Thursday, December 18, 2014

Enset: The Tree Against Hunger

This week we take a look at an article highlighting enset. Enset, a cousin of the banana tree, is a native plant to Ethiopia and can provide many benefits to the region and it's people. Read over the article: Solving Hunger in Ethiopia by Turning to Native Crops then use the discussion questions below to guide your conversations. At the end of the article there is a short two minute video that discusses some additional initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is enset such a valuable crop in sub-Saharan Africa? Consider diets, other crops, soil, hunger, etc.
  2. The article mentioned that enset does not have the potential to raise farmers out of poverty. Why is this?
  3. How do sub-Saharan African farms yields compare to yields around the world? Be specific.
  4. Kippie warns against fully committing to "green revolution" practices. What is his reasoning?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Global Ag: Did you know?

This week we feature a piece from that highlights 10 facts you may or may not have known about agriculture globally and how they relate to the United States. I encourage you to view the slide show 10 Global Gleanings and share with others then go through the discussion points below to start up a discussion..

Discussion Points

  1. Which slide/fact surprised you the most and why?
  2. Were their any slides you found alarming? Explain your response.
We encourage you to do further research as a group or individually on slides that surprised you or alarmed you. What are the facts behind the slide. Do you see this holding constant or changing in the future? Are there things in the world that will change this?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eggs: To Refrigerate or Not?

The way eggs are stored and produced in the United States and Europe differ greatly. The linked article below does a grade job of comparing production, processing, and storage of eggs and the reasons behind each's practices. Read through the article: Egg Production and Practices: U.S. and EU then use the discussion points below to guide conversations.

Discussion Points

  1. How does production, processing, and storage of eggs differ between the United States and the European Union? Why do they do things the way they do?
  2. Would you feel comfortable eating eggs produced/processed in the manner opposite of what you are accustomed to? Justify your response.
  3. Do some additional research. Research food born illnesses per capita in the United States and the European Union (e-coli, salmonella, etc.). Report your findings and hypothesize why each had the numbers they did.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

China Rejects Corn, Lawsuits Follow

Recent shipments of corn to China have been rejected due to genetic modification. ADM (Archer-Daniels-Midland) and other companies are suing Syngenta claiming that Switzerland based Basel sold seed corn with unapproved traits for China ports and did not take the proper precautions to keep corn from co-mingling with approved traits. Read the linked article below and use the discussion point to guide conversations.

ADM Sues Syngenta

Discussion Points

  1. Who do you feel is responsible for this? Syngenta, ADM, or someone else? Justify your response.
  2. What are the possible effects this mix up could have down the road for producers?
  3. What should be done in the future to avoid mistakes like this? What checks and balances would you implement?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

China's Record Corn Production Halts

Since 2010 China has seen record growth in corn production as a country. This past year that has slowed and production has fallen. The linked article talks about the reasons for this and the effects on Chinese farmers and the global economy. Read through the linked article and use the discussion questions below to lead your conversations with others.

China's Record Corn Harvest Run Ends

Discussion Points and Questions:

  1. The article stated that China is becoming less able to grow as much corn as it consumes. What will the effect of this be on agriculture globally?
  2. The article also shared the fact that in the last decade the China economy has exploded. What has this done to the demand of meat in China? 
  3. Although China is seeing a decline in corn production this year the article stated that there is not likely to be a large impact on prices globally. Why is this? 
  4. What has corn production (decline or growth) looked like since 2010? As a result to this what has the Chinese government done for farmers in China? Should the government continue this practice? Explain all of your responses.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Agriculture is the Key

The United States Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, recently spoke of the importance of agriculture to our global economy and the United States impact on it. Linked you will find a summary of Vilsack's comments and thoughts in moving agriculture forward and improving food needs worldwide. Read through the linked article and use the discussion questions below to guide your conversations in classrooms, coffee shops, and community groups!

Vilsack: Ag at the Center of Strengthening World Economy

Discussion Points

  1. Vilsack mentioned "Agriculture is often not fully appreciated." Why is this? What could be done to change this?
  2. The impact of climate on agriculture was emphasized. What is the U.S. doing to monitor climate's effects on agriculture? What is the value in this?
  3. Recently the USDA announced the open data initiative to share data. What does this mean for agriculture? What are the possibilities? 
  4. It was stated that there is a need for cooperation with other countries in biotechnology policy. What is the importance of this and how do we go about this in your opinion?
  5. Vilsack stated “It has been tough to convince Congress to continue to invest in agriculture research to the same extent they invest in health research.” Do you feel this should be the case? Why or why not?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

COOL's Ramifications

Today I am sharing an article on COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) policy in the U.S. and how it is affecting agriculture and potentially the entire U.S. economy. The World Trade Organization recently has released a statement that the COOL policy is not fair to beef industry imports from Canada and Mexico. Along with the original article I have linked a document from Canada that lists products that could be retaliated against. Mexico has yet to release their list. After looking over the linked articles discuss the points below.

COOL and WTO Ruling Article

Canada Retaliation List

Discussion Points

  1. Explain COOL and what it's purpose is? 
  2. Look at the retaliation list from Canada that is a possibility. Discuss the list. Are you surprised by products on the list? 
  3. If Canada and Mexico retaliate what would the ramifications be for farmers in the U.S.? What would be the overall impact on the U.S. economy? 
  4. It is a delicate balance between keeping the peace between those demanding COOL and the WTO. What would be your suggestion to the two parties?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Challenge Accepted!

The third day of the Borlaug Dialogue concluded Friday afternoon. Throughout the three days of the conference many times it was asked, "Are we ready to face the greatest challenge in human history? Can we sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050?" While there was much debate and dialogue in all areas affecting world food production, I believe all can say "Challenge Accepted!" We all have different roles and ways we can contribute, but it will take all working towards this common goal to achieve it. Below are highlights and key discussion points form Friday. Although the 2014 Norman Borlaug Dialogue has concluded in Des Moines do not let the dialogue stop in your home communities and around the world. Continue the dialogue and lets work towards feeding 9 billion by 2050! Challenge accepted.

Breakfast Address Remembering Norman Borlaug M.S. Swaminathan, 1987 World Food Prize Laureate
  • Highlighted where India was before Borlaug and today.
  • Seed is the starting point of change. Potential has many other factors.
  • Agriculture, nutrition, and health must all be linked together. 
  • How the yield gap was bridged 
    • National demonstrations 
    • Mainstreaming local preference 
    • Research networks
    • Farm schools 
  • Components of the Green Revolution
    • Technology
    • Services
    • Public policies
    • Farmers' enthusiasm
Trend Lines for Political Stability, Global Trade, and Potential Disruptions Moderator: Amb. Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize.

Hon. Charles Rivkin, United States Assistant Secretary of State; John Hamre, President and CEO for Center for Strategic and International Studies; Amb. Daniel Speckhard, President and CEO of Lutheran World Relief
  • Agriculture is the cornerstone of our economy.
  • Ebola and ISIS are rooted in the same problem...corrupt and unstable governments.
  • Problems are horizontal, countries are vertical.
  • Science may have the answers, but man can destroy quickly if policies are not in place.
  • Reasons why countries are wealthy
    • Quality of agriculture
    • Human resources (cities, factories, roads, etc.)
    • Intangibles (education, stability of currency, judicial system, etc.)
  • The biggest part of our problems are politics.

The Smallholder's Lifeline: Innovations in Agro-Financing and Insurance Moderator: Per Pinstrup-Andersen, 2001 World Food Prize Laureate

Ndidi Nwuneli, Co-Founder of African Alliance for Capital Expansion; Jimmy Smith, Director General of International Livestock Research Institute; Kurt Weinberger, President of International Association of Agricultural Production Insurers; Mohammed Amin Adam, Executive Director of Africa Centre for Energy Policy; Marco Ferroni, Executive Director of Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Agriculture has been, is, and will be the most important sector in the world.
  • We must support smallholder farms with credit and protection against risk.
  • In order for insurance to be successful you need cooperation between government and private.
  • We need to unleash livestock sector. So restricted with policy. Animal agriculture makes up 40% of agriculture.
  • Processing food can cut down major waste of food in Africa.
  • We need to invest in agriculture. This can be done through insurance.
Borlaug's Dream for Wheat: Technology and Collaboration to Confront Rust Disease Moderator: Ronnie Coffman, International Professor of Plant Breeding at Cornell University

Catherine Feuillet, Senior VP Trait Research with Bayer CropScience; Hans-Joachim Braun, Director of the Global Wheat Program; Indu Sharma, Project Director of Directorate of Wheat Research; Mahmoud Sohl, Director General of International Center for Agriculture Research in Dry Areas; Goodarz Najafian, Wheat Breeder and Director General of Seed and Plant Improvement Research Institute in Iran
  • Fungicide can help prevent rust if you know it is coming.
  • Our biggest challenge with rust is complacency.
  • One challenge is getting rust resistant seed to farmers quickly.
  • Carrying forward Borlaug's legacy: Green to Gene Revolution
  • Regional collaboration is needed to meet the challenges in South Asia.
  • Rust is heading east.
Laureate Luncheon Address Sanjaya Rajaram, 2014 World Food Prize Laureate
  • There is a certain knowledge base that cannot be learned in the classroom. You must be in the fields.
  • Nothing is constant. We must learn from history, but not get lost in the past.
  • Policy is needed for fair markets for farmers.
  • Has tried to dedicate his life to something that would make a real difference.
  • Private and public must work together.
  • We must increase production on the land we have with reduced water usage and better nutrient management.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

We Have Work To Do

Day two certainly did not disappoint at the Borlaug Dialogue at the World Food Prize. As the dialogue continued in Des Moines we hope that the dialogue continues in your home communities and classrooms. As yesterday this post includes key points and recaps to spark discussion with others regarding The Greatest Challenge in Human History.

Students from Hawkeye Community College Agriculture department at the World Food Prize

Soil Health and the Fertilizer Gap Moderator: Pedro Sanchez 2002 World Food Prize Laureate

Esin Mete, President of International Fertilizer Industry Association; Ruth Oniang'o, Chair of Sasakawa Africa Association; Amit Roy, President and CEO of International Fertilizer Development Center; Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas Executive Director of Mosaic Company Foundation; Xinping Chen, Director of Center of Ecology and Environmental Sciences at China Agriculture University
  • Healthy crops can only grow in healthy soils. This is achieved with proper fertilization.
  • Make sure soil is protected and productive.
  • Nutrient stewardship and micro nutrient management are key principles in fertilization.
  • In China the problem is too much fertilizer, while in Africa it is not enough.
  • Zinc and iodine deficiencies in humans are a big concern. This needs to be addressed through fertilization of plants.
  • In Finland they have added selenium fertilizer to address heart disease.
Special Address Pamela Anderson, Director of Agricultural Development at the Gates Foundation
  • We need to invest in public plant breeding programs. Has been done with corn. No we must expand to other crops.
  • Two Pathways for Success
    • Increase productivity gains in staple foods
    • Focus on women and girls in agriculture
  • Mobile and digital technology will be huge to increase production.
  • To achieve Sustainable Productivity Growth
    • Increasing potential productivity
    • Increasing realized productivity in the field
    • Transforming productivity into value
Is This the Model to Uplift the African Smallholder? Emma Mugerwa Naluyima, Farmer from Uganda

Dr. Emma shared her one acre farming operation with us. She splits her farm into quarters and produces a balance of vegetables, fruits, livestock and greenhouse products. Nothing on her farm is wasted. She even uses the methane from cattle manure to run her stove. She has added value to her production and is a very successful farmer. She stressed the importance of engaging children and young people in agriculture. For this reason she is building a primary school rooted in agriculture for African children.

Keynote Address Emest Bai Koroma, President of Republic of Sierra Leone (via video feed)
  • Ebola is a disease that attacks youth and farmers. It is destroying farms.
  • Over 75% of population is under 40 in Sierra Leone.
  • Youth must transform agriculture in Sierra Leone.
  • Sierra Leone has seen gains in yields and this trend is continuing.
  • Ebola is affecting everything in their country from agriculture to the economy.
  • We will defeat Ebola and it's deadly ramifications.
Focus on Africa: Policy and Partnerships Moderator: Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO and Head of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network

Florence Chenoweth, Minister of Agriculture Liberia; Gerardine Mukeshimana, Minister of Agriculture Republic of Rwanda; Joseph Sam Sesay, Minister of Agriculture Sierra Leone; Paul Schickler, President of DuPont Pioneer; Birtukan Dagnachew, Farmer from Ethiopia

Birtukan started by sharing her success story of farming in Ethiopia that faced many challenges along the way. She shared the following:
  • She credited extension programs for her success.
  • She had a very diverse farm.
  • Agriculture is very labor intensive in Africa
  • Major issue facing Agriculture in Ethiopia
    • Climate change
    • Soil degradation
    • Women are not empowered
Each Minister of Agriculture then shared how their countries are battling the areas addressed above and any unique programs they are implementing in their respective countries.Schickler from DuPont explained how the private sector can help and gave the following keys to solve the problems:
  • Education
  • Partnerships
  • Investment
40 Chances Fellows Award Winners Howard W. Buffett, Lecturer at Columbia University

Howard presented $150,000 to four separate individuals developing agriculture in African countries. Applicants had to be under the age of 40 and the four winners were chosen from a field of over 260 applicants. Each award winner and their program was highlighted.

Symposium Luncheon Address Strive Masiyiwa, Chairman and Founder of Econet Wireless
  • Africa has more cell phones than the United States and Europe combined.
  • Four of ten children will be born in Africa.
  • We must get everyone interested in Agriculture.
  • We must put women at the center of our work to improve agriculture.
  • Average corn yields; United States = 180 bushels/acre, Africa = 20 bushels/acre
Water for Agriculture: Trend Lines and Gaps Moderator: Margaret Catley-Carlson, Member UN Secretary General's Advisory Board on Water

Dilip Kulkarni, President of Agri-Food Division Jain Irrigation; Paul Bakus, President of Nestle Corporate Affairs; Dan Bena, PepsiCo Global Operations
  • Soil moisture is one of the most important factors to growth and productivity of a plant.
  • Water scarcity issues are not going away and climate change suggests it will get worse.
  • Both water scarcity and water excess are issues. Scarcity (drought) is more predictable than excess (flooding).
  • One quadrillion litters of water are wasted annually.
  • 30-40% of food waste is tied to water issues.
  • Policy is a touchy subject with water. How do you regulate, monitor, or measure?
The Secretary's Roundtable

Enrique Martinez Y Martinez, Secretary of Agriculture Mexico
  • It is key to share research and advances between the United States and Mexico.
  • In Mexico there is a focus on applied research.
  • One third of harvest lost is due to storage issues in Mexico.
  • Truly seeing improved production in Mexico. Must find a way to manage surplus of crops and dropping prices.
  • GMO crops are very controversial in Mexico. All science says they are safe. Some simply oppose, because they do not want to lose Mexican genetics.
Tom Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture
  • 133 billion pounds of food goes to waste each year in the United States. This is the biggest solid waste in landfills and big factor in creating methane gases.
  • Climate change is affecting production.
  • United States remains committed to working out trade relations with the European Union. Biotechnology education is key to this.
  • The United States and Mexico do not look at agriculture as competition, but rather how can we work together.
  • Technology transfer, open data, and shared practices are what we need to feed 9 billion poeple by 2050.
Precision Agriculture and Big Data: The Next Frontier Moderator: David Muth, Senior VP of AgSolver Inc.

John May, President of Agricultural Solutions and CIO with John Deere; Claudia Garcia, Senior Director of Global Market Access with Elanco Animal Health; David Gebhardt, Director of Agronomic Data and Technology with WinField; Kerry Preete, Executive VP of Global Strategy with Monsanto
  • Precision Ag has a different definition for all farmers depending on their purposes and needs.
  • There is a lot more focus on in-season data.
  • Precision Ag is also for the livestock industry.
  • We need to focus on more than feeding an additional two billion people by 2050, but also feeding the three billion people moving into the middle class. Precision Ag can help increase yields.
  • Precision Ag is not just about economics, but also about conservation.
It was an amazing day of learning and analyzing agriculture practices at the Borlaug Dialogue. We look forward to a great Friday when the Borlaug Dialogue continues!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Greatest Challenge in Human History

It was a great first day at the World Food Prize for the Borlaug Dialogue here in Des Moines with students! Over the next couple days the discussion will continue on "The Greatest Challenge in Human History;" feeding 9 billion people by 2050. Over the next three nights I will share highlights from the sessions at the Borlaug Dialogue highlighting key points from each area. I encourage you to continue the dialogue at home, in communities, and in classrooms around the world discussing the following points and statements.

Opening Ceremony The Borlaug Dialogue Ambassador Kenneth Quinn
  • Highlighted the Borlaug Centennial (Norman Borlaug's 100th Birthday)
  • 20 year anniversary of the youth institute as part of the Borlaug Dialogue
  • Theme for the week: Innovation, Intensification, and Inspiration
  • "You can't take it to the farmer if you don't have good roads."
Opening Keynote H.E.Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of International Fund for Agricultural Development
  • Sad but true statement, "There is a privileged world and the forgotten world."
  • Forgotten world = Rural areas
  • We must remember that "forgotten world" problems are our problems as well. "No one was concerned about Ebola when in forgotten world. Now that it is in the privileged world Ebola is receiving attention."
  • Forty percent of farms are abandoned in Sierra Leone due to fear of Ebola, Crops are rotting in the field.
  • Forty-five percent of children deaths are due to malnutrition.
  • Three keys to sustainable agriculture and yield increases:
    • Must take advantage of all science has to offer.
    • Need private and public entities alike to work together.
    • Individuals and institutions can not work alone. Partnerships must be created.
  • We must change the perception of farming so young people want to farm.
  • No amount of foreign aide or science will work unless we collaborate and work together.
The Borlaug Report: Assessing The Greatest Challenge, What are the trendlines? Are we on course? Kenneth Cassman, Professor of Agronomy at University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • We are not on track currently to feed 9 billion by 2050, but we can get there.
  • Don't look at minimum food needed to feed 9-10 billion. Let's overshoot.
  • Since 2001:
    • Slowing rates of crop yield increases
    • Rapid expansion of crop production area
    • Increasing food prices
    • Accelerating CO2 emissions
    • Increasing global supplies of natural gas
  • We are reaching a yield plateau in the U.S.
  • How much food can be saved due to diet changes and waste pattern changes?
  • Food prices will likely increase quicker than energy (fertilizer) input costs.
  • In 2010 3.9 billion lived on $4/day or less than $1460/year.
  • We need big, open (public) data and it needs to be:
    • spatially dense
    • High Quality
    • Real-time and Historic Data
  • Big data is real. Monsanto paid $930 million for Climate Corporation (weather data).
  • Check out the following website for yield gap information:
The Borlaug Report: Critical Factors in Meeting The Greatest Challenge Moderator: Sir Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development at Imperial College London; Leo Abruzzese, Global Forecasting Director of Public Policy with Economist Intelligence Unit; Marc Sadler, Adviser on Risk and Markets with The World Food Bank; Shenngen Fan, Director General at International Food Policy Research Institute; Margaret Zeigler, Executive Director at Global Harvest Initiative
  • Sometime this month China will pass the U.S. in purchasing power.
  • Sometime within the week the U.S. will bypass Saudi Arabia in petroleum production.
  • We must extend our technologies and practices to all. We cannot keep some away from parts of the world.
  • Incremental changes won't cut it anymore. We need big changes to make things happen.
  • Big data has barely made an impact on agriculture compared to other business areas.
  • Precision Ag technologies are not just for industrialized countries. Anyone can use the principles.
  • We need better veterinarian service worldwide. We must invest and protect livestock.
  • Seven of the ten fastest growing economies are in sub Saharan Africa.
  • Production increases are leveling off and the rate of increase is falling.
Borlaug Report: Crop Intensification, Technology and Enviromental Sustainability Moderator: M.S. Swaminathan, 1987 World Food Prize Laureate; Robert Fraley, 2013 World Food Prize Laureate; Mark Rosegrant, Director at International Food Policy Research Institute; Hon. Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture; Tjada McKenna, Deputy Coordinator for Development with USAID Bureau for Food Security
  • Another way to look at things: We need to double food production over the next 36 years.
  • Outlined five points from National Geographic "To Feed the World":
    • Freeze agriculture's footprint
    • Grow more on farms we've got
    • Use resources more efficiently
    • Shift diets
    • Reduce waste
  • You can have your own opinions, but not your own facts. We must look at what science says regarding GMO's and climate change.
  • Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are everywhere. Agriculture can learn from this.
  • How do we take it to the farmers?
    • Communication and modern technology
    • Cooperatives
    • Extension
  • We must increase yields everywhere. Not just here or there, but everywhere.
  • Priorities in Research:
    • Yield increase
    • Pest and drought issues
    • Water scarcity and quality
The Nutrition Gap Moderator: David Strelneck, Senior Advisor with Nutrient Value Chain; Navyn Salem, Founder and Director of Edesia Inc.; Katherine Pickus, VP at Abbott Fund; Tom Leech, Senior VP with Walmart; Bram Govaert, Director at International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
  • There is a difference between feeding people to fill their stomachs and feeding people for energy.
  • Need to focus on providing healthier options with cost savings. Big issue with nutrition is affordability.
  • Those that are financially unstable often choose poor nutrition.
  • As we try to feed 9 billion people we have an excellent opportunity to link agriculture and nutrition together.
We closed the evening with time at the Hall of Laureates recognizing the recipient of The Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application. Dr. Bram Govaerts received the award for his work in Mexico with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. He has worked side by side with farmers turning subsistence agriculture systems into productive and sustainable production units that allow smallholder farmers to escape hunger and poverty. global-agriculture-learning-center-logo.jpg

Thursday, October 9, 2014

EU and US Dairy: Two Different Stories

The article: EU vs US Dairies talks about dairy markets here in the United States and across the Atlantic in the European Union. While one side is seeing record milk prices the other is struggling with dropping prices. Read through the article then use the discussion questions provided for your discussion.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is causing prices to fall in the EU? Is there relief coming and if so explain?
  2. What is causing dairy prices to strengthen in the US?
  3. What does the future look like relating to dairy production for the EU and US respectively?
  4. Did you find any information that you found surprising or unique? If so, what and why?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cotton Trade Fight

Today I share an article with you regarding the trade fight between the US and Brazil dealing with cotton. This article explains the 12 year battle between Brazil and the US. Read through the article: US and Brazil resolve Cotton Trade Fight then discuss the points below.

Discussion Points

  1. What are subsidies and why do we use them?
  2. Look at the situation as both a US and Brazilian farmer and discuss the impacts these subsidies created.
  3. What results do you see coming from this resolution?
  4. Do US farmers receive any other subsidies similar to this for other commodities?
*Ag Educators you can have your students do some research before discussing the above points if needed.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Last Hunger Season

This week we share with you a film series titled "The Last Hunger Season." This series is being provided by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Currently four short videos (ranging from a two minute video to a seven minute video) have been posted to their YouTube channel. They will continue to post videos, each week, telling the story of four African farmers and the everyday challenges they face to feed themselves and others. The videos will continue to be posted until the series is complete on October 16th, which is World Food Day 2014.

I encourage agricultural educators to show the various clips throughout the next weeks leading up to World Food Day and discuss the videos as a class. Challenge students to discuss things from the video that surprised them or they found unique.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

African Agriculture Challenges

Below I have provided a link to a short video that shares issues facing farmers in Africa. This video created by USAID is packed with information in a video that shows in less than two minutes. I encourage you to watch the video and discuss the questions below with classmates, peers, co-workers, and friends.

Discussion Questions

  1. What one piece of information stood out to you or caught your attention and why?
  2. What are the major issues facing farmers in Africa?
  3. What things were mentioned as needed for improvement?
  4. It's easy to say "this can be solved," but what steps or actions do you see need to be taken in order for farmers to be successful and see improvement with their crops? 

Further Ag Ed Challenge: 

Take the last question, from above, a step farther:
  1. Have groups of students develop a plan to improve agriculture in Africa. 
  2. Have students present their solutions to the class as if they were presenting to a governing organization that would be funding the best proposal. 
  3. Have students vote on the top proposal not allowing them to vote for their own.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Smart Farming and Innovation in China

The article, Smart Farming the Key to China's Food Problems, discusses agronomic production practices in China to produce crops to feed a growing country, as well as four different methods utilized to produce crops and the results they achieved. Read through the article then discuss the points below as a class or with colleagues.

Discussion Points

  1. Discuss the four methods utilized and what results were found.
  2. Of the four methods how do farmers treat crop production in your community and country? What are the impacts or results you see from this? Do you see this trend continuing? Has it always been this way?

Further Ag Ed Challenge

Innovation is the name of the game! How can we produce more with less? Watch the video below from Elanco dealing with the need for innovation in agriculture to get you thinking about innovation. After watching the video assign groups of students different commodities (corn, soybeans, cattle, hogs, sheep, dairy, etc.). Have them reflect on their commodity and develop a plan to increase production in their given commodity through innovation (encourage students to think outside of the box). Share with the class and discuss the possibilities!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Innovation and Efficiency

Wednesday we traveled to the Farm Progress Show near Boone, IA with our visitors from Brazil. Innovation and efficiency were definitely on display at the 2014 Farm Progress Show. Our time was spent analyzing new technologies in machinery, production practices, and crop genetics. In the picture below several visitors inspect ears of corn and estimate yield potential with Hawkeye Community College Professor Dave Grunklee.

The group planed to return to the Farm Progress Show on Thursday, but due to inclement weather and lightning the show was canceled while our visitors were in route to the show. The group made the best of the day and visited the Bass Pro Shop and made many additional shopping stops. Friday will be spent touring agribusinesses in the Cedar Rapids area before the group flies to Chicago for the weekend. We wish the group safe travel as they return to Brazil Sunday evening. We had a fantastic time hosting the group and we will miss you all! Here is a closing photo of the group at the Farm Progress Show.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dairy and Research

Tuesday was a very enjoyable day with the humidity and temperatures dropping a bit for our visitors from Brazil. The day started with a trip to Hansen's Dairy as well as included a visit to the Borlaug Learning Center at the Northeast Research Farm near Nashua, IA.

Group inspecting beans at the Borlaug Learning Center.

Hansen's Dairy is a family owned farm that milks and markets their own dairy products from Hudson, IA. All aspects of production were discussed as well as nutrition. After Hansen's the group made their way to Barn Happy for lunch and a little shopping. Next the group traveled to the Borlaug Learning Center at the Northeast Research Farm. Corn and soybean research and production practices were shared. The day wrapped up with a great pizza dinner at Doey Joey's.


"Quente" is a good way to describe today. "Quente" is the Portuguese word for hot and today lived up to that. Although the temperatures rose throughout the day the heat could not bring us down! It was another fantastic day exploring agriculture.

Brazilians visiting with Ben the owner of Blue Diamond Farming Company.

We kicked things off Monday morning with a tour to Wapsie Pines. Wapsie Pines has long been known for their bedding plants and nursery, but recently started up an aquaponics operation. They raise talapia fish in the green house and then utilize the waste and nutrients from the fish to feed the plants the minerals and nutrients they need through a closed system.

After concluding at Wapsie Pines we traveled to John Deere Engine Works to see first hand the process of building an engine. Following John Deere we stopped for lunch before making our way to the Blue Diamond Farming Company. This is a farm that has grown since it's start with the Riensche family in the mid 1800's. We were able to crunch numbers and production practices followed by inspection of the equipment and the new grain handling facility.

Next we found time for a quick tour of the Hawkeye Community College Farm Lab. We wrapped up the evening with a great dinner at Pepper's and visiting with friends!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Good Company and Good Times

Today was a very hot Sunday but that did not stop us from enjoying good company. Christine Schrage from the international business department at the University of Northern Iowa hosted a fantastic day at her home.

We started off relaxing and visiting over lunch, before finding a great shade tree near the pond. We spent the afternoon swimming, kayaking, and canoeing. It was a great way to beat the heat. In late afternoon skeet shooting took place as many past students who have traveled to Brazil from Hawkeye Community College and the University of Northern Iowa stopped by to visit their Brazilian friends. The evening concluded with a "whole hog" hog roast that was delicious. Memories and friendships to truly last a lifetime!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

2014 Agribusiness Tour Kicks Off

Friday was a great day welcoming our Brazilian friends and kicking off the 2014 Agribusiness Tour!

Group at Meyer Agri-Air

After a slight delay in the flight arrival time a group of 12 Brazilians arrived in Iowa.  We welcomed them with a hardy lunch at Famous Dave's BBQ and then made our way to the hotel. After getting settled we loaded up and made our way to the Wellsburg area where we toured the facilities and operations at Meyer Agri-Air. Meyer Agri-Air covers a 17 county area in Iowa providing an aerial spraying service for the past 20 years.  They primarily utilize planes due to greater efficiency, but also have a helicopter for smaller fields and fields with wind turbines.

Following our time at Meyer Agri-Air we made our way to the Morrison Inn for a nice dinner.  After dinner we traveled to Dave Grunklee's (professor at Hawkeye Community College) home.  We inspected corn and soybean fields and shared production practices and challenges.  It was a great first day.  On this rainy Saturday the group will travel to Tassel Ridge Winery to go through the production process, before enjoying an afternoon of shopping at the Tanger Outlet Mall.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Brazilians with FCStone Explore Reinbeck

Today we hosted 23 farmers, coop personnel, and FCStone employees from all parts of Brazil. The trip was organized by INTL FCStone. We started the morning off by touring the Pioneer corn seed production facility in Reinbeck, IA. We were able to tour all aspects of the plant and follow seed corn from the point when it arrives at the plant by truck to the point when it leaves the facility in bags or pro boxes.

Group at Pioneer in Reinbeck

Following our time at Pioneer we made our way to Professor Dave Grunklee's home. There many questions were asked and discussed regarding agronomic practices and precision agriculture technologies. We enjoyed a great pork loin meal before the group had to head towards Dubuque for the night. We look forward to collaborating with this group again in the future.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Denmark: Return Home and a Further Challenge

It was an amazing time with an amazing group in Denmark! We made it back to Iowa Friday evening after a nice sprint trough the O'Hare airport in Chicago to catch our last flight. It was a week of learning that happened in both formal and informal settings. We had numerous tours and presentations scheduled that gave us an overall picture of what Danish Agriculture is all about. The informal learning can make some of the biggest impressions on us and this happened while gathered around the dinner table or an impromptu coffee break along side the road that spilled over into a roadside field.

In a discussion that I had with one of our hosts, Henrik, we discussed the two main purposes for taking part in a study abroad experience. Here are the two reasons he shared below:
  1. To learn about the practices and ways of another country and culture.
  2. Challenge yourself to think about the way you are currently doing things in your home country. Can things be improved?
I know that all who traveled to Denmark have number one covered! Our hosts did an excellent job of showcasing Danish Agriculture. I hope that we all can take time to reflect on number two. I challenge all that traveled to Denmark to think about the practices and methods we observed abroad and reflect on agriculture here in the United States. What can we learn from our time in Denmark?

I would like to thank Henrik and Ove from the Green Academy for an awesome week! You guys are amazing! We learned so much and hope to return in the future!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Danish Trade and Market Regulations

This morning we made our way to Copenhagen via train. We arrived to Copenhagen shortly after noon and made our way to meet with the Danish Agriculture and Food Council. Over lunch we discussed Danish Agriculture and got into many hot topics being discussed in legislation and trade in agriculture as it relates to Denmark and the European Union. We got into discussions on GMO's and the EU's view. It was stated every time the EU tests GMO's they are safe and they do not see the EU banning GMO crops. When it comes down to it European's buying habits are the same as the rest of the world: "They want a cheap food supply." We also had a very interesting discussion relating to the longevity of the EU and it's future role.

After our time with the Danish Agriculture and Food Council we checked in at our hotel before exploring the city of Copenhagen. We took a boat tour of the city and enjoyed a walk through the pedestrian area. For dinner we made our way to Tivoli which is the oldest amusement park in the world. We enjoyed a great dinner and time visiting Tivoli. In the morning we will board a plane for home. It is hard to believe that our time in Denmark is coming to a close.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Getting Advice and Stepping Back in Time

We started off our last full day in the Aarhus area by traveling to the Djursland Farmers' Advisory Centre. We started by getting a tour of the office areas before meeting in a conference room to discuss the purpose and services offered by the local advisory centre. This is a centre that is owned by the farmers and funded by no one else so the farmers best interest is always a priority. They provide support from production practices to fertilizer plans to building plans. They even have access to members financial records in order to advise farmers to maximize profits. Next we made our way to the fields across the road to take a look at different wheat variety test plots and learn how they utilize the plots to advise farmers, before returning to the conference room to discuss Danish Agriculture. One very interesting fact was that there has always been a limit on the amount of milk that could be produced in the past in Denmark. This quota will disappear in the next year and production will be unlimited.

For lunch we made our way to Gammel Estrup which is a large manor that has been around for over 800 years. We enjoyed a traditional Danish meal before exploring the Manor and grounds. Upon the grounds was an agriculture museum that told the history of agriculture from practices, machinery, and types of crops and livestock.

Next we headed to a local tractor dealer for some tractor and equipment shopping of the toy variety before returning to Aarhus for shopping and exploration. We wrapped up the evening with a farewell dinner at Green Academy. It has truly been a great experience spending time at Green Academy and in the surrounding area. Tomorrow we will be making our way to Copenhagen. Check our Facebook page often for updated photos.

Research, Cattle, and Hogs

This morning we made our way to Foulum. We were a little ahead of schedule so we swung into an older manor that dated back to the 1300's to explore. Following that we spent the morning at the Centre for Research in Food and Agriculture at Aarhus University. This is the largest research facility in Denmark. It is a very large campus and we only saw a small portion of their research facilities. We started off with an introduction to the facilities and then made our way to the fields where they were growing a variety of organic crops in test plots along with different fuel crops. Next we made our way to the Biogas research area. They shared how they are working on combining plant material with slurry for a more efficient energy source. From there we made our way to their mink farm. We discussed quality and tightness of fur along with production practices. To wrap up our morning with the Centre for Research and Agriculture we visited an area that was researching dairy cattle using fistulated cattle.

Following lunch we made our way to a dairy cattle research facility that worked both with farmers and the Centre for Research in Food and Agriculture to combine the research done at the Centre with practical applications to greater assist the farmers. They had many robotic systems including a feeding system that adjusted rations every three weeks for specified groups of cattle. They were working with many innovative ideas. One included separating water from the milk. This can be done on milk that is not being used for drinking milk. They can then reuse the water for drinking water for the cattle.

After our time near Foulum we returned to nearby Aarhus to visit a very progressive hog operation. This farm had 1,450 sows. They farrow and sell the piglets after 4 weeks. They were using practices and procedures that are above the standard of the EU in order to stay ahead of the curve and receive a premium for piglets they sell as they meet UK standards as well. They also have a biogas facility on site for manure handling. We were able to tour all aspects of their hog facility.

It was another great day learning about Danish agriculture. Look forward to our tours tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"We best leave now for what is best for our health!"

Today we jumped right into animal agriculture in Denmark. We started off the day at the Danish Crown pork processing facility. Danish Crown is known as the most modern slaughter facility in the world. They are a cooperative owned by the farmers that processes around 15 million hogs per year. We were able to observe and discuss from start to finish the processing of hogs at Danish Crown. Their pork is enjoyed in Denmark as well as around the world. There is a very good chance that if you have enjoyed baby back ribs in the United States they came from Danish Crown. To wrap up our time at Danish Crown we enjoyed a pork lunch. The delicious pork cut came from the back leg of the hog.

Next we made our way to a dairy farm named Vejlskovgard. This is a dairy that is on the cutting edge and very forward thinking. A prime example of this is the fact that the young farmer we met, who gave us the tour, was planning on meeting with a group of farmers his age tomorrow to discuss management and financial practices for 10 hours. This group meets 5-6 times a year. They are milking around 450 cows. Their barns and milking areas have a very modern design that let lots of light and airflow into the buildings. Robots are a major part of their operation. They had robotic milkers, feed pushers, manure pushers, and bedders. Visitors are welcomed to their farm at any time without an appointment. They are always willing to share what they are doing with others.

After our visit to the dairy we made our way to an organic farm growing crops from wheat to carrots to horse beans (a substitute for soybeans that is not as high in protein) along with milking 500 dairy goats. They had about 1,000 acres of crop ground with additional forest area. Some of the buildings on the manor dated back to the 1300's. We checked out the goat milking parlor that was a carousel set-up and then made our way to the fields to examine the many diverse crops. We had a discussion on the many challenges they have faced in organic production.

We wrapped up the evening at Henrik and Maria's home where we had a spectacular dinner and shared great conversation. There were so many sweets for dessert that it was stated, "We best leave now for what is best for our health!"

Check out our Facebook page for photos.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Friends and Seafood

Today was a day of seafood and exploring with great friends! We started the morning with a trip to the local bakery for breakfast where we all enjoyed traditional Danish baked goods. From there we loaded up the vehicles and drove down to Esbjerg where we took a ferry over to the island of Fano. When we arrived in Fano we started by exploring a line of bunkers occupied by the Germans during World War II some 75 years ago. There are 1,000's of these bunkers all along the west coast of Denmark.

After our time in the bunkers we met at Ove and Else-Marie's home in Nordby. There we relaxed and enjoyed a lunch of herring, salmon, shrimp and many sides. After lunch we made our way through Nordby and headed to the beach on the west side of Fano. We took sometime to walk the beach and into the ocean. Following our time on the beach we made our way to a small village before returning to Nordby.

In Nordby we made our way to a cozy little restaurant where we enjoyed a local fish dish called "Bakskuld." This is a flat fish that is dried, salted, and smoked. After a great dinner we boarder the ferry to return to the mainland and Green Academy.

Be sure to check out the new photos via our Facebook page. Tomorrow we will dive into Danish Agriculture visiting a packing plant and several farms.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Discovering Agriculture and Aarhus

Today was a great first full day in Denmark! After a great night of sleep we met to discuss "The Danish Way" and the make up of Danish Education and the Green Academy. We heard about the term "hygge." This is a feeling that can be felt in Denmark often and is a feeling of joy, caring, and happiness with friends. "Hygge" is a great theme for our trip that we look forward to experiencing often!

Following these two presentations we took a tour of campus. We got to see many things including classrooms, greenhouses stocked with bedding plants to hydroponic tomatoes, and a variety of outdoor labs. Next we returned to the classroom for a short introduction to Danish Agriculture. For the small country size Denmark is a major player in agriculture.

After lunch we toured the Green Academy farm. This models a traditional Danish farm with livestock and crops. We got to explore all aspects of the farm. Next we made our way to downtown and old town Aarhus. We had a great time in the city before enjoying a nice steak dinner near the harbor. We wrapped up a great day with enjoying dessert and visiting in our lounge area.

Remember to check out our Facebook page for pictures from the day!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

It has been a whirlwind of traveling the past day/days. We boarded a plane Thursday afternoon in Cedar Rapids and then made stops in Chicago and Frankfurt, Germany before making our way to Copenhagen, Denmark. Once we reached Copenhagen we jumped on a train for three hours before arriving in Aarhus where we loaded up in a van and car before making our way to nearby Green Academy in Beder. The train ride provided a great time to get a lay of the land and see what crops and livestock were being raised. It, also, provided time for a quick power nap.

Once we arrived at Green Academy Friday afternoon we had time to get settled in to our apartments before heading to the canteen for dinner. We enjoyed a meal of Danish Beef which is similar to an over sized hamburger with a gravy sauce and sides. Following dinner we meet with Henrik and Ove from Green Academy to discuss the outstanding program for the next week!

Tomorrow we will dive into things with a meeting Saturday morning discussing Danish Agriculture and Agriculture Education along with getting a tour of the campus facilities and farm. Following lunch we will make our way to downtown and old town Aarhus before enjoying a nice steak dinner. There was a lot of great discussion and informal learning today! I can not wait to see what we will learn over the next week!

Having technical difficulties uploading photos. Check our Facebook page for photos.

Denmark Bound!

On Thursday, June 12, 2014 we are boarding a plane on our way to Denmark to explore agriculture! While in Denmark we will be hosted by Green Academy in Aarhus, Denmark. While in Denmark we will visit a variety of agriculture sectors. We will visit farms, a packing house, research facilities, agriculture advisory service, Green Academy campus, and take in local sites just to name a few!

We are traveling with a very diverse group. Our group will be made up of high school educators, students from Iowa State University, and even include a farmer/Iowa Farm Bureau county board member. Starting on Friday check for daily blog updates about our time studying Danish Agriculture!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

United States & European Union Trade Deal

Currently their are negotiations taking place with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States. If this trade deal is accepted this could be financially beneficial for both. However, they are hitting some snags and GMO's, food labels, and limits on US beef imports are at the center of the conversation. British farmers are showing great concerns as they do not want the imports to come in and undercut their current prices. There are many other issues and sides addressed in the articles below. I encourage you to look over the articles then discuss with others!

Article on Farming Divisions with TTIP

TTIP Information from the United States

TTIP Information from the European Commission

Discussion Questions

  1. If the TTIP is agreed upon what could this do to markets and jobs in both the European Union and United States?
  2. Who do you feel will have to compromise more in regards to the agriculture issues mentioned in the above article and why?
  3. The TTIP talks have been going on for awhile now. What do you see as the time table and justify?

Ag Education Challenge

Divide students into two different groups (may have to do several times depending on class sizes). Assign one group to represent the EU and the other the US. Have the two separate groups research their respective sides and beliefs for TTIP as is relates to agriculture. Have mock discussion and see if the class can come up with an agreement for the TTIP. Make sure each groups points are rooted in facts and data. Students may want to prepare an outline for use during mock trade talks.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tell Your Story!

Infographics are a popular way of sharing information. They are showing up all over social media from Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest. They inform, start conversations, make you think, or tell a story. Here are a few simple ones that I came across. After looking them over check out the challenge below!

Ag Education Challenge:

Now is the time to tell your story. In groups of 3-4 create Agriculture Infographics to share in your school/community. The key is to use visuals to help explain your information. If you are having trouble coming up with topic ideas below is a list. Think outside the box! Don't limit yourself to this list.

Possible Topics

  • Global Agriculture
  • Feeding the World
  • GMO Facts and Myths
  • Agriculture Commodities
  • Women in Agriculture
  • Agriculture Employment
  • Agriculture and the Environment
  • Family Farms
  • Agriculture Practices
Now it's time to get to work! Tell your story!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Philippines Agriculture Recovery

Just six months ago the Philippines were ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Around 600,000 hectares (1,482,000 acres) of farmland were destroyed. The hardest hit areas were rice production, coconut farms, and fisheries. Many agencies and entities stepped in to assist and because of their efforts Philippine agriculture is on the rebound. Read the article: Philippine Agriculture on the Mend then discuss the points below.

Discussion Points

  1. Do you feel the response by others following the disaster were appropriate from an agriculture standpoint? Would you have done anything differently?
  2. There are many benefits to farmers receiving certified rice seed. Discuss all of the benefits.
  3. Why is diversification the key for many of the small farmers, specifically the coconut farmers?

Additional Challenge

Ag InstructorS—Challenge your students to be policy makers and decision makers. Take your area and give a hypothetical scenario where agriculture products are destroyed due to a natural disaster (flood, drought, hurricane, wildfires, pest infestation, etc.). Take crop insurance out of the equation. How would they respond? What services would they offer? Who would provide this support? Play devil's advocate and have students justify their responses.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Corn: The China Impact

For years we have known the importance of soybeans to China and the huge player China is in regards to soybean imports. Could we see the same thing developing in regards to corn demand in China? The linked Bloomberg report certainly says so. It is predicted that by 2021 China will become the largest importer of corn around the world. Note the chart from Bloomberg and read the linked article.

China to Surpass Japan as Top Corn Buyer

Discussion Points

  1. What have been the historical trends in corn imports and exports around the globe?
  2. What is driving the increase demand for corn in China?
  3. What countries will benefit from the trend we are seeing? How will they benefit?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

World Hunger Map

World hunger issues are a constant.  We all hear the warnings that by 2050 we will have to feed over 9 billion mouths worldwide.  Today I encourage you to take a close look at world hunger with a tool provided by the World Food Programme.  Linked below you will find the World Hunger Map.  This is an interactive map that you can click on specific countries to get percent of the population undernourished and then explore factors that are contributing to this specific to each country.

World Hunger Map


Challenge your students to explore countries and have discussions in class.  You can assign students a specific country/countries and report findings to the class or have all students explore a number of countries with a high percentage of undernourished population.  After research discuss the following:

  • What are the main factors contributing to undernourishment?
  • What trends have you seen among countries and undernourishment?
  • How do we overcome these factors to feed 9 billion by 2050?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

South African Land Rights

Land right issues are nothing new to Africa. Land rights have been at the center of discussions for years. The article South Africa Proposal proposes how to deal with land rights in South Africa. This specific proposal awards land purchased by South Africa's Rural Development and Land Reform Ministry to farm workers with quantity awarded based on their years of work. You can be guaranteed there are two sides forming from this proposal and they are both outlined in this article.

After reading this article I encourage you to research the history of land rights in South Africa and have a discussion as a group.Here are some points to help guide discussion:
  1. What is the history of land rights in South Africa?
  2. What are the benefits/drawbacks to this proposal? Be sure to look at both sides of this argument.
  3. If you were making the decision what would you suggest and why? Keep proposal, scrap proposal, or modify it?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Climate Change and Food

Global warming has always been and continues to be a highly debated topic! Is it legit? What does it mean for agriculture?

When I attended the World Food Prize Conference and Borlaug Dialogue this past October climate change was one of the areas of discussion. No matter where you stand on the global warming issue they presented the facts and let you draw your own conclusions. There was one session titled "Resilience and Reality: The Future of a Climate Volatile Planet." This session did an excellent job getting you to think about "climate change" instead of "global warming." While we can't all agree on global warming I think most can agree that our climate is always changing. We have all seen severe weather swings in the past couple years (flooding, droughts, blizzards, extreme cold, etc.) One of the speakers had the following to share in regards to climate change, "It is what it is. Nature doesn't always give us bad things, we must look for opportunities to capitalize on our climate." This really put things in perspective. Yes we want to implement practices that conserve and don't harm our climate, but we also need to learn to work with what we have.

Hotter world means less food, higher costs, says UN panel: Article regarding climate change and how it will affect our food supply along with the stance of the UN. I encourage you to read this article and discuss with others.

Agriculture Education Challenge

I encourage you to think about how we are going to deal with climate change. Think about crops that are commonly grown in your area. In small groups brainstorm ways that you could alter crops or crop plans to better utilize the weather patterns and climates you are seeing in your area recently and where you see trends heading. Share and discuss your finding as a large group. Can present your information verbally or create presentations (PowerPoint or Poster).