Big things happening in 2022

In case you didn’t see our post on social media, there will be a slight change to the posting on content on the Farm Traveler podcast channel. But don’t fret, it’s nothing major!

Podcasting has been an amazing hobby that I am now able to turn into a side hustle. I am now producing a few other Ag-related shows, more info on those soon! But, to help with not getting overworked and also balancing my day job and a master program I’m taking, we will be changing up the scheduling of FT content.

Every other Tuesday, you’ll be getting new podcast episodes.

Every other Friday, you’ll be getting new Farm News Friday episodes BOTH on the podcast channel and over on our YouTube channel (and if you haven’t already, go and subscribe to the channel HERE).

That’s it! Nothing else major. Just more time for me to produce high-quality content for you on food and farming.

Thanks again for the support. For listening and sharing this fun passion of mine. Can’t wait to see where it goes in the new year!

A Thank You Letter to Jeremy Clarkson

If you haven’t already watched Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime, do so now.

One Christmas morning, about 15 years ago, I got my first iPod touch. It was by far the coolest piece of tech I’d ever owned up to that point. With a mean 16GB of memory, I could download hours and hours worth of movies, TV shows, games, and oh yeah, probably 4000+ songs. The first thing I did however, was open up the iTunes store and buy a few episodes of my favorite show, Top Gear.

One of the episodes I bought was when the trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May bought 3 inexpensive cars and turned them into police pursuit vehicles. Jeremy’s car had iron spikes welded to the rims while Richards had a tire spike strip mounted to the front. As usual, the episode was filled with hilarious calamity and complaining at how slow James May was driving.

Top Gear was a large part of my childhood. Here in the U.S., the show only aired on BBC America. So when it was on, you can bet I was glued to the TV. My friend Max and I would always send clips to each other of some of the exotic sports cars they’d have on the show or even the famous episode where they shot cars from a car cannon…seriously, that was a thing. My dad would even get some laughs out of the show as the trio would race around the country side while towing campers. Probably the coolest parts of the show were the grand adventures across countless countries. Driving across Africa, or though the Alps, or even here in the U.S., Jeremy, Richard, James, and their film crews always did an amazing job documenting the beautiful landscape of every country they visited.

Fast-forward a few years and now the trio is on the Grand Tour on Amazon. The same crazy adventures and multi-million dollar super cars can be found, just this time on a more convenient platform.

A little over a year ago, something cool broke out on my news feed, “Jeremy Clarkson Starts Filming Farming Show for Amazon Prime.” Just the thought of Clarkson working on a farm sparked my interested. While Jeremy is sometimes a bit brash and crazy, his entertaining skills are second to none. If anyone could do a farming show, it would be him. After the announcement, we didn’t really hear a whole lot about the show for quite some time. Almost a year after news broke, a trailer dropped. And boy did it look pretty darn cool. The trailer was followed by waiting and more waiting.

Until finally the series was released. And let me tell you…it did not disappoint.

Clarkson’s Farm is one of, if not THE, greatest series I have ever watched. Full stop.

I’ve been around farming and agriculture for a large portion of my life. It’s an industry that doesn’t get a whole lot of respect. We treat celebrity chefs with the utmost respect, but have no clue who our closest farmer is. Most people don’t know how much hard work goes into farming.

But now, thanks to Jeremy Clarkson, they do.

During the course of the series, we see Jeremy learn how to plow, how to care for sheep, how to harvest a crop, and even how to open his very own farm shop. His honesty throughout the series is both hilarious and inspiring. He starts out by not knowing how to plow a field and by the end he’s a natural. And of course, Jeremy’s typical over-the-top self shows up as he buys a monstrous Lamborghini tractor.

Jeremy doesn’t sugar coat anything during the series. He showcases the struggles of farming. Struggles like months on end of rain that all but ruins a crop, or the loss of sheep, or even the struggles of farming during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I know this might sound cheesy, but while I watched this show I was so close to tearing up at a few scenes. As the music swells during several scenes while Clarkson and the gang are harvesting, I was so thrilled that farming is FINALLY getting the attention it deserves. It is FINALLY getting a series professionally and artistically curated to show what REAL life is like on a farm. It’s hard. It’s a 24/7 job. It’s back breaking. It’s essential.

But it’s also beautiful. It’s rewarding. And it’s worth every bit of heartache. Now Clarkson is most likely a millionaire several times over. So it’s not like he needed this operation to be a success. He had the resources needed to invest in equipment, personnel, etc. So while it was extremely difficult for him, imagine how difficult it might be for someone without his financial background. Someone whose livelihood is almost completely dependent on how well mother nature might cooperate that year. This is the real struggle of hundreds of thousands of farmers across the world.

So, to Jeremy Clarkson and everyone involved in the production of Clarkson’s Farm, I want to say this:

Thank You. Thank you for showing millions of people what life is a farmer is like. Thank you for being honest and entertaining in your approach to this often overlooked industry. The artistry and production of this series was astounding and unlike anything I have ever seen. I’ve heard farmers, ranchers, and people outside of agriculture say nothing but positive things about this show. Clarkson undertook an enormous challenge for his first year of farming. While many obstacles where thrown in his way, and even if he only profited $144, he succeed. Jeremy succeeded in telling his story and sharing how difficult and yet how rewarding farming is. And to Jeremy, thank you for your sincerity during your first farming season. We could tell you felt overwhelmed, but you didn’t give up and you hammered right through some of the biggest challenges anyone could imagine on a farm. Also, it was great to see the MFB again.

Thank you for this series. It’s everything I hoped it would be and so much more.

It’s clear how successful this show has been since it’s release. It’s been one of Amazon’s biggest original shows, ever! After only about four weeks out, it already has an order for a second season. So even more is in store to see Jeremy and the gang take on farming for a second year.

If you haven’t already seen the series, go and watch it. You will not regret it. It hits all the right notes. You’ll laugh (a lot), you’ll learn a thing or two about farming, and you might even tear up a bit.

In the meantime, I guess it’s back to reruns of The Office.

– T

Agrihoods Gaining Popularity

The following is a guest post from Carmen and Tripp Eldridge from Arden.

Agrihoods Gaining Popularity as Americans Seek Healthier Lifestyles, Close-Knit Communities and Farm-to-Table Living at Home

Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, prolonged lockdowns and produce shortages have drawn people closer to the food they consume, pushing them to make use of their kitchens and to think more in-depth about where their food comes from. Meanwhile, agrihoods — residential communities that have agriculture incorporated into their very design — have been growing in popularity among homebuyers seeking a fresh start. 

Agrihoods combine the luxuries of a modern residential community with a farm-to-table lifestyle, giving those who are interested in farming the opportunities for hands-on experiences without having to make the full-time commitment to farming as a career. Agrihoods enhance the traditional neighborhood, where residents are connected primarily by their proximity to one another, by offering neighbors an added layer of community through outdoor living bonding. 

I am lucky enough to work in one of these incredible communities called Arden. Located in Palm Beach County, Florida, Arden is a residential agrihood designed with a central 5-acre organic farm, managed by me and my husband Tripp Eldridge. We grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables on the farm: from potatoes, carrots, peppers, and tomatoes, to bananas, papayas, and mangos. At Arden, residents receive regular farm shares and may participate in farming activities to learn more about growing fruits and vegetables. Both Tripp and I continue to be surprised how much interest and enthusiasm we receive from residents who volunteer to help us weed, plant trees, dig sweet potatoes and give farm tours to visitors.

Agrihood communities like Arden have been popping up all over the U.S. in recent years —and have been in high demand. In fact, during the pandemic, Arden saw a whopping 50 percent jump in home sales. This growing trend shows that more people are now actively seeking out healthier lifestyles and access to locally grown food and a more seamless connection to nature. By providing families with opportunities to become more involved with food production, residential agrihoods may have a positive impact on how society as a whole perceives food consumption and understands how it influences their lives. 

This integration with nature also extends into the residents’ social lives. In agrihoods, the farm acts as the social center where residents may come together for social and educational activities, creating a strong community where people create bonds through their shared interests. For example, at Arden, we have a community barn that serves as a gathering spot for a variety of events throughout the year, including our fall harvest celebration and pumpkin patch, culinary classes, and fun nature-focused educational activities for kids.

These events provide opportunities for every age group – from grandparent to child – to participate in farm activities and learn, ensuring that even the next generation builds a connection to nature and has knowledge about where food comes from. Equipped with this knowledge from an early age, our children will be more likely to become responsible consumers as they enter adulthood. 

Food and its consumption are inherently social experiences, so it’s important for people to talk about food and how it affects not only our lives, but also the lives of everyone involved in its production. Time after time, I have seen how these conversations have a positive impact on people, making them more aware of their food choices and creating a chain reaction that allows for a larger conversation about sustainability and healthier lifestyles. 

While agrihoods are not the only solution necessary for creating a more sustainable future, they certainly are a step in the right direction. As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to reevaluate the role our homes play in our lives, agrihoods present a compelling example of how our homes can enhance our lifestyles by encouraging sharing, collaboration, and a more sustainable relationship with our food. 

About the authors

Carmen and Tripp Eldridge are small-scale farming experts and the current Farm Directors at Arden, an award-winning residential agrihood in Palm Beach County, FL. Managing the community’s five-acre farm, Tripp and Carmen are pioneering innovative farm-to-table living in South Florida.

How to Start Your Own Sustainable Farm Business

The following is a guest post from Jordan McDowell.

If you have a dream of starting your own sustainable farm business, you’re on the right path. The thoughts of roaming across open fields and farmland or even the pride of owning a small sustainable fresh produce farm in your backyard may be your motivation. In fact, farming practices worldwide are changing with aspiring farmers like you, experienced, hardworking farmers, and even large farms adopting sustainable farming practices. 

The question is, how do we make this work? If you’re looking to follow the sustainable farming path, you need to have a plan and know how to manage your expectations to make it viable for the long term. You can actually consider indoor farming or backyard farming first, then slowly transition into something bigger and scale up from there. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to start your own sustainable farm business. 

Establish S.M.A.R.T. Goals and Objectives

To begin a sustainable agricultural business, you need to identify the most important values that matter to you and write down your goals and what you hope to accomplish. These goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. For instance, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you want to start a small farm in your backyard as a hobby or want to start a profitable business?
  • What’s the yield expected from the farm?
  • Does my schedule allow me to manage the farm and meet the expected needs?
  • What exactly do I need to do to scale the business, and what am I gaining from it?
  • What timelines do I have in mind for research, getting the necessary agricultural supplies, and starting the farming itself?

You need specific and measurable objectives that will help keep you on track when getting started. While goals may take time to set and require a few changes before capturing your ultimate dream, the point is to create a foundation for building your sustainable farm business. 

Learn New Skills and Build a Network

After deciding what type of sustainable farm you want and setting your goals, it’s time to learn new skills, educate yourself, and gain as much knowledge as possible about exactly what you want to do. 

  • Start by reading online and get a few start-up farming books
  • Listen to farming podcasts and watch videos on starting a sustainable farm
  • Visit actual farms to gain practical skills from experienced sustainable farmers
  • Enroll in local training if you’re considering opening a profitable commercial farming business
  • Check out different types of farm business models to get new ideas and inspiration

Don’t forget the importance of building a network and making new friends along the way. The sustainable farming community is growing and widespread. A network of like-minded farmers will be your most significant resource when you want to achieve your dreams. Start connecting with other local farmers, supplies, and potential customers like grocery stores, farmers’ markets, distributors, and restaurants. 

Visit or attend sustainable farming events, seminars, and sessions offline and online while keeping COVID-19 safety protocols in mind (for local events). Join conversations online on forums, social media pages, and other online platforms where farmers share insights, and you can also get the latest updates and developments in the industry.    

Understand Sustainable Farming Techniques

While you may know a bit about sustainable farming techniques, you may not be aware of the options available yet. Of course, you may have already learned during the research process. Here is a list of eight sustainable farming techniques you may consider for your farm:

  • Integrated Pest Management (I.P.M.) – This technique advocates for fewer pesticides to help protect beneficial insects like bees that you could consider for honey production.
  • Crop Rotation – This technique ensures crops are planted in a sequential pattern each season to allow plants to replenish the soil. 
  • The Use of Renewable Sources – This technique encourages the use of renewable sources like solar energy to run farms and operations. In the coming years, this will be a leading sustainable farming option as more people shift to futuristic farming methods like hydroponic systems in urban settings.  
  • Permaculture – This technique allows for a more holistic use of land resources to minimize waste and increase crop production. 
  • Polyculture Farming – This technique allows for multiple crops in the farm to grow in a single area, resulting in higher biodiversity and healthier soil.
  • Managed Grazing – This technique is the most sustainable for pasturing livestock and allows grazed areas to experience organic growth. 
  • Agroforestry – This technique combines sustainable agricultural and forestry practices to promote overall soil health. Trees provide cover for farm crops, offering ground stability and minimizing run-off. 
  • Biodynamic Farming – This technique relies on the sun and moon cycles to increase crop productivity. It involves managing each individual farming element like fields, plants, soils, compost, forest, and people to support the vitality and health of the whole farm. 

Plan Your Sustainable Farm

Think about the crops you want to produce, why you want to plant them, what farming methods you’re going to use on your farm, and whether you have enough land to start farming – if not, consider available land renting options. Review the different categories of farm produce and determine which one(s) you want to explore. Do you want to start with vegetables, herbs, grains, canes, trees, vines, or animals like cows, chickens, goats, pigs, sheep, or bee farming? 

Find as many resources as you can to educate yourself about the specific crops or animals you decide to farm. You can consider both free and paid resources to learn more about microgreens farming, dairy production, livestock farming, holistic management, sustainable land management, best practices, and other vital skills. 

Create a Detailed Business Plan 

Here’s where the budget comes into play. Unless your sustainable farming goal is to be self-sufficient, you must have a business plan and strategy. Running a farm, no matter the size, needs frequent decision-making, crisis management skills, and learning on the go. You might need as much as $5,000 – $10,000 to get started with an entry-level sustainable farm. 

That doesn’t include expensive farming machines, daily work equipment, livestock, and other valuable items. However, with a good business plan, you can supply food for yourself while still making a good profit. That would allow you to start reinvesting quickly and scaling your farming business. Keep in mind these major considerations:

  • Your Initial Investment – this is what will guide you when starting your farming operations. Have a good idea of the financial needs of your sustainable farming plan. 
  • Production Demand – If you’re venturing into a farming business for profit, look out for market opportunities and evaluate product demand. 
  • Estimated Annual Gross and Net Income – Based on your farming productivity and expected demand, calculate your annual gross income and net income. Is it realistic? Can you make a decent profit?
  • Marketing Methods – Consider using multiple marketing methods and select those that best fit your situation, produce, and lifestyle. 
  • Risk Assessment – Farming can be unpredictable, so assess the potential risks you could face, identify the best practices that could help mitigate risks, and consult with successful mentors who have similar businesses. They have the experience and expertise that will save you money and time. For commercial farms, you also have to evaluate the security risks for your entire farm – in this case, investing in a farm security camera system is recommended. 

Develop a Practical Production Plan

To ensure the most efficient and practical farming operations, you need to develop a production plan for your farm. Follow these tips:

  • First, choose farming operations that fit your area’s weather and climate
  • Research the best conditions for the plants and animals you’re considering
  • Evaluate the soil type and understand the regular soil management needs to avoid surprises – learn about soils at the Web Soil Survey
  • Consider your water source options, know how much water you’ll need for your farm, and plan for that in the start-up phase
  • What product quantity do you want to start with, and how much can you realistically manage? 
  • Consider the production methods you plan to use and work with what is already proven to work by other successful farmers of similar size
  • Evaluate your labor needs when starting out and in the future and ask yourself if you have access to the type of labor you need
  • Consider your land size and whether it’s suitable for the type of farming and production you need and plan for future expansion and risks like drought 

Implement Your Plan 

Once you have a business and production plan in place, it’s time to implement your plans. Have a strategy to carry out each step and have a to-do list with a clear timeless so you can stay on track. This will help you become more efficient and save you money and time. The implementation phase is perhaps the most challenging as you put your thoughts into action. Just be confident of your research, plans, and preparation. 

Have an Efficient Management System

From early on, have a management system for your sustainable farm operations. That will make you feel more in control of daily farming operations and ensure you’re not overwhelmed. Don’t complicate things when starting – if it’s a family farm, a simple list of designated tasks for everyone will work. But for a larger farm, you’ll need to invest in a simple but efficient farm management system for record-keeping, accounting, market evaluation, and more. 

Monitor Performance and Reassess Your Plan

Running a sustainable farm, no matter the size, takes daily work and involvement. You’ll likely encounter lots of frustrations in your first year, but you must stick to your plan. It takes time to learn working strategies to prevent commodity markets and weather from ruining your crop production and ensuring a profitable venture. 

So, you need to constantly monitor your progress at every step and reassess your plans to achieve your goals. Monitor your production numbers, cash flow records, performance, farm problems, and marketing trends and activity. 

Sustainable Farming Can Be a Great Venture 

By keeping detailed records and doing a careful analysis of all aspects of your farming operations, you can make more informed decisions for your business. It’s also important to diversify your farming operations when you face challenges like market fluctuations, extreme weather, or predation so you can continue operating. 

Visit other farms, know what mistakes you can avoid, follow proven practices, understand the market, be patient, and you might as well be successful like other farmers. 

Author Bio: 

Jordan McDowell is a writer and content strategist. He specializes in technically-oriented B2B and B2C content for a number of digital companies. 

Farmland Investing with FarmTogether

There’s always been three people that I consider “Reliable financial advisors.” My dad, my grandpa (my dad’s dad), and Jim Cramer. The former two have dabbled in the stock market for decades and have seen pretty decent returns. Jim Cramer on the other hand is well known investment guru (and a hilarious one at that). These guys have been a wealth of knowledge to listen to. However, none of them knew about the prospect of farm land investing and how it is much more stable and often safer than stock market investing. Now one company, FarmTogether, is making investing in farmland much easier than ever before.

Recently, I sat down with FarmTogether founder and CEO, Artem Milinchuk, to talk about farmland investing and how FarmTogether is making it a much easier process than ever before.

So why invest in farmland?

First off, why would someone want to invest in farmland? As Artem mentioned in our podcast interview (check it out below), available farmland in the United States is shrinking due to increase in population. Obviously, with an increaes in population, we will need more food than ever. It’s estimated in the next 20-30 years, we will increase world-wide population by 2 Billion people. That’s 2 billion MORE mouths to feed, three times a day, everyday. That’s a lot more food needed than what we produce now. So it seems that farmland value will continue to go up as more farmers are either growing their operations, starting new ones, or even consolidating. With investments in row crops and even specialty crops like apples, and IRR (annual rate of growth an investment) anywhere from 7 – 20%, farm investment looks like a stable and very lucrative investment for any portfolio.

So why FarmTogether?

FarmTogether offers an all-in-one tool to invest in farms across the United States. While other investment sites only offer certain areas, FarmTogether allows you to pick any crop and any location around the country that is part of their extensive listing.

They also do their research when adding farmland to the platform. Using their state-of-the-art technology and curating process, FarmTogether only adds sites with real promise of delivering decent returns for your investment. The farms selected often practice sustainable, regenerative production methods with promises high quality soil and high quality produce. These production methods are growing in terms of populatiry with consumers, so farmers are staying on trend to capitalize as much as possible, both of profit and for environmental reasons.

Also, this isn’t some process where you invest and never hear from FarmTogether. They encourage investors who are looking at starting an account to contact them with questions, comments, concerns, etc. There are also wonderful resources on their website that offer more details on what the investment process is like and much more.

If have been thinking about diversifying your portfolio, I encourage you to check out FarmTogether. It’s a great platform that not only helps farmers, but also investors. Their easy to use site and resources take out the intimidation of investing.

Check out FarmTogether.com or our interview below!

CashRent is Changing the Renting Game

I’ve always wanted to start an actual farm. What would I grow? Honestly, no clue yet. I’ve dabbled in hydroponics, but can’t get the science down at all. Maybe corn? Peanuts? Or strawberries or oranges, but it does get a bit too cold here in NW Florida for those fruits.

But of course, to start a farm, you need…LAND! Which, at the moment, Allie and I only have about 1/3 of an acre in city limits. Which I’m fairly certainly we couldn’t start a row crop operation in the backyard (we could…but we would probably have a lot of complaints.)

So what is there to do? Well, actually quite a lot. I’ve learned more and more that renting farmland is a pretty simple solution for farmers. Most farms that are 2nd or 3rd generations, have the luxury of having the land passed down from the previous generation. Beginner farmers aren’t so lucky and often have to search for available land which usually doesn’t come cheap. There has to be an easer way, right?

Farmers need land to grow crops. Some landowners have vast amounts of unused land that would actually be perfect for farming. Enter, farmland renting. It’s a win/win for all parties involved. Farmers get easy access to land and landowners get paid for their unused parcel. These agreements used to be handshake agreements between two parties, with the real issues being finances (shocker!). Farmers don’t want to pay too high of a price of land, while landowners want a fair price to rent out their land. CashRent.com is here to fix that dilemma.

CashRent is making the whole farmland renting process easier for all parties involved. CashRent is able to use aerial maps and soil data to develop a fair price of any land available on their platform. No more guessing on land value! This ensures landowners are getting a fair income on their land, while farmers aren’t having to pay unfair prices. This is also a wonderful tool due to available farmland in the U.S. shrinking at an alarming rate. You’ve probably heard it before, but farmers are constantly having to do more with less, and that includes farmland. This platform allows farmers to search in Illinois and Indiana, and soon the rest of the U.S., for farmland that will suit their needs. More land is easily marketed to anyone who might be interested, helping both the farmers and landowners get high quality tenets.

CashRent helps Landowners and Farmers cultivate the lessor/lessee relationship in a simple and transparent way.

CashRent.com

Not only does this help first time farmers looking for farm land in their area, it also helps farmers expanding their operations.

After chatting with co-founder, Noah Berkson, I learned that larger operations are expanding and getting high quality land for their farms. Noah stated that while some farms bid for land hours away from their headquarters, often it’s those large farms that are already right next to the land up for rent.

If I had much more land in my name or if I was ready to start a farming operation, I would absolutely use CashRent to look for land or lease some out. If you are a farmer or landowner, I highly suggest you check them out. They will be expanding throughout the continental Untied States very soon and with that, more farmers and landowners can use their amazing service. They even have a super easy tool, Cashrestimate, that can give you an estimate for your lands value (only currently available in Illinois as of 2020, but soon they will be expanding).

Learn more about CashRent by visiting their website or by listening to my interview with Noah, below!

Strategies for Getting the Most Return from Your Retirement Auction

The following is a guest post from former guest, Mark Stock of BigIron Auctions

Mark Stock, Founder – BigIron Auctions

The benefits of an online auction are becoming increasingly apparent, especially for those looking to retire and increase their capital. Being able to showcase your equipment to a global buyer base means increased competition bidding on your equipment. Yet, many don’t understand the whole process of selling equipment online.

The goal is to give you a better understanding of the online retirement auction process, how to get the most back from your equipment, and the relationship between a retiree and their auction representative.

How Do You Find an Auction Company?

Trust in the agricultural industry is hard earned, and you should only work with reputable companies that adhere to practices that bring in proven results. When choosing an online auction company, find one that has been doing business online for many years, rather than a few months due to COVID-19. They have far more expertise in online sales and have a large established buyer base.

Recommendations from friends and neighbors can be helpful when choosing an auction house. If you’re thinking about retiring, and others are recommending a reputable company, be sure to give that company some thought. There are many auction providers but be sure to do your homework to understand what sets them apart from one another.

How Does the Auction Process Work?

The best online auction companies can develop a strategy for liquidating your assets to help you reach your retirement goals. This means identifying what pieces of equipment you want to sell, what dates work best for you, payment procedures, equipment cleaning, and so on.

Once the auction agreement is signed, they’ll work with you to build a timeline for obtaining photos, creating item descriptions and taking videos of your equipment – all essential parts of attracting buyers. To get the best quality equipment listings in front of potential buyers, it takes time. We often hear that buyers love to see videos of the equipment operating, such as combines working in the field or tractors running. Since the best time to do this is when equipment is in operation, sellers should work with their auction representative to schedule a time to take video during this time. Your auction provider should also stage equipment and take photos for the listings. Once that’s finished, they will review the equipment listings to make sure that everything is accurate and ask for service records in case buyers want to see them.

If you don’t have the time or ability to clean your equipment before an auction, finding an auction company that can provide those services should be a top priority. If repairs are necessary, then they should be able to recommend local specialists. They will also ask for service records to establish trust with the buying community. Equipment that is accurately listed and supported by documentation can help bring in higher bids and avoid legal troubles down the road. Additionally, working with an auction provider that doesn’t charge buyer fees and conducts lien checks, so buyers know that sellers truly own the equipment, can help bring in higher bids.

The best auction companies also make it a priority to allow buyers to contact the sellers with questions or to test the equipment. Building an environment of trust and transparency will almost always yield higher returns. Farmers trust other farmers and loyalty and respect runs our industry. An auction company that makes sellers accessible to buyers will have a more confident buyer base who are willing to bid higher. These calls and visits get more frequent as the actual auction comes closer but by working with a full-service auction company, all you need to worry about is connecting with buyers. Additionally, your chosen company should show you the bidding history on your items post-auction so that you have full confidence in the proceedings.

How Do We Get the Word Out There?

While seemingly obvious, it is paramount to the success of the auction that people know there is an event happening. Experience has proven that most people are typically willing to travel about 250 miles to pick up purchased equipment. This means that the local community needs to know it’s happening. Full-service online auction firms specialize in getting the word out and making your auction both an online and local event.

Every retirement auction has its own unique set of challenges to overcome. Sometimes that means that a marketing campaign needs to be designed with those specific hurdles in mind. Typical marketing includes a presence on digital, print and radio. For larger items, it’s typical to have outdoor signage.

What’s Auction Day Like?

In my experience, auction day is incredibly exciting, when all the planning and hard work finally come together. You’ll have the opportunity to keep engaging buyers and tracking current auction prices. It’s always an incredible moment when an item brings in more than what a seller is expecting. Just prior to the auction closing, your auction provider should start calling those who were outbid to generate more interest in your items, which can help increase the competition.

Once the auction is over, buyers and sellers need to coordinate on how purchased equipment will be retrieved. The auction provider should be able to help schedule removal dates if needed, but our sellers typically manage the pick-up of equipment.

Some Final Tips

Best-of-breed online auction companies conduct UCC checks and, if a lien is found during the check, the auction companies will communicate with the seller to find a solution. We also see that when you sell multiple pieces of equipment as a package, it typically does better than selling a single item. The more value the buyer sees, the more enticed they are.

The online retirement auction process can be complicated during an already emotional time but getting value back for your assets shouldn’t have to be. When you work with an honest and transparent auction company that has your best interests in mind, the process is simplified and can even be enjoyable.

How to Help Farmers During COVID-19

 

 

For more information on topics discussed in the video, check out the links below.


Robo Milkers

A recent podcast interview with a dairy farmer from Tennessee brought up a very interesting topic that I’ve totally forgotten about: robotic milking.

Imagine a future where farmers no longer have to spend hour after hour milking cows, sometimes up to for times a day.  Imagine a future where a cow can go and get milked whenever she felt like it and as often as she needed.  That future might not be that far off.  As a matter of fact, that future is now.

Currently, there are several types of robotic milking machines that take human labor almost entirely out of the equation.  Let’s go through exactly how this process works.

A Lely Astronaut robotic milking machine in operation. “There’s been a major increase in demand in the last eight to 10 years in Ireland and sales have grown exponentially since,” said Lely’s sales manager Aidan Fallon.

Robot milking machines allow cows the convenience to get milked whenever they need.  Once trained on where to go, a cow can enter the robot milker on her own and a dispenser drops down which allows the cow to eat while she’s getting milked.  A robotic arm then scans for the cows utter, cleans off the teats, and then attaches the milking unit to begin collecting milk.  Once done, the cow exits the machine and the milking unit is cleaned for the next cow.  The process continues whenever a cow feels like she needs to get milked.  Convenience for the cow and convenience for the farmer, a win/win.

Image result for lely robot milkers

The robot milker also helps keep track of vital data of each cow as they are milked.  Each cow is fitted with a collar that has a sensor which is picked up by the robot milker.  It is able to track the amount of milk produced, times milked, and other data related to the health of the cow.  This helps farmers learn about the milk production cycle for each cow as well as the ability to monitor the milk quality.

Most of us know that dairy farming is by no means a super lucrative business, as many dairy farms across the U.S. are going under due to the ever-plummeting price of milk.  While this robot milker is quite costly, it does save labor costs as well as freeing up time for dairy farmers to accomplish other tasks around the farm.

As the ag industry continues to advance in means to save labor and time, these robotic milking machines will continue to grow in popularity.  However, I’m not sure if robotic milking has caught on to the almond milk industry.  I’ve heard that almond teats are almost too small to find.

 

That’s all for today.  Thanks for stopping by.

– Trevor

 

Should non-milk be labeled ‘milk’?

In a world with ever-increasing food choices for consumers, the names of those food items are starting to become a real issue.  An example being milk and it’s non-dairy milk varieties.

We can talk about the differences between dairy and non-dairy milk in a future article.  For now, let’s debate whether or not milk not from cows should be labeled as ‘milk’.

Milk is defined as an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, created by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.  Now obviously, almonds, rice, soy, coconut, and the like aren’t from mammals.  But they can be made into (or like coconuts contain) a fat and protein-rich white liquid.  Dairy milk is about 87% water, 5% lactose, 3% fat, 3% protein, and about 1% vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B1, C, D.  Of course, this varies on the species of cow (or goat, or camel, etc), and the type of milk (whole, 2%, skim, etc).

Almond milk, we will use Silk Almond as an example, is “ALMONDMILK (FILTERED WATER, ALMONDS), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF VITAMIN & MINERAL BLEND (CALCIUM CARBONATE, VITAMIN E ACETATE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN D2), SEA SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR, LOCUST BEAN GUM, GELLAN GUM, ASCORBIC ACID (TO PROTECT FRESHNESS)” (1).  But it is hard to come across any information as to the exact percentages of those ingredients.  Addintally, some lawsuits involving other almond milk companies, Blue Diamond, in particular, say that the almond milk only contains less 2% of actual almond milk.  This milk and other forms of alternative milk are great for people who have lactose allergies (like yours truly), vegan consumers, etc.  While the taste and digestion factors are the key reasons behind consumer choice, some supporters claim non-dairy milk as better for the environment.

Supporters of alternative forms of milk claim that dairy milk has a harmful effect on the environment while almond milk and the like use significantly fewer resources.  A 2016 study found some evidence that might

“Based on our research, cow milk generates nearly 10 times more greenhouse gases per liter than almond milk does. However, almond milk production uses approximately 17 times more water than cow milk production does per liter. When comparing by daily nutritional values, almond milk still uses more water than does cow’s milk, and cow’s milk emits more greenhouse gases than almond milk, so it is difficult to make a clear­cut decision as to which is more sustainable to consume. (2)”

So both have their fair share of impact on the environment, which almost any crop can have.  Animal welfare is also a key component of dairy milk.  I can assure you, dairy farmers care for their cows.  Dairy farming is not a get-rich-quick industry, many dairy operations have been closing over the past few years due to extremely low profits.  Dairy farmers know that any cow that isn’t cared for will not produce quality milk.  They care for those animals deeply and ensure they are producing the freshest, highest quality milk.

In the future, we will cover milk production as well as animal welfare issues, but for now, let’s put our thinking cap on milk vs. non-dairy milk.

All that being said, food labels matter.  Should only dairy milk be labeled milk?  Or can non-dairy milk share that title?  Let us know your thoughts and we will keep this discussion going.

 

Thanks for stopping by

Sources

1 – https://silk.com/products/unsweetened-almondmilk

2 – Jacqueline Ho, Ingrid Maradiaga, Jamika Martin, Huyen Nguyen, Linh Trinh (2016). Almond Milk vs. Cow Milk – Life Cycle Assessment.

 

 

 

 

Is “Organic” actually worse for the environment?

Before you join our discussion, be sure to read the main article:

https://www.mynewsdesk.com/uk/chalmers/pressreleases/organic-food-worse-for-the-climate-2813280

 

Some key points:

  • “The reason why organic food is so much worse for the climate is that the yields per hectare are much lower, primarily because fertilizers are not used.”
  • “The greater land-use in organic farming leads indirectly to higher carbon dioxide emissions, thanks to deforestation…”
  • “Even organic meat and dairy products are – from a climate point of view – worse than their conventionally produced equivalents…”
  • “The type of food is often much more important. For example, eating organic beans or organic chicken is much better for the climate than to eat conventionally produced beef…”

IMPORTANT NOTE: The article states that organic farms do not user fertilizers.  While I’m not sure about Swedish organic farms, most if not all US-based organic farms do actually use fertilizers.  However, to be classified as an organic farm, those fertilizers (and their pesticides) must be naturally occurring.  What those farmers might use is cow manure, bone meal, compost, etc.  While those fertilizers do bost good yields for home gardens or smaller organic farms, this article is focused on largescale productions.

 

Organic is actually worse for the environment?

Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden discovered some pretty interesting data in terms of organic farming and its impact on the environment.  To conventional farmers and consumers who are aware of the false claims from organic supporters, this data is pretty darn great to see (and something a lot of people have been aware of for a while).

Due to organic farming having to use more land than conventional farming, it’s yields are far lower per hectare (100 acres).  Conventional farming uses fertilizers, natural or synthetic depending on the farm ad crop, while organic farming uses little to no fertilizers to help increase yields.  The purpose of fertilizers is to help provide plants with additional nutrients that might be lacking from the soil.  This boost in nutrients helps the crops grow quicker and usually much healthier.  If certain nutrients are lacking, varying fertilizers can be applied and give the crops the correct amount of each nutrient required for that plant.  Because organic farms do not use fertilizers, their crops rely solely on the nutrients in the soil and get little soil amendment during their growing cycle.  What some organic farms might do is crop rotation or growing various crops throughout the season in hopes of naturally replenishing nutrients in the soil.  For example, let’s say Corn requires a lot of Nitrogen to grow while giving off Phosphorus back into the soil and Soybeans give off Nitrogen and require lots of Nitrogen to grow.  Organic farmers would grow one crop after the other due to the nutrient requirements being a bit different from one another and each crop can naturally replenish the soil with nutrients before the next crop is planted.  While is process is beneficial for the soil, it pales in comparison to the amounts of nutrients fertilizers can add to the soil. 

 

The Beef with Beef

The article does bring up an interesting topic about beef and that is its sustainability.  As we have discussed in an earlier video on Farm Traveler, beef is not a very sustainable form of agriculture.  Beef cattle are very poor in terms of converting feed to meat, it takes 6 pounds of feed for the cow to gain 1 pound of meat.  In terms of water, beef cattle require roughly 1,799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef (while pork requires 576 gallons of water per pound).  While this stinks, because beef is absolutely delicious, it’s something the ag industry must address.

However, with organic beef, most of the cattle grass feed instead of raised with feed.  This process requires more land area and usually a longer time span for that cow to gain the required weight before processing.  And note, both are still are going to require a vast amount of water during its lifespan.  

 

What’s the answer to a sustainable future?

No one knows yet.  But we are all working towards that future.  Organic farming is not the future, be sure to tell your organic friends we said that and watch them squirm.  More sustainable conventional farming is most likely going to be the future of agriculture with an increased focus on better use of natural resources, fertilizers, pesticides, GMOs, etc.  Science has gotten us this farm and it will continue to shape our future and the future of Ag. 

So moral of the story: Save yourself from the organic lettuce and buy the cheaper, conventional lettuce next time you go to the grocery store.  Your wallet and the planet with thank you.

Honey Production and Issues in the Industry

Bee Facts

To get started with the wealth of bee knowledge that is about to commence, let’s begin with some interesting bee facts.  Bees are broken down into three types: queen bee, workers, and drones. Worker bees are undeveloped female bees that live for around 40 days and do all of the work in the hive such as collect honey and care for the larvae.  In those 40 days, worker bees will only gather about 1/10 of a teaspoon of honey. It takes about 556 worker bees to produce a pound of honey. Drones are male bees that only mate with the queen bee and then either die or are forced out of the hive.  And lastly, the queen bee is the only developed female bee in the hive and can produce 2000 eggs per day and can live anywhere from 1 to 5 years.

 

honey on white bowl

Honey Production

Like you already know, bees collect nectar from plants.  As the nectar digests in their stomach, the “honey gut” as some call it, certain enzymes are added that turn the nectar into honey.  The bees then regurgitate the honey and transfer it to another bee.  This transfer happens about two to three times until the final worker bee deposits the honey into their honeycombs.  Once that honeycomb is full of honey, a human worker removes it from the hive and this begins the production process. The honeycombs are then put into a machine and spun at high speeds which force the honey out.  Once the honey is collected it is then heated to a high temperature which melts out the crystals. This temperature also causes any bee remnants, dirt, or pollen to rise to the surface of the honey where it is removed.  The honey is then heated again and strained and finally poured into bottles ready to be shelved.

 

Issues in the Honey Industry

Honey Adulteration is an issue you might not have heard of before.  Some countries, China being one of the most guilty, will add large amounts of syrup (usually from rice or other grains) and mix that with natural honey to create a honey-like product that they are able to sell at cheap prices.  This honey can pass most quality control tests and can even pose dangers to consumers. In the past, China has sold billions of dollars worth of honey to the United States at below market value, which creates a huge price competition with US honey producers that they are unable to compete with.

In recent years bee populations have continued to dwindle, all while the demand for honey has steadily risen.  Bees face a number of issues in their environments such as climate change, loss of habitat, disease spread, and chemical exposure.  Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, has become a prominent issue facing beekeepers.  The decline in bee populations has gotten so bad, some industry leaders have begun researching drone technology to create pollinating drones.  Check out NPR Article on these ‘Bee Drones’.

Another issue is hive theft.  During the winter, some beekeepers transport their hives to farms in warmer climates where their bees are able to pollinate plants on that farmland.  The bees are able to pollinate plants in the area, stock up on their honey, and the beekeeper gets a nice paycheck from the farmer.  It’s usually a win/win/win.  However, some beekeepers have experienced numerous cases of theft, California in particular.  Almond production is high in California due to increased demands in almond milk, almond flour, and other almondy products.  A few years ago, $800,000 worth of beehives were stolen from California farms that were housing those visiting bees.  As if beekeepers didn’t have enough to worry about, now they have to protect their bees from criminals looking to steal their way into the industry.

 

Buzz Local, Buy Local

Honey is a sweet treat we all love and use in numerous ways.  Continue to enjoy it as much as you can and support your local bees and beekeepers by buying local honey when and where you can.  Small mom and pop honey shops are all around this country and are a great way to support local business and a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

 

 

Sources:

How Products are Made: Honey

http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Honey.html

 

Canadian Honey Council

http://honeycouncil.ca/bee-facts/

A Pro GMO documentary?

Podcasts are a new addiction of mine.  Driving to work or going on a long road trip can be much more entertaining while listening to Mike Rowe’s “The way I heard it” or even The Nerdist Podcasts.  One such podcast that came with a pleasant surprise was an episode of StarTalk Radio with Neil deGrasse Tyson (your personal astrophysicist) and his take on a documentary called, Food Evolution.  In the podcast, Neil chats with the documentary director as well as a food scientist on many issues surrounding GMOs.  And surprisingly, they all spoke very highly of the science behind GMOs.  I will be sure to drop a link to the podcast below, be sure to give it a listen the next time you run errands around town.

Some key points made by the podcast:

  • The term “Genetically Modified Organism” encompasses much more than plant varieties developed in a laboratory.
  • Scientific consensus is that GMOs pose no threat to health – instead focus should be on sustainable agriculture practices.
  • GMO’s have helped save populations in lower developed countries whose food supply is their main source of income.  An example being Uganda and their banana blight.
  • Technically Organic Produce can include GMO varieties.

Be sure to check out the StarTalk Radio Podcast mentioned above  – StarTalk Radio Podcast – https://www.startalkradio.net/show/understanding-gmos-future-food/

 

The documentary seems to cover many issues surrounding GMOs: Are GMOs harmful? Are they ruining the planet? Is organic produce healthier than GMOs?  Check out a trailer below!

Food Evolution Trailer

The trailer looks great, right?  Besides the person who stated, “I trust social media before I do doctors, the FDA, ….”  Please, never be as naive as her.  Do your research and only trust credible sources, aka NOT your social media feed.  If you are trusting your “followers” more than you trust a doctor, you may need to log off for a while and reevaluate your life choices.   

I haven’t had a chance to watch the documentary yet but certainly plan to.  Be on the look out for an article on it in the coming weeks.  It looks like a well developed film!

 

Still not convinced?  Agree or disagree with anything you heard?  Let us know, we look forward to continuing this discussion with you!

 

Thanks for stopping by!  See you next time.

-T

Growth Hormones in Chicken?

You know that feeling of ordering chicken nuggets from McDonald’s?  You place your order, drive up to pay, and drive to the second window to receive your nugget goodness.  It’s a good day.

Well almost any TV commercial or Facebook post you see about chicken is saying “Stay away form chickens with antibiotics!” or “Our chicken is always growth hormone free!”  Needless to say, we have a thing or two to say about that.

The Poultry Industry is basically any bird raised for consumption: chickens, turkey, duck, etc.  Your meat birds are called Broilers/Fryers and birds used for egg laying are called Laying birds (duh).  Today we will focus on Broiler birds and if they are raised with growth hormones.  We will save antibiotics, free-range and cage-free chickens for another time.

Image result for are chickens raised with hormones

Now you may have seen the above picture before that shows how chickens have grown over the last few decades.  Some people automatically associate this with growth hormones even though the FDA made growth hormones illegal on U.S. poultry in 1960.  The growth in these chickens is a result of selective breeding, where we can take chickens with the best traits (feed conversion, weight, growth rate) and use those as parents to produce offspring with the same desired traits.  This is what has been done to produce the broilers we use today.

Now lets say we did use growth hormones on chickens, how would they be administered?  Check out what The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension has to say on this:

2. Growth hormones must be injected to work.
They do not work when added in the feed or
water. If fed, hormones are digested into their
basic amino acids which destroy their function as
hormones. The only way to maintain their action
as a growth­stimulating steroid is to inject them
into each bird almost daily.

So growth hormones can’t be added to feed, therefore must be given by injection.  One of my old professors from the University of Florida, who was a Poultry Scientist (so he pretty much was THE expert on all things poultry) told us how inefficient it would be to give chickens shots, yet alone shots of growth hormones.  He stated that to give all the chickens in the U.S. a shot, assuming it took a skilled vet 1 second to administer it, would take 9 years.  9 years to give shots to just the chickens we have today.  9 whole years.  Seems pretty inefficient, right?  Yet another reason poultry are never given growth hormones.

Ever see a label for chicken that says “Raise without antibiotics/growth hormones”?  Labels that have this are required by law to have an additional section that states that no hormones are used in the production of any poultry.

Hopefully, this post will help ease your fear about growth hormones in your chicken, because there is none.  If you would like to know more please feel free to check out our sources below.

Wanna learn more?  Disagree with something we said?  Leave us a comment.  We would love to hear from you!

Sources

https://www.bestfoodfacts.org/farm-raised-chickens-hormones-antibiotics/

https://thetruthaboutag.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/the-truth-about-hormone-free-chickens/

Chickopedia: What Consumers Need to Know

Click to access FSA-8007.pdf

Click to access nass-poultry-stats-factsheet.pdf