Friday, August 31, 2018

2018 Farm Progress Show--Ag, Science, Mud, and the Peterson Brothers

The 2018 Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, delivered again--innovative machinery, the latest crop science, political announcements, and weather that ranged from torrential rain to perfect late-summer sunshine. The event provided plenty of entertainment also. Attendees could race miniature cars, tap putt-putt golf balls, and watch a couple of Guinness record events. Performances included the Peterson Brothers (see related links and photo below). The following articles provide just a sampling of the various events: 

Amy Mayer of Harvest Public Media reported that the show provided farmers with the latest toys, tech, and ag talk.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, along with Undersecretary Bill Northey, told attendees the administration is committed to making year-round E15 ethanol sales a reality, and they hope to resolve international trade disputes in a way that does not cause irreparable economic damage to agriculture.     

The "floating tractor" attracted even more attention after a sudden downpour during the first day of the show. Special tires help the tractor cruise on water.   

Experts from the Weed Science Society of America released information about systemwide strategies for protecting soybean export values by reducing weed seeds in harvested soybean crops. 

The Peterson Brothers delivered positive vibes about agriculture at this year's Farm Progress Show. Along with a safety focus—Call Before Ya Dig--they did favorites such as Chore. Considering the rain the day before, maybe they should have performed Tractorstuck, their homage to mud and machines. 


top pic from and bottom pic from Melissa Sly

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Vending Machines Offer Everything from Fresh Meat to Robotic Empathy

When most folks go out for a juicy rib-eye steak, they don't drive to the nearest vending machine. That might change if a new venture in upstate New York takes off. Applestone Meat Company stocks a new line of vending machines with beef, pork, lamb, and sausage--and business is booming. According to the owner, Joshua Applestone, people need 24/7 access to protein, and as he says, "I have to restock the machines constantly to keep up with demand."

Obviously, the products need to stay fresh, appealing, and safe. Applestone's goal is to place meat vending machines in every city, but he concedes that certain locations might need security guards. If criminals are willing to knock off ATM machines, then glass-front slots with thick pork chops and T-bone steaks would no doubt attract carnivorous thieves.

This meat market automation isn't surprising in an age when vending machines have gone digital and high tech. Most countries have machines with credit card access and local versions of "exotic" goods. In the United States, Snickers, Dorritos, and Twix are among the top sellers, but some selections reflect the eat-healthy trend. A "veggie machine" called the Farmer's Fridge is one example.

The vending craze is most notable in Japan, the country with the most machines per person. Items range from the traditional green tea or curry rice to flying fish soup and sushi socks. As the saying goes, you can buy anything but a handgun from Japanese vending machines. The latest trend seems to involve vending machines with robots. This video shows how a cute robot makes an ice cream cone for the consumer, and this clip indicates that a company plans to use robots that can "read human emotions." They hope coffee drinkers are lured into buying their high-end product from an analytical robot in a vending machine.

The new meat vending machines in New York probably won't have such empathy. Pay your money--get your meat. But innovation will continue, and no doubt somewhere soon, a robotic butcher in a vending case will tell us the difference between sirloin and strip steak while deftly wielding a knife. "Remember," the computerized voice will say, "if you're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made out of meat?"

Note: For another look at the hypnotic appeal of vending machines, click here.  

by dan gogerty (top pic from JenniferMay, and bottom pic from

Thursday, August 23, 2018

What Is On Your Romaine Lettuce?

Earlier last week I came across a viral video of a woman in her kitchen claiming to have found a layer of plastic on the leaves of her store-bought lettuce. Although I wasn't fazed by the claims this woman was making, I was alarmed that people were sharing it as a warning sign to their fellow Facebook friends. When I noticed this video had been shared throughout social media to tens of thousands of people, I started to wonder if I was one of the very few who knew there was an explanation for this skin-like layer of lettuce. Since I am no expert in vegetable production, I called on several reliable sources to find an explanation.

Turns out, what this woman found is a known agricultural phenomenon called epidermal peeling--a side effect of cold weather patterns throughout the growing season of lettuce. Much like a skin blister, epidermal peeling occurs when romaine lettuce, commonly grown in Arizona, is exposed to freezing temperatures that cause the leaves to form a protective layer. It has nothing to do with anything applied externally to the product. Although this occurrence is completely natural, it does cause some difficulty during the harvesting and processing stages.

Considering the recent romaine lettuce E. coli scare that caused 80 infections and more than 40 hospitalizations, I understand consumers' concern. Regardless, this is a perfect example of why it is so important for us to serve as a voice for the science and agricultural industries. If we are not on the front line sharing the facts about our industry, consumers will only have access to one side of the story.

By: Kylie Peterson (pic from 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Hey, They Have It Easy! Gettin' to School

As students begin migrating to school for the new academic year, I flash back to a yellow school bus on country roads--dust and carbon monoxide in the air, a host of Little Rascals bouncing in the seats, and a few older guys sporting tight blue jeans and greased hair exuding that "don't bother me ya twerp" look. But we had it easy.

My parents both went to one-room rural schools, and commuting by foot was the mode of transportation. Neither of them hit me with the "we walked two miles to school, uphill each way" line, but they made it clear that kids in the 1930s just naturally trudged along regardless of the season or the weather. Mom and her siblings might get a sleigh ride on heavy snow days, but her clearest memory is when a torrential rain hit on the mile-and-a-half walk home and her arithmetic book floated away in a fast-running stream. Dad said some kids walked two miles to get to his schoolhouse, although one classmate rode a pony he hitched to the flagpole during the day. The teachers kept an eye on weather conditions--no computer radar, no smartphone alerts, and in most cases, no phones at all. On rare occasions, kids were trapped at the school during sudden snowstorms. Students helped bring in wood for the stove and water from the nearby pump.

But, hey--they had it easy! Two years ago, several reports covered the situation for a group of students in rural China who climbed 2,500 feet up a cliff every two weeks as they commuted to a boarding school. The bamboo ladders were dangerous, and authorities began looking into the issue. Apparently the climb now features steel ladders and improved safety features, but their trip to school still makes a 30-minute bus ride seem like luxury.

Kids around the world employ many means of transportation to get an education. As this link shows, youngsters might use rowboats, skateboards, bicycles, donkeys, or even a gondola. And, of course, many walk--or get the chauffeur treatment. Depending on distance and safety, plenty of students make their own way to school, but especially for toddlers and early elementary-aged kids, the "parental pick-up lines" start forming early. The snaking car lines can be civilized or, as one writer puts it, "the all-out chaos can make Lord of the Flies look orderly." She even proposed "seven rules that parents in the waiting line must not break." Politeness is a plus; being in a cell phone stupor is a no-no. Having a parental Uber ride seems cool, but most kids would probably rather have their independence.

Back to my nostalgic yellow buses--we didn't need no stinking rules back then. No sign posted said, "Thou shalt not try to stuff the little first grader under the seat just to see if he will fit." I imagine things have changed a bit, and buses nowadays in our part of the country make fewer stops--many old wooden houses have been converted to cornfields, and not so many kids wait at the top of the lane with Lone Ranger lunch boxes in hand and playful dogs by their sides. Maybe modern-day students should have an app on their smartphones so they can get a taste of the old-time ride--it would come equipped with the noise of grinding gears and chattering kids; the smell of gravel dust and nearby cattle lots; and a message that says "turn this off, look up, play, wrestle, laugh, talk, and try a little face-to-face social media on your way to school." Gee, we had it easy.

Note: click here for a blog that looks deeper into the yellow school bus rides of the past.

by dan gogerty (top pic from, middle pic from, and bottom pic from