Leaving the Farm

Just a quick post today to say I’m not on the farm; I’m in Washington D.C. with my Ag Leaders of Tomorrow class! Hopefully I’ll be getting tons of great information to share with you, but first, a shout-out to the people who make it possible for me to be gone.  

That’s the USDA building. We’ll be there soon!

Thanks to grandparents who happily keep my flock of kiddos (Or is it a herd?  Yes.  Feels like a herd!), Daddy, who is taking care of the actual flocks and herds while Brett and I are away, and other grandparents who pitch in with the animals and make it works so Daddy can be with the kids some as well.  It might take a village to raise a child, but leaving a farm is even more involved. 🙂

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Harvest Humor

Question.  How do you move corn from one grain bin to another?  Answer.  Not easily.

When we take corn from the field the combine harvests it,

How a harvest crew travels! {}

the combine unloads the corn into the cart,

Harvest photograph

the cart unloads into the semi,


and the semi unloads into the grain bins.

But moving corn from bin to bin isn’t something we’re set up to do easily.  So when we needed to move some grain around Daddy planned for a full day of unloading grain into the semis the way we do when we take it to the elevator to sell it and then putting it back into the new bin we way we would from the field.

And then they came up with this.

On your left you see the yellow stream of corn as it comes out of the bottom of the bin and a grain vac brings it up to dump into the wagon.  The wagon’s bottom is open, allowing the corn to dump right into the next auger, which transports it across the lot into the semi.  The semi’s bottom is also open, dumping corn into another auger, which then lifts the grain up into the proper bin.  The tractors are there to provide power for this little operation.  They have hook ups in the back that allows them to transfer energy from their engines to the augers.

A nicely set up operation might have a grain loop to accomplish this with much less effort.

But where’s the fun in that?!

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It’s Fall, ya’ll!

Harvest is in full swing here on Marshall Farms!

Anna in the combine

Brett and Anna have been jockeying for position on the combine.


Daddy is a rare and elusive creature that comes out of the field only when it rains.


And life has taken on a frantic new feeling as we rush to get corn out of quickly flooding fields and into the bins.  If all goes well this should be a fantastic year for crop production, but never count your chickens before they’re hatched or your bushels before they’re in the bin.  Harvest may be in full swing, but it’s certainly not over!

But aside from the hectic harvest we’ve been a little crazy around here for another reason. Please excuse my lack of blogging, but we recently added another foster child to our family. She’s five years old and really cute, but it’s been a little overwhelming.

So enjoy the fall leaves, be patient with the slow-moving combines (they’re feeding the world), and say a prayer for our family if you think about it.  Happy fall ya’ll.

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I’m a Farmer and I’m voting Yes on Amendment 1

I stand to benefit from Missouri’s constitutional amendment 1.  I know that.  What you might not know is that you will benefit too.

I just finished reading dozens of articles saying that we don’t need excess legislation, farmers are fine, agriculture shouldn’t be afforded special rights, and by the way, if you farm with your brother or father and have an LLC you’re probably a bad guy anyway.

My favorite so far was a comment on Facebook by a lady telling me I should take some time and learn how food in our state is produced.

My farm family is voting Yes on Missouri's Constitutional Amendment 1

My farm family is voting Yes on Missouri’s Constitutional Amendment 1


But in all seriousness, why has agriculture suddenly lit up your Facebook feed?

The ballot amendment itself is short and sweet.  It reads: Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?

So what are people worked up about?

This farm family is voting Yes on Missouri's Constitutional Amendment 1

This is the Chinn family, hog farmers in Missouri who will be voting Yes!

Well, some say its about Chinese ownership of farms in Missouri.  I think many of us would prefer Missouri businesses to stay in the hands of Missourians, but unfortunately this is an entirely separate ballot issue.  But the Chinese are already here and in this regard, Right to Farm will change nothing that isn’t already happening.  Make no mistake.  This really isn’t about China.

This farm family is voting Yes on Missouri's Constitutional Amendment 1

The Brays farm row crops and cattle in Missouri. They are voting Yes!

Others are really concerned about “big ag.”  Huge corporations who care nothing about the environment could run amuck with this free license to earn a profit however they like.  So consider this.  Ever since the Civil War federal law has superseded state law.  Farmers, organic and conventional, small and large, moral and unethical, still abide by The Clean Air and Water Acts.  Plus the actual constitutional language states that farmers and ranchers are “subject to duly authorized powers.”  It’s not about the environment.

My farm family is voting Yes on Missouri's Constitutional Amendment 1

This girl’s family knows the importance of ag. The Browns will be voting Yes!

On the other hand many are worried about the “little guy.”  They say this will do nothing to protect the small farmer.  On the contrary.  The language was specifically chosen so that anyone earning more than $1000 annually is covered.  That’s a pretty small “little guy.”

My farm family is voting Yes on Missouri's Constitutional Amendment 1

The Cope family is voting yes! They are ranchers in MO.

And then there is the issue of being vague.  To clarify, here is the constitutional language.

That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy.  To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in the is sate, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri.”

A few years ago a county in Missouri tried to stop farmers from running equipment after 10:00 PM because it was “noisy.”  The case went through several layers of litigation before being resolved.

My farm family is voting Yes on Missouri's Constitutional Amendment 1

The Durhams are row crop farmers and they are voting Yes on August 5!

But what next?  Can you predict what crazy will look like?  I’m grateful for the protection and you should be too.  Here’s why.

Remember how I said you would benefit from Amendment 1 too?  Lots of people don’t get that.  They see this as unnecssary.  They wonder why farming deserves the same rights as speech or bearing arms.

I guess I believe eating is a fundamental right.

This farm family is voting Yes on Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1!

The Riekhofs are voting Yes!

I don’t remember it but I’ve heard healthcare was a different world before doctors worried about being sued constantly.  Before malpractice insurance hit the roof and prices sky rocketed.  Before everything a doctor did was measured against what a lawyer could do with it.

That day and age is coming for agriculture.  Actually it’s here.

This farm family is voting Yes on the Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1!

Her parents are voting Yes to give her the chance to stay on the Hackmann family farm if she wants to.

What will a world full of red-tape and insurance premiums look like for you?  Money.  Scarcity.  Sort of what health care looks like today.

Yes, I want my kids to come back to the family farm in 20 years if they like.  I want my husband to do the work he is passionate for.  I want to look out my window at the amber waves of grain and the fresh cut corn stalks.  But mostly I want to feed those kids, my husband, even the world.

This isn’t about China, or big ag, or little guys.  It’s about food security.  And I’m voting Yes.

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Knee-High by the…

If you can make jello salad with marshmallows six different ways you might know what I’m talking about.  Actually if you’ve been on the internet anytime in the last 15 years you’ll definitely know what I’m talking about.  Those lists.  You know, 15 ways to tell you’re the mother of toddlers.  (Write checks with the crayons in your purse.)   8 things both college and preschool students do.  (Wear your backpack on both shoulders.) And 23 ways to know you’re from Missouri. (That’d be the marshmallow salad.)

And while making salad from jello and marshmallows is a legitimate way to assess your geographical origins, there is always one notation on these lists that suggests knowing the corn should be knee-high by the 4th of July is a trait Midwesterners share.

This one drives me nuts.

It is true that corn in years past didn’t grow as tall as corn today, but I’d never claim to be old enough to tell you if this adage once held any truth at all. Just let me assure you that corn standing two foot tall at any point in July is a sure sign of trouble for today’s farmer.

In fact our earliest planted corn has tassels and silks already. Tassels are these on top:

And silks are the pollen tubes that will fertilize each grain of corn.

So now you know, knee-high by the 4th of July is a rural myth. 😉 I need to start my own list: Things you know if you’re a Daddy’s Tractor follower!

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A Farmer’s Gamble

This is our wheat field.

A farmer's gamble

There are different ways to grow wheat, but on our farm we plant it in the fall when the wheat has a chance to germinate and grow just a little before the cold weather sets in.  During the coldest months wheat hibernates and then with the first rays of spring sun the little sprouts are ready to green up again.

Or they’re supposed to.


The reality of this year was the POLAR VORTEX.  Snow flurries began just days after the wheat was planted and the spring sun, well, we’re still not sure its around to stay.

Which means an entire wheat crop has been lost.

A farmer's gamble

We brought out an agronomist and the insurance adjuster to look at the fields.  Both pointed out that, besides the bare spots where no wheat is even growing, the plants that are growing are not healthy and only a third will develop wheat berries.  Of that third almost all are developing wheat heads that are growing sideways instead of straight up.  That means they won’t pollinate well, loosing another third of whatever crop we might have had.  Then there is the matter of the plants being small and stunted, meaning the combine won’t be able to pull the crop into its reel and we’ll loose even more grain.

The end result was estimated to be less than 2 bushel of wheat per acre.


Yeah.  That’s about the same as nothing.

Thankfully we will be able to kill the wheat (the lingo is “burn” the wheat) and go ahead and plant beans in those fields.  It will hurt most where we planned for a wheat harvest in June so we could repair terraces in the summer.  Beans won’t be harvested until after repair work is over, meaning these fields will wait another year.

A farmer's gamble

But farming has always been a risky business and we knew that before we planted wheat last fall, or before we planted crops the previous spring, and even before we ever began to farm at all.  Every year is uncertian; every crop is just hope.

Every day is a gamble for a farmer.

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A Quick and Easy Way to Link Your Kids to Agriculture

I only recently learned about this quick and easy way to link you kiddos to agriculture.  And when I say quick and easy, I mean really easy, which is my favorite kind. 🙂

All you need is a milk jug and Internet access.

Simple way to see where your milk is processed!

I’ve got Hiland and the Target brand in my fridge right now.

The website, provides a space to enter the number printed on the milk jug, and viola! up pops the exact location your milk was processed!  This will work with other dairy products too, like sour cream or yogurt.  Anyone in your family picky about milk brands?  Try entering numbers from different brands.   You might be surprised at the results!  In my area milk from Hy-Vee, Walk-Mart, Cameron Mart and Target all come from the same place!

How to find out where your milk came from!

You’ll need the 4-5 digit number printed near the expiration date.

If your kids really get into this project try some less common milk products, like canned milk.  These can travel farther and fewer processors package them, so the results can pull up some fun, far off places– like Iowa! 🙂

Leave me a comment, where does your milk come from?


*For teachers: Common Core Standards Language Arts, CCS.ELA.RI.4.3: RI.4.4: RI4.5: RF.4.3 and Next Generation Science Standards: Earth Systems: 5-ESS3-1

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Top 10 Spring Planting

The farm is a busy, bustling place in the springtime!  The kids and I keep busy randomly adding critters introducing productive livestock to the backyard pasture and Daddy, well, we’re always glad when Sunday rolls around and we get to see him!  Some of you may be lucky enough to live on a farm and understand the process of planting, but for those of you who would like a clearer picture of how your food is grown, well, maybe this will help!

Top 10 Posts About Spring Planting

Take a virtual tour of the tractor

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor! {}


Read about the technology the modern farmer uses

a modern farmer


See the planter be prepped for field work

How is your food grown?


How to grow happy plants

A harvested field {}


Preparing the fields

There's more to fall than harvest! {}


Ride in the tractor, a video of planting

Planting wheat


We can even grow sweet corn!

compare and contrast life on a family farm


See how growing wheat is different

growing wheat


Starting from scratch, preparing a new field

Using the bulldozer to ready fields for spring planting


Why we’re so busy in springtime!

planting time on the farm


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Why We Are Using a Bulldozer for Spring Planting

Tractors, planters, sprayers– all equipment you might think about using when spring rolls around.  But this year we have been putting a lot of hours on Grandpa’s bulldozer in order to get ready for spring planting.

The field just across from our house was pulled from a government program called CRP and the owner wanted to rent it out for the first time in 20 years.  (The CRP program was started years ago as a way for farmers to allow poor production land to rest.)  It was mostly great news for us.  It meant more land that is very close by and a landlord we enjoy working with.  You can imagine the downside if you think of trying to use anything that has been left alone for 20 years!

The field looked like this, all 200 acres of it.


Using the bulldozer to ready a field for spring planting

So much brush everywhere!

It has been no easy task to get it ready for spring planting!

The landowner used a mower to cut down the small trees.  Cory used the skid steer to pull out the larger brush and Grandpa has been handling the largest obstacles with the bulldozer.  Wayne used the custom cultivator to pick up stray sticks and then whoever is free has been using the tractor and disk to cut up the stalks so the planter and later the combine won’t run into anything capable of tearing it up!

Daddy made a custom cultivator to pick up brush

Daddy and the guys made this custom cultivator last year to pick up brush. The prongs are close together and all along the back bar instead of spaced throughout. You can see how it catches sticks!

Using the skid steer to ready the fields for spring planting

The skid steer can pull small brush and pick up the piles. Because the attachment on the front is shaped like claws the skid steer can shake the dirt from the piles, leaving more soil on the field.

Using the bulldozer to ready fields for spring planting

The dozer knocks down the larger brush and then pushes it into piles

Using the bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

When the disk comes through it chops up the ground into big chunks, hopefully getting rid of pointy stalks!

Using the bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

Last the harrow smooths up the dirt, leaving a happy field ready for bean seeds!

The field looks quite different from those first brush pictures, wouldn’t you agree!

You may remember from previous posts that, while this field looks picture perfect its not how we usually farm.  The loose soil can easily wash away leaving our fields without the necessary top soil to grow good crops, plus polluting nearby streams.

Grandpa also added to the farm this year, buying the field across from his house.

Using a bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

This field connects all four farms, Grandpa’s home, this new farm, our new rental, and the field our house sits on. What a difference in how it looks!

This farm will not be worked at all.  It’s been cow ground for years but we won’t be tearing up the grass or anything.  Instead we’ll simply plant beans directly into the sod.  The first year won’t likely be a great one, but taking care of the soil will have more benefits in the long run.

Because really, we’d rather not be using a bulldozer to get ready for spring planting!

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The Wheat Doll Lesson Plan

The Wheat Doll, a farm lesson plan

Our family recently returned from the Young Farmers and Ranchers conference and I have so much stuff I want to share!  One of my favorites is this lesson plan based on the book “The Wheat Doll” by Alison L. Randall.

The Wheat Doll, a farm lesson plan

The story is about a little girl in prairie times who owns one special doll stuffed with wheat seeds.  One day, while working in the garden, she sets her doll aside and must leave it when a sudden storm moves in.  After the storm her doll is missing, but the next spring the little girl discovers a patch of wheat growing in the shape of a doll.  She carefully tends the wheat and then harvests the seeds to make a beautiful, new doll.

If you’re interested, this book is an AR Level 3.9 and a Reading Counts Level 3.2!

After reading the book aloud they showed the kids boxes of products that contain wheat.  There were some basic foods, like cakes and pasta, but others were more surprising, like pet food!

The Wheat Doll, a farm lesson plan

The kids also had the chance to hold real wheat stalks and try to harvest the seeds from them!  It was lots of fun, and a huge, plastic sheet kept it from being too messy!

The Wheat Doll, a farm lesson plan

One of the most popular centers allowed the kiddos to make their own wheat doll or puppet. (Puppets in case the boys weren’t thrilled with dolls.  My very male first-grade son didn’t care all, however.  He just wanted to make something!)  They started by putting wheat seeds into an infant sock and rubber banding it to a jumbo craft stick.  After that there were squares of fabric, markers, moveable eyes, bits of wheat stalk, and a hot glue gun (used by an adult!) to finish creating!

The Wheat Doll, a farm lesson plan The Wheat Doll, a farm lesson plan

The activity my kids liked best was gluing wheat seeds on this printable card to create a doll shape.  The card includes directions for planting and growing the seeds, so they can see their own doll grow!  I’ll just add that using hot water really seems to help wheat jump out of the ground.  Wheat grows great indoors, so you can do this any time of the year!

The Wheat Doll, a farm lesson plan

This lesson plan sheet has lots of additional information, like a list of products made from wheat, how to thresh the wheat seeds, and a bit of background on wheat in the US.

The Wheat Doll Lesson Plan

And thanks to the MFB Promotion and Education Committee– we had so much fun!

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