Monthly Archives: June 2014

STEM Festival ‘Sustainability Pavilion’ Features My American Farm

Agriculture offers an incredible medium for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). My American Farm helped spread this message at this year’s USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC.

The festival is a national grassroots effort to advance STEM education and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. More than 250,000 visitors attended the three-day event in April.

Agriculture offers an incredible medium for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Agriculture offers an incredible medium for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

For the first time in festival history, the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture hosted a large agriculture learning experience housed in the “Sustainability Pavilion.” Visitors played My American Farm games on new iPad kiosks, discovered My American Farm resources through group demonstrations, and enjoyed fun “Make & Take” activities aligned to My American Farm resources. The agriculture exhibit also featured Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s mobile ag lab trailer, special activities and exhibits by the Nutrients for Life Foundation, and a resource shop hosted by the AFBFA. Visitors were able to meet farmers who spoke on the My American Farm stage each day. They were also able to listen to book readings by Laurie Krebs, author of “The Beeman,” the AFBFA book of the year for 2014.

My American Farm is an educational game platform launched in 2011 to engage pre-K through fifth grade learners in the discovery of relevant agricultural issues. Today the free site offers 19 agriculturally themed games and more than 100 free educator resources such as lesson plans, activity sheets and comics.

The My American Farm educational resource is a special project of the Farm Bureau Foundation. The site and resources are made possible through the generous support of title sponsor, DuPont Pioneer. To take advantage of the free My American Farm resources, games and activities, visit Learn more about the USA Science and Engineering Festival

the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture hosted a large agriculture learning experience housed in the “Sustainability Pavilion.

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture hosted a large agriculture learning experience in the “Sustainability Pavilion at the festival.


USDA Grant Helps Wyoming Farmers Study Costs, Benefits of Milk Processing Plant

Faced with having to ship their milk a far-too-costly 500 miles to be processed and bottled, the Cody, Wyoming-based George family is looking closely at the advantages and drawbacks of building and operating their own milk processing plant. With the help of a value-added producer grant from USDA, the family is evaluating local markets for demand, forecasting financial prospects, looking at quality control and plant design, as well as considering whether it would be more feasible for the farm to market its own milk products or contract with a major distributor, like a nationwide or regional grocery store chain.


Read the full blog post on the Rural Community Building Blog:

It’s Never Easy

By Alex Wright

I can’t recall when the last time was that we had a “normal” Spring in New York. I guess if you averaged all the years together, the really wet ones, the cold ones, the hot ones and dry ones would cancel each other out, creating the idealistic image of a perfect Spring. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in the real world. It’s now the beginning of June and we don’t even have all of our corn planted due to excessive rainfall and cold early planting temps. The truth of the matter is it’s never easy being a farmer. There are the things we can control, such as input purchases, when and how we plant our crops, and how many cows we want in our herd. But there is so much more that is completely out of our hands.


Basically, farming is like gambling with your livelihood. So much of a farmer’s success is dependent on the weather. When we have a wet Spring like this, farmers can’t get out in their fields and plant despite how bad they want to. You see, if they attempt to plant in the wet soils, they will be creating massive compaction which will inhibit the roots from getting to the nutrients it needs and the effects last  many years. On the other hand, the longer they wait to plant, the lower the likelihood of maximizing yields (which is necessary to have the feed inventory for our dairy cows throughout the winter). In fact, the later it is planted the greater chance it will die prematurely in the Fall from frost before reaching physiological maturity. So which would you be willing to sacrifice (yield or soil quality) and for how long?

Jilek Hay (800x600)

Can you imagine if other industries operated the way farming does? Imagine how much business would be lost if Walmart was shut down every time it poured. Have you ever heard the saying, “Make hay while the sun is shining?” This is easier said than done and rain can decrease the quality of hay if it delays cutting or is down when it rains. Can you imagine if the quality of your dry cleaner’s work declined every time it rained? He wouldn’t be in business long. But this is just another daily struggle and reality for a farmer.

Farmers need to plant their crops every Spring in order to be successful. This means having their inputs subject to market volatility. They have little say in the cost of their input prices going up when they need that product to grow their crops. Take potash (potassium fertilizer), for instance — rock prices have more than tripled since 2006, taking fertilizer prices with it. If a potash mine closes in Morrocco, fertilizer prices go up. But farmers can’t protest the price if they need the product so they just suck it up and take it on the chin. How long would Home Depot be in business if the price of timber were to triple over just eight years? Would consumers still buy lumber from them with such a drastic price increase in such a short time? The answer, of course, is that Home Depot wouldn’t be in business for very long. But these are the gambles farmers take every day.


Imagine if, like commodity prices, the price of movie tickets varied from day to day, depending on the weather in Brazil? How would the movie theater make an operating budget? How do they know they can make a profit when they can’t control pricing? A farmer has very little control over what price they sell their grain for.  The truth is, there is no other industry quite like farming and it’s never easy. But I have never met a farmer who would choose to change their occupation. It’s a labor of love. So, for those of you who criticize modern agriculture in America, try walking a mile in a farmer’s boots. You just might have some more appreciation for what it takes to fill your plate three times a day. I, for one, salute the American Farmer!