2nd Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm a success

Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm a big hit!

The second annual Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm was a big success at the Jary and Celene Holst dairy farm near Kellogg. (Photo by Chad Smith)

The second annual Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm took place on the Jary and Celene Holst dairy farm near Kellogg last Friday night.  A warm summer evening saw a great turnout and a wide variety of activities for people of all ages to take part in.

The goal was a simple one:  to introduce the non-farm public to the people behind the food they eat and to show them what goes into producing that food.  Displays of old and new farm equipment lined the farmyard, as well as history displays, a petting zoo, a lunch stand, kids activities, and much more that made for a busy family night on the farm.

Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm a big hit with children

People of all ages had a chance to get up close and personal at Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm at the Jary and Celene Holst farm near Kellogg on a beautiful Friday evening. (photo by Chad Smith)

“This is the second year of doing this event,” said Katie Brown, a member of the group putting on the event.  “Last year, many of us put together the first event last year at Klein’s Cow Palace near Lake City.  This year, the Holst family graciously offered to host the event out here, so it’s a new event for our county but we’re hoping to make it a tradition.”

Brown described the turnout on Friday night as “amazing.”  Events like this just don’t happen without a large number of people who are passionate about agriculture and want to tell its story to people who don’t have much of a connection to the farm.

“We want to make sure we tell the next generation about what farmers do every day and how hard they work,” said Brown, who lives in Millville, “and not just in the dairy industry but every segment of farming, including corn and soybean farmers, and hog producers.  We just want to make sure we share that story with everyone.”

Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm included agricultural history

Ag history was on display with antique farm equipment at the second annual Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm near Kellogg. The non-farm public had a chance to learn more about ag history and see some of the newest available equipment on display too. (Photo by Chad Smith)

The list of activities was a long one on Friday night.  The displays included the history of agriculture, with actual working equipment from back in the day as well as some of the newest equipment, a chance to watch the dairy farm at work, and plenty for the kids to do as well.

“We have a little bit of history,” Brown said as she took a break from helping at the lunch counter, “not just about the farm but how agriculture has changed.  We have a cream separator, which a lot of people may not know how it works, so it’ll be interesting to watch that.  We have a large sand pile for kids with hidden baseballs to find for a chance to win Twins tickets.  We have old and new tractors, a pedal tractor, calf feeding, and much more.”

She said it’s incredibly important to do more activities like this because of that growing disconnect between urban folks and people on the farm.  She sees that disconnect every day in her job as a Calf and Heifer Specialist with Land O’ Lakes.

Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm offered a chance to get up close and personal with a dairy farm.

Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm included a chance for the non-farm public to watch cow being milked in a working dairy on the Jary and Celene Holst farm near Kellogg. (photo by Chad Smith)

“I’ve been involved in the American Dairy Association and the dairy industry all my life,” Brown said.  “I’ve become very good friends with a couple from New York, and when I explain what I do when working with dairy farmers on the nutrition side making diets for cows and calves, they said ‘you do what?’  It’s interesting to talk to people that have no experience on a farm and tell them about what farmers do on a daily basis.

“When they ask ‘how do you milk a cow,’ they see you sitting on a stool between cows,” she said.  “We send them pictures showing that there’s a new way of milking cows in parlors which is more safe for humans and more efficient to operate.  It’s interesting to hear their take on it.”

As Brown was watching people walk by, she did see a lot of people from the surrounding community but did notice a large number of people who came from far away to enjoy a night on the farm with their family.  The other noticeable thing about the crowds was an incredible number of oranges shirts that signified volunteers who were helping the event run smoothly.

Lots of volunteer help at Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm

Family Night on the Farm organizer Katie Brown said there’s no way she could put an event like that together without lots of volunteer help, who were seen wearing bright orange shirts like this one all over the farm. (Photo by Chad Smith)

“I definitely couldn’t do it myself,” she said with a smile, “the Holst family has been great about bringing in family members and neighbors to help out.  The tractor club helps out, and so does the Farm Bureau, the Farmers Union, and people sometimes just come in to help without being asked.  They show up and say ‘give me a shirt and tell me what to do.’  That’s when you know you’re truly in an agricultural community when people step forward to help.  They step forward to help even when sign-up sheets at local banks are filled up.”

Brown and many of the other people running the event have roots that run deep in agriculture.  Katie grew up on a dairy farm and is very proud of what her family does.  Although she and her husband don’t dairy farm, their kids still get the experience of being on a farm regularly when they want to.  Not everyone is so fortunate to have farming in their immediate, or even extended, family.

Kids activities at Wabasha County Family Night on the Farm

A big goal of Family Night on the Farm is to educate the next generation of future adults about how agriculture works and introduce them to the people behind the food they eat. (photo by Chad Smith)

“I do worry about the next generation getting further and further away from understanding what is going on in farming,” Brown said.  “It’s not generally even the grandparents that farmed any more, it’s getting further away in the family.  It’s vital that we share our story with the next generation about where their food comes from, otherwise, they won’t appreciate it as much as they should.”

Last year, she was hoping for approximately 200 people to show up and they had an actual turnout closer to 600 people.  This year, the goal was 900 people.

“It feels good to see the turnout and it’s a beautiful evening,” Brown said.  “It’s exciting to see so many people show up.”

 

Here’s the complete interview with Katie Brown shortly after I pulled her out from behind the lunch counter for a quick chat.  I think you can hear just how busy the place was in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tractor Safety Class brings back farm memories

I had some serious flashbacks to the teen years when I got an assignment to take some pictures at a Tractor Safety Class in Rushford the other day. Watching some wide-eyed 12-15-year-old kids drive a tractor through an obstacle course and have to hook up the hydraulics of a commercial mower to the back of a different tractor looked like fun and a challenge all at the same time.

As a middle-aged man, the first thing you’re tempted to do is compare what the equipment of today is like to what you grew up on years ago.  Of course, the biggest difference is electronics and buttons to push instead of hydraulic levers to yank every time you wanted to do something.

The other big difference is an enclosed cab versus an open air seat.  I remember a lot of 90-100 degree days where air conditioning would have been nice, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

I also didn’t know that the hydraulic hoses are now color-coded to make it easier to hook up to a tractor, which is a nice change from the old days.

The kids that took the course had to sit in a classroom for a couple of days before they got to go outside on one of the most beautiful days of the year to take the practical tests.  Did you ever have to back up farm equipment before and the implements appeared to do the exact opposite of what you wanted it to?  You turn it the OPPOSITE way of the direction you wanted it to go?  How aggravating could that be when you first were learning the business?

Tractor Safety Class is a good thing.

The Bobcat skid steer loader was always my favorite equipment to operate, but it wasn’t always an easy gig when you’re first learning how to operate it! (photo from bobcatrental.ca)

One of the more embarrassing flashbacks was learning to drive a skid steer.  That was always my favorite thing to operate, but the first time I tried to load it up onto the trailer, I forgot you need to take it up backward.  You can imagine what came next, right?  It winds up on its backside, but all I needed to do was push the levers forward and it was back on all four wheels.  It’s probably not hard to believe that it took awhile for me to stop hearing about that one!

I didn’t know this course was federally mandated.  You obviously will need the certification to work on farms, but it’s also necessary to work on the big commercial-scale lawnmowers as well, so keep that in mind.

 

 

 

Kansas/Oklahoma wildfire areas bouncing back

On this next edition of the ChadSmithMedia podcast, I had a unique opportunity to visit with a woman named Sandra Levering, a cattle producer from Comanche County in Kansas.  If that rings any kind of bells, it’s because they were part of a large area on the Kansas and Oklahoma border affected by the biggest wildfire they’d seen in that area’s history.  It burned roughly 400.000 acres.  Thankfully, there was no loss of human life, but livestock was badly affected as was a lot of pasture and grazing areas.

Kansas/Oklahoma wildfire areas recovering

A shot of the grass fires that roared through the Kansas and Oklahoma border areas in late March. It totaled nearly 400,000 acres of land before it was put out. (photo from KFDI.com

The amazing part of the story is this:  With apologies to the movie Pay It Forward, that’s just what the situation turned into.  Levering was one of the folks who took it upon themselves to coordinate aid to those farmers who needed it.  They brought in loads and loads of hay to help feed cattle that literally had nothing.  Loads of people came down from the north to help with repairs, including a whole lot of fencing to put up.

The one thing I want you to remember is this:  If you hear a so-called “expert” tell you that farmers don’t care for their animals, listen to the emotion in Sandra’s voice when she spoke about the animals that were badly injured in the fire.  You’ll either change your mind or have to check your pulse to make sure you’re still alive.

Kansas/Oklahoma wildfire areas are recovering

Harvey County, Kansas lands that were burned by a 400,000-acre wildfire in late March. Recovery efforts are well underway, and reports of green grass growing in the affected areas are starting to come in. (photo from ksn.com)

She is out in wide open spaces, so her cell phone dips a little, but I think you’ll get the gist of what’s happening and how that area has slowly begun to bounce back from a horrible tragedy.  After all, as she puts it, “In agriculture, we don’t wait for the government to come help us, we do it ourselves.”

 

 

 

Ag businesses working hard to find labor

The nation’s unemployment rate remained steady through January at 4.9 percent. The US Department of Labor said over a half million workers were discouraged, meaning they had quit looking for work because they believe no jobs are out there for them.

Businesses across the agricultural spectrum want those folks to know there are jobs out there. Ag is having an especially hard time finding skilled labor, and businesses in Nebraska and Kansas are taking some unusual steps to find the help they need. Those steps include tuition reimbursement for students as well as hiring their first corporate recruiters to build relationships with those students.

Ag businesses working hard to find skilled labor

Landmark Implement of Nebraska and Kansas is taking unusual steps to overcome a serious shortage of skilled workers in the Ag labor force. (Photo from Twitter.com)

“My responsibilities are twofold,” said Deanna Karmazin, the new Corporate Recruiter at Landmark Implement, a John Deere dealer. “We have 17 dealerships across Nebraska and Kansas, and I’m trying to fill our open positions. Those positions include service techs, people at the parts counter, and people to work in wash bays, do the maintenance, and such.

“The second part of it will be to work with high school Ag programs and tech programs across Nebraska,” Karmazin said. “We have to cultivate a workforce. I’m trying to identify kids that would like to enter the field of diesel technology, or precision farming, get them under the Landmark umbrella, get them sent off to school and guarantee them employment.”

Deanna knew going into her job that labor would be hard to find. What she didn’t realize is that there just aren’t many young people that understand agriculture.

“You might have some that know how to work on engines,” she said, “but they really don’t understand what a tractor or combine is. They may not even understand the agricultural lingo.”

Stories abound regarding the “graying of production agriculture, i.e. farmers.” But even businesses that serve Agriculture are having a hard time replacing some of their older workers when they decide to step away.

“It’s been very tough for us to find skilled labor,” said Rick Kloke, the Corporate Service Tech Supervisor at Landmark. “In a lot of ways, it’s one of the biggest things that limits us in terms of being more productive. It’s not tooling or internal resources, it’s just the manpower to get jobs done.

Ag businesses working hard to attract skilled labor.

250 High school students exploring careers as John Deere technicians at SCC Milford, Nebraska. (contributed photo)

“In south-central Nebraska (Hastings dealership,), we tend to bring in people with strong agricultural backgrounds,” Kloke said. “We’ve lost a fair amount of guys who want to go home and see if they can make things work on the family farm.”

He added, “Some guys are successful, but some are back within a few years. Losing guys will create a big void for us. Even the guys that come back have fallen behind after a few years because the technology has changed so much.”

As a corporate recruiter, Karmazin has a lot of tools she uses to develop relationships with people and organizations that can help her grow their workforce. Internet options for advertising jobs include their own website as well as careerbuilder.com. She said the rest comes from word-of-mouth. She said people in small towns generally have the best ideas about top potential candidates.

Chambers of Commerce within cities in Nebraska and Kansas also makes good sources, especially when they host job fairs.

“As our workforce has aged out, Ag hasn’t done a good job of succession planning for the next generation of workers,” Karmazin said. “Also, things have changed so much with tractors and other equipment running on computers now. We’re looking for a different type of laborer than in the past.”

Once the recruiting process singles out good candidates, Karmazin said Landmark Implement is taking another step to cultivate their workforce.

Ag businesses working hard to find skilled labor

Jim Cope is a senior at Springfield Platteview high school in Nebraska. He is one of the students LandMark is sponsoring through the John Deere tech program. He will start college in October.  (Contributed photo)

“We will sponsor them through the John Deere Tech Program at the Southeast Community College campus in Milford, Nebraska,” Karmazin said, “or anywhere there’s a John Deere tech program. They become certified John Deere technicians. They’ll be working on all the older and newer equipment, and have all the diagnostics for John Deere.”

She added, “Once they’re in there, they’ll understand all of the equipment from start to finish.”

Landmark will offer students a paid shadow experience. They’ll pay the kids for between 60–90 days to do career exploration to see if it’s something they want to do before they get into any of the tech programs in Nebraska or Kansas.

Students also get on the job experience and a paycheck while they go to school to learn. When they graduate, they’re guaranteed a job at any of the locations, plus, the company will help pay their tuition.

“We take their tuition (minus housing) and prorate it every month,” Deanna said, “so every month they work for us, they take off a part of that debt. If they stay for 36 months, 100 percent of their tuition will be paid off completely in three years.”

The program has been going on for a few years, and it’s been very successful so far.

“We’ve gotten some very good people out of it,” said Rick Kloke, “and several of them are destined to be more than shop floor technicians. I see some future leaders in that group.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring planting will require patience, as usual

I thought we’d talk spring planting on the chadsmithmedia.com weekly podcast.  I wanted to introduce you to Ryan Martin, the owner of advantageweathersolutions.com, and it’s not just because I work for him.  I was in radio a long time and read thousands of weather forecasts, and his is the most accurate I’ve seen in a long time.  No weather forecast will be 100 percent accurate, but a reliable forecast can be really hard to find nowadays.

Spring Planting

Ryan Martin of Warsaw, Indiana, is the Chief Meteorologist at Hoosier Ag Today, pictured here at a recent weather seminar. He’s also the owner of advantageweathersolutions.com)

I can remember during my last radio gig at KLGR radio in Redwood Falls there were more than a few times I’d read the weather forecast and have no idea where they were getting their information.  Just for the record, I wasn’t the only one that paused more than once due to confusion over what we had just read in the forecast.

Certain parts of the country have had spring planting challenges, and the challenge vary based upon where you are at.  The deep south has been wet, other areas have been extremely windy, and still others have been well below normal in terms of temperatures.  Let’s talk weather with Ryan, who happens to be the Chief Meteorologist for Hoosier Ag Today…tape

Eggs, weather, and weeds on the weekly podcast.

Eggs, weather, and weeds dominate the weekly podcast

Steve Olson is director of the Minnesota Chicken and Egg Association. He says the push to move producers to cage free production methods will double the cost of production, and drive up the cost of eggs at the grocery store. (photo from BrownfieldAg.com)

Time to hit some agriculture highlights, and eggs, weather, and weeds all get some time on the air today.  Let’s do another edition of the ChadSmithMedia weekly podcast on chadsmithmedia.com.  This week, we’re talking about cage free eggs in Minnesota.  Steve Olson of the Minnesota Chicken and Egg Association says get ready for the cost of your scrambled eggs to get even higher.  A large Minnesota grocery chain will be buying only from cage free producers in the coming years, and that will do nothing but double the cost of production for the farmers who make those sunny side up eggs possible.

Eggs, Weather, and Weeds dominate the weekly podcast

Iowa State climatologist Elwynn Taylor said he expects good growing conditions during the season ahead, and if El Nino sticks around, there’s a chance yields may come in slightly above trend line in the fall. (Photo from extension.iastate.edu)

We’ll also discuss weather, which has to be one of my favorite topics because you’re guaranteed to get different answers from each person you talk to. Elwynn Taylor is the Iowa State University Extension Climatologist, and he’s talking about yields after this growing season possibly coming in slightly above trend, but that could depend a lot of El Nino sticking around, and reports have come in about the phenomenon actually beginning to weaken.  Should be interesting to monitor during the growing season.

Lastly, we talk a lot about scouting weeds, and we have a reminder from Chris Reat of FMC to get your scouting done before spring planting, and be diligent.  We’ve talked a lot about resistance issues, especially around glyphosate, and it’s always good to mix up your program as you tackle grasses and broadleaf weeds.

There you go.  I do enjoy podcasting, and would love to know what you want to hear in the months ahead.

MN farmers See For Yourself in Vietnam

Minnesota farmers See For Yourself

Doug Pohlman (right) of Lakefield, Minn., thanks a Vietnamese poultry farmer for hosting the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council’s See For Yourself delegation. Thirteen Minnesota farmers toured parts of Vietnam to assess soybean checkoff investments in the country. (Contributed photo)

The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (MSR&PC) went to the Far East for it’s most recent See For Yourself trip. A delegation of farmers took a tour of Vietnam to see firsthand how the MSR&PC investments in the country are paying off for American soybean farmers.

Kevin Paap is a farmer from Garden City and the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation President. He also serves on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) on Soy Insights (formerly Soy 20-20), a strategic planning group looking at markets and demand. He said Vietnam is one of the world’s fastest emerging markets.

“With being involved in the AFBF Trade Advisory Committee as Chair,” Paap said, “we’ve been very active in trade talks, including the Trans Pacific Partnership, the See For Yourself was a good opportunity to mesh all those things together.”

He said trade missions are most successful when put together by people with what he called “boots on the ground.” It’s important that people who know the countries, such as the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and the US Soybean Export Council (USSEC), help with lining up the trips. That way, Paap said they wouldn’t turn into sightseeing trips.

Paap said describing Vietnam as an emerging market for agricultural goods might catch some people by surprise, but a number of different factors make it a true statement.

“It’s an emerging market because it’s the 13th most populous country in the world,” Paap said, “and that number is increasing by about 1 percent per year. It’s also the eighth most populous country in Asia. They’re only the 32nd largest economy in the world, but they’re growing.”

Vietnam is the 11th largest export market for American agricultural products. They import 70 percent of their livestock feed ingredients, which means they can’t raise it themselves. They also pay a lot for their own food.

“They spend 65 percent of their incomes on food,” Paap said. “They don’t necessarily want more calories, but better calories in their food, before they spend their money on a car or a house. They’d like to eat something more than rice 3 times a day.”

The other opportunity for livestock feed comes from strong Vietnamese pork production. It may come as a surprise, but Vietnam ranks sixth overall in world hog production and seventh in the world in pork consumption.

Paap called the “See For Yourself” trips that most of the checkoff organizations are now hosting a great opportunity for farmers to see how their checkoff dollars are invested, both locally and overseas.

“It’s tough to see opportunities overseas when you aren’t there,” Paap said, “and the opportunities are there in international marketing. Until you not only see, but also hear from, those folks with boots on the ground, it’s exciting to know they want better food.

“They can’t grow the crops themselves and they’re very accepting of biotechnology,” Paap said. “With limited land, biotechnology is the only way they can grow more on the land they do have.”

Minnesota farmers See For Yourself

Thirteen Minnesota farmers toured Vietnam to evaluate the work of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, the elected board of Minnesota farmers who direct investments of soybean checkoff money to open new markets, create new uses, educate farmers and non-farmers and promote soybeans. (Contributed photo)

First impressions for farmers on overseas trips can vary greatly. Ben Storm farms near Dover, in Olmsted County, and went along on the See For Yourself trip to Vietnam. He said the first thing that jumped out at him when he stepped foot in the country.

“The modernization,” Storm said.   “The feed mill we toured look all new with modern technology. You might have thought you were in a feed mill in the United States. The poultry farm we toured had 20,000 laying hens. The only difference between that and a barn in the US was the hens are hand fed and the eggs are picked by hand.”

He said the Bungee soybean crushing facility actually prefers American soybeans to South American beans. American soybeans, particularly from Minnesota, arrive at their plant with much less moisture and heat damage.

Overseas trips to Asian marketing partners are very important. Asian businesses typically place a very high value on face-to-face interaction.

“You’ve got to have those relationships and know each other before they’re willing to do business with you. It’s a much different culture than in the US.”

An American farmer back home who’s never been on one of these trips may be saying ‘how does this benefit me?’ The 13 Minnesota farmers on the trip saw firsthand how important and effective these trips are.

13 Minnesota farmers See For Yourself

Ben Storm (left) of Dover, Minn., and Kevin Paap of Garden City, Minn., tour a market in Hanoi, Vietnam. Paap and Storm were guests of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, which sent a delegation of 13 Minnesota farmers to Vietnam as part of its See For Yourself program. (Contributed photo)

“It just so happened that Keith Schrader (Nerstand, MN), the Chairman of the MSR&PC was on the trip,” said Kim Nill, Minnesota Soybean Director of Market Development. “He was the leader of this trip. When he walked into place after place over there, it was ‘Oh, hi Mr. Schrader,’ and ‘How good to see you again,’ et cetera. Keith has been there a couple times and also been a part of USSEC projects to bring Vietnamese here.”

Nill added, “It was surprising, even to me, to see how many of them already knew Keith and greeted him warmly.”

In terms of actual business conversations, the 13 farmers also heard firsthand how USSEC investments overseas pay off in terms of increasing market demand and buyer loyalty as well. Nill said the 13 farmers asked very probing questions of overseas customers and partners.

“For example, they would say ‘Okay Mr. Soybean Mill operator, we’ve heard about what the USSEC investment did to help you get your mill built, or maybe improved it’s capacity. Has that made you more likely to purchase soybeans from the United States?’ Then, they’d hear the response of that feed mill owner or swine farm operator, and the answer was obviously, yes.”

These trips do add to the bottom line for American farmers. USSEC recently hired an economics expert from Texas A&M University to run the numbers to see how much impact these types of trips have to the American agricultural economy.

“They do go through the calculations to see what the impact of the checkoff expenditures is to the bottom line of soybean producers,” Nill said. “Their latest determination is that for every 1 dollar of checkoff funds spent on projects like the Vietnam trip, it returns 7 dollar net benefit back to the boots on the ground farmers in the United States.”

Tran Trong Chien is the USSEC Country Representative for Vietnam, and Ben Storm said he and the rest of the staff do a great job promoting American soybeans.

“Everywhere he went, people knew who he was,” Storm said. “It was pretty obvious he’s done a great job getting to know people and promoting American products. I was extremely pleased with how we’re investing our money over there.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April Weed of the Month: Prescribed Burns

MDA-logoMany management strategies, including prescribed burns, can be used against invasive plants.

In most cases, no single strategy used by itself will provide the desired long-term solution that landowners and managers seek. However, when used together as part of a larger integrated strategy, they can provide significant benefits for achieving successful, long-term management.

A prescribed burn is used as an invasive plant control tool, and to manage native plant communities and large landscapes.

At the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), one goal of prescribed burns is to improve the health of desirable vegetation. Ken Graeve with MnDOT says they use prescribed burns to promote the growth of desirable vegetation in combination with other treatments such as herbicide applications. With these combined methods, a healthy ecosystem is better able to outcompete invasive plants.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) uses prescribed burns not just for managing native plant communities, but also for controlling woody invasive plants.

Prescribed Burns

An autumn prescribed burn is used to improve the health of native vegetation at a wetland mitigation. (Contributed photo)

For example, after initial work of cutting and treating with herbicide application, the DNR may use prescribed burns in subsequent months and years to help control infestations of buckthorn, honeysuckle, or Japanese barberry. Shawn Fritcher from the DNR says prescribed burns can be effective against these invasive woody plants because burns can cover large areas faster than cutting and treating can. Multiple burns are often needed to reduce the vigor of woody invasive species.

Fritcher also says it is important to note that repeated fire is most appropriate in fire-dependent woodlands.

At both MnDOT and the DNR, staff who work on prescribed burns go through training. They learn about fire behavior, weather prescriptions, and how to design and write an effective burn plan. Fire breaks, or the breaks in combustible material, are often established ahead of time using a variety of equipment like tractors, mowers, ATVs, rakes, and leaf blowers. Fire breaks are controlled using trucks or ATVs that carry water, or with hand tools where access by ATV is limited. The appropriate permits must be acquired, and traffic control measures are utilized for burns along roadsides.

Timing prescribed burns depends on the management objective. Desirable plant species often respond well to early spring burns. Smooth brome and other cool season grasses can be managed with late spring burns. Burning woody invasive species after leaf-out may be the most effective since much of the plant’s energy is invested in new above ground growth. Summer burns can be effective at controlling brushy species in prairie areas. Fall burns provide another opportunity to target some invasive species.

For landowners thinking about utilizing prescribed burns, they must first get a burn permit.

Prescribed burns

Farmers use prescribed burns intheir fields to encourage growth by removing competition from weeds (Photo from farmprogress.com)

Proper planning for the burn is critical to success. The landowner needs to think about many factors such as fire break location, wind direction, smoke, control measures, and many other parameters to make decisions for the burn plan. There are multiple resources through the DNR website (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/rxfire/index.html) to assist landowners with planning prescribed burns.

Wabasha Cty residents invited to meeting on emerald ash borer

Residents of Wabasha County are invited to a public meeting on Thursday, March 31st, 2016 regarding the discovery of emerald ash borer (EAB) in the county.

MDA-logoOn February 29, 2016, Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) staff identified EAB larvae in an ash tree in the southeastern corner of the county after being alerted to some suspicious trees by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources staff.

The trees displayed symptoms of EAB infestation, including bark splits and insect tunneling under the bark.

Those attending the upcoming meeting will have an opportunity to listen to presentations on EAB, hear about local options to deal with the insect, and learn how residents can limit the spread of the bug. Experts from the MDA, University of Minnesota, and other state and federal partner agencies will be available to answer questions.

Emerald Ash Borer Informational Meeting
Thursday, March 31, 2016
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Wabasha County Courthouse
625 Jefferson Avenue
Wabasha, MN 55981

Emerald Ash Borer concerns in Wabasha

Emerald ash borer concerns are prompting a public meeting in Wabasha County at the courthouse to discuss concerns about the insect, which has been found in the southern part of the county. (photo from tn.gov)

The public will also have an opportunity to provide input on the adoption of a formal EAB quarantine of Wabasha County. An emergency quarantine was placed on the area when EAB was discovered.

The MDA will take comments on the formal quarantine from March 15 – May 1, 2016 and proposes to adopt the quarantine on May 15, 2016.

The quarantine limits the movement of ash trees and limbs, and hardwood firewood out of the county. The proposed quarantine language can be found at www.mda.state.mn.us/eab. Comments can be made at the public meetings or by contacting:

Kimberly Thielen Cremers
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
625 Robert Street North
St. Paul, MN 55155
mailto:kimberly.tcremers@state.mn.us
Fax: 651-201-6108

Emerald Ash borer concerns in Wabasha County

Emerald ash borers emerge from an infected tree. EAB infestation concerns are the reason for a public meeting at the Wabasha County Courthouse on Thursday, March 31, beginning at 5:30. (Photo from ars.usda.gov)

Emerald ash borer larvae kill ash trees by tunneling under the bark and feeding on the part of the tree that moves nutrients up and down the trunk. Minnesota is highly susceptible to the destruction caused by invasive insect. The state has approximately one billion ash trees, the most of any state in the nation. For more information on emerald ash borer, go to www.mda.state.mn.us/eab.

March Weed of the Month: Edible and Dangerous

Minnesota Department of Ag Logo In Minnesota, we have some poisonous plants commonly growing in home and community gardens of which we can safely eat certain parts (like tomatoes or other nightshades). In this article we will focus on a few of these vegetable and fruit crops that have poisonous parts—Nightshades, Prunus species, and Rhubarb.

The Solanaceous family, also known as the Nightshade family, includes such plants as tomato, potato, pepper, and eggplant. These plants all contain the toxin solanine in varying amounts in the green plant parts. The leaves of Solanaceous plants usually must be ingested in large quantities to produce harmful effects in humans and animals. Potatoes have the potential to be the most dangerous; tubers that have turned green and/or sprouted due to sunlight exposure or improper storage have high amounts of solanine, and should never be eaten. A small percentage of the population is allergic to Solanaceous fruits. For some with sensitive skin, brushing against the hairy and resinous leaves can cause irritation or rash.

 The Prunus (stone fruit) family includes plum, cherry, apricot, almond, and native fruit trees like chokecherry, black cherry, and wild plum. These trees all have trace amounts of cyanolipids in the leaves and amygdalin in the seeds. These compounds can be converted into the toxin cyanide when the leaves are crushed and exposed to air (as after mulching or chipping) or upon chewing and digestion. After this decomposition process, poisonous amounts of cyanide may be released. Accidental poisoning may occur in humans, especially by curious children, but it most commonly occurs in livestock and pets. The smaller size of dogs and cats can make them particularly susceptible.

Edible and dangerous, all at the same time

There are toxic compounds in the leaves of a rhubarb plant, but humans must ingest large amounts to be dangerous. However, small animals like cats and dogs wouldn’t have to ingest much to be toxic. (contributed photo)

Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) is a beloved vegetable grown in Minnesota’s home and community gardens. An herbaceous perennial with thick rhizomes, it is grown for its tart, fleshy stalks. Most people do not realize that rhubarb’s leaves contain oxalic acid, among other unidentified poisonous substances. The stalks contain trace amounts of this compound but are obviously safe for consumption. There are a number of references to accidental poisonings occurring in Europe during World War I, as the rhubarb leaves were apparently recommended as food during the scarcity of wartime. People must ingest large quantities of leaves to experience the toxic effect, but small animals like cats and dogs can fairly easily ingest too much. 

Edible and dangerous, all at the same time.

The leaves of the potato plant contain a toxin called solanine, which much be ingested in large amounts to be toxic. However, a potato that’s turned green or sprouted due to too much sunlight or improper storage will contain high amounts of the toxin, and should never be eaten. (contributed photo)

 We clearly are intimately linked to these plants and will continue to grow and harvest from them in our home and community gardens. With the knowledge that specific plant parts can be harmful to pets or children if ingested, we should use them with precaution. Please contact Minnesota Poison Control with any concerns about potential human poisoning at 800-222-1222poisonhelp@hcmed.org, or www.mnpoison.org.