Candidates sought for four Minnesota commodity councils

MDA-logoThe Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) will conduct a mail ballot election to fill board vacancies of four commodity research and promotion councils. Candidates are selected through mail ballot elections set for March 2015.

The Barley, Beef, Corn and Soybean Councils are seeking candidates. The candidate registration deadline is February 5, 2015. These farmer/leaders serve three-year terms directing the investment of their Research and Promotion Councils’ check-off programs.

 

Those interested in running for an opening should contact the council listed below to be referred to their nominating committee chairs. Open positions include:

 

 

Barley Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

District 1: Beltrami, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Roseau

 

District 2: Clearwater, Hubbard, Mahnomen, Norman, Polk

Barley Research and Promotion Council office:  800-242-6118 or 218-253-4311

 

Beef Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

District 1: Becker, Clay, Clearwater, Kittson, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau

 

Districts 2, 3: Beltrami, Cass, Cook, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, St. Louis

 

District 5: Benton, Carver, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Morrison, Renville, Scott, Sherburne, Sibley, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Wright

 

District 7: Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Rock

 

District 8: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Steele, Waseca, Watonwan

 

District 9: Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha, Winona

Beef Research and Promotion Council office:  952-854-6980

 

Corn Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

Districts 1, 2, 4: Becker, Beltrami, Big Stone, Cass, Chippewa, Clay, Clearwater, Douglas, Grant, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Lac Qui Parle, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Otter Tail, Pennington, Polk, Pope, Red Lake, Roseau, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Wilkin, Yellow Medicine

 

Districts 3, 5, 6: Anoka, Aitkin, Benton, Carlton, Carver, Chisago, Cook, Crow Wing, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Kandiyohi, Lake, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Ramsey, Renville, Sherburne, Sibley, St. Louis, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Washington, Wright, Scott

 

District 8: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Steele, Waseca, Watonwan

 

District 9: Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha, Winona

Corn Research and Promotion Council office:  952-233-0333

 

Soybean Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

Districts 1, 2, 3: Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Clay, Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau, St. Louis, Cook, Lake

 

District 4: Big Stone, Chippewa, Douglas, Grant, Lac Qui Parle, Ottertail, Pope, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Wilkin, Yellow Medicine

 

District 7: Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Rock

 

District 8: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Steele, Waseca, Watonwan

 

District 9: Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha, Winona

Soybean Research and Promotion Council office:  888-896-9678 or 507-388-1635

 

Farmers who voted last year will receive ballots by mail, but those who did not vote last year can request a ballot from the above commodity council offices by February 5, 2015.

Diesel prices head lower, but for how long

Diesel prices have been trending lower for a couple of months now.  They’ve finally begun to follow gas prices lower at the pumps, but the big question is this:  How long can diesel and energy prices in general trend lower?  It’s a big question at this time of year for farmers who want to start contracting ahead for spring needs in 2015.

As part of a story assignment for the Midwest Producer newspaper, I caught up with Tracy Haller, the Energy Procurement and Marketing Manager for Farmway Cooperative in north central Kansas.  She said it’s hard to know what’s ahead without a crystal ball, but in the short-term, prices may continue to soften, but there will be a definite price floor for crude, and you’ll know when it hits.  Give a listen to my weekly podcast:

Tracy is the Energy Procurement and Marketing Manager at Farmway Cooperative, with 37 locations in north central Kansas (photo from www.farmwaycoop.com)

Tracy is the Energy Procurement and Marketing Manager at Farmway Cooperative, with 37 locations in north central Kansas (photo from www.farmwaycoop.com)

 

 

 

 

 

I would absolutely love to hear any ideas on podcast stories and guests you’d like to hear from on my website.  Please email me at chadsmithdad@gmail.com

 

 

Calling all farmers to Winter Workshops in January

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The dark days of winter can be a great time to learn new things, so the Minnesota MDA-logoDepartment of Agriculture (MDA) is again providing farmers a day of Winter Workshops in January. The MDA will offer six workshops covering a diverse array of farming topics on Thursday, January 8, 2015 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. Workshop details and online registration are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/amdor by calling 651-201-6012 and requesting a “Winter Workshops” brochure. The workshops include:

All Day (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

The Nuts and Bolts of Running a CSA, presented by Mark Boen and Bernard Crosser of Bluebird Gardens, Cost: $50

 

Transitioning to Organic: From Deciding to Doing, presented by Carmen Fernolz of A-Frame Farms. Cost: $50

 

Morning Workshops (9 a.m. to Noon)

Grazing Basics, presented by Vermont grazing and organic consultant Sarah Flack. Cost: $25

 

Reality Checking your Farm Plan, presented by John and Lisa Mesko from the Sustainable Farming Association of MN (SFA). Cost: $25 (free for SFA members)

 

Afternoon Workshops (start at 1:30 p.m)

Fine Tune Your Grazing System, presented by Vermont grazing and organic consultant Sarah Flack. Ends at 4:30 p.m. Cost: $25

 

Save Your Own Seed, presented by Koby Jeschkeit-Hagen from Seed Sages and Tiny Diner Farm. Ends at 3:30 p.m. Cost: $25

 

While they immediately precede the two-day Minnesota Organic Conference to be held January 9-10, also in St. Cloud, these workshops are designed to benefit all kinds of farmers. Minnesota Organic Conference details are posted at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic.

Add a Minnesota grown Christmas tree to your shopping list

Minnesota Christmas tree growers look forward to another great season of local, fragrant Christmas trees thanks to overall good growing conditions this year.  Many tree farms are stacked with a variety of trees and ready to go.

Christmas trees

Minnesota grown Christmas trees are in good supply for the holidays (photo from Minnesota Farm Guide)

Happy Land Tree Farms Owner, Ken Olson shared, “Thanks to all the rain we had on our farm, our trees are in really great condition. We had a great growing season and our new plantings did well.”

The 8-12 year growth of Christmas trees poses a unique marketing challenge, “Christmas tree growers look far ahead to estimate customer preferences,” said Minnesota Grown Spokesman, Paul Hugunin.  “Farmers provide continuous care and attention to each tree as it matures.”  Trees are formed and sheared over time to help create the iconic Christmas tree shape shoppers desire.

The Christmas tree industry supports the local economy and provides environmental benefits. Christmas tree farms replant one to three new seedlings for each tree cut, and local trees travel short distances to consumers to maintain freshness and can be recycled after the holiday season. While the seedlings mature into trees, they act as a carbon-sink: pulling pollution produced carbon dioxide out of the air. Additionally, trees can provide habitat for wildlife.

Beyond beauty, sustainability, and economic benefits, Christmas trees support holiday traditions and family fun. For more than 40 years, Connie Anderson and her family have been selling Christmas trees and wreaths at Anderson Tree Farm in Isanti, “Many of our customers are families and individuals who return each year. We cherish these relationships and are happy to support holiday memories and traditions.”

Many Christmas tree farms offer a fun experience for the whole family (Photo from the Minnesota Department of Ag website)

Many Christmas tree farms offer a fun experience for the whole family (Photo from the Minnesota Department of Ag website)

 

Many tree farms offer fun family activities such as sleigh rides, games, gift shops, and visits with Santa. They can also be a source for local gift ideas: wreaths, garlands, ornaments, and holiday decorations. The Minnesota Grown Directory has 60 Christmas tree farms and retail tree lots. Consumers can easily find a fresh, local Christmas tree using the Minnesota Grown online Directory at www.MinnesotaGrown.com, or order a FREE printed copy by calling 1-888-TOURISM.

Lake Pepin phosphorous study vindicates Ag

“Phosphorous is an essential element, and we find it in everything,” said Ashley Grundtner, a former graduate student at the University of Minnesota. However, too much phosphorous has been finding it’s way into lakes and rivers in the Midwest for years, and it’s causing a lot of problems.

Algae bloom is a natural consequence of too much phosphorous in water, and Lake Pepin on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border is a good example. The bloom threatens fish and can negatively affect recreational activities. For years, agricultural runoff was considered the only culprit, so researchers began studying other factors that may explain the increase.

“For 20 years or so, many folks have said Lake Pepin was filling up, and in 1988, they had a big fish kill there,” said Dr. Satish Gupta, the Raymond Allmaras Professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. “That led to a whole series of studies by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that decided phosphorous was the problem.”

“I had been working on the source of sediment going back to 1994,” said Gupta. “That was the first year that MPCA came up with the report blaming agriculture for the sediment and phosphorous in the Minnesota River and then in Lake Pepin. Farmers were saying it’s not the agricultural land, it’s the banks along the river that was a bigger source.”

Sloughed River Bank

A sloughed tall bank along the Blue Earth River in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. (Photo taken by Satish Gupta)

He said, “When we started working on this, we took a look at the riverbanks and noticed they were bare. Every year, we get a new crop of dandelions, so we wondered why they weren’t growing on the banks. The answer is simple: they are very unstable and they come down every year. There isn’t enough time for vegetation growth.”

In 2005, Gupta and his students began a four-year study of several rivers in Blue Earth County to determine how much of the riverbanks were running off into the waters. “We found that 2.24 million cubic yards of soil was gone during that time,” said Gupta.

“The next question was how are bank materials reacting with the phosphorous in river waters,” said Gupta. “We knew when you apply fertilizer on the land, particularly phosphorous, it ties up pretty fast. There’s only a small amount for the crop to use, so they have to apply it again next year, and the next year after that.”

That’s what led to Ashley’s graduate thesis paper on the source of phosphorous in Lake Pepin. “If the riverbanks are absorbing the phosphorous we put on our farm fields, are they absorbing other sources of P too?” said Satish. “What is the role of sediments in the riverbank material in picking up phosphorous?”

Ashley Grundtner

Ashley Grundtner collecting sewage effluent sample along a drainage ditch in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. (Photo taken by Drew Kessler)

“We looked at historical records, and we found our rivers had been very polluted going all the way back to when Minnesota was a territory,” said Gupta. “Rivers were thought of as a conduit to carry waste away from the cities. They had virtually every kind of contaminant in the waters.”

Gupta said, “They didn’t have toilets to carry waste to a treatment plant back in that time period. Waste went directly into the river, and phosphorous is very common in sewage.”

South Saint Paul had a large meatpacking industry right on the Mississippi River. Gupta said, “It was set up on the river so they could push their waste in. Ice was also available in the wintertime to preserve meat.” He added, “Records show an ammonium phosphoric fertilizer plant was built along the Mississippi River south of St. Paul. We were not careful about what we put into our rivers.”

“Phosphorous is a basic element you’ll find everywhere in geology,” said Ashley Grundtner, who graduated with a Masters Degree in Water Resource Science in 2013. “We wanted to find out what were the natural levels of phosphorous in riverbank material. What happened to the material when it went through a river process? We then considered human input, like pollution, and what happened to it when it went into a river,” she said.

The group considered basic things like total P in the rivers and riverbanks, and how the riverbanks would absorb Phosphorous, and how much capacity the material had to store the element. From the different scenarios they worked on, they determined levels in Lake Pepin prior to and after 1850.

A tall sloughed bank along the Big Cobb River in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. (Photo taken by Drew Kessler.)

A tall sloughed bank along the Big Cobb River in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. (Photo taken by Drew Kessler.)

The results of their work, published in the Nov-Dec Issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality, showed that fine particles carrying P from eroded riverbanks was the main source of P in Lake Pepin before 1850. After 1850, the human element of pollution added to the levels of Phosphorous available for rivers to carry to Lake Pepin. “The rivers became increasingly polluted, and these riverbank materials are picking it up,” said Gupta. “River modification through locks and dams has added to it as well. Coarser materials are going to get stuck behind the dam, and there was more phosphorous in smaller amounts of fine particles going downstream.”

“Ashley’s paper has shown that most of the phosphorous in the Lake Pepin sediment is industrial and a sewage-phosphorous material, which was picked up by riverbank materials. That doesn’t mean there’s no other source, but that’s a big part of it,” said Dr. Gupta.

November Weed of the Month: Black Swallow-wort

by Emilie Justen, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

(This is part of a series of regular columns by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on the state’s noxious weeds.)

Black Swallow-wort

Black swallow-wort vines with flowers (Photo from the Mn Dept of Agriculture)

A member of the milkweed family is November’s Weed of the Month. Black swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae), also called dog-strangling vine, is a perennial, herbaceous vine that can form large patches and crowd out native vegetation. It was introduced to North America from southern Europe in the 1800s as an ornamental plant, and in 1864 was recorded escaping from a botanic garden in Massachusetts. Since its introduction to North America, it has been found invading abandoned farm fields, pastures, and prairies throughout the Eastern and Midwestern United States.

Black swallow-wort has twining stems up to six feet long. It has dark green, glossy foliage and star-shaped, dark purple flowers with a yellow center. The flowers are only 1/8 inch in size, and develop into a milkweed pod to disperse its seed by the wind.

The plant poses many ecological threats to the Midwest. It outcompetes native plants by forming a large root system that exudes chemicals to prevent other plants, such as the native butterfly milkweed, from growing. Black swallow-wort also threatens monarch butterflies by crowding out native milkweed host plants. In addition, female monarchs will lay their eggs on black swallow-wort but the plant is lethally toxic to the caterpillars after they hatch and begin feeding.  It can also thrive in wooded areas to form a monoculture in the forest understory. In Minnesota, black swallowwort was found growing on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus and successful eradication efforts kept the infestation from spreading.  There are two reports of isolated infestations in Minneapolis.

Black swallow-wort’s characteristics make it a challenge to control. It grows over other vegetation to block light and create tangled masses. As a target weed on Minnesota’s Noxious Weed Eradicate List, it is required by law that all above- and below-ground plant parts must be destroyed. Recommended management practices for black swallowwort include the following:

  • Pulling the plants by hand can be difficult and cause resprouting.
  • Burning and grazing have not shown to be effective.
  • Foliar and cut stem herbicide applications can be effective. For specific herbicide recommendations, contact your University of Minnesota Regional Extension Educator.
  • All management practices for black swallow-wort should include yearly monitoring to ensure the depletion of the seedbank.

To report infestations of black swallowwort or any other noxious weeds on the eradicate list, please notify MDA by email at arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us , or voicemail at 1-888-545-6684 (toll-free).

Minnesota Organic Conference draws nationally known speakers

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is excited to announce two outstanding keynote MDA logospeakers will headline the 2015 Minnesota Organic Conference in January.

Environmental Working Group Co-founder and President Ken Cook will speak Friday, January 9, while David Montgomery, a geological scientist and author of the award-winning book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization will speak Saturday, January 10.

Cook is widely recognized as one of the environmental community’s most prominent and influential thinkers of industrial agriculture, the food system, and farm policy. He has written dozens of articles, opinion pieces and reports on environmental, public health and agricultural topics, and is a highly sought public speaker. Organizers expect Cook’s talk to promote lively debate at the conference.

Montgomery will talk about every organic farmer’s best friend: soil.  He is a professor at the University of Washington, where he researches and teaches about how geological processes affect ecological systems and human societies. In his book Dirt, “We see how soil has shaped us and we have shaped soil—as society after society has risen, prospered, and plowed through a natural endowment of fertile dirt,” according to Amazon.com. Montgomery was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2008.

The Minnesota Organic Conference will be held January 9-10, 2015 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. Learn about the event’s educational sessions and trade show at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/organic/conference.aspx. Registration for the conference will open in mid-November, but the public can sign up now at this web site to receive conference information and updates.

David Montgomery

David Montgomery is the author of “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization.” He’ll speak at the Minnesota Organic Conference on Saturday, January tenth. (Photo from the Minnesota Department of Ag)

Ken Cook

Ken Cook is the President and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group. He’s speak at the Minnesota Organic Conference on January Ninth. (photo from the Minnesota Department of Ag)

 

Minnesota cropland rents rising

Cash Rent paid for non-irrigated cropland in Minnesota during 2014 averaged $185.00 per acre, an increase of $8.00 from 2013, according to the latest report released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Crop land rental rates continue to rise in Minnesota, according to a new survey from the National Ag Statistics Service (Photo from AgWeb.com)

Crop land rental rates continue to rise in Minnesota, according to a new survey from the National Ag Statistics Service (Photo from AgWeb.com)

Non-irrigated cropland rents ranged from an average of $14.00 per acre in St. Louis County, to $276.00 per acre in Nicollet County. Six counties had average rents greater $270.00 per acre and 10 counties had average rents less than $40.00 per acre.

Cash rent paid for pasture in Minnesota averaged $26.00 per acre in 2014, down $2.00 from 2013. Average cash rents ranged from $8.60 per acre in Carlton County to $61.50 per acre in Brown County.

Cash rent rates for irrigated cropland and other states are available online at:
http://www.nass.usda.gov/Data_and_Statistics/index.asp.

Here are some of the cash rents for southeast Minnesota:

Minnesota Farmers are shelling out an average of $8 more per acre for cropland than they did last year, according to a survey from the National Ag Statistics Service (photo from farmprogress.com)

Minnesota Farmers are shelling out an average of $8 more per acre for cropland than they did last year, according to a survey from the National Ag Statistics Service (photo from farmprogress.com)

Olmsted County: Cash rents on non-irrigated cropland average $246 per acre, up from $220 last year.  The average cash rent for pasture is $29 an acre, up from $26 last year.

Wabasha County: Cash rents on non-irrigated cropland average $222 per acre, up from $206 last year.  Cash rents for pasture average $44.50 per acre.

Dodge County:  Cash rents on non-irrigated farmland average $274 per acre, up from $264 last year.  Cash rents for pasture land average $45 dollars per acre, up from $41 last year.

Fillmore County: Cash rents for non-irrigated farmland average $236 per acre, and that’s actually down from $245 last year.  Cash rents for pasture land average $43 per acre, up from $41 dollars an acre last year.

Winona County:  Cash rents for non-irrigated cropland average $222 per acre, up from $206 last year.  Average cash rents for pasture land is $26 per acre, and that’s down from $40 per acre a year ago.

 

 

Commodity prices may head even lower

There are still opportunities for profits come harvest time, but experts say farmers will have to work harder for them (photo from stance ventures.com)

There are still opportunities for profits come harvest time, but experts say farmers will have to work harder for them (photo from stance ventures.com)

There’s no question that commodity prices have taken a pretty big tumble in the last several months. That doesn’t mean profitability has left agriculture, but it does mean farmers will have to work a little harder for it than they did in recent years.

“We’ve had opportunities over the last 5 to 6 years where if you ride the market, you could hit a home run with your marketing by selling at $6.50 or $7 a bushel,” said Arlan Suderman, the Senior Market Analyst for Waterstreet Solutions in Peoria, Illinois. “Now you’re going to have to hit a lot of singles.”

In agriculture, what goes up has to come down. Marketing experts and financial analysts looked at the recent high commodity prices with wonder, and more than a little trepidation.

“It’s kind of like a storm you see on radar. You know something’s coming, you’re just not sure what it’s going to be,” said Bob Campbell, Vice President of the southwest territory, which includes Nebraska and Wyoming, for Farm Credit Services of America (FCS).

Campbell said, “We knew that prices couldn’t sustain themselves at the 7 or 8 dollar level, and really, even over 6.” He added, “In agriculture, the best cure for high prices is high prices.”

Campbell said the downturn in prices is going to hurt producers this year. “It’s happened fast enough that, in this cycle, producers will not have had the ability to adjust their cost structure yet, so we expect producers to incur a loss this year. However, that’s coming on the heels of several years with profits that they’ve never seen before.”

As a result, going into the downturn in prices, Campbell said, “Financially, they’re generally really strong, so they’ll be able to weather the price decrease in this cycle.”

Campbell said, “If there’s any upside at all, we know that low prices are coming, and will continue if you forecast prices on the Board. Producers have some time to really evaluate their cost structure going forward, and find out if they can handle a two or three year window of low prices.”

Campbell said FCS built forecast models in case prices began to drop in land prices during the run-up, and they’ve been doing the same thing with commodity prices.

He said, “We saw the real estate prices escalating, we started a model that said we’re not going to start lending money to producers as this land market escalates. We figured out what land could service on $4 to $4.50 corn, and what kind of debt service it could handle from that point.”

“We created models in our four states that said, based on the production, and based on the area and it’s proven yields, this is the amount of debt we’re willing to extend on that acre of ground,” said Campbell.

Campbell said, “In an area where we thought the land could handle $4,500 of debt over the long term, if someone wanted to pay 10 to 12,000 dollars, that’s fine, because they’re coming in with a lot more equity. Without the equity, we knew in the long term that wouldn’t be sustainable.”

He did notice caution among lenders during the recent run-up in commodity prices. Campbell said, “What we saw going forward is most lenders didn’t follow the rising prices with increased levels of lending or credit. They kept their level of lending pretty moderate.”

Going into the price downturn, Campbell said most grain producers shouldn’t be over-leveraged. “All they really have to figure out now is what’s their cost structure. For fixed cost structure like payments, rent, your land taxes, can you do anything to lower those so we can lower the break-even point?”

Market experts are worried commodity prices may continue lower yet before we see a price floor.  (Photo from ace.illinois.edu)

Market experts are worried commodity prices may continue lower yet before we see a price floor. (Photo from ace.illinois.edu)

They’re even advising their clients to lower their family-living costs. Campbell said, “We know those costs have gone up because they could. Can you bring those back down to some degree?”

Suderman, the Senior Market Analyst at Waterstreet Solutions, said it’s going to be important for farmers to take Campbell’s advice into consideration, because he doesn’t see prices rising in the short term.

“Given outside factors pressuring the markets, and the lack of outside money in the commodity markets, we’re looking at December corn in the area of $2.85, which is lower than the market fundamentals justify.” He added, “I could see November or January soybeans going to the $9.60 area, and if it’s a really big crop, maybe $8.80.”

“Farmers are going to have to be more careful, watch their expenses, and recognize profit opportunities when they come,” said Suderman. “They have to be able to make a business decision and lock in that profit, because opportunities are not going to last very long.”

Here’s an interesting video from KRCG TV in Missouri that may support what the experts are saying about lower commodity prices as we head into the harvest season:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faribault County Farm Family of the Year

“There’s been a lot of changes in agriculture,” said Duane Erich, a farmer from the Blue Earth area, who began farming full time in 1967.

Duane and his wife, Joyce, have been selected as the 2014 Fairbault County Farm Family of the Year.  Farming has been a part of Duane’s life since growing up on the family dairy farm with his parents and two younger brothers.

“I grew up working on my dad’s dairy farm, which was only about three miles from where I live now,” said Erich. “We usually milked 20 or 30 cows.”  He said, “It was a great experience growing up on a farm.”  Erich said the work ethic he learned during those years was the biggest factor in any success he’s had in life.

The Erich family receives it’s Fairbault County Farm Family of the Year award at the Fairbault County Fair (photo courtesy of the U of Mn Extension Service)

The Erich family receives it’s Fairbault County Farm Family of the Year award at the Fairbault County Fair (photo courtesy of the U of Mn Extension Service)

The Erich’s raise corn and soybeans on their 1,300-acre farm in Fairbault County, and they feed out roughly 300 cattle a year.

Erich said he’s known they were the County Farm Family of the Year for about a month now.  “The Extension Office in Blue Earth called and talked to my wife, and she accepted.  Then I came in, she told me, and I said they must have been running out of names,” said Erich.

“The Fairbault County Fair was last week, and we got our award there,” said Erich.  “When the kids heard we were getting this at the County Fair, they all came home.  All three kids brought their spouses, and we had a good time.”

The oldest Erich sibling, Tim, had the shortest trip home to Blue Earth, as he lives in Mankato.  The other two children had a significantly longer trip to get back home.  “Jon, he’s in Florida at the moment, and Mary is in Nevada,” said Duane.

Duane said agriculture has changed a great deal since he began full-time farming in 1967.  “There’ve been a lot of big changes,” said Erich.  “The prices of our inputs, the prices of our machinery, crop yields have increased, and there’s been a lot more government regulation too.”

There have been a lot of positive changes too.  “Herbicides are a lot better thank what we had then,” said Erich.  “The only herbicides we had back then were a hoe and a cultivator.”