Poinsettia season in bloom

By Nikki Kallio

At favorite grocery and home stores, it’s time for consumers to find the bright red, pretty pink or soft white blooms of poinsettias — and maybe some showy blue and purple glittery ones.

Growers know the poinsettia is a fairly steady holiday favorite with consumers, but it’s maybe not the plant they most look forward to growing. Poinsettias are not considered a profitable crop, said Erik Runkle, a horticulture professor with the Michigan State University Extension.

“Poinsettias take a long time to grow,” he said. “They’re starting to grow these usually in August and they’re not selling until sometime in November. And let’s face it, the price is fairly low, considering the amount of space they take up in the greenhouse.”

Continue reading “Poinsettia season in bloom”

Developing the next generation of ag leaders

Dan Verhasselt is vice president of sales for Ornua Ingredients North America.

By Randy Tenpas

To quote Vince Lombardi, “Leaders are made; they are not born.” So it is true when it comes to Wisconsin’s agriculture industry. How ironic that one of the leading industries in Wisconsin is comprised of leaders who excel in both technical and soft skills. In other words, ag professionals are both doers and communicators.

That’s the case with Dan Verhasselt, vice president of sales for Ornua Ingredients North America, a manufacturer of pasteurized process cheese products. He serves on the leadership team at Ornua’s 110,000-square-foot plant in Hilbert, Wis. The plant includes an impressive research and development lab. Verhasselt’s staff of four sales representatives is responsible for serving the industrial food sector with customized cheese technologies and solutions. Some of his customers work at multi-national food companies throughout North America. Continue reading “Developing the next generation of ag leaders”

Nebraska woman named nation’s top pig farmer


Leslie McCuiston, a pig farmer from Columbus, Neb., has been named the 2017 America’s Pig Farmer of the Year by the National Pork Board.

McCuiston achieved the highest combined score from a third-party judging panel and online voting. The award recognizes a pig farmer who excels at raising pigs using the We Care ethical principles and who connects with today’s consumers about how pork is produced.

“We are pleased to have Leslie represent America’s pig farmers. She embodies the very best in pig farming,” said Terry O’Neel, National Pork Board president and a pig farmer from Friend, Neb. “It’s important that we share with today’s consumers how we raise their food in an ethical and transparent way. Leslie’s interest in sharing her farm’s story, as well as putting a face on today’s pig farming, will help us reach this goal.” Continue reading “Nebraska woman named nation’s top pig farmer”

Gallagher: Save the Bay initiative keeps moving forward

By Mike Gallagher

I’m proud to be from Northeast Wisconsin. Here, we treat everyone we meet with kindness and respect. We stand by our veterans and help those in need. And we work hard every day to, in our own small way, hold the line and leave our little part of the world better than we found it.

Our character is shaped not only by our traditions of kindness and decency, but also by our land. From our rivers and streams, to our forests and rich farmland, the natural abundance of Northeast Wisconsin shapes and defines who we are as a people. Perhaps most significantly, we are home to the largest freshwater system in the world: the Great Lakes. These waters are tied directly to 1.4 million jobs, including the tourism industry that sustains many of our coastal communities. The lakes give drinking water to 40 million people each day and provide water for our crops that feed people around the world.

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Farmers use drones to better manage their operations

Jeff VanderWerff uses a drone for multiple purposes on his farm in Sparta, Mich.

By Leah Call

Drone technology is becoming an integral part of precision agriculture practices throughout the Midwest. This aerial eye in the sky enables farmers to increase efficiencies and boost productivity. With drones, farmers can monitor crops and livestock and manage inputs through surveying and mapping with spectrum, thermal and near infrared imagery.

“Drones are an interesting piece of technology to utilize,” said Jeff VanderWerff, who farms 200 acres of apples and 2,000 acres of crops with his father, uncle and brother in Sparta, Mich. “We use them primarily for scouting purposes and for management purposes in our orchard.

“When you get a group of workers out into an apple orchard, it is hard to keep track of where all the workers are, where all the bins are,” VanderWerff continued. “The drone allows me to find my workers and find my fruit bins quickly and efficiently versus spending half an hour on the Gator driving through an orchard. I can just fly over and get an aerial view of what is going on.” Continue reading “Farmers use drones to better manage their operations”

Apps help farmers keep an eye on the weather

By MaryBeth Matzek
MAA Editor

There is no doubt weather plays a vital role in a farm’s success. Thanks to technology, farmers now have access to essential weather information in the palm of their hand, providing them with information about what to expect in the coming hours and hard data about the previous 24 hours, as well as historical data.

The Internet is crowded with weather apps, but farmers need an app specifically designed for their needs and includes specific information, such as precipitation totals and precise information about wind speed and direction. Developers have rolled out multiple applications to meet farmers’ needs.

The DTN Ag Weather Tools app, which is only available in iTunes, debuted five years ago and relies on information from weather stations across the country. The app – one of the first designed exclusively for the ag industry –  features GPS-based roaming alerts, forecasts and touch screen interactive displays.

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Wisconsin-grown Christmas tree wins national contest

The official White House Christmas Tree, which is from Wisconsin, goes up in the Blue Room. Photo courtesy of the White House


A balsam fir Christmas tree grown by David and Jim Chapman of Silent Night Evergreens in Endeavor, Wis., was named the 2017 Grand Champion at the National Christmas Tree Association’s (NCTA) 2017 National Christmas Tree Contest.

As growers of the Grand Champion tree, the Chapmans will present the official 2017 White House Christmas tree this season. Since 1966, NCTA members provided the official Christmas Tree for display in the White House Blue Room.

Ed Hedlund of Hedlund Christmas Trees, in Elma, Wash., was named reserve champion of the contest. Continue reading “Wisconsin-grown Christmas tree wins national contest”

Event helps farmers brush up on communication skills


When a planned event or unexpected incident occurs on farm – good or bad – our consumers and community expect to hear from the dairy owner and managers.  This request often comes on short notice with a tight interview deadline.  Join the Professional Dairy Producers (PDPW) Dairy’s Visible Voice – leadership development through effective communication, for media training to properly prepare, practice and position a dairy farm for success when working with the media.

The media training workshop will be presented on-farm from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., repeating in two locations:

Exclusive to dairy farmers and held on farm, the media training will focus on providing skills and techniques needed to handle the media with confidence and composure.

Led by seasoned corporate brand and communication expert, Linda Wenck, principal at Morgan Myers, dairy farmers will receive a 360-degree perspective to increase one’s understanding of the media, develop effective farm-specific key messages, and improve confidence when interacting with print, broadcast and digital media.

Dairy farmers will walk away with the ability to:

  • Enhance the public’s knowledge and understanding of the dairy industry
  • Build credibility for their dairy
  • Reach their target audience with proven and tested key industry and personalized messages
  • Provide credibility for third-party endorsements.

Upon completion of this certified training and following invaluable on-camera practice time, farmers will be trained to lead as a source of authentic information and a trusted resource to reporters and editors.

To learn more about the PDPW Dairy’s Visible Voice series and to register, visit www.pdpw.org or contact PDPW at 1-800-947-7379.

Study: Quarter of all U.S. jobs tied to agriculture


More than a fifth of the U.S. economy and a quarter of American jobs are either directly or indirectly tied to the food and agriculture sectors, according to a new study commissioned by industry groups.

The study estimates that more than 43 million jobs and $1.9 trillion in total wages are linked to the two sectors, which contribute some $894 billion in taxes. The food and agriculture sectors together account for $146 billion in exports, the study found.

In all, the study, which was released today, pegs the two sectors’ total economic impact at $6.7 trillion.

“As policymakers consider tax reform and other means to expand economic activity, I hope they will have a better understanding of how the food and agriculture sector not only feeds Americans, but also feeds the U.S. economy,” said Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute.

The study was commissioned by 22 food and agriculture groups, including the Corn Refiners Association, the American Bakers Association and the United Fresh Produce Association. The groups posted the results on a site that allows individuals to search industry impact by state and congressional district.

Study: Land near CAFOs worth more


A study of Wisconsin land sales found farmland in some counties is worth more if it’s closer to a concentrated animal feeding operation, also known as CAFOs.

The analysis came out of a larger project to combine statewide data on land use, land sales and soil survey data, said Simon Jette-Nantel, farm management specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Because CAFOs need large areas of land to grow crops and minimize the carbon footprint by spreading natural nutrients, Jette-Nantel predicted there would be a relation between farmland value and its proximity to a CAFO. Which is exactly what an analysis of farmland sales from the first six months of 2017 in Barron and Marathon counties found.

“If it is close to a CAFO, it would tend to command a premium. That premium so far from what we’ve estimated could vary somewhere between $400 to $800 per acre,” Jette-Nantel said.