Jim Quackenbush, a confinement hog farmer north of Chokio, Minnesota, describes how his high-input operation enables him to sell slaughter hogs year round, protect them from some diseases and extreme weather and remain economically viable in spite of falling commodity prices. Quackenbush explains how he keeps his operation sanitary and maintains the health of the hogs.
Assistant Site Manager, Oliver Kelley Farm
Bob Quist describes the typical farm in the 1850's. Most farms of that era were self-sufficient and all processes, from planting the fields to baking bread, were done by hand. At that time, farmers began to use selective breeding to improve livestock and meat could be marketed through the railroad.
Don Reicosky studies not only how weather affects agriculture, but how agriculture affects weather. Practices such as plowing and tilling release carbon dioxide into the air, which depletes the soil of this valuable nutrient and may be a contributing factor to global warming. Reicosky researches ways farmers can increase the levels of carbon in the soils.
Director, Precision Agriculture Center
Pierre Roberts describes the concept of precision agriculture, which, according to him, is simply "that is doing the right thing at the right place at the right time." Precision Agriculture enables farmers to utilize technology to determine exactly how much fertilizer, seed and herbicide to use on particular parts of a field in order to maximize yields. Using just the right amount of a fertilizer or pesticide will reduce run off and keep water supplies cleaner.
Margot Rudstrom explains various factors, such as good weather, effective crop production aids and bountiful harvest world-wide, that are driving commodity prices down in the United States. According to Rudstrom, unless an individual is directly involved in the rural economy, he or she may not know that it is in crisis. While the challenges are significant, farmers have a number of options.
Assistant Director, Blue Mounds State Park
Thomas Sawtelle describes the tremendous variety of animals that made their home in the prairie and discusses how they fit into the prairie ecosystem. At Blue Mounds State Park, he is helping re-create prairie and the animals populations that lived there so modern day visitors can get a glimpse of what prairie was like.
Director, Food and Animal Biology Center
Lawrence Schook explains how a new knowledge of genetics can enhance current breeding programs by preserving genetic diversity in animals, creating products for niche markets and making it possible to improve human health by raising animals that can be organ donors, or produce necessary medicines such as insulin.
While most people wonder why weather varies from day to day, Richard Skaggs studies how it has changed over decades and centuries and the factors that contribute to those changes. Skaggs discusses what shapes our current weather patterns and how these affect precipitation and temperature.
Michael Sparby helps area farmers look for ways to market their products, or value added products to new markets. AURI supports farmers by providing financial assistance, or helping farmers develop marketing plans for products. The Institute's goal is to help farmers maintain economic independence by selling products to niche markets so they can capture more of the profit directly.
Farmer and Minnesota Corn Growers Board Member
In order to raise prices of corn , Gerald Tumbleson explores ways to increase demand. Someday, corn may be used to make products such as clothing, fuel, pharmaceuticals, and motor oil. Tumbleson explains that corn, because it take carbon dioxide out of the air and prevents soil erosion, is good for the environment, as well.
Jim Vander Pol's farm looks much the way farms did in the earlier part of the century. A low-input farmer from Chippewa County, Vander Pol raises chickens, hogs and beef. He markets his meat directly to consumers and his animals are mainly forage fed. He decided to farm this way because he felt it made better use of land resources, kept the animals happier and easier to handle and enabled him to set his own prices for his product.