Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Picture Day

So we were all dressed up for the grower tour yesterday, and what better time for some pictures? We especially wanted a current picture of the full-time research staff for our website. Here it is almost September and we still don't have a picture with Dan. He was probably wondering what was taking so long. Below is a group shot of everyone left at the farm. And lucky us, it was taken by a professional photographer with a big fancy camera, one that you don't carry in your pocket even. That photographer is John, on the left in the picture. I don't know if I've mentioned him in the blog before, but in addition to being a photographer, he helps us on the farm in the summers, mainly with landscaping duties. And since he took the pictures, we decided to let him be in one. And just like last week when we had to say good-bye to the Jakes, yesterday we had to do the same to Amanda and Jeff. It was time for them to head back to classes at Michigan State University. And I hope they both took a little of the North Central Research Station back to school with them. (You know, as long as it wasn't tools or a tractor or something.)

They were both great workers and a big help in all aspects of the farm work and plot establishment. Good luck to you both and stop by any time.

Grower Tour of the NCRS

So yesterday was probably our most important tour so far since it was mainly for growers. Some are already using Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers, and some are just interested and came to take a look at the place. So us worker types assembled at the farm at sunrise to get ready for the 9 am start time. I guess I will say that sunrise now is at around 7 am, so it really isn't too bad. For the morning tour, we divided up into three groups. Stephanie and I each took a group on the field crop tour, and Brian led the specialty crop tour, you know, like vegetables. It was a pretty good sized group of attendees. Most were from Michigan, but others came from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, North Dakota, and probably other states as well. Here is the trailer arriving for the first stop on Farm 7.
Most hopped off the trailer for a closer look at ears and roots pulled and dug from this corn plot.

This is either a treatment comparison or an ear auction.

Would you like to spend your birthday talking to a bunch of people about Navy Beans? Well whether Stephanie liked it or not, she did it.

Even Amanda got into the presenter mode as she took a turn to talk about a soybean foliar fertilizer experiment at a stop on the afternoon tour. (Jeff also took a turn on the morning tour.)

The birthday girl waits on the start of the afternoon tour along with Doug, Phil and Jeff.

Here we see Brian and Tim showing the afternoon vegetable group a field of dead potatoes.

Doug explains the layout of the new fertilizer and chemical containment building. It goes above and beyond what is required, but that's just the type of company we are.

Troy Bancroft provided some additional words about how Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers goes the extra mile in everything we do in order to be environmentally responsible. This pertains to the responsibility of being good neighbors to those living near the farm and manufacturing plant, as well as in product production, delivery and nutrient characteristics. For more information, he suggested visiting the Responsible Nutrient Management Foundation website:

With the tours wrapped up and everyone gone home, it was time for the deer to come back out and continue eating our corn.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

PLFP Specialty Crop Tour

So last Wednesday's PLFP tour of the NCRS also included a look at fertilizer research of specialty crops. Brian, Dan and Tim hosted that event. Below Brian talks about the potato plots. You can see that they are getting close to harvest. In fact, yesterday the vine killing application was made. Another stop looked at the cole crops: cauliflower and broccoli. The cauliflower harvest has been completed previously, but Dan is still stretching the broccoli production to see how long it will go.
Here we see Brian and Dan demonstrating the backpack air blast sprayer. It is used extensively for fertilizer application as well as for disease and pest control.

The tour also included the now famous melon taste test of cantaloupes and watermelons from both Liquid and conventional fertilizer programs. There is a difference.

Here is a stop at the vineyard, which also contains other perennial crops like blueberries and landscape trees. This year will be the first grape harvest for the NCRS.

And that wrapped up the tours for this week, but more to follow....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Farm Tour Yesterday Was Wet, But Well Worth It

So we had our big dealer and sales management tour yesterday. It was part of the the big annual Professional Liquid Fertilizer Program for Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers. In all the years of having tours at the NCRS, we have never been completely rained out. But with the rain over the weekend, and then an additional half inch on Tuesday night, we would have to alter the tour. That meant leaving out Farm 7 which has heavier soil and was too muddy. Sadly the field bathrooms would be unused this day.But it wouldn't be a complete downer. On the bright side we got to watch NCRS vegetable donations being loaded onto the Mid-Michigan Food Bank truck. I think we are over 9000 pounds so far, with much more to come.
There is no doubt where these came from. These are the collapsable totes that will be returned later for more. It really is so much better than the boxes that used to be hand loaded.
So we already had a contingency plan in place just in case of rain. So when the tour started late in the afternoon, we were able to get on Farms 3 and 5 and show some interesting plots there. And then to fill the remaining time, we returned to the Farm office shop where we showed some pictures of the Farm 7 tour plots with accompanying Travel Log information. Additionally there were some Liquid fertilizer fun facts and some information on how we do plot research at the farm. I thought it was very enlightening. Hopefully I wasn't the only one.

Because of the large number of farm tourists, about 180 or so, we split into three groups. About 30 to 40 went with Dr. Brian and the Specialty Crop staff, whose tour was not hindered by the rain. The other two groups were divided between Stephanie and myself. Below we see Stephanie talking about one of the corn experiments on Farm 3.

And here I am talking about fertilizer comparisons in Navy Beans. Riveting!

Sadly, I have not gotten pictures from Brian, so those will have to wait. (We had additional meetings today at the hotel site.) The groups had meetings at the hotel in the morning, then went up to tour the new Ashley manufacturing plant in the afternoon, and then came to the farm. So it was a long day for them. (I imagine that Nick will have pictures of the plant tour on his blog.) Away the busses went after the farm festivities drew to a close.

That evening there was a dinner at the Ashley plant for company employees, friends and those vendors who actually built the place. I realized that this was the last day for Jake and Jake, or the Jakes as we call them. They both have worked at the farm in the summer for many years, since they were in high school. Left Jake departs to his Junior year at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia and Right Jake to his Senior year at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. So this might be the end of the Jakes, as far as working at the NCRS. How sad for us. Bye Jakes, and good luck.

So after that dinner, which was really nice and well attended, I headed for home, stopping to take this picture at the NCRS on my way.

So that would be two farm tours down with two to go. Next Tuesday is the tour for real farmers. If you want to attend and can make it to Michigan, give Stephanie a call. It's not too hard to track her down.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Still At It (and "It" is Research)

So yesterday was another beautiful Monday at the farm. Temperatures only in the 70's and we got 0.8 inches of rain over the weekend. So no need to run irrigation again. We are happy when it rains on the weekend so that it doesn't interfere with work. It was time to pick cantaloupes. Brian likes to make a game of it to keep the workers entertained. Here he tosses a ripe melon to John, who adds it to the pile for that plot. I didn't see any drops anyway. Then it is up to Tim to make the melon count and record the weights.
The field crops department has one more foliar application for the summer, that being on Black Beans. (Of which Michigan is the number one producing state.) Since it is the last one, and since interns Jeff and Amanda are now short-timers, they each got to make up a foliar treatment based on the vast fertilizer knowledge they acquired this summer. Here they are mixing up the treatments, with Jeff making sure he is grabbing the correct fertilizer jug.

Here is what the beans looked like yesterday. They are starting to vine and are flowering.

So they made this a contest for best treatment yield. The gloves are off. And to make it fair, each one made their own applications. Here goes Jeff.

And now here comes Amanda. We may have to call them out of class for harvest to keep it fair.

With that done there is still some vegetable picking today. But the main job is getting ready for our big company fertilizer dealers and sales management tour tomorrow. Tune in here for the latest on that later in the week.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Raceday at MIS

So you may recall that Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers is a supporter of an organization called Farm American. Its purpose is to promote agriculture to the non-agricultural public. Quite simply, to promote the concept that, although other segments of our economy rely on imports, our food supply is best and most safely provided by American farmers and ranchers. So this weekends NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway will have the #78 Furniture Row car displaying the Farm American paint. Well that race is tomorrow. Today's race was of the NASCAR truck series: The VFW 200. Liquid, through Albert Bancroft, was able to obtain tickets and a track suite to watch this race, and some 23 Liquidites and family were able to go watch. We left St. Johns early and arrived at the track in Brooklyn around 8:30 am. We were met by our hosts, some from Furniture Row racing, and Albert.They have let Liquid use their show car at various events around the country. I have featured several mentions of it here on the blog. And here was the car again, waiting for all of us to assemble and be photographed. It was a beautiful morning.
Well wouldn't you know it, but three of us were called out for a secret event. So Jean, Dennis and myself were escorted to the track where we got to ride in one of the pace cars, a souped up Camero. Thanks to PR man Jeff Owen for setting it up. Our driver was an actual NASCAR truck driver, Dakoda Armstrong. (And that is my bag of crossword puzzles and magazines, not a purse. Well maybe it is, not that there's anything wrong with that.)
I don't follow truck racing, and did not know who Dakoda was at the time. But he was a very nice guy in his first year as a race truck driver. And he just turned 20, and he was driving us around at over 130 mph! I looked him up on the internet when I got home and found his website. It seems that he grew up on a large grain farm in Indiana. I didn't know at the time that he was once a farmer or I would have introduced him to Liquid. Although I guess he had enough on his mind already. But he was a very nice guy, and I'm sure the girls find him easy on the eyes. So he became my new favorite truck driver.
Here is the view as we went around the track. We made three lightning laps. It was really fun. That Camero is not very roomy, but is built for speed.

After our ride we got to look at the race trucks. I will say that they really don't look like trucks as they are so low to the ground and it looks like the body is shorter from top to bottom. The beds are covered too. And look at the camber, or tilt, of the left side wheels. I guess that is to better grab the banked track. The trucks then went out to qualify for race position yet that morning.

Later I saw Dakoda and his crew waiting to qualify. I guess that some of the sponsors like his farm background, as there are several ag businesses on his truck. He did go on to qualify for the race.

Up at suite level, you can see what they call the Midway, or where team merchandise is sold. I took a quick walk through earlier, but unfortunately, I did not see the Danica Patrick merchandise trailer at that time. It's the green one in back. Well it was too far to go back down, but I probably would have found something of Danica's worth having.

Then after truck qualifying, they let the Cup cars out for a practice. The "Cup" cars are the ones that will race tomorrow. It is the big leagues of racing. We had scanner radios that let us listen to the drivers talk to their teams as they tried for last minute adjustments. It was fun to see. Below is a stream of cars going down the pit road to the track. Unfortunately, all of my pictures of the cars on the track are blurry due to speed. The posted speeds of laps on the board was around 187 mph. Below we see the #78 car in the middle driven by our favorite driver, Regan Smith.

The cars would go out for awhile, then go back to their garage, then back out, then back to the garage, and so on, trying for that magic adjustment. Below is Regan on the side of the track doing something. Hopefully it is the right stuff.

Then I saw the #88 driving by the parked and waiting #98 truck of my new favorite driver Dakoda. I don't need to say who #88 is do I?

And at 12:30, the trucks were off and racing. Here is the view to the left from the Farm American suite.

And then we had a special guest: Regan Smith. He dropped by for the proverbial Meet and Greet, answered questions and signed autographs. (I noticed a lot of the drivers would gladly sign autographs, unlike other sports stars.) I have not seen him before, but he is genuinely very nice and friendly. He seemed like he enjoyed the visit, even though he probably has to do this type of thing often. But he was really supportive of Farm American and thanked Liquid for it's support of that.

And he posed for pictures, here with Albert in front of the Farm American poster. Then he had to go start loading up on pasta (from American wheat), the energy food for tomorrow's race. He is scheduled to be at the Ashley plant open house next Wednesday. But I know he would rather see the farm and race tractors.

After that, it was back to watching the trucks go round and round. Here is the view looking right.

I went outside the suite to look at the stands. Unfortunately, truck racing does not seem to be a huge draw. I don't see how it continues with low attendance, but what do I know? Maybe if they used regular stock pickup trucks hauling fertilizer totes it would bring in more fans.

And after 200 miles, your winner was Kevin Harvick, who is also a Cup driver. Sadly, Dakoda got taken out by a big wreck not too far from the finish. It wasn't his fault as he did not make any errors driving us around earlier. There is a truck in all of that tire smoke from the victory burnout.

And like all champions, he stands on the door and waves. Maybe our fertilizer truck drivers should do that after making a delivery. I will get right on that. (What is Tapout you may ask? Fighting clothes like for ultimate fighters. Probably not going to wear any of that on the upcoming tours. But a nice win for the sponsor none the less.)

So it was a great day, something new for us. Thanks to Albert, Farm American and Furniture Row racing for such great hospitlity. And tomorrow: Good Luck Regan!