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    Agriculture+Community+New Friends+Great Times Is Harvest Tour 2011.

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    I had the immense pleasure of taking part in the inaugural Harvest Tour over the weekend. The short of it is, fabulous!

    Now the longer version…

    The event took place in the town of Hampton, IA. When you think of a bucolic town, Hampton certainly epitomizes this. It is the county seat for Franklin county with 4,461 city residents. The downtown area was amazing with small shops along each side of the town square. And, oh the agriculture: it was indeed everywhere. What a sense of community!

    Here is a list of the scheduled activities:

    • Maynes Grove and Star Gazing
      • I missed this event on Friday night Sad smile. It just so happens that the Iowa Testing for my son was last week so he had to to attend school that day. We did get to view the beautiful autumn night as we were driving and it was magnificent!
    • Shopping Downtown
      • What a marvelous town square in Hampton. It was full of interesting stores. My family and I had just the best time visiting these stores. My daughter Kate purchased a new backpack while my son and his friend picked up some neat 3-D puzzles and figures. The shop owners were just the epitome of what you can expect from a small town. The shop owner at Cornerstone Cottage loaned me her Flip camera since I left mine back at the Bed and Breakfast. She didn’t know me, but knew Deb so “any friend of Deb’s was a friend of hers.” Now that is just awesome!
    DSC_0117
    • Fashion Show (Car Show too!)
      • This was a neat little event put on Orange Possum. Afterwards we all took photos with the local media. I managed to sneak out a bit early to check out the car show. And the memories of my childhood came flooding back with all the older automobiles. I spent the greater part of my teenage years restoring and building older vehicles.
    • Combine Rides
      • One of the local farmers hosted the group with lunch in the field (fried chicken, yum!). This family farm operation then answered questions from the group with topics that ranged from proper tiling to conservation efforts. As usual, the local farmer was a wealth of information!
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    My Son Alex Getting Ready To Harvest!
    • Tour of Latham High-Tec Seeds
      • John and Shannon Latham, along with their son, hosted our group and talked about the neat things they were doing and then showed the group around their facility. I really enjoyed meeting both Shannon and John. Their operation is impressive and very much rooted in community. My hats off to the Latham group on their success and support of the Hampton community!
    DSC_0165
    • Sukup Demonstration
      • Sukup provides grain handling, storage, and drying equipment. They have a product that allows for effective drying of grain ensuring even test weight and higher quality of grain.

    Sukup Demo
    Photo Courtesy of @UncommonQuest
    • 1917 Movies – “A Night Like It Used To Be.”
      • This was a really fun event where folks dressed up in the clothing of 1917. There was a plethora of hors d'œuvres and local win
    • Brunch with Bloggers and Family
      • This event was a perfect time for the bloggers and their families to sit down at brunch and talk about agriculture, community, and, of course social media! Naturally discussions about social media were a constant among the group.
    • Fall Festival
      • I missed this event Sad smile. My children were ready to go back home so we had to head back to Illinois. But everyone should stop by and visit Harriman-Nielsen Farm
    My family and I had a wonderful weekend in Iowa. My thanks to Deb Brown for all her efforts, organization, and thoughtful planning. I think the event was a smashing success.

    Bloggers To Connect With:

    Claire Celsi: Twitter, Blog, Facebook, G+
    Jon Swanson: Twitter, Blog
    Sara Broers: Blog,
    Heather Lilienthal: Twitter, Blog
    Jocelyn Wallace: Twitter, Blog, Facebook, G+
    Laura Gaulke: Twitter, Blog, Facebook, G+
    Deb Brown: Twitter, Blog, Facebook, G+

    I will be posting more photos and videos from the weekend on Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, G+, Tumblr, and Twitter. So, whatever platform you use, I’ll be there!

    You will notice the title of this post mentioned agriculture, community, and new friends. Please check back soon as I will be posting about each of these topics in separate posts.

    Thanks again for reading.

    Regards,
    NJT

    Circle Fatigue? Not This Guy!

    google_circles_social
    I just read an article (came across my Twitter feed Winking smile)  in Fast Company called “Circle Fatigue: The Dark Side of Google+”

    After reading it, I just had to post something as there is one sentence that I just do not follow:

    “Rather than classify my contacts as I might subconsciously in real life--as family, friends, or coworkers--I've been forced to consciously determine my relationships with these people online.” (emphasis mine)
    Seriously?

    Being active in social media ain’t easy


    I am diametrically opposed to the author’s viewpoint. I actually welcome the chance to build my social graph. Its like having a do over so I can take the mistakes I made and use this experience to enrich my online experience. In real life, I have more than just friends, family, and coworkers. I do agree that building your social graph isn’t easy, but neither is real life relationships. The are complex and cannot be reduced into 3-5 general buckets. It takes effort, a great deal of effort, to maintain valuable interactions in the world of social media. The simplistic argument that maintaining “too many” circles is tiresome only resonates with people not fully engaged. You have to work at it, be genuine, and invest time, just like you would if you met someone new offline.

    The Other Side of Complexity


    There are two kinds of simplicity: one of this side of complexity and one on the other side of complexity. I prefer the other side as it means you have worked diligently and focused your time on getting through all the complexity that is relationships and arrived at the other side of complexity. Circles, once you start getting into it, are the other side of complexity. What the author talks about in the article is simple, just on the wrong side. So as you start working through building your circles, keep in mind that you will get to the “other side”, you will find that the benefits are quite rewarding.

    Learning Curve


    As with anything, Google+ being no exception, there is a learning curve. When you first start building your circles (aka social graph) it is a little overwhelming (agree with the author on this point). But, I didn’t reach fatigue, rather, I started to really think about not only what I wanted out of my online experience, but what others I interact with may want from me!

    What do you think? Do you agree with the author of the Fast Company article? Are circles giving you the opportunity to begin anew?

    The Unsung Heroes

    This is a guest post from a friend of mine who has an interest in agriculture. Here is my preamble, followed by Woody’s guest post.

    It is sometimes difficult to find information on just how much the American agriculturalists provide not only our nation, but others as well.  Our farmers, ranchers, and dairy men and women provide a vital service to the world. After all, agriculture, in the broadest sense, is the backbone of thriving societies.

    The development of agriculture in 8000 BC changed the hunter-gatherer approach and resulted in more food for more people. And this resulted in the building of thriving societies and ultimately, cities. Thus, sophisticated social systems had there start. It is in agriculture that we began to build where we are today.

    One last comment about this guest post: I am humbled by the remarks and thank Woody very much for his kind words. So, without further adieu, here is Woody’s post.

    “It’s clear that those involved with agriculture are a passionate bunch. Followers of Nate’s postings can see how much he enjoys his occupation. However, the everyday conveniences provided by agribusiness and people like Nate are often times overlooked.

    I’ve found that getting your hands dirty and starting some small scale farming helps me appreciate agriculture and agribusiness. My apartment in Santa Barbara is now hosting a small garden with tomatoes and avocados alike!

    Unfortunately, tending a small garden may not translate to all people. In this case, using references or guides can offer insight to the practices and sheer size of domestic agriculture. This specific reference from FindTheBest is actually pretty interesting. You can compare different commodities and filter results based on several variables (state, county, practice, yield, etc)

    Agribusiness oils the wheels of commerce in America and offers a crucial service present in daily life. I intend this post to be a well deserved ‘thank you’ to Nate and all those involved with agriculture, and shed light on a service and product that should not be forgotten in our everyday routines.”
    Thanks again to Woody for the post and his support of American Agriculture. You can find him on Twitter @Find_The_Best and on Facebook FindTheBest.com

    How to: Photo Zoom in the Google+ Stream

    G  Icons

    Image by Neil Judges

    There is a handy little extension for Google Chrome that allows for the easy quick zoom of photos and profile avatars while still working in the Google+ stream. It allows for the easy view of interesting photos. Navigate to here: Google Chrome Photo Zoom Extension.

    Naturally you will have to use Chrome as your browser.

    After you install the extension it appears here:

    image

    To toggle it on and off, all you have to do is click the little icon.This also works when you navigate to the photos section on Google+ as well.

    So, this is what it looks like when you hover your mouse over an avatar:

    image
    You should go ahead and add Travis to one of your circles

    Here is what it looks like when you are in the photo section:

    image

    Thanks for reading everyone!

    Have you sent feedback to Google about Google+ yet?

    So one of the things that irritates me about Google+ is the inability to collapse comments! I really need this functionality. I have tried muting a post, but then the original is now gone from my stream. You can come back and unmute it, but I am slow on the uptake and just can’t remember all the posts I want to check out later if I happen to run out of time and need to focus on something else. Given my ADD tendencies, I am always circling back around to previous posts. I’ll be happy if I can just get this quick blog post complete before I drift off to thinking about something else.

    2.5 hours later….

    So I thought I would submit feedback to Google and man do I like the way it is implemented. After you click the feedback button located on the bottom right hand side of the screen

    image

    You get this nifty little box:


    image
    From there you can highlight the screen showing exactly what you are reporting on. Nice! After you enter in a description of the problem and hit preview, you are then taken to this screen that shows you exactly what you are sending in to Google:

    image

    I don’t know how you feel about providing feedback, but given the current crowd on G+ (yes I know I am too lazy to type out Google+, or am I?) I imagine Google is getting bombarded with enhancement requests.

    Have you submitted feedback to Google yet? What do you think of this little piece of functionality?

    Now, back to spending entirely too much time on G+.

    The Best "Job" In The World - Being a Dad

    Everyone who knows me, knows how passionate I am about agriculture. I am blessed that every day I wake up is another day I get to spend in the profession I love so much. As a matter of fact, agriculture has become so much a part of my life, that I don’t consider it a job. I feel it is my duty and wake up excited for another opportunity to do what I love! Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid to do it!

    There is one “job”, however, that is more rewarding and fulfilling. That is being a father. My kids are wonderful. Each day I spend with them is a wonderful experience that just cannot be replaced.

    I couldn’t possibly put into words how wonderful my kids are so I thought I would just put together a quick slide show.


                             Why I LOVE Being A Dad!
    Enjoy the slide show and be sure to stop by and visit your Dad today. If you can't do that, then get on the phone, send an email, or anything you can to let him know how much you love him. And remember, anyone can make a baby; it takes a special kind of person to be a Dad.

    Local Roots Gets Local Foods

    If you haven’t already, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed over there on the right.

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    I love agriculture! Everything single thing about it gets me spun up and eager to engage. To do something. Talk, learn, educate, blog, tweet, whatever.

    I am fortunate to be involved in a startup that takes me to places through farm country. During one of my recent trips out to Smithville, OH, I had the pleasure of meeting with a then prospect, now a new customer! On the way back home, I thought I would stop by and meet with my friend Brian Gwin who works for the Wayne County Economic Development Council with a focus on agriculture. Brian is a wonderful individual with a family farm in the area. He understands agriculture and economic development. I am glad to know Brian and look forward to working on projects together.

    Brian knows I have a strong interest in local food economies. I believe that efforts promoting this are good for farmers and good for the community. As such, he took me over to one such group that was established in 2009, Local Roots Market & Café.

    The marketing manager, Jessica Eikleberry was gracious enough to show me around the place and talk to me about the organization, its goals, and ideas on continuing their efforts to strengthen the Wooster area economy and surrounding communities.

    Let me just say now, Local Roots gets local foods. I can relate to their mission:

    "To establish a year-round market place for the purpose of connecting consumers and producers of locally grown foods and other agricultural products. Our goals are to encourage healthy eating, expand local economic development, promote community involvement, and sustainable living."
    I like their approach for producer members in that they set it up to where the producer puts together their own profiles, develop their own prices, and gain access to the marketing services of Local Roots. It is all inclusive. As a grower you can share your story to connect with the consumer.

    Another great perk is that each item sold has information the consumer can use to contact the grower enabling an immediate connection to the person growing their food. Awesome!

    Why Local Roots gets local foods


    During my visit to the store, I noticed all the other non-food items that were in the store. Now, this may seem counter intuitive, but to me Local Roots understands that agriculture is multi-faceted. We in the business of agriculture also produce fiber and other products that require a producer as well. And in their market you will see things like bee based lip balm (go bees – we love you!!!), wool, yarn, and soap products, to name a few.

    It is the essence of building a strong agriculture based local economy. Providing access to fresh, local, healthy food as well as the other myriad of products founded in agriculture. Awesome isn’t it?

    So, if you are interested in local foods and local economic development, Local Roots is a shining example. Go visit their website and check out the list of participating producers and other great resources!

    My thanks again to Jessica for her time and willingness to share the Local Roots story. I wish her and the volunteers who have made Local Roots a success continued prosperity.

    Regards,
    Nate J. Taylor
    (814) 441-1867
    natesuetaylor@gmail.com

    Photo Credits:
    bluhazyjunem on flickr

    IntelliCrop–Got Beta?

    If you haven’t already, you may want to subscribe to my RSS Feed.

    So, if you don’t know, I along with 3 dear friends started a company in November 2010. We are already close to the beta program (April 1st, 2011).

    I just could not be more excited. We already have companies on board, with hopefully more soon.

    IntelliCrop already has a post about the flagship service here so I am not going to go into much more detail here, but I urge you to go check it out. While you are there, have a look at the products tab. I would love to hear your feedback and answer any questions. Or sign you up for either beta or for the limited commercial release in May. 

    But I would like to add these neat videos demonstrating just how far technology has come in relation to computing complex algorithms.

    This is a video of a difference engine and it is awesome!


    Now we have this handy little “computer” called Watson. Just think of the insane amounts of algorithms getting crunched! Amazing.

    Go IBM

    Now, we are certainly not close to using the power of Watson at IntelliCrop, but we are fully aware of the technology advancement curve. We are also acutely aware of where computational power is today and are leveraging this as we bring more agronomic model based products and services to the market place.

    As the IntelliCrop blog post states, we are in a limited release phase so contact us for more details.

    Regards,
    NJT
    (814) 441-1867
    natesuetaylor@gmail.com

    "Swing Thru" and Our New Project

    I am pumped! So pumped that I just have to share. As you may already know, I am working with 3 other partners in getting our startup off the ground, IntelliCrop. Things are progressing nicely so far with beta launch just a few short weeks away! It is hard to believe we are already at the "paying customer" point. Boy, how time flies.

    But that is not why I am extra pumped up. It just so happens that another group of us are starting another project/company and I just couldn't be more excited. We have done the market research, talked to our target market on the value proposition, sourced an excellent manufacturer and distributor, and formed one helluva team. Two of the three folks I have known for a while now so this is almost old hat for us; however, there is one team member that I did not know, and glad I do now. His name is Lee Prunty and I am stoked to be working with him. His knowledge of the market we are entering is superb and his years of experience are certainly going to assist us in taking the right amount of measured risk. I was in my first meeting with him earlier this week and like the way he operates. Good stuff! I am excited to engage and learn from him. He is the kind of person I want to learn from; an acute engineering mind with strong business acumen.

    Let the good times roll!!

    Given the direction of our project, we really needed a 20' container delivered to our designers. Guess who just happens to be the exclusive North American owner and distributor of the Swing Thru product line? Yep. Lee. I really love this well engineered product. Being that my life prior to agriculture was in marine transportation, I can really grasp the importance and innovation in the design. And now that I have been in the agriculture world (thankfully!!!!), I can see the immense benefit of the swing thru system. Are you asking what the swing thru system is yet? Well, before you Google it, the first thing to do is to navigate to the Container Handling Solutions website. There you will be able to learn more about Lee's company and view some demo videos on the swing thru system. Check  it out. It is a great piece of machinery, especially if you are trying to ship grain in a container. Obviously the system can move a container regardless of the contents; however, I thought I would mention the usefulness of the Swing Thru in an agriculture setting.

    Here are a few photos of the container delivery.

    That's Lee operating the Swing Thru.


    Container Unloaded
    The above photo is a good view of what it looks like when the container is offloaded. Take note of the design in that Lee could just as easy lift that container up and load it onto another trailer on the left for transport anywhere. Cool isn't it!

    Controls

    I watched Lee maneuver the container where he wanted it using the controls shown above. These controls are located on both ends of the trailer assembly and are very straightforward.

    Motor for Swing Thru Ssystem

    This is located in the forward part of the trailer and is pretty simple to start and get up and running. 



    Above is what the Swing Thru looks like when it is being transported. It meets the International Highway Standard for vertical clearance for ease of transport

    I really like this product and was fortunate enough to be able to see it in action due to the current project scope. If you think you may have a need for something like this, let Lee know via email

    Lee Prunty
    lee@wsint.com

    Stay tuned for more posts and further details as we get these exciting projects off the ground. Are you doing anything exciting you want to share? Please do so in the comments. 

    Regards,

    Nate J. Taylor
    (814) 441-1867




    5 Reasons Why Wireless Access Is Integral To Agriculture

    I just finished reading a short article in Fast Company that discussed President Obama's push to make Wi-Fi more accessible to rural areas throughout the United States. I applaud this initiative and hope it gets the support it needs on The Hill.

    In today's world of agriculture access is critical. Making the right decision is crucial to continued farm profitability. One sub-par choice like entering a field when it's to wet, planting to early, or applying fertilizer to late/early can heavily impact the bottom line in the downward direction. This is bad for the companies providing custom services to the farmer, bad for the farmer(s) who work tirelessly to supply us with food, feed, fuel, and fiber and can also be bad for the consumers if this leads to further consolidation in the marketplace led by decreased competition. Here are 5 reasons I think Wi-Fi everywhere is good for agriculture.

    1.) Access Information Anywhere - We all know that farmers are traveling more and more to spread the word about the benefits of a healthy agriculture system. And crops are not malleable in their timing. When it is time to plant, it is time to plant. When it it time to do anything related to crop production, it is time and the window of opportunity is small. So having access for the on the go farmer is of utmost importance. Being able to hop on the web with a smart device will allow farmers to obtain the information they need to make the best decision for their farming activities

    2.) Knowledge Sharing - With the rise of social media, more and more farmers are sharing information about their activities. This "real-time" sharing of information is helping other farmers throughout the growing season make better decisions and plan for future activities. For example, if you know a heavy rain is coming because Jim just posted a tweet, sent you a text message, or posted it on the social web, then you can plan accordingly and move your equipment where it needs to be.

    3.) Agvocating - As we all know, the conversation about food has been elevated to a place where everyone is engaged. As such, there is a ton of misinformation out there. Having ubiquitous access to the web will allow farmers and ranchers to share their story not only from the office, but the field as well. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and who produces it. A direct connection to the farmer, even virtually, will enhance the trust between consumer and farmer and help build this much needed bridge

    4.) Small Business Growth - We all know the the lifeblood of economies around the world is the small business. And the days of desktop applications are numbered. There are already a number of companies looking at their web-based strategy as well as a number of start-ups utilizing the web to deliver their service (shameless plug - My start-up is doing this). Increasing access to the web allows more companies to provide the level of service farmers and ranchers need to be successful in todays agricultural system as the market increases with increased access to the internet. The larger the market, the more opportunities available for entrepreneurs to form new companies and create more well paying jobs.

    5.) Data Acquisition - It's all about the data folks. Data is what drives decisions, even the absence of data! At this point it is quite difficult to collect all the data we would like, at the resolution we need, to really make data-driven decisions. If we do collect the data, it is cumbersome and very time consuming, not to mention the possibility of errors. The more and more we increase access to the web to transmit data back to a smartphone where decisions can be made, the more profitable a farming operation can become. As OEM's work toward building sensors and telecommunications companies work toward access everywhere, we can work on how this real-time data can be used. Can anyone say agronomic, soil, and weather models? I sure can.

    As I look toward the future, I see multiple data sets being integrated into a service to enable sound business decisions aided by stellar applications delivered over the mobile web.

    What do you see? What benefits to agriculture do you see with increased access to the mobile web? Let us know in the comments.

    Regards,
    Nate J. Taylor
    (814) 441-1867
    natesuetaylor@gmail.com

    Interested in more of my gibberish? You can follow me on Twitter @natejtaylor

    Photo Credits
    Flickr User Claudian-
    Flickr User james_clear
    Flickr User ShowGood

    Scenery On The Drive Today

    I thought I would share a few of the shots I took along my drive from Sycamore, IL to Rochelle, IL. Have I told you yet how much I love the area I live in? You can just feel and see agriculture everywhere!

    Local Grain Elevator and Storage Facility

    One of my friends fields

    I love Red Barns!

    For more on red barns read my friend Janice's post here

    Hoop Houses used to extend the growing season

    Grain Bins on a local farm

    NIU Huskie Stadium - Last sight before home





    A Rumble With The Wrong Group

    Today was like any other day. Frigid temperatures outside, tons of work to do to get the startup I am involved in up and running, kids basketball and swimming practice, a crazy amount of errands that seem impossible to complete, and an insane amount of data integration from multiple spreadsheets and databases.

    And then there is this.

    By this, I mean a blog post by Nathan Winters (@follownathan). In this post it is stated that The AgChat Foundation is as follows:

     ....Hide behind and exploit the American Farmer at any cost.
     I am all up for a discussion and debate about the US food system; inadequacies included. And there are certainly inadequacies. A food supply chain is complicated enough at the local level and the complexities compound exponentially once we hit the global agri-supply chain. But the notion that the newly formed Agchat Foundation is hiding behind and exploiting the American Farmer is...how should I put this...false seems to be fitting. And naturally the comments section is full of folks that have yet to engage the foundation directly. Or if they have, it is already from a position of  "I know what I know" so all discussions just serve to further their view point. Hey, if all you have is a hammer, everything you see is a nail, no? Sure does make it easy and simple, and not the simple we should strive for on the other side of complexity.
    Complexity is easy to talk about


    Speaking of simplicity and complexity, The Agchat Foundation has reached the simplicity level, thus the angst. It is easy to deal in complexities and very hard to deal in simplicity. The purpose and mission of the foundation is clear - empower farmers to share their story through social media. It doesn't say, implicitly or otherwise that it is for "large" farmers to share their story, organic farmers to share their story, grass-fed ranchers to share their story, or any of the other farming designations. It is simply for ALL farmers and ranchers to share their story. Let's be clear: ALL farmers and ranchers to share their story.

    So, while it is all well and good to rumble with "BigAg", let's be sure you are in the right ring. Maybe the actual issue is with larger corporations holding such power in our democracy? I can understand that. Maybe it is due to lack of competition in the marketplace due to bad policy? That is worth discussing at length in more than just agriculture. There are a myriad of issues to fight for and I applaud people taking a stand for what they believe in. To call on a personal example if I may, I feel strongly that we have an access problem in certain parts of our country, indeed the world. But where I can make a difference is focusing on my community to build that access and create jobs. A robust, thriving local food economy with access to healthy calories is important. I, along with a few other passionate individuals are working to make this happen in my community and others. And it will take everyone. The farmer with 5 acres, the farmer with 5000 acres, local governance, local processing facilities, and retail establishments. At the same time, I know that there are other areas in our country and the world that need food, and I salute and support wholeheartedly the folks that are trying to deliver on this need as well.

    But I digress from the actual point.

    Nathan, if it is a rumble you want, by all means have at it. But your focus on a grassroots foundation that has open arms to every single farmer and rancher is misguided. It is at best cynicism and at worst detrimental to the field of agriculture. In all of your accusations, have you once attempted to attend one of the conferences that were published to everyone? I have, on my own dime, as did all the other attendees. Maybe, before making bold assertions, you should do what you did in order to research your book? Meet the faces of the foundation yourself, engage them, and then take quill to paper.

    Regards,
    Nate J. Taylor
    natesuetaylor@gmail.com

    Photo Courtesy of Flickr user PhOtOnQuAnTiQue

    Being A Vegan? Don't Ask Oprah

    Oh boy, another "vegan" challenge, but this time it wasn't from Peta or HSUS. It was from Oprah. At first, I thought maybe it would be a good discussion talking about the benefits of increasing the amount of fruits and veggies in your diet, but alas it was nothing of the sort. It was, once again a simplistic, emotional, appeal to not eat meat.

    Image from Mas-Luka on Flickr
    First, let me say that everyone I know involved in livestock production take excellent care of their animals and treat them like members of their own family. Folks like Mike Haley, Jeff Fowle, Ray Prock, and Chris Chinn provide the utmost care for their animals. As a matter of fact, I believe I can speak on their behalf that they feel it is a privilege to raise animals to provide the rest of us with food (and other items I will mention later).

    In case you missed it, Oprah challenged her staff and others to go "vegan." Well I am here to tell you that going vegan is much more complex than just not eating meat or food products from animal agriculture. 

    The Benefit(s) of A Snowpocalypse

    We are getting a fair amount of snow here in Northern Illinois, across the Midwest actually, with still more coming down.
    National Weather Service Data
    It is nothing out of the ordinary to get snow in my neck of the woods. My family and I actually love the snow. Snow sledding, skiing, snowball fights, snowmen, snow forts, and just all around excellent family time.



    Time to Play

    There comes a time when you get enough snow to keep you in the house. We reached that time last night and do not expect to get shoveled out until later this afternoon at the earliest.

    Let's Talk About Soil Baby

    Soil is the most important resource we in agriculture have. There are different classifications of soil, but at the end of the day all farmers are concerned with not only maintaining the soil properties, but also improving them over time. Yes indeed, the farmer is the epitome of conservation. After all, their livelihood depends on it!

    Before digging, no pun intended, into one of the processes to effectively manage soil, I want to be sure we are all working from the page that soil does not equal dirt. They are very different. In its simplest form, soil can sustain life whereas dirt cannot.
    Dirt is more mineral based with pebbles and rocks. Soil is mineral, plant, fungi, and animal based; an ecosystem in and of itself. Without soil, there is no agriculture. Period. So next time you look around at all the dirt in plentiful amounts, remember that it is just dirt, a filler if you will. And while dirt may be plentiful, soil certainly is not. It is precious and finite. We all should do what we can to take care of the wonder that is soil.

    Social Media Makes You Less Human?

    I just finished reading an interesting article in The Guardian titled "Social Networking Under Attack As Tide Of Cyber-scepticism Sweeps US." The premise is that technology, specifically social media, is making us less human.

    Now I am certainly not in a position to debate this premise from a scientific standpoint as I am not trained in sociology; however, I can provide my own personal experience with the use of this medium in my work and personal life.

    Who Needs The Freeway Anyhow?

    As most of you know, I am involved in a new startup, IntelliCrop. As such, I am on the road quite a bit and recently had the pleasure of visiting with colleagues in Waterloo, Iowa. I always enjoy meeting with fellow aggies to discuss possible projects/businesses we can collaborate on!

    As is customary, I plug the address into my Garmin, load up on coffee, grab the audio-book of choice (a James Patterson novel this time), and hit the road watching my house in the rear view already missing my family. Naturally this is the route the robotic voice inside the little navigation machine took me:

    Pretty standard for heading into Iowa. Hit I-80 and "go west young man." I have made the I-88 to I-80 trip more times than I can count and I still love the farmland and farms I can view from the road. In conjunction with that there are a great many businesses along the interstate that are involved in agriculture, like OEM's, cooperatives, input suppliers, and dealers. Seeing all of this always gets my gears turning as if their gear ratio was 1:100. I also really like the wind towers along I-80.


    And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Iowa 80 truck stop. It is the largest truck stop in the world located in Walcott, IA just off Exit 284. If you ever find yourself near there, pull off, stretch your legs, fill up the tank, and take a quick stroll through the establishment.

    After arriving, we immediately dug in to potential projects and opportunities. Good times!

    As I was leaving Waterloo, I pulled in for the normal fill up. I told my Garmin to take me home and off we went. But this time the little robotic voice had different plans. Instead of heading back on the interstate, the path home was down route 20.

    And what a beautiful drive home through rural america. The drive was peaceful and absolutely beautiful through the rolling hills and small towns. Magnificent antique shops, farms, grain facilities, family owned restaurants, and city halls were littered across the landscape. I felt like I was driving through a little slice of heaven and I found myself waxing nostalgic. And who doesn't like to do that every now and again right? I reflected back on the many times I worked hay fields, worked with livestock, and mucked out stall after stall. I welcomed the warm feeling and thought how lucky I was to be involved in agriculture. 

    I was jolted out of my trip down memory lane by the beautiful view just east of the Ulysses S. Grant home and tourist site. I just had to pull over and take a deep breath feeling the brisk -4 degree air hit my lungs. Here is the location:

    So the next time you find yourself on a trip and can spare a few extra minutes of time, find a route that will take you through small town America. The towns are quaint, the scenery is marvelous, and the opportunity to view the wonders of agriculture is something you just shouldn't miss!


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    Agriculture passionado! I lead GeoVantage's Sales, Marketing, and Business Development activities. If you haven't explored the benefit of remote sensing for production agriculture, now is the time! Not one to rest, I am also a part of the Memes Associates team where we focus on assisting large companies in the agriculture space to "re-discover their inner entrepreneur" through the introduction of market disrupting technology(s) and services.  

    Have questions about agriculture and technology in agriculture? Ask away! 


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