Labor Day Lessons

 

As I sit at my desk waiting on the combines to begin to roll for the day I Googled Labor Day and its meaning.  According to the US Department of Labor: “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”  Wow!  An entire day to celebrate the workers in our country and to celebrate the contributions of strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.  This is an awesome day!  Without those workers who had struggled before us where would our country be today?

Rice field at harvest

I find my thoughts wandering to the people on our farm who have come and gone.  In four generations there have been many people who contributed their time, talents, and efforts to producing a crop on this land.  There are even a few who spent a lifetime here with my family working for the common goal of feeding the world one acre at a time.  I remember the names and faces of men who were always here with my Dad, like uncles, brothers or cousins of extended family.  They watched me grow up and become their peer as I chose to come back to the farm.  Sun up to sundown, rain or shine, holidays or regular Mondays we work side by side.  The camaraderie of working together to seed a crop and then on days, like today, harvest those seeds for a meal that you may serve your family in the coming weeks.

Men who taught me simple things on the farm such as when you take a person to a tractor always wait until it starts if they need help; always check your tire pressure and how to check the oil; to step OVER a rice levee and not put a big footprint on top for rain water to collect; when you pick up parts take the old one with you to compare;  and that many times you need the assembly and not just one part; to keep my hands in my pockets around any machinery and a good one for everyone – give the farm equipment the road when you see them.  Many of these lessons I have learned and are second nature to me now.  I am thankful to have had the good fortune to grow up around and work with today some of the finest farm family workers on the planet!

My husband Greg and me last fall during harvest

As you celebrate today as the last hurrah of summer I ask you to think of the farm families who spent their days and nights producing the meal on your plate.  Each bite you take was cared for and provided for your nourishment by someone who loves their job!  A person who takes great pride in providing the safest, most affordable food supply in the world.

Click here for video of a combine and grain cart harvesting

So as the engines on the combines turn over and roar, the puff of smoke exits the exhaust on the tractor pulling the grain cart and the 18 wheels creep forward on the truck to collect the grain I smile.  Holiday or not I am smack dab in the middle of exactly where I want to be.  I get a front row view of the results of all the labor put into this crop and each rice kernel that will show up in a box of cereal or in your next stir fry.  Three times a day (and a few snacks in between!) you need a farmer – be sure to thank them!

 

 

Harvest has started…well kinda…

 

Rough rice – from seed to harvest

We planted the seeds in the spring and cared for them all summer.  The past few weeks I have prepared the office and the grain bin complex for incoming grain.  Our crew at the bins has completed repairs and swept the concrete so much they are bored stiff.  Our crew in the field has turned wrenches and checked wear spots on combines, headers, and grain carts.  The truck drivers have inspected the trucks, changed the oil and filled up the fuel.  So when the combine pulls out of the shop headed to the field EVERYONE has a sense of excitement!  Here we go!!

View of a mature rice field from the combine

Rice harvest has officially started!!  Well kinda…  Getting started is always slow.  We completed one field late yesterday. It was a new variety called ARoma17 from the University of Arkansas.  Maybe you guessed it from the name but it is an aromatic variety developed to compete with the increasing demand for jasmine type rice in the US.  This is a picture of the field earlier in the season with University folks John Carlin, my dad Marvin Hare, Dr. Nathan Slaton and my husband, Greg, discussing the condition of the field and prospects of the ARoma17 variety for the future.  The harvest dry yield was better than expected!

The next fields aren’t quite ready yet meaning the moisture of the grain is too high to harvest.  This indicates that the kernels of rice are still a little green and not fully the beautiful golden brown we like to see.  But sometimes the decision to harvest or not isn’t as easy as it may seem.

We have many weeks of rice harvest ahead of us.  The earlier we can get it out of the field and out of the weather and into grain storage the better it is for the rice.  Heavy rains or winds could blow the rice kernels on the ground and be lost.  The flip side is to harvest it too early and suffer yield loss from lighter, immature kernels, problems in storage and higher costs to dry the kernels to optimum moisture content.  So like many of the decisions in farming its a toss-up!

Patiently waiting on the turn row

For today we have decided to wait.  The combine gets parked on the turn row or what we call the road around a field.  It looks lonely there just sitting.  We will wait a day or two and see if it will help dry the kernels to a lower moisture content and allow the rice to mature.  I know from experience that quickly it will all hit and everything will be ready at once.  But in the mean time I think we may start corn harvest!!  So back to being excited about harvest!  I will keep you posted!

 

 

My Tribe in Ag

Farmers are very independent.  Good thing I chose this profession because I am an extremely independent person.  I am sure Greg would agree there is good and bad to that quality!  So much of our business is basically “just us” with our decisions.  I would dare say most farmers got into farming for the science of it.  Being outdoors, planting the seed, caring for it over the season, then harvesting and hopefully earning the rewards of a job well done.  Then it is hunting season, right?  Well yes, but there is so much to do between harvest and planting and these tasks aren’t any farmer’s favorite.  Year end financial statements, marketing the remaining amount of the crop, analyzing equipment needs, reviewing the prior crop and planning for the next.  The list goes on and on and this is why so many farmers spend many hours in front of a computer or discussing issues with their partners during the winter months.  Because most farms are dynamic in their ownership, location, mix of crops etc no two are exactly alike or can be compared.  At times we feel out there on our own in finding enough information to make informed decisions.  To add to the problem, there is the competitive nature of the independent entrepreneur.

Many years ago I attended a class hosted by Texas A&M called The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers.  It is by far the best educational series about farm management I have attended since college.  It was full of practical information to operate our farm.  I would recommend it to anyone farming or ranching with any size operation.  Learn more about the program here.

I headed out to Austin, TX where the class was held that year not knowing any other participants.  I have done this type of thing several times in my life.  I actually attended a 3 week long high school scholar experience after my junior year in high school in Newton, PA.  It was good to get this country girl out of the sticks and into an urban area.  I learned so much then too – but I digress!  After a day or so at TEPAP class I was happy to team up with a couple of women who were there for the 2nd session.  Thankfully one of them was very outgoing (I find it hard to reach out to strangers but once I get to know you watch out!) and invited me to eat with them.  They shared with me their idea of forming an all women agricultural peer group.  They envisioned this group meeting twice a year to learn about each other’s operation in differing areas of the country.  We would also get down deep in the weeds (HA!) about any topic we needed to discuss in our operations.  We would share ideas and give support to one another as we managed and transitioned our operations.  There would be complete disclosure and confidentiality for all members and operations in the group.

Now this idea was certainly one I had never heard of before, especially in southern agriculture where, bless your heart, we would never talk about such things with anyone much less a stranger.  I pondered their idea and finished the class that week.  During the sessions I felt intimidated by the level of professionalism and intelligence in the room.  There were some outstanding operations being represented.  Ideas were flowing and I took note after note to remember this awesome experience.  One thing I had decided before the class was over was that I did not want to leave there and stop learning and growing in my profession and as a person.

Summer of 2018 in Ohio

Fortunately, the group did come together and I agreed to be a member.  We began meeting as a group in 2014. The core group has changed a bit but we have finally settled on a great mix of people and operations.  Each summer we visit an operation and we learn about the host farm and the agriculture in that area.  Our winter meeting is more business focused and is at a mutually agreed upon site.  We also meet once a month by Zoom call to stay updated on each other.  We are from Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio and grow crops such as alfalfa, barley, corn, cotton, peanuts, rice, soybeans and wheat to cattle and even some specialty crops.  We active in our communities, our families, and our respective crop specific industries.  We are cutting edge and all trying to be the very best at what we do.

Summer of 2017 in Arkansas

The best part of this group is we are non competitive and willing to share what has worked and most importantly what has not worked on our farms.  At this point we are peers and friends and share plain old life things as well.  We laugh and we cry and we pray for each other and then we laugh some more.  We offer solutions and look forward to hearing about the progress someone has made on a particular problem or issue.  We support one another and are truly interested in the success of each operation and each person.

After dinner at 2018 winter meeting

I am proud of every one of these women and they are my tribe.  They speak the language of agriculture and they get it, they get ME.  They have my back and cheer for my success.  If you have not found a group like this in your life keep searching.  There are more women out there who want to support you than tear you down.  If you are surrounded by people who only tear you down I hope you walk away and find support and love and laughs and prayers.  The hardest part is being vulnerable enough to let them in on the whole story so they can support you.  Sometimes that isn’t easy but it is worth it!

 

Corn Growing and Soil Moisture Sensors

 

Under the corn canopy

It is a gorgeous Sunday morning here in Arkansas!  We have had a very hot and humid week and a storm blew through last night with cooler temperatures and a nice north wind blowing.  Not great for getting herbicide treatments out that are falling farther and farther behind due to wet weather and wind but feels nice!  I have enjoyed a cup of coffee on the porch with my morning devotional.

Crazy enough this is my time of year to work on projects at our house.  I am the busiest in fall during harvest and the winter as we have year-end financials and planning for the next crop.  Since my days of scouting the fields are just a line on my résumé it frees me up to take care of some of the things we need around the house.  So I have worked with a landscaper to help our very overgrown bushes.  As farmers we don’t “do flowers and shrubs” so it was a mess!  Now on to the upstairs bath that needs a facelift.  We had spent the minimal on it years ago when Dylan moved to his room up there.  The old cast iron tub is in need of refinishing and we will lay some tile instead of the cheap tub surround we have now.  Thankfully, I have a sweet friend who is helping subcontract the work!  Next week I will travel to Ohio to meet with my agri women’s peer group!  It is a great way for us to learn and improve our farms.  More on that next week!

For today I want to show you a little about our corn crop and how much it has grown in the last few weeks.  You may remember the photo below in the sunset taken on April 30.  This is one of my favorite pictures this season.  I am so glad I have it because the owner of that old cotton gin has torn it down.  It has been there my entire life and such an iconic building but I understand it hasn’t been used in many decades and things change.

April 30, 2018

The following pictures are of the same field on May 24 and then June 1.

May 24, 2018
June 1, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

You can see how much taller the corn is just a week later.  It won’t be long until the tassel is coming out the top of the plant.  This is a very important time for corn development.  It is needs plenty of moisture and no stress to make the best ear of corn it can make.  To better test irrigation needs we installed a soil moisture sensor last week. We had one in a field last year and it was amazing to see how often we needed to irrigate.  In Arkansas, we cannot make a corn crop without irrigation.  Proper timing of that irrigation is crucial.

We have been working with our county extension agent, Matthew Davis and Mike Hamilton who is an irrigation instructor with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service.  With their help we have learned about the details of our irrigation.  Of course we have irrigated for decades but we are trying to refine our efforts.  Water savings is a very important part of our farm’s culture and sustainability so we want to be able to irrigate while being as efficient with our water use as possible.  We are fortunate that our farm is in an area where there is a good supply of ground water.  However, we have gone to great lengths to try to recycle water for irrigation.  It is our hope that the generations that farm in our family’s future still have available water for irrigation.

Last week we installed a soil moisture sensor that is connected to a battery powered by a solar panel to be able to send a cell signal for information to be seen online at any time.  The actual sensors are not too expensive but adding the convenience of the internet adds quite a bit of cost.  But man is it nice to be able to pull up the information on my phone and monitor conditions!  We would not have the units in every field but several spread out in different locations and crops would be so nice.  There are different technologies of sensors.  The ones we have at this site are Watermark.  I will be installing several this week that will need manual monitoring and charting.  These should help give us an idea of the proper irrigation timing but we won’t be able to check it from our phones.  This is what you do when you don’t have the money in the budget!!

To install you use a slide hammer to make a hole for the sensor to go down into the soil.  We installed 4; 1 each at 6″, 12″, 18″ and 30″ deep in the soil directly in the row of corn plants being careful not to disturb any plants or any more soil than necessary.

Slide hammer at work

After the hole is made to the correct depth for that sensor, then the pipe with the sensor installed onto the bottom is inserted into the hole.

Installing sensor

The red gasket or ring you see around the PVC pipe is placed at the depth we want to insert the pipe as a guide.  It remains in place to help seal the soil so rain and irrigation water does not just seep to the sensor and cause incorrect readings.

Wiring sensors

Each sensor is wired to the monitor to read and be able to send information over the cellular data system.  Below you can see 3 of the 4 sensors installed in the row.

Soil moisture sensors in the row.

The graph below shows each sensor on a bar graph.  You can see the 6″ depth sensor was approaching our “need to irrigate” red line and then it rained last night.  The graph for the 6″ sensor goes back down so we have a few days until this field will need irrigation.  You can see just how fast the soil was drying out before the rain.  Isn’t this just the coolest thing?  I do get excited about weird stuff for a girl!! Hopefully the weather will allow just enough time for our next nitrogen application and then we will irrigate.

Soil Moisture Graph

 

Thanks to Mike Hamilton (left) and Matthew Davis (right) for all their patience and instruction.  I am sure I will be asking tons of questions as we go throughout the season.  Please leave your questions in the comments and I can have them answer because I am certainly not the expert when it comes to the sensors!

Mike Hamilton and Matthew Davis

 

Why do you have levees in a rice field?

We finished up planting all of our rice just as it has stopped raining in our area.  There have been few scattered showers but nothing to speak of on our farm.  The soil is too dry to plant soybeans so we are doing what we need to do which is lay polypipe to irrigate our corn and flush water over the rice fields.  I will talk more about the corn irrigation in a later post but today I want to answer the most common question we get from people is why do you have levees in the rice fields?

It’s all about the water!  Rice grows in a flooded environment and to be the most efficient we need the levees to hold the water at a consistent depth throughout the field.  Because the Earth is not flat, we must build (or pull) a levee along the contours of elevation in the field.

You can look at a topographic map of the State of Arkansas here.  Although the eastern side of the state appears flat compared to the western side we still have enough slope to need levees to achieve the shallow flood required for rice production.  Thankfully we do have a hard-pan of soil just a few inches down that provides a barrier of sorts for the soil to hold the water.  And in addition to that, the most efficient fields have a heavy clay soil which also holds water very well.  This can be good and bad for us because those soils hold the spring rain water longer and make it difficult to get it planted and harvested in the fall.  But they are the very best for growing rice!  Go figure!! Anyway, this is why we traditionally grow rice in my area of the state.

Ok, so back to the levees- why are they crooked and why are some straight?  Remember the levee is following the contour at a certain elevation.  So when the levee is crooked that elevation is meandering around the field and when it is straight the landowner has precision leveled the field.  This means they have moved the soil around so that the elevation falls at a consistent rate throughout the field.  For example, the topo map would have all parallel lines in a precision level field and that’s what the levees follow!  The closer together the levees are the steeper the fall and the further apart they are means the field is flatter.

Hillside with curvy levees

Do you build the levees after you plant the field or before?  The answer for us here in NE Arkansas is after.  In other growing regions they leave the levees up permanently.  We rotate our crops between rice and soybeans mainly so we tear them down after the crop to be able to plant soybeans the following year.  To find the levees position you must know the elevation.  There are several methods to do this but I

Precision leveled field with straight levees

will explain the method we use on our farm.  The tractor that is planting maps out the elevation of the field while planting.  It is a good time to map it since that tractor will cover the entire field and be able to make a good map.  We space our levees a certain elevation apart and when you enter your desired fall in elevation into our software program it “draws” the levees out.  This program is then used to drive the tractor in the correct locations to build the actual levees.  Technology has made us much more efficient in this process.  Fewer passes with equipment in the field which equates to fewer people needed for the job and no problems finding the elevations.

Screen in the tractor that drives the correct elevations to build the levees

There are also many implements that can be used to build, pack and seed the levees.  Yes seed!  Even though we have planted the field we want to make sure the levees make rice too!  By adding more rice seed as the levee building equipment passes over the levees we can insure rice production on the levees.  Every acres counts!  Here are a couple of implements we use in our heavy clay soils to build the best levees.

Levee squeeze
Levee packer and seeder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On top of the levee packer is a red box that holds the rice seed.  As the tractor drives down the levee, seed is distributed out over the levee.

As I was finishing this post we received a nice rain on most of the farm.  Thank you Lord!  What a gift for us at this time of year!  We are now able to turn off most irrigation wells and save on the cost of watering.  Our crew will be working to make sure we do not have standing water for too long in any of the fields at this point.  Then we can get back to planting soybeans and hopefully end our planting season.

Rice Planting Complete and Spotlight: My Friend Lindley

Planting is still in full force with our tractors scattered all over the farm.  Our heavy clay good rice soils dried out and we finished planting our rice today!  I am excited to be down to only soybeans left to plant.  So far the spring has had its ups and downs but we seem to be moving along at a good pace.  This week I was featured on the Kellogg’s blog for Mother’s Day.  This was such an honor for me!  I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many of the great people at Kellogg through my work in sustainability.  You can read the post here.

I believe women today are opening new doors and achieving goals our mothers never even dreamed possible.  Plus we may also be wives; (and farm wives at that) and mothers too.  I have a little trouble with the “pinterest effect” on women today too.  Our lives aren’t perfect; our meals are not gourmet; our decor is not all like a Joanna Gaines’ home; and we do have piles of dirty laundry!  Life is hard work no matter your job or gender or family composition!!  I have had people say to me “I don’t know how you do it all!” and my reply is I DON’T!!  I have help, including paid help, family support and a really good calendar!  In this light I want to lift up some of my peers and showcase all the different personalities, jobs, tips, and accomplishments of my friends in agriculture.  My hope is that by lifting these women it will help others to rise to see themselves in a job that is focused on agriculture.

LINDLEY GILLIAUM – Agriculture Grant Coordinator/Senior Instructor ASUN

Lindley Gilliaum with her daughter

I have known Lindley since forever!  We love the same hometown and the same industry.  I have watched her career for years as she progressed from field work to education.  She has found her stride in this newest job and I can tell she truly loves the challenge she has been given.  And may I say she is knocking it out of the park!

Lindley is a life long resident of Newport, Arkansas and graduated from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.  During her senior summer of college she interned for Lawhon Farm Services in McCrory, Arkansas as a field scout/consultant.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what that job entails – it means to walk the fields and examine for weeds, diseases, growth stages of the crop, irrigation needs and other things depending on the crop and the time of year and report them to the farmer.  It is tough work and up until the time Lindley interned this was traditionally a job held by men.    After college she worked as an independent crop consultant, was employed by Greenway John Deere Equipment Company and then as a yield specialist for Dulaney Seed in Clarkdale, Mississippi.  All of these jobs led up to where she is now as the Agriculture Grant Coordinator and Senior Instructor for the all new Ag Technology Program at Arkansas State University – Newport.

ASUN Ag Technology Mobile Trailer

She started the program from the ground up beginning with approval, funding, curriculum and gaining the support of area farmers to be invested in what the end product would be – knowledgeable employees that could bring a great skill set to a farm, granary, spray company or ag retailer. This two year program will allow the students to gain extensive knowledge and skill sets in: agronomy, equipment operations, mechanics, chemicals, spraying, modern software technology.  The program is in its first year and Lindley hopes to be able to grow enrollment as well as class offerings and scholarship or sponsorship opportunities. It is the only program of its kind in Arkansas so check it out here.

 

Lindley is currently pursuing her Masters in Plant and Soil Science at ASU and should graduate in December.  She is doing very well in her studies as is evidenced by her 3.5 GPA!  Trust me – this course of study is not easy and especially with a full-time job and a feisty five-year old daughter to raise! This beautiful girl full of independence and a strong will (wonder where she gets that?) is her Mom’s biggest cheerleader.  Often encouraging her to “do her best” and to keep chasing her dreams.  Lindley’s favorite quote is one from her daughter.  One night while Lindley was stressed over graduate school homework she told her Mom “You never know if you never try.”  We can all learn more from children if we just listen.

Lindley with ASU Dean of Agriculture Dr. Tim Burcham

The fact Lindley is living the example for her daughter will only lift her to higher goals and dreams than her mother could ever imagine.  As we go about our everyday, it may seem routine or boring but our children are watching us every second.  Lindley is being the role model her daughter and other young girls and women need all the while reaching for her own dreams.  Slam dunk!  I look forward to sitting on the sidelines and watching this precious girl grow into a successful woman!

Lindley points to two people in her life that have been huge influencers and mentors.  Her first boss who gave her the opportunity to step into a man’s world as a crop consultant.  He is still an active supporter in her life and actually sits on the steering committee at ASUN that has helped develop the program she administers.  Another is a professor from her first college days and he is now an instructor for her in grad school and a peer in education.  She says she wished she could tell her younger self to never give up and to never doubt her own capabilities.  Lindley realizes now that she is capable of accomplishing whatever she sets her mind to do.  I believe she has proven that over and over in her life.

Checking seed placement

Lindley enjoys chatting with others to learn all she can from their own experiences.  These conversations have helped her to be more knowledgeable about farms and other businesses.  She loves the weekly publication the Delta Farm Press – a staple in any farm or ag business in the south.  Not only does it contain valuable information for agriculture but is based in Mississippi where she worked for many years.  This keeps her close to that area and caught up on all the news from her old stomping grounds!  She confidently says the Bible is her #1 personal development book!  She also recommends The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

When asked about what life hacks routines-or things she does to just stay sane in today’s crazy busy world she says she is just keeping her head above water.  Every morning may be different from the day before but a few minutes alone in her car before work can be the difference that makes the day calmer.  A little pep talk to herself gets her on track and ready to conquer what ever the day may have in store for her.  She also LOVES to run on a treadmill and listen to good music.  Some of her favorites in her playlist are Midnight Special – CCR; Glory Days – Bruce Springteen; Doc McStuffins – she does have a five-year old; and her favorite song to run to is the Eye of the Tiger from Rocky.

I will be asking a few of the same questions of all the women I feature.

Lindley and Jimbo her biggest fan

 

What app could you not live without?  Facebook – I post many pictures of my family, but it is after all, making memories that counts.  *I agree with that wholeheartedly!

  • White rice or Brown rice?  White
  • Daily newspaper?  No
  • iPhone or Android?  Android
  • Coffee?  YES

It is exciting to see this new program led by Lindley.  Be sure to watch the Ag Technology Program at ASUN to see where it goes from here.  We need trained people for farm and other ag related jobs so I am excited to see how this it will impact our workforce!

We will be working hard to get soybeans planted but I really think we need a good soaking rain to flush the rice, incorporate the nitrogen on the corn and probably germinate soybeans. The weather is our constant companion!

 

 

Fresh Soil, Fresh Start

Corn in April Northeast Arkansas

Today is a gorgeous day here in northeast Arkansas.  Everywhere I travel around the farm we have tractors rolling and so do all of our neighbors.  It is an exhilarating sight!  One night this past week Greg called me after dark and told me he counted 14 sets of tractor lights running in fields around us.  I could hear the excitement in his voice.  It is a new beginning for farms all across our country.

Each spring we get another chance to start again.  To make a bumper crop; beat our record yield; try new technology; and settle in to the comfort of the old ways that are still the best of the best techniques.  We have been in farmer meetings all winter reviewing the prior year and making plans for our success.  Gathered together with neighbors and PhD’s from all the respected Universities that conduct research and trials to confirm why we need to adopt something new or stick with what we have always known to be tried and true.  We labor over balance sheets with lenders looking over our shoulders and gather all the required tax documents to meet the March 1st tax deadline for farmers.  We ship the grain from our grain storage and look to the futures market for all our crops to calculate if we have a break even price available or not.  We make plan after plan of how we will do everything perfectly to reap a bountiful harvest in the fall.  Then we wait.  We wait and we pray.  It is a renewal of our businesses but also of our hope.  Hope for an easy planting season and timely rains throughout the growing season.  Hope that our family grows stronger together and not apart under the stress of the job.

Planting rice

AND THEN…the calendar turns to the proper date and the good Lord brings us the beautiful weather we need to begin again.  Wheels are rolling and the smell of freshly turned soil only encourages us to work harder.  Seeds are placed with premeditated accuracy into a seedbed waiting to spring forth the goodness of the Earth.  It is an exciting time of year on the farm.

Corn
Rice

On our farm we begin by planting corn, then rice and soybeans.  We are fortunate to have the climate that will grow many types of crops.  There is also cotton, peanuts, grain sorghum, and even fruits and vegetables in our area.  Because we are in the heart of rice country we have the ability to irrigate our crops and further reduce the risk of crop failure.  On our farm, we have implemented water saving irrigation delivery systems and practices for decades.  Not only do we need the water for our crops to survive but we want to conserve as much as possible as well.  Our summers are usually very hot and dry and we risk losing an entire crop if we did not have irrigation.

So here we go!!  We are off and running on another year.  This will be my 25th full time crop and I think I am finally getting my groove.  We will plant non GMO corn for a local non GMO poultry company; long grain rice; medium grain rice; aromatic rice; non GMO soybeans for a Japanese food product; and GMO soybeans for local soybean markets.  It is already a whirlwind and that’s the way we like it until exhaustion sets in and we need a rain.  But those days will come and hopefully they will be timely.

Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good”  -Ecclesiastes 11:6

How I cook rice and answers to your questions

Hi y’all! Hope you are having a good week.  We have been super busy on the farm planting rice and soybeans, and building levees in our rice so we have the ability to hold the flooded water for the season.  Our corn is complete and it is coming up in the warm sunshine we have had.  Today I am writing about some simple rice cooking tips and tricks.  I sure don’t claim to be an expert but I cook ALOT OF RICE!!

When it comes to cooking rice the first thing you must ask yourself is what kind do you want?  There are so many different types of rice.  Here in Arkansas the predominate type we grow is long grain indica rice.  Indica is also the predominate type of rice grown in the world.  It is grown in hot climates and the kernels tend to break easier but the grains are not as sticky as the other types.  These include japonica which is grown in California and aromatic types of jasmine and basmati that are grown in Thailand and Pakistan/India respectively.  We also grow medium grain in Arkansas and it is primarily used in further processed items such as cereals and treats that are made with melted marshmallows. However, southern medium grain is delicious in rice pudding!

Long grain white rice in airtight container

I store my rice in an airtight container.  As you might imagine we eat a great deal of rice!!  I buy it 3-4 pounds at a time and have a container for each type of rice.  We mainly eat long grain white rice or long grain brown rice with some aromatic jasmine when we can find US grown. As a rice farmer I am adamant that we only eat US rice.  I most often embarrass my family or friends when we are at a restaurant and I ask if the rice on the menu is US grown.  If rice is not listed on the menu I usually as why not? It is always surprising that people do not know we grow rice in the US!  I feel it is my personal mission to make sure they do.  So now that YOU know make sure you are buying it.  You can check the package for this logo below and support US farmers.

I was always a stove top rice preparer.  Not sure why because my Mom usually baked it.  That’s just the way I have always cooked rice.  I would even argue it was the BEST way.  It is simple and as long as you measure your rice and water and DO NOT open the lid while it is cooking it does come out perfect every time!  If the steam escapes it can not be absorbed into the rice and may cause it to not be fully cooked.  In my opinion there is nothing worse than partially cooked rice.  For basic long grain white rice the rice to water is a 1:2 ratio.  1 cup uncooked rice to 2 cups water.  I usually add a dash of salt in the water and no oil or butter but you certainly could.  Bring the water to a rolling boil and immediately upon achieving a boil pour in the rice, give it a stir and put on the tight-fitting lid.  Turn your heat down to simmer for about 15 minutes, remove from heat for another 5 or until the rice is soft and the water is absorbed.  Simple as that!  When preparing long grain brown rice you use the same amounts but it takes longer.  Simmer for 35-45 minutes and remove from heat for 5 minutes.

NOW I have the most fantastic rice cooker!  We received this as a gift a few years ago and the rice – no matter the type or amount is PERFECT every time.  This is my go to wedding gift for new couples! Aren’t you surprised??  Mine is a Japanese brand (and no I am not getting paid to promote this cooker!) and I have actually seen it in a larger version on a buffet in Tokyo, Japan.  The Japanese people know how to cook and eat rice and they eat it every meal.  This cooker is made to cook the rice and hold it warm for hours without changing the consistency of the rice.  Therefore it is great when you are cooking for a crowd or trying to finish up cooking the rest of your meal.

For other ways to prepare rice such as in the microwave and information about other types of rice cooking go to http://www.riceland.com/pages/rice-cooking-instructions/

long grain white rice
Zojirushi Brand rice cooker

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS

Early in the week I asked on all my social platforms for your questions and how you cooked your rice.  I was amazed to read that many of you use your pressure cooker or newly named instant pot to cook rice.  I am so excited about this method and hope to buy one of these appliances in the near future.  Or maybe I will receive one for Mother’s Day.  You might send a hint out to a kid I know.  From what I understand you can cook the rice and the rest of your meal and /or meat at the same time.  This sounds so interesting  to me!  I love that so many of you are having rice at your family meals.  Did you know you are influencing your kids tastes and preferences for rice just by serving it?  Thank you! If you have any suggestions on the size appliance I should buy send me a comment.  Many of you told me to get the larger size InstaPot.  AND ALSO SEND THOSE RECIPES!!  I may try some of them out on the blog in the future.

Questions that you sent were do you rinse your rice or not before cooking it.  I actually wasn’t sure because my cooker says to rinse the rice.  One very knowledgeable lady commented that it will rinse off the nutrients.  I had always heard it makes the rice less sticky to rinse it.  So lets take a look at to rinse or not to rinse?  The Japanese brand rice cooker instructions say to rinse but I think it says to rinse because many Japanese families grow and mill their own rice.  In that instance the rice has not been fortified; a process by which white rice has nutrients added back to the kernel after milling.

US white rice is fortified after milling and if we rinse it, those minerals go down the drain.  If you want to keep the nutrients then do not rinse white rice or you can use brown rice.  However rinsing does make the rice less sticky.  Which leads me to my next question – How do you cook rice to be fluffy and not sticky?  The easiest way is to use parboiled rice.  Parboiled rice is rice that has been soaked, steamed and dried IN the husk and then it is milled.  When cooked the kernels do not stick together.  This is perfect for rice salads, rice that will be on a buffet or if you simply prefer non sticky rice.

What other questions do you have about cooking rice?  I would love to hear them.  I learned a few things myself in researching for this post.

Be sure to sign up to receive alerts about new blog posts!  See you next week.

 

Persistence and Determination

Do you have a favorite quote?  I have many and I hear new ones all the time that motivate and inspire me.  I even chose one word for 2018 to remind me of my goals and to stay on course.  More about that in a later post though.  For now I want to focus on the Persistence quote from Calvin Coolidge.  It hangs on the wall in our office and has become a family quote and mantra.

It helps me to read the quote now and again to remind myself that I reached earlier goals through hard work, persistence and determination.  I do believe that to live a fulfilling life you must be willing to push forward even when things seem hard or unattainable.  In those moments sometimes I just repeat to myself “persistence and determination; persistence and determination” and it gets me back on my game.

This quote seems ever so relevant in production agriculture.  I am sure there are many other industries that can relate as well but agriculture is what I know.  Farming is more than a career choice it is a way of life.  Any of you who have married into the farming life know this first hand.  I think that it is actually harder to marry into farming than be born into it.  The working hours are ridiculous and totally unthinkable if you grew up living in a family with 9 am – 5 pm; 5 days a week jobs.  In production agriculture, the work must be done when the calendar and the weather give you the opportunity or you miss it completely.  For most families there is no scheduling events, you just have to work around the farm.  I can see where this is foreign to most Americans.  7 days a week from daylight until dark until the job is completed or it rains; these are the hours.  Farm kids understand this all too well but they also know when it rains they get a whole day of fun!  I can remember my Dad taking me swimming in the middle of the week and there wasn’t another Dad at the pool!  I also remember my Dad standing in the back of the school auditorium covered in dust or hydraulic oil or whatever the day had thrown on him.  I knew to look in the back and he would wave and be out the door before the crowd.  It’s not that the farm is more important than the family; It’s that the family IS the farm.

A good analogy of persistence and determination is in the seeds we plant and nurture.  One tiny rice seed is planted into the soil under what we hope are best conditions.  The seed must establish a root and the shoot or what we think of as the plant in short order or risk rotting in the soil.  Depending on the type of grain length planted, this tiny seed measures 5.5 mm to 7.5 mm in length.  They pack a powerful amount of vigor to do the job they were made to do.  This little guy must achieve his goals one step at a time.  The first goal is to push out of the soil and see the sun!  That is just its first amazing accomplishment for the season.

Look around your daily life and find examples of persistence which have given you the rewards you were seeking.  I am sure they are there!  Be mindful and grateful for those small pieces of strength that show up in you.  I don’t mean you have an award on the wall for these things (or you might!) but that you accomplished a goal.  Heck it may be that you are a Mom and you got through the day without getting frustrated with your child.  Maybe you crossed some things off your to do list at work that have been there for months.  The planter ran all day without a single problem.  Be present in these accomplishments so you have the energy and motivation to stay or BECOME persistent and determined to reach your goals.  You may be like the tiny rice seed that pushes through the layers of soil to grow and flourish and reach your goals and dreams one step at a time!

 

 

Welcome!

Welcome to my first ever blog post!  This blog has been in my head for years.  I have just never had the push to pull the trigger on getting started.  It has been a progression and I have so many ideas to share with you!

Let’s start with an introduction:  I am Jennifer James from Arkansas.  I live in a small rural community with row crop agriculture at its core.  It is the lifeblood of our community and my family.  I am a 4th generation farmer and a female farmer at that!  I have a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business from the University of Arkansas.  Go Hogs!  My husband and I have been married for 23 years and business partners for much of that time.  I am so lucky to still have a romance with him!  We have one child a 17-year-old young man who thrives and loves the farm.  So we are immersed in the farming life here in rural Arkansas.

However, getting away from here and experiencing the cultures, people, food and all that is available outside the rural areas are very important to us.  If our son decides to return to the farm it will be because he has experienced the world outside our gates!

Rice field just a few weeks after planting

The tag lines: Farming  I hope to give you a glimpse of what a true southern family row crop farm looks like.  The good days and the rough ones too.  I want you to learn about US agriculture with a focus on the rice industry.  Rice is the backbone of our farm with soybeans and corn thrown in for diversity and rotation.  Arkansas is the #1 rice-growing state with half of all US rice produced here.  The crop is very important to our state’s economy.  I also hope to feature women who are successful in the agriculture industry across the country.  I have made a list of these women and I know you will have more to add.  I hope to lift them up and show other women the great opportunities in agriculture that might never have crossed your mind!

My family after a high school football game.

Family and Food:  I am a Mom, Wife, Christian, amateur chef (ha!), avid health and wellness advocate, and true believer in growth and personal development along side my professional career.  I do all the things that you do everyday for myself and my family.  Here is where I want to tell you that you can do or be anything your heart desires and maybe I will have a few tips to help out along your journey.  Living in a rural area, we do not have access to a variety of take out and I cook dinner most nights a week.  Plus I love to share recipes that contain US grown rice!

Selfie after a little treadmill time!

Fitness:  I strongly believe that you must take care of yourself first and fitness encompasses many facets of health for me.  It is also a journey but I am getting better at it for myself and would love to have you join me.  I am working on developing meditation into my daily routine.  Why is it so hard y’all?

I invite you to join me as this blog evolves.  I would love your comments and direction along the way.  And lastly, Did you eat US grown rice today?

Jennifer