Sunday, September 9, 2012

To Remember or to Forget

I came across a great post this past week from FarmnWife dealing with the 2012 Drought and blogging.  There was a perfect line in it that blogging is "written proof of our farm heritage we pass on to future generations." 

If you have grown up on a farm and have had the privilege of being around your grandparents or anyone else of the "Greatest Generation", you have probably had the opportunity to hear lots of stories.  Yes, we like to joke about the "walking to school, uphill, both ways, in a raging blizzard" stories that we hear over and over, but there is a more important aspect to their stories.  It is the ability to picture what has gone on around us, on this ground, in times past.  We get to have a mental image of the Great Depression, the droughts of 1950s, the mechanization of agriculture and what was produced and what it yielded throughout the years.  If you are really lucky you have someone (probably Grandma) who has kept track of many things either via a journal, cutting out of articles, or calendars filled with daily temperatures and moisture amounts.

Are we losing this same ability to pass on to the next generation?  Are we (or I) so busy dealing with what is going on around us, we are forgetting to record many of these events as they occur around us?  Yes, I keep track of daily rainfall (or lack thereof) and record it on a website but can that be truly passed down to my grandchildren for historical purposes?  I am involved in Social Media but will we be able to retrieve that information in the future to show what happened on a daily basis or will it actually be able to give us a broader view of what went on during this time?

Stories are important.  History is important.  What is happening now is important to remember even though much of it we may want to forget it about it at this moment. I would like to reiterate the importance of blogging on about what is going on.  If you don't want to blog then Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc about it. At the minimum start a journal to remember these times.  Your grandkids may roll their eyes at the stories but it will be the living history about your farm, about their farm, for them to pass on to their grandkids.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Congressional Leader or Lump on a Log

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.
Dwight D. Eisenhower                                                     (

--ability to lead: As early as sixth grade she displayed remarkableleadership potential. authoritativeness, influence,command, effectiveness; sway, clout.       (

One of the most frustrating things in life is when you have someone who is supposed to be a leader and it turns out they have absolutely no desire to do it.  They will give lip service to it and "act" like a leader but when it actually comes to making the tough decisions they become a follower or an excuse maker.  This doesn't matter if it is an Elder/Pastor in a church, a coach on a team, a husband or a member of Congress. Those that are truly leaders will lead and those that aren't only get in the way.

In agriculture right now there is a very important bill that is stalled out in the House of Representatives.  Many  of you know I am talking about the Farm Bill.  It is a bill that is not only important to farmers but also to the school lunch program and SNAP (food stamps).  Why, pray tell, is this stalled out?  It is because of the lack of leadership from the Speaker of the House and certain individual Congressmen. They have wasted 80 hours of debate time to vote on the Repeal Obamacare 33 different times knowing full well that the Senate will not take it up.  I have no problem with a symbolic vote but 33 of them borders on insanity.

In Nebraska, especially the 3rd Congressional District, we are blessed with the "Golden Triangle" of corn, ethanol and cattle. If we are not the single largest grower, producer and raiser of each of these then we are a close second.  Anything that affects these three things is a big deal.  Ag is the main driver in this district from actual crop and livestock production to irrigation and equipment manufacturers in addition to all the other industries that are ag related. When something as important as the Farm Bill comes up to the House and Senate, we expect are delegation to lead in the battle. We thank our Senators for doing this.

However, our Congressman Rep. Adrian Smith, is not leading on this.  Oh, he is saying the talking points like:
  -"ag committee only trimmed Nutrition Title by a few percentage points when the spending for it as quadrupled in the last number of years."
  -"Senate recessed without taking up a disaster bill that the House passed" (There is disaster relief in the Senate farm bill)
  -"we are about a year ahead of schedule when compared to the last farm bill" (A failure to lead then is not an excuse to not lead now)
  -"the bill would come to the floor if the Speaker had the votes" (Be a leader and get those votes)

I know he isn't on the Ag Committee and is on the Ways and Means committee but he is constantly making a big deal about the caucuses he chairs like the Congressional Rural Caucus and the Modern Agriculture Caucus but being the chair is not the same as leading the fight in the battle for the Farm Bill.  It is time for Rep. Smith to step up and truly fight for his 3rd District which we elected him to do.  It is time to work for the floor and find the votes to pass the bill so it can get to Conference Committee.  It is time to show the people back here why we elected him and that he does think all of ag is important in his district and he isn't just giving lip service to stay in power.  And, by the way, when invited to speak in front of a bunch of corn farmers, don't find any excuse to not come. (That doesn't show leadership but a lack of testicular fortitude to face your critics)

If our Congressmen are going to refuse to truly lead on these issues that we know are important for agriculture then it is time to flood their offices with phone calls and emails.  It is time for us to demand answers when we have the opportunity to talk to  them one on one. It is time for the editorials asking these key questions of "if not now, then when and if not you, then who?"

Friday, August 24, 2012

The End has Come

The Final Ear of the Year
 It is that time of year when the locusts are out, the nights are cool and we turn our thoughts to important things like football and eventually harvest.  One of the things that is also bittersweet about this time of year is that sweet corn consumption has sadly come to an end.

This summer we had the opportunity to try out some sweet corn from Monsanto call Obsession II.  I discussed it earlier here ( and the advantages it gives anyone who grows sweet corn either as a business or for personal consumption.  The great thing about it, is that we definitely consumed it this summer.

Back when we planted it, we started in late April and finished the last of it in early June.  This allowed us to have about a 6 week period to enjoy the sweet and juicy goodness.  My family was elated with the how excellent the sweet corn was and how relatively free of worms it was as well. Was it 100% free of worms? No but the technology built into the seed allowed it to be very near 100% clean.  Also, our fields stayed clean of weeds which is always a plus for plant health and water consumption also gives us bragging rights when comparing our patches to the neighbors.  (It is always fun to have bragging rights at the local watering hole)

The "cooling" tubs
One of the most enjoyable things we do with out sweet corn is we get together with our neighbor across the section and "put up" sweet corn for the winter.  This is not only the final stages of utilizing our sweet corn but will also determine how well the crop actually did for the year.  What you need to understand is that my family is that research and number oriented group that HAS to determine and figure out everything.  We have a running idea of how many ears it will take to fill a quart sized bag to the predetermined amount of cups of corn we want in them.  Last year it was roughly 7 ears.  This year it was 4.5.  One of the major reasons was that there was very little "wasted" corn and that we did not have to cut off a couple of inches per ear because of bug damage.  This allows us to either end up with a lot more corn to enjoy over the winter or that we do not need as many ears harvested to maintain the number of bags we had last year. (Yes we are nerds)

Shucking the corn
Our process of putting of sweet corn takes a lot of help.  From picking the ears to shucking the ears to cooking and cooling the ears to removing the kernels from the ears and finally bagging.  Start to finish was about a 7 hour process.  It would've been shorter but we had trouble getting the cooking pots we use every year.  I hope some of these pictures will portray what goes on and some of the fun the kids have as well.

After our first year of growing and eating Obsession II sweet corn, I would say it was a success.  I heard from others how sweet it was.  We were able to eat every ear we picked.  This type of technology to keep the ears cleaner and the fields cleaner really shows how beneficial it can be, not only for sweet corn grown in a garden but also for the corn we raise to feed to livestock or that gets processed into corn chips or corn flakes.  The next goal will be to get technologically enhanced popcorn to make your movie theater experience even more enjoyable.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Extend your weed destroying options

Late season pigweed
August is always an interesting of year on the farm.  We are trying to wrap up irrigation for the year and get ready for 2 important things...Huskers and Harvest.  But there is always one sight that will ruin my day and that is weeds in my soybean fields.  Yes, there may only be a few of them but they stick out like a miniature pimple on the prom queen's forehead.

While the actual yield robbing components of the weeds may be gone, they are a potential problem for next year.  Some of these weeds can produce multi-millions of seeds per plant and so making sure they die a painful death is very important to making sure we go into next year with less weed pressure than we had this year.  At this stage in the farming year it may not be economical or even allowable to apply a herbicide to control them.  Plus the soybeans are very hard to walk through and makes removing the weeds via human labor hard and expensive as well.

Even those these weeds may be a problem now, hopefully with some new technology that, in very short order, will be available on the farm.  Technology that will be available to add to our arsenal especially for troublesome weeds. Any time we can utilize technologies on the farm that will allow us to continue to produce a healthy and safe product we will gladly try it out.

In this case I am talking about dicamba tolerant soybeans also know as Roundup Ready Extend.  It will be a soybean that allows farmers to go after those troublesome weeds including those that come up late in the season and can cause problems for the next years to come.  It gives us another weapon in our arsenal to fight weeds, rotate crop protection products, and work at preventing resistance to develop in certain weed species.  And with the new formulation of dicamba it will a low volatility mixture meaning that the drift issues will be lessened protecting vulnerable crops like the neighbors garden. (I would be better off mowing the neighbors sweet corn crop mess with this lady's garden)  

A couple weeks ago I saw an infield trial of this technology and was very impressed with how clean the field was.  It definitely reiterated how important having technologies like this are to the farming community not just now but also in the future.  If you are a farmer I would greatly encourage you to add your voice of support to this great product, which was discovered at the University of Nebraska.  Which is a great reminder of how important our land grant universities continue to be.  To add your voice go to  Just remember that if we want more technologically innovative products in the future it is important to protect the ones we have and voice our support for the ones coming out.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Crop Circles All Around

There is nothing like being in an airplane and flying over states like Nebraska, Colorado and others with pivot irrigation. All one can see is what looks like a never ending pattern of crop circles. Only these circles aren't created by aliens but by our self propelled rain making machines.

Years like 2012 are the type that make me very very grateful for irrigation and at times cause me to curse it as well. Without it there wouldn't be a crop to speak of around us as these pictures show.
Neighbor's rainfed field which hasn't had much rain

Field with ability to irrigate

This year some of these fields that don't have irrigation will be lucky to raise any sort of crop.

But why would I want to curse it at times? Murphy's law goes into affect when it is hot, humid and dry. This is the time that anything could go wrong on a pivot will. And it usually happens when the walk to get to the pivot is the longest. Or the tree branch that I swore was only a couple feet long suddenly grows to catch something on the pivot and wreaks all sorts of havoc to a machine that can cost over $100,000.

But in central Nebraska whether I am raising corn, soybeans or even Monsanto's Obsession II sweet corn for my family, my brother's family and my mom and dad irrigation is needed to make sure we have the best crop we can.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Is My Sweet Corn Safe?

With sweet corn being a major staple of summer-time food enjoyment, it is important to determine if what I am going to be enjoying with hamburgers, hot dogs and watermelon is truly safe to consume.  This is definitely a concern for anyone who is putting any food into their mouth. (This would be everyone)  My family and I are no different.

We have the opportunity to raise an acre of Obsession II sweet corn from Monsanto this summer.  Is it safe though? It does contain proteins in it that help fight off insects to keep it from doing harm that makes either part or all of an ear non-edible.  

Sap beetle that feeds on damaged kernels from other insects.
Ear worm (which is controlled with new Bt sweet corn)

But aren't companies just putting harmful, deadly insecticides in the corn (whether sweet or field) that is harmful to humans?  Actually the proteins that are being introduced are from a family called Bacillus Thuringiensis which have been used for years in controlling of pests and can still be used in organic corn production to control insects.  According to Wikipedia: Because of their specificity, these pesticides are regarded as environmentally friendly, with little or no effect on humanswildlifepollinators, and most other beneficial insects. (   For more information go to University of California Sand Diego at  It has a great FAQ section for both the consumer and farmer.  This is a technology that has been derived from naturally occurring soil bacterium and has been shown to be safe in multiple studies.

Are the fields safe to walk in with these "pesticides" growing in the plant?  We already know that the Bt protein that introduced into the plant is extremely safe to non-targeted pests.  In agriculture we are using crop protection products that are being applied to the fields to protect against insects, disease and weeds.  All of these products that are "synthetics" have a period that workers, agronomists, and farmers need to stay out of the field.  These may range from a few hours to 24 hours or more depending on the synthetic being used.  Anyone can walk through a Bt field of sweet corn at anytime without problems.  Most people don't like walking through any corn field organic, Bt, or otherwise during pollination. Not only does one get pollen all over them but if one has a pollen allergy it will affect them as well.

Bt is only used in crop production right?  No. It is actually being used to control flies, mosquitoes and other pests in urban areas.  Since DDT was outlawed in 1972 in the United States there needed to be a way to control the pests that not only are an annoyance but do have a negative health impact on society.  Bt was introduced and shown to be extremely effective and extremely safe to the human population.  The pest controlling is done through such modes as aerial spraying.

In the last 50 years there have only been 2 reported cases of possible allergic reactions to Bt.  One was a situation of a disease that was present.  The other was an extreme food allergy. (  At the end of the day Bt is a naturally occurring soil borne substance that has been used for almost 100 years with an unmatched safety record.  Enjoy your Bt sweet corn or any other Bt foods knowing that it is safe for you and your loved ones.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The water is flowing

This year on Hunnicutt Farms has been dry. Not the devastating drought dry but dry enough that irrigation has been going on sporadically for a month in the area. Farmers are watering corn, soybeans and seed corn.

The same is true for our Obsession II sweet corn. This is our crop that I baby. Yes it doesn't bring in any income but the reward of smiles on my family's face is payment enough.

So yesterday I used the tractor and hiller to create a ditch to run water down. After I got done, my cousin's hired man set out the garden hose and the watering contraption that my cousin built. Slowly but surely water started traveling down the ditch I made.

I can't wait to enjoy this patch of sweet corn. My family was able to try some a couple weeks ago when Monsanto graciously sent us a sample to tease our tastebuds for what we will have in a few short weeks.

I can taste the juices already.