Summer 2k15: Adventures in College Internships

College interns refilling coffee cups? Whether that is a thing of the past or I have simply lucked out, my summer internships have far surpassed those low, almost degrading, expectations. Thank you, ISU Extension and Farm Credit Services of America for hiring PAID interns and providing us with meaningful and (mostly) enjoyable work.

This summer, as an incoming junior at Dordt College, I am doing my dream job- learning how to provide valued relationships and financial services to local farmers. In other words, I’m a financial officer intern for Farm Credit Services of America. If you would like to learn more about the company or apply for a line of credit (wink wink), check out their website:

https://www.fcsamerica.com/

My adventure with Farm Credit Services (FCS) began last fall when I somehow managed to get hired as one of 16 interns out of a pool of 400 applicants. FCS covers a four-state territory. I am stationed in the Red Oak, IA retail office, but I am also spending time in the Harlan, IA office as well as FCS headquarters in Omaha, NE for periodic meetings with the other interns.

Two weeks in, I am learning and loving my internship more every day. Naturally, my inner-English-nerd prods me to write about my experiences and share them with the poor souls still reading this jumble of words I call a blog. My original intentions to blog  weekly updates on my internship have already joined my other bucket list failures…who wants to do 10 burpees a day anyway?! Needless to say, I will try to blog as often I can.

Thus, an adventure begins. Hope you’re along for the ride.

U.S. 4x100m relay team stripped of 2012 Olympic silver medals

Wow! Shame on the USA!

OlympicTalk

The 2012 U.S. Olympic 4x100m relay team that finished behind Jamaica in London has been stripped of its silver medals by the International Olympic Committee due to Tyson Gay‘s doping.

“As expected, following USADA’s decision in the Tyson Gay case, the IOC today confirmed that the U.S. team has been disqualified from the 4×100-meter race that was part of the athletics competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games,” USOC chief communications officer Patrick Sandusky said in a statement. “We will begin efforts to have the medals returned, and support all measures to protect clean athletes.”

Gay failed drug tests in summer 2013 and first used a product that contained a prohibited substance on July 15, 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said, less than three weeks before his first race at the London Olympics. All of his results during that span were disqualified, including the Olympics.

In London, Gay was part…

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Dordt College Ag Day 2015 a Huge Success

One day out of the year, the campus of Dordt College comes alive with the sights, sounds, and smells of agriculture. It is the Agriculture Department’s day to shine. The 2015 edition of Ag Day turned out to be a huge success, despite a deluge of rain in the early morning.

Planning this 4-hour event begins months in advance. The Dordt College Ag Club delegates an entire committee to coordinate events with people and businesses in the community. The purpose of Ag Day is to showcase the talents and hard work of farmers and Dordt ag students, educate the public about agriculture, and provide fun and interactive opportunities for people to get involved.

An aerial view of Ag Day 2013

An aerial view of Ag Day 2013

Games include sack racing, tire throwing, and hay bale rolling. Local machinery dealerships bring in tractors, skidsteers, sprayers, combines, semis, and utility vehicles. Ag Club members serve locally-raised pulled pork lunches to a hungry crowd. Professional livestock judges mediate a livestock judging contest for area high school students. Photo shoots with baby animals are a favorite of college students. Country music blaring through loudspeakers and antique tractors that line the sidewalks make it difficult for non-ag students to tune out the festivities.

This year, I volunteered to help with a part of Ag Day called Agvestigations. From 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM, we led several hundred preschoolers and 5th graders through a series of interactive workshops. Instead of writing about it, I have decided to share my day with you in the form of videos and pictures.

In the following video, a local agronomist gets the kids fired up about the grain aspect of agriculture.

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In the following video, the kids are wrapping up their day by shouting out the answers to quiz questions they were given at the beginning of the day. Andrea Borup, a fellow ag student, did an awesome job of leading Agvestigations this year.

Sioux County, Iowa: Modern-Day Promised Land

This week I bring to my readers a special feature I wrote this spring. I currently attend college in Sioux County, Iowa, so the agricultural and economic prosperity of this region piqued my interest. 

If U.S. farmers could compete for a medal on a podium, the farmers of Sioux County, Iowa would take the gold. A land flowing with milk and honey, the fertile topsoil of this sliver of Northwest Iowa makes it some of the most coveted real estate in the Sioux CountyCorn Belt.

Like a finely tuned athlete, Sioux County shatters record after record. This prosperous patchwork quilt is home to more than 1,664 farms, 330,000 head of cattle, and 1.2 million hogs, topping the 98 other Iowa counties. Cattle and hogs outnumber humans 44 to 1. Two biodiesel factories and thirteen ethanol plants operate within its 768-square-miles. In 2011, Sioux County land sold for an unprecedented $20,000 per acre.

Trans Ova Genetics in Sioux Center, one of six biotech firms in the county, is pioneering nationally acclaimed discoveries in embryo transfer and cloning as research for human disease cures. Rock Valley’s booming manufacturing industry draws commuters from 66 zip codes. Sioux Center alone boasts 2,200 jobs. Interestingly, the community’s Hispanic population has more than tripled in the past decade. “The vast majority are doing farm-related jobs that they aren’t able to get Americans to do,” said Judy Hauswald, president of CASA Sioux County.

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The Campus Center and clock tower make up the iconic center-point of Dordt College’s campus.

In a land where the smell of manure equates to money, the towns of Rock Valley, Orange City, Sioux Center, and Hull boast unemployment rates two points below the state average. The population is growing at a rate 63 percent faster than the rest of Iowa. Sioux County’s thriving educational system includes multiple private and public school systems as well as four-year liberal arts colleges, Dordt and Northwestern.

As opposed leaving Sioux County to seek career placement elsewhere, Dordt and Northwestern graduates are reputed for reinvesting in their community. Currently, Dordt College alumni run, “among others, three large machine shops in Rock Valley, a pork broker in Sioux Center, a bank in Sioux Center, ozone water treatment and candy companies in Hull, electrical contractors… financial and insurance companies, coffee shops, hotels, law offices, bakeries, and dairy, cattle, and hog farms.” Not to mention all the education grads who teach thousands of students in the local elementary, middle, and high schools.

“I think kids that go off to school come back because it’s a good place to live. Jobs are here. We’re in a community that has good economic growth, whether that be in the ag sector or in the manufacturing sector. We have a very good city council that attracts businesses into town. It not only promotes agriculture but also promotes industry,” said Mike Schouten, head of Dordt College’s Agriculture Stewardship Center.

According to Iowa Congressman Steve King, this kind of cycle has been keeping Sioux County prosperous for a long time: “Even through the ‘80s, they continued to invest in their communities, invest in education, and because of that faith in the next generation, those kids are raised to believe they have a future here.”

What is the impetus of the long-term prosperity of Sioux County, Iowa? At first glance, one would conclude that it’s the ideal climate for crop and livestock production, the fertile soil, and high concentration of biofuel and livestock operations. Furthermore, the success of the manufacturing and industrial workforce can be traced back to the work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit of its farm-raised people.

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Every store in Orange City, IA is required to have a traditional Dutch front in order to preserve the Dutch heritage and atmosphere of the town.

But other Midwest counties with similar conditions seldom experience the same long-term economic boom. Could there be another factor driving Sioux County’s prosperity? Its Dutch, Christian Reformed heritage may explain the strong culture of Sioux County. “We are probably the most Reformed county in the nation, just in terms of church membership,” said Carl Zylstra, former Dordt College president.

The first Dutch immigrants settled in Sioux County in 1870, when a Pella, Iowa group led by Henry Hospers staked their claim in what is now the town of Orange City. Hospers returned to Pella with a glowing report of “green plateaus of limitless prairies, as yet untouched by the hand of civilization,” as quoted in the 1879 Sioux County Herald.

Today, the modern descendants of these fervently religious Netherlanders take great pride in their work. Their devout Christian Reformed churches foster orderly, disciplined lifestyles. The shingles on the roof of a home along Sioux Center’s Main Street spell out “In God We Trust.” Word has it that newcomers to town who are sighted mowing their yards on Sunday will quietly be informed that working on the Sabbath is considered taboo.

Rather than viewing this lifestyle as prison camp, however, the Dutch embrace their devout culture, believing that they are “called not only to preserve Creation, but to develop Creation,” according to Zylstra.

Sioux Center native Gary Den Herder is a perfect example of a lifelong Reformed Christian whose family has prospered financially.A third generation Dutch farmer, Den Herder manages a large row crop, confinement hog, and cow-calf operation west of Sioux Center. Den Herder credits his grandfather as his inspiration. “’The Lord has been good. We are so blessed.’ He preached that and preached that to us,” said Den Herder reminisced of his grandfather.

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The typical Sioux County farmstead reflects the neat, orderly, well-manicured lifestyle of the Dutch community.

All farmers must have a great deal of faith to undertake so much financial risk. Den Herder presumes that the high concentration of devout Christian farmers of Sioux County has especially attributed to the economic success of the region.

“The Bible says if you are faithful, you will be blessed. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have hard times. We have the same drought and hailstorms come through to us just like everybody else. I believe that we are maybe more blessed because the majority of us are faithful to His word,” Den Herder said.

Den Herder was quick to emphasize that unforeseen troubles can puncture the bubble wrap that seems to surround Sioux County just as they can anywhere else. Similarly, Schouten acknowledged, “Without God’s blessing, Sioux County wouldn’t be Sioux County.”

A role model for other rural regions of the Midwest, Sioux County has attracted the attention of political figures. Iowa congressman Steve King often expresses the high esteem he holds for the county. He surmises that its success stems from “strong families, competitive schools, capable leaders, geographic loyalty, good colleges, patriotism, and Christianity.” To King, it’s a conglomeration of elements that give the Dutch access to the “Promised Land”. “It’s the churches, the work ethic, the belief in free enterprise, the educational component. That’s all built upon the foundation of some of the best farmland in the world.”

Egg-actly What is Corporate Farming? An Easter Special

With Easter week upon us, cultures around the world will include eggs in some form of their Holy Week celebrations and decor. Many people use dye to colorfully decorate eggs. My mom will be baking egg casseroles for our church’s Easter brunch, and little kiddos will hunt for Easter eggs. Many of us take for granted all the effort that goes into getting those eggs into the hands of consumers.

This week, my Dordt College animal science class was denied a tour of the Center Fresh Egg Farm near Sioux Center, Iowa. The reason? All U.S. poultry/egg production facilities are currently fighting a biosecurity war against a virulent strain of avian influenza called H5N2. Center Fresh part-owner Bruce Dooyema and facility manager Mark Van Oordt were kind enough to drive us by the site of production and give us an in-classroom presentation about the egg industry.

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Aerial view of the Sioux Center site

Learning about Center Fresh Farms inspired and amazed me. I have a newfound respect for the egg production industry after seeing how much intense management occurs to keep 30 million hens and 6 million pullets (young hens) in the business of keeping up with the world’s egg consumption.

Many consumers have a few preconceived notions regarding the egg industry. After hearing firsthand the way Center Fresh farm operates, I would like to debunk one such myth: that corporate farming is always bad because it snuffs out small, family farms.

A sharp-minded, graying gentleman, Bruce Dooyema owns one tenth of the Center Fresh operation. He shared with the class the story of how his dad started out with a small dairy and some hogs at the site where Center Fresh now sprawls across 60 acres. With a chuckle, Dooyema recounted his first experience with chickens—receiving 24 broiler chicks as a young boy.

Eventually, Dooyema’s father traded his dairy cows and pigs for laying hens, and together, Bruce, his older brother, and his father established Center Fresh Egg Farms in 1978. The operation quickly grew and flourished. To date, Center Fresh Group is one of the largest egg producers in the nation, with locations in Iowa, Ohio, and Mozambique, Africa. Over 200 employees work at the Sioux Center facility alone.

While Center Fresh is classified as a corporate farm, Dooyema explained that ten individual farm families own this so-called corporation. What began as a father and two sons is still family-owned and operated, just on a much larger scale. In the case of the poultry industry, large scale egg production is the most streamlined and economically successful means to supporting both producers and consumers.

Hopefully now you have a little better understanding of where your Easter eggs come. May you have a blessed Easter celebrating the resurrection of Christ!

Center Fresh Websitewww.centerfreshgroup.com

Spring Is In the Air

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Stella is a Holstein, which has the classic coloring that most people picture cows with.

Meet Stella. For the next month, I get the privilege of bottle feeding this long-legged, oreo-esque slice of God’s creation. Groups of students in my animal science class at Dordt College this semester have been given the responsibility of caring for dairy calves or ewes (female sheep) that are currently lambing (giving birth).

While the daily trips out to Dordt’s Agricultural Stewardship Center demand time commitment, most ag students consider this class requirement to be more fun than work. Caring for newborn livestock seems to encapsulate the joy and hope found in the new life that comes in the spring.

Spring is a bustling time of year on the farm. For beef producers, it’s calving season. I get a chuckle out of the way I hear big, tough farm men describing their year’s worth of inventory as “cute.” For grain farmers, it’s planting season. Every year, I notice my brother’s renewed excitement as he starts tuning up the planter well in advance of the mid-April planting commencement.

Springtime signifies a time of rebirth, fresh starts, second chances, and the start of a new journey for farmers. Their entire livelihood depends on what happens in the spring. Temperature and precipitation during the months transitioning from winter to summer play a huge role in determining the progress of planting. For example, if low soil temperatures delay planting for too long, a corn or soybean crop could likely suffer a yield loss. Melting snow combined with spring rain showers often turn tidy farmsteads into sloppy messes. Just ask the farm wives who clean up the endless mud their men track into the house.

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One of my boyfriend’s cow-calf pairs from 2014.

Most of the time, however, farm families view spring with optimistic anticipation for the year ahead. Here in the Midwest, farming communities seem to spring from dormancy to energized activity overnight when the warm rays of sunshine and the lengthening days foreshadow the changing of seasons. A contagious mood of hopeful, renewed spirits spreads like wildfire. Spring is in the air.

Top 10 Farm Apps of 2015

Technology plays a huge role in precision agriculture today. Many farmers consider their smartphones and tablets vital to their daily work within their operations. Fortunately, the ag sector has kept up with the rest of the world’s demands for mobile applications, or apps. With an abundance of farm apps available at our fingertips, it may be difficult for farmers to know what’s available and what works the best.

A recent article by CropLife, “The nation’s brand leader in ag retail communication” touted the top 10 agriculture apps for 2015.

1. NozzleCalc

2. AgraScout

3. Brandt TankPro

4. Genuity Rootworm Manager

5. TigerSul Calculator

6. Sprayer Calibration Calculator

7. AGCO Global

8. John Deere Seedstar Mobile

9. NetIrrigate

10. Enlist Ahead