Monday, November 27, 2017

A Soundtrack for Farm Work

Decades ago, the background music for our teenage farm-work years came from transistor radios, cassette players, and static-filled box radios bolted to tractor fenders. Digital sound has changed that, and one source of ag tunes comes from YouTube parodies.

The Peterson Brothers are skilled at using current pop tunes to explain agriculture, and they communicate the dignity and hard work agriculture entails. In this parody of Skillet's "Monster," they show what it's like to handle big equipment and bring in a harvest--"Forage Harvester." 

Farmer Derek Klingenberg also produces farming videos that are fun--in this case he somehow turns haymaking into an activity that includes trampolines, zip lines, and milk chugging.

Analog Song List--Good, Bad, and Discordant

Although we didn't sing quite so much when doing farm work in the 60s and 70s, I still get nostalgic for childhood days on the family farm when I watch these parody videos. Early morning sunrises with fog along the creek, cattle jostling at the feed bunk, riding in the back of the pickup truck, and wrestling with the farm dogs while unloading grain wagons--at times our farm work soundtrack may have included Simon and Garfunkel’s “Feelin’ Groovy” and the Young Rascals “It’s a Beautiful Morning.” 

However, there were moments when I viewed our farm chores in a different light--one tinged with sweat, dirt, and teenage angst. We had plenty of fun, and I would never trade the experience of growing up on a farm, but let’s be honest--some of the chores were tedious at best, torturous at worst. A few classic songs stuck like earworms in my head:

#1  ACDC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”  --when the spreader chain broke in the field and we pitched manure back out after having pitched it in.

#2  Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang”  --while picking up rocks from a barren cornfield in the back forty. 
#3  The Animals’ “We Gotta Get Outta This Place”  --while cleaning manure out of a neighbor’s dusty and claustrophobic chicken coop.

#4  B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone”  --while grabbing the last bale on the ninth hayrack load in a field of never-ending hay windrows.

#5 The Beatles’ “Hard Day’s Night”  --when driving in the final load of corn from the field, after dark on a cold October night.

#6 The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night”  --during farrowing time when the sows might decide any hour of the day was a good time for baby pigs.

#7 The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer”  --experienced in a trance after four hours of going back and forth on a four-row cultivator in a field with foot-high corn.

#8  The Stones’ “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”  --in my early days of milking when I had no idea how to squeeze the milk out of our one Guernsey. Bossy the Cow didn’t get no satisfaction either.

#9 Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Wanna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More”  --toward the end of a session where we held and vaccinated a hundred or more baby pigs.
# 10 The Easybeats “Friday on My Mind”  --especially during the later teen/car years, but it was usually “Saturday on My Mind” when the pitchforks, tractors, and feed buckets were set aside for a spell. 

Note: I never did hum along with Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job and Shove It.” As I said above, even in my dazed and confused teen years, I knew how lucky I was to be raised on a farm. 

by dan gogerty (top photo from and bottom from livingthecountrylife.jpg)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Turkey Droppings

From Canada to India, many countries give thanks at the end of harvest time, and the United States is famous for its Thanksgiving Day traditions. These links might give you a bit to chew on as you prepare to celebrate:

** Most turkeys this week won't be so lucky, but the two presidential birds--currently named Drumstick and Wishbone--will fly from their Minnesota farm to the posh life in the Washington, D.C., Willard Hotel. Rooms there range from $200 to $3,500, and we're not sure what berries, nuts, and cracked corn go for on the room service menu. The National Turkey Federation will pay the bill. These birds have been trained by 4-H members who know how to get a bird ready for a presidential pardon--they use country music, worm grubs, and anything shiny. 
** The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 32nd annual price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast is down from last year’s. 

** But buyer beware. Some folks are willing to pay more for "heritage turkeys," but fake ones are causing a problem.

Step Two: Let turkey chill in sink for 4 hours.
** On Thanksgiving Day, nearly 90% of American homes will feature a turkey, but not many take on the "whole food" mentality--parts of the turkey are unused. This company has a "beaks and butt" theme, as they ship all parts of the bird--from innards to tail--to various places around the world.  

** Not all turkeys are happy about the attention this time of year. This short video is a compilation filled with turkeys getting even. And this even shorter clip shows that a turkey might need a hug sometimes, too. 

** If Thanksgiving brings on a nostalgic twinge, get in the Wayback Machine to visit a time when traditions were low tech, no frills, and all analog.

by dan gogerty (top pic from and bottom one from

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dr. Ramaswamy Calls for Research and Warns of Existential Threat

Ag expert Sonny Ramaswamy
We have an existential threat,” he said. “It’s happening now. Typically when we frame our conversations about the topic of food and agriculture, we frame them from the perspective of ‘in the year 2050’ and we’re all going to wait with bated breath and something bad is going to happen. Well, it’s happening right now.”

Sonny Ramaswamy—the USDA’s Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture--says the current “existential threat” is nutritional security, drawing a difference between that issue and food security. He says in many cases, there isn’t as much of an issue with availability of calories, but rather the quality of those calories.

But that doesn’t change the fact that he and others see a lingering issue that needs the attention of everyone from farmers to the federal government. Ramaswamy said looking at all aspects of the research value chain--including distribution--needs to be promoted and encouraged.

“It’s not to say that all we need are transformative discoveries; we need a whole bunch of Ph.D.s running around discovering all new knowledge,” Ramaswamy said. "If that knowledge ends up in a book or a journal or whatever, it’s worthless. We’ve got to translate that knowledge into innovations and solutions and deliver it.”

That, he said, should be done through the cooperative extension system. In the past, it has had experts at the local level to interact with producers, but Ramaswamy said, “We’ve lost one-third of our footprint in our extension efforts across America.”

“We should all wake up and smell the coffee and be very, very concerned that we’ve allowed our extension community to lose its ability,” he added.

Dr. Ramaswamy's comments above come from an article. When contacted by CAST, Ramaswamy added these observations that he shared at a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies conference:

"The ecological footprint of our global food systems is pretty significant. To wit, 80 percent of the consumptive use of fresh water is in the food we eat; about 17 percent of the energy we use is in the food we eat; almost a quarter of the greenhouse gases we produce is the result of the food we eat; and almost 80 percent of the ammonia we produce is the result of the food we consume. 

In the current context of knowledge we have, we must reduce this ecological footprint, and NIFA has articulated a stretch goal of reducing the same by 50 percent within the next 20 years. We will need to work really hard to crowd source the best intellectual and monetary resources--from academia, the private sector, the governmental sector, and the nongovernmental sector--if we are to achieve this goal.

Indeed, I like to say that to produce our food, we will need to use less water, land, and energy as well as fewer fertilizers, pesticides, and antibiotics, and we must attempt to decarbonize our food systems to the extent possible."

Note: in the pursuit of credible, science-based research, CAST provides peer-reviewed issue papers, commentaries, and task force reports online. Check here for forthcoming publications