Career Day Kids, and New Regulations.

I’m thinking this turned into quite a good day

One thing I really like to do is talk to school kids!

North Central Iowa Ag in the Classroom, is one of my favorite ways to tell about how I farm, but it specializes in grade school kids with the fairly basic ways we farm and why.

Another opportunity I have to talk to students is through the National Pork Board’s Operation Main Street. On a career day at Clarion-Goldfield-Dows High School this week, I was able to do just that. Nine different classes, four different grades all came through my assigned room on that day. My area was general ag and swine. It became apparent, very early in the day, that a lot of these kids did not have much interest in farming as a career! I normally have tons of questions- – today, not so much!! More like none! It was going to be a long day! Did I mention NINE sessions?! But what an incredible opportunity when I realized they were interested in how and why I farm.

North Iowa Ag in the Classroom

With these high school young adults, I could talk about more complex issues. There were many that were interested in an ag career. We talked about conservation, elected officials, communication skills……….and my favorite-government regulations.

Just this month, California voted in new regulations telling me and my neighbors how to raise my livestock. People that have never been on a farm, telling me how to farm! I asked each group how many lived on a farm. I received many comments about their grandparent’s farm, or an uncle’s farm, or even one young lady that lived on a farm but couldn’t tell me what they grew.

I explained what this new regulation required, and why these non-farm people thought it was a great deal for animals. The non-farm kids in my classes had the same ideas; that the animals should be able to run around outside in the sunshine on beautiful green grass and go wherever they wanted. We talked about Old McDonalds Farm and Charlotte’s Webb. Unfortunately, modern-day propaganda comes from anti-farming groups.

Then we talked about Iowa weather. The winter days with minus zero temperatures. We talked about nasty thunderstorms and lighting. We talked about predators like raccoons and coyotes. We talked about why I, as a pig farmer, started raising white pigs because they are leaner, which is what dietary concerns told us we should raise. I explained how these white lean pigs had no insulation to keep them warm, in the sub-zero weather. How when they laid outside in the summer sun, they turned red with a sunburn……….and pigs can’t sweat! We talked about modern pig barns, and that is when we talked about careers in general ag!

I’m thinking this turned into quite a good day, with many opportunities to share with future consumers, and future voters about how and why I farm! I enjoyed my day at school!

Australia….the rest of the trip!

Before I share the rest of the trip, I’d like to share some of my thoughts.

Australia-climate-map_MJC01  Deserts_in_Australia_en

Australia is a big country, comparable to the US in size of the land mass. But way fewer people. The US has about 325.7 million to only 24.13 million people in Australia. About a fourth of the population of Australia was not born there, or about six million people. I thought this was a big number until I researched the US to find out we have forty million people not born here. That is more than the total population of Australia!

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Most farms in Australia are large. Farming and ranching are extremely difficult. The weather can be extreme, to wet, to dry. Financing is difficult, 30 to 50% down makes it difficult to get started. But this is understandable with the risk. All of the farmers talked about very little support from the government. But the estate planning was much simpler. No estate or capital gains tax to close relatives.

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In Iowa, we pretty much do not change what we grow. We are spoiled with a good network of infrastructure and markets. In Australia, crops are grown for what they anticipate to be the best market. Every year can be a different crop. Most are exported to Asia.  They must anticipate what imports those countries will allow. Chickpeas had been a profitable crop the last two years, but now India had slapped on a sixty percent tariff.

Water tanks everywhere collecting from rooftops

Everywhere we went, rainwater was collected. From rooftops funneled into tanks, or creeks into holding basins……..water was very precious! We drove by a huge lake20180309_153950 that had gone dry in the eighties! As we were leaving Australia, we were being told of the floods up north, and since we have been home, I keep getting pictures of the devastation those floods are causing.



And now for the rest of the story……….

We visited a winery and we enjoyed a little wine tasting. (Always a requirement)

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We also visited a small dairy, that had added a plant to process milk. He was also buying the milk from five area dairy farms, giving them a market.



Before we flew back to Sydney, we had a couple of interesting presentations from two group, the Grain Research Development Group. This is a group similar to our commodity groups. They do research and development with the check-off dollars. In the last two years, they spent $198 million on projects. The National Farmers Federation is a group similar to our Farm Bureau. They are like an umbrella group over the commodity organizations.



We did enjoy some sights in Canberra. Canberra is the Capitol of Australia, and we visited Parliament House. And there was an amazing peak above to look down on the city. From this advantage point, we even observed some of the wildlife. Many kangaroos, and exotic birds

To end this adventure to Australia, we flew from Canberra back to Sydney. We visited a bank, the Stock Exchange, and saw many beautiful sites. I’ll let the pictures, most of which you will recognize, finish this blog.



Hope you enjoy………I did!!

I don’t think I’m buying it, Brian
Fine dining at the Parliament House





More of Amazing Australia




After a delayed flight, and rearranging our itinerary,  we made it to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Traveling from Winter in Iowa to Summer in Australia was about a sixty-degree shock! Very hot and humid as we checked out the wallabies, kangaroos, and cute little koala bears. We even watched some native dancing to the sounds of the Outback.

The next morning’s view from the hotel balcony was of the beautiful ocean. Short night, but sights to see, and Australian Ag to learn.

This group of Iowans traveled south to the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. Sugar cane was the main crop in the fields as we traveled. Fifty-five percent of Australia’s area can be grazed. Some of that grassland is very minimal. Forty percent of Australia does not produce anything for Ag. The number that stood out to me is the only 5% that can be used to grow a crop. We visited a soybean research facility. The beans looked very good in their field trials. It was interesting to find out they were genetics we used thirty and forty years ago. All non-GMO. One farmer mentioned they did not have the luxury of planting GMO. Their market is all set up for export. They received a premium for non-GMO. With only 25 million people in the whole country, they farm for export as two-thirds of their production is exported.

We visited the Port of Brisbane, where we toured the terminal of GrainCorp, the largest exporter of grain. While we were there, no ships were being loaded. With the very erratic rainfall in this country desperate at times for water, exports are boom or famine. We did see many cars and trucks that were unloaded at this part, and even a cruise ship sitting waiting for its passengers to return.

On this fifth day of our trip, we visited Gatton campus, University of Queensland. Beautiful campus that generates much of their own energy. When we walked this campus to visit some of the livestock studies, it reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”. Not sure what kind of birds, but all of the flying creatures over here made noises.  We checked out some pretty impressive facilities for beef cattle, but also quite a dairy operation. And did I mention it was raining the entire time we walked? Many of us were beginning to wonder about being told of the sunshine and heat!

We visited a farm that was operated by a father and two sons. They had some very fascinating conservation work, terraces installed in their fields. But these terraces were different. As you can see in the picture, they farmed perpendicular to them. They nicknamed them the roller coaster.  The younger son was bringing in new technology and had custom-built a no-till planter for their operation.

In Toowoomba, we visited the John Deere dealer location with the biggest volume of any John Deere dealer worldwide. Much of the equipment we saw was made right here, at home in Iowa. The cotton pickers were fascinating!

From here, we moved on to the town of Toowoomba. I really like the name of Toowoomba! It’s the gateway to the Outback, and where my Australian friend Meg lives near. Before the trip, through Facebook messenger, I had asked Meg if she lived near Toowoomba. This started the ball rolling for some very good conversation about trying to fit into our trip a BBQ, on her family’s farm. As you may have noticed, our trip was packed very full of meetings and visits, but it worked to have this reception on an evening that we did have some free time! Great food and great conversation were shared between Iowa and the farmers of Darling Downs!

We visited Kerwee Feedlot, a cattle feedlot that finishes certified Angus beef, and also Wagyu beef for the Asian market. This feed yard holds 18,500 cattle at one time. They specialize in the high-end market. This sixty-year-old company ran a very clean, well-managed operation. Many of the cattle are shipped live to the country that imports them.

We’re about half-way through our tour. I’ll finish the trip in my next blog!

Early morning view
Lavonne and Amber With Kangaroo
Lavonne & Amber feeding kangaroos
A native dance
Sugarcane felfie
Soybean Research
Iowa farmers checking out the soybean research
Explanation of the port


Cruise ship dock at the port
Vehicles that came into Australia
Gatton Campus
View of campus classrooms
Campus milking parlor
Campus milking parlor
Rob and sons, John & Andrew
Piper Family farm
Custom made planter designed by Andrew
The roller coaster terraces on Piper farm
Piper farm
Cotton picker made in Iowa
Vanderfield Machinery
Darling Downs and Iowa farmers
Meg’s BBQ
Kerwee Cattle Feedlot


Semi hauling cattle





Amazing Australia

What do a bunch of Iowa farmers do on a trip to Australia………..visit farms and a whole lot more!

This past week, I had the pleasure of accompanying twenty-five other Iowans on a farm market study tour. We covered the eastern third of the country, where crops would grow. The vast middle of Australia is desert. Most people live within fifty miles of the coast, and most farming is in a circle around the outside of the continent.Australia Map

On this trip, after leaving Iowa at 2pm on Friday, we used three flights to get to Brisbane sometime Sunday afternoon. Still being sleep deprived, I’m very fuzzy about what time we arrived on that afternoon. What felt like, and appears to be two days, was because Brisbane is 15 hours ahead of Iowa time. We really were in the “future”! When I would message with Janice in Iowa, at 6am Monday morning, it was 1pm Sunday afternoon on her clock. Most of the trip, I wasn’t sure what day it was………much less what time.

We visited a research center, where they were studying soybeans. A very little grown crop in Australia. Sugarcane was the main crop grown in this area, but soybeans are being looked at for rotation of crops.

We toured an export terminal owned by Graincorp, which was pretty much sitting idle.

We traveled around Darling Downs, a premier crop growing area. The crops are very diverse, and this area was most like Iowa. We had the privilege to attend a reception, thrown for us by my friend, Meg Kummerow. Meg brought in many of her neighbors near the town of Toowoomba. The sharing of stories and ideas by Australian and Iowan farmers was a highlight of this trip for me!Meg & LarryMeg's BBQ

Some corn is grown in the Darling Downs area for feeding cattle. We toured an eighteen thousand head cattle feeding operation that specialized in Wagyu cattle.

We flew to the city of Canberra, the nation’s capital next. We visited many beautiful sites including parliament.

Stuck Bus

From Canberra, we traveled by bus back to Sydney. On the way, we stopped at a dairy farm that had been transformed to include processing of the milk. This farmer prided himself in selling his “story”. Back in Sydney with saw amazing sites like the Opera House, The Bridge over Sydney Harbor, and had a great tour and lunch with the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly representing the Tweed area. Three days in Sydney and twelve days for this trip was, not enough time.

I will be giving presentations on this trip, but I’m thinking it would take several hours to tell. The same with blogging. I’m not going to write a “book” here and now. This will take several blogs covering different stops along our route. There is a Facebook page devoted to this trip. Go to Iowa Farm Bureau Market Study Tours, and ask to join. You will find a wealth of information and great pictures on this page………even some great videos.

I’ll share more about this trip in my next few blogs.

Borlaug Dialogue…’s more than just the World Food Prize!


Yesterday I attended The Iowa Hunger Summit in Des Moines, which is part of the activities of the World Food Prize. The event was presented by the Iowa Farm Bureau and packed with many meetings by many groups. It began with Kenneth M. Quinn, who is always entertaining with a great sense of humor.

The next hour was filled with experience! Five former USDA Secretaries, Tom Vilsack, Dan Glickman, Ann Veneman, Ed Schafer, and my favorite……Mike Johanns, had a lively discussion mainly about SNAP. Formerly known as food stamps. SNAP is part of the Farm Bill……..a big part. Almost 3/4ths of the bill goes towards feeding the “food insecure”.  A big part of the discussion was how do you define “food insecure”, and is this the way to solve the problem. All former USDA Secretaries did agree that it does need to remain a part of the Farm Bill.

The noon luncheon speaker was Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America, which is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. The meal was one of the packaged meals that are shipped to people in need. Some information she shared was about how your purchasing of food may become more efficient. She spoke of Amazon buying Whole Foods and how brick & mortar stores may be a thing of the past. She stated that you may be able to order your food from your smartphone and have it delivered by a drone or a driverless delivery vehicle. But here is my thought, which I may talk about in another blog, is that one of the biggest obstacles is the ability to purchase food if we eliminate jobs, as we have been doing with automation and technology. New jobs must be created. We tend to forget that building a brick & mortar store brings much economic activity.

This week will be filled, for the next four days, with many meetings discussing food. I am going to attend as many meetings as possible! I am attending as the Iowa lead farmer for The Farm Journal Foundations Farm Team to eliminate world food insecurity, as a Farm Bureau member, and also as an Iowa farmer.

I think it’s appropriate that as Iowa farmers, and farmers across the nation, are harvesting their crops, the World Food Prize is taking place this week in Des Moines, Iowa.




I’m Baaack… to Blogging

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog. I have been posting my blogs as a quest blogger at Since I’m starting to write again I’ve decided to develop my own webpage.

Writing ‘Musings of a Pig Farmer’ will be my own thoughts and ideas. I like to delve into how I farm, and why I do what I do. But I will also dive into controversial, political, and social issues. Probably many other things that may interest me.

This site is completely new to me and it will be a work in progress, so please bear with me as I fumble through (with the help of my wife).

I hope you enjoy my post and thank you for reading them. Feel free to share your comments with me.



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