Monthly Archives: March 2014



A Taste of Summer

I have always felt that food was a very emotional subject. There are individuals who get excited when you talk about organic versus conventional, GMOs and water rights. Farmers and ranchers are very passionate and proud of what they do. They should be! Their hard work and sacrifice makes it possible for us to have clothes on our backs and food in our bellies.

A Taste of Summer - California Strawberries 2

Strawberries fresh from California to our ranch in Missouri

However, food is also emotional in a very different way. Close your eyes and think of your grandma’s house, backyard barbecues, family gatherings and holidays. Can you smell the hot rolls grandma made for Sunday dinner? Can you hear the sizzle and smell the smoke rolling off the grill as your best friend challenges you to a game of horseshoes? The sight of the Thanksgiving turkey as you sit down with your loved ones and give thanks for the blessings you have received?  Maybe some of your favorite memories were made as you gathered with your friends and family to enjoy a meal.

Today, I was lucky enough to get a taste of summer: strawberries, fresh off the vines in California. A harbinger of the days to come. Their smell, their taste, takes me straight to the sunny days of June.

A Taste of Summer - Making Hay

View from the tractor while making hay for the cattle during the summer

For me, summer brings days out of my classroom at the local high school and days in the hay fields raking and hauling hay. It means fresh fruits and vegetables out of the garden my husband and I plant together. Enjoying burgers off the grill or ice cream on the porch. I get to spend precious moments swinging in my hammock with my young daughter. My son will spend his days learning the ins and outs of the ranch with his dad and his nights on the baseball field.

Summer is a busy, action packed time of the year on our ranch. It only took one bite of these berries to put me right in the middle of it.

 

It Goes Both Ways

Our trip to Brazil with the AFBF PAL Class 7 has shown us a lot of different things. There are numerous similarities between our two countries: land size, diversity of crops raised in different regions, the feeling of being over regulated. But one critical lesson learned was, despite our similarities, there are differences in the two countries and cultures from which both countries can learn.

It Goes Both Ways - PAL Class 7 Outside John DeereOn our last day in Sao Paolo, we spent the day with John Deere, a very recognizable name at home in the U.S. At their corporate offices in Indiatuba, we met with Greg Christensen, an Iowa native who has seen the benefits of going outside his comfort zone and working for his employer in a foreign country. Though not fluent in Portuguese, Greg is thriving in this foreign environment. Most international companies, like John Deere, require upper level managers to speak English, making the transition easier for Greg. He’s been able to pick up enough Portuguese to order us the delicious lunch we ate while visiting John Deere, but more importantly, he’s brought the expertise of being an American-trained employee to this developing country and expanding market.

John Deere has been in Brazil less than 20 years, yet it holds the #1 market share in combines and sugar cane harvesters – not too bad for a relative newcomer. Where they are in unfamiliar territory is in the tractor market. In the U.S. “green paint” may be enviable, but in Brazil tractors are referred to as “Masseys,” the obvious market leader. Regulations are a major reason for this deficit in the tractor market: 60 percent of all components of a tractor must be produced within Brazil.  Additionally, they are lagging behind the U.S. market in sheer size of equipment they can offer, another by-product of government regulations. Brazilian farmers want bigger equipment, and John Deere is trying to meet that demand as quickly as possible.

It Goes Both Ways - PAL Class 7 Outside John Deere FactoryWe also visited the new John Deere factory outside of Campinas. This facility was so new that we were the first group to tour it. There we met with another American, Chris Chitley, a John Deere veteran from the Dubuque Iowa plant. Chris has been in Brazil for two years making this factory a reality. The new plant is brightly lit – including skylights – a vast difference from the Iowa facility. It is a relatively small facility, so all components are brought in as needed so extra parts aren’t cluttering the production lines. According to Chris, they don’t try to excel at everything, but instead focus on three core competencies at this facility: large scale welds, painting and final assembly.

While we were visiting, a group of employees from the U.S. were training their Brazilian counterparts. Although there are a few language barriers between the two groups, the trainers said they were having no problems teaching their students proper procedures. John Deere has been able to find local talent to perform the work at this plant, so they won’t need to move anyone new into the area.

While Chris is getting used to his life in Brazil, he said there were plenty of differences in the office compared to the U.S. Here, everyone is much more laid back, and he starts every morning by walking through the facility, shaking everyone’s hand and talking to them. If he were in the U.S., he would start his day by walking straight into his office and getting to work. He says the cultural differences have led him be on the production floor more and, in turn, have made him a more accessible boss.

Americans, by nature, think we do everything the best way, and in some areas we may. Our regulations, while at times bothersome, are minimal compared to other countries. As farmers, we are the envy of other countries because we have access to the most advanced equipment. We also produce this equipment in a timely manner so it is available to the masses as opposed to a few. But Americans have a tendency to stay in our little comfort zones. We keep our heads down and begrudgingly get the work done. Brazilians, on the other hand, travel to the U.S. for school and to experience life outside their country. They take that knowledge back home and put it to use. Brazilians enjoy their workday by enjoying their fellow employees. There’s a lot to be said for both strategies, but the truly successful will find a way to mesh both ways of life together!

 

Joy Davis and Adam Hinton are members of PAL Class 7. They are blogging about their experiences in Brazil with the PAL class. Joy is a fifth-generation farmer and rancher in Texas, where she and her family farm wheat, corn, grain sorghum, forage and produce cattle. Adam and his family own a farm supply business, coffee business and an insurance agency in Kentucky.

 

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE - Case IH

Ricardo, one of the Case IH dealership owners

By Stacey Forshee and Elizabeth Kohtz

Over the last few days, we have been traveling around Sao Paulo state in Brazil as part of the international module for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Partners in Agricultural Leadership program or PAL. PAL is a two-year program to enhance leadership and advocacy skills of young farmers and ranchers.

When reflecting on tours and the people we meet, one word really stands out to describe our interactions with Brazilians involved in agribusiness and farming: PRIDE. Pride in their innovation, pride in the equipment they use, pride in the commodities they produce and pride in the companies they work for.

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE - Case IH Award

Case IH dealership award belt

P – Producing Farm Equipment

At the Case IH Plant in Piracicaba, Brazil, we saw the assembly of sugarcane harvesters. This facility is the only Case IH plant in the world that produces sugarcane harvesters, and they export them worldwide. We also visited a family-owned Case IH dealership. Pride for their business was evident as the owners explained how they serviced 56 towns in the area and showed us the belt they won for best service of the 120 Case IH dealerships throughout Brazil.

R – Research and Technology

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE - PAL Class in front of Sugar Cane Truck

PAL Class in front of a sugarcane transport truck

At every stop on our journey we learn about cutting edge technology in sugarcane varieties, planting and harvesting equipment, processing at the mill, and new ways to extract ethanol. Employees are proud of the companies they work for and excited for the future of the sugarcane industry. One sugarcane plant breeder sharing his research with us referred to his plants as his “boys” and said he hoped to work with the company long enough to see their “grandchildren.”

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE - Sugar Cane Harvester

A sugarcane harvester

I – Innovation

Until relatively recently, sugarcane has been harvested by hand. Brazilian sugarcane is now 75 percent mechanized, and the harvesters have gone from being able to cut one row of cane at a time to three rows. Everyone we talk to is excited to share that Brazil is number one in the world for sugarcane production.

D – Development

Case IH proudly holds training classes for machinery drivers and mechanics. Most of these workers receive at least 45 hours of training yearly. As a developing country, programs like these help Brazilians become skilled laborers and improve their quality of life. Brazil’s booming agriculture industry has helped 50 percent of its population move into the middle class.

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE - Sugar Cane in Transport Truck

Sugarcane in the transport truck

E – Energy

USJ Sugar Mill crushes 2.5 million tons of sugarcane into sugar and ethanol annually. During this process they are able to use cane to produce the energy required for the entire mill and refinery. The company also puts energy into improving the quality of life for people in the community. USJ provides a school, hospital, soccer fields, pools and exercise facilities for community use.

Pride needs no translation. Our South American journey has reminded us as farmers and ranchers how important it is to share our own pride of agriculture with others.  Passionate personal agriculture stories can have a major impact on everyone!

 

Stacey Forshee and Elizabeth Kohtz are members of PAL Class 7. They are blogging about their experiences in Brazil with the PAL class. Stacey and her husband David farm in north central Kansas. Elizabeth is a dairy veterinarian in southern Idaho.