Olmsted county farmer takes Farm Bureau honors

Minnesota_Farm_Bureau_Logo_345x143Ben Storm’s involvement with the Minnesota Farm Bureau only goes back one year.

But it’s been a busy year for the Dover farmer, as Storm won the Minnesota Farm Bureau’s Achievement Award late last year at the state convention. The state award gave him the chance to travel to Florida to compete on a national stage at the American Farm Bureau national convention earlier this month.

A simple phone call from a friend got Storm interested in the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

“A friend of mine called me and told me about their leadership conference,” Storm said. “He thought it would be a good idea for me to go along. I went to the conference last year and that’s how I got involved.”

He added, “Now I’m on the Olmsted County Farm Bureau Board of Directors and I get involved as much as I can.”

Storm said Farm Bureau provides many opportunities to tell the story of Agriculture to people who don’t know where their food comes from.

“We do an event we call Fun with the Farmer,” Storm said, “and we go to elementary schools in the Rochester area and educate kids. Rochester is a larger town with not a lot of agriculture in those schools, so going there and educating the kids on what we do is a lot of fun.”

Storm adds, “Farm Bureau is the reason I get to do things like that. We also spent some time last year at the State Capitol talking with legislators about Ag. I’d never done something like that, and I thought it was a lot of fun.”

Storm said the reason for educating the public about agriculture is apparent when they go to area schools and see the disconnect between urban areas and the farm.

“The more I see it the less surprised I am by it,” Storm said. “You continually see that these kids have no idea what Ag is, because they’re 4 and 5 generations removed from the farm now.”

Storm said winning the Minnesota Farm Bureau Achievement award was quite an honor.

“The Achievement Award is for people whose primary income is from farming,” Storm explained. “There are 3 criteria: your farm operation and growth, the financials of your operation, and your leadership experience inside and outside of Farm Bureau.”

One winner is chosen from multiple nominees.

“You fill out an application,” Storm said, “and on the state level, they judge each of the applications and follow up with interviews. The interview questions are basically for clarification on things in the application they were curious about.”

After winning the state competition, it was on to Orlando, Florida, and the national Achievement Award competition at the American Farm Bureau Convention.

Olmsted county farmer gets national recognition

Olmsted county farmer Ben Storm, at left, winner of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Achievement Award, gets recognized by Derek Helms, American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farm And Rancher Committee member from Arkansas. (photo from Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation)

“There was a group of about 60 people from Minnesota that went down,” Storm said. “It was nice to have people there you knew, but it was a lot of fun to visit with new people.”

He enjoyed learning about different types of farm operations from across the country.

“We spoke with a gentleman from Florida who raises alligators, snakes, and rats,” Storm said. “It’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t think of. You understand alligators and snakes, but I never got to ask him why he raises rats.”

He said farmers who raise different commodities do have common concerns.

“One of the biggest ones right now is lower commodity prices,” Storm said, “and what they’re doing to everybody’s operations. Plus, people are trying to get rents adjusted, because that’s a big cost.”

He adds, “Even the price of inputs is a big concern, and how they need to adjust too.”

Ben runs the family operation in the Dover area.

“Dad (Jacob) is partially retired,” said Storm, “but he still helps out when needed. I farm a little over 1,000 acres, and it’s a 50/50 rotation of corn and soybeans”

He adds,” We have a few sows, and we farrow show pigs and sell them to 4H and FFA kids. That’s more of a project Dad handles.”

 

 

 

Keeping a weather eye on Minnesota

“Persistent.”  Not exactly the word many Minnesotans may choose to describe this winter, but it’s appropriate, according to Mark Seely, University of Minnesota Extension climatologist.

U of Mn Extension climatologist Mark Seely (photo from minnesotaalumni.org)

U of Mn Extension climatologist Mark Seely (photo from minnesotaalumni.org)

 

According to a recent Google search, the word ‘persistent’ has many interesting synonyms:  tenacious, determined, single-minded, relentless, interminable, and uninterrupted.  Seely said the reason all these words fit is it hasn’t been this consistently cold in Minnesota and the Midwest in a long time. In fact, the Minnesota Public Radio website calls this “the coldest winter in 30 years.”

 

Looking back

 

Seely said the interesting thing about this bitterly cold winter is, “it didn’t necessarily start early.  The winter that we know it as, frankly, didn’t start until the first week of December.”  Since then, Seely said the state has been in a deep freeze, the likes of which it hasn’t seen in some time.

 

“Since December, it’s been the coldest weather, by any measure, since the winter of 81-82.”  Winter this consistently cold is a new experience for many young Midwesterners:

 

Seely said the Midwest has had colder winters, but few that have been this persistent.  “It has been so consistently cold, we’ve had many of our observers report large numbers of nights with below zero readings.”

How this winter stacks up against past winters (graph courtesy of the Twin Cities NWS)  (photo from blogs.mprnews.org)

How this winter stacks up against past winters (graph courtesy of the Twin Cities NWS) (photo from blogs.mprnews.org)

 

What is driving the cold?

 

According to the Weather Underground website, a weather phenomenon known as the polar vortex may be driving this relentlessly cold weather in the Midwest.  The polar vortex is an area of very cold air that typically centers over Siberia and Canada’s Baffin Island.  A piece of the vortex broke off, and was forced south in part by the Jet Stream, into the Great Lakes Area of the US.

 

DTN Senior Meteorologist Mike Palmerino said “An unusual area of warm air over Alaska and northwest Canada pushed the cold air south.  They’ve had a lot of warm weather in Alaska this year.”  The polar air has pushed south in the past, so it’s not an unusual occurrence.

DTN meteorologist Mike Palmerino  (Photo from www.dtnprogressivefarmer.com)

DTN meteorologist Mike Palmerino (Photo from www.dtnprogressivefarmer.com)

 

Uneven snow cover

 

“I would say the eastern half of the state ended up with fairly decent snow cover that’s pretty consistent,” said Seely.  “However, the western half of the state, because of the high winds, ended up with variable snow cover.  In areas unprotected from the wind, our weather observers have reported seeing areas of bare soil in their farm fields.”

 

Seely said in unprotected areas, the lack of snow cover has allowed the permafrost has driven 4 to 6 feet deep, and that’s something, “We haven’t seen that in a long, long time.”  That means the ground is going to take time to thaw for spring planting in Minnesota.

One of the few areas where wild grass pokes through snow cover in SE Mn (photo by Chad Smith)

One of the few areas where wild grass pokes through snow cover in SE Mn (photo by Chad Smith)

 

What is ahead?

 

“The weather models are coming together and showing some moderation for the rest of the winter,” said Seely.  “That’s not to say we won’t have colder than normal days, but the sheer number of below zero days are going to go away.”

 

Palmerino said soils “east of the Mississippi River are in pretty good shape moisture-wise.  If anything, I think the main concern going into spring is that it’s too wet.”  He said “a stormy weather pattern and cooler than normal temperatures would definitely interrupt spring planting.”

 

Seely said the good news is the future models are showing moderating temperatures into March.  However, not all the predictions are positive:

 

Palmerino said it’s a fine line when farmers look to spring.  You want the weather to warm up and melt the snow, but not too fast either:

SE Mn has a lot of snow to get rid of before spring planting (photo by Chad Smith)

SE Mn has a lot of snow to get rid of before spring planting (photo by Chad Smith)

 

Here’s what it’s been like to drive in the Midwest this winter: