The Peterson brothers created a video a few years back that when viral – Farmer Style. As a result, I interviewed Greg Peterson, the oldest of the three brothers, for my book, Midwest Maize, because it reflected the attitude of younger farmers—the folks who will be feeding us in the future.
Then, in my book, Pigs, Pork, and Heartland Hogs, I feature the National FFA, which is an organization that offers great opportunities to students, both in rural areas and cities.
So when the Peterson brothers came out with a new video that, if shared, will benefit the National FFA—supported by Pioneer, which also gets a mention in Midwest Maize book—I could hardly fail to respond to the offer. So here is the video. If you choose to share it, future generations will benefit.
If you’ve read this blog for long, or if you’ve read either of my food history books, you’ll know that I think pretty highly of farmers. They are among those people one would traditionally call “salt of the earth.”
Plus we’d all be mighty hungry without them.
But one thing I love is that a lot of them are also great fun. I’ve posted a number of different videos made by farmers, including several from the Peterson Farm Bros. Some of the videos are specifically about different aspects of farming–but some of them, including several that I’ve posted, are clever, farming-related parodies of popular songs. That’s the case with the video below. But adding to the fun in this particular video is the inclusion of farmers from several other video channels — many of them channels I watch and at least a couple of which I’ve featured here. It also reminds us that the vast majority of our food is raised on family farms.
While I don’t imagine this is the last time the Peterson Farm Bros. will appear on my blog, it is the end of the “Life of a Farmer” series that takes viewers through a full, annual cycle of farm tasks. One of the many books I’ve read on agriculture noted that farmers are essentially owned by their farms. While some times of year are busier than others (planting and harvest come to mind), there is no time of year that the farm does not require their attention.
As grass dies in the fields, farm animals become increasingly reliant on food provided by farmers. Of course, that’s looking at larger farm operations. Throughout history and around the world, for those who live in colder climates, the two most common solutions were bring the animals into the house with the family, to stay warm, or slaughter animals as winter approaches, so you don’t have to worry about feeding them.
In places where resources do not permit the gathering in of fodder for livestock, animals die in harsh winters. This was true when North America was first being settled (because the 1600s were still part of the Little Ice Age), and it is true today in countries that rely entirely on grazing their animals. When I was traveling in Mongolia, I learned that during a particularly harsh winter (known as a zud), the domesticated animals die of starvation by the thousands and even millions, as they can’t get through the ice and snow to any remnants of grass. Of course, this means people die of starvation, too. So having something to feed animals when pastures are not available is vital to survival.
In this video, the Peterson Farm Brothers talk about feeding their cattle. One of the things they use is distillers grains. In making both whiskey and biofuel, only the starch in the corn is used, and all the protein and fat is left behind. It’s an ideal way to boost the protein content of animal feed—and also keeps it from being dumped into landfill. Just one more example of how efficient most modern operations are.
Farming reminds us of the cycles of life—but so do other things. This summer, I’ve spent most of my time a couple of states away from my home, caring for my mom, who is in her late 80s. The weeks I’ve spent with her at the hospital and the nursing home have exposed me to all stages of life, as children and grandchildren visit aging parents.
As a result, I haven’t been posting much this summer—but I’m definitely not through with farming!
I particularly like the September Life of a Farmer video from the Peterson Farm Bros, because it’s mostly about corn—as is, of course, my book. One of the things I discuss in the book is the creation of silage. I also mention trench silos. You get to see both in this video.
Also in this video, they make silage out of sorghum. This is not a grain that will be familiar to most Americans—unless you’re from the South or have a farm. If you want to know more about this surprisingly important grain (fifth most important grain in the world), check out my post on sorghum on my The World’s Fare blog (and if you like baking, the post is followed by a recipe for sorghum cake).
Now here are the Peterson Farm Bros sharing what September is like on their farm.
In this video, Greg Peterson talks about (among other things) the abundant rain they got the summer this video was made (2013). Rain is one of those uncontrollable elements that make farming difficult. In 2012, I witnessed the problems that occur when there is not enough rain. Drought that year had a huge impact on crops. However, this year (2015), as I visited corn country in Ohio, Indiana and Central Illinois, I discoverd that too much water can be even more devastating. I saw fields interrupted by great stretches of water surrounded by stunted, yellow corn stalks, and I learned from a number of farmers that crops were more harmed by excess rain this year than by the drought of three years ago. Farmers who depend on corn to feed livestock were talking about alternative sources of food for the winter, since the corn was so hard hit in some areas. Thank goodness there are alternatives to consider, but this is another reminder of how difficult farming can be.
One more thing to keep in mind when food prices fluctuate—nature is more often than not behind the shortages or abundance that we witness at the grocery store.
Time for another “Life of a Farmer” video from the Peterson Farm Bros.
May is the month when farm work kicks into high gear.
In the video, you see the Peterson brothers creating a barbed wire fence. Hard to believe now, but barbed wire was once a major game changer. I wrote about Barbed Wire back in February, if you’d like to know more.
This blog will relate discoveries made as I explore and study the Midwest. It will feature places I visited in pursuit of tales for my books but will also follow other threads of history, travel, and culture in the Heartland. For the remarkable tales of corn and its importance in the world and U.S., check out the book, Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland. For the fascinating tale of our earliest domesticated food animal, check out Pigs, Pork, and Heartland Hogs: From Wild Boar to Bagonfest. I hope you’ll consider buying them. (And stay tuned for future titles.)
Eric Hoffer Award Winner
Midwest Independent Booksellers Association selection