In popcorn parlance, “old maids” are kernels that fail to pop. Devoted fans of the Tiny But Mighty brand learn about that and other kernels of popped corn wisdom when Gene Mealhow promotes his product as “Farmer Gene” in Whole Foods stores and at events across the country.
While his family left farming in 1989 during the farm crisis, Mealhow got back into production agriculture in 1990. The fourth-generation farmer bought 33 acres of the family’s land—all that he could afford—near Shellsburg, Iowa.
“I wanted to farm,” he says, walking into the former farrowing house where Lynn, his wife, and Mark Kluber, his brother-in-law, are packaging corn. Gene’s sister-in-law, Lori Kluber, and niece, Ashley Arp, also work for the family popcorn business. The Mealhows’ four sons, with careers in other fields, love to come home and help out when they can, too.
“If I was going to be a successful farmer on my small acreage, I knew I had to do something different,” Mealhow continues, taking his leave of packing and walking to the cornfield in front of his home. At first, he says, he tried growing tofu beans and herbs. “I went cold turkey not using chemicals and failed miserably,” he admits, chuckling. He eventually settled on “biologically based” growing methods, focusing on soil nutrients and soil balancing.
In addition to the 33-acre homestead Mealhow cultivates, “We have four contract farmers,” he says, all within a 75-mile radius, which allows Mealhow to be on hand during planting and harvest. On his acreage, Mealhow uses a 300 Massey Ferguson® combine, as well as an Allis Chalmers 185 tractor, both of which Mealhow says are wonderfully reliable.
The crux of Tiny But Mighty’s sales comes from retail outlets, such as Whole Foods Market, Fareway and Hy-Vee stores. “Most big popcorn companies are selling 10 million pounds of popcorn a year,” he says. “Our goal is to hit between 2 million to 3 million pounds this year. So in the world of popcorn, we are teeny tiny.” He adds, “But we’re growing.”
With wet conditions impacting much of the corn and soybean-producing areas of Minnesota and Iowa, it has been tough to perform effective tillage. However, last week, the clouds parted for a few days and gave way to fair tillage conditions before the rains returned. During this time, I took the New Sunflower 6830 High-Speed Rotary Finisher for a trip across 230-bushel corn planted in the 36,000 to 39,000 plant population. I was very impressed with the tool’s performance in both sizing and mixing residue.
The corn was harvested using a chopping corn head. Highest-yielding corn was in the range of 240 bushels with an average yield of 203. Row spacing was planted on 30-inch rows. Very soft field conditions were present during harvest leaving ruts 4 to 6 inches deep where the harvester and grain cart was run. Operating speed of the tool was at 11.5 mph. The depth of the 6830 was set and checked at 4 inches. The width of this unit was 29 feet. 11.5 mph x 29 feet = 333.5/8.25 = 40.43 acres per hour. The Sunflower 6830 was pulled with a Challenger 855E tractor, which burned 17 gallons per hour during this operation.
I took a 5-foot by 6-foot area and painted it with marker paint to give a visual of the chopping, sizing and mixing the residue mat left on the soil surface.
In the above picture, you can see the extraordinary job the Sunflower 6830 did in chopping, sizing and mixing the residue mat. In some areas of the country, this single pass will provide a sufficient job in allowing the residue to be broken down prior to the next planting season. Although difficult to see, this picture was taken directly in the wheel track seen in the first picture of the painted residue. Not only were the residue and soil mixed, but also completely leveled a 4-inch rut left by the combine.
These pictures show the tool’s ability to manage the root mass that is left and needs to be managed before further tillage or planting the next crop. Not only are we managing the surface residue, but also the below-surface residue. The sooner we can start the incorporation of this residue with the soil and its many helpful microorganisms, the faster that residue can start the decomposition process.
I’m lucky enough to run several of these Sunflower tools. Sunflower 6830 High-Speed Rotary Finisher is one of the only tools that can prepare a seedbed in the spring by leaving a level seedbed to plant into. It can also perform the act of residue management in the fall and succeed at both.
AGCO Product Specialist
I studied agronomy at South Dakota State University. I have several years of experience working with students, growers and my own family farm to develop practices that work in the real world.
Currently, I cover territories in Minnesota and Iowa for the AGCO Corp working on several projects related to the 2017 AGCO Crop Tour. In addition, I have been working with several of the new tools that AGCO has brought to market in the past 12 months; the White Planter 9800VE Series and the Challenger 1000 Series.
Visit http://agcocropcare.com/ for more information.
By Chris Rhodes
There was a refreshing op-ed piece in the New York Times a few weeks ago. Typically when city-based media focus their energy on agriculture, the focus is on organic labels, artisanal foods, and craft beers – forgetting about the real work of feeding a growing population of seven billion people. In the article, author Jayson Lusk talked about how technology is enabling fewer farmers, on less land, with a smaller environmental footprint get the work done to feed more people better food. He highlighted that in the 1950’s farm technology would have required 180 million acres to produce the same amount of soy that is produced on 80 million US acres today, and that it would require a whopping 308 million acres to produce the corn that is currently grown on 80 million acres. Without the technology that creates this kind of efficiency, we would not be able to feed the current population—80% of whom now live in cities.
In addition to the focus on productivity, it was nice to see an article that admits that there is no group of people who love the land more, and are better stewards of the land, than farmers. Jayson points out that the term ‘Factory Farm’ is generally used as a pejorative, but that most farms are actually still owned by families. He also points out that it is precisely the attention to detail, and the scale of the ‘Factory Farm’ that allows for the technology development and use that drives down the ecological cost of farming while still feeding the world. It’s these larger farms that are driving the adoption of technology that reduces the use of water and chemicals and that allows for the low- and no-till cropping that has reduced soil erosion 40% since the 1980’s.
Finally, Jayson alludes to the immense complexity that comes with bringing together a bunch of different types of technology. That complexity remains one of the main stumbling blocks of technology adoption, but not one that can’t be overcome. A continued focus on driving technology through mobile devices and on connecting technology more openly will ensure that the strides we are making with technology will continue to deliver the productivity and environmental benefits we have been seeing over the last couple of decades.
For more information about how AGCO solutions are helping growers large and small become more efficient, visit www.AGCOcorp.com/Fuse.
Chris Rhodes is the Global Director of Commercial ATS (Advanced Technology Solutions) and Partnerships for Fuse®, AGCO’s next generation approach to precision farming. Chris helps ensure the delivery of Fuse technologies and services to our customers and the advancement of the Fuse open approach through industry partnerships and strategic alliances.
Danny Kornegay isn’t afraid to try new things.
Raising hogs, tobacco, sweet potatoes, cotton, watermelons, peanuts, soybeans corn and more, his 5,500-acre operation is about as diversified as a farm can realistically be. Danny even partnered with four other producers to build their own cotton gin and warehouse 26 years ago. Yet this year he’s made a new addition—asparagus.
Danny, 62, concedes he is no expert on asparagus. Fortunately, he and his family—his wife, Susie; son, Dan; and daughter, Kim Kornegay-LeQuire—have plenty of experience managing different operations and trying new things at their farm, Kornegay Family Farms & Produce, in Princeton, North Carolina.
The operation’s long-time success led to Danny being named the 2015 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year at last year’s Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga.
The family has weathered downturns in both the cotton and tobacco markets, yet both continue to provide good income. “The future for tobacco with regulations and demand doesn’t make it the most stable industry. We think there will continue to be a strong demand for healthy American-grown food like sweet potatoes and vegetables.”
Both Dan and Kim give credit to their dad for planning a farm for the future and working to make it all come to fruition.
“I think Dad has just had such great vision,” says Kim, who oversees the farm’s payroll, human resources and food safety program, among other duties. “He has not tried to be the biggest at everything, but always had a plan for steady and managed growth. And in the past 10 years, my brother has had a big role in that.”
Among other prizes for being named Farmer of the Year, Danny received a year’s use of a Massey Ferguson® 8737 tractor. He says about the MF8737: “It is well built. The Dyna-VT™ transmission is very nice because you don’t have to change gears … and the comfortable ride may be the best feature.”
See the full story about Kornegay, his farm and family: A Visit with Southeastern Farmer of the Year Danny Kornegay. For more information on the 2016 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award, held Tuesday, October 18, check out the Sunbelt Expo website.
By Timothy Chou
AGCO is excited to have guest blogger Dr. Timothy Chou of Stanford University join us on the Fuse Blog
Some of you have heard about the Internet of Things. While many will wonder why a coffee pot needs to talk to a toaster there is even greater potential in using advanced software, machine learning, and cloud computing to transform the planet’s fundamental infrastructure and build precision machines. In this blog we’ll focus on the benefits of using these precision machines to enable precision industries, whether that’s farming, mining or transportation.
So what are the benefits of precision agricultural machines to the farmer, or more generally what are the benefits of precision machines to the businesses that use these machines? We are going to discuss two of these benefits in this blog.
Lower Consumable Costs
Many machines consume materials during operations. This could be fuel in the case of an airplane, ink for a high-speed printer or chemical reagents in a gene sequencer. These consumables often form a large portion of the operational cost structure. As anyone with an inkjet printer knows, the cost of the printer is not near as much as the cost of the toner cartridge you buy every year before tax day. At the enterprise level in the airline industry, the single largest operational cost is fuel – in some cases that’s nearly 30 percent of the total cost of the flight.
In the railroad business New York Air Brake has engineered a product to help operate trains more precisely. This product, called LEADER, is being used by Norfolk Southern railroad, which operates in 22 eastern states. They attribute a five percent fuel savings to their deployment of LEADER, resulting in not only 10.8 million gallons of diesel fuel saved per year, but also the avoidance of more than 109,500 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
The derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia in 2015 left at least six people dead and created chaos on the heavily traveled Northeast corridor the next morning, cutting off all direct rail service between Philadelphia and New York City and causing many other delays up and down the east coast. But if you can tell the train operator what to do, it’s a short step to just having the computers do it.
In 2016, the first automated train will run from the north of Australia to Perth to deliver iron ore. Not only will it reduce their costs as they railroad has to spend $300,000 in salary for these operators, but also reducing human error will result in a safer railroad.
While technology is cool, its real usage has been to transform businesses. We’re all familiar with the examples from the consumer space (Google, Uber, eBay), but IoT technology has the potential to do the same for producers and consumers of the machines used in agriculture, healthcare, power, transportation, water and more. For a manufacturer of Things, technology can not only reduce the cost and improve the quality of service, but also deliver new revenue sources. As a consumer of this next generation of Things, you have the ability to use precision machines to deliver higher quality and lower cost food, power and water, and safer and lower cost transportation and healthcare.
For more information about IoT and how it might reshape your business check out the recently released book Precision: Principles, Practices and Solutions for the Internet of Things.
For more information about AGCO’s own Internet of Things for the Farm (IoTF), visit www.AGCOcorp.com/Fuse to learn about our precision farming technologies and services.