Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Fall is an amazingly crazy time for us.  During the fall we are combining, hauling corn or soybeans to the barge terminals or ethanol plant, doing tillage, doing weigh checks for our Pioneer customers, and trying to get the boys to all of their activities.  On a late October morning, we had the opportunity to host some special visitors to our farm.  It was an opportunity for us to slow down for a few hours and see our operation through our customers eyes.

I just read another article about buying food locally and started contemplating this visit.   I'm all for buying locally whether it is food or other products.  But, what if your source of food is thousands of miles away?  Is buying local as important as is knowing where your food comes from? 

We hosted a group of Japanese corn customers through the US Grain Council.  There were 22 individuals from very different backgrounds but all had some connection to US corn.  There were economists, starch millers, feed mill managers, grain buyers, a college professor, and even an environmentalist.  Japan happens to be the largest importer of US corn in the world.

Our visitors arriving at our home farm. 
  We began in our meeting facilities and gave them background information about our farm and family.  Our boys were a big hit, especially #1 son with his blue eyes and blond hair. 

Joe explaining how we determine what hybrids to plant.  Notice
some of the men are wearing head phones.  The interpreter speaks
into a microphone which then transmits her voice to the listeners.  I thought
it was pretty cool.  I had never seen this type of setup before.
Their questions ranged from why do we plant both conventional and genetically engineered corn to why did we still have crops standing in the field on October 26th when it is so cold to how do we get our "big" machinary to the field to harvest the corn.
The visitors really got excited when we brought out ears of corn to show them that there is no physical difference between conventional and genetically modified corn.  Many of them had never seen an ear of corn even though they used it in some aspect of their business or occupation. 
We next headed down the road to our bin site.  They were able to watch how we load out semis to haul our corn to market.  They were very interested in how we handle our grain and store it.  In the past we have sold corn through one of our local grain purchasers to a Japanese business that used the corn to produce beer.  At that time, the end user was very concerned about stress crack in the corn kernels so we had to cool the corn very slowly after drying. 

The final leg of our tour was to go out into the field and watch the combining process.  I have come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter where a guy is from every boy/man loves equipment that has wheels. 


I'm pretty sure that there were hundreds of pictures taken in a matter of minutes when the
Japanese customers got off the bus by the field.

And, just as many were taken when Dad pulled up to the group and opened up the side panels of the combine.

There was one question that at the time surprised me but made perfect sense.  One person wanted to know what the things were coming out of the back of the combine.  Those would be the corn cobs.  Then the next question was if there was a use for the cobs.     
To him this looked like a waste but when we explained to him that the fodder (corn cobs and leaves) helps hold the soil in place during the winter and also adds nutrients back into the soil as the fodder degrades he agreed that this is a very environmentally friendly use. 

A cross section of an ear of corn - the kernels
still attached to the cob.

Back to my original question - Is buying local as important as knowing where your food come from?  After spending time with these customers I believe that while it is good to buy local because of the economic values to an area, it is important to know where you food comes from and to make buying decisions based on what you may know about the producer of the product.   I truly feel the Japanese corn customers that came to our farm now have a better understanding of the product they are buying. 
Considering the fact that Japan does not have the land available to produce crops like corn, US corn could be labelled local product in this case.  There are only a few other countries that can produce a high quality corn crop and also be a dependable supplier.
Any thoughts on the buying local topic?
Gary explaining what a corn cob is.


 This young man did all he could to be left behind so he could run the combine with Gary the rest of the day.

The Group!

I would like to thank Shannon and John from Iowa Corn and Tetsuo "Tommy" Hamamoto from the US Grains Council for giving us the opportunity to share our story with a great group of Japanese corn customers.  It was an educational experience for all of us!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cabin Fever

It's the end of January. 

It's been cold out.  It's windy and snow flurries are starting again.  Our farm operation's fiscal year ends January 31st.  I have spent most of this month to year end book keeping in our farm office. I'm pretty sure cabin fever has set in.

While looking for a file on the computer I came across pictures from last winters trip to Los Cabos, Mexico.  If you have a few minutes, I invite you to bask in the sun, heat and glow of Mexico from last January. 

Are we going some place warm this winter?  Nope.  We now have a highschooler.  If this doesn't make sense to you go ask a mom - she'll explain it to you.

Well, that was fun.  Now back to the grind stone.