From farm fields to fried foods
WORTHINGTON -- How many ears of corn can be produced on one stalk? What happens to the crops area farmers grow? What is the difference between ethanol and biodiesel?
Those questions and more are welcome from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the first-ever "Consumers and the Latest Ag Technology" open house at the Richard and Bethani Fellows farm, located 3½ miles south of Worthington on Nobles County 57.
Activities include free horse-drawn hay rides, a petting zoo, tours of the Ocheda Seed Farm seed house, field walks and the opportunity to see an array of vehicles that operate on E-85 or biodiesel. Door prizes will be awarded as well.
The event also includes free food, from pork patties supplied by Swift & Co., to beef patties grilled by the Nobles-Rock Cattlemen's Association and ice cream sandwiches provided by the Nobles County Dairy Association. Serving will begin at approximately 4:30 p.m.
A Minnesota Farm Bureau mini-grant geared to bridge the relationship between rural and urban consumers is helping to fund the event.
The Fellowses said everyone is welcome, young and old, to attend. They and other Farm Bureau members will be available to answer questions about farming -- from what happens to manure produced in a livestock operation to the amount of pesticides or fertilizers crop farmers apply to their fields.
"We've been looking for ways to inform consumers that these aren't just corn and soybean fields anymore," said Richard Fellows, standing among rows of soybeans on his farm.
Today's farmers are growing specialized crops sought after by food manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies alike.
The agricultural sector has witnessed profound change in recent years, from biotechnology in the seeds farmers nurture to the advanced technology in equipment used to plant and harvest their crops.
Visitors will be able to see first-hand the dramatic changes in farming implements. The Prairie Reapers -- a local group that features old-fashioned farming equipment -- will have pieces of machinery displayed next to the latest and greatest technology featured by Worthington Power and Equipment and Jaycox Implement.
A petting zoo coordinated by the Worthington FFA Chapter -- of which Kelsey Fellows is president -- is also planned. Animals featured will include a dairy calf, pony, sheep, goats and chickens.
Travis Antonsen, grain merchandiser for Minnesota Soybean Processors, will give a brief program at 4 p.m. on how different soybean varieties are used in the production of soybean oil and soy biodiesel. To help promote the new low linolenic program at MnSP, the Fellowses will fry potato chips in the ultra low linolenic oil for visitors to taste test.
An informational tent will include displays by various commodity groups, the Farm Bureau and video presentations for children. Worthington Motors and Scholtes Motors will have on display vehicles that operate on E-85, and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association will be bringing an Arctic Cat ATV prototype that runs on biodiesel.
The Fellowses hope Saturday's event will become an annual activity in Nobles County, with the idea that it be moved each year to feature a different farm, whether it is a beef or dairy operation or grain farm.
"We're getting less farmers and more consumers," said Richard of the need to educate people on the work of crop and livestock producers.
Today's farmer, on average, is credited with feeding 144 people for an entire year, and is based on an average farm size of 441 acres. There are approximately 2.13 million farms in the United States today, compared with the peak of 6.8 million farms in 1935.
According to 2004 statistics, the average American spent 10 percent of their disposable income on food, whether purchased at a restaurant or used in home cooking. The expense is the lowest of any country and compares to 21 percent in Germany, 26 percent in Japan and 33 percent in Mexico.
Of the money spent by U.S. consumers on food, the American farmer gets just 19 cents of every dollar. In 1980, they were paid 31 cents of every dollar spent on food.