My family and I raise hogs, crop farm, garden and new in 2021: Christmas Trees and a fruit orchard! This page is dedicated to telling our story. I will post pictures of what is going on at our farm during different times of the year, talk about all of the ways we are ag-vocating for agriculture and the challenges and rewards farmers are facing. Feel free to check back often!
This winter I finally took a leap and tore out a large dying windbreak on the North side of our acreage and am getting the ground ready to plant my first crop of fir and fruit trees for The Farm Store Christmas Tree Farm & Orchard!! It's scary, intimidating and exciting all at the same time and I love that agriculture provides so many different avenues.
Tree Farm prior to demo (short clip)
Cleaning up the mess! (short clip)
Using local companies (thanks Kohl) we removed probably close to 100 dying trees and shrubs from the property and then cleared out remaining stumps. The ground will be worked prior to planting, the soil tested for nutrients and trees planting once the ground warms up enough in April!
Above is the area where the tree farm will be located on our acreage!
Above you'll see my kids playing on the giant pile of dirt that was left after they buried all of the tree debris! This dirt will be repurposed and used when they get the driveway put in this spring!
A beautiful view of Iowa fields after the trees have been cleared! Can't wait to get my first trees planted, keep checking back to see progress as I (impatiently) wait the next two years for them to be ready!
In the meantime, Loren Kruse, a Christmas Tree Farmer in my area is graciously helping me get started and has been a great mentor for me as he enters a near retirement phase. Loren has invited me to come sell candles, products and pre-cut Christmas Trees at his farm Thanksgiving weekend the next two years while my trees are growing. Be sure to follow me on social media for updates on those sales!
Spreading Knowledge Kid to Kid (Article)
My Family's Pig Farm Book (Article)
Pig Farmer of the Year Finalist Video - 2016 (Video)
Momables Visits the Bakker Farm (Video)
Field corn is typically harvested at an average moisture content of 16-17% so that it can be properly stored and transported before being made into feed or other products. An abundance of late planting and overly wet and cool environment means much of the field corn is still at more like 22% sitting in the fields in mid-November. Farmers would typically harvest the crop and then pay to have it dried down in large bins using LP to run the dryers until the corn is ready to go to market. However in 2019 we are running dramatically short on LP and suppliers are shutting grain farmers off from supplies in order to meet the needs of livestock and house customers. This means farmers have a choice - leave the crop in the field and risk not getting it out before a more sizable snow fall or freezing damage can be done, or harvest it wet and find someone to dry it for them, cutting into profits and further cutting into a farmer's entire year's worth of work. The problems don't stop there, even if we get caught up on LP, by using trucks and rails to transport the LP for now, this means we could be short on supply of anhydrous for spring nutrients and the new crop. Pray for farmers today, tomorrow and for the rest of the fall. Pray that the conditions which are completely out of their control will resolve themselves and that they can all get crops out of the field in good condition in order to provide for their families. Read more about this crisis here https://www.agweb.com/article/propane-shortage-today-could-turn-anhydrous-shortage-tomorrow
Raising livestock in the winter can be a challenge, and this winter has especially challenged us at our wean to finish barn. With snow drifts as tall as the building, you can see how hard we've had to work to continually dig out the fans and move snow. We do this to be sure fresh air is always circulating through the buildings and the hogs are kept indoors where it is warm and safe from the outdoor elements. You can see here, my husband is standing on a drift beside the building, putting him taller than the roof of our barn. Stay safe and think warm thoughts everyone!!
All year long farmers will share how technology has improved their lives. On this Christmas Day, here is an example that most people probably don't think of: these barns allow us to have peace of mind. On such a special day of the year, they allow us to push chores back a few hours so we can savor these special moments. Obviously we don't neglect our duties of #realpigfarming , but man how great is it to hear your children laughing and giggling on Christmas morning with the excitement that only a child has for this day, all while having that peace of mind that our livestock is fed, watered and warm. From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!
Above: My kiddos helping with chores. The teal structures they are sitting on in the left picture are called "farrowing stalls". We use these in our farrowing house, where sows have babies, to keep both moms and babies safe. The sides keep the sows from accidentally laying on their babies and allows the baby pigs to have a safe space to roam, eat, sleep and play. The babies lay on rubber mats and have heat lamps hung above them to keep them toasty warm! The picture on the right is my sons watching sows right after feeding them. The sows are lined up at the cement feed troughs. We use these because they are a way to keep feed off of the ground and give our sows easy access to dry, clean feed.
Above: The picture on the left is my daughter helping us in our wean to finish building. In this building we are able to keep our hogs in a nice warm building during those cold winter months. This picture was taken when it was 10 degrees outside and you can see my daughter comfortably helping do chores in shorts and a t-shirt because the building with newly weaned pigs is kept at 80+ degrees for their comfort. Keeping the animals indoors allows us to provide them with constant access to clean, dry feed and waterers that are not frozen over or impossibly cold. The health of the animals is of the utmost importance to us on our farm and we use these practices to ensure they do not get sick and live a happy, healthy life and produce the safest possible product for your table. These hogs will live in this building for about 6 months before being processed for not only meat, but by-products like medicine, glue, gelatin and much more!
Above: The picture on the left is my husband leaving our very first field of corn after moving some equipment. You can see the corn combine and tractor wagon in the background, ready to go to work that day after the fog lifted. The ground he is walking on is what remains after traditional field corn is harvested. Because farmers are innovative and always looking for new ways to use every part of our products, these corn stalks have several purposes. When the corn is growing, they are the method by which the corn on the cobs receive their nutrients. After harvest, the remaining stubble can be used for a few different things. Farmers will often leave this residue on the field as it helps to control soil erosion (where the wind and rain and snow can move valuable top-soil away from the field and into streams, ditches and hills). As it breaks down it will be a natural fertilizer for next year. Some farmers will till (work) the residue back into the ground (mix it in with the top layers of dirt) in the fall or spring. Some use no-till practices, where they leave the residue on top of the ground and then just plant through it next year. The type of soil determines whether or not a farmer can use no-till practices. Soils that are very hard and compacted are difficult to manage and farm with no-till practices and so farmers will work through the ground. A practice becoming more common across the United State are cover crops. Farmers plant cover crops in the late summer/early fall to keep the soil anchored between growing seasons. The cover crops will pop up late fall and often keep the field looking green all through winter, depending on the crop. These cover crops help prevent soil erosion, add natural fertilizer, retain water and help control weeds and pests in the field. The picture on the right is my kids sitting on corn stalk bales. Another use for the corn stalks remaining in a field is to be rolled up into corn stalk bales, which we use to keep our outdoor livestock warm during the winter months!
Above: Our kids are involved in their local 4-H club, as well as the Iowa Swine Jackpot Series, National Junior Swine Association and Team Purebred. Through these organizations, they attend meetings, go to leadership conferences, compete in contests where they have to publicly speak and take tests on their swine knowledge and learn how to evaluate livestock. We believe strongly that as our kids grow up, they should learn all facets of the farm and know where their food comes, from product to plate. They love working alongside my husband and I and at the ages of 9, 7 and 5, are involved in feeding the animals, helping to clean the barn, have learned out to help baby pigs be born and to take care of the animals on a daily basis. We try to expose them to all types of agriculture and so each summer they get to raise a bucket/bottle calf to show at fair. They have recently added chickens to the farm (a whole new experience, if you want to see our chicken washing experience, let me know!). We love watching them learn alongside us, discover new things and the true enthusiasm they have for being a part of our farm.