Subway Responds

This past week Subway announced a move to use food from animals that had never received an antibiotic. I responded with a blog pondering why Subway would do this.  You can read that Subway blog here.

It has come to my attention from Anne Burkholder, a highly respected cattle feeder and  blogger, that Subway has added a statement on their website.  This statement follows the original plan of transitioning to using only animals that have never received an antibiotic:

“That said, we recognize that antibiotics are critical tools for keeping animals healthy and that they should be used responsibly to preserve their effectiveness in veterinary and human medicine. Our policy is that antibiotics can be used to treat, control and prevent disease, but not for growth promotion of farm animals. Accordingly, we are asking our suppliers to do the following:

  • Adopt, implement and comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA’s”) guidance for industry 209 and 213, which requires that medically important antibiotics not be used for growth promotion. Visit the FDA site to learn more.
  • Assure that all antibiotics use is overseen, pre-approved and authorized by a licensed veterinarian before they are administered to any animal.
  • Keep accurate and complete records to track use of all antibiotics.
  • Adhere at all times to all legal requirements governing antibiotic withdrawal times. This assures that antibiotics have been eliminated from the animals’ systems at the time of slaughter.
  • Actively encourage, support and participate in research efforts focused on improving animal health while reducing antibiotics use.”

I join Anne in applauding the upper management of Subway for recognizing the value antibiotics play in the care of animals.   I also join Anne and many others including our veterinarians in the commitment to work together to lead discussions about continuous improvement of the care of animals.  Those discussion include no use of antibiotics for growth promotion that are necessary for human medicine and direct supervision by a veterinarian for the antibiotics used by the end of 2016.  Anne does a great job explaining that in her blog here.

Subway has not changed their home page as of the writing of this blog and the statement is not very easy to find.   My applause will be hard to hear until the public at large can see that statement as part of their info graphic.

A screen shot of Subway’s home page shows that it has not been edited as of this writing to show the added statement of responsible antibiotic use.

Going forward I encourage you to visit Subway and tell them what you’ve been hearing and reading. We want to support our local restaurants and for those of us in the rural area that includes Subway.  Keep talking to friends and relatives about what you are eating and encourage them to seek the facts behind the messages.  If you have questions about your food I can direct you to a group of 165 farm women from across the nation that would love to visit with you!  That website is here.

I would like to share with you a delicious roast beef recipe that is easy to make.  You can put this together and then get outside and enjoy the fall weather. Have a great week!

Simply Delicious Roast Beef

  • 3 pounds Chuck Roast
  • 1 package dry Italian salad dressing
  • 1 package dry Ranch salad dressing
  • 1 package dry Brown gravy mix
  • 2 cups water


Turn oven to 325 degrees.  Sear the roast (brown both sides).  Place roast in roasting dish.  Warm the 2 cups of water in pan used for searing and pour over the roast.  Put seasoning packets in a bowl, mix, pour over the roast and in the water.   Cover.   Bake 3.5 hours in oven or bake in Crock Pot for eight hours on low. (I add an extra cup of water to the oven version)

You can add baby carrots and baby potatoes to the side of the roast.  Another alternative is to add small potatoes to the oven in the last hour of baking.  After skimming the oil you can use the liquid to make a wonderful gravy.

For more great beef recipes go here.

The Survival of Subway

Our family has long supported the Subway restaurant chain.  It has been pretty easy to eat at Subway since there is a Subway in nearly every town with a population over 3,000.  We appreciate having the choice to go to Subway as an alternative to a meal with French fries when running errands in nearby larger communities.

We also have our favorite sandwiches.  I like the steak and cheese on wheat.  Steve likes the spicy Italian on wheat.  I try to plan chiropractor appointments around lunch time so I can pick up our favorite sandwiches to take home for lunch.  The challenge when I order the sandwiches is to remember what toppings Steve likes since we don’t share the same taste for things like Jalapeno peppers and onions.

Did you know that beef can be a part of a healthy diet?

I also realize that Subway has slipped from its’ number 2 spot to number 3 in regards to sales among restaurant chains.  I have other ideas that I would have recommended like more wrap-style menu items and an appeal to a dining experience versus eating on the run. Recently Subway made an announcement about the meat products they intend to buy in the future.Subway intends to buy chicken, poultry, pork and beef that has never received an antibiotic.  The question it raises for me is why they are choosing to do this.  I realize the company recently lost Fred Deluca, the CEO and co-founder of Subway in September after battling against Leukemia for more than two years of his life.  My sympathy goes out to the entire Subway family for their loss.

We use many tools to boost the immune system. Sometimes an animal needs an antibiotic to fully recover from an illness.

Has Subway decided that in order to gain back that #2 spot, McDonald’s is #1, they need to join restaurants like Chipotle in the way they market their products?  Is it a healthier choice for the consumer to eat only meat that never received an antibiotic?

As a beef producer, an advocate for beef nutrition and a mom I am concerned about the message this sends to the consumer.  I know how antibiotics are used on our feedlot, other feedlots, ranches and farms through personal experience and friends of mine.  You can read some great blogs on this topic herehere and here.

Steve and I discuss the best treatment for this animal and record it.

What I ‘d like to share with that consumer that is confused about antibiotic use in animals is this. Those of us responsible for the care of animals take the use of antibiotics very seriously.   Using antibiotics to reduce animal suffering and provide safe meat for the consumer is evident when we look at the industry improvements through programs like BQA, Beef Quality Assurance.  Similar to the rights in EMT training I learned we make sure to give the right amount at the right time in the right spot with records to trace every animal receiving an antibiotic.   Once an antibiotic has fought the battle it was designed for it withdraws from the body.   We have a withdrawal period on every antibiotic we use to let us know when that complete withdrawal has occurred assuring the consumer that NO MEAT HAS ANTIBIOTICS IN IT!  The packing plant provides another layer of protection by taking random sample to test for drug residue.  If we test positive for drug residue we damage our trust with the packer and lose the ability to be economically viable.

I would love to read a new headline that says “Subway reverses meat decision”.  I also know that Subway answers to investors that want to make money.   I am so grateful that our profitability decisions are handled right here on the farm and not in a board room in New York City.   We work with people like our veterinarians, nutritionists, bank officers, etc… to help make the best decisions possible for our cattle to thrive and become that power packed nutrient source for your table!

Cheeseburger Quesadillas – Harvest Meal On-The-Go

airHarvest has started for many farm families in Nebraska. Most farm wives have many jobs on the farm and especially many jobs during harvest. Sometimes that is driving the combine or the grain cart, taking the semi full of grain to the co-op or bringing a meal out to the hard-working harvesters.

 A simply, yet hearty meal that works on-the-go is great to take to the crew. Sandwiches will do, but its fun to get creative and make the guys happy to take a break from bringing in the harvest. And sometimes something warm seems to keep them fuller for longer.

Enjoy this Cheeseburger Quesadilla recipe – fast to make and easy to put in foil to take out to the crew in the field. Or just for a great family meal at home – kids love it!

Cheeseburger Quesadillas

A hearty meal that is a family (and kid!) favorite!


  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Chopped
  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • ¼ cups Ketchup
  • ¼ cups Real Bacon Bits
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 4 whole Large Flour Tortillas
  • 2 cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • Vegetable Oil For Brushing
  • Red Crushed Pepper Flakes For Sprinkling


  • In a large skillet on medium high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and allow them to cook for about 5-7 minutes until they become translucent. Add the beef and break it up with a wooden spoon or chopper. Cook the beef and onions together for about 10 minutes or until the beef is thoroughly cooked.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  • Once the beef is cooked add the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, bacon bits, salt and pepper, garlic powder and onion powder and stir until all is incorporated. Allow the mixture to simmer on low heat for 5-7 minutes.
  • On a large baking sheet, lay out 2 tortillas. Take half of the burger mixture and spread it evenly on each tortilla. Top it with as much cheese as you like and add the chopped tomatoes and peppers. Put the other half on top of the burger mixture. Brush the top with oil and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes until the tortilla shell becomes nice and crisp and the cheese is bubbly. Remove it from the oven and place pan on a rack. Let quesadillas sit for about 5 minutes to cool down then use a really sharp knife or pizza cutter and cut into triangles. You should get 4 large pieces out of both of them.
 Also featured on Her View From Home

The Art of Making Hay

I remember a conversation from last summer.

“Honey, do you want to be my “Rake Girl” tonight?” Mr. Corn Farmer sure knows how to make our marriage exciting.

When I pulled up to the alfalfa field, the radio sang, “It was just another night in the hayfield…”

It seemed to be a sign photo 1that, yes, I was going to be the “Rake Girl.” Except on that particular night, the hay was too wet, and thankfully I was able to rake it the next morning instead of late at night.

When we were first married, we raised over 1,500 acres alfalfa hay and supplied feedlots and dairies with large square bales. (An acre is about the size of a football field.) Sometimes I thought I was living alone as a newlywed – raising hay is time consuming! These days, we only raise as much alfalfa as we need for our own beef cattle herd, but it’s still an important function of our farm.

There’s an art to putting up hay correctly. It has to be swathed at the proper time. Raked at the proper time. Baled at the proper time. All at the proper moisture level to ensure optimum preservation of nutrients for the livestock that ultimately consume it.

alfalfaSometimes the raking and baling of hay happens in the middle of the night to meet Mr. Corn Farmer’s standard of perfection!

We will get four or five cuttings of hay from an alfalfa field in any given year. A stand of alfalfa will last about five years, from the time it is planted until it is no longer adequately productive.

To put up a cutting of hay, we swath right before the alfalfa is in 10% bloom for best protein content when there’s no rain in the forecast. Typically, it takes around five days for the hay to dry between swathing and baling. There are many variables like wind, humidity, and size of the plants that influence this timeframe.

photo 4The hay is swathed into rows called “windrows,” and after it dries, it is raked. We monitor moisture carefully, because handling hay that is too dry often leads to loss of nutrient-rich leaves. Raking turns the windrow over, and we often do this to combine two windrows into one. This saves wear and tear on the baler, and cuts baling time in half, an important consideration if rain is on the horizon.

While we spend many nights praying for rain in south central Nebraska, the opposite is true when we have hay down. Rained-on hay has less nutritional value for our cows; or if we wanted to sell it, it would be worth considerably less. If we bale the hay when it’s a little high in moisture when rain looms on the horizon, it can spoil in the bale and is even less desirable as a nutrition source. Cows find it less palatable as well. On the other end of the spectrum, hay that is baled too dry can lead to too many stems and not enough leaves in the bale, and cows don’t find that too tasty either. hayWhile our kids are just happy to have a new row of playground equipment in the farm yard, there’s a sense of satisfaction from putting up a perfect bale of hay. The mama cows will be satisfied this winter too. When they’re lactating to feed their precious newborn calves next February, we’ll be glad we raked in the middle of the night – or any inconvenient time – to do all we can to provide them the best nutrition possible.

Eight Steps to Growing a Corn Tortilla

Whether it’s Taco Tuesday or Fajita Friday, have you ever considered where the corn for your tortilla was grown? It may have come from my back yard.Diane Karr

I joke that I live in the middle of a cornfield half of the time. Half of the field that surrounds our farmstead is planted to corn and the rest is soybeans. Some of the corn we raise is food grade white corn. A local hog farmer also likes to buy it from us as feed. The rest of the corn we grow is yellow corn which is primarily used in livestock feed, ethanol, and food products.

Throughout the year, we are working with our corn crop in various stages of production – it’s not just planting and harvesting. Whether we’re raising white corn or yellow corn, the methods are basically the same, but we have some additional considerations with white corn to make sure it is not mixed with yellow corn when it’s marketed.

Here’s a year in the life of a corn farmer in eight steps:

  1. Soil Preparation and Fertilizing.  We usually practice crop rotation, meaning that corn is planted on the prior years’ soybean field. Since no-till farming is a great preserver of soil health in our dry and windy climate, we don’t plow, chisel, disk, or otherwise disturb the ground prior to planting. The prior year’s soybean crop residue stays on the ground as mulch to minimize wind erosion, conserve moisture, and improve organic matter in the soil as it decomposes. Soybeans are legumes, fixing nitrogen to nodules on their roots. Between the nitrogen-laden roots and the decomposing residue, this system adds nitrogen to the soil and decreases our fertilizer requirement.karr 4With our precision farming plan, soil samples are taken in grid format throughout the field to determine fertilizer needs. This helps us be as environmentally and economically efficient as possible with fertilizer application.
  2. Weed ManagementIn March, prior to planting, we spray the field to kill weeds in the seed bed. Weeds reduce crop yields by stealing nutrients, sunlight, and water. When the crop is established after planting, we spray a second time to combat the next round of weeds. After this, the corn plants will create a canopy in the field with their leaves, which will inhibit the majority of new weed growth.
  3. karr 5Planting. Seed selection, timing, and properly working equipment is critical to having a good harvest in the fall. After the seed is in the ground, we then monitor germination and plant health until the growing season is complete. Most of our corn planting takes place from mid-April through early May.
  4. Irrigation and Soil Moisture Management.  Soil moisture levels are checked frequently from May through August, and irrigation supplies water through a pivot when timely rains don’t arrive. Irrigation season sees constant maintenance of center pivots, irrigation engines, and well equipment. karr 2Some of these system components can be monitored via Internet, but they still need to be checked once or twice a day. We appreciate having irrigation capability, and strive to conserve this precious resource and pump only when watering is necessary. The Nebraska Natural Resource Districts help us collectively manage the quality and quantity of water in the aquifer so it can be a viable resource for future generations. While we constantly watch the forecast for rain, we also check our crops after storms for wind or hail, which can make a plant more susceptible to damage from insects and disease, along with reduction to yields.
  5. Disease Management.  Keeping the corn plants healthy by preventing fungus is another issue we sometimes encounter. Right after pollination in July, we check for fungus, and if needed, we will have fungicide applied aerially. While many think that spray planes are applying insecticides, today’s GMO corn hybrids are resistant to the most common type of insect pressure we encounter, which means that farmers rarely ever need to spray insecticides. These days, summer spray planes seen in July and August are likely applying a product to fight fungus.
  6. Monitoring Maturity. Towards the end of August through mid-September, we check the corn kernels for signs of maturity. At this point, irrigation season ends, as the moisture will not benefit the corn kernels in any way. However, if the stalks are still green, sometimes we will provide enough moisture to help the stalk maintain strength, so the plant doesn’t fall down and become difficult to harvest.
  7. Harvest. karr When the corn has dried down to around 15% moisture, harvest can begin. After we harvest the corn with a combine, it’s hauled to the truck with a tractor and grain cart. The truck hauls it to the grain bin, or sometimes straight to a grain elevator. Corn harvest in our area often starts in late September and runs through November. Excessive rainfall or snow this time of year has occasionally pushed harvest past Thanksgiving, but we are typically done by the first week of November.
  8.  Storage, Trucking, and Planning. From this point, we have to watch carefully that the corn is stored at a proper moisture level in order to maintain optimum quality. Grain bins and the accompanying drying equipment are checked once a week. We work with the manager of a grain elevator to schedule when loads will be delivered so the corn can be milled. We’ll often start trucking in December and may still be hauling out loads in March or April. The winter season is also full of meetings to discuss seed selection for next year, review equipment needs, manage marketing strategies, map the productivity of each field, and plan fertilizer, herbicide, and other input needs for the upcoming growing season.karr 3

Ultimately, white corn is made into many foods, including tortillas. The tortillas are then delivered to a distributor who makes connections with your favorite restaurant or grocery store.

From our farm to your fajita, from our tractor to your taco, we not only want your tortilla to taste good, we want you to know how much time and care went into growing the best white corn for you to enjoy on Taco Tuesday.   Or any day of the week, for that matter!

Steak Fajitas

Blog submitted by Bethany Swendender2015-07-13 13.42.36

Greetings from the Sandhills!

Summer is now in full swing.  Thanks to the abundant rains the hills are green, and the grass is growing.  The wildflowers are blooming and sharing their beauty with us.

IMG_20150613_143045For most, summer means it is time to fire up the grill.  For us it means making sure the cows always have grass to eat, fresh water to drink, and hopefully hay to put up for winter feed.

We do take the time to grill a delicious meal whenever we get the chance.  One of our favorite meals to make on the grill is steak fajitas.  This recipe can be adjusted to your taste, but this is how we like them.  I find recipes are more of just a guideline, not written in stone.155

For this recipe we will be using sirloin steaks.  We raise our own beef.  We always have a few Longhorn cross steers that we keep back for butchering.  Generally these are Longhorn-Angus cross or Longhorn- Hereford cross.  The Longhorn breed produces very lean meat.  So the end product is very lean and tender meat.  The steers graze native grasses in our pastures until about 100 days before we butcher them.  Then we put them on a ration of feed, including corn.  This helps to finish them, and give us the kind of meat we prefer.

20150617_192808 (2)We start with about 1.5 pounds of sirloin steak.  You will also need a large onion and one or two bell peppers.

I season the steaks with just a little salt and pepper.  We like out steaks medium rare, so we grill them for about 7 minutes a side.  If you prefer yours less rare, cook them a few minutes longer.  Keep in mind you will need to cook them a little less than you normally would, because we will mix the meat with the veggies at the end.

20150617_194426 (2) After you turn the steaks, you will want to put your veggies and tortillas on the grill.  I toss the veggies in some oil before putting them in the grill pan.  If you don’t have a grill pan, you can just put them in a tin foil pan, or foil packet.  I wrap the tortillas in a wet paper towel, and then wrap that with aluminum foil.  This helps to keep them from drying out.  You don’t want to put the veggies and tortillas over direct heat.

When your steaks are cooked to the desired doneness, remove them from the grill and let them rest.  You want to let them rest for at least 5 minutes, so they don’t lose their juices.  And they will be easier to handle.  Once they have rested, slice them in pretty thin slices.  Put them in the pan, or packet with the veggies, and sprinkle fajita seasoning on them.  I make my own seasoning, and use 2-3 teaspoons.  Toss to coat, and then let it cook for a few minutes to let the flavors meld together.20150617_195653 (2)

I started making my own fajita seasoning several years ago, but feel free to use a store bought packet.  There are all sorts of variations that you can find online, but this is the one I use.

Fajita Seasoning:

  • 1 Tbs Chili Powder
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 Tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1.5 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Pepper

Mix this all together and store in an airtight container.  Season to taste.

20150617_200105 (3)Once everything has cooked together for several minutes, and the veggies and meat are cooked how you prefer it is time to eat!  I was so excited to eat that I didn’t get a very good picture of the finished product.  I like to put a little avocado and sour cream on my fajitas.  My husband usually just adds shredded cheese.  Once again, it really is personal preference, so feel free to adorn them as you wish.

There you have it, one of our favorite summer grilling recipes.  Wishing you all a very safe and happy summer!  Don’t forget to enjoy some beef on your grill.

Sold! Front Seat to a Bull Sale

Our neighbors hosted their annual bull Diane Karrsale in March. Selecting the right bull for the herd lays the groundwork for raising good cattle. Good genetics in the bull translate into good traits in the next generation of calves.

Before we get started, here’s a little refresher on cattle terminology:

  • Bull – “The Big Daddy” for the cow herd.
  • Cow – A Mama who raises a baby calf.
  • Heifer – A female who has not yet had a calf. Either kept in the herd to become a cow or fed to finishing weight.
  • Steer – A castrated male to be fed to finishing weight.
  • Calf – The baby. Heifers and steers up to one year old.

imgp9491One bull can be expected to breed about 25 to 35 cows. On our farm, we turn the bulls out with the cows in mid-May so calves will begin arriving in February. Gestation time for cattle is 283 days, or about 9½ months.

imgp9537Our neighbors focus on raising registered purebred herd bulls and heifers for other purebred breeders and also commercial herds like ours. Prior to their bull sale this year, they sent out catalogs and uploaded video footage of their bulls on their website. Mr. Corn Farmer (aka Mr. Cornstalk Cowboy) spent hours poring over videos of bulls walking around in pens, and examining the family tree of each bull.


Cattle folks have a good eye for judging muscle and bone structure. Sometimes they just have an intuition about a bull. They also consider the temperament; they’re definitely looking for a calm, gentle animal. Measured physical characteristics and EPD (Expected Progeny Difference) ratings that give us some insight into what we can expect out of next year’s set of calves. Birth weight and calving ease scores help indicate less stress when the calf is born. Growth rate and frame scores help select for cattle that grow to the proper size in a reasonable amount of time.  Milk production scores help us raise heifers that will make good herd cows in the future. Carcass traits like rib-eye area point towards cattle that will deliver the highest quality meat at the dinner table.

imgp9545Our neighbors had a great sale day. However, they’re more than just good at raising purebred Angus cattle, they’ve set a great example for their daughters who love being involved in their family’s business. They possess a strong work ethic and sense of community. They’re the type of people who come across the road and help us out when we need an extra hand.

When people consider how farming and ranching has changed over the years, I have to consider communities like mine where families and neighbors have been helping each other for over 100 years. Then I look at the kids who are building the same bonds as young as grade school, who want to grow up to do the same.

Traditions are strong and the future is bright. And that’s no bull.

imgp9475Want to learn more? Visit 4M Angus. Burken Cattle also featured bulls on this sale day.




Where’s the beef? {Recipe for Beef Month}

Joan new shot 1Some of you might remember the slogan Wendy’s used in 1984 with Clara Peller exclaiming “Where’s the beef?”   As a woman that loves to eat beef I am asking that question in regards to the new recommendations to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines .  The new recommendations are not recognizing that beef can play an important role in a healthy diet.

I have to admit I have not always appreciated the nutrient dense food that beef is.  When I was taking aerobic dance classes in the early 1980’s I was eating salads and avoided eating meat.  I had the misperception that meat made people fat.   I struggled to be satisfied with the foods I was eating which meant I usually reached for sugar loaded snacks to get me by thus sabotaging any attempt at weight loss.  I gradually came to appreciate the nutrients in calories and how important that is when maintaining or trying to lose weight.BeefsBig10

Ironically, no pun intended, beef is quite loaded with nutrients important to good health.   If you are concerned about building muscles, maintaining brain function, having a strong immune system, utilizing oxygen more effectively, increasing your energy, protecting cells, supporting your nervous system, maintain strong bones and teeth and help in converting food to energy than you would benefit from keeping beef in your diet.beef vitamin poster comparison

If you compare beef to other foods you will see how much you would have to eat to get the same amount of just one nutrient versus the big ten in beef.  A 3-4 ounce serving of beef is about the size of your iPhone and that will give you those top ten nutrients including HALF your daily recommended amount of protein needed.  A four ounce burger at around 170 calories paired with tomatoes, lettuce and cheese is a great alternative to a sugar cookie that has the same amount of calories and very little nutritional value.

As a mom on a farm that raises cattle I was fortunate that our children were able to enjoy beef as part of their diet.  Our children were active, healthy and have become successful in a variety of career paths.  I am also active in the care of our cattle on our farm and have come to appreciate the role beef plays in agriculture.   
Where’s the beef?  It’s here and I hope it’s on your plate tonight! And here is a great recipe to make it easy to love beef….BBQ style. As May is Beef Month, we have a lot to celebrate with beef production being so important to Nebraska, and it being healthy for your family and you!

beefsandwich{BBQ Beef Sandwiches}


  • 3-5 lb beef eye of round roast
  • Mike’s Own Seasoning (made in West Point, Nebraska but found at numerous locations)
  • — Or combine Lowry’s seasoning salt, Accent seasoning, Lowry’s garlic salt with parsley
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Buns


  1. Generously rub the seasoning onto the beef eye of round.
  2. Preheat your grill around 300 degrees. Do not put the beef on direct heat (read how to indirect grill here).
  3. Keep on the grill until the internal temperature is just to 140 degrees. This usually takes around 2-3 hours.
  4. Check often and turn the round if needed. Make sure beef is not overcooked. (Works great on a Traeger or wood pellet grill – but works on a gas/coal grill as well).
  5. Take off the grill as soon as it reaches 140 degrees. Let sit five minutes before slicing.
  6. Slice and serve immediately with your favorite BBQ sauce and on a bun or without.

Happy Beef Month!

How Farmers Buy Seed

Diane KarrOne of the first signs of spring is the arrival of a garden catalog in the mailbox. Fantasizing about picking crisp green cucumbers on a warm summer evening is the perfect antidote to a cold, windy day.

Mr. Corn Farmer often reminds me that he’s a bigger and better gardener than I am. It’s true, but selecting seed for our farm is no fantasy. It’s serious stuff.IMGP9718

Before the combine is put away in the shed in November after harvest, we start meeting with seed representatives and researching our seed selections for the next growing season.

Many different hybrids of corn and varieties of soybeans from different companies are planted on our farm each year. From a large number of options, we can select seed that’s tailored to the soil profile and expected moisture availability. Some fields are rather sandy; some have more clay in the soil profile. Some are irrigated; some are dry land. Some are irrigated with ample water; some with limited water. Crop rotation plans can vary from one field to the next.

We spend a great deal of time analyzing seed genetics. In order to
be more productive while taking good care of soil and water resources, these are some of the traits we carefully study:

  • Days to maturity
  • Drought tolerance
  • Standability so the crop can be easily harvested
  • Resistance to fungal and bacterial diseases
  • Bt technology which resists corn borer and rootworm in corn
  • Resistance to certain weed killers. (We can apply a product that kills the weeds but not the crop. This allows us to no-till farm,which helps us improve and conserve the land and water.)

IMGP9732Some of these traits are developed and improved through traditional plant breeding. Others are accomplished with technology that inserts naturally occurring proteins into the plant’s DNA to create a GMO, or Genetically Modified Organism. Click here for more GMO information.

Ultimately, the goal is to grow more grain more efficiently while protecting the environment where we work and raise a family. That we’re free to pick the seed we need with the traits we want is a benefit to both farmers and consumers.

This spring, when I sort through seed packets for my garden, I’ll also be watching for semi loads of corn and soybean seed to be delivered to our farm. As you select your favorite garden seeds and plants this spring, I encourage you to remember that farmers are doing the same thing. We’re all picking our favorites from a wide array of choices.

My Q & A with David Loberg from the movie Farmland

Loberg-Farm-2-1024x683RD Amber from Stirlist, a registered dietitian passionate about food, health and nutrition, recently visited the farm David Loberg, a 5th generation farmer from Carroll, Nebraska that is featured in the movie Farmland.  Amber blogged about a few things she learned about David’s farm as well as his perspective on Farmland the movie.  Enjoy!

Loberg-Farm-4-881x587I’ve spent the majority of my life in the state of Nebraska. I’ve spent hours on the road passing miles and miles of farmland, but that doesn’t make me an expert on farming or agriculture. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years visiting with different farmers, it’s that each farmer is unique and has a different story to tell.

This is why I am such a fan of the movie Farmland. The film focuses on the stories of six young farmers from different areas of the US, including Nebraska. Even though all the farmers were focusing on different types of agriculture, the running theme throughout the film is that they all care and are passionate about the land they farm.

Last week I traveled to Carroll, NE to visit with David Loberg. David is a 5th generation corn and soybean farmer and is one of the farmers featured in the movie Farmland. In addition to growing corn and soy, he also custom feeds Holstein cows. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also a volunteer for the local fire department.

David was first approached about doing the film in the fall of 2012. He said his sister, Megan, had submitted the family name for a contest not related to the film, but the film producers from Allentown production came across his information and asked if he would be interested in doing the film. A few months later, the crew showed up on Easter Sunday. The film crew spend the next 8 days filming David’s family and capturing life on the farm.

The house below belongs to David’s great grandpa, Frank who built the farmstead. Now David lives about 1-2 miles away with his wife and son, but his mother still lives in the original farmhouse.


David was gracious enough to provide a tour of his farm and spend several minutes answering my questions. Here are a few highlights from our discussion…

What makes you similar to the other farmers in the film?

“Most of us have young families and are married. We all love what we do. We all value our family. We all have the desire to stay involved in our communities.”

Do you stay in touch with the other farmers in the film?

“Yeah, we’re all friends on Facebook and we keep tabs on each other through Facebook and texting. That was the best part of the project was to get to meet the other farmers. I felt like we were friends the second we met.”

What surprised you about the film when you saw it for the first time?

“I didn’t even know what the movie was until we actually saw the documentary. I didn’t realize that we (the farmers) were the story they wanted to focus on.”

What do you think about trolls or people who attack farmers online? 

“It’s counterproductive to get to wrapped up in. You’re not going to change what the loudest voices are shouting loudly. I tried debating someone on Facebook one time and I spent 30 minutes of research to provide a nice response and then a minute later, they responded by calling me names. That’s not a productive environment. You’re not going to call somebody an idiot to their face, but people feel like they can say things like that online because it’s not face to face.”

Have you received criticism because of the film? How do you respond to that? 

“Yes, but only through social media. I actually did write an email to one of the reviewers on because he just blasted the film. My response was to invite him out to the farm, but he never replied back. Most of the criticism comes from people online that aren’t tied to farming.”


Do you think people will identify with your story?

“Everybody has lost a loved one. I’m not the only one to lose a dad to cancer way too early. It’s hard losing a family member, but when you lose somebody that is the other half of your business, it will definitely impact everything. It’s not just about losing your loved one. You’re losing half your farm.”


“I was happy to see that corn on the bookshelf make it into the movie. I didn’t realize the film crew had filmed that. I’m glad they captured it. It felt like we were honoring Dad because Dad never would have told that story for himself.”

Do you think your dad would be proud of you?

“Dad always did his best to not be in the spotlight, but that was just him. But yeah, I think so. ”

What are the differences between the older generation and your generation of farmers?

“Technology for sure. It’s hard because mom and dad went through the 80’s and the recession. And we’re bracing now for an Ag recession. The older generation has been through those tough times and they get it. Without having that experience, it’s hard to keep in mind the bigger picture.”


What are you hoping that people take away from seeing the film?

“I don’t think that’s for me to decide. Everybody who watches it walks away with a different viewpoint. This is something we want the public to decide what they see and what they interpret. If we make it all about GMOs, you lose context of everything that is going on in the film. The movie wasn’t about picking sides. It opens the discussion. If you want to know about a farm, we’re there to talk.”

What do you think about being the poster child of Nebraska farming?

(Laughs) “I didn’t realize I was.”

What kind of foods do you eat? What are your favorite foods?

“I love a good pot roast with vegetables. I also love lasagna and steak.”

What would you do if you weren’t farming? 

“Probably irrigation, but maybe something industrial. If I couldn’t farm, I would be working for a farmer. If I had to choose something outside of Ag, it would probably be welding. I couldn’t sit in a cubicle.”


Why should I tell my friends and family to come see the movie?

“It used to be that everybody knew a farmer. Now most people don’t have any connection to a farmer.  Some people might think they know what we do, but most likely probably not. I hope it will give people a different perspective.”


Special thanks to CommonGround Nebraska and David Loberg for his time.

For those of you who live in Lincoln, I hope to see you at the screening on March 16th at the Grand Theatre at 6:30 pm. Attendance is free, but donations to the Food Bank of Lincoln are appreciated.




Read more from RD Amber on her Stirlist blog.


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