Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Tuesday, Hunnicutt Farms had the opportunity to host two international guests. Hosting guests is something that has been done on the farm over the years for as long as I can remember. Getting to share what we do is always a great experience.

About 2 weeks ago, I was contacted by Don Vogel, who volunteers for the Grand Island Area Council for International Visitors, about having a farm visit from a French Environmental Lawyer. I agreed not knowing exactly what I was getting into, especially because the words "environmental" and "lawyer" were involved.

Spending time explaining what our equipment and the the technology in them do, is always fun. It doesn't matter if it is an international visitor or a reporter or someone from town, it is always great to see their reactions. This time was no different. Explaining how the tractor can drive, and turn around on the ends, by itself, always elicits a response. And, we get to show how we are saving seed, fertilizer, and chemical with the different technologies within the equipment and computers, as well.

When we finally sat down and talked about issues, it was very intriguing. Our main guest was Ms. Capucine Agathe Chloe CHAMOUX, who is the lawyer for Federation Nationale Syndicats d’Exploitants Agricoles (FNSEA, National Federation of Agricultural Workers’ Unions). We found out that this group is very similar to Farm Bureau, so we began to see we had a "friendly" on the farm. We had a great discussion revolving around all the issues of the day. Everything from GMOs to locally grown food to climate change/carbon to bees to water rights. It was extremely interesting to learn a little about how their carbon trading program works and the benefits farmers receive. We did explain some of the concerns we have about any Climate Change legislation that passes. There is also a push in France for more locally grown foods like we are seeing here. I think our explanation of our challenges of producing locally grown in Nebraska year round, helped her understand why a true "locally grown" program won't work here right now.

At the end of the day what I remembered was that farmers are farmers. It doesn't matter if they are in Nebraska or California or France. We want to work hard, produce food/fuel/fiber, and take care of the ground that we live on. I do think we shocked her "language expert", when we said we take care of our soil because it is the right thing to do, not because we have regulations or are getting paid for it. We are not here to poison the ground or water or air. We are here to leave the ground in better shape when we pass it on to the next generation. I believe they understood that by the end.

We had the opportunity to show off the farm, discuss the issues of the day and hopefully made a contact that will last many years into the future.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Planting and Biotechnology 2010

As we entered into the planting season this year, we had the opportunity to put some of the newest, and hopefully greatest, seed technology into the ground. This is the technology that helps us in making sure we are taking care of the environment in a healthy and sustainable manner. Anything we can do to help reduce our usage of chemicals and continue to increase yields are something we will continue to look at.

We started out this year by actually planting some of the newest in seed technology from Monsanto and DowAgro, known as SmartStax. This is an 8-way stack with a great explanation here. This allows us to have protection against may pests that cause damage to the plants. Damage that can cause us economic harm. Damage that can cause the plant, and subsequently the grain, harm as well. Ultimately, we have a healthier plant that will ultimately lead to healthier feed for our livestock and a better product to produce ethanol and bio-plastics as well.

We have had the opportunity this year to look at other new and exciting products that will be coming down the line in the coming years. One plot has what is called "refuge in a bag". This will allow us in the future to make sure we are easily following the refuge guidelines needed to keep these technologies viable for years to come.

As we continue to look at the newest in seed technology it is exciting to see where it will take us. Up to this point, it has mainly been input traits we have looked at. The kind of traits that protect against insects and allow us to utilize different chemicals. The next thing to see will be the output traits. Traits that will ultimately help the end user and consumer.

These are exciting times in the merging of technology and agriculture. Being able to grow a safe and healthy product is something that I am proud to do.