What Have I Gotten Into?

Back in January I accepted an internship with Monsanto for this summer. I am working with one of their brands called Channel. It is found mainly in the Midwest. Honestly I had never heard of it until I was told that is who I am to work for.

A few weeks after I accepted I found out I was going to be in the Dakotas. (you can read all about that here It Might Just Be South Dakota) I am now in South Dakota, been here a little more than 24 hours now, and it has been an intersting 24 hours. It all started yesterday morning with a 4:30am trip to the Saint Louis Airport where I had been at Monsanto’s headquarters for the week being trained.


Oh the joys of airport lines, security and problems. I flew to Minneapolis and there boarded a Great Lakes Aviation flight to Watertown, South Dakota. Great Lakes Aviation must be short for Crop Dusters USA because the planes were all tiny. Don’t believe me? Smallest commercial plane I have ever flown on.
 When it came time to board, they called for the Watertown flight and me and ONE other man walked up. It was just the two of us on the flight. Yep 2 of us plus 2 pilots, no flight attendant, no bathroom, no free drink. I had checked in first so I was assigned the special seat. The back row had three seats and I was to sit in the middle one to try to distrubute the weight as evenly as possible. It was a loud, bumpy and extremely cold flight. I even broke out my leather work gloves out of my backpack.
It was that cold.
As we began our descent below the clouds I got my first look at my new location for the summer. Lots of fields and a lot of lakes.
We landed at the Watertown Airport, no gate you just get out on to the asphalt.
When we taxied up to the airport and I looked around and thought “What in the world have I done??” This was the first time during this process where I doubted what I was doing. I had came 1,400 miles to the middle of nowhere and it didn’t hit me until I got here. As we deplaned I figured it would be warmer than the plane ride…false. When I stepped off the plane I was almost knocked off my feet by a gust of wind. I was handed my bags then it was off to the parking lot to find my truck, which wasn’t hard. My boss had described it as the dirty silver Ford (which I have since washed). Found it!
I loaded up the truck and started trying to back out and realized the emergency brake was on (so I thought). I released it and nothing happened. Engaged the brake and released it again, still nothing. I then got out the manual and tried to figure out what the warning messages meant. Texted my boss who had been driving the truck prior to her getting a new one. Still Nothing. Called the local Ford dealership who said to bring it in, but how was I to get there?!? So finally I got desperate and called my trusty mechanic, my dad. He told me to do the same things I had been doing and it still didn’t work. So then I cried a little and scared my dad (afterall I’m sure he wanted me to call him from 1,400 miles away crying) anywho, we finally got it figured out with a little extra jiggling of the brake pedal. Thankfully the only major crisis so far. The truck works fine now. Whew!
I then drove to my church so I would know where it was for today, bought a few essentials then drove the 70ish miles from Watertown to Webster, South Dakota where I am residing for the summer. I am living at Lakeside Farm Bed and Breakfast with Mr. Glenn and Mrs. Joy, a sweet Norweign couple who are retired dairy farmers. Their place is beautiful!
I have tried making friends with their cats, with no avail.
I got to the house and Mr. Glenn asked me if I would be interested in going into town with them to a celebration at the Webster, Armory. I did. (what else would I have done?) It was very interesting, the city of Webster and the city of Dewangen in Germany has had a friendship for the last 10 years and there are 36 people from the city in Germany here in Webster visiting. So it was an evening full of singing, musical and dance performances. There was even a German Polka band the town had hired to come in and play.
There was a huge crowd for a town of 1,900 people on Memorial Day weekend.
It is still cold here today. The drive to church this morning was more difficult than I am used to. It was extremely foggy and so windy I had to hold the wheel firm to stay on the road plus heavy rains. Not a fun drive, but it was very encouraging to be with brethren. I only brought summer dresses and sandals for Sundays. Thankfully I brought a few cardigans, but I still looked like a spring chicken today and it was 50 degrees. I am still cold and have the heat cranked up still trying to thaw out.  So for the most part the summer is off to a good start, I am just ready to start work on Tuesday. I’m not sure what I have gotten myself into, but I can face the uncertainty by finding comfort in Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good”

Can We Do This Every Friday?

Last Friday the Auburn University Young Farmers organization went on our fall farm tour. We try to do one every semester to a farm somewhere in the state of Alabama to learn about a different area of production agriculture. Last spring we visited Purcell Farms which does a little bit of everything: cows, golf course, hunts, etc. 



So last Friday morning for our fall farm tour we loaded up three pickup trucks and journeyed about 2 1/2 hours from Auburn to Monroe county. Our first stop was the Frisco City Farmers Cooperative in Frisco City Alabama. Here we met up with Scott Saucer. 



Scott is a grower in the area and I had previously met him through working at the Alabama Young Farmers Leadership Conference, he was our guide for the day. While at the co-op we learned about fertilizer and took a look at their stockyard. 
They sell cattle here every Wednesday. There were not any cattle in the barn on Friday, but there was a random horse. This area years ago raised a lot of hogs, but in recent years like the rest of Alabama people moved away from raising hogs so this stockyard now handles cattle. 

From there we drove to a PhytoGen test plot. PhytoGen is a cotton seed  company.


 Some growers do test plots of different varieties , they grow small plots and when they harvest they keep a close track of how they do and report it back to the copany.  The plot we looked at had three different varieties being grown. Different varieties are used because they have certain characteristics the grower might want (ex. seedling vigor, storm tolerance, fiber quality and yield potential) 

             If you see signs like this while going down the road, it is probably a test plot. 

We also visited a cattle operation on our journey. This producer was a full time cattle farmer. It is calving season so there were several cute calves running around.

One management practice that many cattle farmers use is breeding all their cows at the same time. Cows like humans can be very troublesome when giving birth. If the farmer didn’t control when they were born he would be busy all year watching soon to be mama cows. So it is easier for them all to give birth around the same time. 


The Monroe County Farmers Federation fed us a wonderful lunch of BBQ and fixed us up with literature about peanuts. 

After our bellies were full we traveled to a peanut buying point near Atmore, AL. This particular buying point is the largest in the United States. One of our group members, Mark Philips and his family grows cotton and peanuts in Henry County. He said that their peanuts after harvest go through this buying point. 



Buying points are throughout the southern part of Alabama. After peanuts are harvested they are put in trailers and sent to these buying points where they weigh, clean, dry, inspect, grade and prepare peanuts for storage and shelling. 


If a truck is brought in and the moisture content is too high, they hook up a blower to the holes in the end of the trailer (as you can see in the picture above) and blow air until they dry out and can be stored. If I remember correctly this buying point handles 70 million tons a year of peanuts. 

Fun Fact: DYK that 50% of all peanuts grown in the United States are grown within a 100 mile radius of Dothan, Alabama? 

From there we traveled to the big city of McCullough, AL to the Frank P Currie Gin. Growing up on a cotton farm I have been to several cotton gins, but it always amazes me to see how they work. 

Cotton is brought in on module trucks. A conveyor belt takes it into the gin. 

 This machine is the gin. It separates the seed from the fiber. 

The seeds here are are separated and fall to the bottom

The cotton is in long fluffy sheet. It is stacked up and this machine bundles it up tight and it is then covered in plastic. 

 Each of these weigh around 300 pounds
The seed and lint is moved by a vacuum system to a warehouse where it is stored. It practically fills up the whole building.
The seed after it has been removed from the cotton. 

Cotton seed is very useful. Many people feed it to cattle. It can be used to make oil as well. This here will be carted off to farms to be used for feed. 
The cotton fiber after it is wrapped is placed in a warehouse and sold. Most cotton now goes overseas especially to China to be made into a variety of things. It could be used to make t-shirts, blue jeans, sheets, or even dollar bills! 
Our farm tour was in my opinion a great success. We all learned a lot (some more than others). It will be interesting to see where we journey to in the spring. Like I told Austin, our president, I wish we could take every Friday off and ride back roads of Alabama and look at and learn about crops. It would be nice, but then again I don’t think our professors would take too kindly to that.