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Climate Change Extremely Harmful To Wheat Production

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Madison, WI (Manufacturing.net, February24, 2015):  A recent study involving Kansas State University researchers finds that in the coming decades at least one-quarter of the world's wheat production will be lost to extreme weather from climate change if no adaptive measures are taken.

Vara Prasad, professor of crop ecophysiology and director of the USAID Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab at Kansas State University, is part of a collaborative team that found wheat yields are projected to decrease by 6 percent for each degree Celsius the temperature rises if no measures to adapt to extreme weather fluctuations are taken. Based on the 2012-2013 wheat harvest of 701 million tons worldwide, the resulting temperature increase would result in 42 million tons less produced wheat -- or a loss of nearly one-quarter of the current wheat production.

"It's pretty severe," Prasad said. "The projected effect of climate change on wheat is more than what has been forecast. That's challenging because the world will have to at least double our food supply in the next 30 years if we're going to feed 9.6 billion people."

Prasad and colleagues published their study, "Rising temperatures reduce global wheat production," in a recent issue of the scientific journal Nature Climate Change. The study was supported through the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Kansas Wheat Alliance, two organizations seeking ways to increase wheat yield.

For the study, researchers systematically tested 30 wheat crop models against field experiments from around the world that were conducted in areas where the average temperature of the growing season ranged from 15 to 32 degrees Celsius. The models accounted for planting dates, planting rates, temperatures and other crop management factors.

U.S. Farmers To Plant Fewer Corn And Soybeans

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St. Charles, IL (Farm Futures, February 19, 2015):  In its first crop production outlook for 2015 USDA on Thursday forecast U.S. farmers will plant less corn and soybeans this year, with the corn area posting the largest decline.

The drop in soybeans was less as low production costs should have farmers favoring them to corn, USDA said at it annual outlook conference.

Planted corn acreage is forecast at 89 million, down from 2014's 90.6 million, while soybean acreage should slip to 83.5 million from 2014's record 83.7 million. Wheat acreage will slip to 55.5 million from 56.8 million.

"Farmers are continuing to shift ground into soybeans to lower costs and improve crop rotations," said Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior grain analyst. "While both corn and soybeans pencil out to losses at today's prices, farmers have had some pleasant surprises with soybeans the past couple of years, with less yield variability than corn too."

USDA expects a decline in the value of 2015 crop exports due to lower crop prices and to other countries increasing production. U.S. agriculture exports in fiscal 2015 (Oct-Sept) are forecast at $141.5 billion, the second highest on record, but down from 2014.

How The CSA Model Supports A Farm

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New York, NY (Huffington Post, February 17, 2015):  I am thinking about spring. Although it is still several weeks away, there are decisions to make that will affect what grows on Katchkie Farm in 2015. Despite the frozen earth, now is the time our planning begins. The seed orders went in last week, including over 60 varieties from arugula and eggplant to king kale, tomatoes and zucchini - over 1 million individual seeds.

But the most critical farm activity starting now is the launch of CSA sign-up season. CSA - Community Supported Agriculture - is better recognized as the veggie bag members get weekly, filled with whatever was harvested on the farm. We are in the process of signing up our 500 members - not a simple task, yet central to the financial health of the farm.

For us at Katchkie Farm, and at hundreds of farms across the country, CSA is the economic anchor. Why? Members pay for their "shares" before the growing season - providing farmers with money to buy seeds, ready fields and equipment- all before a single veggie has grown. CSA defines a commitment that will weather a bumper crop season (when members benefit) or withstand the occasional disruption due to hurricane, hail, blight or bug (less to share). It fosters a connection between consumer and grower that transcends marketing or e-commerce.

The advent of two trends threaten to disrupt the CSA model. The first is the aggregator/middleman model, which collects crops from different farms and resells directly to consumers. Retail aggregators include models like Good Eggs or Farmigo, allowing buyers to skip the vegetables they don't like (no okra please) and get the ones they prefer (more kale or varietal tomato). In season, FreshDirect not only offers a wide selection of local options (conventional and organic) but a farmer's box of "best picks" of the week for a CSA-like experience. No doubt, Amazon will be right behind. Depending on your location, Peapod, Whole Foods and others with online shopping will worm their way into the farm fresh market.

In the bricks and mortar world, merchants are responding to the demand for local food and promote an array of items, from fruits and vegetables to cheese, meat, fish and beverages as well. Here too, there is abundant marketing about local farm connections - often a source of controversy as there is little transparency and no regulation.

Agriculture Is Largest Industry In Lancaster

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Boyertown, PA (Berks-Mont Business, February 19, 2015):  Agriculture is booming in Earl and East Earl Township and the New Holland area according to Representative Dave Zimmerman.

"Many of these small farms (average around 50 acres) have moved from raising steers and pigs to small dairies and from tobacco as a cash crop to produce as the cash crop over the past 15 to 20 years," said Zimmerman. "The number of greenhouses has simply exploded, growing everything from tomatoes to flowers and everything in between."

Zimmerman said the area is "loaded with small on-farm support businesses like farm equipment repair shops and roadside produce stands. The agriculture support industry in the area is huge."

That support industry, he said, includes feed mills, livestock auction centers, machinery sales and service, farm supply stores and farm supply delivery route trucks, milk haulers, veterinarians, feed consultants, DHIA milk testing, livestock artificial insemination, custom harvesting and manure hauling, seed and fertilizer sales, farm building sales and construction companies, lime hauling, butcher shops and produce auction centers, farm tire repair and sales, energy sales and delivery such as diesel fuel and gas for tractors and propane to heat Greenhouses etc, etc.

"Agriculture ... industry employees numerous people with varied skills," said Zimmerman.

To Remind You Of Sunny Days

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State College, PA (Penn State Extension, February 18, 2015):  Typically, I like to highlight a plant that has some ornamental characteristic relative to the month that the article is posted. So for example, in the past, I have written about winter hollies in February or Kerria japonica in January . To get myself out of the winter blues, I have delved into my photo archives to find something that reminds me of warm and sunny days and came up with falsespirea, Sorbaria sorbifolia.

Not one of your 'bread and butter' plants of the landscape but something that is different and can fit into larger areas. Its suckering ability makes it suitable for sites where plant cover is needed, such as banks, screens, or large areas. This shrub can grow 6-8 feet in height with an equal spread.

Leaves are pinnately compound and consist of 13-25 leaflets. Newly unfolding spring leaves show a pinkish-red cast for a few weeks before turning green. It is very attractive!

Its second notable ornamental characteristic is its summer flowers. In June and July, panicles of white flowers (up to 10 inches long) emerge all over the plant, above the dark green leaves. Falsespirea performs best in full sun but will tolerate some partial shade.

Rebuilding Monarch Butterfly Population

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Kansas City, MO (The Kansas Star, February 12, 2015):  Every summer for 18 years, Alan Branhagen has driven north from Kansas City up Interstate 35 into his native Iowa, keeping his eyes peeled for the color orange.

Maybe if he were looking for traffic barrels he would have found greater joy.

Instead, the director of horticulture at Powell Gardens has found himself in the disheartening habit of trying to spot the fluttering orange wings of monarch butterflies, whose yearly migration between Mexico and Canada has captivated both scientists and nature lovers for generations.

A few years ago, Branhagen said, he often counted a half-dozen or more butterflies every mile on their journey north.

"Over the last two years, instead of seeing seven or eight per mile," he said this week, "it is per 100 miles."

That the loss of habitat from agriculture, herbicides and development has caused the monarch population to be decimated over the last two decades — going from an all-time high of 1 billion in 1996 to about 55 million last year — has become a familiar story.

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