Friday, August 31, 2012

Cody of H&K Farms

Today we welcome back Kathy of H&K Farms. Kathy has shared her story on this blog before, but is returning today to tell the story of her son and his place in agriculture as a tribute to his 18th birthday. 

Hello, this is Kathy Hasekamp of H&K Farms and I posted our story on Faces of Agriculture back in July. But I was thinking that within ‘our’ story are many stories. The story that I wanted to focus on today is our oldest son, Cody’s story. On September 5th, his 18th birthday, by the worlds’ standard he will be a man. But this young man has filled that capacity for some time now. As a little boy, it was his utter delight to ride with Dad or Grandpa in the tractor, combine, truck, or the four wheeler - you get the idea. As he grew up, he couldn’t wait to do the driving. I remember many conversations on that how he was old enough or big enough to mow the grass or take a soda to dad on the four wheeler, or whatever else he was trying to sell me on him doing at the time. 

Summer 1995 - Planting with dad at 8-months-old
Like many rural kids, when Cody turned 8, he joined 4-H, which was 10 years ago this September. He went to his first 4-H meeting which was on his 8th birthday. How appropriate that the first meeting of his last year in 4-H also falls on his birthday. Through 4-H, Cody has learned many great life skills, from working with his cattle, to welding, working on a small engine, and in later years, running the meeting as president and supervising a cabin full of campers as counselor. He’s not 100% sure what he wants to major in, in college; but 4-H has given him so many great building blocks on which to start. 

Summer 1999 - Trying out dad's pedal tractor, age 5

As Cody got older, he began helping his Dad and Grandpa on the farm. Basic beginner jobs, like raking hay, picking up square bales and evening feeding were his jobs. In the last few years, he’s driven and dumped grain trucks, did some of the planting, and helps with silage chopping. We sell seed corn and Cody always helps his dad organize the varieties and plant the test plot, which is a tedious job. Cody’s attention to detail and making sure everything is lined up as it should be are a great help to his dad. 

Summer 2003 - Showing an angus steer, age 9

In the showing of cattle, Cody is growing his herd of registered Angus cows. Out of one of his first show heifers, he raised and sold a bull. He has saved a nice nest egg towards college through the sales of his steers and other 4-H projects over the years. He has also made a wonderful network of friends through showing cattle. Of course he didn’t realize it at the time, but those kids he played and hung out with over the years will be tomorrow’s business contacts. In fact he already works with some of those kids in his hay hauling business.

As is the natural progression of things, when Cody got to high school, he joined our local FFA chapter. Through FFA, he’s broadened his skills through contest teams, meeting more friends and has been able to share his story with many more people. The chapter sells fruit each fall to raise money to attend the National Convention. In meeting and doing business with the 60 or so people he sells to, he’s had the opportunity to share parts of his day to day life with people he would have never known before, and through him, several more people see the future of agriculture in that blue corduroy jacket. Through the chapter, he’s helped at the local food bank, done yard work for the local elderly and enjoyed exhibiting at local and state fairs. 

Fall 2010 - FFA Awards, Grandpa won Chapter Hall of Fame

After he turned 16, he decided that a ‘side job’ would be a great way to have that gas money throughout the school year. During the school year, outside of chores at the farm, it’s hard for him to have a ‘job’ as he plays two sports and is active in 4-H and FFA so there is not much time left to flip burgers or whatever else he might find. So my math minded kid, sat down and figured out that if he bought an older pickup, one that he could pay cash for and just needed the basic insurance and talked Dad into making a deal on a trailer, he could start a hay hauling crew. He has the perfect pool of guys to hire from, as he plays on the football team and has a coach who is more than happy to encourage the ‘town’ guys to go and get in some conditioning in the hay field. Through his business he’s learned to keep good books and be organized with his contacts. It’s been a good life experience dealing with other people, both the farmers hiring the crew and the guys on the crew. He’s had to be flexible; he’s taught other kids how to drive a manual transmission, he’s learned to pay attention to all else going on in the community. He found out the hard way that taking a job the week of the county fair, wrestling camp and 2 a day football is going on is tough - thankfully he found enough older and younger kids to get the job done. And that not everyone is willing to kill themselves in 100 degree heat in their off hours between practices. Some life lessons learned. 

Summer 2012 - Stacking hay, age 17

Like most farm kids, Cody has many responsibilities around the farm. This summer for example, his mornings started earlier than even his dad. He went into weightlifting with the football team at 5am, 5 days a week, most of the summer. When he got back home, he worked with his dad all day, somedays he had practice or 7 on 7 league that evening, so he ‘got’ to quit early. If he wasn’t working with his dad, he was in the barn, preparing our show cattle for the fair season. The kids did most of the work in leading the calves, washing and clipping. Then there was his hay hauling, which with this year’s drought was basically done by the end of June. So some of his days started at 5am and ended well after midnight. He did get a couple of breaks this summer; we didn’t ‘work’ him all summer. He was the head counselor at 4-H camp, something that he’s went to, I believe, about every year since he joined 4-H, having been a counselor the last few years. We also exhibit at the Missouri State Fair, which we did this year as well. He did make a trip back home and catch a football practice while we were there. 

He’s a dedicated young man. I know sometimes I even forget how many irons he’s got in the fire. He keeps it all going, some days I wonder how. Helps his dad on the farm, plays sports, keeps good grades in tough classes (he is taking many dual credit classes) and still manages to get enough downtime in that he stays pretty happy and satisfied and we do too. He may not realize it, but in keeping all this going, he’s learning a strong work ethic that will take him far in this world. His dad and I will be lucky and blessed if it takes him back home to farm, but we would be thrilled to watch him conquer the world, because we are pretty sure being raised a farm kid, he could do it!

Thanks for the fantastic feature Kathy! Seeing the future of agriculture in hard working young people like Cody is an inspiration to everyone. Be sure to check out Kathy's personal blog and Facebook page to learn more about her family. 

If you or someone you know would be interested in sharing your story on this blog - please contact us! We need your stories to keep this blog going - no need to have a blog or facebook page, we would love to share everyone's story!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hog Wild with Jo Windmann the Bacon Blogger

Today we welcome Jo Windmann of the Bacon Blogger who shares about her 26,000 head family swine farm and how she is trying to change the stereotype of her industry by sharing her life through social media. 

Hidden amongst the corn and soybean fields of mid-Missouri you will find a farm family that is simply hog wild about farming—particularly the swine side of farming. My name is Jo Windmann and I created The Bacon Blogger as a way to shed some much needed light on modern pig farming and to share my family’s story to anyone and everyone willing to listen. With the help of my husband, Aaron, we try to keep the posts and videos rolling so that everyone can learn more about farming straight from the hog’s mouth. It is important to us to not only tell people about the who, what, when, where, and why of hog farming but to show them as well through both pictures and videos. Along with our blog we also have a YouTube channel called BaconCam where you can see what we do for yourself.

We are part of Cin-Way, LLC, a family owned and family operated pig farm that has been fortunate to expand enough to support not one, not two, but four separate households. The farm consists of Aaron’s entire family. He works with his parents, brother, sister, and their spouses. I help on the farm when I can but I don’t work on the farm. Turns out I don’t have the muscles for it but if I keep eating my Wheaties maybe someday……no, probably not even then. I’ll stick to playing with the little pigs and writing about the farm.

As a family, we raise around 26,000 pigs over the course of a single year in specially designed, climate controlled barns. That is a lot of snouts; however, despite our numbers we are adamant about individualized care for our pigs. It takes more time and a lot of creativity but we care enough to put in the extra effort. We are in the barns every single day and go through every single pen so we can closely look at all the pigs—even on weekends because the farm never closes or takes off for holidays. These barns also help us take better care of our pigs. The barns have heaters throughout so they are toasty warm in the winter and sprinklers and fans to keep them cool in the summer. Our pigs didn’t even notice the 100 plus degree weather or the drought in Missouri. They had fresh water and a cool breeze all summer long. Not only do they stay comfortable but there is a special monitoring system that ensures the temperature stays within a “comfort zone” and the water and feed are always flowing so they never go without. While we can’t be in the barns 24/7 we are on call 24/7 because something is amiss then we are notified via cell phone so that we can fix the problem as quickly as possible—day or night. We also work closely with animal experts and veterinarians to make sure we are taking the best care of our little piggies and are always on the lookout for ways to improve.

While we sometimes do get little piggies, we do not have any sows or nursing piglets because we only have finisher barns. This means that we only get pigs after they have been weaned off of their mother’s milk and are eating solid food. Depending on availability and which farm they come from, we get pigs as little as 12 pounds or as big as 50 pounds. We then raise them until they are market weight and ready to feed thousands of people. This is a process that is very near and dear to our hearts because the Windmann family has been doing it for generations.

The great thing about farming is how diverse it is and the options that are available to both farmers and consumers. Our family had outside “dirt hogs” for many, many years but in our area and our personal situation it just wasn’t working for us and after generations of having pigs we gave them up. Then, an opportunity came and we were able to keep raising pigs and go from barely supporting one household to supporting four. This was huge for our family’s business and it allowed us to keep the farm not only surviving but thriving. We understand that our way of farming doesn’t work for everyone but that is what’s so great about agriculture—there is no one “right way” to do it. 

There are other perks to our family farm. We get to raise our kids on the farm because we literally farm our backyard. We live where the pigs live…well, not right in the barns but we are in the same general vicinity. Not only that but our kids get to help raise their own food which is unique to farming and is an amazing opportunity to teach respect and responsibility while building an appreciation for just what it takes to put food on the table. Our kids get to experience and be a part of the entire process from start to finish and they are already #agproud for all you tweeps out there.

Along with caring for our kids alongside our pigs we are also caring for our environment. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed or thought about it before but pigs poop. I don’t mean a little squat here and there but I’m talking some serious dung. But we do something really cool with it (yes, I’m saying crap is cool and no I am not mentally insane…as far as you know). We use the poop as a natural fertilizer that not only rebuilds the top soil but it is also a great example of how old can become new. Farmers for generations used manure as fertilizer and here we are still doing it today but we have slightly different application techniques.

We have an amazingly accurate system that literally knifes the manure directly into the ground so that all the nutrients stay right where we need them. Because we test the soil and test the manure regularly we know exactly how much nutrients we have in the manure and how much of that we need to add to our soil. We are also cutting down significantly on the odor because this system covers the poop after it plops. Our natural fertilizer also reduces our use of chemical-based fertilizers like anhydrous ammonia and it is renewable because pigs aren’t going to stop pooping anytime soon. This really is an amazing system and I encourage you to watch The Scoop on Pig Poop to see for yourself.

While I could talk about farming and pooping (not me, gross! the pigs) all day long I’m sure you are anxious to check out all the fun stuff on The Bacon Blogger and BaconCam. Please feel free to ask any questions or share any concerns you may have about pig farming. You can contact me through my blog, Facebook, or twitter. Be sure the show that you’re Hog Wild by liking The Bacon Blogger on Facebook too. Thank you so much for learning about farming and I look forward to future conversations whether you’re hog wild or just wild about hogs. I even love to hear from you if you just want to tell me I’m crazy. From our farm to your fork keep the pork sizzlin’ and your family salivatin’.

Thanks for the fantastic feature Jo! If you want to learn more about hog farming and Jo's operation visit her blog, her youtube site, or twitter. Remember, to keep this blog going and the stories flowing, we need you to contribute! No need to have a blog or be involved in social media, we just want to share stories of those in agriculture. Contact us today if you or someone you know is interested!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Trevor Smith

Today's feature we hear from Trevor Smith of Georgia. He is doing what he loves - farming and raising his family!

Greetings from the Deep South! Our farm is tucked away right in the center of south Georgia, about 15 miles north of Douglas. Tobacco was king here until the '90s, and at one time Douglas had the largest tobacco market in the state of Georgia. Times have changed however, and though there is still some tobacco grown in our area. The local farmers have greatly diversified. Now our area is known for its broiler houses, cotton, and blueberries.

My name is Trevor Smith, and I grew up on a small row crop/tobacco/hog farm. My dad and mom grew up farming; all my grandparents, great-grandparents...basically as far up the family tree as you can climb; they've all been farmers. As the saying goes, farming is in my blood. All I've ever wanted to do was farm. God blessed me to be the valedictorian of my high school class, and many doors were opened to me. After much thought and prayer I decided to forego college. Through it all my focus and desire was the same - to farm and to raise a family on the farm. So, my dad brought me into partnership with him (and later, my brother as well), and we've grown into a mid-sized farm for our area. This year we have 1,200 acres of cotton, 1,100 acres of peanuts, and 150 acres of watermelons. We are also members of Osceola Cotton Co. a cotton gin owned by a group of farmers (I currently serve as a board member), and Tifton Quality Peanuts (more on that below).

In 2002, I started dating Christy, a local girl I had known all my life who had also grown up on a farm. After seven weeks of dating, I popped the question, she said yes, and nine years and two kids later we are still going strong. We both grew up with strong Christian beliefs and have kept Christ at the center of our marriage, our life, and our farm.

Christy's dad was a watermelon farmer, and with her knowledge of the produce industry we were able to add watermelons to our operation in 2007. They are marketed under the name of Smith Quality Produce. We have upped our acreage every year since we began. Christy oversees the watermelon production and also serves as our broker. Watermelon harvest is the main focus of Christy and myself during the summer with my dad and brother taking care of the cotton and peanuts.

Watermelons are still harvested the old-fashioned way - by lots of manual labor. First the cutters go through the field, cutting the ripe fruit off the vines and rolling them belly-up so the loaders can see them. The loaders pass the watermelons onto a trailer filled with empty boxes, where they are packed according to size. The trailers are pulled to our packing shed, where we unload them them with a forklift, and then load them directly into a semi trailer. This year, we loaded over 200 semi loads of watermelons from late May until early August.

There is no such thing as a typical day on our farm. Things vary so much from season to season, even from week to week. However, since we are about to enter peanut harvest, let me hit the highlights. Many people are unaware of this, but peanuts grow in the ground, not on trees. So the first step to harvesting peanuts is to get them out of the ground. This is done by an inverter, which digs the peanuts up, then flips the plant upside down so that the sun can dry the peanut. After the peanuts have dried sufficiently (usually 5-7 days), we run them through a tractor pulled combine, which separates the peanut from the vine. The vines can be rolled for hay, or left on the ground for fertilizer. We haul the peanuts in bulk a peanut mill, which cleans and grades them, and then ships them to Tifton Quality Peanut. TQP is a farmer owned shelling plant with 100+ farmers owning shares. There the peanuts are shelled and shipped to domestic and foreign customers.

I can't imagine living any other way than on the farm. It's all I've ever known and all I ever hope to know. There is no better place to raise a family, to instill a good work ethic in your children; to see the mighty hand of God at work, than right here. Sure, there are tough times. In 2011, we experienced the worst drought this area had seen in many, many years. In times like those, I think back to all those farmers before me, and I know that if they could make it, with God's help, I can too.

Thanks for reading, and now you can say you know another peanut farmer besides Jimmy Carter!

You can follow my blog at, and follow me on Twitter @GaFarmer80.

Thank you Trevor for a great feature and teaching us more about peanuts and watermelon production!! Be sure to check out his blog and if you would like to be a feature - please contact us!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Jasik Family

Today we are delighted to have a feature written by Brittni Drennan the Communications Coordinator for the International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA). We hope to continue to work with Brittni and bring you more features like the Jasik's!

There are a few producers in our demanding, competitive industry who inspire all of us to work harder, be more optimistic, and strive daily to achieve our goals while building integrity instead of just a product. These hardworking cattlemen were building fence with their fathers before they were old enough to go to school and driving tractors well before they had their license. They are those kind of producers whom you hold a high respect for. Meet the Jasik family.

Dustin grew up in the little quiet town of Pleasanton, Texas, where he learned all about the cattle business from his dad, Larry. Dustin worked alongside his dad and followed his every step. Everything Dustin knows about feeding cows, herd management, buying bulls and even fixing fence, he learned from his dad.

“My dad is my biggest influence. He raised me and he’s my best friend,” Dustin said. “We help and learn from each other. I guess that’s how we make it as partners.”

Larry and Dustin partnered to establish “Jasik Hay Farms”. They now run close to 500 Brangus cows for commercial production and have 1,300 acres for coastal hay production, but it was not a short road getting to that point. Dustin started his own business from scratch at age 14 when his dad helped him buy his first set of cows. Just three years later, he leased some land and bought 50 Brangus cows. Dustin, who solely through perseverance and hard work, built a successful business without having anything handed to him.

“If you’re starting from scratch, you have to start out small and grow from there,” Dustin said. “We started from nothing 18 years ago, and being a first generation farm sets us apart.”

Dustin’s biggest critic, he said, is his wife, Kate. The young couple met at a dance after Kate moved from Comfort to Pleasanton when she was 18. Kate was unfamiliar with the agriculture industry growing up, and had limited knowledge about the cattle business. Much like Dustin learned from his father, Kate learned from her husband and took new challenges head on.

“I didn’t know anything about cattle before I met Dustin,” Kate said. “He taught me everything I know. Now we just like to drive around and look at cattle on the farm together.”

Kate contributes significantly to the success of the business. While the guys are sorting cows, she examines the quality and helps with culling. With a smile on her face the size of Texas, Kate doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. She drives the tractor and helps harvest hay in the summer.

Kate also does the marketing work for the family business designing and placing advertisements, managing the website and publicizing the farm on Facebook. She said there are numerous advantages to using social media, and she uses several venues to publicize the family’s achievements and create awareness and publicity for their business. Using platforms such as Facebook directs people to their website and increases visibility. After advertising their big win in San Antonio last year, Kate said she saw an increase in traffic to their Facebook page and website.

“Social media is a source of free advertising that increases publicity without the cost of print advertising,” Kate said.

Other than exploiting Facebook and the farm’s website to increase interaction with customers, Kate is working on starting a blog. She said because more and more people are joining the social media movement, it is advantageous for producers to utilize these new tools to more effectively communicate with a new audience.

“I think there are a lot of younger people wanting to stay in the ag business but don’t have the resources. Advocacy draws people to our industry,” Kate said, ”and our industry must keep up with the times and explore new ways to communicate with young people.”

Between feeding cows and helping her husband, Kate does not miss a beat even with a little one on her hip. The couple had a boy, Barin, in May 2011 and are proud to raise him on a farm learning the cattle business just like Dustin did.

“We live here on the farm and working together allows us to spend more time together,” Dustin said. “We get a lot of joy being able to raise our son on the farm and look forward to teaching him a lot.”

The Jasik family has faced difficult challenges just like other producers have recently. Dustin attributes their continued success to being self sufficient with their hay production and the quality of their Brangus cattle.

“We drive on quality in our replacement females. That’s what we raise and what we market,” Dustin said. “We’re not necessarily trying to grow in numbers. We focus on quality and strive to keep satisfied customers, raising what they want and need, and that’s heifers that will breed easily, milk well and handle well.”

Dustin mentioned several reasons why he breeds his commercial cows to Brangus bulls. He said the primary reason he likes Brangus is the breed’s ability to perform in the harsh South Texas climate. Brangus cows breed back more easily, are more docile, handle better and have very little udder problems from what Dustin has experienced. Additionally, he said they always seem to top the market without fluctuating.

“There’s a market for Brangus bull calves or female calves. Brangus adapt well to different climates, they’re hardy, good quality and good breeders with good mothering-ability,” Dustin said.

Dustin said he responds to their customers’ needs and continually focuses on improving quality. To ensure this high quality, Dustin and Larry enroll their females in the Brangus Gold program, a service provided by the International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA) that verifies Brangus genetics in commercial females.

“Having been using Brangus Gold for a year, [it] validates quality. The tags reassure our customers who are buying our replacement females that we’re breeding to registered Brangus bulls,” Dustin said.

The Jasiks take pride in the business they have built. They consider their biggest reward winning the San Antonio All-Breed Sale Overall Grand Champion in 2011. This was only the second time in the last 19 years that the Brangus breed received the title. They have also had several Breed Champion Brangus Bred Heifers and Pairs over the last eight years.

The Jasiks have an inspiring story to tell- one of tough challenges and many triumphs. Families like the Jasiks motivate us to work harder and live better.

“You can’t just give up the first dry spell you hit,” Dustin said. “You can’t give up because it will pay off in the end.”

Thank you Brittni for this great feature! Be sure to check out and their Facebook page and blog. To learn more about the Jasik's visit their webpage and blog.

Remember - we need your stories to make this blog possible. Contact us about being a feature!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Elizabeth and Wade

Greetings from the Midwest! This is the other half of “Faces of Agriculture” and if you are reading this feature it means that we had a lull in responses to our blog! Tisk Tisk…So that means you need to be contacting us so we can feature YOU!

My husband and I are beginning farmers – currently living off the farm. We own 4 head of purebred Hereford heifers. The ladies live on Wade’s (my husband’s) parent’s farm about 100 miles from our current living situation. This December they will take a field trip to my parent’s home to meet their Angus bull. We hope love is in the air this winter and that we will have our first calf crop next fall.

Our situation is different. We had to move off the farm for work. We live in a modest apartment in a college town. We have a roping dummy chained to the bike rack in front of our apartment complex and we dream about having a farm of our own. While I am working in the office, Wade is working odd jobs at a local sale barn. We are saving money and looking for land to rent/own so we can move our 4 girls closer and expand our herd. Of course we are looking forward to next year – as we hope the drought will be over and the conditions will be more ideal for cattle. We can’t afford to buy much hay as it is. Luckily the in-laws have pasture and hay to spare – otherwise our venture into the cattle business would be over pretty darn quick.

Both of us have been involved in agriculture our entire life. Both born and raised on the farm. I was raised on a diversified farm. Growing up we had hogs – from farrow (birth) to finish (market weight), cow/calf and crops. Now a day’s we have the cattle, and row crops. I was a very active member of FFA in high school. I went on to college and received a degree in Agriculture Science with an emphasis on business.

Wade was born into a family that dealt with cattle and horses. He was involved in 4-H. Wade went to a tech school and learned about carpentry and has worked since high school with a construction crew putting up pole barns. I’ve been teaching him some pointers on crops and he has been teaching me to ride and rope.

While writing this I asked Wade, "why did we decided to get cattle and start down this road?" The only answer we can come up with is that - cattle and farming is what we know and grew up with. We were raised in agricultural households and want to give our children the same experiences and opportunities we had - working with the land and animals. It's our heritage. It's as simple as that. I know that if you were to ask folks involved in agriculture their answer would be pretty much the same.

I have a personal blog where I post things that happen to us along our way. Our "ramblins". Wade even helps – he is the chief writer/story teller in a series we have been calling “Cattle Calamity,” which highlights some of his misadventures at the sale barn and cattle handling in general. I write about things that matter to me and love to post farm photos. Wade also moonlights with a rodeo stock contractor so we spend a fair amount of time at rodeos – which is a favorite thing of mine to photograph.

My favorite thing about working on the farm is being able to get my hands dirty and work hard. I love digging around in the garden or helping with the livestock. My mom probably put it the best she always says jokingly, "we are people of the land," we wouldn't be happy if we didn't have that connection with the land.

I also like talking to other people about agriculture and learning about different practices and operations. That’s the main reason I am so excited about Faces of Agriculture – it’s a dream come true to contact ranchers and farmers and learn about what they are doing!

As I’ve mentioned I enjoy working with the land and animals. It’s a great feeling however; it’s not a calling for everyone. I wish people would understand that those involved in farming and ranching are not in the business solely for the money – there are easier ways earn a living! Ag is an industry ruled by weather and nature. I think that fact makes our industry very special. Farms allow us to watch the entire life story unfold: from birth to death farmers and ranchers witness all. And we truly understand that there is a time and purpose for everything under heaven. A lot of us have been involved in this circle of life for many many years – centuries even. So it’s understandable that we take attacks from HSUS (Humane Society of United States) and other outside interest groups very personal. Get to know your farmers, and you will get to know the truth about agriculture!

Does this fella look familiar? He is our profile photo currently on our Facebook page - my dad!

Thanks Elizabeth for the feature! And be sure to visit her blog and Facebook page .

If you would like to be a FOA feature - contact us! We need your story to keep the blog going strong!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Zeorian Harvesting

Today, we feature Tracy Zeorian of Zeorian Harvesting and trucking.  She and her family has deep roots in agriculture as they continue to carry on a family business - chasing the ripening wheat from Texas to Montana.

Zeorian Harvesting & Trucking of Manley, NE unknowingly began its existence in the early 1950’s. This is when my Grandpa purchased a combine and headed for Oklahoma as a custom harvester. It was the spring of 1974 when my Grandma approached me with the idea of traveling with them that summer to help her. I was 12 and thought going with my Grandpa and Grandma all summer seemed too good to be true. I was going to “get” to help Grandma with the duties involved with having a wheat harvest crew – grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, meals, etc.

The idea of keeping Grandpa and Grandma’s little trailer house clean intrigued me and the fact that I would get to spend the summer – all summer – with them was something I had never done. Grandpa and Grandma had always been gone during the summer months and harvest was something I really knew nothing about except that it meant they were gone. Grandma and I made a perfect team! She and I would head to town to do the laundry at the local laundromat and get groceries. If I was lucky, it would also involve a pizza for lunch at Pizza Hut and a “Black Cow” (rootbeer float). A really good day meant shopping for school clothes!

Then, one day, Grandma left me in the field with Grandpa. Grandpa put me in his 750 Massey combine, showed me how to make it work and I was hooked! It was an unfortunate mistake on Grandma’s part. From then on, whenever I could be in the combine, that’s where you would find me! I still had to be Grandma’s #1 right hand, but the wheat field was (and is) where I really wanted to be.

The combine I learned how to drive when I was only 12 years old. Look closely…that’s me in the header helping Grandpa clean the combine before moving to the next job. 

One piece of advice my Grandma shared with me at an early age was, “WHATEVER you do, don’t marry a harvester”. Jim was a hired man for my Grandpa – hazards of the trade! We were married April 1982. At that time, Jim wasn’t a harvester; he was an electrician. We purchased our first used 760 Massey the fall of 1983. Jim had fallen in love with the industry, too. When my Grandpa and Dad approached him with the idea of joining Hancock Harvesting, we jumped on the proposal. Unfortunately, I was left behind. I had a full time job and we decided we needed the steady income to help pay the household bills while we were trying to make this work. This absolutely KILLED me! I would drive to where the harvesters were once in awhile but it just made matters worse. It was so hard to leave when I had to go back to work.

Jamie was born December 1985 and Jenna followed in April 1988. Jim was still following the harvest route…without us. It never got any easier for me when I’d see those loaded machines heading down the highway without me. By spring of 1990, Dad and Grandpa decided it was time for them to break free from the wheat route. Jim was driving truck for a local company hauling loads to Western Nebraska. It was on one of those trips that he saw loaded combines heading south and the bug bit him again. Could we do this with one combine? It would mean hiring someone to help Jim in the field and the girls and I would “have” to go too. We decided it was worth a try. We traded the Massey for a brand new Case combine, borrowed my grandparent’s trailer house and pickup and we headed for Lodgepole, NE. That summer, we only went to Lodgepole. The next year, we headed back to Lodgepole and then decided to make the long haul to Montana (following the familiar path my grandparents had done so many years). In 1992, we embarked on the full harvest run, beginning in Oklahoma and finishing in Montana. This year marks our 30th year of being involved with the wheat harvest trek.

Zeorian Harvesting in 1990 (Lodgepole, NE)

Today, we are still traveling the Midwest every summer chasing the ripening wheat from Texas to Montana. We added two more daughters to the mix, Taylor in 1994 and Callie in 1997. They still pack their belongings in the trailer house each spring and travel the route with us. Jamie and Jenna wish they were still with us.

In 2001, a change occurred. This was the year we decided Jamie and Jenna were old enough to take over the household duties (my job) and I would go to the field with Jim. I was ecstatic!! I was going to be back in the field again and the money we would have paid a hired hand would go to the girls for their college fund. This worked and continues to work for us. In April, Jim will begin the job of getting the equipment road ready. By the first of May, we are generally packing the trailer house (40 ft. fifth wheel) for the 100+ days we’ll be living in it. By mid May, we are closing down our home, mowing the yard for the last time and contacting utility services in preparation of hitting the road again.

Our summer begins in Texas. It takes us two trips to get the equipment to each stop. When we leave a destination, Jim will drive the Peterbilt truck pulling the combine trailer (combine is on the trailer) and grain trailer combination. I pull the header trailer (and header) with our Freightliner straight truck. Once we reach our new destination, Jim and I will drive the Peterbilt back to the original starting point. The second trip involves the Pete pulling the trailer house, I drive a pickup and Taylor and Callie will drive the car. This happens each time we have to move. We have a stop in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and two in Montana.

Getting the combine road ready.

As I mentioned earlier, Jim and I are in the field. I love being in the combine and could be there every day. The problem is Jim also enjoys being in the combine. Most of the summer, he and I will take turns fillingtrucks and driving the combine. I fill my truck (Freightliner) while Jim’s taking his truck (Peterbilt) to the elevator. When he gets back, I take my truck to the elevator and he jumps in the combine. We both get our combine “fix” this way.

While we’re in the field, Taylor and Callie are back at the home front (trailer house) taking care of the necessary duties…grocery shopping, laundry, post office, meals, etc. Generally, I will make sandwiches for lunch and the girls will fix a nice evening meal. If it works, they’ll haul it to the field and we’ll have the typical harvest end gate meal. This is a nice break for Jim and me and the girls enjoy being able to hang out in the field for the evening. No one job in this family run business is more important than another. It takes all of us working together to produce the high quality outcome that we take pride in providing our farmer. Once the last acre of wheat is cut, we’ll load the equipment, move down the road and start all over again in a new town.

Zeorian Harvesting & Trucking
Left to right – Jim, Tracy, Callie, Jamie & Curt Hermesch
Jenna & Taylor

This lifestyle has been called an "addiction" by a few and loved by many! The custom harvester provides a service to the American farmer by providing the necessary equipment to harvest their crops in a timely and efficient manner – which is of utmost importance. I have a passion for this lifestyle and enjoy sharing our journey through my blog, our Facebook page, and my Twitter.

To learn more about the custom harvesting industry and how important we are in getting food to your table, please follow Zeorian Harvesting’s annual journey. You can also check out what’s going on in the custom harvesting world by visiting the U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. website or Facebook page.

Thank you Tracy for opening our eyes to a different and vital part of agriculture!  If you would like to learn more about becoming a Face of Agriculture Feature - like Tracy and her family - please contact us today! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Jesse Bussard

Today we hear from Jesse Bussard a young agriculturist! She is very passionate about agriculture and her role in that aspiring task!

Hello, I’m Jesse Bussard, better known as Pearl Snaps to my friends and the blogosphere thanks to the name of my agriculture blog, Pearl Snaps’ Ponderings. You can read more about the story behind my nickname here.

I was raised in the south central Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania and am the fifth generation of my family to be involved directly in agriculture. My family owns a small cow-calf operation where they raise Hereford-Angus crossbred beef cattle. I grew showing livestock in 4-H and was an avid equestrian from the age of 5. Growing up, you were more likely to find me in the saddle or at the barn with my horse than anywhere else.

While it may seem to many that agriculture has always been my passion, it wasn’t always the case. When I graduated from high school in 2003 my life was somewhat of a mess and I had no direction in my life. It took 3 years and some very influential people to steer me onto the path I’m on now.

I went on to attend Penn State University, majoring in Animal Science. There I became involved with clubs like Block & Bridle, the Collegiate Cattlewomen, Agronomy Club, and the Equine Research Team. A part-time job at the USDA-ARS Pasture Lab and, later on, at the university’s agronomy research farm sparked an interest in forage and grazing research. Upon graduation in December of 2010, I decided to pursue this interest further by attending graduate school at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington to get my Masters degree in Crop Science. Along the way I started my blog, got involved in agvocacy efforts both on campus and online, and discovered I had a knack for writing. This has led to many great opportunities and new friendships.

Currently I’m still in Lexington and will be defending my Master thesis in a little less than 3 weeks. You might say the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight! What I’m going to do when I get to that light, however, has yet to be decided. Wherever I go and whatever I do, I know one thing for sure…I’ll continue to use my knowledge, skills, and talents for the betterment of agriculture. It’s my passion, my purpose, and like Thomas Jefferson once said: "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness."

Learn more about Jesse’s story on her blog, Pearl Snaps’ Ponderings. In addition to her personal blog, Jesse also writes for Beef Producer and Feedstuffs. You can connect with Jesse via her blog’s Facebook Page, Twitter (@cowgirljesse and @pearlsnapsblog), Google+, Tumblr, or email (

If you are interested in being a feature on Faces of Agriculture contact us!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Liz Lauck

Meet Liz Lauck of Wyoming. Liz works with Wyoming farmers and ranchers on a daily basis. She is one of the faces behind the great website! Her husband Tyler is busy on the farm and together they are today's Face of Agriculture Feature!

Growing up on our small horse operations in Wyoming and Colorado, my parents, Steve and Amy LeSatz, modeled a strong work ethic and taught my brother, Ben, and I the cattle and horse industries. My upbringing instilled a passion centered in agriculture and my Christian faith.

I attended the University of Wyoming to earn a B.S. in Agricultural Communications. While in college, I stayed connected to agriculture through my service as Wyoming State FFA Treasurer and my internships with the Platte County Extension Service, the Wyoming State Fair, the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and the National Western Stock Show.

My home is now in Wheatland, Wyo. with my husband, Tyler, who farms wheat, malt barley, pinto beans, sugar beets and corn. He is teaching me the ropes of farm life and I’m learning about the amazing technology and updated practices that are carrying agriculture into the future. Tyler is the true “Face of Agriculture.”

I graduated from UW in 2009 and was recruited as an intern for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. They were embarking on a new project in partnership with Encana Oil and Gas called Community Dialogues for Rural Wyoming (CDRW). Through CDRW we visited five rural Wyoming communities to conduct “listening sessions” about sustaining agriculture and rural communities. After analyzing the feedback, we discovered one common thread in all the discussions. Every community wanted to share their core values with the public, disseminate truthful and positive agriculture messages to correct misperceptions and educate consumers and policy makers about agriculture and rural issues.

My coworker and mentor, Kosha Olsen, and I looked at each other and said, “We need a blog.” We were inspired by Ree Drummond (a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman) who through creative content, beautiful photography and a unique personality is able to share stories from her rural Oklahoma ranch to literally tens of thousands of people each day, many of which have never so much as stepped foot in a cow pasture. So I went back into the communities and pitched the idea. After my presentation on the power of blogs and social media, they agreed to try it out and was born.

We launched in June 2010. Folks from each community sent their stories for me to post. We paired the blog with Twitter and Facebook accounts and later added a YouTube channel. We’ve had stories about monitoring rangeland, pulling calves out of snow banks, high altitude gardening, 4-H projects and many, many more. Over the past two years, the blog has had thousands of hits and our Facebook page has grown to more than 1,400 regular followers from 19 countries. We continue a steady growth to achieve our goal of sharing “what really happens in the meadows, mountains and Main Streets of Wyoming.”

Encana has continued to be a supportive partner and with their ongoing funding, we’ve traveled across the state to meet with “RealRanchers” and take photos and videos for blog content. Those posts are still in the works and will be published over the coming months.

During my travels I participated in a tour of the Jonah Field, a very large oil and gas field near Pinedale, Wyo. The resemblances between energy workers and agriculturists were striking. They are all so proud of the work they do to provide vital resources to the world. This inspired me to start a new section of the blog, called RealEnergy. RealEnergy does the same thing as RealRanchers; tells the real stories of Wyoming’s rural citizens. There is so much misinformation about both industries and, in Wyoming, both industries are greatly intertwined. So keep checking back as evolves!

I’ve been a WSGA staff member for more than three years now and am now the Communication and Publications Director. In addition to, I also publish our quarterly CowCountry magazine and our monthly No Bull Sheet newsletter. I coordinate media relations, help plan events, serve on boards and promote the livestock industry any other way we can. I am proud that all my work is in service to an organization that has represented Wyoming livestock producers since 1872 (we’re 140 years old this year!).

Thanks to Liz for this great feature and sharing the background of the website. I encourage everyone to visit this page for stories and info on our great farmers and ranchers in Wyoming! Be sure to like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter!

Are you passionate about agriculture? Do you feel the need to share you story with others? Perfect! We need to hear from you! Contact us today about being a feature FOA! Be sure to visit our Facebook page for updates about FOA and past features!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Uncle Monty & Kahua Ranch

Today we welcome 4Ag Hawaii who shares the story of "Uncle Monty", a Hawaii cattle industry icon. Monty will turn 83 next month and is still going strong in the agricultural and cattle industry! 

Herbert Montague Richards (Uncle Monty) was born on Kahua Ranch in 1929. Kahua means "the beginning; the source or foundation" and is located on the western slope of the Kohala Mountains, 3,000 feet above sea level just 12 miles from the town of Waimea, Hawaii. The 8,500 acre ranch grazes cattle, sheep and horses from the mountains to the coastal shoreline.

Monty is a fifth-generation kama'aina and is considered an innovator by many for his efforts in introducing alternative renewable energy to Kahua Ranch; as well as being the first on Hawaii Island to use rapid rotational grazing. He has been further credited with leading the field in hydroponic farming, wind and solar energy. He currently serves as Chairman and Trustee of Kahua Ranch.

He is a true community leader, serving on many boards such as the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, Hawaii Commission on Water Resource, Bank of Hawaii, Parker Ranch, 4 Ag Hawaii and was a regent at the University of Hawaii for 16 years. He was inducted into the Paniolo Hall of Fame in 2000.

Monty lives as he believes saying "we have a responsibility to our land and our people to perpetuate this life and heritage for future generations" - no one doubts he is doing just that.

Thanks to Uncle Monty and Kahua Ranch for being an inspiration to all of us who have been touched by his spirit and passion.

Thanks again 4Ag Hawaii for sharing Monty's story with us - it's so exciting to hear about agriculture in Hawaii! You can learn more about agriculture in Hawaii at the 4AgHawaii website, and their facebook page. If you or someone you know would be interested in sharing your story with us, please contact us, we need your story today!