Posted By Guest Blogger February 13, 2015
By Nick Goeser
As Valentine’s Day approaches in this International Year of Soils, I found it fitting to stream a little Elizabeth Barrett Browning and think about how we show our love for soil. Two of the best ways we can show our love for soil are to appreciate the important role it plays in our lives and to think about how we can work together to improve soils.
In December, Suzy Friedman, Environmental Defense Fund’s Director of Agricultural Sustainability, invited me to discuss the many reasons soils are important to food production. Soil health is directly linked to a resilient food supply. Beyond food, healthy soils function to support our urban parks and recreation areas, as well as fiber and fuel production at home and across the globe.
Just think – where do Valentine’s Day roses grow best? In soil! Where does Valentine’s Day chocolate come from? Cocoa trees growing in the tropical soils around the world. Soil is the common thread that weaves the most important parts of our lives together. So this year as you get ready to sit down to your Valentine’s Day dinner, take a few moments to think about what would be on it without soil.
How can we work together to improve the soils we love? Partnerships. Many partnerships are focused on improving soil health and conservation – some of which include The Soil Health Partnership, The Conservation Technology Information Center, The Conservation Cropping System Initiative and The Soil Renaissance. These partnerships serve as a means for diverse organizations to come together to achieve common goals – and they are making great progress. Together, many partnerships are helping farmers lead the way by adding support and information to make complex conservation decisions.
The Soil Health Partnership recently held its first Soil Health Summit. This gathering served as a venue for the farmers, agronomists and collaborators of the Soil Health Partnership to share knowledge and talk about innovative ways to improve soil health. We also opened the summit to the non-agricultural members of the public to open the dialogue between farmers and our urban neighbors. Together, these groups spent time discussing modern agriculture and innovation in conservation.
Participants spoke to our common goals. “I see the value in soil conservation and nutrient reduction because I think that they can help address an issue that our urban populations are very concerned about as well– our clean water,” commented Soil Health demonstration farmer Tim Smith. “We need to reach a lot of people – not just the farmers, urban soils are also very important. It is not only about creating a more desirable urban environment, but also for people in an urban environment to be aware of soils and how important they are. It is not only about farming,” said Dr. Harold van Es, Cornell Professor of Soil and Water Management.
Whether urban or agricultural, soils are essential to our daily lives. We must continue to work together through partnerships and collaborations to gather the information to help protect one of our most valuable resources.
About the author: Nick Goeser is NCGA’s manager for soil health and sustainability.
To track soil health and talk about it on social media, use #soilhealth2015.
Posted By Cindy February 9, 2015
“There is no humanity without the cultivation of the land; there is no good life without the food it produces for the men and women of every continent.” Pope Francis, 1/31/15
With the patron saint of all things of nature as his namesake, Pope Francis has serious views about protecting the environment, but he believes that agriculture plays a “central role” in the “cultivation and stewardship of the land.”
That’s what he said recently in a meeting with the National Confederation of Direct Cultivators, which is some kind of agricultural organization, as the pontiff noted that the name “direct cultivators” refers to cultivation, “a typically human and fundamental activity.” Pope Francis said that farming and ranching constitutes “a true vocation.”
“It deserves to be recognised and suitably valued as such, also in concrete political and economic decisions. This means eliminating the obstacles that penalise such a valuable activity and that often make it appear unattractive to new generations, even though statistics show an increase in the number of students in schools and institutes of agriculture, which leads us to foresee and increase in the numbers of those employed in the agricultural sector. At the same time, it is necessary to pay due attention to the removal of land from agricultural use, to make it available for apparently more lucrative purposes”
The pope actually has his own farm at the traditional summer place for pontiffs, Castel Gandolfo.
The 55 acre farm dates back to the early 1930s under Pope Pius XI as part of the renovation of the summer vacation home which has been in use since the 16th century. The farm includes cows, chickens, bee hives, ostriches, turkeys, rabbits, vegetables and more. The farm reportedly produces 185 gallons of milk a day, 50,000 eggs a year, honey, olive oil and vegetables.
There are news reports that the farm may be opened for public tours this year, but the Vatican has not confirmed that yet. I’d be interested in a visit if it happens!
Posted By Cindy December 24, 2014
Have yourself a corny little Christmas,
May your price be right
From now on,
Gas prices won’t be out of sight
Have yourself a corny little Christmas,
That’s what we can say,
From now on,
The weather will be good, we pray.
Remember back in the olden years
Fruitful golden ears of corn.
All our friends get John Deere for us.
Gather near to us once more.
Through the years
The harvest will be plenty,
If the Fates allow.
Hang a shining star as you prepare to plow.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
Posted By Cindy December 5, 2014
The midterm elections are over but here’s a chance to exercise your right to vote for something fun and beautiful.
There’s a wide variety of candidates and each has something special to offer. Whether you support beauty, family, growth, challenges, or life – pick a category and cast your vote in the Fields-of-Corn Photo Contest.
Over 400 high-resolution photos of corn growth from seed to harvest and the families that grow it were submitted in the National Corn Growers Association on-line contest and the photos are now being judged by the public by selecting their favorites using online Facebook “Likes.” There’s a $500 grand prize for the most likes and there will also be awards for the top three entries in the five categories of Farm Family Lifestyle, Farming Challenges, Growing Field Corn, Scenery/Landscape, and Still Life from the Farm.
It’s easy and fun – vote early and vote often! Polls close on December 31.
Posted By Cindy November 26, 2014
Colorful corn can be seen decorating doors and table tops during the fall season, but how much do you really know about the corn that is known variously as Indian, flint, ornamental, or even calico?
According to Wikipedia, flint corn has less soft starch than dent corn and does not have the dents in the kernels. Flint corn is one of three types of corn cultivated by Native Americans – from whence the Indian corn moniker comes. Cultivation of flint corn was typical to tribes in New England and across the northern tier, including by tribes such as the Pawnee on the Great Plains. But, archeologists have found evidence of such corn cultivation by the Pawnee and others before 1000 BC. Cultivation of corn occurred hundreds of years earlier among the Mississippian culture people, whose civilization arose based on population density and trade because of surplus corn crops.There is also evidence that flint corn was grown in China, India and South America for centuries.
While we use the colorful ears for decoration, our ancestors actually ate it and it is still eaten in countries like Argentina and other areas of South America, Latin America and southern Europe. Heavy in starch, it can be compared to hominy, which is used to make grits. Indian corn can be ground to make flour, or the whole kernel can be reserved for popcorn. It can also be used as livestock feed.
Indian corn for decoration these days is the result of several hybrid varieties developed within the last 50 years. Calico-patterned or speckled varieties of Indian corn result from cross-pollination of single-shaded plants. In addition to the multicolored ears, there are solid ears in shades of white, ruby, blue and black. Many varieties have names as colorful as the corn – like Autumn Explosion, Robust Ruby Red, Big Chief and Glass Gem. There are even miniature varieties with cute names like Indian Fingers, Cutie Pops, Little Boy Blue and Miniature Blue, Cutie Pink, Little Miss Muffet, Little Bo Peep and Miniature Pink.
Posted By Cindy November 11, 2014
Today is Veterans Day and one of the sad facts about the men and women who serve our nation is that they often return from active duty with few job opportunities.
That’s where the Farmer Veteran Coalition is making a difference. The coalition is helping to mobilize veterans in the fight to feed America by cultivating a new generation of agriculturalists through the collaboration of the farming and military communities.
“We’ve got veterans returning to small communities all over this country, and based on my experience in the military and interactions with people in the military, I believe that these people possess the skills and the traits that can contribute in a very positive way,” says Coalition board member Charlie Kruse. Those skills include teamwork, dedication and pride in what you do along with willingness to adapt to different situations.
Kruse, who is a Missouri farmer and former president of the Missouri Farm Bureau who also served 26 years in the Army National Guard, is excited about the work the Coalition is doing, including helping veterans through the Homegrown By Heroes label. “I think it’s a tremendous activity that in some small way let’s all of us in this country pay back to those people in uniform who answered the call and served us proudly,” he added.
Find out more about the coalition at farmvetco.org.
Posted By Cathryn November 5, 2014
Iowa CommonGround volunteer Julie Kenney brought the story of corn to internet viewers everywhere recently during an interview with Iowa Girl Eats blogger Kristin Porter. The video, made possible by the Iowa Food and Family Project, explains both the different types of corn people see in the field driving by as well as what their uses.
Find out more about the incredible story of corn with Julie by clicking here.
Like it? Check out other videos from the series, including one with Julie’s husband, Mark, or one with Iowa Corn Growers Association staffer Janet Wilwerding.
Posted By Cindy October 30, 2014
At the same time of year when combines are running in the corn fields, billions of kernels of candy corn are being popped in mouths around the country.
That’s right, I said billions. According to the National Confectioners Association, 35 million pounds of candy corn are sold around Halloween, which is approximately 9 billion individual kernels of corn. That’s kind of scary!
Candy corn has been around for more than 100 years. George Renninger, an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company, invented the popular confection in the 1880s and Wunderlee became the first to produce the candy. The Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly Candy Company) started producing the confection in 1900 and still produces candy corn today.
The main ingredient in candy corn actually is corn – corn syrup, that is. And the NCA points out that it was first made when most of America was still farming country. They don’t know if it was the fact that so many Americans had farm experience at that time, if urban dwellers found it charming or if it was some combination that made it so popular, but people went nuts over it.
And today, October 30 is National Candy Corn Day, so enjoy some of the sweet, tri-colored treats to celebrate – but save some for the trick-or-treaters!
Posted By Cindy September 18, 2014
The new Subway ad is not only funny, it offers a great idea for an alternative source of income on the farm, and getting your chores done too!
In the television spot, a young man tells his meal partner at Subway that he’s currently doing “Crop Fit,” a hardcore fitness program “based on 19th Century farming practices” – like pulling a plow and pushing a huge pumpkin.
Why not develop a “Farm Fitness” program? If we can’t get Americans to work on the farm, maybe we can get them to work out on the farm!
Posted By Mark July 10, 2014
Google “save the rainforest” and watch all the organizations that pop up; everything from the World Rainforest Fund to Kids Saving the Rainforest. I don’t have a problem with that because rainforests are a critical cog in the blue planet’s eco-system.
Rainforests provide incredible biodiversity and through the process of photosynthesis they also provide the duel function of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it to life-sustaining oxygen. Then I realized most the American public has a rudimentary understanding of the importance of the Amazon on another continent but has little understanding of the contributions our corn crop makes just from the process of simply growing. It was the accompany image that got me thinking.
The image from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center represents satellite measurements of plant fluorescence. It represents a compilation of data collected over a four year period. During photosynthesis, the chlorophyll in healthy plants absorbs light to be converted into energy, but it also emits a little bit of light that’s not visible to the human eye. Scientists have now figured out how to use that fluorescent glow to measure the productivity of plants in a given region.
What it reflects is a startling revelation even to a corn-o-phile like me. Using existing data from satellites designed for entirely different purposes, such as ozone monitoring, NASA scientists were able to show that during the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season, the Midwestern U.S. has more photosynthetic activity than anywhere else on the planet, including the Amazon rainforest. Nearly all of this can be attributed to agriculture, and much of it to corn.
So, feeding people aside, providing cleaner ethanol fuel aside, corn takes bad things out of the air much like a tree and gives us oxygen to breathe. So I want to start a new organization called Save the Corn….or maybe that should be corn farmers?
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