A sheep-shooing adventure

I recently returned from a week-long tour of Ireland with my sister and a close friend. We had a rental car and reservations at castle hotels across the country.

It was, without a doubt, the trip of a lifetime.

We drove the winding (and thin and sometimes terrifying) roads through patchwork farmland, up mountain sides and onto cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. The country is breathtaking and boasts a taste of every type of scenery. It’s a little different from North Dakota…

I had a few goals.

I wanted to see a vibrant Ireland rainbow. I saw one.

I wanted to experience being on top of and on the edge of the world at the Cliffs of Moher. I experienced it.

I wanted to have a drink in a small-town pub and see if the Irish country folk are really as kind as I’ve heard. I did. And they are.

And I wanted to shoo sheep off the road like in the movies. Check.

Yep, it was exactly like I imagined. We came around a curve and there they were — munching on grass on the edges of the roadway, and leaping and trotting down the middle. (I’m talking about sheep now, not Irish country folk).

I had my first (and second and third) taste of lamb meat on the trip, and of course bought plenty of Irish wool scarves and hats for myself, friends and family.

It’s tough to leave such a beautiful place, but I suppose the flat, expansive prairie of North Dakota would be beautiful to someone accustomed to a more Ireland-like terrain.

I’d love to go back someday.

There will always be more sheep to shoo, a Shamus with a Guiness in hand eager to give a traditional Irish toast, and a rural convenience store owner with detailed, landmark-based directions to Limerick on the tip of his tongue.

And besides, I never did find me a rich farmer to marry.

Ireland sheep

Here is a photo I snapped of the sheep on the road.

A prime scratch-and-sniff opportunity

Agweek’s cover story this week is about the increased use of manure as a crop fertilizer, as profit margins fall.

“More people are viewing it now as an agricultural nutrient rather than an agricultural waste,” Mary Berg, a livestock environmentalist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service, told staff writer Jonathan Knutson.

Manure does need to be managed differently than chemical fertilizers do. But it brings vital nutrients to the soil and presents opportunities for neighboring farmers and ranchers to work together.

It’s not all good, though. Using manure does have it’s challenges, including supply and, of course, smell. (I recommended to the Agweek team that we put a photo of manure on the cover this week…scratch and sniff.)

Read the article here to find out more.

Manure, manure, manure… (You know you wanted to giggle about it one last time.)

A Farmfest first-timer

I attended Farmfest for the first time ever this week, and even though I spent most of my time there sitting at Agweek’s exhibitor booth trying to sell subscriptions, I had fun and enjoyed chatting with the people I met.

Sidenote: I do not have a future as a salesperson – I sold a whopping one subscription.

Back to my story: The show is outside of Redwood Falls, Minn., and stretches itself each year across the grounds of Gilfillan Estate. It’s a well-attended event, drawing people from all over the country to discuss political issues in ag, hear from legislators, and check out the latest in farm machinery, equipment cleaning technology, storage options, technological advancements and more. (I think if the guys with the futuristic drones a few booths down from me  hadn’t gobbled up all the attention, I would have been able to get more farmers to stop by my booth and subscribe to Agweek… I digress.)

I hope to make it to more shows in the near future (to utterly fail at selling subscriptions) and I’ll definitely be at Big Iron in September in West Fargo. Make sure you find our booth and stop by.

The people, technology, example crop plots and enormous machinery displays at Farmfest were cool. But I have to say my favorite part was the hot turkey croissant I had for lunch.

It’s been two days now and I can think of nothing else.



Agweek sales rep Megan Prins and I sit at the Farmfest booth Tuesday morning.


Farmfest Peterson

Farmfest features example crop plots like this one from Peterson Farms Seed.

A new website

A coworker in the newsroom just told my Agweek team to keep it down. I’m fairly certain it was prompted by me yelling “Woohoo!” one too many times.

But it’s a great day for us. Today, Agweek launched its new, much-improved website. It’s gorgeous, and I’m not being biased (at least not too much).

Take a moment to peruse the site and see the new features, bright photos, prominent news stories and simple interface.

Give it a good, loud “Woohoo!”

A tasty breakfast (and some talk about UAVs)

I attended a brief breakfast seminar this week about progress with unmanned aerial vehicles in agriculture.

I knew Grand Forks was a hub of research for the farm state of North Dakota, but it seems to be a UAV hub for the world, too.

And that’s exciting.

Grand Forks is not only part of Agweek’s coverage area, but we’re based here, too. I make the 12-minute trek to and from the office building with its clock tower five days a week (sometimes six).

So it’s exciting to hear about new research, companies, technologies and even a research park coming up here.

Seminar presenter Lionel Olson, a former Grand Forks County extension agent who’s now a sales agronomist for Integrated Ag Services, showed attendees a slide show of photos taken from the UAVs he uses. He showed us all how he uses them, some issues that arise when flying for the first time and how his team solved them.

And he showed us one UAV smashed into pieces on the ground after an unforeseen gravity issue…

Big things are happening and UAVs can provide valuable tools in almost all areas of agriculture.

Want to snap photos of your cattle that show which ones have elevated body temperatures and might be sick, or ready to calf? A UAV can do that.

Want to scout for crop disease and pests? A UAV can do that.

I think you get the point. Yay UAVs.

And yay free bacon and eggs while I learn about UAVs.

A TV star

As many of you might have already noticed, I’m now a superstar.

I have between 20 and 30 seconds of on-camera fame each week. The fan mail, autograph requests and pleas for my appearance at children’s birthday parties have been overwhelming…

Fine. That’s a lie, but recording a short weekly segment about Agweek for our newest endeavor, AgweekTV, has been a fun new experience for me.

AgweekTV is a tremendous point of pride for all of us here at Agweek.

The TV show started as an idea, floated around on our Agweek team. Now, it’s a concrete product airing every Sunday on multiple news channels across North Dakota.

We work closely with our counterparts on the AgweekTV team to bring timely, relevant coverage, some of it from the issue of Agweek that will appear in mailboxes the next morning.

I have learned a lot about broadcast news and I’ll keep learning more, as we continue our close relationship with the TV team and host Shawna Olson.

But my point is we’re throwing a party.

Stop by the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Feb. 18 between 6 and 9 p.m. to meet our team, learn about the show and have a beer or two on us.

And get my autograph.

A good news week

A lot of national and world news has affected ag this week.

China approved Syngenta’s Viptera GMO corn variety, known as MIR 162. That’s great news for farmers. China had been turning away corn shipments from the U.S., out of concerns the shipments were commingled with unapproved Viptera, which limited export opportunities and decreased revenues.

China is a crucial market for our corn crop. Or at least it was, before all this happened.

Hopefully, this approval will pave the way for settlements in the lawsuits brought against Syngenta by farmers and commodities traders like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. They say the rejections of shipments has pressured corn prices and hurt their profits.

Syngenta has said the lawsuits are baseless, but it seems obvious to me that profits suffer when a crucial export market is wiped away.

And the U.S. and Cuba have normalized diplomatic relations, easing restrictions on things like travel and trade.


That’s excellent news for ag. I was interested and a bit surprised, however, when I read reactions from the ag industry in the article Mikkel Pates wrote for Agweek (http://www.agweek.com/event/article/id/24655/). The industry is cautiously optimistic and one source in the commodities sector said he doesn’t think any financial restrictions will ease.

But Cuba is a large consumer of black beans and North Dakota ranks No. 1 in dry edible bean production at 8.7 million hundredweight, 988,000 in black beans alone. Minnesota is No. 4 in dry edible bean production, with 2.5 million hundredweight. If the restrictions are lifted, we would be competing with Michigan, which ranks No. 3.

Still, this should make equipment sales in Cuba far easier, and hopefully more agreements can be made to further simplify trade between our countries.

And now my dad can smoke Cuban cigars. Win-win.



A television debut

As most of you have probably heard, Agweek is launching a television show called Agweek TV. The TV crew will work hand-in-hand with the team here at the magazine, developing ag-related content relevant to our industry. The first episode will air on Jan. 11.

Today, I sat down for an on-camera interview with Agweek TV reporter Shawna Olson. It will be used in an upcoming segment about Agweek and its history in the industry.

And I learned something.

I am not graceful answering questions on camera.

Miraculously, I think there might be some footage she can use. Maybe a question or two I managed to answer without using nonwords like flupclib or kuskrumpf, or other combinations of three or four real words that all raced out of my mouth at once to form a mutant, indecipherable word glob.

Maybe there’s a question or two where I didn’t ramble on saying nothing, with no real response whatsoever because I had forgotten the question halfway through my nonanswer.

I might be exaggerating.

But my point is, I’m tremendously excited about this new project.

A small Christmas list item

I watched a video recently about a man raising a baby pygmy goat because its mother had twins and she couldn’t handle both. (You want to watch this: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152920109769626&pnref=story)

And I realized there’s an empty space in my life where a pygmy goat should be.

Benjamin, lovingly called Benji, is five weeks old. He feeds from a bottle six times per day, starting at 4 a.m. (With a lot more coffee in my life, I think I can fit that into my schedule.)

Benji has an overabundance of energy and needs plenty of room to perform the jumps, hops, sprints and somersaults he does best. (I see no reason I can’t turn my small apartment into a goat playground; I doubt the landlord or neighbors on the other side of the thin walls would mind.)

Benji will grow to the size of a Labrador in a few short months and then will need a pasture and a lot more room to lead a healthy life.

*Pensive pause*

I changed my mind. I can’t be a goat mom. I wouldn’t be able to teach him how to goat.

I’ll just watch the video again.




A year later

About this time last year, ranchers in South Dakota thought they were prepared for an early season snow storm that was on its way. But they soon found out they weren’t.

The storm dumped an unexpected amount of snow on livestock still in summer pastures, still wet from recent fall rains and still only insulated with summer coats.

That storm killed tens of thousands of livestock, mostly in South Dakota. Many ranchers didn’t know the extent of the damage to their herds for a few days because they couldn’t get to them on the ground. Those who were lucky enough to secure aerial views of their pastures came back to the ground with a sickening, real picture of what the next few years would entail in rebuilding their herds.

It was national news — pictures and video footage of cattle carcasses littering riverbeds, pastures and ravines.

Last year, Agweek profiled Richard Papousek, a Quinn, S.D., rancher who lost almost 300 head of cattle in the blizzard. The poignant cover photo of the Oct. 21, 2013, issue of Agweek showed a solemn Papousek with a ravine full of dead cattle in the background.

The storm impacted the agriculture industry far beyond its destructive borders.

The loss of livelihood helped shape disaster recovery programs in the federal farm bill. And the sheer devastation touched hearts of ranching families around the country, who donated money and animals to help in the recovery effort.

The Oct. 6 issue of Agweek will revisit Papousek and others affected by the storm to see how their recovery efforts are progressing a year later.

It’s an industry of resilient people, but the scars are still there.

Join us as we retell stories of survival and recovery. Pick up an Oct. 6 Agweek.