Knowing Your Roots

Posts tagged ‘family farms’

Farm Perspectives: Keeping an Eye on Water Quality

Water QualityNow that most of our seed has made its way below the soil, it is time once again to bring water issues to the forefront of our minds. The clean, readily available water in the central sands region of our state is key to the production of the valuable potato crop each and every year. The quality of the water that is applied to our potatoes and other vegetables has always been minded with great care not only for us here at Okray Family Farms, but for all growers in the central Wisconsin area as well. (more…)

Thoughts for Food: The Security of Our Nation’s Food Supply

It is estimated that we will need to double worldwide crop production by 2050 to meet the needs of a rapidly increasing global population, and yet the availability of agricultural land in the US is declining. Blog 11 - Thoughts for Food

  • How do we face this immense challenge when US agriculture is already operating at peak efficiency?
  • How can we guarantee that Americans will have a safe and reliable food supply at prices they can afford?
  • How can we ensure that our food supply is not dependent on imports (think of what our dependency on foreign oil is doing to our economy)?

The answers to these questions reside in the ingenuity and dedication of American farmers who for centuries have risen to the challenges of producing more with less on fewer acres. Nowhere else is this better exemplified than in Wisconsin (more…)

Soil – More than Just Dirt

When most people think about agriculture, they immediately think of the crops or food produced – corn, wheat, potatoes and cranberries.  However, at the heart of food production is one key ingredient.  It is the basic component that all of these crops need to grow – the soil!

Antigo Silt Loam

Wisconsin’s State Soil!

Here are the basics. Soil is composed of minerals, air, organic material and water.  The type of soil is determined by its physical structure, nutrients, trace elements, PH and organic matter.  Based on these combined factors, there are over 700 soil types in Wisconsin!  These factors also determine its growing ability.  So, when it comes to agriculture, farmers must understand the type of soil they are working with in order to decide which crops to grow.

The physical structure of the soil is determined by the proportion of sand, silt and clay in the soil.  Sand particles are the largest and clay particles are the smallest.  The importance of a soil’s physical structure was evident during this summer’s drought.  The soil’s physical structure determined how well it was able to hold onto the available water.   This is a good example of where the science of irrigation comes into play, and why farmers pay such close attention to it to make sure their crops get just the amount of water they need.

So, here’s how different soil types compare.  Sandy soil has large pore space.  In a wet year, sandy soils drain better, but in a dry year, they struggle to retain water.  It also has fewer available nutrients.  At the other end of the spectrum are clay soils. Clay is made of smaller particles making it denser (smaller pore spaces). Clay will retain more water, but in a spring with lots of rainfall its poor drainage can make it difficult to farm. In the middle are loamy soils. These have almost equal portions of sand, silt and clay.  If you had a garden, this is the type of soil you would want because it has the best balance of water retention and drainage.

To reflect the value of this soil type, the official state soil is Antigo Silt Loam.  This soil is found in north-central Wisconsin.  It is ideal for farming because of its composition of a silty top layer that holds water with a sandy layer underneath for proper drainage.  But, soils vary across Wisconsin, and the type of soil in each region of the state determines the crops and other plants that grow on the landscape.

For example, potatoes and cranberries need fertile, well-drained soils like sands, sandy loams or silt loams located in central Wisconsin.  But, in comparison, corn and alfalfa should be grown in soils that are rich in nutrients and able to lock in moisture.  Wisconsin is home to a variety of crops, and it is the diversity of our soil types across the state that makes this possible.

More Than Just Cheese Heads

Wisconsin – America’s Dairyland.  Whether it is the cheese heads our fans wear to cheer on the Green Bay Packers, our notoriety for award-winning cheeses, or the 1.2 million dairy cows that dot our landscape, Wisconsin is most often referred to as a dairy state.  It’s even on our license plates! However, what many don’t realize is the diversity of agricultural products grown or produced within our state’s borders.  And, it is this diversity that makes agriculture Wisconsin’s leading industry.

Cranberries

America’s Dairyland leads the nation in cranberry production

Yes, Wisconsin leads the nation in the production of cheese and dry whey (a by-product of cheese production). But, did you know that Wisconsin ranks first in six other products as well?  America’s Dairyland leads the nation in cranberries, cabbage for sauerkraut, snap beans, dairy goats, mink pelts and corn for silage – that’s what we feed those dairy cows.

 What is even more impressive is the diversity of food produced here and the number of agricultural products where Wisconsin ranks in the top five for national production.  We all know that carrots help you see in the dark, but did you know that Wisconsin is the nation’s second largest producer of them?  That is not the only vegetable Wisconsin produces.  Our state ranks third in the production of green beans and sweet corn for processing (aka canning), as well as American’s favorite vegetable – potatoes!
Potatoes heading to market

Wisconsin is the largest producer of potatoes east of the Mississippi

Let’s take potatoes as an example.  Most Wisconsinites don’t realize that we are the largest producer of potatoes east of the Mississippi, and rank only behind Idaho and Washington State for overall production.  Not only does Wisconsin produce a variety of different crops, but also we produce multiple types and varieties of each crop.  When it comes to potatoes, we grow Yellow Flesh, Round Red, Round White, Blue, Purple, and Russet.
Besides vegetables, don’t forget about the delicious maple syrup, cherries, honey, and strawberries that come from Wisconsin.  So, the next time you go to the grocery store, look in your cart and think about all the foods that come from Wisconsin.  And, when you go to brush your teeth tonight, the mint in your toothpaste might have originally called Wisconsin its home.

Wisconsin Farms: An Important Employer

Did you know that Wisconsin farms provide jobs for almost 354,000 people? Did you know that those farms also produce more than $59 billion for the Badger State?

While it may seem as if you’re not seeing as many farms as you once used to while driving across Wisconsin’s beautiful landscapes, keep in mind that nowadays, some farms have more acreage than they once used to. Years ago, farms were considered large if they had hundreds of acres. But today, many farms have thousands of acres, and some even tens of thousands.

Wisconsin Agriculture

(Courtesy: Pierce Co. Herald)

So what does that growth mean for today’s agricultural industry? First of all, it means a greater responsibility for the farmers that work that acreage to meet consumer demands. Second of all, it means more available jobs and the need for new hires to fill them. For instance, some positions that farms are adding are workers to help run the harvesting and planting equipment. They’re also hiring scientists to do product research right on the farm, which helps ensure product quality. And let’s not forget all the people needed for their expertise inside the office! With more acreage comes the need for more employees to answer the phones, manage financial accounts and oversee other employees as managers.

And if we take it one step further, some of these farms may even choose to add a washing or packaging facility with their increased acreage. If and when that happens, there are additional employee opportunities.

And the bottom line is that all this is great for the local and national economy!

So the next time you see a Wisconsin farm, consider all the changes that farm may have experienced the past few decades, and how those farmers are working as hard as ever to put food on your table!

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