmers in Douglas County are ready to reap this year's harvest. But first they took an afternoon to celebrate the 5th annual Plot Day hosted by the Douglas County Corn and Soybean Growers at Pioneer Park in Brandon. The gathering was held on the last Monday in August.
Plot Day explores advancements in the farming industry and gives farmers an opportunity to exchange ideas they have tested.
This year the group invited Jodi DeJong-Hughes, regional educator in crops and soils for the University of Minnesota Extension, to speak at the event. DeJong-Hughes lectured on the importance of proper soil structure - fittingly from a hole dug in the ground next to a corn field.
"I try to help [farmers] manage their soil to be more productive," DeJong-Hughes said. "Soil does more than just hold up your crop."
FARMING FOR THE FUTURE
Farming has introduced Mother Nature to the wonderful world of science - a relationship from which hybrid crops have sprung. During Plot Day, local farmers and agri-business professionals take a look at how crops planted in the spring have developed.
"Members of the Douglas County Corn and Soybean Growers reserve a part of their cropland every year to plant different varieties of corn and beans to see how they perform," explained Katie Satterlie, Douglas County Corn and Soybean Growers website developer. Satterlie's family has been farming for three generations in Evansville.
DeJong-Hughes said farmers are always striving to create a bigger, stronger, better hybrid; she added that short and intense bursts of rainfall this year has had a negative impact on farmers. Rain patterns affect the soil and soil compaction affects crop yield.
A drought in the Corn Belt has had some people in the agriculture business concerned. DeJong-Hughes explained that a drought affects corn supply and it triggers a chain reaction leading to higher costs for the consumer. Not only does the cost of the food-grade vegetable increase, so does the cost of feed corn, which in turn increases the cost to feed livestock.
"Our crops are holding on pretty good compared to the rest of the Corn Belt," DeJong-Hughes said.
A FARMER'S PERSPECTIVE
Fourth generation farmer and Douglas County Corn and Soybean Grower board member Jeffrey Larson said Plot Day is a good time for neighbors to get together.
"It's a time to network, see different varieties and see what's new and improved," said Larson, who also serves on the board of directors of the Minnesota Soybean Growers.
One advancement Larson noted was the ability to raise corn in Winnipeg today because of advancements in the past.
Members of the Larson family have been farming the same land near the Chippewa River and Stowe Lake since 1874; a small family operation that has been recognized as a Century Farm in the state of Minnesota. Although his family has survived almost 140 years of farming, Larson is concerned about the future of farming in America.
"We're losing land every year to urban sprawl," he said, adding that government regulations are making it more difficult for family farms to thrive and misinformation and lack of public understanding are also contributing to the misconception of farmers today.
Larson said the national and local media have contributed to the notion, citing concerns with watershed pollution in the lakes area. He said farmers in Douglas County are very good about being stewards of the land and that the community needs to work together to figure out what compromises can be made.
Larson said the Douglas County Corn and Soybean Growers Association is fortunate to be backed by a number of sponsors that help support what they do in the area. Sponsorships, he said, are an integral part of the mission.
"Young people are going to feed us in the future," Larson said.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.