Katie Pinke / Agweek Publisher
Nearly 70,000 attendees are expected at the 92nd annual FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis from Oct. 30 through Nov. 2. To compare the attendance size, each Republican and Democratic convention in 2016 drew in about 50,000 visitors and attendees. All major news media convenes and hones in on the details and happenings of those conventions for weeks. But unless you live in Indianapolis or are connected to one of the 8,612 local FFA chapters in the United States, Puerto Rico or U.S. Virgin Islands, you might not hear or read about the FFA convention.
The 94th annual Sauerkraut Day was held Oct. 9 in Wishek, N.D. What makes Sauerkraut Day a success? In vats in the City Hall garage, 114 gallons of sauerkraut is cooked with 200 pounds of speck, pork fat similar to prosciutto or pork belly. The scents waft around the small south-central North Dakota community of 935 people. Added in are 500 pounds of Cloverdale red hot dogs, or red weiners as the locals say.
Do you remember the early October blizzard that hit western South Dakota six years ago? Storm Atlas it was named. Three-plus feet of sudden snow devastated cattle and calves still out on summer pastures. It was a disastrous blow to ranchers both in loss of livestock, genetics, and cattle they had been raising for generations and a huge financial loss.
I stand with cheeseburgers. It's the most political statement I'll make in this column all year. Food choices abound in America. A leading Democratic presidential candidate, California Sen. Kamala Harris already made headlines for her comments on how she loves cheeseburgers from "time to time" but if elected she would drastically change the food pyramid and dietary guidelines, with a goal of reducing red meat consumption.
"You know farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." Dwight D. Eisenhower Eisenhower's quote is from September 1956, when the president gave an address at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. Now 63 years later, I keep it handy on a metal wall sign as a reminder to always stay close to the industry rooted in me and what I love, agriculture.
What is vertical farming? It is an agricultural practice of vertically growing food on an inclined surface. I have heard the term and considered vertical farming more for urban populations and city centers. But to get a look at vertical farming I didn't travel to a city. Instead, my AgweekTV colleague and I went to New London, Minn., pulled off a rural road and, in between corn and soybean fields, walked into what once was an empty pole building. Today the building is home to 180 acres of vertical lettuce farming and headquarters of Lettuce Abound.
How much food waste is in America? Anywhere from 30% to 40% of our food is lost or wasted. First, this is food that could end food insecurity and hunger. Second, food waste is a huge waste of land use, water, energy and inputs in addition to the transportation, processing, storage, preparation and disposal of wasted food.
You might have a favorite team on September 7 when the University of North Dakota football team travels to play in the FargoDome against North Dakota State. It goes back decades on who and why we cheer for the team we do and sometimes it changes. Generations of our family are rooted in North Dakota sports. My dad played basketball at UND in the 1970s. My parents both graduated from UND. Most of my mom's family graduated from NDSU. My aunt played basketball for NDSU in the 1980s. I transferred to UND and was on the track team, throwing the discus and am a UND alumnus.
In early August, I ventured to Farmfest in Redwood County, Minn. and toured a hops demonstration area with the Minnesota Hops Growers Association. As a barley farmer's daughter, I know a little about growing malting barley but had never seen hops or visited with a hops grower. Hops are the flower that adds the bitter taste and aroma to beer. The popularity of growing hops has grown as the craft beer industry has grown, creating a demand for locally grown hops.
Do you visit farmers markets? It hasn't been a regular routine of mine but through the years I like to visit different farmers markets when I travel. It's interesting to see the variety offered at farmers markets throughout the country, from rural, small-town markets to large city markets.